Dysfunctional Paradigms

PPH III contents

Common wisdom has it that “You can’t leave a place you’ve never been.” Positive change requires an awareness of where you are now, where you’d like to be, and how to get from here to there.

It starts by being aware of current beliefs and recognizing that they’ve created the place you’d like to leave. It takes the courage to admit that the currently held paradigm, no matter how familiar and fiercely held, is part of the problem. Creating a happy, fulfilling life begins with shifting to a complete and correct paradigm.

Distortions of the Wheel of Change generate attitudes that are similarly bent out of shape. These eventually manifest as violence, both internal or external. Like cancers at a cellular level, the results of life turned against itself take many forms. Conflict and stress-related illnesses takes their toll on every scale of magnitude from smallest, the individual, to largest — the entire planet.

Illustrations included here picture the major paradigm malfunctions that continue to cause great misery and horrific violence in the world.

Illusions of Separateness, Exclusiveness and Isolation

In the unified worldview pictured by the Positive Paradigm Wheel, all the levels of experience are interwoven and interconnected. Time is an illusion. All of history is in fact going on at once. (See the Prado Painting section of Rethinking Survival for more detail.)

In this paradigm, everyone everywhere is connected by the invisible strands of energy and time. Living fully aware of the center while remaining present on the surface, linking the levels of the Wheel in a two-way, infinitely continuous loop is the height of attainment. In this reality, separateness isn’t possible. Isolation is only an illusion. Exclusiveness is a mirage.

A common ego-distortion of the Wheel is to carve out a pie-slice in time and place from the whole and identify with it to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. (See Figure III.01.)

PARADOX: The Illusion of Separateness

Illusion of separateness

Exclusiveness and Isolation

This ego mistake has many variations. One is to identify with a particular level of the Wheel to the exclusion and detriment of the others. For example, many identify exclusively with the surface. This results in the picture of the exclusively materialistic empirical science world view. (See Figure III.02.)


It is also common for those who share a particular distortion to disrespect those who are focused exclusively on other levels or different sectors of the Life Wheel. Compounding this, they begin to think their particular viewpoint is exclusively right, and all others exclusively wrong. The next step is to attach the label “good” to what they like, and “bad” to whatever is unfamiliar.

Another distortion is to identify primarily with the middle level of energy and emotions. Nature worshipers and pagans distort or invert the levels, sometimes placing nature above its Source, even replacing it. Hedonists (adventure and pleasure seekers) also live here.

Still others identify primarily with the inner levels of the Wheel. In the extreme, philosophers and religionists focus here. (See Figure III.03.) Making a value of necessity, they sometimes reject the world as an evil influence and suppress natural urges. This backfires, leading to hidden sexual abuse and other malfunctions.


Yet another distortion is to fragment the levels of the Wheel. Different levels are experienced at alternative times, each part disassociated from the others. The result is the chaotic picture of a schizophrenic personality and/or lifestyle. In the extreme, the center floats alone, outside the rest. This explains how fractured individuals who seem like model citizens and pictures of propriety on the surface can live hidden lives of depravity and commit crimes of unspeakable cruelty. (See Figure III.04.)


Each distortion has negative consequences for mental health. This in turn affects relationships within and between families, and then relationships within and between every larger form of social, political, religious, educational and business organization.

Egoists — narcissists in the extreme — subscribe to the illusion that they’re separate and that they must compete against each other to rise to the top two-dimensional pyramids. They compete for control over presumably scare resources, both material and intangible. This includes money, possessions, political power, popularity — even love. “Me-first-and-foremost” believers feel justified in doing whatever it takes to get “ahead” — at the expense of everyone else.

Egoists behave as if getting what they want is the end-all and be-all of existence. They act with little regard for the future, oblivious to the concept of karma. Like Dorian Gray, they believe they can hide from the consequences of their actions and that there is no higher justice. But in this, they are sadly mistaken. Whether foreseen or not, the results of past actions inevitably return. For the unprepared, it is the hardest but surest way to learn life’s lessons.

Egoists are not in-dependent, for they see themselves as lacking inner resources. They are independent in the backwards sense of trusting and depending on no one and nothing but themselves. This is not only terribly lonely. It invites rationalizations, making it acceptable to exploit others and distance themselves from the pain, suffering and hardships caused by their selfishness.

Duality – Dividing the World into Opposites

In the positive worldview, light, peace, and higher love at the center are balanced at the middle level by the fluctuations of nature: day and night, light and dark, hard and soft, hot and cold, wet and dry, pleasure and pain. The elements of nature combine and recombine, proliferating to create diversity on the surface of the Life Wheel, including the manifold species of plants, animals, birds, fish — and races of mankind. (See Figure III.05.)

