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Creating Bridges Across Our Cultural Patterns

I will admit it.  Watching and reading about the January 6th Congressional hearings makes me angry.  As I have learned by practicing the Centering Skill of “Noticing Myself”–that anger is a signal that one of my values has been violated. So true! My fear for our country also brings out my Protective Pattern of Attacking, as I am sure was noted by my friends in a recent Facebook post. 😂

If I pause and notice my judgment, I can appreciate the clash of Cultural Patterns that is on full display in these hearings.  Our Cultural Patterns are formed from all the messages we receive from our family, our community, and society about how we should be in the world, and they create the lens through which we view the world.

It is not easy to make decisions quickly, which is why our Cultural Patterns can be so helpful. They give us groups to which we belong and thus help us navigate the world. When values come into conflict (when we can only honor a top value by subordinating another), as they often do for all of us, our Cultural Patterns guide us to which values are most important. But sometimes our Cultural Patterns block us from seeing others’ truth. 

For many of us, clashing Cultural Patterns usually remain in the muted background of daily life because the people we spend time with have similar Cultural Patterns.  While our colleagues or friends might have some significant differences in family or life experiences, the values they express overlap enough with ours that we feel comfortable.

The January 6th hearings, on the other hand, display a clash of Cultural Patterns in all its messiness. First, I am shocked and saddened at seeing Cultural Patterns so different from my own.  But when I look deeper, I also see conflicting Cultural Patterns in the participants, as people reveal their conflicting values and the ones by which they make decisions: 

  • Demonstrate loyalty to your leader.
  • Listen to your conscience.
  • Hold onto political power. 
  • Uphold the Constitution.
  • Remain true to your “team.”
  • Treat others well.
  • Fight for what is important to you, taking up arms if necessary.
  • Refrain from violence.

When I listen to the participants in the January 6th hearings, I am reminded that their families and their communities have given them the lens through which they see the world. If I pause my judgment long enough, I can use the Connecting Skill of Empathizing to recognize that they might feel that they had very tough choices regarding the events of January 6th.

Understanding Cultural Patterns and thinking about how they influence my and others’ behavior doesn’t mean throwing away my values and thinking that everything is okay.  It does help me recognize the humanity in other people, and see our maxim “Everyone has impeccable reasons for being exactly who they are.” It does help me to try to see what THEIR truth is, so I can build a better bridge from my world to their world.  These bridges are an essential part of Dovetail Learning’s vision: 

Since the world we live in includes all of us, we need to learn to live with and learn from each other, even those who seem very different from us. I invite you to join me in creating bridges across our Cultural Patterns. 

With resilience, 

Meri