Johnnie Moore

Silver bullets and the popcorn of therapy

Embracing uncertainty and avoiding simplistic solutions
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

there's more to relationships than problem-solving

Transcript of this video:

There’s a diagram that turned up on my LinkedIn feed the other day that I’ve seen at several points over the past few years in various places.
And it’s a grid about how to effect a change process in an organization.
And across the top are column headings like strategy, vision, resources, I forget the others, bananas, magic feathers, the supposed ingredients of a successful change program, then a whole load of boxes.
And down the side are some possible outcomes.
And there are things on there like anxiety, confusion,
nausea, I can’t remember, and finally success.
And the gist of this slightly ugly diagram is that only if you have all of those components in place, the right strategy, a clear vision, the right resources, the bananas and the magic feathers, then your change program will be a success.
And also people seem to really love this diagram and they think it’s a simple truth about change.
which I find quite perplexing because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a great many changes in my life.
Some I’ve initiated, many that have happened to me, and they’ve rarely been straightforward.
And it seems to me that what is inherent to change is that, of course, it includes things like anxiety and confusion.
That’s part of the process, not something that you can or should design out.
And it’s the kind of supposed insight that is…
Well, I think the right word to say is eviscerated or demolished by a wonderful new book by a guy called Steve Hearsum called No Silver Bullet, which is a pretty thorough takedown of this kind of simplistic stuff that we very easily get attached to in organisations and I suppose generally in life.
And Steve does a great job of debunking it, so I won’t try and replicate what he does – buy his book.
And it reminded me of a wonderful phrase from another book, A General Theory of Love, which is, “insight is the popcorn of therapy.”
And one of the things I like about that phrase, every time I recall it, I have to try and remember to myself, well, what exactly are they driving at there?
So I have to actually do a bit of work each time I recap it to remind myself of what it might mean.
I have to invent a meaning, if you like, each time instead of being given one.
You might see what I’m saying here.
But what I take from insight being the popcorn of therapy is it says that in the therapeutic process, the client will sometimes feel like they had a breakthrough when they’ve got a diagnosis.
Oh, I’ve got ADHD or I’m an INTJ.
We all know the form that these insights take.
And sometimes they’re valuable, but quite often you meet that character a few months later and they’ve gone, oh, well, that was nonsense.
That therapist was an idiot.
And now the diagnosis is wrong.
And I realize I’ve now got some other diagnosis that might last a while.
I think it’s fine to have these snapshots and insights.
I think that’s what they’re saying.
But they aren’t the end goal.
They are just little byproducts, steps of a journey.
And I think the way they put it in the book is that the real value of the therapeutic relationship is the continuing journey, the willingness of the therapist in this case and the client to be in this field of uncertainty exploring together, which kind of really appeals to me and isn’t a bad description of how I see my work, for example, when I’m facilitating.
It’s not to arrive with,
some clever clogs process that guarantees a result, but to be willing to join people in exploring, in seeing what’s possible, and being, you know, in some sense comfortable with, or at least willing to tolerate uncertainty.
Because actually, I think it’s in sharing uncertainty that we often get the most useful human connections.
I know in my work with Unhurried Conversations, it’s conversations about struggles that are often the richest and most connecting.
And just to add one other thought to that, when we go into that kind of problem solving, diagnosis, insight-hunting mode, we are, as someone put it to me, attempting to change our external circumstances.
We’re trying to fix or change the world.
That’s fine.
But learning is actually about allowing the circumstances to affect change in us.
And I think a lot of the deep connectedness in groups happen is when they collectively experience that kind of change in themselves.
That’s what I think the most exciting learning consists of.

Photo by Pylz Works on Unsplash

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