7 Words - A Personal Development System
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Dichotomies in Q21

August 01, 2013    Leave a comment

Dichotomies in Q21 - what's going on?

Carinne Allinson

Have you ever done a Q21 and wondered if it hadn't been done by two completely different people? This situation became surprisingly familiar to me last weekend, when I spent two days doing some couple of dozen Q21s for complete strangers.

Let me explain.

As the Q21 begins to fill up, the strength or weakness of any particular Word starts to become clear - a 10 maybe, followed by a 9, for two of the questions. Surely, the third question will also be a high number - maybe another 9, or an 8. So when the client gives a 2, I am surprised. Can this be right? Have they made a mistake? No - they have just answered 10, 9 and 2 for the same word.

So what is going on? How can someone be both very strong and very weak on the same word? Can this really be the case? I draw the client's attention to the dichotomy and ask them about it. The answer is quite simple - they have answered from two different perspectives, with completely different results.

The work/personal life dichotomy was the most common one I encountered.

One young woman confidently answers 10 for "Do you 'take life as it comes' with easy acceptance?" and "Are you using your talents well?". Then when asked "Do you usually wake up feeling enthusiastic?" answers with a 2. I check she is not a teenager (which might explain why she is not enthusiastic about getting up!). She tells me that she does not feel enthusiastic when she has to get up and go to work. She loves her job but hates the people she works with. On checking the rest of her Q21 answers, I find this perspective explains all her very low scores.

Another person works as a carer and gives high scores for being assertive and more likely to take action than to grumble. When it comes to choosing and asking for what she wants, however, she gives a 1. She explains that she is very assertive and can take action in her work to protect the interests of her patients. But when it comes to herself, she has no idea what she wants. All her high scores related to her work, and the very low scores related to her personal life.

This picture was repeated several times - at work people are assertive, confident, strong, but are confused, directionless, passive in their personal life. They identify with a role and have lost sight of the person behind that role. One woman who works with children tells me that she had an unhappy, dysfunctional childhood and works hard to make sure that the children in her care do not have to go through what she went through as a child. Unfortunately, she is unable to extend the same level of care to her own 'inner child'.

The second dichotomy that I encountered was the past/present. High scores for making amends and being able to 'forgive and forget' seem at odds with a very low score for being relatively free from guilt. The client explains that guilt is about the past, but the other two questions are about the present. This person has already indicated difficulty letting go of the past. Sometimes issues from childhood can surface in an otherwise rational adult. It is almost as if there are two separate personalities co-existing within the same person - the rational adult has been in charge since they left home, but everything prior to that point is still the province of the wounded child. Questions which relate to the past may be answered from the perspective of the child.

The final dichotomy I encountered concerns movement, or focus. Where the focus is outwards, towards other people, the client scores highly. But when the focus is inwards, towards themselves, their scores are low. This is another dichotomy encountered in Sorry - with high scores for making amends and forgiving and forgetting, but a very low score for guilt. This person cannot extend to themself the compassion and understanding that they extend so readily towards others. A similar expression of this is seen in Please, where the client answers 2 for being assertive, 3 for choosing and asking for what they want, but then 10 for taking action. This person explains that they can put things right that need to be put right - the movement is definitely outwards here - but when the focus is inwards, on their own needs, they are incapable of articulating them and getting them met.

I do not doubt that there are many other dichotomies to be encountered in Q21s and will be on the lookout for them in the future. Meanwhile, if anyone else out there is scratching their head over a Q21 and wondering what's going on, it may well be a tale of two perspectives.

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