cropped-1011868.jpg“Liminal Thinking is the art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing beliefs.” ( )

This is Dave Gray’s summary of the elegant conceptual structure he has assembled in order to help anyone who wants to create change have a greatly improved chance of succeeding. Change remains one of the most problematic areas confronting businesses around the world.
Dave’s toolkit for improving this state of affairs comprises 6 principles and 9 practices (see website above).
For the purpose of this piece I want to focus on one of the principles, principle 6:
Governing beliefs, which form the basis for other beliefs, are the most difficult to change, because they are tied to personal identity and feelings of self-worth. You can’t change your governing beliefs without changing yourself.” ( )

This is similar to the idea of core narratives in Personal Construct Psychology, these are the stories we tell ourselves that are defining for us. Any suggestion that they may not be true or complete reflections of reality can register as a threat to our very existence.

But there are compelling reasons why we should be able to voluntarily step outside the embrace of these ‘governing beliefs’. In an ever more interconnected world how well we can function as individuals and organisations will be dependent on our ability to embrace a very wide range of belief sets in order to understand, at least in part, where customers and more generally those we share the planet, with are coming from.

Most of us are not taught very much about how our brain works or how our psychology gets layered in the process of growing up and through life experience. My own view is that this should be taught in primary school.

Sadly that is not the case so to a very large extent we operate on a sliding scale between our two brains, the primitive (or limbic) brain and the intellectual brain. The one we happen to be most attached to at a given point in time decides how things are going to go.

Unfortunately the primitive brain, though it always thinks it is acting in our best interest, often is not. It doesn’t make very subtle or nuanced assessments of situations. it is entirely negative (how much of a threat is this) and is liable to react on one of three axes anger, anxiety or depression.

When our ‘governing beliefs’ are threatened it is the Primitive Brain that responds as a rule. So stepping outside our governing beliefs, even allowing that they may be incomplete, can produce real physical responses, increased heart rate, sweating, churning stomach and as the system gets flooded with cortisol the higher brain is less and less able to function. Research into the decision making capabilities of US services personnel as they were subject to increasing degrees of stress showed their decision making ability dropping off a cliff as they were subject to increasing amounts of stress.
Fortunately we now know that it is possible to use some relatively simple techniques to counteract this reaction. A combination of breathing and guided relaxation using images and language which creates a strong internal safe space makes it possible to become sufficiently detached from governing beliefs to consider them as just that, beliefs, incomplete models.

This is one of the things we can achieve with hypnotherapy, creating a state where the client is free to consider for themselves the nature and function of their own beliefs. This is something the client chooses to do for themselves, the detachment and sense of deep security beyond core beliefs enable them to review those beliefs without feeling threatened by the process.

Once this kind of state of mind has been created and repeated a number of times it can become the work of a few moments on the part of the client to re-induce the perspective on their own for themselves.

In this way we can help people equip themselves with habits and frames of consciousness that enable them to calmly consider the relative nature of all belief systems. Being able to do this makes it easier to understand better where diverse people and organisations are coming from.

This may be very much more important than just improving organisational performance through greater fluidity and sensitivity to its environment. The development of this type of skill could conceivable reduce the chance of conflict.