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First presented to The Developing Group, 3 April 2004

Learning to Act from

What You Know to be True

Part 2

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

Following our model of  Self-deception, self-delusion and self-denial (described in part 1) many people have asked for some guidance on what they can do once they have acknowledged when, where and how they self-DDD. Below is our take on how to learn to act from what you know to be true.

[We revisited this topic in 2009 resulting in a part 3: Modelling How We Act From What We Know To Be True.]

To get you into the topic, we will start with a list of common metaphors related to truth-telling:

  • I'm living a lie.
  • Face up to reality.
  • Come clean.
  • Whistle blowing
  • Washing dirty laundry in public
  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Exposing the truth
  • Transparency
  • Open government
  • Open book accounting
  • I can’t hide my head in the sand anymore.
  • Many a true word spoken in jest (i.e. a Freudian slip)
  • Opening up a can of worms
  • The truth shall set you free
  • Own up/Face up to the truth
  • Getting down to brass tacks
  • Bearing all
  • Brutal honesty/truth/facts
  • The Shield of truth.
  • Illuminating dark places
  • Shining the light of truth
  • The undeniable truth
  • The truth will out
  • You can’t hide from the truth
  • I can't kid myself any longer
It is interesting how many of these metaphors are about revealing something that was hidden (face up, expose, transparent, open, can't hide, bearing, illuminating, will out).

Some Antidotes to Self-DDD

The first thing that is very clear from our modelling of people who have learned to act from what they know to be true, is that it required them to consciously apply multiple principles, skills and behaviours at multiple levels. It is also clear that it is not a one-time process but requires due diligence over a long period of time (i.e. for the rest of their life).

Warding off self-corruption

The following is an example of one man's recognition of the potential for self-deceit, and the steps he took to "ward it off". It is Harry Belafonte and Stanley Levison's tribute at the funeral of their friend, Martin Luther King Jr.:

"He drained his closest friends for advice; he searched within himself for answers; he prayed intensely for guidance. He suspected himself of corruption continually, to ward it off. None of his detractors, and there were many, could be as ruthless in questioning his motives or his judgment as he was to himself." (p. 347, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, 1969)

What we fail to notice

And Daniel Goleman catches the paradoxical (and binding) nature of confronting the ways in which we self-DDD when he puts it in the form of one of R D Laing's Knots :

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice,
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds. (p. 24, Vital Lies, Simple Truths, 1998)

Using this as a guide to action gives three steps:

- First you need to acknowledge you may be failing to notice something.

- Then you need take steps to discover how you may not be noticing.

- Then you need to recognise how failing to notice has, and will continue to, influence you – given that not noticing will have a value, or be beneficial in some way.

But that is not going to be enough, you will need a fourth step:

- To set an intention to set up opportunities where you can choose, in-the-moment, to act from what you know to be true.

(And you can be aware that setting such an intention will produce what Robert Fritz calls "structural tension" that will encourage you to revert to your previous pattern of self-DDD. We call this tension-building process "turning up the heat under the pattern".)

And a fifth:

- Put yourself in those situations and see if you act from what you know to be true.

And a sixth:

- Whether you do act from what you know to be true, or not, repeat the whole process adding in the experience gained from previous attempts.

How to counter failing to notice

Although we have represented the process a circular, if looked at over time the aim is that it will be an iterative process, i.e. become a learning spiral. With each iteration producing a little more self-awareness, a little more determination, and a little more clarity of purpose. And the recognition that through this process of trial-and-feedback there is increasing value of being able to look "current reality" squarely in the eye; of knowing one's truth; and of accessing the personal resources required to counter in-the-moment 'forces' in favour of a mind, heart and soul that are at peace with themselves, long-term.

Confronting the brutal truth

Jim Collins wrote up his modelling project of how good companies became great in Good to Great. One of his eight conclusions is the need to "confront the brutal facts":

When you start with an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of the situation, the right decisions often become self-evident. And even if all decisions do not become self-evident, one thing is certain: You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. The good-to-great companies operated with this principle, and the comparison companies generally did not." [p. 70, 2001]

Reality is not the enemy

Collins is following in the footsteps of Robert Fritz. In The Path of Least Resistance, Fritz starts his chapter on 'Current Reality' with the statement "reality is not the enemy" [p. 139, 1989] and goes on to say:

