Assumptions

I recently went to a weekend seminar taught by Arnie and Amy Mindell.  There were attendees from more than twenty countries.  The emphasis of the session was on Process Work.  Process Work (PW) is an evolving, trans-disciplinary approach supporting individuals, relationships, and organizations to discover themselves. PW uses awareness to track “real” and “imaginary” psychological and physical processes that illuminate and possibly resolve inner, relationship, team, and world issues.

One of the concepts that I work with that comes from the Mindell’s work, is related to becoming aware of differences.  If I can withhold judgment and recognize the part of me that is opposing a part of you, it is a step toward building understanding and awareness of my own associative barriers.  In fact, often what I find is if I could transport some of that opposing force, it would create more balance and possibility for me.  This is how I can truly become more accepting of differences; when I see more possibility for me, over there in you.

I was recently working on an exercise for one of our programs.  The exercise is intended to showcase a technique on how to bust assumptions.  My colleague and I were playing out several scenarios, and I was struggling to find a direct correlation, and we moved into looking for places where one of us was stuck in a perspective in relationship to a partner.  I started sharing an example, and then I said, "Oh, this won't work, because this is about him and not about me."  My colleague turned my statement around on me, with a brilliant possibility of why this person might be stuck in the pattern they were in.  Just considering that possibility, shifted my thinking toward this person.  I realized they might be stuck in a perspective...but so was I.

Identifying our assumptions is hard work, because for each of us it is our construct or way of seeing the world.  Until we can see the walls that hold us hostage we will continue to view reality as limited by our own experience or point of view.

When I was doing training in relationship systems coaching several years ago, we did a visualization called "My Land."  It was a great exercise that helped me gain awareness of my internal world; which in some form or fashion manifests itself externally.  As I think back to that exercise, and consider the world as I want it to be, I see a peaceful place filled with fountains and flowers and sunshine.  It is a place of beauty, a secret garden, where people feel safe and loved.  This Utopia is a place where I can have the order that was not present when I was growing up.  There are walls that keep out all the mess.

Because my Mom married four times, and was attracted to violent alcoholic men, my life seemed to always be spinning out of control.  You may be wondering what makes this information worth revealing.  I make assumptions about chaos, and disorganization, and things like towels not being stacked properly or the salad dressing being put in the wrong place in the refrigerator.  People that don't have a plan can feel as if they lack a sense of direction or urgency.  And don't even get me started on anger or behavior that is "in your face".

I work at checking my assumptions at the door everyday.  Sometimes I'm not conscious and my ingrained belief system "hooks" me again, and on special occasions someone gives me feedback to help me see that my view is just a reflection of what I think I know, and might look very different when I see beyond my own experience.

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Deb Siverson

Deb Siverson is passionate about helping organizations drive results through connected and transparent conversations in the workplace. She is the author of the book, "The Cycle of Transformation: igniting organizational change through the leader coach." Deb's expertise includes organizational performance consulting, design and delivery of leadership development programs, customized team development, and individual and systems coaching. Deb holds a BS in Business from Regis University and an MS in Organizational Leadership from University of Colorado-Boulder. She serves on the board of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

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