Icebergs Paper

On Page 129 of the attached article

Detecting icebergs , Read “What is Your Theme.” Write a 5 page paper using the questions in the section and identify what your theme may be.

Give examples and explain. Do not forget to use APA.

Reivich, Karen & Shatte. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. Broadway Books.


Detecting Icebergs

Have you ever had a time when your emotions seemed too in-tense-you felt horribly guilty rather than mildly so or deeplydepressed rather than a little sad? Or have you ever been sur- prised by an emotion because it seemed to be the wrong one-you felt an- gry when the situation should have left you feeling guilty or were red-faced with embarrassment when you ought to have been red-faced with anger? Maybe there have been times when your behavior seemed overboard or out of line-a friend teases you in front of a group and you refuse to speak to her for days, or you blow up at your spouse for leaving his dishes in the sink-but you just couldn’t help it? ?ometimes your ticker-tape beliefs don’t explain the intensity of your

reaction to a given situation. When that happens, it’s a sign that you are being affected by an underlying belief-a deeply held belief about how the world ought to operate and how you feel you ought to operate within that world. Examples of underlying beliefs include “I should succeed at every- thing I put my mind to” or “Getting emotional is a sign of weakness.” These deeper motivations and values often drive us and determine how we respond to adversity. And since these underlying beliefs-or icebergs, as we call them-are usually outside our awareness}deep beneath the sur- face of our consciousness, we need a special skill to detect them.

Mastering the skill of Detecting Icebergs is an important step in in- creasing your emotion regulation, empathy, and reaching out scores on your RQ profile. More important, it’s a skill that will significantly improve


your relationships. Most of the “personality” clashes that OCcur at work are due to differences in iceberg beliefs, and these beliefs are also respon- sible for many of the rifts between couples. By using the skill of Detect- ing Icebergs, you will better understand your core values and motivations and those of the significant others in your life.

Surface Beliefs versus Underlying Beliefs We’ve explained that ticker-tape beliefs are your in-the-moment beliefs about an adversity and that they drive your emotions and behaviors. You can think of ticker-tape beliefs as surface beliefs, because they float on the surface of your awareness. Even though you may not be aware of your ticker-tape beliefs in any given moment, you can shift your attention to them with relative ease and identify what it is that you’re saying to your- self. Don’t confuse surface, however, with superficial or irrelevant; in most situations, your surface beliefs hold the key to why you react to things the way you do. But sometimes your ticker-tape beliefs don’t explain your re- actions. When that’s the case, it means that you’re responding not to your ticker-tape beliefs but to your underlying beliefs-fundamental, deep- rooted beliefs about who you are and your place in the world. Underlying beliefs are general rules about how the world ought to be and how you should operate within that world. Because they’re general rules, they ap- ply to many different adversities. And since they are general rules, once you’ve identified and challenged them, you’ll become more resilient in many areas of your life.

Youuse Detecting Icebergs to bring your underlying beliefs to the sur- face so that you can evaluate them and, in essence, determine what’s mak- ing you “tick.” Once you’ve done that, you can decide whether these underlying beliefs still work for you, or if you’d be happier and more pro- ductive with a different, perhaps more useful worldview.

Iceberg Beliefs Some underlying beliefs are adaptive; they help us to behave in ways that facilitate success and happiness. “It’s important to treat others with re- spect and dignity,” “Being honest matters to me,” and “I will not give up as soon as something becomes difficult for me” are underlying beliefs that will serve you well. But not all underlying beliefs are helpful; many mini- mize our effectiveness in responding to adversity and may even bring on

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serious psychological disorders. Mark [a.k.a. “anger man”) has a deep be- lief: “People can’t be trusted. They’ll take advantage of me at every op- portunity.” This underlying belief informs many of his surface beliefs by biasing his interpretation of events. We call these underlying beliefs ice- herg beliefs because they are fixed, frozen beliefs that you don’t often consciously think about and since they lurk beneath the surface of aware- ness, they can sink you. Iceberg beliefs tend to be general propositions or rules for living that apply to more than the situation at hand. “The world is a dangerous place,” “People must respect me at all tirnes,” “Women should be kind and supportive,” ”A man doesn’t let his emotions show” are examples of iceberg beliefs. In fact, many people have iceberg beliefs that fall into one of three general categories or themes: achievement, acceptance, and control. 1

ACHIEVEMENT Do any of these beliefs ring true for you: “Being successful is what mat- ters most,” “Failure is a sign of weakness,” or “Imust never give up”? If so, you’re probably an achievement-oriented person. People who are achievement oriented tend to have an underlying belief that success is the most important thing in life. Naturally, they have a strong desire to suc- ceed: They set high standards for themselves and are overly focused on their mistakes and imperfections. Stu, a regional branch manager we worked with, believed that “There is nothing worse than failure.” This ice- berg belief almost cost him his job because his desire to succeed at all costs actually made him a poor leader. As a regional branch manager, he was expected to model perseverance and initiative and to help those in the ranks develop their skills. Stu was supportive when his team was do- ing well, but when people struggled, his fear of failure got in his way. Rather than being encouraging and helping team members to understand what was going wrong and correct it, Stu became angry and critical. In- stead of working with them, he would take over the project because that was the only way he knew to ensure success. But, of course, that strategy was incompatible with his job description-he wasn’t helping his team de- velop and grow. Instead, he would step in and push people to the side. Stu was so threatened by failure that he doomed himself to fail as a leader.

