Shadows, Projections and Some Old Bullshit

The aspect of the psyche being torn asunder because of too many responsibilities might be called neurotic. This is something I’ve experienced for the first time in a while, due to taking on two pet sitting jobs at the same time, while away from my own home and additional duties at the permaculture village.

It sounded like a good idea at the time but no one can be in three places at once. I paid for that ‘yes’ with a nasty summer cold, and missed out on another ‘yes’; a visit with family over the Memorial Day weekend.

One of the cats I was watching also went missing for almost 7 days straight — a first on my watch. He returned, after days of calling, emailing, flyer making; completely unscathed and looking healthy as ever. Sometimes, cats just go on walk-about.

It is funny when shit hits fans seemingly all at once. The universe just kind of forces us to take a seat. Not DO — because sometimes nothing can be done. I decided to just BE. While I was nursing my snot-filled head, I was assessing thoughts I’d put aside regarding recent goings-on geopolitically and in US media.

One of the pet sits is now over, and the space I’m in is quite serene.

However, it is Gemini season. The time of year when I find myself suffering from too much mind. When this happens, I don’t get much sleep and that’s when I tend to write. That happens more often when I have roots down, but I’ve traveled the last couple of summers. Travel is a past-time that alleviates a great deal of monkey-mindedness. This summer, I’m feeling roots going plenty deep.

It feels like time to compost some old thinking.

Some Old Bullshit

I watched this house 3 years ago for nearly six months. This was before, during, and in the aftermath of the last presidential election. I did major healing work within these walls covered in art, with a vast library of books at my disposal and surrounded by beautiful permaculture gardens. I appreciated it for the spiritual retreat it was. Now this house feels like an old friend who got me through a dark night of the soul.

I’m relieved to feel this grounded…a different experience than my last visit here. I’ve noticed that I am different. I return to this place healed from relationship wounds. I’m surprised to say some of that had more to do with politics than I’d previously imagined. I’ll sum up the karmic garbage with the title of a favorite Beastie Boy’s EP, called “Some Old Bullshit.”

The realization that I had composted this old bullshit — probably wouldn’t have come to light if I hadn’t spent the last 9 months living in an intentional community. I share common space, gardens and responsibilities with two women elders, both of whom celebrate and embrace crone wisdom. I have been given the title ‘proto-crone’ and the more I continue to learn from them, the more comfortable I find my 52 year-old Self.

We live among young people who are also dealing with some old bullshit, even if they don’t know they are certainly inheriting it. I’m consistently reminded of this and my compassion and understanding spring from that place. There are many joys I’ve discovered since choosing to live in intentional community, but the most surprising discovery has been learning more about myself and the kind of ancestor I am becoming.

It’s possible I lost my mind in 2016. And thank goddess! It wasn’t doing me much good at the time. I was working to get soul-centered. Balanced. I’d already felt that the country lost it’s mind long before the last election. Unfortunately, some folks lost touch with their soul, too.


Celebration of Individuality or Individuation?

The Tao presents itself beautifully when we utilize quiet time to observe our thoughts. To let them pass by, like the river that constantly flows and changes in each moment. It’s about flexibility and a large amount of non-attachment.

It takes practice and patience with yourself. In quiet self-reflection, I can reach a place of understanding and equanimity. This is an important practice in the age of too much information [distraction] especially for a Gemini sun/moon, with too much mind, like myself.

What I’ve discovered in meditation practice is something I’m noticing more and more in co-creative community. Possibilities.

The outer world has many treasures. How often do we allow time for inner exploration? It takes self-excavation to discover our treasures, some we may not have realized we had. Gifts that shine out and burn away vanity, the need to be right…even beyond notions of ‘right or wrong’.

Media, politics and religion love these rigid dualities. I’ve recently welcomed the idea of ‘right and wrong’ being viewed instead as sense and nonsense, as Carl Jung suggested. There is less weight in those words and they feel more playful than shameful. Nonsense invites us to at least have a good-natured laugh at ourselves — even if others aren’t able.

The need to be right creates a lot of nonsense and it’s everywhere you look now. I observed it in my family growing up, and I cop to my own nonsense in that arena. I still work on it. But the nonsense that desperately needs addressed, that I’ve observed most in my life has come from US media. This concern started during my early experience living in the UK for about 4 years in the late 80’s. I found their media [at that time] beyond arguments about religion and even sexual orientation because they recognized the need for sobering talk about the AIDS epidemic. It was a scary time! However, the information was direct, educational, and probably shocking to some sensibilities. It needed to be to protect the public and stop the spread of a disease on an island.

When I returned stateside, I was stunned by the difference in discourse. People were repeating US media fear-mongering and ‘othering’ the gay community. American media wasn’t educating or empowering anyone, gay or straight, to protect themselves and their loved ones. It was spewing divisive nonsense. An Indiana schoolboy, Ryan White, was harassed, ridiculed and not allowed back in school after having contracted HIV through tainted blood during a regular treatment for hemophilia. Even he was on the receiving end of homophobic slurs from the ignorant.

Information is not what US media offers its citizens. I don’t think it ever has.

In this current political climate, I overhear conversations and wonder, “Do people really think this or are they repeating something they heard?” It isn’t difficult to recognize patterns in language when you’ve studied media for 9 years. My early experience in the UK was a valuable lesson about what media can be as public service, while learning to listen to, and take into account many perspectives.

“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering” ~ Carl Jung

I’ve always tried to counter nonsense with something sensible. The key word is try. Lately, I just try to keep my mouth shut. The reactions to even basic statements are akin to pearl-clutching, as if smelling salts might be required when simply stating that the current president is not the worst man who ever sat in the White House.

This is not an unreasonable thing to say. Based on some reactions, however, it doesn’t pay to say another word because emotions too easily override capacity for reason. We don’t have political discourse but hysteria, manufactured to control political discourse — or, it seems to me, to eliminate it entirely. Whoever paid for that got their money’s worth.

I ditched cable news because I prefer to listen to experience. Maybe it was the time I spent at my grandparent’s home in Virginia when I was little. I sat fascinated while uncles and older cousins debated current affairs and politics on the front porch. Sure, tempers flared sometimes — but the minute someone announced there was pie, the debate ended and it was all grins and good-natured laughs.

The point being that folks used to carefully consider issues and were able to have thoughtful debate without losing their damn minds. There was some decorum.

Adults cannot make informed choices unless information given to them is based on ‘what is’ rather than wishful thinking. Wishing is nice, but it is not how economies work. None of us can ‘wish away’ record debt from war spending. We’d do better to focus on the oikonomikos “practiced in the management of a household or family.” Getting out of debt is better than wishful thinking.

Wishing for peace also does not achieve peace. Not when the electorate is ignorant about foreign policy, the physical limits of growth, currency devaluation, and energy depletion; among other complex issues we’re facing as a human family. A great deal of damage occurred long before this president was elected. We need to concern ourselves with mitigating the damages coming.

We don’t have time for snark, eye-rolling, or pearl-clutching. It’s time to find elders or become one and take our place at the adult table. To start, I would suggest getting and studying a copy of The Constitution. People still carry pocket copies. Heck, order a pack of 10. Pass them around. Make discourse great again!

A fine elder, Chief Oren Lyons, addressed a panel during an indigenous UN forum on climate change in 2007. In the video link above, Chief Oren shared a simple phrase I’ve found helpful for many years, “Value Change For Survival.” [To clarify: Not to value change, but to change our values.]


Who’s Writing Your Story?

Before I sat this house three years ago, I was talking through a rough break-up, trying to analyze my feelings when my Aunt said, “Oh, that’s just ‘Your Story’. Something you’re choosing to identify with.” I meditated on this. The second part of that statement was correct. I didn’t appreciate the dismissive tone of the former.

