Tell us a little about your background. What made you decide to go into the psychoanalysis field?
I am a businessperson who made my way up the business food chain fairly quickly. I realized one day that my work was nothing more than exchanging dollars. The people I worked with, my relationships, were mainly self-centered and superficial. It took a long time for me to understand this. I dove into psychology because I wanted to understand myself and others better. Previous management and sales training that I had taken were mildly helpful, and so I thought I would go into the part of psychology that really looked into the depths of human dynamics and motivation-- psychoanalysis. What I found was true gold. I quickly found, however, that many good and decent professionals did not have access to this. Instead they were inundated with watered down bullet point teaching on rudimentary psychological concepts, which most of them forgot anyway.
Pathwise is a result of 100 plus years of psychoanalytical thought culled for the top 10 theories and tools available that are directly beneficial to a business environment. We teach business professionals these tools to help them become more successful in their work. The tools we teach are just as applicable in their personal life. It’s really about helping people develop potential that is well beyond current business training. Like consciousness, for example--we are or can be conscious creatures. This is what makes us more evolved than animals. The problem is that we think “This is It”, but there is much more consciousness to tap into. The businessperson who gets this sees more, understands more, and inevitably has greater success.
For example, many leaders are tasked to assemble a highly functional team to address complex business problems. Most of the meetings become debates with some members dominating the conversation, while others have hurt feelings and withdraw from the conversation. By mastering the concept of Dialectic, taught by Pathwise, these leaders can learn to elevate the team dynamic from one of debate to one of dialog. This elevation allows the collective brainpower to be used efficiently and effectively. The by-product is a team more satisfied with their work experience.
What do you hope people will accomplish in the training?
I’m not even sure I’d call it “training”. It’s more like a community of top caliber professionals and a specific curriculum to help good-thinking people develop even further in their abilities to comprehend and relate on a higher level. What we’ve seen so far, and perhaps didn’t expect, is that the Pathwise Community attracts truly evolved individuals. Pathwise members are people who are clever enough to get outstanding results in their work, but moreover, are people who are a bit more aware of the dynamics of themselves and others. These individuals recognize a gut instinct and intuition about human dynamics, and want to better understand what their intuition is telling them and the best way to react. They think at a higher level but not just in linear way—they’re the kind of people who you want to work with, or for. How often do we find that? That is what we want to accomplish the most and what we have; groups of people who are ready in their lives to go to the next level where they give more of themselves to others, and who are willing and can mentor others in the same way.
What is a typical work-related issue that you frequently hear that you feel some of the Pathwise concepts can help people address?
These people, highly functioning individuals, tend to be very good at what they do and yet they still see that there is a pattern of relational challenge that repeats itself throughout their career For example, a normally confident manager may feel uncomfortable around certain types of individuals. These individuals may even report to the manager, yet are controlling the conversations and actions of the manager. The manager may treat this individual differently, or uncharacteristically and not understand why. This often has a significant impact on performance. They want to understand why this happens and how to change it. They also want to understand what motives the people they work with. You see this is a problem we all deal with, but it takes a fairly well-developed human being to really understand that he or she does not have the answers. It’s a bit of a paradox. The person who thinks that he or she already knows; well these are the people to watch out for.
What recommendations do you have for folks that have people challenges at work? I’m guessing that stepping on someone’s neck is probably the wrong approach?
Well…surprise…it depends! Sometimes stepping on someone’s neck is the best thing for them. The key to the answer to your question is “dynamics”. Most training focuses on teaching people blanket methods of interacting through short parables based on business etiquette and an assumption that everyone falls into two or three buckets. Some methods go farther by giving people personality tests and suggesting ways of interacting based on that. But the elephant in the room is that you can’t give everyone a personality test; it’s too cumbersome, so how do you know what you’re dealing with in a roomful of personalities at a business meeting? This is the really unique part of what we’re doing. In psychology, there are different levels of human development. In level 3, humans are driven to interact. In the first level, the behaviors learned that got your basic needs met as a child are forming into your personality, it’s gotten you where you’re at today for better or worse. Level 2 is what I was describing above. It’s a tactical plan on how to relate in prescribed ways. What we’re talking about are the underlying dynamics that occur in conversations, of which we’re mostly unaware. We teach people how to read these dynamics and act accordingly in the moment. When you know why a certain thing is happening in an interaction the how becomes more obvious. For example we are often pulled into the unconscious traps set by other peoples’ personalities and behaviors. The psychopathic personality for instance looks for what produces fear in individuals, so the best way to relate to this dynamic/personality is to be fearless. For another set of dynamics it may be exactly the opposite. Psychoanalysts have known this for a century. Pathwise teaches members to understand behavior and motivation in order to react effectively to any situation.
