Lessons on Learning LO10246

Sun, 29 Sep 1996 17:56:47 -0400

Replying to LO10172 --

> From: Dale Emery <72704.1550@CompuServe.COM>
> Date: 25 Sep 96 20:32:15 EDT
> Subject: Lessons on Learning LO10172
> ....
> The word "resistance" is an
> interpretation, a model. Like all models, it is a distorted view of
> whatever it is modeling. When I interpret someone's response as
> resistance, that pulls me toward my model of resistance and away from
> what's happening here and now.
> ....
> The notion of resistance starts with the proposal we have made, and uses
> that as the basis for interpreting others' actions. So by thinking of
> someone's response as resistance, we're automatically using a frame of
> reference they don't share. From the other person's point of view, they
> are not resisting our proposal, they are holding onto something important
> to them. I find it much more helpful to use "what is important to them"
> as the basis for understanding their actions.
> Resistance is the external word, the word we apply to what someone else is
> doing. The internal word, the way it seems to the person responding, is
> safety.


You make some excellent points. I especially like your pointing out the
difference between an "external" and an "internal" reference point. I've
certainly found that to be an important, if not the most important,
dimension in therapy, and I'd relate it directly to the "working alliance"
- the sense of working together for a common purpose. Safety, I think, is
the underlying issue, as you suggest. Still, I think there is something
else that makes me want to "resist" dropping my terminology totally.

I've thought about this for a while since reading your post, and what I've
come up with is this: that both internal and external components of the
process are essential to the change/learning process. In therapy, there
is an "as if" quality at times, akin to play, that allows an individual to
both think and feel, but also to observe from a semi-detached vantage
point (the so-called, "observing ego"). While the therapist has to
empathize with the client, the client also moves "outside" his/her
internal perspective to entertain other possibilities.

I've often had the experience of having a client sincerely in conscious
agreement with a particular interpretative offering from me yet not be
able to follow through on the implications of this new perspective. What
often seems to help at this point is to frame the situation as one part of
the client wanting to change while another part is resisting change, _and_
to help the client empathize with that part of his/her self that is
resisting change. In a very important way, the "resisting" part of the
self is already effectively split off and experienced as "outside" the
self, and by acknowledging the client's ambivalence toward change the
therapist fosters a higher level perspective (one that takes in both the
desire to change and the resistance to it).

As I read over what I've written, I'm struck by a couple of things: first,
I'm getting pretty technical - my apologies to those who aren't so
interested in this level of detail. Second, that the situation I
described is one kind of situation in the change process. If you try to
interpret a client's _conscious_ stance as resistance you'll lose the
working alliance because of the "external" frame you've imposed. Third,
the term resistance isn't necessarily negative - think of the resistance
movements in WWII.



Jeff Brooks <BrooksJeff@AOL.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>