Of course I identify with my stories. I would like to understand, learn and not repeat the same mistakes. You know, unlearn them to avoid another go-round on the Samsara/Wheel of Suffering ride. My stories live in my bones and why shouldn’t they? I lived them! I can glean the karmic lessons from them and hey, I wanted to be a writer. Each experience was a life lesson – some good and some bad. That’s life! I have no shame about my healed pain. That’s precisely what made me the strong woman I am! Learning from stories led me exactly where I needed to be — and often.

Perhaps I just wasn’t arriving where others were expecting me to go? Expectations are often nonsense, like notions of perfection [unattainable], impossible to live up to because they are scenarios that only exist in someone else’s imagination — often not a reflection of our own reality. Even if a person knows everything about you, they can’t know your experience — or — the observer that is you.

I don’t mind advice. But some folks mind a great deal if you ignore theirs! The trick is to not take it personally and get on with what works for you. The idea of enlightenment is to become your own guru — not the actual Buddha — but a buddha. Western new age folk warp this notion with narcissistic ideas about spirituality, dispensing advice without listening to people who are seeking to actually heal their own suffering, braving it head on, not ‘putting on a happy face’ and pretending in order to make everyone comfortable.

That’s denial.

Acclaimed journalist, cancer survivor and author Barbara Ehrenreich said in her brilliant speech called Smile or die, “That is the powerlessness of positive thinking.”

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” ~ Robert Gary Lee

Long before I turned 40, I walked a few paths that were expected, i.e., the usual ‘meet-a-man-marry-settle’, ‘woman-workplace-glass-ceiling-career’ blueprints, but they never ‘stuck’. Once I did find and choose my own path, not much veered me from it — not a failed business, judgmental friends or my favorite mistake; a love attachment with an old friend that started as a beautiful distraction but ended with heartbreak.

I loved him dearly. Unfortunately, he came with pre-fab expectations that most folks are programmed with at birth in this country — the same ones I’d ditched long before I met him. I was patient, hoping for him to find the courage to stop complaining about his miserable job, miserable family, and make his own changes. He did have high expectations…just not for himself.

When it ended, he told me, “I didn’t fight for him.” Evidently, I was supposed to ‘save’ him from his miserable life by completely rearranging mine. What I needed in relationship didn’t matter. All that mattered was what he wanted.

Sense or nonsense?

He wasn’t mature enough to understand that I loved myself and my one precious life more. It mattered to be able to explore my own possibilities. And if he truly loved me, he would support that. Any friend would.

We had a great deal more in common than not — which is the damnable thing about it. He assumed I would sacrifice the freedom I found for a lifestyle predicated on debt and ‘stuff’. He later tried to shame me for frugal living within my own means, and without debt. He thought I would make sacrifices to be with him — without him saying where he saw himself in a year or two…let alone where he imagined us in six.

It took six years for him to make changes — most of them outward. I wasn’t going back into debt to ‘save’ a grown man from poor financial choices he made before I came along. Needless to say, our paths weren’t aligned for healthy relationship.

Putting people on pedestals is nonsense. Expecting people to ‘save’ you from your bullshit is also nonsense. I’m not better or less than, or want to be with someone better or less than. I want a partner who meets me halfway, and walks alongside. Being with him while he was miserable would have meant turning away from, or rejecting my self and choosing to be miserable. [It loves company, I hear.]

If someone truly loves you, they wouldn’t dream of asking you to be unhappy, pretending to be something you’re not. Like a movie in his head [or comic book] my role was somewhere between Cosmic Virgin and Wonder Woman: I could read minds! I had the magical ability to save miserable middle-aged men from their bullshit! Coddling man-babies, while never having my own life — and I’d better look like a million bucks doing it!

After turning 50 and raising my own child, I wasn’t signing up for that nonsense.

So who did he fall in love with? I have no clue. I’d imagine he still doesn’t have one. He didn’t fall in love with a person he was waiting or hoping would change without cluing me in to whatever fantasy was going on in his head. Why would he? He knew it was bullshit and was afraid to be honest about it. It wasn’t love but a fantasy.

Fantasies crumble when we lose the masks we wear. Underneath that is honesty, and the vulnerability to take the real risk that someone might love us for exactly who we are. I don’t regret taking that risk. It is regrettable that he couldn’t. Ignoring our humanity for unattainable notions of perfection is one thing. Expecting that from someone else is projection.

We simply can’t ask a human being to be something they’re not, without also asking them to hand over their integrity and self-respect. The strongest people I know understand that this is the fight hard won. I feel it’s the only real currency human beings have in an artificial age.

We will always repeat our bullshit in relationships until we ditch the masks and learn to love our flawed, beautiful, vulnerable, and brave selves first.

Patterns are important to notice in relationships. People in loving adult relationships will call you out on your bullshit, if it’s repetitive, and not ignore it and ‘hope for change.’ I’m a cards on the table, open book kind of gal. At 52, that book is definitely not about a saccharine-sweet Disney Princess, pining for another Prince with a mommy complex.

It’s crone time!

There are as many paths as there are books in a library. I’m unsure what the title of my book will be but the ending could be mighty dull if we’re censoring our own stories simply because they might make people uncomfortable. When we consistently choose to reject or ignore sense, we find ourselves eventually staring at a big ol’ pile of nonsense.

Hopefully, we wake up from the fantasy, see that pile and begin our ascent. If you feel buried deep in the pile of nonsense, grab a shovel and start digging. Unconscious projections are epic and show few signs of slowing. I don’t believe they will subside until we — either by circumstance or choosing courage — deal with reality.

I believe that America is approaching its own dark night of the soul.


I’m new to intentional living, so I’m aware certain topics might be controversial and difficult to approach. Because of my past experiences, I’m extremely thoughtful about this. I adore my community and want to bring the best ideas, solutions and energy I can muster. Not my old bullshit. This means seeking quiet time alone, without distractions, where meditation has proven most effective for me.

Gnothi Seauton, proto-crone. Know thyself!

My name is Gabrielle. I’m a recovering media analyst.

I’m well-suited to work with many forms of media as a Gemini sun/moon. Double Mercurial. Communication. As a photographer, I appreciate both light and shadow. I enjoy humorous word play and language with filigree. My brain is a rolodex full of music lyrics, jingles, movie lines and yes, some old bullshit. Meditation turns the volume down on that. I work on three websites and write for two, including this one. I’m delighted to start work on a new archive project called the Crone Chronicles. I used to promote music. My tarot suit: swords. I’m a long-time cheerleader for the first amendment. It was put first for good reason. One of my favorite phrases: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Today I ask, “Is that so?”

Hearing of Assange’s charges under the Espionage Act, and the responses I’m reading about them, I am more concerned than ever about intellectual freedom. We’ve been warned many times by brilliant writers, journalists, activists, musicians, comedians, artists and our own history about where we are headed. Did we listen?

If we had — we would remember this is history we do not want to repeat. We’ve been desensitized to hearing hard truths, and we can’t heal soul pain without acknowledging it, so maybe this is just a painful lesson we’re going to learn the hard way…


The money behind the pen is mightier than most things, including our fragile democracy. That pen is a double-edged sword. It has blacklisted writers and censored novelists, beheaded poets in countries that never used to be allies [for damn good reason]. Then there is the ‘death of a thousand cuts’ to imprisoned whistleblowers and publishers interested in truth and justice. The noblest things remain elusive in a country that espouses them, even with Wikileaks 100% accuracy record! Many never speak of who wrote the damning emails, still more have never bothered to read them after freedoms were sacrificed for them to do so.

We’re content to shoot the messenger. I relate to Julian’s plight. His pain is my pain. It will be the pain for many of us if this bullshit continues unabated without some reflection about what it really means.

Disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed was a basic attitude of punk rock as a philosophy, if you can call it that. There’s more truth in the lyric insert of the Dead Kennedy’s album, Bedtime for Democracy from 1986 than all the corporate news in 2019. Journalism and music have always been constant companions; brain-food groups. A steady diet of radical because mainstream bored me to tears.

I miss Hunter S. Thompson’s wit and Kentucky wisdom. I bet he’s laughing his ass off at all the rubes. I’m also reminded of Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, John Lennon, George Harrison…my departed friend and mentor, Michael C. Ruppert and the best news man that ever lived, Edward R. Murrow.

‘In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ ~ George Orwell

I’m no longer interested in news analysis because there’s nothing inspiring about analyzing bullshit. No one seems to care about integrity, journalism, democracy…just the next election cycle of bullshit. Seems to me there isn’t much left to analyze except the psyche…and permaculture principles. US media is a dull state of affairs compared to intentional [and international] work happening in permaculture. That word may not sound or look radical; a string of black fonts on a glowing screen. Break it down to its roots: ‘permanent culture’ — well, that sounds like fertile soil for story telling. Stories about the history of a place and its people; the good, the bad, and the ugly. The heartland of real stories and I’ve been thinking of it profoundly in terms of journalism.

To journal. To record history — like a field guide for future generations to have a sense of place, where mistakes are learned from, not repeated because they’re remembered. Repeating the same mistakes in a garden means that eventually, you do not eat. That’s reality.

Industrial culture is collapsing under the weight of under-reported greed and corruption. Historically important stories are regulated to the dustbin of algorithms bought and paid for by alphabet agencies in bed with big tech. That’s not a sustainable practice if we care to have a free press. Monocropped corporate media landscapes are poisonous, barren, and lacking nutrients that produce brain food. Idiocracy reigns.

Major print newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. Print a thing on paper, distribute it, and it becomes difficult to reel it back in to correct mistakes. The kind of error that takes time, integrity and requires personal responsibility to fix. That is disappearing.

Frankly, I think the internet has lasted this long because it is owned by alphabet agencies and DARPA. It exists to spy on us and create false news to weaponize it against its own citizens. We are a far cry from journalism in this not-at-all brave or new world of short-attention spans. We’re not just repeating history, we’re regressing back to the time the Espionage Act was penned.

If this is the information age, I’m not impressed.

I’d like to point out that the president’s Twitter account is quite unprecedented in the history of political media. It is the closest we’ll get to knowing an elected official’s thoughts in real time. No matter how we feel about the quality of those thoughts, we’re getting them uncensored. I find that fascinating from a media perspective.



I’ve looked down many streets and have seen results that cannot be unseen, after both conservative and liberal presidents held office. We’ve lost too many veterans to suicide. I’ve lost one too many friends to drugs and crime. I’m witnessing journalism die by the hands of those with the audacity to call themselves journalists, while the warmongers who pay their salaries push to indict a publisher for exposing the crimes of Wall Street’s war cronies — who created the results on those streets.

War. Is. A. Racket.

Corporate media sells it and America is buying it up, despite fake liberal hysterics about this president — they were happy to go to war with a nuclear superpower — as long as stock dividends keep paying out.

Phil Ochs nailed it in 1966.

I remember when Assange was a darling of the left…in 2010, when it was also politically convenient for them. I attended a march in D.C. against the war in Iraq during the George W. administration in 2007 and it was a beautiful sight. When Obama took office and began bombing countries [more than GWB], the call to organize peaceful anti-war marches was met by crickets. Folks on the left have since rehabilitated GWB and call anti-war activists ‘Putin-puppets’ without a hint of irony.

Since 9/11, we’ve been steeped in propaganda to sell never-ending war. That has been the goal of elites and remains the root cause of this country’s social ills. Only a corrupt media could sell the belief that one man who never held an office before 2016, is to blame for decades of bullshit. Pimping pharmaceutical ‘fixes’ during commercial breaks for the anxiety and neurosis created by their 24hr, 24/7, ‘fear and loathing’ news cycles. It’s the same template from the late 80’s when I returned from the UK. The only thing new? Only 6 corporations own 90% of the media landscape instead of 50, and pharmaceutical commercials didn’t exist then.

I’m choosing a principled path called permaculture. I’ll be glad to share a whisky bottle with those who understand this sane path, no matter their neighbor’s, friend’s or family’s political leanings. We need to remember how to build community and lean on each other.

That’s going to require a lot of inner work.

Yes, it’s uncomfortableIt is worth it.

I’m certain my grandparents knew about the bullshit, especially during the great depression. Government institutions and banks didn’t save them or their neighbors. It was the ability to grow food in a closed system that saved them and their community’s ability to do the same. My family wouldn’t be here — I would not be here — if my grandparents believed that Wall Street or political parties would put food on their table.

I learned from those stories, so I can’t make the mistake of wishful thinking. It seems changing my values for survival wasn’t such a radical undertaking. It was in my DNA.

As far as media is concerned, the only journalism I’m interested in will be birthed after the veils are lifted, hard truths revealed, the corrupt held accountable, and Manning and Assange set free — fully pardoned and vindicated — and news restored as the public service it was meant to be. Anything less is just more bullshit.

Now, if you’ll excuse my absence, it’s time for pie.
Good night and good luck. ~ G

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“The Department of Justice just declared war––not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media.” – Edward Snowden

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Your Deep Ecology Moment

The way in which the “spiritus absconditus” speaks through the author of the first part of the “Aurora consurgens,” reminds one of the spirit of earth in Faust. This spirit speaks to Faust, who writes down what it says. The author of our text continues later:
“Turn to me with your whole heart and do not spurn me
because I am weak and black, for the sun has changed my colour
and the depths have hidden my countenance,
and the earth is corrupted and infected in my operations,
because darkness had been laid upon it.
Because I am held fast in the mire of the deep
and my substance is not revealed,
therefore I cried out of the depths
and from the abysses of the earth
doth my voice speak unto you.”
~ Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 16 May 1941, Page 157





Self-Disclosure: Breaking Through Paradigm Defenses

Chapter 5 excerpts [and flowchart] from the outstanding publication, The Paradigm Conspiracy: Why Our Social Systems Violate Human Potential — And How We Can Change Them | 1998

by Christopher Largent and Denise Breton

Drawing from the success and wisdom of the Iroquois Peace Confederacy, twelve step recovery programs, and the poetry of Rumi, this book provides an analytical framework of our current social systems and presents suggestions for change that can ultimately result in an entire paradigm shift.
Chapter 5
Breaking Through Paradigm Defenses
Hearing the truth
Fifth of the Twelve Cycles of Truth,
the Iroquois Peace Confederacy Tradition
I honor those who try
to rid themselves of any lying,
who empty the self
and have only clear being there.



Covering soul loss.  Self-knowledge observes the paradigms we use to filter consciousness and focus our energies.  But self-knowledge also observes the price we pay for filtering reality as we do.  To focus on some energies, other energies get blocked.  That’s natural and necessary, even a good idea.
What’s not such a good idea is to decide that soul energies are the ones we need to block.  Yet that’s exactly what happens.  To fit into a control-paradigm family, school, church, peer group, workplace, or profession, we factor out our inner self.  Coping with the shame, humiliation, and trauma implanted by control-paradigm institutions takes precedence — and drives our souls into hiding; our inner being can endure only so much trampling.
When paradigm filters obscure our inner self to create an outer self that does the coping, the gap left inside grows into a chasm.  Wang Yang-ming, the sixteenth-century neo-Confucian teacher, put it succinctly: “With the true self, one lives; without it, one dies.”
At first we ignore soul loss.  When that doesn’t work, we keep problems a secret and pretend everything is okay.  Since we’re not sure what’s wrong, we cover to get by.  We devise stories — which we then live out — to shore up the outward image, while we search for something to fill the inner void.
Seeking without for what can only be found within, though, is the formula for compulsive behavior, since no amount of outward compensating can compensate.  We don’t feel connected with what’s meaningful.  Life seems empty, which, without our souls’ aliveness, it is.