Iceberg beliefs around perfectionism are also common for achievement-oriented people, and they often suffer from tunnel vision, one of the thinking traps. Laura, a college student we coached, believed “Anything less than perfect is a failure.” Despite her ambition and desire


to do well at Penn) she spent most of her time procrastinating and avoid-

ing her studies and assignments. Even after beginning a project, her ten- dency toward tunnel vision made it hard for her to continue. If she didn’t like the first draft of a paper she wrote, she would find it almost impossi- ble to continue to work on it; all she could see was what wasn’t working/

and none of what was, so her impulse was to just throw in the towel. Not a Formula for success. In fact, by the end of her sophomore year, she had two “incompletes” on her transcript because her perfectionism drove her to give up rather than persist in challenging courses. Laura was confused

by her behavior and didn’t understand why college had gone so badly for her. We asked Laura to tell us her ticker-tape beliefs as she set herself the task of beginning a history paper. Here’s what she said: “I want to write a really great paper. 1 want to impress Professor Williams and write the best

paper in the class.” Laura couldn’t see how those desires could lead to such intense anxiety that she’d do anything to avoid writing. (She told us that the only upside to her procrastination was that she had the best- organized closet on campus.) Laura was confused for good reason. Her surface beliefs-the ticker-tape beliefs-didn’t explain her emotions and behaviors. We taught Laura to use the skill of Detecting Icebergs, and af- ter becoming aware of her iceberg belief-“Anything less than perfect is a failure”-she could see what was paralyzing her. Armed with this under- standing/ Laura was in a position to take control of the problem.


How familiar are you with these beliefs: “What matters most in life is be- ing loved,” “It’s my job to please people and make them happy,” or “I want people to always think the best of me” These beliefs revolve around the issue of acceptance, the need to be liked, accepted, praised, and in- cluded by others. People who are governed by an underlying need for ac- ceptance are more likely to notice, and then overreact to, interpersonal slights and conflicts. Acceptance-oriented people tend to jump to conclu- sions and mind read. In ambiguous situations-a boss who doesn’t say hello, a friend who doesn’t return a call-they assume they’ve fallen from favor/ which works to reinforce their iceberg belief.

James works in customer service and operates with the iceberg belief that, “If I’m not liked by someone, then that means there is something very wrong with me.” Can you imagine a worse fit? A customer service

representative who can’t stand rejection is as disastrous as a professional athlete who shies away from competition. When a customer treats him

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poorly, James assumes he’s done something wrong andwastes a lot of time trying to win the customer over. Because James is focused on being liked rather than on selling a service, his approach on the phone does not work. Customers initially enjoy his laid-back, personal style, but as he becomes more informal and inappropriate-joking with them in the hopes of win- ning their favor or asking personal questions to get to know them better- they lose patience and end the call. When colleagues are standoffish, he tries so hard to please them that he develops the reputation as a brown- noser. You can see the irony. His desperate need to be liked drives him to act in ways that cause people not to like him. Carol, a chef, is driven by the underlying belief that “1deserve to be

praised for what I do,” which leads her to boast about her accomplish- ments and narcissistically focus on herself. When she was recruited to work at the hot new restaurant in town, Carol recounted every detail of the conversation to each of her friends. By Carol’s account, they shared her excitement initially but then became jealous of her success and re- fused to talk about it anymore. From her friends’ perspective, they were genuinely pleased for Carol but grew tired of her incessant repeating of the story. In a similar vein, Carol’s relentless need for approval and praise taxes her relationships. When we met Carol, her live-in boyfriend was in the process of moving out. He told us, “She’s warm and charismatic and it’s obvious that she wants to make it work, but I simply can’t give her what she needs. If I don’t give her 100 percent of my attention, whenever she wants it, she sulks and withdraws. When our friends try to talk about themselves instead of just listening with rapt attention to ‘The Carol Show,’ she lashes out at them and accuses them of being jealous. She just doesn’t see how her neediness is driving us all away.”Carol’s relationships

tend not to last.

CONTROL Do you hold these beliefs: “Only weak people can’t solve their own prob- lems,” or “Asking for help shows that you’re not in charge,” or “If you’re not in control then you’re a weakling”? People who are ,control oriented have underlying beliefs about the importance of being in charge and in control of events. People who have strong iceberg beliefs around control tend to have a heightened sensitivity to experiences in which they are not in charge or are not able to change the course, of outcomes. Although most people find it uncomfortable to feel out of control (except for short peri- ods of time like on a roller coaster or when making love), for “control



freaks,” as they’re sometimes referred to, the experience is overwhelming because they ascribe lack of control to personal failure. A Philadelphia firefighter we spoke with described intense guilt for not having helped enough in the weeks after the Twin Towers fell. As we worked with him, two iceberg beliefs emerged that contributed to his guilt: “I must always be in charge” and “Being passive is a sign of weakness and cowardice.” These iceberg beliefs motivated him in a variety of ways. Certainly his choice of profession was partly informed by his strong desire for control. By fighting fires} he’s able to take charge and be in control in a situation that would leave most of us feeling helpless and powerless. Initially fol- lowing the terrorism, his beliefs around control helped him organize other local firefighters to aid in the relief effort. But despite helping out at Ground Zero, he believed that he wasn’t doing enough and that it indi- cated a flaw in his character. Like Laura, the firefighter felt confused by his reaction. Many of the people in his company were shaken by the tragedy and felt compelled to find ways to help. Many felt an underlying guilt when they left New York City. But for him, the guilt was pervasive and deep. It kept him up at night and interfered with his ability to con- centrate. It consumed him. AB is the case with most iceberg beliefs, the firefighter’s were overly rigid and had begun to hurt him more than they helped him. The cost-benefit ratio of iceherg beliefs is important to assess. Indeed,

