An Ordeal for Timidity

There’s a cool little intervention/ordeal I read about in a book called Change, and I use it with a lot of the people I work with one on one. It’s designed to deal with issues of timidy. What’s interesting to me about this intervention is that it is very counter-intuitive; it works to solve the problem indirectly.

There are certain problems that require “risky action” (action that might lead to pain). These type of problems can compound when the person uses safe solutions (solutions that the person perceives to be less painful) to deal with their problems.
An example of this is the woman who is too scared to go on job interviews yet needs to go to them, because she is unemployed and her money is running out.

Another example of this is the man who is single and lonely but avoids meeting new people, because of fear of rejection.
Another example of this is the man that needs to go to the dentist because his teeth are messed up but avoids it because of the fear of the drilling.

In these cases the required action to solve these problems is quite simple, but the problem is that these people just don’t want to deal with the consequences that taking the action can create.

Enter the “Devil’s Pact”

In the Devil’s pact the coach/therapist tells the client that he has a solution that is guaranteed to work, but that he can’t tell the client what the solution is unless the client promises to do it before knowing what it is. This puts the client in a bind situation. The client now has the choice to say yes or no. A no, terminates the therapy, but also frames the importance of the problem as something not that important for the client to solve and it puts the responsibility back on the client. That is, this intervention can bring the clients incongruous behavior to consciousness so that the client realizes that he/she doesn’t really want to deal with his/her problem. A yes, is risky as the person does not know what type of solution the therapist will come up with and thus gets the person to partake in something risky.

The beauty of this intervention is that it does not matter whether the client says yes or no to the therapist’s solution, as the therapist’s solution exposes the client to risk and thus completely changes the frame of the attempted solutions creating something called second order change.

Martin R. Lanzas

An Ordeal for Timidity

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