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Change Work March 2006

Changing Minds

In addition to my work in companies, I practise as a coach to private clients. I am a Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). A few people know what this is and most don't.

People have consulted me over a range of problems: from fear of driving to being unable to forgive their partner's indiscretion. One thing that these painful conditions have in common is that they are all self-inflicted.

Of course, circumstances have played a part, and bad things happen. How is it though that some of us relive traumas endlessly whilst others just leave them behind?

The answer is in two parts:

During their early years, the fortunate ones have learnt how to "do" a mental pattern or sequence that leads to the belief that external events have no meaning in relation to their identity (the kind of person I am).

The less fortunate have learnt a pattern that ascribes very significant meaning. For example, "Someone said something hurtful to me and that means I'm a bad / inadequate / undeserving person". If you hold such a belief about yourself then events will continually seem to confirm it and you will be powerless to change how you feel. The trouble lies in the "complex equivalence": event A means B. Can you hear yourself doing this? It's almost always wrong!

In this example, both the resourceful patterns that allow someone to move on and the unresourceful ones that lead into a trap are usually unconscious. The individual doesn't notice they are doing them, has no recollection of learning them and tacitly assumes that everyone else has similar experiences.

Also unconscious is the secondary gain that often goes with self-limiting behaviours. A part of our unconscious mind benefits from the very thing that our conscious self hates! There's a reward involved somewhere, somehow. This has to be recognised and dealt with before the individual can effect the change they want.

In the work situation, the same factors come into play. Our working relationships are dominated by mistaken beliefs and programmed responses. Some things seem impossible for us to do (e.g., giving honest feedback or making presentations) while some colleagues have no difficulty with the same things. The "difference that makes the difference" lies in the patterns that we have learnt - and this learning can be changed!