after you have identified your iceberg beliefs, the fundamental questions you must ask yourself are: What is this belief costing me? How is it helping me? and How can I change it so that I reduce the costs and increase the ben- efits? As these questions imply, not all iceberg beliefs are always counter- productive and harmful. Sometimes they serve you quite well in some areas of your life hut hold you back in others. Jill, an office manager, is a good ex- ample of this. Jill keeps her office organized. Her iceberg belief, that “Dis- order is a sign of bad character” serves her well, and she excels professionally hecause her job rewards the same behaviors that her iceberg belief produces. Then Jill landed a second job-motherhood. Dirty diapers. Finger painting. Routines that changed so quickly they could hardly be called routines. The mess and chaos that came with an infant clashed with Jill’s iceberg heliefs about disorder, making the already tense and frantic few months of motherhood even harder. We helped Jill to tweak it rather than eliminate her value of orderliness. Does disorder really equate with bad character? Jill, like many control-oriented people, was falling into the thinking trap of overgeneralization. When she felt out of control, she acted

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as if being out of control indicated that she was a flawed human being. As we were helping Jill to evaluate the logic of her iceberg belief, we also helped her to articulate other values she holds, such as being a calm and lov- ing mother, which may require a higher tolerance of mess. Jill was able to recast her value-reshape her iceberg belief-to “I like to keep things or- ganized and orderly. I also like to feel relaxed and enjoy my children. So I will keep things reasonably, rather than perfectly, ordered.” As we will ask of you, we challenged Jill to keep the baby but throw out the bath water.

What Is Your Theme? , How would you describe yourself? Are you more achievement oriented, acceptance oriented, or control oriented? When you find yourself shrink- ing from opportunities, is it out of a fear of failure, concerns over rejection, or worries about not being in control? When you have problems in your re- lationships, is it because you are so focused on your career that you don’t make enough time for your personal life, or are you too needy or overly controlling? As a parent, do your child’s successes and failures impact you as strongly as your own? Do your feelings get sorely hurt when your chil- dren say they hate you? Do the normal fluctuations in routine that come with family life cause you excessive anxiety or anger? Of course, these themes are not mutually exclusive, nor are they exhaustive. Some people are as focused on acceptance as achievement} and, as we will illustrate, problems can arise when two iceberg beliefs clash. Others may have ice- berg beliefs specifically around gender roles. As we continue with the last of the know thyself skills, the challenge for you is to develop a fine-grained picture of yourself so that you can better understand what motivates you.

How Are Icebergs Formed? Perhaps you are wondering where your iceberg beliefs come from. How are they fonned, and why do you have control-oriented beliefs but your spouse has achievement-oriented ones? Both of us have met people with hypochondriasis-a disorder in which people believe that they’re sick but show no signs of real medical illness. In every case that we have seen} these people had a specific, common history: Each of them grew up in households with sick relatives. Perhaps a terminally ill grandparent came to live with them. Perhaps one of their parents underwent an extensive se- ries of medical tests over a prolonged period. They observed their parents


constantly monitoring the symptoms of illness, scanning for any new de- velopment, and consequently! as adults! they constantly monitor their own physical health, so hyperaware of every twinge and ache that they de- tect symptoms that are not there.

Just as hypochondriacs learn their behavior from their parents, so do all of us, as children, develop iceberg beliefs from our families. There we learn!rather than inherit! the worldview-the core values–of our parents. Children absorb messages from those around them about how one should behave and how the world should be. Imagine that your parents were par- ticularly focused on the issue of respect. They continually reinforced the importance of respecting your elders, and whenever you were the slightest bit disrespectful, you were punished. As a consequence, you might have developed a kind of “respect radar’t-c-you scan the environment for exam- ples of the violation of your right to be respected and feel angry each time you find one. Or perhaps you were privy to ongoing discussions about how best to care for an aging grandparent and sensed the heavy guilt that your parents felt because of the quality of care they could provide. Ai; an adult, then, you might be overly sensitive to violating the rights of others and therefore experience a lot of guilt. Perhaps you often witnessed your fa- ther’s frustration when he couldn’t master something perfectly and thus developed the iceberg belief that unless something is done perfectly, it’s a Failure. Did you grow up in a household where you were told to put on clean underwear before you left the house, just in case you were in an ac- cident and have to be rushed to the emergency room? If you were sent re- current signals that the family name is to be protected at all times-that embarrassing the family was unforgivable-then it makes sense that you would emerge from your family with a heightened sensitivity for times when you did not measure up to other people. Ai; a result, you may fail to take on opportunities for fear of failing and being embarrassed.

How Iceberg Beliefs Can Hurt You Four problems can arise from iceberg beliefs, each of which will under- mine your resilience:

• Iceberg beliefs can become activated at unexpected times, which leads to out-oF-proportion emotions and reactions.

• Their activation might lead to emotions and behaviors that! although not extreme} are mismatched to the situation.

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• Contradictory iceberg beliefs can make it hard to make decisions. • Iceberg beliefs can become too rigid, which causes you to fall into the same emotional patterns over and over again.

