collective wisdom
collective wisdom bookkey concepts
collective wisdom book

Key Concepts:
Six Stances * Power Over vs Power With * Proving What We Know * Polarization is a Wound * Creating Fields of Belonging * Mindfulness Practice

Polarization is a Wound of the Collective Body

Semmelweis’s theory did not simply challenge the prevailing medical theories about the causes of childbed fever; it challenged a deeply held identity structure of the medical establishment. While there were several theories about childbed fever—it was a unique disease like smallpox, it was the result of a miasma, it was the result of an imbalance in the four humors of the body—what was common among these disparate theories was a simple but ultimately lethal assumption: Whatever was causing childbed fever, it was not the doctors who were at fault. They were committed healers doing everything they could for their patients. They grieved with each mother’s death. Something mysterious, beyond human comprehension and responsibility, must be at work. To accept Semmelweis’s theory would require long-practicing obstetricians to acknowledge that, however unwittingly, they had been the instrument of their patients’ deaths.

We are back in Helm, without the humor: The doctors saw themselves as committed professionals, as caring healers; it was unfathomable to them that they could be the cause of their patients’ deaths. Therefore, anyone who would suggest such a thing must be (fill in the blank): deluded, misguided, naïve, dangerous, treacherous, evil. Semmelweis was called all of these things and more.

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