The events in the Arab world and beyond are advancing so quickly that it is difficult to write coherently about what is really happening. There are clearly many elements involved, technological, political, cultural, sociological, physical and psychological underpinning and supporting what is unfolding. It defies a simple analysis, but I would like to share my thoughts about the psychological aspects of these revolutionary movements.
There is no doubt that without the advanced communication technologies afforded by Facebook and Twitter, the fires of protest would not have spread so quickly. And these technologies were the kindling that made it possible for the peoples of these countries to find out how wealthy people are elsewhere in the world and how many opportunities others have in comparison to themselves. Is it merely a case of the oppressed seizing an opportunity? Why now?
L. Michael Hall PhD suggests in his newsletter that the uprisings are an example of the need for control over one’s life; from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, level 2. Good point. In the NLP community, we often speak of the questions that operate consciously or at a below-conscious level that enable people to take action or to make a significant change:
Is it possible in the world?
Is it possible for me?
Sparked by the suicide death of the young man Mohamed Bouazizi, Tunisia revolted and proved that it was possible in the world. Their leader Ben Ali left after less than a week of protests. “It is possible for us,” concluded others in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. The Egyptians used a model of nonviolent protest combined with persistence, intelligence, faith and imagination to achieve their outcome of regime change. And as Alan Weiss pointed out in his Memo, neither Tunisia nor Egypt used violence to quell the protests.
Other factors must also be at play to enable people to take action. Take the questions that the Jewish sage Hillel asked:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
“And if not now, when?”
The protesters have answered these questions with their actions, taking huge risks to gain control of their future. The opportunity for action was “now”. As the people took to the streets, they also went through significant shifts in motivation and thinking, which can be described by using LAB Profile™  psycho-metrics. Under normal circumstances, to survive under an oppressive dictatorship, people need to act as if they are External to the regime. “They command, you do.” One’s personal decisions are strongly influenced from this outside authority. As the choice to act was being made, at a certain point, this External motivator shifted to Internal. “You can’t tell me what to do, I decide.” As a group, the protesters would no longer submit to an unfair system or allow external control over their lives. In each instance since January 2011, where the government has used violence or has attempted to delegitimize the movement, the protesters have responded to in a typically Internal fashion by increasing their resolve to get the results they seek.
The leaders from Bahrain understood this shift and have chosen to consult and negotiate with protest leaders. As of this writing the government of Libya has chosen to attack, shoot and kill protesters and bystanders, and this has dramatically increased the determination of these Internally-motivated protesters to succeed.
In addition, several other LAB Profile™ Motivation Shifts are taking place within the groups of protesters. Having suddenly become Internal, they jumped into action to move away from continuing to submit to the dictatorship. (Away From motivation) Instead of following the normal, expected Procedure they are now demanding Options. Instead of accepting that things will remain the Same and never change, they now appear to want a society which is quite Different from how it has been. Instead of being Reactive, waiting to see what will happen, they have become Proactive. Sometimes they became so Proactive that they have acted without thinking. An example of this would be the strikes for higher wages in Egypt, which took place only a couple of days after the Mubarak government capitulated.
One of most significant shifts over the last few days is the move from the results of the “divide and conquer” strategy imposed by the various regimes for decades, whereby individuals did not come together, except for the covert operations of underground resistance movements. Now in Egypt, Bahrain and especially Libya as the people there are literally under fire, there is an inspiring emerging collective consciousness as they stand together determined to face whatever comes their way. This is a movement from the LAB Profile™ Pattern of Independent to Cooperative.
To summarize these shifts in LAB Profile™ Motivation Patterns:
Protestors’ LAB Profile™ Motivation Shifts
|Behavior Before||LAB Profile™ Motivation Pattern||Behavior Now||LAB Profile™ Motivation Pattern||Implications and Needs|
|Decades of submission||External (needs direction from the outside)||Protesting, demanding||Internal (decides for oneself)||Won’t be told what to do or intimidated; need to invite consultation, explore their demands, & negotiate|
|Willing to follow the expected procedure||Procedures (motivated to follow a step by step process)||Want alternatives, choices, option||Options (motivated to break rules to have more choice)||Demand to break with the process of the past to create new alternatives|
|Doing the same thing||Sameness (motivated to keep things the same)||Wanting change||Difference (driven to create change)||Don’t want leaders from the same, old regime to lead the transition; want new leaders|
|Not taking initiative, waiting||Reactive (preference for waiting, thinking)||Taking the bull by the horns, not waiting||Proactive (Need to take initiative)||Want to be in charge of what happens next; need to be involved in taking action and making decisions|
|No movement||neutral||Resisting authority||Away From (Moving away from what they do not want)||Highly motivated to notice and respond vociferously to events considered undesirable|
|Little collective movement, people acting as individuals||Independent (preference to operate alone)||Collective consciousness, working together||Cooperative (acting as a group)||Prepared to stand together, want to be taken seriously as a group|
Why is it useful to interpret the protestors’ behavior into LAB Profile™ ™ terms? Once one understand their Patterns, it becomes easier to communicate with this new group of people by going to their “bus stop” and using language and processes matched to what is driving these people.
But events and motivations are changing quickly. Who knows what will happen next?
Stay tuned for World Shift 2011 version 2.0.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. Meta Reflections 2011 – #8 Feb. 21, 2011 “OUTGROWING DICTATORS”  Alain Weiss, Monday Morning Memo®, February 21, 2011
 LAB Profile, short for Language and Behavior Profile, is a psycho-metric profile that describes what motivates the behavior of groups and individuals in different contexts. It is used to understand, predict and influence behavior. For more information, see my book Words That Change Minds.