Sunday, October 31, 2010

Counterfactual Thinking

Counterfactual Thinking
We are so trained in the thought system of fear and attack that we get to the point where natural thinking -- love -- feels unnatural and unnatural thinking -- fear -- feels natural. It takes real discipline and training to unlearn the thought system of fear.”
Marianne Williamson

The human condition has been trained exceptionally well in acting out of limitation, counterfactual thinking and from a fear mindset. We see fear and limitation in behaviors such as codependency and addiction, procrastination, envy, neediness, inaction, avoidance, obsession, self-pity, compulsion, acting out of scarcity, excuse driven and passive-aggressiveness.

This lengthy list of behaviors is easy to identify in others yet very difficult to see in ourselves. Many fail to recognize the true meaning behind these behavior and psychological conditions. Humans are masters at externalizing and come to conclusions easily about one another. We allow our minds to go on endless journey’s looping to only end up in a counterfactual thinking pattern that creates judgments based on our values, beliefs and filters of perception.

Humans believe they really have the facts, yet the fact of the matter is the wrinkles in perception need to be ironed out before one can really know anything. To know something is be certain. Uncertainty is not to know. Knowledge is power because it is certain and certainty is strength. Perception is temporary because it is subject to fear or love.

When our perceptual filters think FEAR, (the fear is deep down in our subconscious), sometimes attitudes and behaviors become one of pure selfishness and entitlement –“what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine.” This motto is demonstrated through people who want to ramble about themselves yet never expresses interest in other person or believe they are entitled to take claim to the earned life perks of another. This person desires to take from life and gives very little back. This person’s fear leads to hoarding, envy and coveting, avoidance, greed, bashing, blaming, deliberate meanness, and a person who thinks life is doing something to them and is all about them.

In this cycle of FEAR, we limit our possibilities to end up prisoners in our own minds. Because we are prisoners, we suffer, struggle, personalize and fail to see the doorway to freedom which feeds the psychological dilemma in the United States.

Part of the psychological dilemma in our society is we continue to validate unbalanced behavior and play games of deception with ourselves and with others. The hidden cost of fear and this deception I would argue is more qualitative than quantitative yet by no means is the Fear insignificant. To understand Fear one is required to get inside another’s world and mindset, to feel what is like in order to figure out the logical outcomes of these experiences. Below is an example to think about:

In previous years an employee receives very positive performance appraisals and today in his performance appraisal learns he is bypassed by a junior employee for promotion advancement. The reasons behind this decision were unclear to the employee. He felt management was unwilling to talk about the issue. As a consequence this employee starts believing there is an unknown hidden agenda to advance in the organization. Resulting in this employee’s self-talk shifting to – “why should I be a team player? Why should I do more than my share or work any additional hours at night or on the weekends? My boss sucks and so does this company after all I have done for them… I’m not doing anymore than what I need to do. The pay is the same either way… I ‘m doing the bare minimum and no more. I should retaliate against this management team --- I show them what their missing and I am not helping anyone. I am looking out for myself and myself only. So there !!!!! #%$$&%$&$ !!! “

To fully comprehend what this situation costs an organization, it is important to think about the attitude shift in this employee. Whether the emotional reactions are right or wrong is irrelevant. The issue is the employee believes management is unwilling to talk about the issue and has a hidden agenda. This magnifies the disappointment and transformed it into bitterness and resentment that went unaddressed except perhaps in the company gossip and rumor mill.

It is easy to see how this employee’s negativity can leak into everyday situations exactly at times when his intelligence, energy and dedication are needed. With having low energy, this person is very likely not to contribute ideas to resolve dilemmas facing the team. Others view this person as “withdrawn, checked-out and negative” and this attitude give others permission to share their stories. Now the discussions end up spreading into pessimistic cycle of unproductively. The strength of the team weakens and the special talents are withdrawn.

These shifting effects then place greater demand on the management who then needs to become more attentive, active and directive leading in turn to an even less initiative on the employee’s part and the creation of a self-reinforcing negative pattern.

Then the greatest costs are generated: the cost of unnecessary management time and energy. This includes the direct intervention by management to compensate for the lack of energy, motivation and positive alignment illustrated by employees. Management and Leadership end up doing more, solving more and controlling more – in essence micromanaging. The leadership feels unable to trust and delegate to others for the tough challenges. Leadership ends up making more decisions for people and become the center for more approvals, then in turn builds a more expensive hierarchy and bureaucracy. Then because management and leadership become exhausted and frustrated with tension, they end up needing a skilled professional such as me to intervene, which adds more cost.

