Change Work May 2008

You already have the resources you need

I've been involved in various community activities for several years, mostly innocuous and thankless.  Then, during last year, one particular initiative got very controversial and the village was split.  The argument got a bit out of hand and I was left feeling very resentful about the way "the others" had behaved, particularly in attacking my integrity (or so I saw it). The child in me wanted to withdraw completely and never to speak to "them" again.

I wanted someone to apologise, or at least to acknowledge my injury.

Many months later I'm still stewing!  So, as a coach, I ask myself, "Who is suffering from my deliberate isolation?"  Certainly not "them".  They probably don't even know there's an issue here.  So the chances of an apology are zero.

In fact, if "they" think about it at all they might feel that the apology should come from me!

Now it's time to stop this - and to move on.

Coaching myself I ask, "Besides the original route, that led to conflict, what are some of the other ways I could get the outcome I wanted?" Now, although I could have asked that question at any time in the last 8 months, somehow I've avoided it. Without waiting for an answer I also ask, "What will I lose by implementing another solution?"  And I know immediately that what I'll lose is the self-righteous anger that I've wallowed in for all this time!

Hmm ...

OK, so what do I need in order to live without that anger?

Well, how about a sense of community?  Of being useful?  Of being bigger than that?

That last one opens an interesting line of thought: if I'm big enough to let this thing go, then maybe I'm bigger than all of them!  That certainly appeals - but the impulse isn't exactly noble. I clearly need to do a bit more work on this!

What similar situations have I dealt with in the past?

Sometimes, I've experienced a sense of being comfortable with myself and my position irrespective of what others think or do.  (I know that some people have that feeling most of the time whilst many certainly don't.)  This seems like a much more positive, resourceful state to be in than the one that rests on feeling superior.

So, how can I change my reality, my "map", to incorporate this new outlook?

One way is to use the "SWISH pattern".

Briefly, this entails forming a mental image of the desired state, in this case an image of myself looking cool, comfortable and self-assured - whatever that looks like!  I make the picture bright, colourful and let it buzz with energy. Then, a second image of the undesired state, such as me holed up at home and seething with resentment.

I start by bringing the negative situation to mind as a dark, fuzzy picture in front of me. Then I put the positive image, shrunk into a tiny bright dot, down in the bottom corner. Next, making a "swishing" sound, I imagine the bright dot rapidly expanding until the positive picture fills the mental frame and forces the dark image to recede and vanish.

Then, I clear the frame (it's important not to reverse the SWISH process) and bring back the negative picture along with the dot.  Once again, "SWISH" and swap the images.

This process is repeated a few times until I can no longer recover the dark picture or until I no longer experience the uncomfortable state that goes with it.

This SWISH pattern creates a path that I can't help following:  every time I now think of that negative situation I immediately and automatically replace the thought with the bright, up-beat image.  I also experience positive, up-beat feelings!

Now I can return to the question of finding other solutions to the original problem. This might take a little longer - and that's OK with me because I can enjoy doing it, whatever the outcome.

This seems to have been a classic case of waiting for other people to change things for me.  You can avoid responsibility that way but, unsurprisingly, nothing changes!