Blind Spots

There is a problem with the approach I recommend. It places a lot of responsibility on you to decide the direction of change and how to go about it bit-by-bit.

Therapy has thrived as a profession because you and I possess blind spots that make it difficult to direct our own therapy.  Therapists have compulsory professional supervision to minimise this problem in the work we do. Many people have reported the benefits of having some-one around to help them complete the therapeutic journey. You may well doubt your own judgment as you examined the results of some of your experiments, and wondered what to do next.

Through this website, I’ve encouraged you to seek a consultation when this happened, with a trusted friend or a professional. That could be Christina and I.

Even so, there are still do-able things to help me address blind spots.

The Johari Window provides a route to see ahead, just a little bit more.

The Discount Matrix approaches the same topic from a different direction; by identifying our  ‘levels of blindness’. That matrix can be valuable, even if it is off-putting;  it can help us to identify what is do-able now. It may mean expending less  energy on things just out of our reach.

However, this page says still more to develop self-awareness and, to extend the benefits of the ‘safe experiment‘.

There are ‘doors‘ to look out for; ones that will help you along and there are others that need more of a ‘push’. Some doors are familiar, but not always helpful if we go through them, time and again.

You will need to experiment differently when you approach the different ‘doors‘. What do I mean by this? Try this:

AN EXPERIMENT

Consider an issue in your life: a new one, or one you already have worked on before. Jot it down somewhere in the briefest detail.

  • That issue is likely to be concerned with the way you think, behave or feel. A fourth door is the one of ‘sensation’; what my body appears to be ‘telling’ me.
  • are you more dogged by specific thoughts, behaviour, feelings or sensations?  The one you chose is likely to be most familiar. It shapes a number of decisions you make. That dominant one is the ‘open door‘; the default door that is most often used. That door requires some attention, but continuing to go through it will not do. Charging at it does not help very much, either. If you look around for a battering ram the door is likely to be open wide and, as in so many comedy films, you end up flying through to the back of the house!
  • according to your personality, you will have a ‘target door’, one that is  more available to you. This is one of the remaining ‘doors’ –  less used, but approachable.
  • the others ‘doors’ – rarely used – may prove to be trap doors;  doors most likely to trip you up when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Therefore, starting your experiment with a trap door may be less than helpful.  You may, in due time, walk towards it – but not at the beginning.

Now, how will this category of ‘doors’ help with safe experiments?

It provides an opportunity to focus my attention on a ‘target’ using the skills already available to me. The ‘open door’ may provide the usual way in, but a small, safe experiment may aim to move away from my ‘usual’ ways –  without the adventurousness that attracts me to a trap door. In strange territory, I may be less able to notice the warnings about the things we might miss. These obstacles can be the ‘rocks’ on the scenic route I have described elsewhere. The target door offers me a challenge; an opportunity to pace myself to do something just a little bit different, without stumbling over too many ‘rocks’.

That all sounds rather vague so let’s make up some examples.

An individual becomes more and more aware of his checking behaviour, say, door locking. It is getting in the way of a quality life; it wastes time. That person senses entrapment in that repetitive behaviour. He is good at thinking but his thoughts are full of “did I check or not“.  Thinking is his open door. On this analysis, a target door could be the ‘feeling door’.  He starts to just notice the anxiety he feels and starts to notice just how often this happens. He may then notice that regular checking eases that feeling for a while. Anxiety needs to be relieved and checking does it for the moment; or does it? How long can some-one stay on that treadmill? If safe experiments start at the feel door it may, in time, be possible to move to a new target door – the behaviour door in order to do something just a little bit different. This might be not checking and just noticing the feeling connected to those thwarted actions. This may, if the gods smile, move a trap door into a target door. When that happens, he can just notice the thoughts encouraging him to check in the first place. If all is well, he may find a different conversation to develop in his head. For example, between an ‘anxious part’ and an ‘excited part’ (at the prospect of doing something just a little bit different).

The Target Door may help acknowledge our feelings and the actions and thoughts connected to it.  Just noticing ‘anxiety’ may address that feeling, rather than side-step it. it. It is very easy to return to ‘did I check or not‘, again and again. Affect regulation, or controlled breathing, is a behaviour door that can disrupt thoughts and help to ‘switch’ me to other roads less well travelled.  Just noticing my feelings  can promote a different way to act.

In this example, the safe experiments have moved from thoughts as the open door, to feelings as a target door, transforming the trap door of behaviour into a scenic route towards viable change.  It is for this reason that my scenic route has so many bends in it!  In practice, initial experiments I encourage are likely to focus on body scanning and just noticing feelings. This is a preliminary to moving toward affect regulation and the prospect of observing changing levels of anxiety, using SUD scales. This may lead, through practice, to actions and behaviours that prove more useful; making me more aware of other options available to me.

What about another individual – a woman – who finds it difficult to say ‘boo to a goose’? she demonstrates withdrawal in company; her behaviour, the open door, is passive avoidance of company.  Her thoughts reinforce her actions – ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’.  The trap door could be ‘feeling’ –  that leads to withdrawal from company to reduce anxiety or shame. The target door might be ‘sensation’ as long as the sensations can be calibrated.  Again, the SUDS scale can help here. It will not help her to go to a disco on the first night when the discomfort in her body is likely to be high.  This seems like a trap door but a growing aware of her sensations may help her affirm those ‘new’ thoughts.  For example, the self-affirmation: “even though I am feeling anxious when I step outside, I can deeply and completely accept myself ” may, in time, help her to act differently and, indeed, to meet other people. By making such new connections, this woman may improve her self-confidence – enough to act just a little bit differently.

So what notes did you make about your incident and the open door, target door and trap doors it revealed (if any)? Depending on the combinations you’ve just noticed, what might you do differently to use a target door and diminish the impact of trap doors on the quality of your own life?

Return to:

Welcome

What is a nudge

Designing a nudge

Following the scenic route

Obstacles to safe experiments

An illustrated way forward

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