PROBLEMS 1 AND 2: ICEBERG BELIEFS CAN LEAD TO B-C DISCONNECTS “Yourmug is on my table. Yourwet mug is on my nice wood table. Didn’t you see the pile of coasters sitting there? I don’t get it, Guy. Help me to un- derstand why you would put your wet mug on my wood table without using a coaster. Really, help me to understand this!” These lines were delivered with a snide inquisitiveness most often reserved for courtroom melodramas. The speaker was struggling to maintain composure, but she was galled. For his part, Guy was rendered mute by his fiancee’s rabid attack. There is no polite way to say this, in that moment, Karen was off her rocker. The infamous “coaster incident” happened ten years ago but remains

one of our favorite examples of what we call a B-C disconnect-when your ticker tape cannot explain the intensity of your emotions and behaviors. In this situation, the adversity [A] was that Karen’s soon-to-be husband had put down his coffee mug on top of her wood coffee table without using a coaster. When she saw this, she became irate and began an interrogation that left him speechless and worried. As she was haranguingher fiancee, at some level she felt equally dismayed and confused. According to the logic of ABC, her ticker tape ought to explain the consequences-her tirade. But when she listened to her ticker tape (“He knows I like people to use coast- ers. He sees the coasters but he still isn’t using one. That’s just wrong”); what she heard was too anemic-it didn’t explain the intensity of her reac- tion. The ticker tape had a clear violation-of-rights essence, which should have led to irritation or annoyance, but it didn’t explain ferocious anger.

In B-C disconnects, the emotions seem out of proportion, the behav- iors seem inappropriate, and even after you’ve identified your ticker tape, you are still puzzled by your reactions. When this happens, it’s because an iceberg belief has been activated and violated.

When we teach the skill of Detecting Icebergs in our corporate semi- nars, not surprisingly, some people are hesitant to share examples of when they behaved unreasonably. Fortunately, usually one person is willing to put him- or herself on the line, and once the first person offers their own “coaster incident,” the stories flow. We had just gotten to that awkward moment in the workshop when John, a senior manager in a Fortune 500 consulting firm, filled the void. John is well educated, highly motivated, and accomplished, but he did have a persistent adversity that left him

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puzzledand frustrated. Occasionally his wife would ask him to do some handymanwork around the house, such as fixing a leaky faucet or touch- ingup a paint job. He’d don his tool belt and beam with enthusiasm like a little kid. But almost inevitably the smile would disappear and John would find himself becoming more and more frustrated with the job, with himself,and with his wife. John told us about a typical incident that had occurred the previous Sunday. “My wife asked me to tack up a couple of blindsin a guest room. Sounded easy. I set to work with the tape measure and level,carefully penciled in screw positions, and drilled away.When it wasdone, I climbed off the stepladder and took a couple of steps back to admiremy handiwork just as my wife came into the room. Immediately I could see that the blinds weren’t straight. The left side was considerably lower than the right, and I knew that she could see it too. She looked at me and smiled and told me it was a great job, but the expression on her facesaid it all. She was disappointed in the work and disappointed in me.” John’s adversity was that the blinds were not level. Weasked him to tell

us about his ticker tape as he noticed his wife’s expression. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t need this. I’d much rather be relaxing then taking care of projects for her. She should at least have the courtesy to be grateful.’ ” What would you expect John to feel and do given this ticker tape? How wouldyou categorize his beliefs in terms of the B-C connections? He be- lievesthat hiswife is being ungrateful and cliscourteous, both of which are violation-of-rightsbeliefs. We’d expect, therefore, for him to be angry.But noticehowJohn explains his reaction: “1work most Saturdays, so Sunday is the onlyday we really get time together. But I felt so down I couldn’t face her.As SOonas I saw the disappointment in her face, I just had to get out of there. I headed to the garage to tinker with an old car, and I spent the rest of the day avoiclingher. I just couldn’t get past the humiliation I felt.” In the “coaster incident,” an iceberg belief-we haven’t disclosed

which one yet-was activated and led to a disconnect in terms of the in- tensity of Karen’s reactions. In John’s situation, an iceberg belief was ac- tivated and led to a disconnect between his ticker tape and the quality of emotion he experiences-he felt humiliation rather than anger. Detecting Icebergs is used to evaluate and avoid both of these situations.


SOfar we have explored situations in which one iceberg belief is activated and negatively affects one’s emotions and behaviors. Many times, how-

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ever, a situation leads to the activation of more than one iceberg belief, and often they are in conflict. Jane provides an example of the decision- making paralysis that can result when an achievement-oriented iceberg belief clashes with an acceptance-oriented iceberg belief. Jane is a high school principal in a large urban school district and has

two young children. Jane asked for help because she had been unable to make an important decision and was starting to feel discouraged. We asked Jane to tell us about the situation.

“Our current superintendent is going to retire next year. I’m being en- couraged to apply for the position. Everyone thought I would leap at the opportunity and so did I, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind about whether I ought to apply. One morning I’m certain I will but by the end of the day I’m certain I won’t. It’s exhausting1 And it’s taking away energy I need for other problems that I have to deal with.”

Initially Jane was unable to articulate what made this decision seem so complex. But as we worked with her, it became clear that two iceberg be- liefs had been activated simultaneously. Jane had constructed her profes- sional life around her core belief that women should seek out the same opportunities and develop their careers as fully as men. This was not a conscious force in her life, but as we explored her career decisions in the past and focused on the beliefs that informed her decisions, Jane discov- ered that the iceberg belief “Women should be as ambitious and success- ful as men” operated in most instances. She described how she grew up in a family of strong, career-minded women. Jane’s mother was a suc- cessful biochemist who made a name for herself as a researcher. Her grandmother took over the family grocery business when her husband died unexpectedly. Under her grandmother’s leadership, the grocery busi- ness grew from a corner store to several locations throughout the county. The women in Jane’s family were a tight group, and the girls in the fam- ily, with the exception of one sister, learned that the surest way to shine was to do well at school and seek out opportunities that were nontradi- tional for women.

Jane’s underlying belief about ambition explained not only her own ca- reer trajectory but also why at times she became hypercritical of her sis- ter and close female friends who seemed content with either part-time work or work in traditionally female careers.

