Resonance, Coupling, Complexity, and Community

From time to time I work as a guest leecturer to classes of doctoral students in psychology. These are primarily students in the field of community school psychology. More recently, I’ve worked with classes in the broader field of community psychology.

Preparing for a guest stint, I borrowed the textbook being used by the instructor. It was a current release, with references to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. The book is very well-written, and I spent a couple of hours going through it. Several things struck me about this textbook. One was the fact that the authors chose not to define “community” right away. Instead, they chose to first present a list of seven foundation principles that underlie the field and practice of community psychology. These principles were generated by attendees at a pivotal conference some years ago.

While most fields of endeavor have standardized bodies of knowledge, I thought about the process by which this one and others are generated. How did people get invited to that conference? Were any non-psychologists included in the dialogue? Stakeholders such as community activists, or just “ordinary citizens?” Among the seven principles are things like “social justice” and “advocacy.” Clearly citizens are encouraged to take a direct role in shaping their communities. But how does it happen that a list of defining principles for the profession emerges?

Ralph Stacey, a thought-leader in applying complexity concepts to both management and psychology, talks about “complex responsive processes of human relating” (CRPR usually). To Ralph, iterated patterning of the “gesture and response” of human communication gives rise to our norms, values, and ideologies.

But what IS a community? Do I have to be physically proximate? With the internet, can’t I just have my social network “friended” on Facebook? If I am aware of all of you, but none of you are aware of me and my interests, am I a part of the “community?” What if I have read your work, and am thinking or even blogging about it – but none of you have seen it? If a blog falls in the forest, does anyone care?

In the amazing world of sub-atomic and quantum physics, scientists have made discoveries that seem to defy our understanding. Two particles may co-exist in an atom, and share similar properties, such as rotation or spin. When these are physically separated, I believe scientists have found that changing the spin on one produces an immediate and identical change in the other. can we say that these particles have some kind of unique bond of “community?” Clearly they are coupled and resonant, one with the other.

Is it sufficient for us to say “I am here, and I am a part of you. . .” without anyone else knowing? Can we really say we are a part of the community in that case? If “I feel your pain. . .” in terms of some social issue, are we “coupled” like the particles?

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