Leadership time is expensive. If leadership is micromanaging, then who is steering the organization? In one comparative small instance a senior manager calculated he spent 100 hours of his own time and 175 hours had been spent by other top staff to resolve an issue that should have been handled by managers closer to the front line. The top manager took on the problem because he feared potential repercussions from the top executive.

The fear of addressing the problem costs because fear will ripple across the organization. Fear is an aggressive predator blocking creativity, trust and joy. Fear deteriorates motivation, teamwork and commitment and instills the need to control while aiding in the propensity to stagnate and deteriorate. When the fear of addressing the real issue prevails, the workload of management gets bigger and bigger at every level.

A common psychological dilemma of today is most people complain about what they are sick of in society yet they take no real course of action to create real change. Our society is growing sicker because of the fearful mindset of so many. We hear so many say things such as “ I don’t give a damn anymore” or It’s just not worth the headaches and ulcers. I will no longer strive for excellence” or “ I have a long-term attitude of not caring. I’ll just do the basics of the job and survive” These attitudes are toxic and are addictive leaches looking to spread its poison. This is where the addictive codependent cycle continues.

More and more people behave as codependents and participate in the addictive behaviors that society has normalized. These psychological conditions that are floating through our societal matrix: workplace, relationships, politics, religious houses, TV and movies; are often not understood.

Codependent behavior often is not scrutinized because these people are devoted to the family system, the organizational system, and to their relationships because they excel at behaving as “professional caregivers”. These folks make themselves indispensible to others will do whatever it takes to be “liked”. I mean anything. If someone doesn’t like them or want to be their friend they take it very personally. They want to be validated for their thoughts, their contributions, and their mere presence. They will get upset for the smallest things and take everything personal.

I have worked with many codependents. Here is an example of the personalization:

At a regularly scheduled business meeting with no assigned seats, the codependent individual became accustomed to sitting at certain spot in the room. The codependent person’s participation level in the meeting is listening to be informed and learn more about the subject(s) being discussed in the meeting. Because this person became addicted to sitting in a certain seat and place in the room, when someone else sat in that seat where this person became accustomed to sitting and was unfriendly, the codependent felt it was a personal attack and conspiracy. The codependent took this very personal and felt “un-liked” because this codependent was supporting the cause by sitting in this certain chair and spot in the room. The codependent wants everyone to see their value and validate them.

These people are the volunteers; they set aside their own physical, emotional and spiritual needs for the sake of others. They end up overburdened and exhausted while other people see them as hero’s holding up society or the project or the cause. Yet they can be very exhausting to people who are self-sufficient or do not want or welcome their assistance because they come across as meddlers interfering in that person’s boundaries or not respecting the person does not welcome them in their space.

Codependents are selfless to the point of hurting themselves. They work and care for others to such an extreme that they develop various physical and emotional problems. Then and only then, they allow themselves to be cared for and nurtured. The reason codependents do all this for people so the people they care for become dependent on them. This is where the disease sets in. Codependents not only have relationships with addicts, they behave as an addict. They are not necessarily drug or alcohol abusers yet they do use other addictive means compulsively and habitually. They take on an exaggerated responsibility for others. They confuse love and pity with the propensity to love people they can pity and rescue.

Codependents have relationship addictions. They form and maintain relationships that are one-sided or emotionally destructive or abusive. These folks have low self-esteem. They search for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They have extremely good intentions to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty. Yet the caretaking becomes addictive, needy, compulsive and defeating. Codependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course, blurring boundaries and sometimes becoming disconnected from reality and they create their own idealism. They become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the codependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.”

When the caretaking becomes habitual, the codependent feels helpless in the relationship and becomes an addict who is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that caused the addiction. Codependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in romance, friendship and workplace relationships. They constantly seek validation for their martyr efforts to save someone from their circumstances otherwise if validation is not received; they feel hurt because they have an extreme need to approval and recognition.

Another example I have experienced is codependents become very attached to what they create and invest their time in. This is a core essence of the additive pattern. For example:

A group of folks create policies and procedures. The group falls in love with their creation. Upon execution completion and used by all they affected it is realized their creation does not serve the affected in a positive uplifting manner; instead it brings more struggle and lack into the equation. The policy and procedure creators personalize the feedback from the affected instead of scrutinizing the outcome which resulted in creating more troubling difficult consequences for all involved, including themselves. The codependent addictive thinking focuses on the affected NOT liking their policy rather than creating win-win results that all prosper from. This is a very costly addictive game to play. It is a poor investment in time and in money. The feedback is a priceless tool to utilize.

