The Hidden Agenda

Would you believe me if I told you that you have a very good reason for doing things that frustrate or disappoint you?

Well, I believe you do.

This is a concept that offends at first. “Why would I want to be like this?” “How could I possibly be benefitting from my problems?” You’d be surprised. The benefits are usually not obvious; nor are they intended. It is not being suggested that you are making things up for attention or that you don’t really want to get better.

People Come into Therapy with Their Own Solutions

I am often impressed by my clients. I’m impressed by their strength, their insights, their intelligence, their perseverance.  I notice that when they enter therapy, they often come with plenty of solutions to their presenting problem. Good solutions! Ones that will work. And they also come equipped with a bunch of guilt and self-loathing that they haven’t done the things they know would be helpful to them.

You don’t necessarily need someone like me to tell you what would be better. Yes, of course, it would be better if you showed your kids more patience. Or if you didn’t take those things that people say so personally. You want to be more financially secure? Yes, make those decisions that will make you more money and spend your hard-earned savings less. There – off you go! Glad I could help.

The usual scenario is – more often than not – to help you figure out why you aren’t doing the things you know will help.  My job is to ask you different and harder questions than you are asking yourself, than others are asking you, and to help you look at what you might be getting out of your current situation. Once we know what that is, we can problem-solve with much more effectiveness.

Please believe me when I tell you that you might be getting something out of your current situation. And it is partly very smart and wise of you to hold onto that. Alas, those good intentions you have toward yourself end up misguided, and you are in fact depriving yourself of a growth opportunity.

There ARE advantages to not changing. Doing what we always do is simply more comfortable than doing something different.

Take this example of an overprotective parent.

A friend of mine once shared with me that she was terrified to let her daughter play more actively and independently on the playground, climbing and such. Her pediatrician had recently told her that her daughter had low muscle tone, and he gently urged her to let her daughter play more physically. Well, what happens when you let your kids wrestle and climb the jungle gym? Yup – they sometimes get hurt. And sometimes it is an ER visit. Someone like my friend who isn’t letting her daughter play more is not trying to develop a child with low muscle tone. She isn’t trying to be a drag. She isn’t unaware of the many benefits of her daughter playing. She is simply trying to prevent her from getting hurt.

My friend’s pediatrician was gentle with her. He respected her need to keep her daughter safe. He praised her for being a good and responsible mommy. Then he told her the thing she already knew: that she needed to allow her daughter those risks.  More importantly, he reassured her that allowing her daughter to take risks didn’t mean that she wasn’t doing a good job as a mommy. And he reassured her that they could handle injuries. “We’ll patch her up every time for you,” he reassured her.

When my friend shared this story with me, she was expressing a readiness to do something she hadn’t been ready to do before, which was to allow risk into her daughter’s life. Why now? Why was she ready? When the pediatrician respected my friend’s misguided agenda to keep her daughter safe from all harm – even reasonable harm – he was then able to reassure her that she was safe in moving forward in a different direction. It could have been disastrous if he was angry, intensely critical, or demanding.

When you respect your Hidden Agenda  – the part of you that is trying to be helpful to you in some misguided way – you will get further in challenging it to move out of the way so you can grow.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Your Hidden Agenda

*  If the thing you wish would change, how would that be more complicated or difficult?
*  How do you feel about the work required to make a change?
*  What would you be giving up to make this change?
*  Is there anything you’d miss about the way things are now?
*  How will you know when you are really ready to make this change?

When you ask yourself those questions, hopefully you start to see that changing isn’t as simple as    Make the Change = Feel Better

So, if you’ve been feeling stuck lately…

What’s your Hidden Agenda?