We Interrupt This Program to Bring You Breaking News…

Patterns of behavior can be interrupted and changed instantaneously. When people lock into recurring patterns of negative behavior, it may serve them better to have someone interrupt the pattern rather than sympathize with them, which reinforces the attention they inherit for acting out that pattern. Program interrupts (or pattern breakers, as I sometimes call them) can short circuit the pattern and inspire a more resourceful, positive state. An outrageous act, like sticking a clown nose on their face and having them look in a mirror, can transform the mood and circumstance.

Jean Houston, a philosopher, human potential researcher, and author of the book, A Mythic Life, was hired with other presenters to inspire creativity in Washington bureaucrats and help build a more people-centered society. On the way there, one of her co-presenters remarked, “This is no man’s land (for the kind of healing work they do). Government bureaucrats spend their time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They’re not going to listen to us.” Jean Houston acknowledged the challenge ahead and said, “You’re probably right. So, we’ll have to alter their consciousness.” “How?” her friend wondered aloud. “With jokes,” she answered. “For me, laughter is the ultimate altered state. At the peak of roaring laughter, one exists, as in mid-sneeze, everywhere and nowhere, and is thus available to be blessed, evoked, and deepened. In the bag of tricks I’ve used over the years to bring people to other states of mind, I still find that for most, laughter remains the easiest way to begin moving beyond that half-awake state we call normal waking consciousness. So I’ll open this august gathering with ten minutes of stand-up comedy. After much laughter and rib nudging, I’ll look out over the audience—no more glacial stares, or supercilious smirks. `Good,’ I say to myself. They are ready for the next part.”

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