There is a difference between passively learning reality because life forces you to and actively teaching yourself reality. When you seek to know reality and learn what there is to learn, you can best create what really matters to you. Like art for art's sake, this is truth for truth's sake — the desire to know reality because it is real, and for no other reason. [pp. 145-146]

Fritz recognises that part of the process is accepting that "Your concept of reality may not be reality" [p. 146]. That is, you need to check your perceptions and interpretations against external evidence. It is not that anyone has the 'right' concept of reality, rather if several people (you respect) have significantly different perceptions and interpretations to yours, then you need to question the value of accepting your view of reality over theirs. Of course you may end up doing what you were going to do anyway but you will be doing it not from Margaret Thatcher's infamous "There is no alternative" but instead you be doing it with "There is always an alternative" ringing in your ears.

The Journey to Self-Truthfulness

We have modelled the journey many people have taken on their road to self-truthfulness.   The journey is represented in the diagram below. In some cases it can be taken in months, but for many it takes years.

(In the diagram we make use of Ken Wilber's distinction between the three P's: Peak, Plateau and Permanent experiences.)

  1. Acting with self-delusion, deceit and denial.
  2. The process of becoming aware of what is true for you.
  3. Acting out of what you know to be true.
  4. The process of self-deluding, deceiving, denying.
  5. The process of permanently becoming truthful with self (i.e the ‘last straw’).
  6. The process of maintaining self-truthfulness while knowing you have the capacity to self-delude, deceive and deny.
This model and the Levels and Feedback models (described in part 1) offer different insights into how we can intervene to change our own patterns. Below we look at how each model can be used to guide our work in the area of self-DDD and acting from our truth. Following the more theoretical description we provide a practical summary of '21 Ways to Learn to Act from What You Know to be True'.

The Journey to Self-Truthfulness metaphor suggests you can increase your chances of acting from what you know to be true if you identify (self-model):

The sequence of the transitions from one state to another:
  • start of becoming aware of what you know to be true (1>2)
  • start of acting from what they know to be true (2>3)
  • start of the process of self-DDDing (3>4)
  • start of acting from self-DDD (4>1)
And, what needs to happen to encourage the conditions for:
  • an upturn (1>2)
  • turning awareness into action in-the-moment (2>3)
  • extending a Peak into a Plateau (3>3+)
  • heightened awareness of your long-term self-DDD pattern (1>2>3>4>1 ...)
Note you can only know in retrospect that an experience of self-truthfulness is a Peak state, a Plateau or Permanent way of being – each one requiring more time to have elapsed (from seconds to decades). One of the ways self-DDD operates is when people believe "That's it. I've cracked it. This will last forever."

Using the 'Feedback Model'

In part 1 we introduced a model of a feedback loop as a way to understand the systemic nature of self-deception, delusion and denial. That very same model can be used to set in train an self-sustaining process of "confronting the brutual truth" of our interior and exterior behaviours and the effect they have on the world around us. In other words, using  "current reality" as our friend.

The Feedback Cycle model suggests you can increase your chances of acting from what you know to be true by using the six A’s:

Become aware of your reaction (3), and others' reactions (2), to your self-DDD actions (1).

Acknowledge that those reactions contain valid information (4).

Avow to do something different as a result of that information (4).

Act on your awareness, acknowledgment and intention (1).

Admit the continuing potential for further self-DDD.

Apply the above process to itself so that you learn from the feedback loop over time.

Using the 'Levels of Knowing Model'

The Levels of Knowing model formed the centre piece of our self-DDD model presented in part 1. And not surprisingly it plays a similar role in learning to act from what you know to be true. Below we reproduce the diagram of the model, followed by a summary of how operating at each level requires a different approach. Following that we use the four levels to organise our 21 examples of 'How to Learn to Act from What You Know to be True'.

The Four-Levels model suggests you can increase your chances of acting from what you know to be true if you:

Level 1 — self-model both:
  • The misleading representation (A) and how you know that.
  • What you know to be true (B) and how you know that.
Level 2 — self-model both:
  • How you accept the misleading representation.
  • How you self-DDD what you know to be true.
  • How and why what you know to be true keeps returning to your awareness.
Level 3 — self-model both:
  • When you know you are misleading yourself, how you continue to do so (i.e. how you maintain the pattern over time).
  • When you know you could mislead yourself, how do you not (ie. how you have countered the self-DDD pattern).
Level 4 — self-model
  • What needs to happen for you to regularly review whether what you are doing is working long term?

: see part 1

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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