If all of you wanted To change, it would have Already happened

How Do You Protect Yourself From Change?

We all have unconscious protectors and they resist change, so it’s useful to track the expression of that resistance to follow it back to the fear at its root. I use the term “coaching” here, but this applies to all forms of inner work that threaten the unconscious’ grip on the status quo: therapy, spiritual practice, etc. 

We are all flawed and afraid, whether we realize it or not. This model isn’t about judgment, it shines a light on what is not working so we can get what we say we want. Everyone exhibits aspects of these styles and must outwork them with love and curiosity to reach fulfillment. Look for your primary style, because not committing to one is a common deflection from being identified.

The Avoider

Avoiders don’t usually do assignments (or do them late/poorly), are slow to schedule meetings, show up late, reschedule often, and energetically drag their feet. If a friend, colleague, or especially their boss got them into coaching, this is especially likely. Avoiders lack sufficient hunger for what they want and aren’t willing to subject themselves to the necessary discomfort to get the rewards. They fundamentally don’t see the work as in their self-interest, and attempt to care for themselves by avoiding what’s difficult, but in the long run it isn’t real care.

The Approach-Avoider

Whereas Avoiders are consistent, the Approach-Avoider demonstrates periods of strong engagement followed by avoidance, then back to engagement. When coaching begins to work, the fear of change arises and drives the client away in order to regroup and prevent change from sticking. The cycle of approach and avoidance gives the client the feeling that they are on track without the risk of real change, as the avoidance causes momentum to be lost and the work returns to square one. They attempt to care for themselves by backing off when things get too intense, but that’s when they need to lean in.

The Fan

The Fan loves to get excited about change, but keeps a distance further than The Avoider. I have encountered a number of people in my career who are huge fans of my work, regularly refer clients to me, but have never been clients themselves. They want to be adjacent to change, but not actually do it themselves, to get a kind of “contact high.” They love the thrill of inspiration and can’t move past it to application. They can become clients but are typically immune to accountability or emotional discomfort and are there only to be inspired and feel good. This usually doesn’t last very long. They’re fun-loving, energetic, and alive people, but have difficulty being sober.

The Analyst

The Analyst overly mentalizes the process with the assumption that mere understanding creates change. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. They appear very engaged, take a lot of notes, but don’t feel what they learn, which prevents embodiment, nor do they apply what they learn into new actions. They’re inspired by new ways of looking at things, but can’t bridge new understandings into new actions because their disconnection from their feelings allows those feelings to unconsciously make their decisions. They assume their understanding must be lacking and pursue greater knowledge rather than having curiosity about what exactly happened and what they’re afraid of. Analysts are always brilliant people who don’t realize yet that the mind isn’t a tool for every situation.

The Director

The Director dominates session time by ensuring the agenda is theirs. They redirect uncomfortable questions or topics back to safe talking points like a politician stays on message. Their unconscious need to be in control stops them from surrendering to the fact that real change isn’t on their terms. They’re confident that they know what they need, but they actually don’t, and cannot accept that someone else could know them better than they know themselves. They don’t seek help so much as they seek an audience for their own greatness. They’re likely to see the coach only as a sounding board because of their unconscious and flawed assumption that they can solve all of their own problems. Directors are strong people and usually natural leaders who aren’t used to not being the biggest person in the room.

The Mouse

The Mouse is demure, polite, attentive, and somewhat withdrawn. They are sensitive, but not vulnerable. They seductively caretake the coach to give the appearance of engagement, kvell about how wonderful the work is and how much they respect their coach, but this is an unconscious ruse to not go deep and/or be held accountable. Coaches often feel they have to “pull teeth” to get The Mouse to bring topics that are good grist for the mill. The Mouse is fundamentally a people pleaser to get attention off of themselves in order to cover their own feelings of unworth. They often have reservations about the coaching process, but won’t reveal them. They are inevitably very caring people which is the vehicle by which they deflect attention onto others.

The Indulger

The Indulger dominates session time like The Director, but with superficial feelings rather than mind or willfulness. Playing victim is the most common way they prevent real change from happening, by using session time to unproductively vent rather than dig into deeper issues in themselves. Other superficial feelings like guilt, depression, dread, judgment, and rage may be employed. There is nothing wrong with these feelings and giving them the time they need, but they must be followed to their deeper roots for productive results. The Indulger unconsciously fills the space with them along with an overriding need to be validated in order to prevent progress. They honor their feelings and cannot repress them, which is great. It makes them emotionally honest, but this is different from productive vulnerability and typically lacks meta-perspective, causing The Indulger to become their feelings so they can’t resolve. You can’t drink the soup if your face is in it.

The Spiritual Bypasser

“Spiritual bypassing” is the use of spiritual truths and/or states of consciousness to avoid personal issues. If someone obviously wrongs you, you confront them, and rather than take responsibility they encourage you to “let it go” (eastern dharma) or appeal to the virtue of forgiveness (Christianity), these are examples of spiritual bypassing. Real spirituality includes the domain of personal responsibility, but paradigms that see spiritual realms as inherently better or realer than the human domain will enable spiritual bypassing in their adherents. Because bypassing is based in powerful spiritual truths, it makes for a sophisticated and powerful defense mechanism, especially when calling it out requires challenging the bypasser’s values which is a societal taboo. Bypassing is usually of occasional usage by other core styles, but in more pronounced cases can present as a person identified with a disinhabitation their humanity and floating off of their bottom three chakras. This is usually observable by a starry eyed look, a high degree of self-control, transcendence, altruism, and/or an absence of strong emotions which are rewarded in many spiritual communities as an expression of attainment (which is to some degree true), but the attainment is unintegrated with their humanity and distances the individual from their authentic self, causing stagnative or even destructive behavior. This is why so many spiritually attained teachers, for example, have sex with their students. Their protector uses real spiritual attainment to serve people, but also as a tool for emotional repression, which causes wound-based behavior. Spiritual bypassing is literally the mechanism by which an individual can be spiritually attained but emotionally immature, which is justified by many spiritual paradigms that see the personal domain as either illusory or merely a means to get to Heaven, Paradise, escape the Wheel of Rebirth, etc.

So what’s your style? Be honest!

Me? I’m a recovering Analyst, in case you were wondering. 

How does a mature person relate to change, then, without any of these unconscious styles at play? That will be one of the topics covered in Clear and Open’s winter quarter course, which begins November 30, 2023 at 11:30 am PT for eleven consecutive Thursdays. I’ll help you identify your style and give you specific things to do to change it. 

There is no formal agenda for this course. It will be custom designed for what you need, so there is no opportunity to hide in the content. Reply to this email if you have questions, or become a Dojo Member to gain access. I hope to see you this Thursday!