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falling together not falling apart

Posted Jul 27 2009 11:39pm

Does that sound weird? The idea that we could "fall together?"

We can indeed fall together, and, interestingly enough, it can feel a lot like falling apart. This fact freaks a lot of people out, and often leads them to believe they are actually falling apart and should be alarmed, when in reality they are making progress and things are coming together.

There's a concept in developmental psychology called assimilation. It basically means that when faced with something new we try to figure it out what it is based on our current view of the world. For instance, when a child first sees a zebra he may say it's a horse, since it shares some characteristics with horses, and horses are the most familiar thing the child knows that looks like a zebra.

The process of assimilation isn't particularly jarring, because we aren't making any significant adjustments to our world views. But, there's a next step in the "figuring out what a zebra is" process, and that's called accommodation.

In this stage we realize the zebra is not a horse- and then we have to adjust and enlarge our belief system and perspective to include the reality of a zebra.

The process of accommodation can be quite jarring. In this phase we need to question what we know, add new information, acknowledge we don't know everything, make changes... it can be nerve-wracking.

So nerve-wracking in fact that we may mistake what's happening for something dangerous or threatening. We may even shy away from the process because it feels so unsettling.

But think of the adjustment to incorporating a zebra into our worldview. It turns out to be a good thing, right? Because zebras are cool, and the world is a more interesting place with them in it, at least as far as I can tell. When we're adding zebras into our worldview it can feel as if we're falling apart- that we can't "handle" the adjustment. But it's not true- we're actually falling together.

The "accommodation" idea makes this week's Bumper Sticker: Falling togethe r is not falling apart.

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