You have lead your audience past four types of resistance: 1. their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Personal resistance), whether or not they can trust you (Relational resistance), the practicality of the solution (Practical resistance) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Social resistance). Now they look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”. They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.
Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?
In stories this is that devastating moment where all seems lost. This is when Andy Dufresne, in Shawshank Redemption learns that his eye witness was murdered by the prison warden, when Brave Heart is betrayed by one of his own, when, in The Great Escape, the fleeing prisoners discover that their tunnel is a few feet short of the cover of the trees.
In situations like these stories provide only one response: Reframe.
The Blonde goes to the doctor complaining of aches all over her body. “Where does it hurt?” The doctor asks. Pointing to her left shoulder, then her nose and then her right calf she answers: “Here and here and here”. The doctor takes her hand gently examining it and says “My dear, your finger is broken.”
This is a reframe: when the perspective is shifted from the detail to the big picture.
The following is a story structure to help your client or participants create their own reframe.. It comes from the world of Applied Improvisation.
Step 1. Reflect on an issue in your personal or professional life that you would really like to change. Complete the following sentence:
Concerning this issue, I really want … (fill in what it is that you want to see happen).
But… (list one to 3 things that are in the way of you achieving this outcome – things that are blocking or frustrating your efforts).
Step 2. Cross out the ‘But’ and replace it with the word ‘and’. Now the obstacles become mere conditions for the solution, they are no longer blocks.
Step 3. Complete a final sentence:
So what if … (what alternatives can you think of that accepts the conditions for the solution.)
Anexample from a workshop participant:
As the event co-ordinator of a large networking evening, I really want my guests to feel at home and set the scene for a wonderful event. I also want to enjoy the event myself.
But AND I am not a good speaker, my hands shake and I am afraid I will forget important information. I stress so much that the whole evening is a blur usually.
So what if I rehearse a short welcoming speech to set the scene and then get an MC to co-ordinate the rest of the event, so I can sit back and enjoy it.
When all is lost, it is time for a reframe. A story that beautifully illustrates this reframe is the recent Lego movie. All seems lost when Emmet, the main character fall into the void, the abyss. His friends believe he is dead and their cause seems lost. In fact, Emmet simply falls off the table where the humans build their lego models. He is picked up by the boy playing there and from this big picture perspective Emmet’s entire world is reframed. With this insight he returns to save the day.
Reframing one’s failures and see them from a fresh angle can break through cosmic resistance.
It may seem as though a coach or facilitator needs to break through all five types of resistance before the learning can start. This is a deception: it is the very process of breaking through the different kinds of resistance itself that brings about learning and change. Once all five are eliminated around one particular idea, that idea had been accepted – learned.
What of applying the idea?
If you present and use talking to break through all the resistances, yes, then you have but pointed the way and your clients must still walk the path for themselves. But, if you coach and facilitate your way through then, the client is the one breaking through and the shift is not yours, but theirs. Though every new idea may need a new cycle of break through and it may feel like you are going in circles – it is each cycle of the wheel that makes the vehicle, and the client, move.
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