There’s this fascinating insight in Organizational Development that is just begging to be applied to life. It’s called equilibrium. Our boss explained it in one of videos we used for training, I thought his explanation was brilliant. One can see an organization, as well as the human body, as a whole composed of cooperating parts.
Suppose one such body is healthy and aligned– taking ‘alignment’ here in its most literal and physical sense, I mean a body with good posture. Suppose this body suffers an accident and sprains the left ankle. Suppose that this sprain goes untreated. The left leg will carry little weight, because it would be painful to lean on the left leg. The right leg will compensate by carrying more than its fair share. One begins to limp. And because of the uneven distribution of weight, one shoulder might dip lower than the other. This deformation might persist long past the injury.
When there is change, the body will always seek to achieve equilibrium. The body must walk, the body’s weight must be carried; and so it will. And without proper assistance, without guidance, the body will find ways to equilibrium which may not be the most optimal. A part of the organization might compensate for the weakness of another. It will be uneasy, it will be malformed, maybe inefficient, and might break down often but at the end of the day it gets a job done. It is an odd state of rest, the kind of sleep that is sonorous and deep in the middle of the sea that tosses and turns.
I didn’t quite understand the extent of this, and how far it reaches down to touch my spine until a few weeks ago when my office mates and I were discussing a problematic person, and what lessons can be gleaned from dealings with such people. I said I cannot understand how some people stick with patterns that hurt them, when they continuously perpetuate the same errors. Why insist on stupid rituals so global that it engulfs their world, and each sputterance a minute’s difference away from the last complaint. Same, same, same, same, just different names, just different proper nouns. Same, same, same same. Why keep to something that hurts you anyway?
Because, She said, there are just some people who just do. She told the story of some people having problems with their telephone or internet line; they complain about it, but never fix it. I remember my refrigerator light which I haven’t fixed, and that broken pipe in the kitchen. Complaining has become their equilibrium. For people who drive people away because they claw too close, the ritual of love, need, pain and loss has become their norm. Mediocrity can be someone’s equilibrium. A broken pipe, a missing knob, silence between spouses– the wrong, the mistake, the horrible can be the state of normal.
How foolish are to throw flour, eggs, milk, and sugar in a oven and expect a cake? Are we really so naive as to think that things will fall in place as fall where they may?
The cost of straying from these patterns is the cost of the unknown. I guess the doors out of our habitual processes are hidden by willful ignorance, or maybe a few blown-up fears. It requires leaning on weak ankles, maybe even atrophied limbs. It perhaps requires seeing ourselves in harsh light; when we see ourselves as having slept or given up. It requires courage.
Freud wrote about something like this in an article called “Working-Through.” He says the analysand must be brave enough to speak, to break the patterns which are hitherto untold. We repeat, he says. Repetition is always in action, and more often than not, it is unconscious and unarticulated. It is language that breaks the pattern of repetition. Because when we tell the story of ourselves as we are now, in the sharpest, honest, brightest light, we get to re-write our patterns. But I guess this is only insofar as we have the courage to face the shadows the harsh lights may cast.