How do you make your organization highly adaptable and dynamic so you can adjust to the marketplace easily? Make sure your leaders are free of limiting beliefs and issues that prevent them from seeing necessary information clearly and acting effectively. Leader behavior is often governed by self-limiting beliefs originating from our history. A negative experience can create blocks in our system. For example, I may have been yelled at as a child, so I may fear taking risks or speaking my mind. The blocks take the form of blocking beliefs, such as, “If I speak up I’ll be humiliated,” or “I can’t trust people,” or “I’ll never be successful because I am unfairly treated.”
Clearing blocks helps leaders to be able to deal with conflict more effectively, it helps them to provide feedback more effectively, and it helps them not to personalize others’ behavior so they can assess the matter and respond effectively. CLEAR helps free issues that create insecurities, fear, withdrawal, defensiveness and anger—any one of which can impact a leader’s ability to relate to others productively.
Signs that leaders are limited in their ability to run an organization are the need for control, fear of risk, blame, defensiveness, power-over others, and lack of trust. One can see how these limits in individuals are easily translated to organizational limits. If individuals control & blame others, fear risk, are defensive or have a lack of trust, then the organization will not adapt quickly to needed changes in the marketplace because there is unnecessary resistance, defensiveness, and control occurring among the people.
Let me explain why our past can so significantly impact our current behavior. Blocks result from any experience that we want to push away from ourselves or from which we want to retreat. Humans respond to negative situations with a hard-wired “fight-or-flight” response, and if we can’t fight or flee, we go into the “immobility response.” All of these responses are survival mechanisms that protect us—it is obvious how fight or flight keeps us safe—we are primed to run from or fight the danger. The immobility response protects us because it dulls our senses so that we don’t feel much during the ordeal. So if we see someone killed or we are tortured, our senses are numbed and we don’t feel the pain so intensely.
Picture an animal, like a deer, being hunted by a cougar. The cat moves in for the kill and fells the deer. The deer can no longer run and it can’t fight—it goes into immobility so pain is dulled. Now imagine a person comes along and scares away the cougar. The deer is not fatally wounded. It lies on the ground and its body twitches and its eyes roll for a while. Eventually, it stands up and walks away. This is the normal way a body (be it human or mammal) processes trauma. Imagine after a traumatic incident, laying there and allowing your body to twitch. The desire to get away from the danger stops us from being present in our bodies and allowing processing to occur. We want to get as far away as possible as fast as possible, so it is highly unlikely we will lay there allowing our system to deal with the ordeal by staying prone and twitching.
Because we block the complete processing of the response, the memory of trauma (anything negative that happens to us) gets stuck in the body. We block the full processing of the response because we don’t want to feel vulnerable, we don’t like how we feel, and we don’t want to feel what we feel—in other words because we think. As Peter Levine notes in his tapes, “Healing Trauma,” animals don’t stop this processing with thoughts, and so trauma that they experience does not usually get stuck in their bodies (Levine, 1999).
When trauma is stuck in a human, and later we witness a situation that reminds us of this past trauma, we react as though we are actually experiencing the trauma again—with the powerful response of flight-or-fight, or with the immobility response. Once we are “triggered” by a new event that resembles an old trauma, we have very little control over our behavior because we react from the old, reptilian, survival part of the brain. Fight, flight and immobility responses bypass the cognitive mind and we react to the potential danger before we even have time to think. At that point, we have little access to our neo cortex, so both emotional intelligence and logical thought are limited and we don’t even realize how strong our reactions are.
A good indication that the past is impacting current behavior is when one has strong emotional reactions to others. If you find yourself strongly hurt, angered, saddened by, and reacting to another’s behavior, chances are that incidents from the past are influencing the situation. This is not to say that others don’t do things that negatively impact us and create negative emotional response from us. They do. But we don’t have to personalize the behavior. And if we do, our past is impacting our feelings. Strong emotional reactions effect those we lead because witnesses of strong emotions withdraw, censor responses, or fight back, none of which helps them access creativity and work productively for the organization. So it benefits us to clear the past so that we can help those we lead access their best.
Our reactive behavior is usually a predictable response, such as withdrawing, being passive, attacking aggressively, spacing out, or disassociating. In other words, we do basically the same thing we always do when trauma is triggered—whether the situation warrants this behavior or not. This response, in the original traumatizing incident, kept us safe. But it is a response that is not effective in the present because we are reacting from the old trauma and not to the current situation. As a result, the organization suffers because we are not responding in the moment nor are we utilizing employees effectively in the moment.
It is probably safe to say that leaders’ behavior is impacted daily by their past. This prevents them from seeing reality clearly and they act based on their blocks instead of the true potential in the situation. Imagine how productive your organization could be if your leaders were clear of this influence.
Let’s review how energy psychology works so you understand how it could help leaders be more effective. The techniques of CLEAR involve having the client touch particular acupressure points on the face, body, and/or hands while thinking of the incident he or she experienced. Acupressure points, when stimulated by touching, rubbing or tapping, transmit signals directly to the specific areas of the brain that are associated with those emotions. It is assumed that the stimulation of the point inhibits the “alarm response” (fight/flight or immobility) by sending appropriate signals directly to the amygdala.
Feinstein states that the energy therapies actually help change the chemistry in the amygdala (the control center for emotions in the brain) (Feinstein, 2005). Ronald Ruden, M.D., Ph.D. states that tapping on the acupressure points increases serotonin in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala thus extinguishing fear (Ruden, 2005). Studies involving brain scans also indicate significant decrease in intensity and frequency of Generalized Anxiety Disorder after acupressure treatment. My own observations of clients indicate that the change results in a “rewiring” that removes the automatic response to trauma so they are free to respond differently.
It is not necessary to re-live a trauma in order to clear it. The client holds the acupressure points while remaining aware of physical and emotional sensations in her body. She finishes processing the trauma and can thus release it from her body. This frees her from the alarm response of fight, flight or immobility so that she may be fully present to the situation at hand and no longer responding from her history.
Clients who utilize CLEAR show a steady evolution of their leadership as they clear issues from their past. One of my clients (the President of a venture capital investment business) recently told me how easy it is now to give feedback to executives running the businesses she funds. She sees how the feedback will benefit these leaders and she provides it clearly and without apology because they need it to be successful. In the past she would have put off giving the feedback and beaten around the bush if she did offer it because she did not want to alienate or offend those with whom she works. She is no longer afraid of conflict and doesn’t get “hooked” by those with whom she interacts, so she can be cleaner in her responses.
Leaders have a responsibility to the organization to utilize employees as effectively as possible. We often don’t even realize how our behaviors negatively impact others. It is the responsibility of all leaders to be aware of the impact their behaviors have on others. Once aware of our impact then it is helpful to know that we have the power to clear the past from our systems so we can help our organization move forward productively and creatively. With CLEAR, our lives also become less stressful and less dramatic and more peaceful and aligned.
Dr. Roberts is helping Women for Women International add CLEAR to their programs which teach self-sufficiency in ten countries. She teaches CLEAR and leadership courses. Dr Roberts has written a how-to book describing CLEAR, and is certified by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Feinstein, David, Eden, Donna, and Craig, Gary, The Promise of Energy Psychology, New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005. Levine, Peter, “Healing Trauma, Restoring the wisdom of your body” tape. Boulder: Sounds True, 1999. Ruden, Ronald A., M.D., Ph.D., WHY TAPPING WORKS: Speculations from the Observable Brain, http://energypsych.org/article-ruden2.php, 2005.