Codependents are very susceptible and they believe that people tell them the truth when they are down-right lying. They want to be good, be liked, and be included. These three motivators are so powerful that they take precedence over sound judgment. They cannot see when they are being tricked, lied to or deceived by others or through self-deception because they choose NOT to see. This is because the Addictive System invites all to deny seeing people and things as they really are and only as the codependent wants them to be. By this refusal, the codependent end’s up disrespecting that other person or group. It is only when people are seen as they really are; they can honor, accept and own up to the responsibility to be accountable for their part in society and for themselves. It is only when an individual owns up to who they really are, is when the option to become something else occurs.

The codependent receives very little encouragement to get well because the disease supports our culture and our culture supports the disease. Codependents exhibit some of the most valued and some of the most despised characteristics in society. The behavior of the codependent is perceived as nice, righteousness, correctness and the ability to be understanding. This selfishness is often camouflaged as dishonesty. Rather than directly communicating what they want, they use indirect devious means to say what they want. They avoid facing an issue and they talk around and about people, not to them. They rumor, innuendo and gossip to manipulate others to create confusion. And it is very passive-aggressive to the point where they will do almost anything to avoid confrontation because they FEAR not being LIKED.

Sadly, these behaviors are considered normal.

(as a reminder this situation expands in a different continuum of intensity. Please be aware that only a qualified professional make this judgment on an individual or an organization. )

This normalization is sucking us into an addictive fear based illusion that defines its own reality. This illusion has people believing we have an economic problem instead of facing up to the FACT that the United States of America has a true psychological problem. The mind of American society is closed and addicted to FLUFF. This closed fluffy mind believes the future and the present will be the same so therefore why do anything different. This establishes a mind state that attempts to counteract an underlying fear that the future will be worse than the present. This fear inhibits the tendency to evolve, flourish and most of all HAVE the PROSPERITY OF OUR BIRTHRIGHT.

This fear flourishes and floats in the news, on social media, and in passing conversations. This Fear based addictive system defines itself on a basis to support its reality: its control, its judgment, its illusion of perfection, shifting thinking processing into left brain constructs and leaving out right brain creativity, to keep the dishonesty and denial alive.

We see evidence of this illusion in everyday life. Our media feeds us subliminal food in paid advertisements, mass communications, reports on business organizations, leaders, politicians, professional sport athletes and many movies and TV programs that illustrate these deep root psychological conditions.

All these illusions create a reality of misperceptions of Counterfactual Thinking Process on a complicated system of fear defenses. Which I know is a bunch of NONSENSE !!!!! Because we have given into the illusion in order to fit in and live as the addict.

The recovery process of Counterfactual Thinking requires our thoughts to shift from FEAR to LOVE. I am not speaking of the illusion of Love that falls apart once fear or hatred enters into the relationship. What I am speaking of is to HEAL our thinking and our Behavior. In this healing we cross a safe bridge very quietly shifting our thoughts from fear to love. In Love no illusion exists because it based on Facts. In the illusion of love, barricades against it occur, the love is broken, fear rushes in and triumphs.

Real love does not have triumphs. Only illusions and counterfactual thinking triumphs; this is a mistake in our thinking. The illusion of love can triumph over the illusion of FEAR with a price associated to maintain both illusions. Conflicts occur within us when we need to make a choice between these two illusions. Both choices are equally dangerous because this is where most people avoid, indecision sets in and complacency becomes the accepted pattern.

Our job is to overcome all the barriers within ourselves that we have built against the truth of love. We can have the dreams of our heart and soul once were learn to stop the resistance to LOVE.

The path to find this truth is taking steps forward to diminish all the psychological fearful dilemmas one by one. Forgiveness and Empathy are part of the keys to open the door to freedom and to stop the psychological destruction. These steps on this journey lead to the union within each one of us which provides knowledge and certainty that leads to an evolving uplifted society.

My friends what would happen if you didn’t travel through the fear? And what would happen if you did learn to LOVE?



Christine M. West – PhD-c is an Industrial Organizational Psychology Practitioner and Alternative Health Therapist who owns and operates TheBusinessMD. TheBusinessMD is a result oriented service provider that guides the behavior of people toward their intended outcome. TheBusinessMD is predominantly skilled in the areas of discerning and solving psychological dilemmas, human analysis, behavior modification, and emotional and social intelligence.