The activation of her iceberg belief regarding women and work ex- plains the pull she feels to apply for the position of superintendent. What explains her hesitation? Jane described her great admiration for her


mother and her grandmother and their success in traditionally male fields, but Jane also felt lonely as a child and deeply longed for more of her mother’s time. She remembered walking her siblings home from school to their empty house. Jane’s mother would always leave a note for Jane ex- plaining how to heat the dinner and telling her what time she would be home, with little pictures on the bottom of a mother stick figure holding the hand of her stick-figure daughter. She would end the note by telling Jane how much she loved her and would describe something special they would do together on the weekend. Jane saved each note in a box. When she missed her mom, she would look at the stick-figure drawings and think about the fun they would have on Saturday. As she talked with us about these memories, another iceberg belief emerged: “My children should come first.” Now we could understand her dilemma.

These two iceberg beliefs-“Women should be as ambitious and suc- cessful as men” and “My children should come first”-were activated si- multaneously by the opportunity to apply for a prestigious job. The former belief led Jane to focus on the many exciting aspects of the job and the increased power she would have in shaping the direction of education. The latter belief led Jane to focus on the costs that her family, particularly her children, would incur if she became superintendent. Jane would have to work longer hours, travel more, and attend meetings that would take her out of the house in the evening. She understood that as a new super- intendent she would feel a lot of stress, which would affect her parenting. Jane was unable to make a decision because it seemed to her that each de- cision would contradict one of her core values. Jane’s clashing iceberg be- liefs centered on beliefs about work versus family. This is one of the most common clashes we see, particularly, although not exclusively, for women.


The final problem with iceberg beliefs is that they cause you to experi- ence the same emotion over and over again-even in situations that don’t warrant it. That is, iceberg beliefs cause you to overexperience certain emotions and underexperience others. Emotionally resilient people feel it all. They feel anger, sadness, loneliness, happiness, guilt, pride, embar- rassment, joy, jealousy, excitement-but they feel these emotions at the appropriate time and to the appropriate degree. Less resilient people tend to get stuck in one emotion, and that compromises their ability to respond productively to adversity.

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Mark gets angry far too often. He operates with the iceherg helief “You can’t trust most people,” which leads to ticker tapes that bring on anger. The angrier he is, the less effective he is at work and the harder it is for those who love him to continue to love him. Following is a typical day for Mark. During breakfast he notices an un-

paid bill that his wife was supposed to take care of. Perhaps because of a bad night of sleep, or residue from an earlier fight, Mark’s “People cannot be trusted” belief is easily activated. It colors the way he interprets her oversight. He thinks, “I can’t rely on her to do anything.” Mark leaves for work feeling irritated. Once activated, his iceberg belief becomes a radar that scans the environment for other examples of violation. This doesn’t happen at a conscious level-to the contrary, the radar’s operation is sub- tle and stealthy.

Mark hits traffic on his way in and rushes to his office to make a 9:00 A.M. meeting with a colleague, He arrives at nine on the dot to find a voice mail from his colleague telling him that he got hung up across town and will be twenty minutes late. Mark’s “People cannot be trusted” radar be- gins to beep. His ticker tape reads: “Here [ am rushing around to be on time and he strolls in at his leisure. That’s not right.” On another day, Mark might see the delay as no big deal. Today, however, it registers as a clear violation because his iceberg belief) activated earlier, has primed him to interpret this trifling event as a motivated offense.

Why Is It So Hard to Turn Off Our Radar? Youmight be wondering why Mark can’t simply shut off his overactive “Peo- ple can’t be trusted” radar. Can’t he just tell himself to stop being so nega- tive and cynical? Well, the problem is that once a person’s radar is activated, two processes-assimilation and the confirmation bias-make it very hard to deactivate it. Cognitive science has demonstrated that if someone’s radar is on full alert, as Mark’s is in this easel then even an event that the person normally would see as positive gets reinterpreted or distorted to make it fit his or her perception of the world. This process is known as assimilation.

How does assimilation affect Mark? Well, imagine that as Mark waits for his colleague to arrive, his assistant hands him a memo that outlines a new and improved company policy regarding flex-time. Mark had been vocal in expressing the need for more flexible work schedules and ought to view this policy as an improvement, as did most people in his office. In- stead, Mark derides the policy as insubstantial change. He says to himself,


“Thisis just another example of them paying lip service to Ourconcerns. They act as if they care about us, but it’s clear that they really don’t.” Al- though he didn’t do this on purpose, Mark interpreted what should have been a positive event in a way that kept his “People can’t be trusted” be- lief activated rather than facilitating its deactivation. The second process that makes it hard for us to turn off Our radar,

known as the confirmation bias, is the fact that all of us are much better at noticing and remembering evidence that confirms our beliefs than we are at noticing and remembering evidence that proves that our beliefs are wrong. We call this the Velcro-Teflon effect because we are Velcro for ev- idence that supports our beliefs-it sticks to us-but we are Teflon forev- idence that contradicts them-it just slides right off. Here’s an example of the confirmation bias at work. Wanda’s marriage ended a year ago despite the couple’s best efforts at

making it work. Although the divorce was a mutual decision and pro- ceeded with civility, Wanda emerged from the experience deeply con- cerned that she would not be able to find another person with whom to share her life. When we met Wanda she had recently started dating, and from her perspective, it wasn’t going very well. Wanda’s iceberg beliefs were about acceptance; she believed that “When people really get to know me, they stop liking me.” We asked Wanda to describe to us her lat- est dating experience. “Ihad gone out with Todd several times. We were spending a lot of time together, and we seemed to be getting along real well. But then he called and told me that he wanted to take a few days to get his head together, and the first thing that popped into my head was ‘Here we go again.As soon as aman gets to know me, he runs away.’ “We asked her what evidence she had that her heliefs were true. “It’s pretty obvious. We’d been spending almost every day together, and then sud- denly he tells me he wants to slow the pace down. I called him on Tues- day and he didn’t call back until Wednesday night. Oh, and when I ran into him at a restaurant, he didn’t ask me to join him and his friends.” If we accept Wanda’s account at face value, then it does indeed look

like her initial beliefs were accurate-at least in this case. In fact, if we had a video of her life, everything she described would be there. The tape, however, would also show:

• A few weeks ago Todd explained over coffee that he’s just getting’over a bad breakup and doesn’t want to let his feelings about that interfere with getting to know her.