The Complete, Natural Paradigm


However, in recent times, it has become the usual practice to separate the complimentary sides and alternating seasons of nature, pitting them against each other. Integral pairs of light and dark, day and night, white and black, positive and negative, male and female are opposed as if they were warring antitheticals.

Life, success and pleasure are chased after. Their opposites — death, failure and pain — are shunned with fear and aversion. (See Figures III.06 and 07.) In the extreme, even the compass directions of right and left are associated with political extremes. This produces a world of conflict within and wars without.

Exclusively “Good” – Yang without Yin

Duality Positive

Exclusively “Bad” – Yin without Yang

Duality negative

To make matters even worse, moral judgments of “good and bad” or “right and wrong” are arbitrarily assigned to opposite sides of the same coin. Instead of being equally natural parts of a single, unified pattern, light, day, white, positive and male are elevated to superior status. Dark, night, black, negative and female are subordinated to inferior status. The language of poetry, when misconstrued and taken literally, becomes perverted into sexist and racist bigotry, with wide ranging, divisive results.


It is said that “Love makes the world go round.” Higher, unconditional love resides at the Wheel’s center. But much that is done in the name of this all-powerful influence is paltry parody. The natural impulse to extend outwards towards others takes many forms, positive and negative, as it manifests throughout the layers and sectors of the life Wheel. Some are creative, others destructive.

In creating your own personal Wheel, it is important to think about your own experiences, past and present, and what you would like to change for the better. (See the pie slice section of the Life Wheel shown in Figure III.08.)


Why Albert Missed It

The quality of leadership depends on how consciously complete the life Wheel is, and the extent to which functional levels are integrated. Everyone can do better. In conjunction with mindfulness practices, working with the Handbook can be used as an opportunity to expand and complete the range of competence associated with effective leadership. (See Figure V.01.)

The Best Leaders Are Self-Aware

PPH Increase Self-Awareness

Albert Einstein, who had the Unified Theory of his heart’s desire but didn’t know it, was a world leader in science as well as humanitarian thought. What he lacked was yoga training and a direct experience of the wheels-within-wheels levels of the Positive Paradigm. The product of a repressive, European culture, he was congested at the middle level of emotions, an affliction that manifested in the form of a miserable family life. Despite early flashes of genius, he was unable to produce consistently brilliant work.

Notable leaders of modern times each have unique Life Wheel patterns that explain both their strengths and weaknesses. A hint of what could be turned into a leadership model of leadership analysis is shown in Figure III.09.)

Why Albert Missed It

III.9 leaders have limits


Restoring wholeness at the personal level is primary focus of The Positive Paradigm Handbook. However, dysfunctional paradigms cause much of the stress-related disease which individuals seek to heal. So this subject has necessarily, however briefly, been included, but only insofar as it impinges on the immediate quest for wholeness. The illustrations (which should be revised and updated) are merely suggestive of much more that could be said in another context.

Similarly, the subject of intentionally destructive evil must be addressed when asking why distortions occur, are so difficult to diagnose, and even harder to heal. However, the subject of good versus evil is outside the parameters of the Handbook. For more on this subject, see Rethinking Survival.

Make the Choice

The paradigm choice and its consequences are summarized from Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change as follows:

  • Dysfunctional paradigms tie us in knots. They tear us apart. They drive us crazy. They push us to murder and even suicide. It’s imperative to identify them and root them out.

  • To survive intact, we must cleave to the essence of the perennial philosophy. The Positive Paradigm of Change is a snapshot of the essential truth which the world’s great religions share in common. It offers us a way out of global madness. It gives us a means for restoring sanity to our world outlook.

  • It is a question of which worldview will prevail. Everyone must choose. (Failing to choose consciously is also a choice.) Do we cling to dysfunctional paradigms that have brought us to the brink of Titanic disaster? Or do we opt for Einstein’s new way of thinking? Do we choose to be, or not to be? To survive or to perish from the face of the earth, that is the question.

  • In Positive Paradigm context, peace necessarily begins one individual at a time, and is accomplished from the inside out. So long as dysfunctional paradigms put individuals at war with themselves, general ignorance will continue to escalate into worldwide conflict.

  • Paradigm choices have consequences for long-term survival. The Western linear progressive theory of history puts leaders operating on dysfunctional paradigms at a loss to foresee cyclical down-turns or prepare for them in time.

When building the personalized Wheels of Change in Part Five, it’s important to think about both the personal and the long-term, large-scale consequences that will follow from choosing between familiar, dysfunctional paradigms and the Positive Paradigm experience of personal fulfillment.


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