Are we our filters?  The trouble intensifies when we forget the gold we are and instead identify with our paradigm filters.  We believe that to expose our filters is to expose ourselves; worse, to lose our filters is to lose ourselves.  Our filters are how we’ve survived.  We fuse with them, believing they’re all we’ve got.
Hindu philosophy describes our personality filters as vehicles for our souls.  They give us the tools to learn and evolve, but they have the same status as the cars we purchase and resell after we’re done with them.  Our paradigm-packaged, space-time-race-gender-culture personalities are vehicles, not who we are in our core.
Yet, given the traumas of coming into this world, we-our-souls forget this teensy distinction and come to identify with we-our-filters — the mask part of us that bears a name and carries a personal history filled with abuse and defenses.  It’s as if we identify with our armor rather than with the living person that the armor protects.
In this light, the rigidity that makes paradigm shifts traumatic turns out to be a fear reaction — fear of the emptiness and vulnerability we’d face if we didn’t have paradigm filters to fill in and protect us. Treating our inner lives as having little value — a strategy we’ve acquired from control systems — we build our paradigm’s filters into forts of invulnerability.


The best way to make our paradigm armor invulnerable is to make it invisible.  The cloaking shield of invisibility is the most potent defense, as Klingon, Romulan, and American defense engineers know.  What can’t be seen or detected can’t be shot down.  Invisible, our paradigms avoid the risk of attack.  We hide our paradigm’s filtering processes under acceptable cloaking devices — and many such covers will do the trick.

Staying within a group.  For example, one way to make paradigm filters invisible is to surround ourselves with people who share our set.  We align ourselves with groups that take the same paradigm for granted.  Surrounded by filter-familiars, ours blend in.  Paradigm filters stay invisible: “What filters?” “What’s a paradigm?”
As long as we remain within the group, our paradigm filters are safe.  No one questions them, since everyone shares the agenda of keeping them unchanged.  When paradigm issues do surface, it’s to reinforce how successful and right the group’s paradigm is.  The official lines get repeated and the catchphrases and shibboleths echoed.  To speak the language of a given paradigm isn’t to do paradigm reflection but to identify with a group whose strategy is to keep the paradigm in place.  Those who question it are soon out.
Small wonder cliques permeate paradigm-rigid societies — with each group accusing the others of being cultish.  The more researchers studied the religious cults that shocked everyone in the seventies, the more the paradigm-dogmatics — resembled what goes on in mainline churches, corporations, schools, universities, governments, labor unions, and nonprofits.  The strategy of keeping filters invisible under the cover of a group-shared paradigm turns out to be not aberrational behavior but the required norm.

When groups support growth.  Not that the support of a group-shared paradigm is all bad.  If we’re shifting to a new paradigm and letting go of the damaging filters, group support is exactly what we need.  Transitions of this magnitude aren’t easy.  We’re on new ground — and usually in systems that work hard to keep us as we were.
We also need the support of a group-shared paradigm if we’re exploring its full potential, as happens in scientific, therapeutic, creative, artistic, and spiritual communities.  Working with people of like mind takes us forward by leaps and bounds.  As we work with others synergetically, developments emerge greater than any one person can produce.
We also need support if we restructuring social systems, since we’re bucking the collective commitment to a particular paradigm.  Social change takes heavy lifting — more than one person can do alone.  Gandhi needed the Indian people to join in his strategy of nonviolent noncooperation with British rule, a major paradigm shift, for his efforts to have effect.
Whether group involvement supports filter evolution or filter fixedness, therefore, is a matter of paradigm development: what phase are we in?  As with the chick and eggshell, what supports paradigm evolution at one stage may stifle it at another.  It all depends on where we are — and how relatedness to a group either supports or hinders our paradigm-evolving process.

Compartmentalized.  Another way to keep paradigms invisible is to split our lives into compartments and to design paradigm filters for each box.  We divide our lives into love relationships, family, school, work, social circles, and church.  We divide our businesses into labor, management, staff, and customers.  We divide our governments into powerful, celebrated leaders and powerless nameless citizens, into liberals, conservatives, and radicals on both ends, or into clout-carrying PACs (political action committees) and the cloutless masses.  We divide our professions into experts and clients, doctors and patients, know-it-alls and know-nothings, perfect ones and sickies.  We divide our minds into reason and emotions, money making and family values.  We divide our culture into sciences and humanities — and within each a dizzying number of specialized fields.  And we divide reality into spirit and matter, mind and body, positive and negative, God and humanity, inner and outer, spirituality and “the real world.”
By splitting our world into separate pieces, we protect the paradigm filters we use for each bit.  Soul has nothing to do with economics.  Spirituality has no relation to government.  In a fixed area, certain paradigm filters apply, and we don’t mix them with filters we use for another box.  That way, we never have to ask how it all adds up; it just doesn’t.  No one expects it to.
We don’t ask, for example, whether the values we use at work are the values we’d like our children to live at home.  If we’re management, we can’t be bothered with the filters of labor.  If we’re scientists, we don’t have much time for humanities.  If we’re doctors, we pay little heed to the self-healing powers of clients.  Or if we adhere to one religion or political faction, we don’t want to hear about the views of another.
By putting walls between our filters, we protect our overall filter arrangement.  We avoid filter comparisons, which invariably bring our paradigm out into the open and subject it to revision.  As we mentioned in chapter 3, some of the greatest leaps in knowledge and art — cultural paradigms — occurred when two or more societies interacted.  Box-category thinking, valuable as it is for developing specialized knowledge, prevents this fertile exchange.  It forbids us even to attempt to integrate our filters with wider contexts, which paradigm evolution demands.  There’s no overall paradigm, we tell ourselves, which means our cultural paradigm stays offstage, invisible.

Open and objective.  Another way to keep paradigms hidden is to appear to be filter-free, as if we have no paradigm, no filters — and no covers for them either.  For decades, scientists hid their filters behind claims of objectivity: they weren’t using filters; they were unbiased observers.  Only when physicist Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” suggested that scientists’ perspectives influence and even determine what they observe did scientists begin to acknowledge their filters and examine how they affected their findings.
Being “open” and “skeptical” are other ways of hiding paradigms we’re not keen to question.  Not that open-mindedness is the prime evil plaguing the globe.  Rather, sometimes claiming to be open is used as a strategy to make us appear paradigm-free, which guarantees that neither we nor anyone else has a chance to look at our filters.  By appearing to be oh-so big-minded, we keep our paradigm close to the chest and off-limits.
No matter how open we are, we’re not without paradigm equipment, nor is that desirable.  As long as we have bodies, minds, and a space-time awareness, we have filters.  As long as we live in control-paradigm systems, we have defenses.  We need them for protection.

Suffocating.  The trouble is, our paradigm covers work so effectively that they obscure our paradigm’s filters not only from others but from ourselves as well.  If we’re to evolve, we need to know what paradigm we’re using, so we can change it.  Defensive covers block this awareness.
How far will we go, though, to protect our paradigm?  What cost are we willing to pay to keep it in place?  Would we rather die than change it?  That’s the danger.  Like a chick trapped inside a shell it can’t break, we can suffocate inside an outgrown paradigm — and in the groups that share it, especially if they’ve raised us, paid our salaries, or promised love, security, prestige, meaning, and salvation as long as we stay committed to them.  Taking chances and pecking through doesn’t sound attractive, even though we suspect the shell is what’s smothering us.  The more afraid we get, the more fervently we try to make life in the shell work.
And why should pecking through sound attractive?  Being inside the shell is what we know.  We’ve learned how to adjust.  Like the chick, we haven’t a clue about life outside.  Our filters have shielded us.  It’s hard to imagine that they may now be killing us.
Shifting paradigms is scary.  No wonder our strategies for keeping paradigms in place are more developed than our strategies for changing them.


