The Tug of War of Systems!
by Joshua Hoyt
An idea from systems theory is that the pull and tug from individuals within the system keep the system in homeostasis. When one person begins to fight the system, another person within the system will arise to pull the person back in, or to equalize the pull. This makes it difficult for systems to change. In order for a system to move toward a true change, which would be a move in the homeostasis midpoint, the forces acting within the system must be greater in one direction if they are to overpower the rest of the system.
For example; let’s imagine a family who is at point A. Joe, the oldest son, is constantly rebelling against the family norm, which causes a lot of stress for the rest of the family. On the other hand, Suzie is a little angel who constantly balances the system, alleviating stress for the family. The family has learned certain unspoken rules for coping with the stress, but they are not very functional. One day, Joe and Suzie’s parents tire of this dynamic and send Joe to counseling. Joe gets better and is no longer a source of stress on the family, but when he gets home, the unspoken rules are unchanged, so Suzie begins to rebel, maintaining the homeostasis.
You see, the system did not change; two members within the system simply switched roles. In order to change this family system, all members need to go to counseling together. Upon doing so, they all begin to see that the unspoken rules are dysfunctional, and they all begin to change. This moves the system to a new, more functional state of homeostasis. Suzie (the new rebel) still rebels, but because the system’s rules have been modified, the system moves.
Phew…I hope that is clearer than mud. 🙂
Now looking at our writing, our main characters are generally our change agents. They are the ones pulling the system in a given direction. However, they can’t change the system until they first change the system’s rules. They need to make the majority of the members aware that there is a problem with the system’s rules and that new rules would be better. Then the system needs to agree.
A simple example of this is Charlotte’s Web. Wilbur is born and lives at a farm where the norm is to eat pigs. Charlotte comes along and spins webs that change the norm so that the members of the system do not eat Wilbur. Charlotte is the change agent that moves the system and alters the system’s rules.
Joshua Hoyt is a school psychologist by day, a father of four and a gamer when he’s not spending time with his family, and an author in all the other spare minutes. He is the author of How to Diagnose Your Character: Using Psychology to Create an In-Depth Character and Order of the Rose. Check out his blog where you can follow the exciting adventure of “The Old Man” and his website to be the first to learn about new releases.