137 • Detect’i’ng l ceb eroe

• He didn’t return Wanda’s call Tuesday night, but he e-mailed her on Tuesday as he does every day.

• Although he didn’t ask her to join his friends at the restaurant, he did sit down at her table for fifteen minutes and looked genuinely de- lighted to have run into her.

Wanda only sees the evidence that supports her belief, so it continues to exert its hold on her. When we describe the confirmation bias to par- ents, teachers, and employers, often we are asked whether the person is awarethat he or she is noticing only the evidence that agrees with the ice- berg beliefs. Others suggest that the confirmation bias is a fancy term for what’smore often described as contrariness, stubbornness, or manipula- tion. Parents describe stories of sulky children who steadfastly maintain that their teacher hates them despite what the parent sees as clear evi- denceto the contrary. Bosses offer accounts of aggressive employees who conveniently see hostility directed at them whenever they are aggressive towardothers. It’s important to remember that the confirmation bias is nothappening at a conscious level. Certainly there are times when people set out to prove themselves correct, but the confirmation bias is not mo- tivatedor planned. It’s unconscious, which-is what makes it so difficult to overcome.

How to Detect Your Iceberg Beliefs The goal of Detecting Icebergs is to make you aware of the iceberg beliefs

that are:

• Unwittingly causing you to overreact or react in a way that is different from what your ticker tape would predict (like Karen)

• Undermining your decision making (like Jane) • Causing you to overexperience a particular emotion [like Mark)

Why is it important to recognize these iceberg beliefs? Until you have identified the belief that is driving your behavior, you are helpless to eval- uate it and, if necessary, change it. If you’re concerned about the way you reactto certain events, it makes no sense to apply the change skills to your ticker-tape beliefs if they are not the beliefs driving your reaction. It’s im- possiblefor you to gain control over your emotions and behaviors, and in- crease your resilience, until you have insight into what is causing your


response. Remember, insight is our goal in the know thyself skills, but now we want to apply that insight toward effective change.

In this section, you’re going to answer a series of questions that were designed to help bring your iceberg beliefs into awareness. The purpose of each question is to delve further beneath the surface than you did when analyzing your ABC connections. As you plunge deeper and deeper, you will find that the beliefs you uncover become bigger and broader, like an iceberg whose true size is invisible beneath the water’s surface. At this level, your beliefs become less and less specific to the situation at hand and begin to sound like basic values, or rules for living. The questions don’t challenge the accuracy of your beliefs, but rather they guide you in uncovering the meaning and importance of the beliefs to you. This is cru- cial. Later you will use Skills 4 and 5-Challenging Beliefs and Putting It in Perspective-to test the accuracy and usefulness of your iceberg be- liefs; right now the goal is to clarify for yourself what your iceberg beliefs are.

We should warn you that Detecting Icebergs is one of the most chal- lenging skills. In our seminar, we notice a lot of squirming and an increased need to check voice mail after we’ve explained the skill and set the par- ticipants the task of trying it out. In fact, when we ask the participants to tell us their ticker tape, we hear things like “I don’t know if I want to know my iceberg belief,” “Maybe I’m not aware of it for a reason and I should just let it stay down there.” It is often unnerving to explore deeply held beliefs. Unnerving, but necessary. Despite initial reluctance} most participants in our workshops describe this as one of the most powerful skills they’ve learned. It helps them clarify their values, explore their fun- damental beliefs about themselves and others, and finally understand per- sonal behaviors that had confused them for a long time.

Think about the last time you really overreacted or allowed one small moment to ruin your entire day, and use the following analysis of the “coaster incident” as a model for your own self-evaluation. In reality, you’ll perform this exercise as soon as you notice yourself starting to over- react and blow things out of proportion.

The first step when detecting iceberg beliefs is to describe the ABC. As with all of the skills, you have to begin by breaking down your experi- ence into the facts of the situation, listing your ticker-tape beliefs, and identifying the in-the-moment emotions and behaviors. As usual, you should write this information down so you can keep track of your beliefs as they emerge. Here’s what Karen would record:

139 + Del eetA/ng 1ceb erqe

Detecting Icebergs Worksheet

Part1:Describe the Adversity, yourTicker-tapeBeliefs, and the Consequences.

Adversity: Guy put his cenee mug on the table without using a coaster, even though the coasters were right in front of him.

Ticker~tape Beliefs: He knows I like people to use coasters. He sees the coasters but he still isn’t using one. Ihats just wrong.

Consequences: I was as angry as I ever get An 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.1 ranted for about ten minutes and then leftthe apartment and walked amundthe city to calm down. c ~l Adaplivlearning Systems

After you’ve mapped ABC, check the B-C connection. There are three issues to focus on:

1. Check whether your Cs are out of proportion to your Bs.

2. Check whether the quality of your C is mismatched with the category of your Bs. That is, you feel sad even though your ticker tape suggests anger, or you feel embar- rassed although your ticker tape is about how you’ve harmed another person.

