“Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” (Michael Shermer)
Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?
It’s very common in therapy for people to become frustrated with how hard it can be to follow through with the changes to which we commit. It can be baffling when we know we really do want to make a certain change, but we still find ourselves falling into the same old counter-behavior again and again.
It’s tempting to think that giving intellectual assent to a change, (the linear logic from the brain between your ears,) is all that’s required to move away from well-worn neural pathways for other behavior. Fortunately that’s not how change works.
Process, Not Product
Fortunate, because while the end product of that change is likely a good thing, if we could just skip right to changed behavior we would miss out on all of the strengthening, all of the discovery and all of the learning along the way. You’re going to use all of that stuff at other times in your life. Trust me; You want it!
Moving away from behavior that we know is harming us or harming others can feel quite urgent. We want the harming to stop. While I’m all for ending harm wherever we can, urgency doesn’t make us any more ready. Just like when we were moving through the different developmental stages of childhood, we can’t skip steps. We just end up going backward and having to do it all again. Ultimately, rushing makes the process of change go even slower.
For a more comprehensive view of the 4 different stages of making lasting change and a description of what each requires, read more here. This blog, however, is focussed on just one aspect of Stage 3: Making the change a habit. We’re going to consider “failing forward” and Grandpa’s butt is going to lead the way.
“Failing” is in quotes because I don’t believe that failure is a thing. In the words of Ericksonian Hypnotherapist and Trainer, Ron Klein, “A failure is an outcome who’s value you have not yet perceived.” It really is all learning.
No Shame On You
I invite you to do a quick self-reflection. In those times when you’ve felt like you “failed,” the part that hurt so much and left you so defeated wasn’t really that you had failed, but rather, that you were a failure, wasn’t it? If it were just that a particular task didn’t give you the outcome you anticipated, the experience wouldn’t be so front-loaded. That’s shame. As you may recall from previous blogs, I believe that shame is pure destructive nonsense that serves no good purpose. (Guilt yes, shame no.)
Sometimes what we are feeling as a failure isn’t even an actual failure! Each time we do the thing we didn’t consciously intend to do, we have an opportunity to see what unmet need got in the way. When we see and meet the need constructively, it no longer has to get in the way. Our learning is now more complete.
But That Butt
At other times, our misstep is not even some deeper learning; It’s just “Grandpa’s Butt Print.” I had an interesting conversation about change with someone recently. This person had done the work on the change he wanted to make. He had listened to the wisdom of all three brains and gotten a congruent agreement. He had made it easier to do the new behavior than the old. He had put in plenty of effort cutting a new neural path as a default. He had even made the change part of his identity. And yet… He did the other thing anyway.
Pushing away from shame and looking at the data, he finally said, “It’s like Grandpa’s butt print!” WaitWhatWho???? Ooookkkk. What?? I was completely lost. He continued, “Picture a leather chair with a great big dent in it where Grandpa sat every day for decades. Grandpa might have been long gone for years but that butt print will always be there, just because he sat in it every day.”
Thank you. YES! That’s it exactly. Sometimes we do the other thing for no other reason; It’s simply what we did for a very long time. There’s no deeper meaning, no profound learning: It’s just Grandpa’s enduring butt print in a leather chair. Keep it moving, people. Nothing to see here.
Would you like help shaping and changing the patterns in your life? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s see what we can see, together.