System filters.  The same paradigm-protective dynamics occur in systems.  Like individuals, systems need paradigm to do their jobs.  Paradigms organize a shared activity, whether it’s education, spiritual pursuits, doing business, or running a town or nation.  They coordinate the energies of everyone involved by giving them an overall view — a framework of ideas, concepts, and values.  This framework then translates into specifics: methods, policies, roles, strategies, structures, and goals.  The paradigm has a track record of working, at least by paradigm-defined standards.
If they’re serving us well, for instance, paradigm filters of religion screen out separateness and intolerance, so we can see our lives whole and connected; business filters screen out greed, so we can manage our human household wisely (the original meaning of economy); school filters screen out fears of inadequacy, so we can tap the treasures of our minds, and government filters out power-grabbing and exploitation, so we can build a just, fair, and free world together.

Off-limits and invisible.  Somehow, though, our social paradigm filters aren’t working this way.  To paraphrase from Paul’s letter to the Romans, they’re filtering out what they should let through and letting through what they should filter out.
Yet getting at our systems’ filtering paradigm and changing it is no small task.  System filters, orchestrated by the control paradigm, have their ways of staying off-limits.  Many of the most soul-damaging control filters — such as the win-lose competition filter that dominates school and business, or the power-over filter that creates heavy-handed hierarchies in families, religions, the military, law enforcement agencies, and corporations — go unquestioned, even by otherwise change-oriented people.  We take the filters and the paradigm behind them for granted.  We’ll fire people and hire new ones, spend money by the billions, conduct studies and form committees, yet not question the core paradigm creating our social structures.
Changing actors in bad plays won’t make the plays better; we have to rewrite the scripts.  But that’s hard to do when the scripts are functionally invisible.  How do the cloaking devices become so effective?
As with personal paradigms, system paradigms enjoy invisibility as their best defense against change.  Systems use many covers to hide their paradigm filters, but one strategy beats all for blocking filter-awareness: taboos.


Societies’ most potent cloaking devices for its paradigm are its taboos: the questions we dare not raise, the things we dare not do, and the ways we dare not think.  Obeying taboos, we pretend that aspects of our lives don’t exist.  Problems aren’t problems, and obvious sources of trouble remain off-limits; we never speak of them.  We let our systems throw walls of silence around us, so neither we nor they are threatened by hearing the truth about what we’re experiencing.

Taboos about sex.  From the Puritans’ version of Christianity, for example, we inherit taboos about sex.  As H. L. Mencken observed, puritanism, is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  Because we’re not as committed to perpetuating puritanism as we were several hundred years ago, we’re examining and changing these taboos.
For instance, even talking about sex (yes, we almost didn’t write this section, because there’s a taboo about that too) makes people uncomfortable, but the taboos go way beyond that.  Everyone knows that sex is pleasurable, but no one’s supposed to experience it (except Mae West and Marilyn Monroe).  Men are supposed to have sex only to satisfy their “drives,” while women are only supposed to do it to have children.  Neither is really allowed to feel the pleasure of the experience (good women don’t enjoy it, and real men don’t have feelings).
Gender-specific taboos even invade our most private practices, though many of these are being changed: men aren’t supposed to get involved in intimacies (cuddling and all that); women aren’t supposed to be on top, men aren’t supposed to touch each other except for athletic slaps; women aren’t supposed to initiate sexual activity; neither men nor women are supposed to touch themselves, except for bathing, and you’d better be quick about that.
Significantly for a patriarchal society, more taboos exist for women than for men.  Women aren’t supposed to have more than one partner, for example, even if they’re not married, while the opposite is encouraged in men, even if they are.  Older men may team up with younger women, but older women aren’t supposed to go for younger men.  It’s more okay for men to talk about sex — especially using specific language or slang — than it is for women.
And everyone who has a sexual experience is programmed to experience guilt and shame afterwards.
That’s the control paradigm in force — and invisible.  We’re too absorbed in fulfilling gender roles or feeling guilty to reflect on the paradigm that sets us up to feel these things.  We think it’s us, and taboos keep it that way.  They make us controllable.

Taboos about feelings.  Another paradigm-protective taboo makes our feelings off-limits in social systems.  In family systems, for instance, we learn to stifle “unacceptable” feelings and feel guilty for having them.  In school systems, we learn to get tough and hide how we feel, whether it’s fear of tests, shame in competition, or joy in learning.  Blase’ cool is the way to survive school, with emotions tucked safely away.  At work and in professions, feelings have no place.  The most professional-looking expert is the one most “in control” of his or her emotions, therefore apparently least emotionally involved.  Even the words emotion and emotional have negative connotations.  To say someone is being emotional more or less discredits what the person says.
Factoring out our emotions is convenient for control-paradigm systems.  If we’re cut off from how we feel when we’re being dominated or shamed, we’ll tolerate it more readily.  And we’ll learn to disregard the pain we feel when we witness control-system abuse to others.  We’ll flee into our heads, where the control paradigm feeds us with rationalizations, judgments, and ultimata — “Things must be done this way, or chaos follows.”

Science taboos.  From science, we’ve inherited a host of taboos about what’s real and what’s not, what we can talk about “intelligently” and what’s superstitious or pseudoscience.  In general, the rule is this: If you can measure something, manipulate it, predict its functionings, and then replicate it — i.e., control the outcome of experiments on it — it’s scientific and real; if not, it’s imagination or illusion.
We accept this approach to science because it gives us some measure of control over our environment.  Yet there’s the rub.  The strategy reduces knowledge to control.  We think that knowing something means being able to control it — control-paradigm epistemology.  Given the authority we grant science, we don’t question this strategy, even though it discounts mountains of observed but nonreproducible — therefore “anecdotal” — evidence.

Science taboos: Their wider impact.  But defining knowledge in terms of control raises questions.  To take some practical ones first, what kind of control does control science give us?  Control-paradigm science inevitably disregards wider contexts, because wider contexts aren’t easily controlled.  To gain control, scientists eliminate variables and constrict the field.  In fact, early in their schooling, scientists learn to think in narrowly focused ways and to disregard broader contexts.  The most defensible Ph.D. thesis is the most specialized one.
When we act on control knowledge, as we do in devising technologies, we act on highly focused information — information that has eliminated broader-context considerations.  Using narrowed control-think to create all our modern goodies, we find ourselves faced with wider-context messes.  Yes, aspirin can help with heart disease, but it can also cause bleeding stomach ulcers.  Yes, combustion engines move us around, but hey pollute like crazy.  Yes, we can invent super-poisons for pesticides, but we end up ingesting the stuff, while mutant bugs use it for seasoning.
As long as the immediate control objective is achieved, though, control-paradigm science doesn’t worry about the larger impact.  No wonder we’re stuck with radioactive toxic waste that has a half-life of several million years and traveling clouds of acid raid that kill forests.  As we discovered on a trip to eastern Canada, seeing trees — entire forests — sick and dying from the top down can ruin your whole vacation.
It’s no good using the dodge that science operates apart from technology — that the endeavor of science is unrelated to its technical, commercial applications.  Who funds scientific research in universities?  Who decides which projects receive grants and which don’t?  It’s not the Good Fairy — or science in the public interest.  If the same money went into researching alternative energy sources, for instance, as gushes into developing new oil fields, new uses for petroleum by-products. . .our economy wouldn’t be fossil-fuel dependent, our environment wouldn’t be choking with petroleum fumes and discarded plastics, and our knowledge of energy wouldn’t be stalled with burning things — caveman science.
Thanks to taboos protecting control science, though, we buy the dodge.  Science is pure intellectual activity, unaffected by economic or political forces, and we’re the Easter Bunny.  Fantasy for fantasy, ours is less dangerous.