3. Check whether you are struggling to make a seemingly simple decision.

If any of these situations is present, then it is an appropriate time to use the Detecting Icebergs skill. If none of these situations is present, then you don’t have to work at detecting iceberg beliefs because you already know why you’re feeling and acting the way you do. In fact, the most common difficulty people run into when using this skill is that they try to uncover iceberg beliefs where there are no icebergs-s-their ticker tape ad- equately explains their reactions. If your Bs make sense of your Cs, then there is no need to look deeper. Once you’ve established that you need to use the skill, begin by ask-

ing yourself these questions:

• What does that mean to me? • What is the most upsetting part of that for me? • What is the worst part of that for me? • What does that say about me? • What’s so bad about that?


You’ll notice that these are .11 “what” questions, as opposed to “why” questions. “What” questions guide us to describe the meaning of Ourbe- liefs more fully.”Why” questions, in Contrast, tend to make us defensive. Most of us, when asked why we feel a certain way Orbelieve what we do, feel picked Onor challenged. We end up fighting hard to defend Ourbe- lief or emotion rath r than working to understand it. To identify your ice- berg beliefs, it’s important to stay away from “why” questions and focus instead on “what”questions.

Beginwith your ticker-tape beliefs, which in this case are “He knows I like people to use coasters. He sees the coasters but he still isn’t using one. That’s just wrong.” Now you ask yourself one of the “what” ques- tions. (The order of the questions doesn’t matter, nor do you have to use them .11. Choose One that feels right and explore.) We’ll show you Karen’s inner dialogue to give you an idea of how this should work.

QUESTION: So, he didn’t use a, coaster; what does that mean to me? KAREN: it means that he doesn’t care whether l want him to use a coaster. QUESTION: Welllso what if he doesn’t care about my coaster need? What is so bad about that?

KAREN; Takingcare of Our things is important to me and he knows that. I know I’m a bit of a controlfreak, but by not using the coaster he is showing me that he isn’t willing to respectmy needs and put up with my quirks. QUESTION: Assmning that’s frue, that he doesn’t respect my needs and put up with my quirks, what is the worst part of that? KAREN: The worst pan is that welTe about to get married. And I expect my hus- band tosupportmeand understand me. If Guy can’t even bother to use a coaster, how can I trust him to support me on the big issues? QUESTION: Assuming chat I can’c trust him around the big issues, what does that mean to me?

KAREN: It means that I am about co make a huge mistake and that he isn’t the person he said he was. It means that for all of his talk about loving me, flaws and all, when it comes down co it, he thinks I’m not okay the way I am and wants to changeme. QUESTION: What is the WOrst part of that? KAREN: The worst part is chat it means he’s been taking me JOT a ride and that he has been manipulating me all along. I deserve to be loved for who I am, just the way I am.

Aha! Karen was overwhelmed by anger not because Guy didn’t use a coaster but because she interpreted this situation to mean that she was be- ing denied her basic right to be loved for who she is. Her iceberg belief, “I

141 .. De~ecl;in{J [cebwI’gs

deserve to be loved for who ) am, just the way) am,” was activated by his minor offense. Once activated, it produced emotion appropriate to a be- trayal much larger than etiquette. Once we identify the underlying belief Karen’s reaction makes much more sense. Whether the belief is accurate and useful still must be determined, but we can do that now hecause the belief driving her reaction has been recognized.

When we teach this skill for the first time, participants work in pairs, one member of the pair guiding the other to uncover the iceberg belief. As you try this skill out, you may find it helpful to have a trusted friend ask you the questions/ so that you can focus on exploring your answers without having to switch between roles. When first learning to use this skill, it’s easy to get derailed and to start trying to justify your beliefs rather than to explore them more deeply. The next transcript is from the first time John tried this skilL We point out when he moves laterally rather than more deeply and show how his partner used “what” questions to get him back on track.

QUESTI QN: What was your ticker-tape belief’ JOHN: It was “I don’t need this. I’d much rather be relaxing than taking care of projects for her. She should at least have the courtesy to be grateful. /I QUESTION: And how did you react? JOHN: I felt humiliated and sad and avoided her for the rest of the day. QUESTION: Okay, so lees grant you that she wasn’t grateful; what makes that so upsetting for you? JOHN: Because I’m busy and I took the time to do this for for her and I could tell she was disappointed in what I had done. [John is moving deeper.He identified that he believed his wife was disappointed.] QUESTION: Are you sure ~hewas disappointed? I bet she didn’t even notice that they weren’t perfectly straight. What makes you sure she noticed? [Notice how this question pulls John off track. It leads him to justify his perception rather than explore the meaning of it} JOHN: Oh, I’m sure she noticed. She is a perfectionist and holds herself and oth- ers to ‘very high standards. I actually like that about her. QUESTION: l1fell, assuming that she was disappointed, what does that mean to you? [This question helps John is get back on track.] JOHN: It means that she believes that I can’t do a simple job like hanging blinds. QUESTION: Okay, lees say she does believe that} what is the worst part of that? JOHN: The worst part is that it means my wife doesn’t have have faith in myabil· ity to take care of the things that need to get done around a house to keep it op- erating smoothly. It means that she can’t rely on me to take care of things that a man is supposed to take care of [John is getting closer to the icebergbelief] QUESTION: Come on, John. I bet you’re just being too hard on onyourself Why do


