MindShift Integral

TRANSFORMATION – INSIGHT – LEADERSHIP


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Leading change: First in the subtle, then in the world.

If you want to lead change – personal, organizational or societal – you have to intimately know how change works. This includes experiential clarity in knowing how to overcome – and help overcome – resistance towards change. It also includes knowing the ever so subtle, almost unnoticeable shifts in your own inner experience when facing a challenge to change a personal reality in the face of a conscious or unconscious resistance. This is especially true if the change you want to induce is not just incremental change, i.e. getting better at something, but a real transformational shift, or even a paradigm shift, personal or otherwise.

This is what Bill O’Brien or Otto Scharmer talk about, when they tell us how much the `inner place of an intervener´ matters to the success of an intervention.

217868_454397854583456_2109798001_nLeading self comes before leading others. Let us illuminate that ‘blind spot of leadership’ and take a closer look at what happens in our own spaces first. How do you deal with your own personal change? How do you overcome your own resistances when they are well hidden from your own insight and logic? How much do you know your own inner quiet place where you examine your own assumptions, what you are unconsciously knowing (e.g. “I am not good enough”) and can you unlearn what you know? What you are ignoring (“I can’t bear feeling that”)?  Are you aware of what it is you are secretly protecting?  What encountered knowns and unknowns do you leave unexamined? With which consequences?

The answer to these questions lead to the areas, where leaders of change need to develop a kind of mastery that is similar to that of martial arts: In dealing with the inconspicuous, lightning fast impulses, and in handling most uncomfortable pushback, shadow impulses and resistance.

We tend to think that facing change and leading change are about the bold moves, that paradigm shifts are spectacular, that holding unknowns or paradoxes is something very noticeable and in your face. This is not the case –  the trick lies in the subtle, in the almost undetectable vibrational shifts and minute impulses that are going on in the background of your own mind, without you noticing them consciously.

There is this old Zen joke, that has been around, about the old fish that meets to young fish. While passing he friendly asks: hey guys, how is the water today? After he is gone, they turn to each other and ask: what water??

Here, the unconscious is exactly what the word says: what is least conscious because it is most usual, most familiar, most every day. This is why people don’t easily change even their most unwanted realities: “Every day” is what we call a reality that is constructed around homeostatic systems with adaptive ‘set points’ around money, happiness, confidence, relationships, success, etc. What are your assumptions around this that hold you, like invisible rubber bands, in your old reality? Noticed any patterns lately?vortex

What you might notice if you are being challenged to change even a minor set point or a status quo in these areas are things like; becoming tired, embarrassed, distracted, ill, angry, intellectual, nice, pleasing, aggressive. Now become quiet and listen in, feel in: what happened inside, in your ‘inner place’ just before the avoidance mechanism?

nimbusD'aspremont_webBecoming good at identifying and handling these impulses needs a different set of skills and capacities. It needs noticing where your attention goes in automatic and where it is stuck. It needs awareness of the mechanisms that you use to escape from the ‘inside of a feeling’ that you protect yourself or others from. It needs the willingness to feel something that is deeply uncomfortable, oftentimes painful. It needs the will power to stay and feel it through. These minute moves are silent, not loud; you need to catch frequencies, not words and mental concepts; you need to move at the speed of emotion, not slow changing matter. Draw faster than your shadow. And, just like in martial arts, the resistance and impulses can be used to our advantage: there is usually a treasure to be found at the bottom of each illusive impulse. Follow that resistance, use its tension and its origin for your own goal of becoming whole again and greater awareness, and come out shiny at the other end.

You learn to stay some more and make this new, unchartered unfamiliar territory your place. You start playing with new possibilities you didn’t know were possible before. The choice field widens, and welcome to prototyping. You can start leading and teaching the martial arts of change. New realities emerge from the subtle first, and the rewards are priceless.

Are you ready to play?

Photos: Cloud in a room. Artist: Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.


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Transformative Processes and Adaptive Pushback. Mapping out Stages, Patterns, Mechanisms, Immunities to Change and How to Respond

shiftWhy are we resisting Transformation?

In the global change arena we see more and more the need for leaders to know about what happens in transformative processes inside out in order to play a different game. It is ironic that our best whole systems thinkers are becoming ever more frustrated at the lack of visible change in response to knowledge and evidence about growing threats to sustainability. The problem is more often than not that the intrinsic mechanisms of transformation are still not widely understood nor mastered. Transformative processes that are supposed to respond to adaptive challenges require a fundamental shift in perspective and meaning. In order to be able to design, catalyze, foster or lead such shifts, leaders need to recognize stages, depth and width of the process, need to identify patterns of systemic pushback, know what to do with immunities to change and how to handle the usual resistances and escape mechanisms.

The following Powerpoint shows maps of

  • stages and stations on a archetypical transformative process
  • pushback and escape mechanisms tipically occurring in relative accordance with the stage of the process
  • generative interior and exterior condition that can foster a successful process
  • a selection of toolboxes, techniques and methods that are helpful in order to bring participants back on track

What are your thoughts? Download the presentation here:

looking into transformative processes and adaptive pushback

Paper Presentation during the Conference on ‘Transformation in a Changing Climate’, University of Oslo, June 2013.