Science taboos: Ethics and values.  The taboos that insulate control science from its impact on society also hide its values.  The directions that science and technology take involve decisions based on values — control values.  Nonetheless, taboos place science above ethics.  In other words, control-science taboos hide its decision-making processes and the values that guide them.
These values and decisions affect the course of science.  The fact that some scientific research gets screened out while other research receives both funding and publication is attributed to the natural course of scientific development, as if there’s no paradigm-based filtering going on.
Our experience in several universities showed us exactly what Vine Deloria Jr. described earlier: the “experts” who dominate the field also dominate the direction and limits of research.  They give their positions at conferences, where reputations may be made or broken, and they edit the journals.  If someone steps outside the experts’ prevailing paradigm, the step had better not be too great — or his or her reputation and publishing career (a “must” for tenure) is at stake.
Even more telling, though, is the funding of research by industry.  Because the college and the science department as well as the researcher get money, there’s an unspoken but real incentive to present projects that support the agenda of work being done in various industries.  Historian of science Robert Proctor documents this process in Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Can and Can’t Know About Cancer.  Proctor details how combinations of industrial, academic, and political interests influence — even control — what should otherwise be open scientific research to save lives.

Science taboos: Accepted practices.  Control-science decisions affect not only the direction of research but also how knowledge is applied.  As long as some practice is labelled “scientific,” we’re hesitant to ask whether it’s wise or cruel.  The status of “accepted scientific opinion” is often enough to put a the theory along with its applications beyond moral question.

Example: Babies and birth.  Accepted scientific opinion has long held, for instance, that babies have primitively developed nervous systems and can’t register pain.  Accordingly, doctors routinely perform painful tests and surgery on screaming infants without anesthesia.  “They’re just screaming to exercise their lungs,” we’re supposed to believe, not because the needles are going into them — and fresh out of that warm, safe, mostly needle-free womb.
Through hypnosis we now know the pain and anger such “scientific” practices produced.  If we walked up to someone on the street and lopped off a body part, we’d land in jail.  If an obstetrician does it to a baby boy — again without anesthesia — he gets paid.  What message does this send to baby boys about the world they’re entering?  How safe and protected are they going to feel when this experience meets them right off the bat?
In Babies Remember Birth — a fascinating book exploring the consciousness that babies bring into the world — psychologist and hypnotherapist David Chamberlain discovered that babies are most annoyed at being treated like objects to be poked and prodded rather than as intelligent, conscious beings.  Chamberlain writes:

A ringing declaration of infant intelligence ends the report [of the birth experience], as Deborah compares her knowledge with that of the hospital staff. Saying that she was more aware of being a mind than a person, she speaks of feeling intelligent and explains why. She decided she was more intelligent than those caring for her, because she knew the real situation inside while they seemed to know only the outside. She was also superior in being able to receive their messages while they were unable to receive hers…
In Deborah’s own words:
I felt I knew a lot — I really did. I thought I was pretty intelligent. I never thought about being a person, just a mind. I thought I was an intelligent mind…
They seemed to ignore me. They were doing things to me — to the inside of me. But they acted like that’s all there was. When I tried to tell them things, they just wouldn’t listen, like that noise [her crying] wasn’t really anything. It didn’t sound to impressive, but it was all I had.
I just really felt like I was more intelligent than they were.”

Science taboos: Philosophy and consciousness.   But consciousness, certainly infant consciousness, has no place in the official worldview of science, and taboos keep it that way.  Taboos hide how control-paradigm science affects our overall philosophy.  Because of taboos, we don’t ask whether physical observation, quantification, and control under laboratory conditions are adequate for understanding the universe, including ourselves — or babies.
Yet questions persist: If we can’t measure or control something, does that mean we can’t know it?  Does it give us grounds to act as if it doesn’t exist?  Even if we seem to control something, do we know all there is to know about it?
By making noncontrollable aspects of life off-limits — outside the domain of scientific inquiry — the taboos of science ignore many realities, but most of all, consciousness.  Only when scientists figure out a way to reduce consciousness to observable, measurable, and controllable behavior are they allowed to study it.  By that time, though, what they study is boring and sheds no light on the complexities that conscious beings face.  We have to wonder why we buy a paradigm of knowledge that’s incapable of dealing with the most significant aspect of human life.
Consciousness isn’t exactly peripheral to us.  Yet the dominant paradigm of knowledge places consciousness research off-limits.  Intuition, inner advisors, synchronicity, spiritual seeking, the quest for meaning, healing, transformation, near-death experiences, soul work, mythic consciousness, microcosm/macrocosm connectedness and the symbol systems, such as astrology or the I Ching, that explore it are called hokum and nonsense.  No self-respecting scientist would be caught dead investigating them, certainly not if he or she taught at a university and were up for tenure.

Science taboos: The nonordinary.  One of the most powerful ways taboos shut down open inquiry is to ridicule those who step outside the official scientific-opinion.  If something doesn’t fit control-paradigm science, the phenomenon is dismissed as nonexistent, and the people who persist in speaking about it are dismissed as crackpots….
There are a few taboos of science — taboos that protect the dominant paradigm we use to gain knowledge.

Taboos at work.  [W]ork life is fraught with taboos — and for the clear purpose of keeping the control paradigm invisible and unchanged.  Employees dare not speak out when their company acts illegally, exploits the community, or damages the environment.  Neither may they discuss ways in which the workplace functions abusively.  On policy, procedure, scheduling, and operations, people aren’t free to speak their minds to “superiors” — not without risking a lower performance rating, cut in salary, or loss of job.  As Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel show in The Addictive Organization, to air concerns is to be disloyal.
Yet taboos cripple business effectiveness.  The more information flows freely, the more people base business decisions on a big picture of what’s going on.  When taboos shut down this flow of communication, managers are in the position of a barge captain trying to negotiate the shoals of the Mississippi with no dials working.  It’s astonishing how out of touch managers can be with the people they manage.  Yet it’s logical within a control paradigm of management: in a control hierarchy, information flows down, not up.  Even when the control model is failing, taboos prevent people from saying so.

Taboos about addictions and abuse.  As the recovery literature documents, heavy taboos surround addictions and abuse — again, for paradigm-defense reasons.  If we admit that the paradigm behind our social systems is driving us to self-destructive behavior, we’d be forced to question it.  It’s easier to pretend nothing is wrong with our social systems or their paradigm; it’s just a few people who can’t cut it.  No, addiction is not a global epidemic — or, as Shakespeare put it, “This is not my nose neither.”
Studies indicate that 88 million Americans are chemically dependent or in a relationship with someone who is, 50 million smoke, 12 million chew tobacco, and 37 million have a food addiction.  One out of every four families suffer from alcohol- or drug-related problems.  That doesn’t count people suffering from the emotional trauma of dysfunctional families.  Yet taboos forbid us to deal with these experiences openly or to consider how they’re affecting our adult behavior, from intimacy to parenting to professional conduct to national policy.
In the case of President Lyndon Johnson, for instance, Johnson’s mother wanted him to excel where her husband did not.  When young Lyndon got A’s at school, she praised and rewarded him, even by inviting him to sleep in her bed.  When he misbehaved or got less than A’s, she refused even to acknowledge his presence and would talk about him as if he weren’t there — even as if he were dead.  The message was clear: if you don’t excel, you don’t exist.  Decades later, President Johnson couldn’t admit that Vietnam was a no-win war, even when his advisors told him.  He said he refused to be the first American president to lose a war.  His decision reflected not political realities but childhood programming.

