Don’t just do something – stand there!

Recently one of the people I am coaching through stage 5 of their Immunity Map* contacted me. Let’s call her Sue. Sue was concerned. Well, somewhat overwhelmed actually. The issue wasn’t the new perspective she had from uncovering her column 4 Hidden Assumption – it was her response to that understanding that was causing her discomfort.
* An Immunity Map is part of the brilliant Overcoming Immunity To Change® process.

One very common subconscious (“hidden”) assumption is “perfectionism” and the related “just fix it!” belief model. The assumption is usually some variation of  “Unless I am perfect people will find out I am a fraud / I will lose my job / clients wont respect me / I will be criticised / I wont be loved / people will think I am incompetent /… “. Therefore, people with this belief system are usually driven to make everything immediately perfect so they don’t experience the worry associated with what they subconsciously catastrophise as the inevitable outcome of a lack of perfection. They are intelligently attempting to keep themselves “safe”. Of course, the things they are currently doing to “stay safe” are often the very things they are seeking coaching for, or are the things that prevent them from making some seemingly unrelated change in their lives. Hence their “immunity” to change.

This was Sue’s dilemma. Having discovered the belief system giving rise to the behaviours she was trying to change (related to the downside of perfectionism), Sue immediately went to work to fix it! She went in 110%, bringing to bear all her perfectionism to nail the change she wanted to make which was learning to have a more considered approach to her perfectionism! This is a great example of immunity to change in action.

Stage 5 of Overcoming Immunity To Change begins with non-judgementally noticing and journaling when the column 2 behaviours turn up then working through your Immunity Map to see if that is an example of your column 4 Hidden Assumption at work. It almost always is. People like Sue who are in the grip of the “just fix it” model of behaviour will often skip that vital step and the result is likely to be painful and upsetting. Here’s why.

The belief that is the Hidden Assumption is habitual. That means there is whole lot of strong synaptic connections driven by our intelligent desire to “stay safe” which lead us to the column 2 behaviours, instead of being able to achieve our column 1 Improvement Goal. To achieve column 1 we need to undo those old connections and wire up some new ones. That takes a little time and effort and most certainly should not include “just doing it” since, as was the case with Sue, the very act of just “doing it” was strengthening the very connections she was attempting to weaken.

The key here is to make that which one is “subject to” (e.g. the hidden assumptions driving perfectionism) into an “object” in consciousness so one has the ability to observe and change the assumption(s). It is really hard to consciously change a thought we don’t have. We first have to “see” the thoughts in our mind so we can “re-mind” ourselves. Mindfully seeing the thoughts in action is the first and essential step. Only when those thoughts and their consequent behaviours are easily visible to us can we move from being driven by them to choosing how we express them. Change will only occur when the brain wiring changes.

As with all my clients, after helping Sue discover her Hidden Assumption I explained all the above and we set her “next steps” to simply paying attention to when her column 2 behaviours appeared and journaling them daily. That’s all. No “fixing”, no fighting against anything, just a few minutes of mindfully noticing each day.

Sue’s phone call reminded me that someone whose Hidden Assumption revolves around “perfectionism” is likely to feel very uncomfortable with merely standing by and watching what they perceive as their “failing” and will feel compelled to jump right in and do something to fix it!

So, good advice in this situation is don’t just do something, stand there! Then journal it! Gently re-mind yourself. Your neurons need a little time to catch up with your desires.

See also:
Journaling to Overcome Immunity To Change

Brené Brown’s great TED talk about Vulnerability. Brené and Sue are kindred spirits, I reckon!

A story-based approach based on Adult Development from my colleague John Sautelle:


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