Resistance to Change LO24667

From: Leo Minnigh (
Date: 05/24/00

Replying to LO24640 --

Dear LO'ers,

Due to a wandering mind and other busy circumstances, I have tried to keep
in pace with the filling of my mailbox. Writing was not possible. I must
even confess that I did not read every post, and I am very sorry for the
authors of these mails. I know how much joy it gives if you know that your
words are shared by others.

The thread 'Resistance to change' is interesting. In the past I have
written already some words on this topic. However, I have seen a lot of
new subscribers who probably are unaware of the dialogues of the past. So
let me formulate my thoughts on this topic again.

Change means that something will become
1) in another position
2) in another composition
3) in another structure

Note that the above possibilities could be applied to abiotic (e.g. a
grain of sand) and biotic (e.g. a human being), physical and abstract
(e.g. thoughts) 'things'. Note too, that combinations are possible.

Let me first start with 1): a different position. Something must come off
it's place and will occupy a new position. Why should something come off
it's place?
There are two forces which cause different effects. The first one is
ATTRACTION. If there is a position which is more attractive than the
original one, the thing starts to move towards that new position. Again,
this could be physical or mental. Thoughts could be moved to another
direction by an attractive idea. Water moves down from the mountain,
because of the gravitational attraction. In my workshops with students
I often use the vacuum cleaner as example of the attractive force.
The great attractivity - as I may use this word- of attraction is, that
the process of repositioning is a process under control. One could predict
the effects, the new position is known. These effects could be described
as 'concentration'. In other contributions, I have also used 'pulling' as
a synonym for attraction. In human behaviour, one could also speak of

The opposite of attractional force is REJECTION - pushing.
Rejection cause generally uncontrolled effects. It means that the original
place lost its attractivity, but there is no alternative. Something has to
move, but does not know where to go; it could be in all directions. Think
of what hapened in Kosovo. The place lost it's attractivity and the
refugees flew to all directions, away from the centre. Think of the
devastating explosion a couple of days ago in Enschede, Netherlands. The
effects become easily a disaster. But think also of the effects of
punishment in human behaviour. This issue has been discussed on this list.
Punishment is comparable with 'pushing'; the very position is made as
unattractive as possible. The resulting effects of human behaviour are
very difficult to predict. A lot of governments - creating new rules and
laws to change behaviour by means of punishment, seem to neglect or
underestimate the possible effects of their actions.

I think that the understanding of these two mechanisms and forces are
of great importance when thinking and discussing the issue of change. In
my own organisation (University of technology at Delft) there was a couple
of years ago a big activity, initiated by the university's board:
increasing the mobility of people. In fact, it was meant to reduce the
amount of grey hair. I guess that with lots of people the amount of grey
hair increased by this action. The results after 3 years are nihil, and in
my mind mainly due to the overuse of the rejection mechanism. And also due
to the simple minded ideas that only money could generate attraction or
rejection. Even with a million of salary, nobody will work in hell.

In some cases one can observe that both, rejection and attraction, are at
the same time involved. A thing that is not allowed in my country, but is
common in the United States is the use of both in commercials. Here, in
the Netherlands, only attraction is allowed, so a product is highlighted
as THE product. In the States it is allowed to make negative
comparisons with competitor's product(s).

2) Another composition
Here too, attraction and rejection play a role. But now only parts of the
'thing' are involved. Some material is removed. And material could be also
something abstract like 'knowledge' or 'weight'. This latter example is
very clear in lots of high economy countries. Overweight becomes a serious
problem. There seems hardly any resistance against change. Apparantly, the
attractivity of certain types of food is so high, that people start to eat
more than they could combust. The results are obvious.
But also the attraction of alcohol, drugs, tabacco, slotmachines, or
wealth could cause great changes.
These examples are maybe too negative. There are also positive
compositional changes. Enthousiasm could very well change the composition
of a person. It could create an enormous force to collect and grab new
I have mentioned so far examples of the human. However, it is very easy to
find also examples in the material world. Pure iron is very willing to
change in composition: it likes to make an alliance with oxygen resulting
in rust.

3) another structure
In the pure case, position and composition stay the same. I once have
discussed the recrystallization process of ice crystals in a glacier. But
we may also think of the generation of new thoughts and knowledge within a
person, just be him/herself- just by thinking. The structures in the mind
will change.
Also phase transitions are an example of this type of change. The
transition of ice to fluid water or water to steam is a change in

I hope that with the examples given, the reader could find a lot of other
examples and I hope that the issue of 'change' will deepen these thoughts.

But there is one aspect not yet mentioned. I hesitate to go deep in this
aspect because it could complicate your first thoughts.
It is the aspect of free energy (inner resistance) and the aspect of
barriers (external resistance). Or in more common language - to will and
to can.
A person likes to change, but cannot; he is not willing to change, but is
able; etc.

For my students I start with four examples to stimulate their thinking:

a patient in a hospital
a flea on cat's skin
a prisoner
a habitant of a medieval castle with the enemy outside

All these stay where they are, all because of different internal or
external reasons that have to do with to will and to can.
Maybe others will take over the talking stick and start the important
issue of 'to will and to can'. For the moment I will continue with my own
restructuring, which seems a slow process.
Best wishes,

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
        Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <>

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