General Unfixing

We can tailor specific approaches to different kinds of fixed ideas we find. There are many possibilities, so we can't treat them all the same way. However, there are certain main principles for what we want to do with them.

Fixed ideas need to be freed up. Most specifically, the ideas that limit the person need to be freed up. They need to be "unfixed". The main ways of unfixing a fixed idea are:

- Enumerate the ways the fixed idea has served the client
- Explore the consequences of using or not using the idea
- Put the idea in context

Note that a fixed idea is a different phenomenon than what we typically would dialogue about. It is not just something to discuss and see from different angles and describe. It is FIXED, it is an either/or kind of thing. The person will initially not be able to discuss it. It will be a fixed truth. All you can do at first might be to listen to times she has used it or reasons why it is sure to be the truth. We will move it in the direction of being a more fluid idea, but at first that might not be possible.

Enumerate the ways the idea serves the person

Some questions will tend to get the person to burst out with a long list of ways the fixed idea is useful to them. That is kind of an automatic phenomenon and it is very useful in freeing up the idea. So, when you get that, just let the client give all the reasons she has. If the question is not hot, try another one.

"What has ___ helped you to accomplish?"
"What has ___ helped you to prevent?"

"What does ___ allow you to do?"
"What does ___ allow you to have?"
"What does ___ allow you to be?"

"What is right about ___?"

"What are the advantages of ___?"

"How can one use ___ against others?"

"Does ___ leave others at a disadvantage?"

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

"What has ___ been a solution to?"
"What has ___ solved?"

Explore the consequences

Depending on what kind of fixed idea it is, this might be the main thing to do, or it might not apply. This is particularly useful for anything the person MUST do or CAN'T do as a fixed idea. Usually she hasn't really examined the ultimate consequences of doing or not doing what she is talking about. So, we will simply ask what would happen if she did do it, or if the idea was true, and what would happen if she didn't do it, or the idea wasn't true. Also, what would not happen. We are asking mainly for positive things, not for stuff to complain about. What we are trying to show is that there is always something one gets and something one misses out on no matter what one chooses.

"What would happen if you did ___?"
"What would happen if you didn't ___?"
"What would not happen if you did ___?"
"What would not happen if you did not ___?"

Put the idea in context

What we are aiming for is getting the person to be able to think with the idea. To do that, she must be able to see it in reference to other ideas and to different contexts. So, when we have freed it up in other ways first, we can ask her to do that.

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

"When would ___ be a good idea?"
"When would ___ not be a good idea?"

"What does ___ compare to?"

"Where does ___ fit in?"

We are done with a fixed idea when our client can take it or leave it, when she has a choice about it, and when it turns into a fluid principle rather than a fixed generality. That might not be any sudden realization. It just isn't fixed anymore, it is one idea amongst other ideas. It might seem totally ridiculous to her that she ever used it, or she might still find it to be a reasonable principle.

Sometimes you get a surface fixed ideas that is close to the underlying fixed idea, but isn't quite it. Even though you know that, it might still be useful to plug what you have into the handling questions. The real fixed idea might appear while we dust off what is on the top of it.

Don't miss a chance to get a basic fixed idea when you have it. It can produce very significant and lasting changes for the person.


- Practice the Unfixing technique.

- Practice finding a fixed idea.

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