A man was killed by a liquor truck. Looks like this time, the drinks were on him - Horatio Caine, hero
We all have our guilty pleasures. Some of us have more than we care to admit. Mine (well, one of mine) is TV. Mindless TV. Pointless, indulgent, silly stuff. Full disclosure here - I have watched Neighbours since birth (American friends - Neighbours is the Australian soap opera that launched the careers of Russell Crowe, Liam Hemsworth and Margot Robbie). And I LOVE it. But this story isn't about Neighbours. It’s about an equally distinguished show.
It’s about CSI: Miami.
David Caruso's Horatio with his smug and ever present sunglasses never fails to make me laugh out loud. The storylines are so outrageously implausible.
It was while watching this brilliant (read; wonderfully terrible) show that I began to ponder the clever use of paradigm shifts in TV Crime Drama. Consider the following synopsis from Wikipedia of Episode 14 Season 10:
"The CSIs investigate the murder of a woman who rode her horse at a local stable and was a former sorority queen in college. At first they suspect a sorority sister, but when she too is murdered, the team realises the killer is sending a message. After the CSIs discover that the two murdered women kicked the stable owner's daughter out of the same sorority years ago, they suspect the woman finally got her revenge on her harassers. However, when the killer's DNA is found on the first victim's horse, it's revealed to be the woman's father, who couldn't stand the way the sorority girls broke his daughter's confidence years ago and then resumed their torment at the stable. After he is arrested, the daughter tries to hang herself, but Horatio gets there in time to save her. In the end, Horatio gives her the hope and confidence to start a new life."
The CSIs must navigate through two paradigm shifts to uncover the real killer. Take the first suspect - the sorority sister. The team discover an affair between her and the former sorority queen's husband. They then use their view of the world (their current paradigm) to jump to some conclusions.
"She must be mad as hell - if it was ME in her shoes, I'd kill her too. Of course she is the murderer".
Reasonable and objective conclusion right? Then the sorority sister is found fried in a sunbed (classic!) - she couldn’t be the murderer after all. This provokes the first paradigm shift for the CSIs - they must reevaluate their worldview, their perspective on 'how things are'.
“So these two women have one thing in common - they bullied the stable owner's daughter. Gotta be she got mad and finally lost it on them both".
Again, logical evaluation it seems. But no - it was the father of the stable owner's daughter all along! He couldn't stand to see his child in distress, her life ripped away from her by two vindictive women who couldn't see her beauty as he saw it. His view of the world? These women must pay with their lives. He, of course, confesses without haste, as is the CSI: Miami decree. And Horatio is the ever present hero.
CSI: Miami, along with many other crime drama shows (Poirot, Sherlock, Luther, The Killing to name a few) use paradigm shifts in their story structure to create gripping (if not sometimes hilarious) plots. But this human dilemma can be seen in our everyday lives as well.
We see the world, not as it IS, but as we ARE - or, as we are conditioned to see it - Stephen Covey, author and educator
Stephen Covey uses several examples of paradigm shift in his book 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'. The one that always sticks in my head is when he describes boarding the subway one Sunday morning. He's in a peaceful state, nothing to do but read his paper, when suddenly a father and his kids board the train making lots of noise, running up and down the carriage and being generally rambunctious. The father seems oblivious to his children's behaviour. Covey could not believe the man's lack of reaction. Finally, he could no longer sit back without confronting the issue. He said to the man, "Mister, you need to correct your children, they are bothering the passengers". The man looks up from his daze and takes notice. "Oh, I’m sorry. We just left the hospital where their mother died about one hour ago. I guess they don’t know how to handle it and frankly I don’t either".
Covey's response to the situation immediately shifted from critical to empathetic. He received new data, which changed his view of the situation. And I guess made him feel pretty terrible about his assumptions in what seemed to be an obvious case of 'bad parenting'.
I've been guilty of this type of 'reasonable speculation' myself often enough. The truth is, I was least equipped to deal with it when I was overweight. When I look back at my world view during this time, I can summarise my paradigm in one sentence - ‘everyone is laughing at me’. I truly believed that this was the case. I believed that the world was my enemy, that I had to fight my way through life. It stopped me from doing many of the things I knew would help me to fix the problem, creating an impossible cycle of unhappiness.
I couldn’t face going to the gym, exposing my weakness in a very public forum. I even struggled to buy healthy food, assuming the checkout girl would think it was ridiculous that someone like me would eat fruit and vegetables. This actually led me down the path of the Atkins diet - I could get away with buying fatty, protein heavy food and no one would know I was trying to better myself. Suffice to say, this diet didn’t work.
How ridiculous does that sound? Crazy right? But it’s all true.
Then one day, my paradigm shifted before my very eyes. One of my ‘skinny’ friends confided in me that she felt ashamed of her body and was jealous of me. I thought this implausible - she was perfect! A lovely size 8, without an inch of fat on her. Me? I was just fat and ugly, someone who is laughed at by the world - how could anyone be jealous of that? It turns out she was ashamed of her bra size, and saw me with an ample chest as someone to aspire to be like.
This was the start of a huge paradigm shift in my life. The start of me believing I was worthy of becoming the best version of myself. I realised that it wasn’t the rest of the world laughing at me, thinking I was worthless. The only person doing to judging was me. And guess what? The only person who could challenged that view was (you guessed it) me. The rest is history.
So what can we learn from this? Well, Covey states that the way we SEE the problem IS the problem, and that we need a new way of thinking in order to effectively navigate through the world. What does this mean? In a nutshell, we should base the way we see the world on the fundamental principles of what it means to be a human being. Living a principled life is to live a life of integrity. He asserts that emotional turmoil and lack of confidence are caused by a failure to adhere to these principles.
In my case, I was failing to look after my wellbeing, which caused me emotional distress. Instead of looking inwards to try and fix the problem, I projected it into the world, choosing to believe that my worth was calculated by people other than me.
Covey theorised that to SEE change we must BE change. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with other people and our situations - trying to change the problems 'out there' - we should look inside ourselves for the answers. If we can master this behaviour, we will see phenomenal shifts in our relationships with ourselves and the people in our lives. These shifts can transform the levels of success that we have in life and at work.
The best method I have found to do this is by questioning myself. Questioning the simple, questioning the obvious. Avoiding making assumptions about other people’s intentions. Here are some simple questions I find useful in everyday life when I am in conflict with other people’s viewpoints:
- What could be going on behind the scenes that I am unaware of?
- What does than niggling doubt mean? Am I giving it a voice or hiding from it?
- What would I advise a friend to do?
- What is this other person afraid of?
- Have I asked this person enough questions? Have I asked the right ones?
- Could I clearly summarise the other person’s point of view?
From Covey we learn that we must focus on ourselves to find the answers to our problems. We must live the change that we want to see.
What methods do you use to challenge your paradigms? Have you ever experienced a paradigm shift that fundamentally changed your view of the world?