Personal Effectiveness and Responsibility
What Physical Injury Taught me About Paradox Theory
I broke my left wrist recently. Fortunately I am right-handed and since I am not a bricklayer, I thought, no big deal, right? My right hand can carry the load while my left hand recovers; hardly a recipe for disaster for someone who works at a desk. In fact, I was coping quite well for the first week or two, but then I started to get really irritable and fed-up. It was as if my whole right side (not just hand!) developed a kind of angry resentment while the left side descended into self-pity and victim hood. I could “hear” my right hand exclaiming, “back off! I feel used – stop taking advantage of my strength and competence – leave me alone!” while my left was saying, “help me … I am hurt, weak and pathetic.” I became exhausted and confused as a result of what seemed to be a relatively minor inconvenience.
So, this got me thinking about how the physical body resembles the mind and psychological patterns of thinking and behavior. The right and left sides of the body work in compliment much as do the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Through my work with the Harrison Assessment I understand Paradox Theory as a psychological construct that sheds light into both constructive and destructive behavior in our lives and work. Paradox Theory teaches us that a strength is not really a strength without the support of its paradox. For example, having a highly analytical approach to decision-making is great, but without exercising intuition to provide balance, the overall quality of one’s decisions will ultimately suffer. An analytical (or left-brained) approach focuses on logic, data and the many details involved with making decisions. The paradoxical trait to analytical is using one’s intuition (or right-brain) to see a problem or situation in a holistic, or big-picture way. Both are involved with strong decision-making; you can’t use one without the other without some down-side. When both are strong the result is formidable – this is called Logical Intuition in the Harrison system. When only one side is strong then an imbalance results that often cripples one’s overall effectiveness in making sound decisions.
Taking this example further, if a trait such as analytical is taken to extremes without balance from its counter-point – intuition, in this case – the effect is likely to carry-through to other aspects of the person’s profile. That is, having a strong tendency to be “laser-logical” (a dynamic imbalance in the Harrison system) may show up in other parts of the profile, as well. Someone with this imbalance might tend to interact and/or communicate with others in a laser-logical way (think Spock or Data in Star Trek), sacrificing the finer-points of relationships that intuition supplies. The way in which someone who is laser-logical manages and leads people may not be optimal as a result, as well. And so it goes …
Similarly, our amazing physical body relies upon symmetry and complementary strengths to perform at optimal levels. Currently, my right side is practically crying out, “pull your weight, you slacker,” while poor lefty is hiding out in a wrist guard. I hurt all over as a result of an irritating wrist injury; it is hard to sleep, dress, cook, work – everything I took for granted as easy and normal in my long life so far. The skill of my right hand and whole right side is amazing to behold during this trying time, but not without a cost. My overall effectiveness, despite my right hand working overtime, is highly diminished and weary much like a psychological imbalance hampers individual performance in significant and complex ways. We may not “see” it happening the way we see a physical limitation impeding physical performance, but psychological rigidity and other destructive patterns of behavior keep occurring if imbalances are not revealed, understood and ultimately addressed.
In my case, my wrist will heal and likely be back to normal soon so I can go about my life unthinking about every little physical challenge. This experience, however, helped me better understand how the mind and our behavior patterns need continual attention, as well, to diagnose, comprehend and with work, patience and creativity, find better balance, versatility and capability to excel in our lives and careers. Paradox Theory has a lot to teach us about finding and developing greater balance in our lives and in our work.