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Transformative Workshop January 12/13 2013 in Oslo

Transformative Leadership Workshop –  Taking on the Future: Global Transformation, up-close and personal 
“Where the rubber hits the road”
January 11, 2013, 13.00-16.00, Georg Sverdups Hus, Auditorium 2, University of Oslo Followed by a two-day workshop on personal transformation, January 12-13

Over the next years we are likely to experience global changes at a rate and scale that is unprecedented in human history. Many people are concerned about the future – and frustrated because there is currently so little evidence of actions at the scale and magnitude considered to be necessary to meet complex challenges like climate change. We often hear talk about leverage points for large-scale systems changes, or about the role of “trim tabs,” whose small moves can make a powerful difference. But how do we actually make change happen? Do we ourselves need to change? To more effectively contribute to collective change, we need to have more hands on knowledge about change mechanisms and how to get around the blind spots–and experience it first-hand so that we can work better with others.

In January 2013, we, Anne Caspari and Karen O’Brien, will address these issues head-on by offering a 3-hour experiential intro workshop that focuses on the mechanisms of change, including how our individual and collective beliefs can create immunities to change that can sabotage well-intentioned efforts to make a difference. This is about personal change, collective change, and global change. Participants will gain personal insights on their own beliefs and how they influence their actions in the world around them. For those who are willing to go deeper and want to lead change, the 3-hour workshop will be followed by a 2-day “Resurfacing” course that will work directly with personal beliefs and attitudes towards change. The Resurfacing Course requires a commitment of two full days, and for this part there is a participation fee of 2600 NOK/350 EUR. More information about this course will be sent to those who are interested.

The workshop addresses individuals who:

  • feel they are running against the same walls and have tried different methods that showed limited success ;
  • experience recurrent life situations that they are ready to change;
  • are interested in the mechanisms of change, transformation and obstacles to it, in self and in others;
  • feel they are ready to play a bigger game and make a difference in the world;
  • are personal coaches, change agents, or trim tabs (complementary with coaching work, shadow work, integral theory, immunity to change work).

The 2-day workshop will be thoroughly experiental and intensive. The exercises in Resurfacing take you behind the scenes of consciousness for a look at the blueprints by which you build your life experiences. The rewards are new perspectives and realizations about how personal reality works – or why it doesn’t. You get special insights into hidden assumptions and connections that you had no idea that they were stored and well -hidden on your “hard disk” – yet were creating some recurring themes in your life and were protected from introspection and from changing them. ReSurfacing is an expedition into consciousness that you personalize according to your own needs. The insights you gain can be directly applied to professional and collective topics.

change plan


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Working with Resistance – a praxis paper.

Working with Resistance – When Reality hits, use its Force

Follow the intensity of your resistance down to its source and sure enough you will find a treasure.

“The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior” M. Scott Peck

With transformation work, encountering and overcoming resistances is an intrinsic part of the game. In coaching and facilitating transformative change, people naturally face stages of resistance, fear and confusion. This will inevitably trigger escape and protection mechanisms of the self/Self system that come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and flavours.

Many of these take the form of well-rehearsed identities (e.g.spiritual identities, cynical attitudes, attack of coach or method, sudden shift of priorities) that are designed to ‘protect’the coachee from the suspected pain of re-owning deeper lying disassociated parts (shadows). These defence mechanisms can easily sabotage the transformative process. In many cases, the coachee is not aware of these phenomena, but rather strongly identified with them. Kegan and Lahey (2009) define this as “Immunity to Change”, a “hidden commitment”, with an underlying root cause, that competes and conflicts with a stated commitment to change. It is these hidden commitments that cause people to not change and to fail to realise their best intentions. It takes experience to spot such phenomena and to defuse or utilize any deviating construct arising in the space appropriately, in real time.

In the previous paper I listed the various stages of a typical transformative process. Now I add to that the typical resistance patterns that often correlate to the stations on the track. Fortunately, these patterns tend to have a recognizable sequence. See also Anne Caspari  www.integral-planning.org

An experienced coach can identify them and knows how far or deep a group or an individual is on their way through the process and what is still ahead of them relative to their goal. The good news is that there are plenty of extremely good tools available.

Tool boxes

Based on more than a decade of practical experience with coaching transformational change processes in adult development, combined with the application of integral theory on facilitating change in personal to global strategic projects, I have started to map out recognizable patterns that show up consistently as indicators of specific stages of the transformation process in individuals and groups. Resistance patterns or pathologies can of course vary in flavour and form depending on the kosmic address or altitude of the group or person in the process. If level-specific mechanisms show up, they are best addressed with tools and approaches that correspond well with that specific developmental level.

Escape patterns and pathologies in different states of consciousness are harder to recognize and require, as always the full experience and presence of the coach.

These diagrams are intended to provide hands-on practical information that is hopefully useful to practitioners dealing with transformational change. I have listed a number of tools and methods that have proven appropriate and extremely useful in coaching people back on track in their movement through transformational processes.  

Resistances are treasure indicators

In transformation work we encounter a lot of fear and collective shadow around resistance and blocks, not just in the coachees, but also with some coaches and trainers. These tensions can and should be harvested. It requires some cleaning up and practice, like mental aikido training, to recognize obstructing, attacking or resisting forces as forces to work with and as pointers and key indicators to the most important acupuncture points for change, much like a treasure map. Furthermore, if the transformational process is designed to prototype new ideas, listening to the information sitting on resistances and fears can actually provide the breakthrough that is called for. Then, working with resistances can even be like a fun ride in a roller coaster or like a ride on a sail boat using the resistance to propel you in the direction of your conscious choice. Welcome to the world of trim tabs.

The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

Download this paper here: WhenRealityHits[Paper041]

Adaptive Pushback Caspari