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Another view of how to act from what you know to be true

Extract from Nancy Kline’s Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind (Cassell, 1999), pp. 82-83:

Denial is the assumption that what is true is not true.  When something, for whatever reason, is too difficult to face, your mind can interpret it as something else.  A colleague humiliates you in a meeting, more than once.  Everyone around the table winces, but no one speaks.  No one, including you, stops it.  Almost immediately your mind interprets her behaviour as an aberrant outburst, then as ‘the way powerful people behave’ and then as nothing to make a fuss about.  By the next day you have begun to think it didn’t actually happen.  Sure, she got a little annoyed, but nothing dramatic happened, did it?  

This is denial. It is the antithesis of reality.  It is dangerous because thinking works best in the presence of reality.  Part of reality is correct information about what is real, even if what is real is very painful or disappointing or threatening.  Your mind does have the capacity to handle anything.  But it can’t do it if you present it with lies.

Questions help to punctuate denial.  A few powerful ones are:

        • What is in my face that I am not facing?
        • What is the worst thing that can happen if I face this?
        • What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t?
        • What am I assuming that makes me turn away from this?

There is another good question we can ask that pierces denial.  It acknowledges the phenomenon of our being willing to deny difficulties at the beginning of something because we prefer a romanticized pastel view of what is ahead.  But in fact if we only ask the question early enough, and then face the answer, we can prevent heartache and failure which otherwise can trip us up because we lived too long in denial.  

What startled me about it the first time [I was asked it was the] astute recognition that we can usually go for about a year before we are forced to see what has been right in our face from the beginning.  The question is:

‘What do you already know that you are going to find out in a year?’  

This question requires you to supply and face your own information.  Ask it at the beginning of any relationship or enterprise or change.”

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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