Posted by: chrismaser | November 13, 2010


The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. We must think anew and act anew.
Abraham Lincoln

Please keep in mind as you read the text that what we’re doing to our environment in the name of “management” is really a peek into our human inner-workings, the cause behind our environmental crises brought about largely by our institutionalized resistance to change. Whether we like it or not, we now have the technological capability to disarrange and disarticulate the entire global ecosystem. Thus, for the survival of human society as we know it, we must face ourselves, as uncomfortable as it may be, and we must help one another to confront our human failings and our blind spots. We must be willing to risk changing our thinking and our behavior and get back in touch with our repressed feelings, our exiled intuition, and our lost spirituality.

Although I, as an individual, can’t change what is written in history, I can change myself and thereby influence what may be written in history when the present becomes the past. In all likelihood, I can’t change over night. But, like the man who eventually moved the mountain by carrying away small stones, I can begin.

I’ve learned, for example, that change is an immutable law of the Universe and is an ongoing process that’s always in the present tense. I am therefore writing about the power of the individual human being, the power of choice, the power to effect change in any arena of life, such as a community, agency, or corporation. I’m writing to point out that we, each and every one of us, take ourselves with us wherever we go, that we are the common denominators—the threads running throughout the entire tapestry of our social structure. The irony is that as a species we must actually study ourselves so that we can learn how to survive with ourselves.

If my interpretation of what I see is correct—that the individual is an extension of the family, and through the individual the community, agency, and corporation is also an extension of the family, then society is an extension of the community, agency, and corporation. As such, an individual who is willing to change can change society. If this is true, then the dynamics in a family are similar to the dynamics in the community, agency, and corporation. An understanding of one may thus help us to understand the other, because each is composed of individuals like you and me.

In this context, I’ll discuss “coping mechanisms,” which are unconscious strategies for survival. Keep in mind, a negative word is but the manifestation of a negative thought, and once spoken, it can never be withdrawn, despite an apology, because words are but the public extensions of our private thoughts. By our thoughts we privately define and by our actions we publicly declare who and what we are.

I write these pages with the hard-won realization that, of all species on Earth, we humans are both blessed and cursed with the greatest of powers, the power to consciously change ourselves, to struggle towards an ideal of being, and to frequently fall short of that ideal. In struggling, however, we must understand and remember that anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly for a while.

With these thoughts I offer you an idea, the knowledge that I—and you—have been granted the power to create. We create ourselves with our thoughts, and with our thoughts we create the society and the environment in which we live, survive, or become extinct.

We have control over what we choose to think and do. The outcome is our choice and, therefore, our responsibility. This being so, it is within our creative power to change ourselves, one by one, from collectors of the society’s psychological garbage to trustees of one another’s dignity, and it’s within our power to transform the world from a toxic waste dump into a heavenly garden.

Today, we are at the spiritual/ecological crossroads of social survival, a threshold at which humanity has never before stood, and we must now come to grips with ourselves. This page is therefore written within the context that individuals have the power to change and in so doing to move their community, agency, corporation, and human society in a new and vital direction.

From here on, I will, for the sake of simplicity, use agency as the point of discussion, rather than repeating community, agency, and corporation over and over. I have chosen agency as the focal point because every human life in the United States is somehow touched by an agency—for better or worse.

An agency is a business or service authorized to act for others. When speaking of an agency, we often use the possessive, such as “the Forest Service’s point of view,” as though it was an individual, and in a way it is. An agency is a collection of people, much like an extended family. Therefore, its benefits and deficits are the collective contributions of both its past and present members.

To change anything, however, requires understanding something about agencies in general.


Series on Resistance to Change:

• My Introduction To An Agency

• The Inception Of An Agency

• Stages In The Cycle Of An Agency

• When Dysfunction/Malfunction Creeps In

• Homeostatic Defense

• Coping Mechanisms

• Coping Mechanisms: Anger And Aggression

• Coping Mechanisms: Appraisal

• Coping Mechanisms: Defensiveness

• Coping Mechanisms: Denial

• Coping Mechanisms: Displacement

• Coping Mechanisms: Filters

• Coping Mechanisms: Projection

• Coping Mechanisms: Rationalization

• Coping Mechanisms: Repression

• Coping Mechanisms: Resistance

• Breaking The Dysfunctional Cycle

• From Where I Stand

Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.

Protected by Copyscape Web Copyright Protection

This article is excerpted from my 1994 book, Sustainable Forestry: Philosophy, Science, and Economics. St. Lucie Press, Boca Raton, FL. 373 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.

If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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