Fixed Ideas

The handling of fixed ideas, "Unfixing", can be divided into three distinctly different steps:

1: Discover fixed ideas. First we need to find them of course. One at a time.
2: Separate the idea. The person needs to dissociate a bit from what we find.
3: Free up the idea. We explore, challenge and stretch the idea until it is no longer fixed.

Step one: Discover fixed ideas

Finding fixed ideas is both a sport and an art, and not at all a rote procedure. You need to be very flexible and be able to smell fixed ideas from a distance. We have a list of likely ways of getting to an area with fixed ideas, but once you get the area, you need to sniff it out yourself the rest of the way. The key way of tracking down the actual fixed ideas is by challenging any kind of logic the client presents you with, demanding explanations and asking what is behind it. That is done in a friendly and playful manner, but very direct and inquisitive. You don't waste time listening to stories or reactions, you are after pieces of frozen logic. Some of the questions that can be useful for this are:

"How come?"
"Can you explain that?"
"What principle is behind that?"

You would want to challenge or investigate the ideas the client is most sure about, not the stuff she is aware of having problems and reactions about. You might run into stuff that is not fixed ideas, but that needs to be processed with another technique. Just be aware that the target of fixed idea discovery is uniquely different.

These are some general questions that can be used to weed out fixed ideas:

1. "Do you ever make others wrong?"
2. "Do you have ways of dominating others?"
3. "Are there any ideas that make your life better?"
4. "Do you have ways of making sure you are right?"
5. "How do you avoid that anybody else gets the upper hand?"
6. "What ideas are you using as truth?"
7. "What idea is constant in your life?"
8. "What is your principle of operating in life?"
9. "What piece of logic do you use in dealing with other people?"
10. "What is your principle for evaluating things?"
11. "What don't you want to get involved in? Why?"
12. "What don't you like? Why?"
13. "What have you found very interesting (in processing)? Why?"
14. "What is an acceptable level of activity? Why?"
15. "What is bothering you about others? Why?"

You can also systematically go through what the person is doing in different domains in life. Discuss how she goes about things, what her routines and operating principles are. Notice what she is avoiding and how. Notice what isn't subject to change. Dig into it.

Step two: Separate the idea

It is not enough to find out what the fixed idea is. The client must perceive it as an idea separate from herself, at least a little bit. We can not unfix it if she is completely being it. She must recognize that it is an idea. It must move from the realm of 1-valued logic into 2-valued or 3-valued logic. That is, instead of just being an unquestionable, unconscious truth, it must become an idea that can be subject to intelligent examination. She might still think it is perfectly true and universally workable, that is fine. But she must recognize that it is an idea distinct from other ideas.

The fact of discovering the fixed idea is often all that is needed. The best outcome of the discovery step is that the client is cornered, sees what goes on, laughs, and admits to using the idea. Then the idea is separate and we can go on to further steps for freeing it up in step 3.

Sometimes the idea becomes apparent, but the client does not recognize the humor in it and does not yet see it as something that is subject to discussion at all. In that case we need to prod her a bit more to establish a separation. Questions along these lines:

"Is that an idea?"
"Is that something you are using?"
"Is that something that enhances your life?"
"Is that something you don't question?"
"How long have you __?"
"Are there people who don't think __?"

You are simply trying to get the person to go along with the idea that it is a "something". Something one is using. That is best done by pre-supposition, certainly not by arguing about it.

Step three: Free up the idea.

Now we need to move the idea from being fixed towards being dynamic. Next is a collection of ways in which that can be accomplished. Different approaches would be more or less suitable depending on what kind of fixed idea we are working with. An abstract datum would call for somewhat different actions than an asserted beingness or doingness. Also, the wordings need to be adjusted to whatever the wording of the fixed idea is. This is not a rote procedure, but simply a collection of hints for what one can do.

1. Advantages -

Ask for advantages that are attained from the use of the fixed idea. Often a person will be able to rattle off advantages in rapid succession. Just let her give all that she can think of. It is not something to look for, it should be right there as soon as you ask it. Don't agree in any way, just take all the automatic answers that are available.

"What is the advantage of ___?"
"What are the benefits of ___?"
"What does ___ get you?"

2. Betterment -

Find out how the idea is believed to make the person do better or be a better person or have better conditions. Get examples of how things have been better because of the idea.

"How would ___ make you do better?"
"How has ___ made you better?"
"How has ___ improved your life?"

3. Hindrance -

Find out what the idea is keeping away. It is most likely there to keep something "bad" away, make it not happen, or make it not appear as bad. Deal with anything that comes up, as necessary. Like, if an unwanted feeling surfaces, you can clear it with re-experiencing. The fixed idea is just a simple, short-sighted fix on an unwanted situation. We can clear it for real with one of our techniques, and the fixed idea will no longer be necessary as a fix.

"What does ___ hinder?"
"What does ___ keep away?"