Taboos against having problems.  In fact, having problems at all is taboo, because it suggests failure — “real men don’t have problems,” or if they do, they certainly don’t talk about them.  When we’re in systems, we’re expected to pretend everything is okay.  If problems do arise, they’re ours, not the system’s, certainly not the paradigm’s.  Again, if we’re in pain as a result of living in systems, something must be wrong with us.
In other words, taboos present system paradigms, but they don’t protect the people within the systems.  They don’t help us cope with the realities of our own lives.


“Defensive routines.”  An excellent analysis of both how paradigm defenses work and how to disarm them comes from the two team-learning consultants in business management, Harvard’s Chris Argyris and MIT’s Peter Senge, who describe “defensive routines” as major obstacles to learning in corporate and business systems.  “We trap ourselves,” say Argyris and his colleagues, “in ‘defensive routines’ that insulate our mental models [paradigms] from examination.”  In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge explains:

Defensive routines…are entrenched habits we use to protect ourselves from the embarrassment and threats that come with exposing our thinking.  Defensive routines form a sort of protective shell around our deepest assumptions, defending us against pain, but also keeping us from learning about the causes of pain.  The source of defensive routines, according to Argyris, is…fear of exposing the thinking that lies behind our views….  For most of us, exposing our reasoning is threatening because we are afraid that people will find error in it.  The perceived threat from exposing our thinking starts early in life and, for most of us, is steadily reinforced in school — remember the trauma of being called on and not having the “right answer” — and later in work.

Defensive routines block transformation.  Since defensive routines don’t let us inside our paradigm’s castle, we can’t get to the paradigm filters where change is most needed.  As a result, defensive routines block learning — and real solutions.  “‘The paradox,’ writes Argyris, ‘is that when [defensive routines] succeed in preventing immediate pain, they also prevent us from learning how to reduce what causes the pain in the first place.'”  We stay within pain-making structures, trying to avoid the pain those very structures create.
Defensive routines also block communication.  We develop rapport when we share which paradigm filters we’re using.  Our filters don’t have to be the same; we just need to know the filters at work in a relationship.  Then mutual understanding grows.  But when one person hides his or her paradigm, other parties do it too.  Defensive routines are contagious.  Once defensive postures start, they spread.  Up goes the armor.
Trickiest of all, defensive routines are “self-sealing,” to use Argyris’s term.  Not only do they hide paradigms, but they hide their own existence as well — the invisibility trick again.  To both hide our paradigm and be psychologically correct, we fall back on the openness cover.  We want to seem open and candid, so we work hard at appearing that way.  But this simply pushes paradigm defenses deeper, as we pretend that neither our paradigms nor covers for them exist.  If we subjected either to examination, we’d risk having to restructure them — exactly what a paradigm shift requires.


Lies, secrets, and cover-ups.  By hiding the paradigm that lies at the root of problems, defensive routines allow situations to get worse.  They don’t let concerns or confusions surface, even though these may be the key to a breakthrough.  Instead of helping us deal with realities, defensive covers divert our energies into preserving masks and images.
By so doing, defensive routines force us to live a lie — not to be honest about what’s happening.  It’s not that we’re intentionally dishonest; it’s rather that, as long as we’re participating in a control system, we’re simply not at liberty to speak openly about what we’re experiencing.
When taboos forbid us to speak our truth, our lives alone and together get “zippered shut with secrecy,” to use journalist Jonathan Vankin’s phrase, leaving us vulnerable to “secrecy’s chief weapon, propaganda.”  At home and at work, at school and on the news, we’re lobbied into believing the official line that justifies control-paradigm systems.  Our family, educational, economic, social, political, and religious institutions are basically fine.  All we need to do is get rid of the bad people — lock them up, kill them, or drug them until they fit the norm.  Then our systems would work.
But our systems don’t work, no matter how many people we drug, lock up, or kill.  Instead, a chasm of silence comes between us and system realities.  That’s not good.  “The more taboos there are in the empire,” the Tao Te Ching says, “the poorer the people.”  If the recovery movement did nothing more than show how destructive lies, secrets, and covers are, its service would be immeasurable.
In Healing the Shame That Binds You, John Bradshaw says, “Families are as sick as their secrets” — a truth that applies to any social system.  Defensive covers obstruct our quest to find what’s real about ourselves and our systems, while defenses hide our paradigms so well that not even we can get at them.  What we can’t discuss, we can’t change.  Or as John Bradshaw puts it, “We cannot heal what we cannot feel.”

The toll of the defenses.  Whereas lying was one filter among many in the last chapter, it’s the one to tackle here.  Lying is how we get trapped in our own defenses.  Whenever we invent a story to cover, we make matters worse — in many ways.
For one thing, lies obscure self-knowledge.  Screening what others know of us, we end up screening what we know of ourselves.  Defensive shields come between us and our own reality as we start believing the half-truths we put out.
Lack of self-knowledge is as devastating for companies, churches, schools, and nations as it is for us personally.  Within systems, we need to know where we are — what’s working and what isn’t, what we’re feeling and what others are feeling as well — in order to plan the next step.  We can’t pretend things are okay if they’re not.  As we’ve found with the national debt and the crisis in health care, hidden problems are the most dangerous.  They grow in silence, until they’re so overwhelming we don’t know where to begin to solve them.
Lie defenses are also harmful because they consume our energies, diverting them from where we need them most.  Whether we’re in business or in a marriage, we need to focus on what’s real in the relationship: a real product or service or a real self that’s present with the other.  Defensive covers make this difficult.  Unaware of our filters, we put energy into preserving covers rather than into dealing with real issues.  We create a life that’s more role than intimacy, more image than substance.
In the Exxon Valdez oil spill, for instance, energies poured into damage control for corporate images but trickled into damage control for Prince William Sound.  In the first few critical hours, little energy was spent on actually plugging the leak in the tanker’s hull or containing the spill.  Salvaging government and oil-conglomerate images by using lies and half-truths took precedence.  As with President Johnson’s inability to admit that the Vietnam War couldn’t be won, the compulsion to maintain an on-top-of-it image eclipsed his ability to cope with reality in a situation that was causing more death and suffering day by day.
Paradigm defenses act like guard dogs at the door of our paradigm’s castle.  Their assignment is to protect the model-in-charge at all costs.  Until we disarm the defenses, we can’t get inside.  We can’t explore our paradigm or what it’s doing to us and our systems.  The roots of addictive personal behavior and of soul-violating social structures stay off-limits — as does our real being.


Facing the worst-case scenario makes covers superfluous.  Recovery breaks through defenses, and in a simple, straightforward way.  We create a space to hear the truth about ourselves, our systems, and the paradigms that shape both.
AA’s Fifth Step does this by admitting “to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  Admitting wrongs pushes defensive covers way back, because it tackles the worst-case scenario — what we most fear — namely, being exposed for our mistakes.
If it’s okay to be wrong, we don’t have to hide or cover.  Openly admitting the abusive patterns that a paradigm creates — patterns we’ve participated in and perpetuated ourselves — we no longer need to mount a defense.  We can disclose our paradigm filters and get on with evolving them.
With this strategy shift, we’re out of the defense business and free to focus on  the realities at hand.  By facing our worst fears about being exposed, dealing with our paradigm openly, and being up-front about what’s happening, we dispense with energy-draining covers and attend to the real job: transformation.

