A paradigm can be described as one’s existing world view and paradigm paralysis as the inability or refusal to see beyond one’s current pattern of thinking.

In other words, a paradigm allows you to see only what you believe you are going to see.

Imagine playing bridge, or any card game, with cards marked with red spades and clubs and black hearts and diamonds. It is nearly impossible to register any of the information on the cards if the colors are not right.

Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr reported disbelieving what they were seeing and having verbal wrestling sessions to come to grips with the new scientific paradigm, quantum mechanics.

I have been wrestling with my own paradigms since being introduced to the concept at an educational workshop years ago. Beyond the concrete dissonance of playing cards, the concept applies to science, politics, religion, following directions, looking for your keys, or walking around the neighborhood.

An example: I have two ladders. The aluminum one I keep outside, the wooden one is always in the basement. One day I needed the wooden ladder. It was gone. I looked everywhere. I even assigned blame.

For several months now, I have been reaching through the rungs of that missing ladder to get my pruning shears off the shelf in the garage. I could not see the ladder because I believed it was not there.

Another example: I live in the part of Corvallis where old houses are being bulldozed to build monstrous student housing. I have become the last owner-occupied on my block. The litter, noise, and weeds have increased exponentially, and the sense of neighborhood has seriously declined.

On a side street, another shabby little house was bulldozed. I was furious. Over several months, a large apartment complex was built. I hated it.

I go out of my way to avoid these monstrosities, but this one is on my way to visit my father. All I could see were more litter, noise, and weeds.

Last week, as I walked to Dad’s, a woman with developmental disabilities approached me, beaming and shaking her hands in excitement. She pointed to the new building and said, “I’m moving into my new apartment tomorrow! I am so excited!”

I put my hands up and wished her, “Happy New Apartment!” She threw herself into my arms.

Now, walking by that new apartment building, I am filled with joy and neighborliness. What I thought I was seeing isn’t there at all.

Be very careful. It is hard to spot your own paradigms. But, if you are not open to being tricked by your own world view, what you think you see might not be there at all.

Dianne Roth is a mother, grandmother, teacher, and freelance writer. She can be reached at: baglady@cmug.com


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