There is an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) idea that is powerful, and often surprises clients when I mention it. It is so true that I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on it today.
"All behaviour has a positive intention"
Many people feel that they do things that are ill-advised, wrong, and sometimes completely bonkers. They interpret this to mean there is something wrong with them.
If, as a psychotherapist, I was tempted to collude with these limiting beliefs, it would be difficult to avoid treating people as if they were inadequate, insufficient, or otherwise lacking. A therapist might then be tempted, like other people in their life, to attempt to fix the client, to make suggestions, to indicate subtly or directly that they are not capable or wise.
The thing is, I do not find this to be the case. Ever. I find that people do the best that they can in the circumstances the vast majority of the time. So how come we sometimes do things we regret, why are we not always at our best?
When something goes awray, exploring what happened and what was triggered can shed light on what the behaviour was hoping to cause, what outcome it was aiming at. We can identify which part of the self was running the show at the point the behaviour happened.
We each may have damaged parts of ourselves. Parts that got a bit stuck at some point in the past, and froze in time, over-whelmed and unable to process what had just happened. These parts may be unaware that the rest of us continued to grow and develop, to gain new skills and insights, and to learn and mature. These parts may be stuck where they are, repeating the same patterns again and again, with no new options available.
The work of healing is to identify these lost parts, to come to know them, and in time to befriend them. Healing comes from an increasing contact and closeness between parts so that the vulnerable can draw on the strong, and we can again feel more whole. We can then be increasingly at choice about our behaviour, and fulfil our intentions in a way we like and feel good about, rather than in a way that feels like acting out or sabotaging ourselves.
In the process of healing, the psychotherapist may be a guide, but they are not providing the answers, these come from the client entirely.
Internal family systems theory offers us an alliteration that describes the process for befriending our young or stuck parts, enable growth to begin:
- FIND the part in, on or around the body.
- FOCUS on it.
- FLESH it out.
- Notice how you FEEL toward the part
- BeFRIEND the part by finding out more about it.
- Notice what the part FEARs, and also what its function is.
This process is not about change, it is about awareness. Awareness itself is a crucial part of development, when we shine a light to places that have been in darkness, something different happens, without any agenda to make or force anything new to begin.
I might know some pretty neat questions, and have some useful ways of framing things to help people discover what they need to, but I never need to do more than to connect them more fully with their own resources and wisdom.
What would happen if you were to act as if you have the resources inside that you need, if you were to believe you just weren't in touch with yet?
Watch out for my blog next week talking about accessing resources that you have drawn on in the past but lost touch with.