you think she’d generalize from slightly crooked blinds to not being able to take care of things that a man should take care of? [This question encourages John to evaluate the accuracy of his belief, but it’s premature because he hasn’t yet made sense of his own reaction. At this point he needs to focus on his beliefs, not his wife’s.] JOHN: You’re right, she probably wouldn’t. Maybe I am being too critical. QUESTION: Okay, suppose your wife can’t rely onyou to take care of the things that you are supposed to take care of, what does that mean? JOHN: it means that I am not the kind of man she thought I was when she mar- ried me and that I am not the kind of man I was raised to be. [John is moving deeper and is 110W jocusing on his oum expectations of himself, not just his wife’s.] QUESTION: What is the most upsetting part of that for you? JOHN: 11’1my family there are certain expectations placed on men. My father was the kind of man who could take care of any problem, big or small. He prided him- self on never needing to hire someone to fix the car or the plumbing or electrical problems. And he raised me and my brothers to be the same. The clear message was that a good man–as cliched as it sounds-s-a real man, takes care of his house. Iguess this boils down to my belief that if Iwere a real man, Iwould have been able to hang the blinds straight. [This is John’s iceberg belief]

The equation now makes sense. John felt humiliated and avoided his wife because he believed that his inability to hang the blinds straight ex- posed that he was not a real man. His ticker tape was about violation of rights, but his underlying belief was about loss-the loss of his self- respect-which his wife witnessed. This is what led to his humiliation and why he couldn’t face his wife afterward.

One of the most commonly asked questions about this skill is “How do I know when to stop?” As you begin this process, it does indeed feel as if you could ask yourself questions forever; however, there is a clear end point. You will know when to stop when you have the aha! experience, when your reactions no longer seem out of proportion, when the quality of emotion makes sense, or when you understand why a decision has been so difficult to make.

Detecting Other People’s Icebergs Detecting icebergs is a useful skill to improve empathy and social con- nection. One Thursday evening, long, long ago, Andrew found himself fac- ing down the barrel of a tight deadline. A grant application for research funding was due in Washington by 5:00 P.M. the next day and several hours of work remained-it would require all night to complete. He was already

143 + Det.ccti:ng Icebergs

irritable and overcaffeinated, and the night was still young. Soon he heard the trash truck coming up the street, ever so slowly, with its squeaking brakes and noisy compacting hydraulics. Andrew’s significant other, Veronica, heard it too. He knew she had because the next sound he heard was that of her footsteps coming up the stairs to the second-floor office followed by her barging in and angrily stating, “It’s the trash truck. Your turn to take out the trash.”

Andrew forced a smile and nodded but had no intention of moving from his desk. She left. His emotional response took him completely by surprise. He was furious, his anger at a 10 on a 1 to 10 scale. Veronica knew about his deadline, and she could have taken the trash out herself. Andrew used the skill of Detecting Icebergs to discover why he was so an- gry. As he worked through the questions, he realized that an iceberg be- lief had been fueling his response. For Andrew, it boiled down to an issue of respect. At a deep level, he believed that by interrupting him, Veronica was demonstrating that she did not respect his work. Since work is pro- foundly important to him, it meant that she didn’t respect him. Now he understood his reaction. But he didn’t understand hers.

Andrew knew that with all the pressure he was under and the tension in the house, it was probably a good idea to wait before talking it through with Veronica. The next evening, however, when things were a bit more relaxed, he opened up a conversation with her about it. The conversation went something like this:

ANDREW: I got pretty upset last night when you told me to take out the trash. And I could tell how angry you were too. How come you didn’t take the trash out your-

self’ VERONICA: You’re right, I was mad. 1 know that you were busy, but do you re- member the agreement we came to a few months ago? Remember, you were read- ing that article, the one about women in the workforce and how, even though they work about the same hours as men, they’re still expected to come home and do most of the chores. We both said that wouldn’t happen with us. One of your jobs was supposed to be to take out the trash. ANDREW: Yeah, I know. But I stili don’t get why that made you so mad. VERDNICA: Because I knew you could hear the trash truck too-but you didn’t

come down. ANDREW: 50, when I didn’t come down, did you think I was just being a jerk? VERONICA: vveu, 1 thought you weren’t sticking to our agreement. ANDREW: So that’s why you were pissed. VERDNICA: Yeah. It seemed like you expected me to do more than my share around.



ANDREW: Now I get it. It was an issue of fairness. VERONICA: Yeah, at some level, ‘it felt like you didn’t respect me.

And that’s why she was so angry-angry enough to march up the stairs. If they had only argued using their surface beliefs to guide them, the fight might have blown over, but the root cause of the fight would have still been there, waiting to resurface again over another seemingly minor event. Many relationships suffer because the couple never recog- nizes the iceberg beliefs that are causing them to clash. Andrew told Veronica that he’d been feeling much the same, because

he believed she wasn’t respecting him or his work. They were able to compare notes on how quickly each of them had jumped to their viola- tions-of-rights radar. And most important, they came up with a plan to satisfy both of them. Andrew conceded that even with the deadline, he had had time to take out the trash. He agreed to be more vigilant of ways he could contribute around the house. For her part, Veronica acknowl- edged that there would be times when work would come first for each of them and that she would not jump to the lack-of-respect conclusion if An- drew had to bury himself in work at times. The Detecting Icebergs skill can help you to identify your core values

so that you and your partner can discuss them openly and directly,

Conclusion Detecting icebergs will help you to identify the deep beliefs that interfere with your ability to respond effectively to adversity. A1; you practice this skill, you probably will find that you have a core set of iceberg beliefs that affect your mood and behavior over and over again-across a variety of sit- uations. Once you’ve identified what they are, it’s time to shift out of in- sight mode and start changing the beliefs that are getting in your way.

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