Okay, ND is right, I probably did try to cram too much into one post with that last one. Here’s the thumbnail summary, as I wrote in my reply to her comment. You start out with a flawed, distorted worldview where reality is hostile and you have to take what you want from it. From that, you develop both an offensive strategy (a repeated pattern of behavior to get what you want) and a defensive strategy (a false persona to cover your imperfect, authentic self). We call this combined strategy your enneagram strategy. A One tries to be morally perfect: moral perfection is both her claim on reality for love (“they have to love me because I’m right/good/perfect.”), and the false front to hide her authentic, flawed self. Twos serve others. Threes seek success and accomplishments. Fours seek uniqueness or specialness. Fives seek information and wealth. Sixes seek security and loyalty. Sevens seek new experiences. Eights seek power. Nines seek peace and consensus.
In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he lists imagination as one of the four unique human gifts which enable changes in longstanding patterns of behavior. Imagination enables a change in behavior because in order to do what we’ve never done before, we have to first be able to imagine doing it. We have to be able to imagine that it’s possible before we can attempt it. Covey calls imagination “the first creation”–the second creation is bringing that imagined behavior or object into reality.
Reasoning with people is an absolutely awful way to try to get them to change their behavior. If you don’t believe me, try it some time. Try listing off the perfectly valid and true reasons to quit smoking to a smoker. Or debating with a person who overeats about the merits of portion control. Behavior usually isn’t driven by logic, so logic is a poor way to alter behavior.
Eric Berne, a psychologist, proposed that we have three basic parts (or “ego states”) to our personality: Parent, Adult, and Child. Parent is the source of your unquestioned judgments and opinions, and is formed from what you saw and heard from your parents. Child is the source of your emotions, and reflects the self-centered, imaginative, childlike part of your ego. Adult is the part of your brain that deals with reason, logic, facts and calculations.
Guess which two are the source of the vast majority of your decisions, words, and actions? (Hint: not Adult.)
Appealing to Adult fails because most of the time, Adult is not driving the bus. To get to a behavioral change, you have to bypass Adult.
One effective way is to speak directly to Parent, and offer a set of judgments don’t hold up under close logical scrutiny, but fit with Parent’s overall worldview and agenda. The use of propaganda by the Nazis in WWII is an excellent example of this. The claims of the Nazis made no sense logically. But by using repetition, and the pressure of authority (the pressure of the State is very similar to the pressure of any authority figure, including overbearing parents) they pushed their opinions into the psyches of willing citizens. Once those citizens’ Parent states accepted the opinions as “truth,” they stopped questioning them and began living and behaving out of that “accepted truth.” “Brainwashing” is essentially capturing and controlling your target’s Parent state.
Another method is to cripple or immobilize Parent, and engage the imaginative, creative Child. That’s the method that parables use. Much like a computer virus, they pose a problem that Parent is not equipped to solve, thereby paralyzing Parent.
The minister at the local church we attended Sunday was very right to describe parables as “bombs that sit in your brain and then suddenly go off.” What they explode is your rigid enneagram worldview, which resides in your Parent state. Because they don’t make sense on a literal level, they bypass your conscious Adult state. They go into your unconscious, the home of Parent and Child states, to be puzzled on there. There, they offer a vision of the world that directly conflicts with the Parent’s worldview of scarcity, the “hostile reality” worldview.
Boom! This paralyzes Parent. Freed from Parent’s constant “you can’t do that” nagging, the Child is free to imagine the possibilities. Given enough time and encouragement, a person can start living out that new, imagined reality.
On one level, this is the “new life” that Jesus provides. He offers us a new reality and invites us to live out that reality. In one sense, “The Kingdom of God” or “The Kingdom of Heaven” is just… plain old ordinary reality. But it’s a reality in which we are accepted, loved, and provided for by God. It’s a reality that makes our strategies useless and unnecessary. And to the extent we can drop those old, ineffective strategies, we can apply that energy to a new life in our new reality. Because those strategies require a lot of energy to maintain, dropping them frees up a tremendous amount of personal energy.
If a One no longer has to be perfect and right about everything, how much energy does he gain back in not trying to maintain that perfect image anymore? If a Two doesn’t have to take care of everybody else anymore, will she have time to nurture herself? If a Three doesn’t have to constantly strive for accomplishment, he might have the free time to deepen his relationships. If a Four doesn’t have to be a drama queen anymore, can she learn to enjoy the blessing of ordinary days?
Luke 20:18 says “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is speaking of himself as the stone. The stone is not just a cornerstone, but a touchstone with true reality. The person who falls on the stone (accepts Jesus’ reality) will find their previous worldview and false self-image shattered. Those who don’t accept it will continue to bear the crushing weight of “the stuff I have to do to get by.” Like most of the parables, there are layers of meaning in this one. Most prophecies and parables are interesting in that they have multiple, equally-applicable meanings. There is one true meaning that applies to you right now… and another, different, true meaning that will apply in ten years… and likely a third that will apply to someone else five hundred years from now.
Many prophecies of Isaiah and Daniel were fulfilled, in some respects, during their lifetimes, and then fulfilled again during the time of Christ.
Ideas that we find challenging and disturbing may be genuinely false. They may also be “viruses” sent to counterprogram our fixed and inaccurate mindsets. It’s important to pay conscious attention to the things that make no sense to us, because our unconscious attention is going to do something with them, one way or another.