Without pain, no transformation gain!

If you work in real transformation, you sometimes must hurt people!

Does this sentence irritate you? Then be my guest and participate in my reflection. Pain is an express ticket to transform consciousness. And you cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness. So when does consciousness transform? It requires dissonance and a safe environment to work on inner tensions. I think it is our responsibility to work on these tensions early on. We don’t have to wait until the pain gets loud enough. Because it will come back if you don’t take the tension serious. Most often in an amplified form.  


Pain (e.g. conflict, tension) is an express ticket to transform consciousness

Too often I see transformation efforts in our current companies and systems only focusing on structures and methods. I like to work with the concept of Theory U on system transformation that says:

“You cannot understand a system unless you change it. Secondly, you cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness.”


Theory U – based on Kurt Lewin

So, what does transformation of consciousness mean and what is the ignition? One of the frameworks I consider very helpful in the context of transforming consciousness is spiral dynamics. It describes how the human consciousness transforms so that people can cope with an increasing level of complexity in their environment. You can think of it as kind of operating system versions of the human brain. Depending on the availability of the versions and the surrounding environment you are in, different values and behavior are activated.

Now you might ask yourself: How does all this relate to each other?

In their book “Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change!”, Don Edward Beck and Christopher Cowan describe the necessary preconditions for the transformation of consciousness. What I remembered from reading the book was that usually a feeling of dissonance or conflict triggers the development step.

If there is a safe environment created where this person can work on the inner tensions (e.g. in the form of a coaching), chances are higher that the consciousness gets an upgrade.

Let’s get back to the picture I have created with the pain being the express ticket. There is also diversity here. The pain is just a bit of information that can enter your awareness via different channels. In his book “Working on yourself alone”, Arnold Mindell distinguishes between the following five channels where information can enter your system and catches your attention:

  • Seeing – either real life or in your dream …
  • Hearing – a certain sound, music, melody …
  • Moving – a special gesture or body movement from yourself or someone else …
  • Feeling – an emotion, a sensation or even pain in your body …
  • Relationships – a conflict with or a sensation of being hurt by someone, can also be in the form of anger …
  • World – certain developments in our immediate or distant environment like politics, social developments, nature catastrophes …

What is necessary to cash the ticket? You can either work on the distraction with a coach – or even more efficient from my point of view – is to think about implementing lightweight resolution mechanisms in your organization / family / community. This can be especially effective if topics come in through the relationship channel and occur in irritations between two human beings.

And if you lose your ticket? Don’t worry – it will come back. Maybe switching to another channel or amplifying its intensity – until you finally pay attention! 


This blog post was originally published on LinkedIn.

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