Accessing our paradigm-shifting powers.  By so doing, we tap hidden resources of knowledge and growth.  Our willingness to confront what’s wrong opens us to our paradigm-shifting powers.  We see how wrongs get started on a paradigm level, and this insight gets us going on the path of changing paradigms.
Tarthang Tulku explains: “Because our problems are often painful and disturbing, our natural tendency is to try to avoid them; we seek ways to get out of difficult situations, or to go around the obstacles we encounter.  But our problems are like clouds: though they appear to disturb the serenity of a clear sky, they contain life-giving moisture that nourishes growth.  When we face our problems directly and go through them, we discover new ways of being.”

Breaking through defensive routines: self-disclosure.  Argyris and Senge agree.  The remedy for paradigm covers is self-disclosure: admitting what’s bothering us, discussing our defenses, and bringing both our paradigms and their defenses out into the open.  As Senge notes, “To retain their power, defensive routines must remain undiscussable.  Teams stay stuck in their defensive routines only when they pretend that they don’t have any defensive routines, that everything is all right, and that they can say ‘anything.'”
Self-disclosure breaks the hold that defensive covers have on us.  When we admit our defensive habits, they no longer block our growth.  Breaking the rule of secrecy and paradigm-protective taboos, we allow our paradigms to surface and our covers to dissipate.  Issues start bubbling up that carry us forward in confronting what’s really going on.  In addition, we have the energy — liberated from the enervating job of maintaining covers — to go forward.

Learning from defensive patterns.  With a strategy of self-disclosure, we expose our defenses and find out why they’re there.  We can’t get rid of our protective armor all at once.  We have defenses because we need them now, or we needed them in the past, or we think we need them even if we don’t.  Through self-disclosure, we begin to sort this out.  We admit exactly what our defenses are doing for us.
In most cases, identifying defensive covers takes us to the heart of what’s obstructing paradigm evolution.  We’ve stumbled on a mother lode of blocked energy and potential awareness.  What we’re most defensive about is often what we’re most quickly outgrowing.  However, we may not realize it or perhaps we’re not ready to face the consequences of such a shift.  Even so, the same defenses that block us can direct us to our deepest insights — the very idea-shifts that we’re most primed to make.  Again from Senge:

Defensive routines can become a surprising ally…by providing a signal when learning is not occurring.  Most of us know when we are being defensive, even if we cannot fully identify the source or pattern of our defensiveness….  When we are feeling defensive, seeking to avoid an issue, thinking we need to protect someone or ourselves — these are tangible signals that can be used to reestablish a climate of learning….  Often, the stronger the defensiveness, the more important the issue around which people are defending or protecting their views.

In the body, sore points indicate where physical energy is blocked.  In the psyche, defensive covers indicate sore points where soul energy is trapped.  In social systems, defensive patterns indicate where human energy is dammed up.
Self-disclosure unbottles the energy.  Naming defenses as such and looking behind them to the dynamics of our inner growth loosens blocked awareness and lets this awareness operate as a force for transformation.  Core issues surface, and we start working through them.


Commitment to truth.  A commitment to self-disclosure is a commitment to hearing the truth, which is by nature transforming.  Whereas lies, covers, and taboos limit us to existing paradigm filters, admitting what’s going on opens us to learning about reality and to evolving the paradigms we use to move with it.  Senge describes this commitment in practice:

Commitment to the truth…means a relentless willingness to root out the ways we limit or deceive ourselves from seeing what is, and to continually challenge our theories of why things are they way they are.  It means continually broadening our awareness, just as the great athlete with extraordinary peripheral vision keeps trying to “see more of the playing field.”  It also means continually deepening our understanding of the structures underlying current events.

Initiating self-disclosure.  When it comes to breaking through paradigm defenses, a strategy of self-disclosure starts with individuals and spreads out.  If we’re caught in defenses together — if our paradigm filters are so hidden that we can’t find out why our systems are behaving abusively — the way to break through the barriers is shared self-disclosure.
To start, we ask ourselves why we’re defending our systems as they now function, which relates to why we’re part of them in the first place.  We admit how we behave when we’re in a family or school system, for instance, and how we feel about how the paradigms behind systems lead us to think, feel, and act.  That’s the beginning — the strategy that gets the momentum of self-disclosure going.
Where else can we start?  Accusing others in the name of self-disclosure doesn’t work.  Charging others with being defensive brings their defenses out in force.  By contrast, admitting our feelings, confusions, fears, and defenses breaks the pattern.  By relaxing our defensive boundaries, we create space for others to join in and explore what’s going on.
Our story is one telling of our system’s story.  It’s also one telling of a culturally pervasive paradigm.  We’re a microcosm of the macrocosm.  As we share our stories, the system and paradigm no longer remain hidden.
We exchange our stories not to undermine systems but to evolve the paradigms behind them, so that our systems become better servants to human needs.  That’s why we have social systems in the first place.  If we’re not functioning happily in systems, systems can’t function optimally either.  We’re like canaries taken down into coal mines; if we’re not thriving, our systems can’t be either.  The more we’re honest about how we’re experiencing systems — the more we provide the feedback they need — the more our paradigms and systems evolve.

Gandhi: An open experiment with Truth.  Gandhi was a master of removing defenses as a strategy for transforming social systems.  To start, he used the strategy on himself.  Much of his force as a spiritual and political leader came from his commitment to self-disclosure.  British spies could learn nothing that he would not openly admit.  Even his most personal wrestlings with “brahmacharya,” or purifying self-discipline, we made public.  He called his life “an experiment with Truth” — an experiment he conducted in the open.
But he also encouraged the Indian people to let down their defenses and to admit their wrongs as well.  As Gandhi saw it, self-government is inseparable from self-purification.  Otherwise, we’re ruled by our shortcomings.  Self-purification starts with self-disclosure — admitting exactly what needs correction.  Gandhi wrote:

I have always been loathe to hide…the weak points of the community, or to press for its rights without having purged it of its blemishes…I am not interested in freeing India merely from the English yoke.  I am bent upon freeing India from any yoke whatsoever….  Hence for me the movement of Swaraj [self-rule] is a movement of self-purification.  It is we ourselves with our inertia, apathy and social abuse that more than England or anybody else block our way to freedom.  And if we cleanse ourselves of our shortcomings and faults, no power on earth can even for a moment withhold Swaraj from us.

Lincoln: Admitting America’s wrongs.  Hearing the truth about collective wrongs is liberating.  We can’t stop soul-violation until we stop defending it.  In his famous second inaugural address, for instance, Abraham Lincoln openly admitted the “offence” of “American slavery” and acknowledged the inevitability of paying the price for such an inhuman, institutionalized evil.
Defending the indefensible, Lincoln reasoned, locks us on the same level as the offense.  Withdrawing our defenses, admitting wrongs, and hearing the truth liberates us to move beyond both a soul-violating paradigm and the soul-violating systems it creates.
Lincoln and Gandhi did for their nations what system recovery suggests we do for ours today: face abusive paradigms, name how they build abuse into our social structures, and end the defenses, lies, and cover-ups.  With paradigm defenses out in the open, we’re free to evaluate the paradigm behind our systems and get on with a paradigm shift.



“This book is a must read for anyone who values family and freedom.” ~ Russell Means, activist, actor, and co-author of Where White Men Fear To Tread
“A comprehensive survey of the changing paradigm and the need to increase the rate of change.  We can only hope that we will find ourselves on the positive side of the tidal wave that now confronts us. There is a synthesis here that we need to understand — and support — if we are to survive.” ~ Vino Deloria, Jr., professor of history, religious studies, and law, University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto and Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact
Chapter 5 excerpts [and flowchart] from the outstanding publication, The Paradigm Conspiracy: Why Our Social Systems Violate Human Potential — And How We Can Change Them | 1998
by Christopher Largent and Denise Breton