Still Life

At Therapist's Responses to the Challenge of Change

Excerpts from PART II - "Yes, But..." The Struggle with the Self

Chapter 4 - Befriending Our Defences:  EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN ACTION
(page 60)

This chapter and the workshop it describes facilitate an introduction not only to our own (embarrassingly) familiar reactive stances, but also to those we experience in others—behaviours that have challenged us for a lifetime. The joy of this work is in how it can lift us out of unspontaneous, ungrounded, disconnected beliefs and behaviours into an overview that makes room for our blind spots, and gives clear direction to finding relief within ourselves and new life with those around us. It is a system of alarm bells and safe exits.

......Examining how we defend ourselves reveals why change is so hard, and comforts us in the knowledge that we are all entrenched to varying degrees. At the same time, it empowers us to cocreate change in our lives, because it reveals the ways we can work with our strengths—even in our moments of anxiety—to be more present to our real needs and resources. Out of tying our defences to our strengths, we begin to see how they emerged to protect us.

I think of these strengths as fourfold: Peacemaker, Facilitator, Challenger, and Wise Observer. We are each gifted and proficient in one or more of these roles. We operate within a circle of reality, in which we see who we are dealing with, and make choices about responses. However, when we are threatened, we step backward, outside that circle, and into our defensive corners, where suddenly familiar roles transform into default, knee-jerk reactions to a perceived world of enemies. We lose sight of who we are dealing with, and cannot do anything but what our defences dictate. We experience a lack of choice. Here we encounter the awesome fourfold defences: Accommodator, Controller, Annihilator, and Cave Dweller.


Chapter 5 - Change or No Change THE VIEW FROM HERE
Reflections (page 90)

Change shows up in many ways in our lives. It may take the form of an organic invitation to personal growth, well supported and deliberate. Sometimes it is thrust upon us, unbidden and unwelcome, and we are left reeling with role changes that we cannot refuse. In our family it might be the revelation that one member is diagnosed with cancer. For others it might be abandonment by a significant person, financial reversal, sudden responsibility for a disabled person, a job loss. Whatever the stimulus, whether personal growth or crisis, the challenges that require us to change can be faced, understood, and mined for the preparation and resources that we need to move forward successfully. As we are thrust into new and untried roles, we can stop, take stock of our situation, and find heart for the days ahead.

In designing workshops on change, I want to find a way to help people see the landscape—to use the energy driving the change to bring insight and intelligence into the journey. This chapter’s workshop design combines paper-and-pencil tracking and action exploration of possibilities for the future. The workshop is meant to help illuminate the things that we will have to let go of, if we pursue the change that we seem to want. For example, if we are going to take on leadership and speak up in the world, we will have to let go of the safety of anonymity. If we give up needing to be perfect, we will have to accept being ordinary. As one woman said, “If I want to live my life more fully in my todays, I will have to give up controlling my tomorrows.”

Change may be a life-giving opportunity. It also often spells death to some aspects of our self-definition. The prize may be worth the struggle, but it behoves us to take seriously the demands of risking a more spontaneous way of being in the world. It is not for the faint hearted.

The model I offer here, “The View from Here,” places enquirers in the middle of their world, in the present. It is a map-making workshop. No one has to change. It stops enquirers for a time so that they can prepare for successful outcomes. They become backpackers: weighing each item; thinking about needs for food, extra socks, and a first aid kit; and expecting and preparing for bad weather. It allows for change that is unencumbered by unnecessary regret. It has as its goal a grounded, clear, and energized adventurer.

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At Therapist's Responses to the Challenge of Change

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