Is it challenging for you to relate to corporate workers when your background is in treatment/academia?
Actually, I came at this as a businessperson first! I worked in business while in academia. What I came to discover, though, was quite scary. I will even risk irritating some of your readers by saying that business people have been trained to be dumb! We’ve been told that academia is all about ivory towers and intellectual nonsense, so we seldom look there for answers. Perhaps in some cases this view is accurate, but I will tell you from experience that what I have learned in “academia” has been more useful than marching to the corporate beat in terms of putting food on my family’s table. I guess I was lucky to have some good teachers and guides to help me find the material in academia that is extremely practical. Let me tell you that there are some ideas in academia that are groundbreaking, because they shake the preconceived notions that one brings into life, and give students access to tools that others have strived for over centuries. Plato, Freud, Socrates, Jung…these guys were shunned by academia. These people wanted real answers on how to live a more effective life, and also how to build a better society. The other notable fact is that the philosophers knew that they had to really dive in and think about this stuff. Business training today tries to spoon feed complex thought in to bullet points.
I guess I would encourage business people to dig into philosophy and psychology because it is very relevant to creating highly effective teams and increasing beneficial partnerships. Read the classics; the thinkers who were not hell-bent on academic advancement or economic gain. We are not the originators of these ideas. Todd and I assembled what we feel are the most relevant and impacting parts for business purposes.
At what point does someone’s work challenge become worthy of a good old sit-down therapy session?
Therapy and psychology have two parts. I: Human Dysfunction, and II: Human Potentiality. What mature professional is not interested in number 2? Therapy typically deals with a dysfunction or specific item that is resulting in a complex problem where the client is not functioning at a normal level for themselves. Work challenges are typically a result of someone functioning normally, but being challenged with different personality types and behaviors. The person may be dealing with some basic personality traits that are causing some minor issues, and they are looking for ways to improve and become exceptional, not just normal.
How much of your planning for our sessions actually involves you two in a dark room deciding how to push our buttons, huh?
Once you begin to see the dynamics under the surface of things, developing people in ways that go against their own defenses and fear is possible for every person. Creating tension is the way to improvement. For example if we can all agree that the sky is blue, then we are on to the next conversation. There is no tension and everyone agrees and there is not any growth. We ask the question “Is the sky REALLY blue? Are there times when the sky is red? Black? Purple?” Now we are creating tension as individuals discuss the options of the color of the sky. The result is a much more comprehensive explanation of the color and the ways that the color can change. This tension leads to more creative input and conversation. The first answer is easy, but not much more thought comes from it. For the Pathwise group to grow, we simply ask questions designed to challenge assumptions and foster the opportunity to grow through tension and discussion. The cohort is a safe place, rarely available in the everyday world, for individuals to explore complex issues like behavior, personality and human interaction.
Let’s say that someone is in a meeting at work and there’s some unarticulated conflict; they can just feel it hanging in the air. Other than burning sage, can you recommend a few simple things that people can do to understand and possibly diffuse the situation?
The first thing I would recommend is to feel the tension. As I described above, tension can be a very good thing. It is an opportunity to explore and grow. If the energy is bad, there is something going on in the group that is bringing that out. Our program spends a lot of time looking at the personality transferences, chronological versus psychological age and cognitive development all of which contribute and manifest into the conflict you describe. You took the first step to recognize there is something going on. Taking a moment to feel the tension may be enough to change your reaction to a person, which may be enough to diffuse the situation. At a minimum, it will have similar effects to burning sage, without engaging the fire sprinklers.