Since I was young, I have been fascinated by the concept of change. When I was in my master’s program studying holistic health education, one of my favorite classes concerned the topic of “the challenge of change.” I explored topics like obstacles and resistance to change and discovered several different models of change. Some of the models of change described a very mechanistic and behaviorally-focused perspective of change. I personally found these models very limited, short-sighted, and dry. Instead, my favorite models of change recognized and described the role that paradigms play within the context of change. These models emphasized autonomy, internal motivation, and empowerment.
A paradigm describes a set of largely unconscious beliefs or assumptions that shape the way we view the world. Looking through such lenses impacts the way we see and understand reality, how we think reality should look, our attitudes, and what we view as ‘unacceptable’ or ‘threatening’ in relation to our understanding of reality. Since paradigms solidify these belief systems, they also serve as the foundation from which our actions and behaviors emerge. We literally embody our paradigms— they create our ideas of who we are and influence the expression of who we are by driving our actions. Paradigms are not only related to personal beliefs; they also exist in all cultural contexts (i.e. social institutions). Cultural paradigms are often accepted by individuals via the internalization of these unconscious constructs.
In student clinic, I am honored to witness the process of change actively at play in the patients with whom I work. I have seen firsthand the significant role that paradigm shifts play in supporting real and lasting health-related changes. I noticed that patients who have allowed their fundamental paradigms to shift have taken on different ideas and thoughts about themselves and the world. These different ideas have driven a shift in their behaviors. I am blessed that I have been able to witness paradigm shifts in my patients—because of them, patients have been able to implement treatment plan recommendations with a greater sense of grace.
There is a Victor Hugo quote that I have always appreciated, and it reminds me of the topic of paradigms and change. It reads, “no force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” Once the paradigm has shifted, the ideas naturally shift. The thoughts naturally shift. The attitudes naturally shift. The behaviors naturally shift. There is a sweet connection between the mental and the physical manifestation. I personally think that this goes well beyond mere ‘change’—I think this topic dives into the concept of transformation.
It is fire! It is alchemy! This process inspires me like no other!
Ready to be inspired? Learn more about Katie’s Naturopathic Medicine student journey here.