4. Putting Down -

Fixed ideas are often used to keep others down, in order to make oneself better off by comparison. Those are some of the most important aspects to handle.

"How does ___ put others down?"
"How does ___ slow others down?"
"How does ___ put others in their place?"

5. Solutions -

One is using fixed ideas because they somehow appear to solve something. The usually don't really solve anything if we look at little deeper.

"What would ___ be a solution to?"
"What has ___ solved?"

6. Out and In -

Fixed ideas appear to get one out of trouble or into contexts one would like to be in. But usually they don't really do it, so we ought to look at that.

"What has ___ gotten you out of?"
"What has ___ gotten you into?"

One might simply not have looked at the consequences of not using the fixed idea. It simply be a matter of that one has been most familiar with it.

"What would happen if you lost ___?"

8. How do you know -

A fixed idea is something that is taken for granted and used without really thinking it completely through. It will tend to free it up if we find out what system the person uses to establish its "truth" and what backs it up and so forth. The person might well find out that it is verified only by something really wacky that she never looked at.

"How do you know that ___?"

9. Perceptual distinctions -

Get specifics in terms of perceptions of what the idea is about. Is it something that is felt, if so, where and how. Is it something she sees, is it something she hears, a little voice? Connecting it up with actual perceptions will tend to take it out of the realm of abstract generalities.

"What does it feel like, sound like, look like?"

10. Secure Space -

A fixed idea gives the appearance that one has secured a space that is safe from outside enturbulation. That is done by pretending that things are unchangably in agreement with the fixed idea within the safe zone. It probably is only an appearance, so it should be examined. Having fixed ideas doesn't really make anything secure.

"Does ___ secure a space?"

11. Not Exist -

Fixed ideas try to keep unwanted confusions out of existence. The fixed idea pretends that everything is ordered and predictable and that the unpredictable enturbulation isn't there. We of course need to find out what it is that is being kept out of existence. Because if we actually face it and resolve it, there wouldn't be much use for the fixed idea any longer.

"Does ___ make something not exist?"

12. Balance -

Life is most fun if there is an optimum balance between what is predictable and what isn't. It wouldn't be enjoyable to control the whole world. Ideas usually have contrasting ideas, actions have opposition, etc. It might be sobering if the person realizes how it would actually be if the fixed idea was absolutely true and nothing to the contrary could exist.

"What would happen if ___ was all that existed?"
"What if the opposite didn't exist?"

13. Examples -

Getting examples of the application of the fixed idea will tend to ground it more in reality, so that it can be examined. Even better, if you can get the person to come up with counter-examples, well, then the fixed idea is already freeing up.

"Give me an example of ___?"
"Give me an example of ___ not being true."

14. Origin -

If we can examine where the fixed idea comes from, how one decided on it, or didn't decide on it, and so forth, that will tend to free it up. The idea is most powerful as a stand-alone generality. If it becomes clear that one decided it at an exact moment, then one can also un-decide it just as well.

"When did you decide that ___?"
"Where did ___ come from?"
"Who says that ___?"
"Who would think that ___?"

15. Who uses it -

Examining the fixed idea from different perceptual positions will free it up. By noticing others using it, it becomes more clear that it is something one is USING. Examining times when it has been used against this person is also very useful.

"Who else uses ___?"
"Who have you noticed using ___?"
"Has anybody used ___ on you?"

16. Pre-suppositions -

Explore what is implied or pre-supposed. The idea doesn't just stand alone. For it to be true, other things must be true also. Track it backwards and forwards to find out what that is. The person might not have thought of those at all and might more easily see those in a more flexible way.

"What must be true for ___ to be true?"
"What must be true if ___ is true?"

Exaggerate the idea until it gets absurd. Generalize it even more than the client does. Expand it out of the boundaries she has been using it in. Liberally find colorful examples of it. That will make her realize that it isn't absolute or universally applicable.

"So, it's like that all the time, always, for everybody, under any condition?"

18. Happen/Not Happen -

Explore the boundaries and consequences of the idea. Move it out of the realm of being just an idea into examining what actually would take place if it is true or it is used, or if it isn't true or isn't used. Also what would not happen if it was either used or not used. All of this makes it more clear that it is always a choice, there are pros and cons involved. What would "not happen" can also be expressed as what one would "miss out on". We are talking about positive events that would or wouldn't happen. Simply filling in good and bad things that agree with the fixed idea doesn't get us anywhere.

"What would happen if ___?"
"What would happen if not ___?"
"What would not happen if ___?"
"What would not happen if not ___?"

19. Intention -

Find the positive intention behind the idea. Move it from a fixed idea towards a dynamic principle. Find other outlets for is.

"What is the underlying intention behind ___?"

20. Value/Importance -

The "value" and "importance" of the idea is examined. That is to clarify value and importance as abstractions, realizing that they are not absolute. Hopefully the person will be able to compare the idea with other ideas, setting it in relation to the context, rather than seeing it having a fixed value.

"What is the value of ___?"
"What is the importance of ___?"

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