Individual paradigms: from imagination to new ways of being

Individual Paradigms: Boy Playing with a Toy Airplane

We are not only tied to our past emotionally but also intellectually or conceptually. This happens because you not only live an emotion that you experience for the first time and shapes your emotional life, but that experience also makes you think that this is how things are, how the world and you are. And the other consequences to your being, resulting from those initial emotions, are also taken as natural, although they are not. 

They become filters for future experiences, shaping, coloring, or just selecting them. They build, to use a term from the history of science, your paradigm. Now, as happens in science, an old paradigm cannot be removed using the same perspective. One needs a new angle to consider things. And this happens after a large amount of data has been collected that contradicts the basic assumptions of the current paradigm. 

At first, the new paradigm is something like an attempt, like a thought experiment, in which you only imagine how things would be if they were considered from a different angle. This is what Copernicus or Einstein did when they initially proposed their theories. And if you think a little bit more, it cannot happen differently.

Such paradigm-changing theories replace the old scientific principles with new ones, and principles are always a matter of imagination or, rather, rational imagination. In Copernicus’ time, who could have proved the fact that the planets of our solar system rotate around the Sun, or, when Einstein proposed his theory of relativity, who could have proved that the whole universe is expanding at a uniform accelerated speed?

Such heroes of thought imagine a new way of being of things that could solve the contradictions of the existing data with current scientific principles. Then they try to derive those data from the newly imagined principles. If they manage to do this, if the data conforms to those new principles, the latter, although only imagined initially, acquire support, and start being taken into account by the scientific community as more than a simple play of imagination, but as probably a more profound truth.

Similarly, a detachment from your painful past is possible through a change of perspective, both with respect to that past and to your present and future. 

At first, such a new perspective is nothing other than a play of imagination. It still needs full factual support. You need your new experiences to be seen and promoted in the light of the new perspective. You need numerous experiences to shake the power of the entrenched habits of feeling. 

As with scientific paradigms, where the scientific community trains itself constantly to interpret the facts in the light of the new paradigm, you need to train yourself to transform your way of feeling by refuting the association of the new experiences with the past memories and connecting them with the new, only imagined, principle. 

Humans are beings of habit, indeed. In life, you constantly get accustomed to something and easily slide into believing that this merely acquired habit also expresses how the world is and must be. But this is only the expression of the inertia that dominates us, like  any other process in the world. Through that habit, it is as if we entered a movement that could continue infinitely if not interfered with by anything external powerful enough to change its direction. 

Of course, the question is how to be able to keep that new light focused on each new experience and how to relate the latter to the new principles without sliding back into the old way of thinking and feeling. You must change your inner talk.

And nowadays, there are very many psychologists who can help you do this by making you aware that instead of interpreting the past painful experiences according to the new, much more comprehensive, principles, you have slid back under the power of the old self-perception. 

A change in your personality can thus happen either through an act of will or through entering psychological therapy. Although admittedly, willpower is not always enough (for example, phobias about animals can rarely be overcome simply by will), both these options create a new framework for developing your personality and relating the new experiences to that framework.

Through such a relationship, you inevitably are forced to select, from the possible behaviors, those compatible with the new framework. 

In the same way in which you can overcome the fear of speaking in public by looking for every opportunity to speak publicly and constraining yourself to do this once you are there, until you become accustomed to the situation of speaking in front of people and the negative emotions diminish so much that they are tolerable, through steadily exposing yourself to things that displease you, you can, at least, transform your initial emotional reactions. 

Such a technique of gradually exposing yourself to unpleasant things to get rid of that emotional discomfort was always an important part of any education. To a certain extent, it is true also for psychological therapy. 

Here you are also exposed to a different way of thinking for an extended period. In the case of your painful past, such therapy can reinterpret that past by introducing a different internal self-talk concerning your memories. But it also inoculates you with new insights concerning your present. 

In this respect, we can remember Freud‘s explanations in his books, which he inevitably made known to his patients during therapy. The nervous or hysterical patient, for example, was exposed, on the one hand, to his own memories and the play of mental associations and, on the other hand, to the interpretation of that series of memories. 

In this interpretation, which the patient slowly adopted during therapy, a new way grew of coping with themself. The patient became accustomed to interpreting his thoughts and emotional reactions differently than before and also to having a different stance toward them.

The old paradigm was shattered, and the new one illuminated the world differently, transforming it into a liveable place. They learned inevitably to mistrust their own beliefs, replacing them with others, which claimed a higher plausibility, being backed by ‘science.’ 

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