What is the connection paradigm?

by Pace on October 2, 2007

What is the connection paradigm? First, I’ll explain what I mean by “paradigm”. A paradigm is a shared reality, co-created by its participants. A culture or a society has certain values and filters that are imposed by default on its members; a paradigm is the same sort of thing but on an even more basic level. Paradigm is almost invisible to most people these days, because there’s only one dominant paradigm right now. People know of the existence of multiple cultures, but almost all of these cultures are within the dominant paradigm. This makes paradigm a pretty tricky thing to talk about and point at, so I’ll try to be more concrete.

The dominant paradigm in today’s world is the control paradigm. There are pervasive assumptions of control throughout all major cultures and throughout all aspects of life. Businesses seek to dominate the market and crush the competition. Farmers seek to isolate their crops from “outside” influences and engineer their genes for maximum yield. Governments seek power over their people. Jealous lovers seek to control their mates. Marketers seek to convince others to buy their products. Bosses seek to manage their resources, thereby keeping control of those “under” them. Parents raise their children. Political groups fight for their rights. Scientists seek to harness Nature. All these words are control words. What is a harness? It’s a device you put on an animal to better control it. Many of these words have positive connotations, but if you take a closer look at them you’ll see that they are all rooted in the control paradigm.

The control paradigm is so ubiquitous, it’s hard to see around the blinders of its assumptions. But imagine with me for a while, and let’s see where we can go. Imagine a world like this. Businesses care about their customers and want to help them. Farmers grow food in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem. Governments seek to serve their people. Lovers love their mates. Marketers seek permission to offer their products to those who might be helped by them. Workers seek to support their co-workers. Parents nurture their children. These words are connection words. The connection paradigm is an alternative to the control paradigm.

“But you’re describing a fantasy world,” you might argue. Well, it might seem so now, since the control paradigm is currently dominant. But even a small step toward the connection paradigm will help make the world a better place, so even if you don’t agree with all aspects of what I’m saying, maybe we can each do a little bit to help out in our own way.

The connection paradigm is all about connection instead of control. Connection with others and connection with ourselves. Isolation is a control paradigm value because we are more easily controlled when we are isolated. But we are lonely. We desperately want to connect with others, but in the control paradigm, the ways in which we are allowed to connect are very limited. We have also become disconnected from ourselves. We numb our minds with TV, video games, and drugs, and we lose connection with our hearts. Seeking therapy is seen as an embarrassing weakness that you have a problem that needs to be fixed, instead as a commendable effort toward self-improvement. We’re stuck in the control paradigm because we don’t know a better way to be. Well, I don’t have all the answers (I don’t think there is one right answer), but I intend to ask some pretty good questions that might inspire you and that might get you thinking. Keep reading this blog if you’re interested in our thoughts and ideas about how to make the world a better place.

And if you liked this article, you'll love my free eBook, The 11 Most Dangerous Myths about Finding Your Path! This 41-page eBook will bust some harmful myths and give you comfort, healing, and guidance to find and follow your calling.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan M. October 3, 2007 at 7:27 am

This is AWESOME. This is eighty different kinds of awesome!! I can’t wait to read more — I’ve had this sitting in my browser and percolating, and I added it to my general reading-list so I’m sure to encounter it again later. It’s very well-explained and clear! It’s fabulous!!



Pace Smith October 3, 2007 at 8:07 am


Thank you. (:


Kyeli October 3, 2007 at 10:09 am

Oops, I read it by myself. I couldn’t stop myself once I got started. I hope this is a good thing.

Holy living goodness, this is totally incredibly awesomely awesome. Wow. Wow a lot. Well said, well written. I feel more confident in explaining the Connection paradigm to others now; I think I grok what I’ve been ‘getting’ all along.


Megan M. October 3, 2007 at 10:47 am

K — I feel the same way. It’s very elegantly laid out, and much easier to process, even as something I have been working on in my head for a long time — it’s exactly right!!


Mantic Angel December 20, 2007 at 7:39 pm

It’s odd. I grew up with a connection paradigm. I’m not sure where it came from, but the control paradigm has always been utterly alien to me, and I’ve always pushed HARD against it.


Green October 1, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I want to write about this in an essay I’m working on, but I need to be able to cite sources. Is there any way I can get more information on this? Are there published sources?


Pace October 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm


We haven’t written a book on the connection paradigm yet, but we got a lot of our inspiration and source material from The Paradigm Conspiracy: Why Our Social Systems Violate Human Potential — And How We Can Change Them.

Another related book is The Story of B by Daniel Quinn.


Debra McHenry June 25, 2009 at 9:15 pm

William Powers, a physicist, developed the theory of Perceptual Control Theory using physics. It very much dispels the myth that we can control, manage or have power over anyone. Those who have worked with him to develop this theory into everyday practice which can be taught and used to improve people’s lives, as well as many other arenas, will tell you that to begin to incorporate these ideas into your everyday practice the first thing you must do is monitor your vocabulary for words that are associated with managing or controlling others behavior. There is too much to this theory to explain it here, but it seems relevant to this topic and could be utilized to further the ideas.


Lynn Fang December 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I really enjoyed your explanation! Like another commenter above, I have never understood the control paradigm, and naturally operate under a connection paradigm, and have always felt the world should be run this way.
.-= Lynn FangĀ“s last blog ..A Community of Urban Farmers and The Gratitude Circle =-.


Kylie August 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I am interested in the content of your site. I am wondering if you have heard of Nonviolent Communication – a language of love? it is also called Compassionate Communication. It is based on communication with the intention to connect. The originator of the work is Marshall B. Rosenberg and i just wanted to let you know if it in case it is of interest to you. Another place to find more info on this is if you google Centre for Nonviolent Communication.


Pace August 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Yes, it’s a great book! We wrote our own book on communication, The Usual Error.


leanne February 22, 2012 at 4:09 am

HI There!!! Pace posted a commented on my blog “The Art of Resourcefulness” that I recently started and sent me the link on the 22 laws you just wrote. I love your work, I love your voices, I love your blog!! I just wanted to say congrats and all the power to you…your authenticity and courage to speak your truth is going to pay off in the long run!!! I look forward to learning more. Leanne


Pace February 29, 2012 at 9:54 am

Glad you dropped by, Leanne! I’m so happy we connected. (:


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