Structures – institutional, cultural, organizational, political, financial, relational, philosophical – are mutable. Unless it’s a physical structure we’re considering (and even they are not forever-permanent, even the strongest physical structures change over time, consider plate-tectonics), a structure is simply a collective agreement – subject to change when the agreements change. But the deeper the structure, the more subtle & hard it is to discern the agreement aspect of it.
At the level of thought-structures we’ve inherited (‘tradition’ ‘how it’s always been done’), and dominant cultural value systems, we often tend to buy into them as representations of reality. We believe that’s how it’s always been done because that’s just how the world works. (or the market, or human nature, or ‘those people’). When structures strike us as inevitable, we don’t even think of trying to change them.
It’s only when we remember that structures are simply collective agreements, which we collectively choose to conform to, that we can fully apprehend the truth that we can make new agreements. And without the full, conscious recognition that we are all free, at every moment, to revise our agreements, we cannot produce lasting change. We will be trapped by tradition, the status quo, or dysfunctional-but-mass-held beliefs.
This is one of the main reasons that most change efforts eventually revert to the status quo. There are others (conflicts of interest, clinging to power, etc.) but this is the one we have perpetual, personal influence over – what we agree to. This is where we transform our own lives & where we begin to transform the world around us.
But, like I said, deep structures are hard to see. Harder still to see when we’re trapped inside of them.
So – here’s an important question we can ask ourselves – Can I tell when I’m giving too much to a structure? Too much power, credence, permanence, inevitability, validity.
Can you tell when that is happening in your own mind? If so, how can you tell? How do you know you’re doing that? And if you can’t tell, how might you begin to notice that?
For me, I suspect I’m giving too much credence to a structure when I’m deeply bored (which almost never happens, so that’s a big sign), when when I feel hopeless, and when fear becomes harder to manage than normal.
I don’t often feel real despair. But when I do, that usually means I’m buying into a structure that is not liberating and it’s time to identify what I’m giving too much credence to.
Despair (for me) means it’s time to identify and to change my agreements. I may not be able to shift collective agreements yet, but I can revise my own, which undermines that sense of ‘inevitable, emperical truth’ for anyone watching.
What about you? Do you know when you’re buying into a structure’s immutability?