If a new client told me that she wanted help with her tendency to control, it would do no good for me to say, ˜˜Yes, I see. Well, heres the solution: The next time you take control of the situation, do otherwise . Yes, thats it. Stop controlling. The reason that doesnt work is that the person is not ˜˜close enough to the level of awareness required for self-management . I call the ˜˜nearness to the target level of awareness ˜˜proximity. The goal is to continually improve the proximity.
The way to gain that proximity is to see the problem from multiple angles and to process the feelings behind it. Lets look at our controller. She has sufficient proximity to her problem to manage it:
Once she knows that she associates things not going her way with a frightening feeling of being valueless
Once she knows how she is always checking to see whether things are going her way or not
Once she knows how she makes this judgment by moving from specific observations to sweeping generalizations
Once she has processed her fear of being valueless
When that proximity is gained , suddenly the words to oneself, ˜˜Dont do that anymore, present an opportunity to stop the troublesome behavior.
It is useful to see how this works in other contexts. Perhaps you know that you tend to jump to premature conclusions even though you believe in getting all the facts before you judge. You can locate that rational belief and build a personal promotional campaign to market it to your brain. Perhaps you have the habit of judging that people need solutions, but rationally you know that people sometimes just want to be heard. Highlight this latter awareness as the preferred position and make a personal rule about it. I have heard of personal rules like:
Never answer until you have verified that the question has been heard.
Everybody wants to feel heard; give them what they want first.
Start first with their feelings.
Paraphrase and check for accuracy.
Relationship first; task second.
Maybe you know, as an attention-seeker , that your operating strategy is to check for an opportunity to wave your personal flag. With enough proximity, you can override this propensity through deliberate effort. For example, one attention-seeker I know catches his impulse to wave his flag and preempts it with the statement, ˜˜I love myself already. His handy rule makes him smile instead of using whatever impulsive attention-getting tool he had in mind.
The list of personal supports in making such changes might range from tools as simple as mental notes and promises you make to yourself, to sticky notes posted on your computer monitor, to asking for the moral support of loved ones and colleagues. You can even build the habit of recognizing your successes at the end of each day. It all starts with proximity. A lot of people read self-help books to no avail. They get an inkling of what their problem is, but they dont take that awareness to the finish line. And they do not change. But with proximity comes the promise of real progress. It takes work.
As part of gaining proximity, it helps to know what to look for. Lets consider the kinds of choices that each of the six types, with enough proximity to their choices, could make.
If you are a worrier , you will tend to interpret bits of data as signs that possible danger of some sort is ahead. Catch yourself leaping to conclusions about vulnerability and stop. You know the things you worry about rarely come to pass. And you know you dont like the feeling of worry. So choose not to go there. Instead, act on the issues that you can address and give yourself permission to choose faith over fear.
If you are a controller , you will judge that people are not doing what they should do. Instead of using specific bits of information to justify your judgment, look internally for what assumptions you are making and recognize them as such. Are things really out of control? Are people really not capable? Can you not delegate more by being a more effective communicator? Resist the temptation to go from the specific to the general. Stay with, and address, the specific.
If you are a fake , hiding inside an image, realize that it is because you judge yourself to be unsafe outside that image. The illusion you project is driven by the illusion that you must project it. Take the risk of exposing yourself. As frightening as it may seem to you, others will actually prefer the real you.
If you are an attention-seeker , know that you judge yourself to be unlovable, and instead of filling that gap with the attention of others, yell, in your head, ˜˜Stop! Remind yourself that you are okay. You can be totally accepting of yourself and thereby not rely on the validation of others. Impress yourself for a change.
If you are a victim , catch yourself when you are falling into that mode and override the pull toward defense. Realize when you behave this way that you have judged yourself as being vulnerable to the judgments of others. Choose instead to completely own the present challenge. The future is in question. Not the past.
If you are a prisoner , you have judged somebody or something to be unfair, harmful , foreboding, or wrong. Step past the chatter in your head that supports the judgment. Know that it is an illusion you can avoid. Move to change the circumstances so you can make things right.
All of these solutions call for self-awareness and courage. They require that you transcend the circularity of your programmed response and put a stop to the judgments that trigger it. It does call for a meta-level choice. Making that choice is within your grasp. You can build the habit to remind yourself of things you believe in.
Little bits of progress will boost the speed of mastery. When you actually experience the feeling of being nonjudgmental, when you stop leaping over gaps in facts and instead stay in the moment, you discover a very alluring way of being.
Imagine being in a meeting listening to things that normally push your buttons and instead simply staying right down to earth and calmly addressing one issue at a time. Some thoughts and issues you may file away for future consideration outside the meeting. You might even experience in the meeting your traditional programmed responsethe onrush of judgments and feelingsbut you somehow calmly observe yourself experiencing them. It is as though you are up on a hill looking down at all the goings-on in the busy place below. You are simply an ever-loving, nonjudgmental observer. You are observing yourself and the other people in the room. To you, things are unfolding as they should. Given all that has been communicated to date, there are no surprises. Whatever comes next is a function of the nature of the communication among all these players, you included. There are no surprises . No bad news. No judgments. The futurea good onelies ahead of you.