It’s probably not a surprise when I say I can usually tell fairly quickly whether my work with a client will bear fruit or not. Certainly a lot of it is intuition from all the years doing this work, not firm, empirical data – plus I’m always careful to be humble enough not to pre-judge any outcome.
But what I’m getting at is something real, something the client conveys about how they function. Yes, sometimes my end of the dialogue helps highlight it, but the “it” I’m talking about mostly resides in the client’s own capacity to get “in sync” with him or herself and imagine positive change as a realistic and doable outcome. They can “see” it – and they can see themselves getting there.
Or not. If they can’t really see it, if it doesn’t resonate as some way of being a functioning person that they feel they can do and, most importantly, be – it most likely won’t happen.
Here’s a basic, concrete example: I can work with two single Moms, both of whom are having struggles with parenting and who also have essentially similar circumstances: income levels, approximate intelligence, extended family support and so on.
Both love their children – that’s for sure. Yet the differences reveal themselves when it’s time to move from discussing the problem to charting a new course of action – and a better way of being. Almost immediately, some struggling parents see and acknowledge where things have gone awry, can see the better alternatives in their mind, and imagine themselves implementing those better alternatives.
Others can talk about what’s happening with some reasonable honesty, but also – painfully honestly – can’t realistically imagine themselves changing or actually being anyone other than who they know they are now. It’s outside their ability to direct themselves. Some people want to know their own thoughts and feelings, but some – truthfully – would rather not.
The article I’m linking to puts some science to this and calls it “latitudes of acceptance.” We can’t stray very far from our wiring and who we think we are. We get uncomfortable, we can’t concentrate, we don’t hear, we don’t follow through – even when we acknowledge a problem and the need to change.
Link here: Latitudes of Acceptance | Edge.org.
So the skill is to stay within a range of what’s possible, not push people outside their perimeter – but not come in too low, either.