Monday, 24 January 2011

Thinking differently

When couples display thought patterns at different ends of a spectrum, they often have difficulty in understanding each other. That was certainly the case with Susie and Michael. Michael likes to plan for things and once he has an idea in his head, he quickly moves on to thinking about it in detail. The more he does this, the more his plans become real and something to work towards, giving him hope for a positive future. What can be wrong with this, I hear you ask? Especially when we hear so much about the power of goal setting to help us achieve our dreams. Well... Michael's plans are built on the assumption that he and Susie will still be together. From Susie's perspective this sweeps a lot of problems under the carpet and she feels almost bullied into going along with plans that she isn't yet ready to make. Here's what we said to her: When people make decisions in life, they are motivated to make choices which either move them away from a problem they perceive or towards a future goal they want to achieve. And most decisions need a bit of both: a push away from something and a pull towards something else. This is especially true of the major decisions we make in life. Also, each of us has a tendency to be more motivated either by what we're moving ‘away from’ or by what we're moving ‘towards’. We observed you have a tendency to focus more on the ‘away from’ aspect as you approach a major decision. For example in making your decision to marry Michael, you were most strongly motivated to move away from the difficulties of your previous life. While you had an idea of what life with Michael might be, this was not a strong picture. As we helped Susie deal with the emotional baggage that came from her previous life, she found her focus shifting from her past to the present. This gave her freedom to enjoy life - a much healthier place to be where she can continue to review the past and learn from it, while making the most of now. To increase her flexibility even further, we encouraged her to set a longer term goal in general terms. (We also knew Susie prefers to think about the bigger picture, which allows her to be spontaneous and only think about the detail when she needs to.) She came up with: "By next summer I will be a self-confident person, able to hold a responsible position." Since then she has been able to make 'mini-plans' that fit her future goal. Michael and Susie haven't resolved all their differences yet but they have a much greater idea about how they contribute to their communication problems. Michael is aware he can't assume Susie has accepted his plans, simply because she hasn't disagreed with him. It is much more likely that she hasn't been able to look that far ahead. He also knows he needs to face up to looking at what is happening now before they will both be ready to move on.

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