Kurt Lewin’s theory about the way change occurs is simple, but genius. Lewin states that change takes place in three phases. These are: (1) unfreezing; (2) changing; and (3) refreezing. The idea is this. We get used to doing things a certain way so that they become habits that are ingrained. For there to be change, we must “unfreeze” or unlearn unhelpful or harmful behaviors. Then there is a period when things are not comfortable and our world is all out of place as we begin to go against what seems normal and commit to acting differently. This is the confusing middle period of “change”. Finally, with “refreezing”, the new behaviors we have learned become ingrained and these are now our new way of doing things.
We talk about social change and sometimes it is easy for us to forget that change is not easy and neither is it comfortable, even when we are changing to do things in a better way. Until we get rid of old habits we cannot begin to take on new ones. For example, our tendency to make commitments and not follow through undermines trust. We find it hard to trust each other and without trust, we cannot build the kinds of collaborative relationships that are needed for social change.
After so many decades of learning to behave in certain harmful ways in Jamaica, getting rid of these old behaviors is not going to be easy. But, this must happen before we can enter the period of change and new learning. Then finally, there must be refreezing as the new behaviors become a habit. This must happen in Jamaica for us to establish new and positive ways of thinking and behaving.
I wonder, what are some of the behaviors that we, as Jamaicans, need to put off or unfreeze before we will begin to see real transformation?