Do others in your organization resist your vision for the future?

Are family and friends unsupportive of your attempt to change?

Have you found yourself resisting your commitment to change?

When you set yourself up for change, you can also set yourself up for failure if you don’t recognize the not-so-obvious internal and external impediments to change.

A powerful vision is always met with resistance. Wanting to reduce the risk that comes with change, your family, friends, and co-workers may resist your new ideas. But the strongest resistance will likely come from you – from the parts of your personality, largely subconscious, that are committed not to human potential and fulfillment, but to self-preservation and risk reduction: The Protector and the Shadow. (From Chapter 7 of my book, The Business of Wanting More: Why some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t).

“We would rather be ruined than changed; We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment; And let our illusions die.” – W.H. Auden, Epilogue, The Age of Anxiety

Q7 Process, Step 3: Remove the Barriers to Fulfillment

One thing we can be certain of in life is that things change. Yet, we resist change constantly. The reasons for this are many, but there are two that lie within us that are incredibly powerful impediments to self-change, the two parts of ourselves that I’ve labelled as the Protector and the Shadow.

Get to know your Protector

The concept of the Protector was originally developed by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone. Emerging when we were very young, the Protector is a subconscious barrier to feeling vulnerable, which is very helpful when we’re figuring out how to survive our immediate environment. Yet, vulnerability is necessary to express ourselves authentically; to get our needs met, and to cultivate mature relationships. By continuing to shield us from vulnerability, then, our old friend the Protector prevents us from growing as adults.

You’ll know your Protector is controlling your thoughts and actions when you find yourself thinking things like this:

  • “That vision sounds great, but that’s not the way life works.”
  • “You’re being so selfish. What about the impact your plans will have on others?”
  • “You’ll get hurt and be embarrassed if this doesn’t work out.”

While your Protector has value as a risk-avoidance tool to guard against physical, mental, and emotional pain, it tends to be a poor judge of their likelihood in your future. It may, in fact, prevent you from taking action in a positive way since it may over-respond to the possibility of potential risk.

Get to know your Shadow

Originally identified by psychologist Carl Jung, the Shadow is, at least minimally, “an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.” (Wikipedia)

According to Jung, your Shadow tends toward the darker side of your personality; the traits we all like to believe we do not possess – but do. To a very large extent, your subconscious Protector exists to shield you from your unconscious Shadow.

When your behavior conflicts with the way in which you see yourself, shouting and cursing at others you swore you’d never confront in such a manner for example, you’re likely in the grip of your Shadow.

The personality traits that you repress or disown because you believe them to be unacceptable or inappropriate become part of your Shadow; your subconscious blind spot, and will be expressed forcefully, disproportionately, and irresponsibly, because they’ve been excluded from your consciousness.

In other words, the harder you work to disconnect from the things you don’t like about yourself, the more likely it is that your Shadow will begin to run your life, driving you toward self-sabotaging behaviors that become impediments to meeting your core needs.

In today’s parlance, these are known as “limiting beliefs” and, because most of them were developed during childhood, they are set deep within your psyche and can be very difficult to overcome.

It takes commitment and work to consciously overcome your unconscious belief system. I know I need friends, and coaches, and weird family members and seat mates on long flights; people who can to stir me up enough to see the role my unconscious is playing in my life. It is hard to be accountable for what I think and do, when the motivators are coming from deep within me – it would be so much easier to just blame others, but I know better.

I am curious what percentage of people that you know even think they have something like a Shadow or Protector, or some other internal saboteur? These are the people that will grow, while those that see the source of their pain only in the external world will remain stagnant, unchanged, and unchangeable.

For more on the specific characteristics of the Protector and the Shadow, and what you can do to regain control of your ingrained belief system through the Q7 Process, click here to order my book.