The Box Syndrome

This is more in line with psychological debate than gaming topics, but it applies across a lot of life.  We generally like to categorize people, and this is a similar attempt.  I call it the Box Syndrome, and it is one of the archtetypes I use to engage with people on terms they understand.

The premise is somewhat simple.  People with this syndrome believe that their world is a finite box.  They are unable to see outside the box, and don’t believe that anything matters but what’s in the box.  They view the source of things entering / exiting the box with mistrust or wonder.  If you’ve ever tried to play a magic trick on a toddler, then you can see what the Box Syndrome looks like.

Everyone starts in this mode, and with time (and willingness) they move on.  There are plenty of people who find comfort in the box, in the familiarity of it.  They are shown that there are things outside the box, but make a choice to ignore them.  They make that choice for a wide set of reasons.

Social media dramatically enables this mindset.  There’s a reason they call it an echo chamber.  Flat-earthers, anti-vaxx, conspiracy nuts are all stuck in their box, and regardless of what happens outside the box, they just don’t care.  They will do whatever they can to paint the walls of the box to reinforce the ideas within that box.  There’s very little you can do to deal with this mindset, aside from creating a new box within their existing one, then moving that new box elsewhere.

There are people where the box isn’t so large a negative, simply a safety blanket.  People who fall into routines and forget why.  Folks who have been doing the exact same job for years and never changing.  They are hyper resistant to anything that questions the existence of the box.  Dealing with them means respecting the safety the box represents, and helping them find a new safety box and a path towards it.

This isn’t to say that the syndrome is all bad.  Everyone needs a box from time to time in order to recharge.  Non-stop change is a rollercoaster that no one can maintain.  It also protects you from un-wanted change.  If you hit a rough patch on the job front, then you need to box your budget to survive and ignore the more frivolous items.   But there’s a time where you’ll need to remove that box.

In the middle of an emergency is the time to start paying attention to the box, or at the very least aware of its existence.  There are more than enough examples of people making, uh, interesting choices because they only see the walls of their box.

I find myself challenging this mindset more and more lately.  I’d say the majority are willing to accept that change is required, and help take part.  There’s a small group that is aware of the box but unable to do something about it.  Then there’s the smallest group who are in their box and unwilling to do anything about it.  The sad part here is that regardless of what they think about the solidity of their box, no matter how much they’ve shored it up, they can’t survive without the people outside the box.  Change is going to happen.



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