On the last track, we discussed picking up housework. As tools for equalizing housework, we discussed strategies for avoiding housework and strategies for picking up housework.
On this track... we will discuss overcoming the resistance to behavior change in the workaholic client. We will specifically discuss 5 cognitive blocks that can create resistance for making behavioral changes. These 5 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to change now since I’ve been doing it this way for so long; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to spell out what I need, they should already know; my boss is the one who expects this from me, so he or she should change first; and I can’t compromise when I’m so angry.
Kyle, age 37, tried for several months to spend more time on his personal priorities in an effort to balance his life. When Kyle saw no change in his work habits, he asked, "Does this mean I just can’t change? Am I just a lost cause?" I explained to Kyle that experiencing resistance to behavioral change and work habits is normal and natural. I stated, "Experiencing resistance does not mean that you’re a bad person, or that you don’t want to have a more balanced life. Instead, resistance may mean that you have some deep-wired assumptions that are getting in your way."
5 Cognitive Blocks of Resistance
I encouraged Kyle to work on overcoming his resistance to change by working through the Cognitive Block Awareness technique in our session. I began by explaining 5 common types of cognitive blocks that relate to helping workaholic clients balance their lives. I asked Kyle to carefully consider which of these blocks he may have experienced.
Block #1 - "I’ve been doing it this way for so long."
A first common cognitive block that Kyle experienced was the belief that "I don’t have the right to change now since I’ve been doing it this way for so long." I explained to Kyle that this common attitude cuts you off from the ability to change. I stated, "this cognitive block may prevent you from finding out whether others are willing to respond to your grievances, and robs others of a chance to make things right. If you experience this belief, try to think about why it is so hard for you to request something from others. When did you first experience a feeling of the lack of entitlement? Did a parent punish you when you tried to speak up? Did someone teach you not to ‘burden’ others with your needs?"
Block #2 - "I’ll just upset the boat"
A second cognitive block that workaholic clients like Kyle may experience is the belief that "if I say what I need, I’ll just upset the boat at work and create more conflict. It’s better to keep my dissatisfaction to myself." Kyle stated, "growing up, my mom would actually smack me if I questioned her authority. I learned to be quiet if I had a problem." Do you have a Kyle who believes it is better to keep his dissatisfaction to himself?
Block #3 - "I shouldn’t have to spell it out"
In addition to beliefs that "I don’t have the right to change now since I’ve been doing it this way for so long" and "I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict", a third cognitive block that workaholic clients may experience is the belief that "I shouldn’t have to spell out what I need, they should already know". When Kyle indicated this cognitive block, I stated, "It is important to remember that your boss cannot read your mind. It’s your job to articulate your needs. If your boss doesn’t anticipate your needs, it doesn’t mean that he or she does won’t be sympathetic to your struggle."
Block #4 - "My boss should change first."
A fourth cognitive block workaholic clients may experience regarding behavioral change is the belief that, "my boss is the one who expects this from me, so he or she should change first." I find that I observe this cognitive block more frequently in passive clients. I explained to Kyle that this attitude is understandable, but can disrupt the natural flow of a working relationship.
I stated, "scorekeeping like this can lead to highly competitive behaviors that interfere with your ability to compromise. This may satisfy a sense of indignation, but scorekeeping does not help with the compromises needed for a balance between your personal priorities and your work schedule.
Block #5 - "I can’t compromise when I’m so angry."
A fifth cognitive block workaholic clients like Kyle may experience regarding behavioral change is the belief that "I can’t compromise when I’m so angry." Think of your workaholic client. How angry is he? Kyle stated, "Right now I’m so angry at my boss that I can’t even look at him!! How am I supposed to work on compromise if I can hardly stand to be in the same room!?"
I explained to Kyle that this attitude is understandable but counterproductive. I stated, "anger makes some people feel less exposed but vulnerable at the same time. But in the end, this anger may deny you the opportunity to test the balance you are capable of creating."
Technique: Anger Adjustment
I asked Kyle to try a reframing technique called Anger Adjustment with me. As I explain this technique, consider whether Anger Adjustment is similar to a reframing technique you may already be using with clients attempting behavioral change.
I stated to Kyle, "the first step in Anger Adjustment is to ask yourself whether you are using the cognitive error of emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning occurs when you assume that because you feel something strongly, it must be true. For example, if you are angry, you assume you have a right to be angry. The next step in this technique is used when you find yourself reassuring yourself of your right to be angry.
"Instead of spending the time justifying your anger, instead ask ‘is this anger useful? How will this serve me?’ Consider that this may be a time when it makes more sense to act in service of personal priorities, rather than in service to your feelings. For example, if you act in a more family oriented way, you might find that you begin to feel more family oriented." Would this Anger Adjustment technique be useful for your Kyle? Would playing this track be beneficial?
On this track... we have discussed overcoming the resistance to behavioral changes in order to help workaholic clients balance their lives. We specifically discussed 5 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes.
These 5 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to change now since I’ve been doing it this way for so long; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to spell out what I need, they should already know; my boss is the one who expects this from me, so he or she should change first; and I can’t compromise when I’m so angry.
On the next track we will discuss factors of stress. Three factors of stress that we will discuss are, the male client’s sense of choice, degree of control, and ability to anticipate consequences.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Clark, M. A., Smith, R. W., & Haynes, N. J. (2020). The Multidimensional Workaholism Scale: Linking the conceptualization and measurement of workaholism. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.
Mazzetti, G., Schaufeli, W. B., & Guglielmi, D. (2014). Are workaholics born or made? Relations of workaholism with person characteristics and overwork climate. International Journal of Stress Management, 21(3), 227–254.
Yilmaz, O., & Saribay, S. A. (2018). Lower levels of resistance to change (but not opposition to equality) is related to analytic cognitive style. Social Psychology, 49(2), 65–75.
What are 5 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to behavioral changes?
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