Changing our Consciousness Logo

Our History

 

Waging Dialogue

Dialogue

Emotional Imprint

Education

The mission of COC is closely aligned with that of the Hot Stove Project The Hot Stove Project

The Hot Stove Project

Our Mission

Prejudice is an aspect of the human condition. Education and diplomacy are useful, but not enough. Until humankind develops the tools to understand and resolve intergroup conflict it will remain the elephant in every room, in our personal lives and on the world stage. Our mission is to develop these tools and make them available for everyone; to help each of us develop a greater capacity to see the world through eyes other than our own.

Talking openly and honestly with those who don’t share our beliefs is enormously difficult .People willing to invest the necessary time and energy can confront this painful reality must be given the time and space to struggle together to understand why it’s so hard. Changing Our Consciousness provides such opportunities, developing theoretical, methodological and educational tools to help facilitate such dialogues.

Rocket science begins with elementary math and develops a lengthy educational and research trajectory. Human Understanding is just as difficult and just as complex, but it's equally possible to achieve. Changing Our Consciousness represents a first step down that path.

Please join us and help start the movement to bring Human Understanding onto the world stage and the educational curriculum with the full weight, depth and complexity it deserves.

Our History

Reflections by Dr Alice L Maher:

After years of solitary thinking about ways in which the psychoanalytic model could be applied to society at large, I and several colleagues began a listserv in 2004 to discuss psychoanalysis and society. The intense conflicts that emerged in that faceless Internet arena seemed to parallel aggressive/regressive dynamics that arise on the world stage. After presenting my experiences at the 2005 Conference on Prejudice and Conflict in Salt Lake City, I began to consider ways to harness the aggressive/regressive energy within the online group, and create a methodology to address intergroup conflict. What emerged were the Waging Dialogue Forums, seven moderated, online forums bringing people with different worldviews together to struggle to bridge the divide between Self and Other over specific issues. In 2010, Antisemitism and Islamophobia Forum members Ronald Abramson, Selma Duckler and I presented a panel to the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. The forums wound down after years of active dialogue, and so, in 2010, I adopted the WD model for a new project, the Depth Perception Party, within the more public arena of Facebook.

In 1-1/2 years the Depth Perception Party has attracted over 400 Facebook subscribers. DPP is dedicated to the discovery of creative solutions to political conflicts through the ability to imagine the emotional experience of the other. Participants in our daily discussion threads share a desire to catalyze social change by working to understand the worldviews of both political parties, locate short and long term horizons, support creative leadership, and imagine new solutions to longstanding political conflict.

Despite our enthusiasm, dedication and hard work, the clumsiness of discussion participants – and I include myself – in being able to identify and respond appropriately to the emotional experience of the Other has become painfully obvious. I have begun to conceptualize the problem as a language yet to be learned and understood, in an academic curriculum in Emotional Literacy, taught from elementary through graduate school, using the “thought experiment” model.

The model curriculum that we now call Emotional Imprint™ began to take shape, through student focus groups, short videos created by filmmaker Max Rosenbaum, and lesson plans designed by Special education teacher Victoria Grinman. In 2010, I addressed the Psychohistory Forum. And in 2011, Victoria Grinman, Suzanne Amro, educator in the Ethics and Religious Culture program in Montreal, and Marshall Alcorn of George Washington University, and I presented EI to the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society.

In early 2012, Changing Our Consciousness was given the opportunity to design, implement, and test Emotional Imprint™ with middle school students at the Harlem-based enrichment program, Street Squash. Our educational consultant Melissa Brand first designed a one-week summer course. It was an overwhelming success, and we were invited back to create a full-year Emotional Imprint course for Street Squash's eighth graders. That is now in progress. In addition to designing the lesson plans, Dr Brand has run training sessions for the Street Squash teachers and developed "before and after" questionnaires and other industry-standard evaluation materials, as research is a critical component of these pilot programs.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Dr Brand and I have designed a week-long disaster simulation curriculum that inspires students to take the perspective of others. We plan to provide this EI course pro bono to schools and youth groups. As I and my colleagues will be unable, logistically, to direct or observe the implementation of this course, we are currently seeking funding to design a training video and handbook for teachers, guidance counselors and stakeholders.

Understanding others requires that we understand thought process differences. In 2008, Dr. Lois Oppenheim joined me to co-create a documentary feature film that reframes our understanding of mental illness. In 2011, award-winning filmmaker Anne Makepeace joined our team, and we have changed our original working title, “How to Touch a Hot Stove” to “The Madness Project.” Our film interweaves human stories with insight into the state of the field and multiple competing paradigms. Participants include Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel, neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Elyn Saks, and actor John Turturro.

In 2011 Changing Our Consciousness received 501(c)3 status and is now a non-profit organization. Our Board of Directors consists of corporate communication professional Susan Dansker, businessman John Foy, and educator Bernice Arricale. We accept donations here through our website and are actively exploring other funding sources.

From the original listserv and Waging Dialogue Forums, to the DPP Facebook group, I and my colleagues have recognized the potential of online communication, social media and “viral marketing.” We actively publicize our work on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook, and our blog.

We welcome your involvement. Please contact me at alicelmaher@gmail.com.