Is there such a thing as a false anticipation?

Elisabeth Loftus is a highly respected psychologist. Her work on false memories wins no votes! Psychotherapists are fearful of her because they think she will accuse them of making people hate their parents. People who find some comfort in their memories (even the ones that are painful, because they can be used to justify a lot) feel threatened because they may not be real after all.

It all gets very complicated. Well, in this fascinating talk, Dr Loftus spells out a wide array of the experimental evidence to support the idea of false memory and how very common it is.

As most of you know, I am executive lead for research for the BACP Coaching Division. Some of the things that we are concerned with are the differences between coaching and counselling, and the reverse – what is it that a counselling trained coach brings to a client and their work that another coach may not.

One of those differences is that counselling tends to focus on the past and its impact on the present. Coaching, on the other hand, tends to focus on the future and what needs to change in the present to make it a reality.

One of the tools that we use all the time, is to get people to reflect on the future and what they would like it to be like.

Now I’m wondering whether there’s scope for the coach to plant false anticipations? And, I wonder whether a counselling-trained coach might be less likely to do so or, at least, more aware of this as it happens?

I frequently find myself seeing the potential that someone has when they don’t see it themselves. I might argue that this is down to my different range of experiences but is it also that I am unconsciously trying to create an anticipation within them so that they want to keep coming back to me for help in getting to the goal that I have created for them?

Worrying stuff.

Take a look at the video – it’s only 20 minutes or so long – and let me know what you think.


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