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Introvision in Coaching (part 1)

INTROVISION: INTROSPECTION WITH A WIDE VISION

 By Norbert Distler

(first published in German at “Training aktuell” 04/2020)

 

The dissolution of inner blockages and limiting beliefs has always been part of many coaching sessions. In our dynamic world, where one's own thought patterns are being questioned more and more often, this work will become even more important, says coach Norbert Distler - and explains how the Introvision method can help. 

 

Everybody has inner beliefs or expectations: for example, we know exactly how colleagues, employees or superiors should be, or we have very specific expectations of ourselves. Unfortunately, these ideas are often not fulfilled by reality, and our own ideas create pressure that tends to block us directly or indirectly. 

This problem is exacerbated by digitalization, disruption and COVID-19. Thanks to the high dynamics, unpredictability and disruptive changes, we have to challenge, change and adapt our previous patterns of thinking and behavior more and more quickly. 

As these complex times put greater demands on our ability to cope, our feelings of competence decrease in direct proportion to the increase in uncertainty in the world. Therefore, we must learn more and more urgently to deal constructively with the conflicts that arise from disappointed expectations and unfulfilled inner demands. 

 

Introvision as reality coaching

The often-observed impulse to do more of the same, in the sense of Paul Watzlawick, is not very helpful: Because when reality does not meet one's expectations or the perceived insecurity is high, one clings even more to what has provided security up to now.  But like all other conflict avoidance strategies - ignoring or trivializing, for example - this strategy falls short, limits one's own perception and costs a lot of energy. Because it does not change the corresponding emotional schema that permeates thinking, feeling and acting, it cannot permanently close the discrepancy between one's own expectations (imperatives) and the reality that contradicts them. 

The Introvision method developed by Prof. Angelika C. Wagner at the University of Hamburg, on the other hand, aims to achieve precisely this. Its goal is to dissolve the inner conflicts, i.e. the imperatives and the associated automatisms, or at least to weaken their daily impact. For this purpose, it provides a guide that helps to "get to the core" of an inner conflict, and in a second step helps to face it more calmly. 

Introvision has two elements for this:

  • Acknowledging attentive perception (AAP)
  • The identification and approaching of the core imperative (= core of the inner conflict)

First of all: Learning to perceive, acknowledging, and attentive

Acknowledging attentive perception (AAP) in its various degrees of challenge is a non-judgmental form of perception. It is initially trained with exercises similar to those practiced in Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In the beginning, it is about widening one's perception and observing one's own hearing, seeing or other body sensations or one's own thoughts without focus for one to two minutes. 

In the next step AAP is practiced with a focus - for example, on a certain sound or a situation of success or joy, in later stages also a stressful situation: It is important to maintain the widened perception despite the focus. This is called bifocality. It can be difficult at the beginning, especially with emotionally charged issues, and it is normal to oscillate between focus and wideness. The aim of AAP practice is to maintain a wide, non-judgmental perception without getting lost in the focus. AAP is introduced successively in coaching and training. A coachee can also practice the preliminary stages on his or her own and integrate them into self-management. 

Only when she - or he - has mastered the technique can the actual intro- vision process be started. Then coach and coachee can approach the most challenging aspect of introvision: being in this wide mode of perception and at the same time focusing her attention on emotionally unpleasant aspects of her experience. 

The process of Introvision

These worlds are now identified in the rather circular, chained process of introvision (see diagram): It begins with the description of the coaching topics, where sometimes beliefs, imperatives and imperative violations already show up directly. If this is not the case, the coach can also invite the coachee to describe a typical situation as concretely as possible, this is called "Thinking aloud afterwards“. In doing so, she can help the coachee track down the imperatives by asking more in-depth questions.

Manager Jane, for example, reports at the beginning of the coaching about her difficulties in delegating tasks. She has already recognized that the reason for this is that her idea of the target is getting in the way: The expectation that employees complete tasks with exactly the same precision and the same understanding is not compatible with reality. Nevertheless, she was always upset when tasks were not done exactly her way and had conflicts with unreliable colleagues. As often as possible, she therefore refrained from delegation and preferred to do the tasks herself or to control them extremely closely, which of course led to an increased workload and various symptoms of stress. 


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