“it is easier to act into a new way of thinking
than it is to think into a new way of acting.”
Once we act, it’s as if the brain has to come up with an alibi to make it seem explicable. We know this clearly from when the people have acted from some hypnotic auto-suggestion. They change their shoes, because that is what the hypnotist told them, and they tell you it was because their feet were sore.
I reflect on this in peace work that so often assumes you can think your way into a new way of thinking and this new way of thinking gets you to a new way of acting. The paths to peace are supposedly built in dialog and mutual understanding and the catch cry of more education about differences. I am not so sure anymore.
Conflict is about enforced action that shapes the thinking. Action comes first, thinking comes late to the action, to justify it or re-enforce it. Think about the conditoning of war. Under threat, you shoot first, aim second, and explain or excuse later, if you even have to. Most times in war, thinking is a luxury.
Young men and women are conscripted into armies to defend the homeland, not their choice at all, but after 2-3 years serving, you have to create a story that fits the action, and not the other way round. You are forced to act into a new way of thinking. If the other is viewed down the barrel of an M16, that action creates the threat and not the other way around. Action creates thought.
Or you are forced to leave your home, face perils and blockades every day, and you have no choice but to act into the story of the refugee, even if your identity story is one of a proud home owner. Your story no longer supports the action as meaningful. Yet you cling to your label of refugee even 60 years later because home is who you are but the chance of return are slim to none. You live a story broken by the actions of others, and you cannot act into a new story, or reclaim the old one.
When one seeks to create a new story, I realize now that action demands a story whereas a story never demands an action per se.
The NSL program this coming year is subscribing to the theory of change that believes first of all- to get back into your story, you have to get into the ACT. not get into dialog or lets talk about the conflict or lets learn to listen more. No, lets act about the conflict. Lets act into a new way of thinking because that is how we got into this kind of thinking in the first place. It came from acting and being acted upon. Can we act differently?
And Second, in that acting, ensure that you are acting in your own story and not acting in someone else’s. What tyrants all know is that If I can get you to act in my story, I can get you to think as I think. We must resist that, not with slogans or PR campaigns or boycotts but acting into a new way of thinking.
The arena of change is action. The territory of starting a new story is to act anew, which gives rise to thinking anew, and changing the world of possibility.