Option Process® Dialogue – The Practical Philosophy Tool

I spent the month of January 2013 at the Option Institute – an international learning center and home of the Autism Treatment Center of America. I am now one of 125 people in the world ever to be certified as an Option Process Mentor. I’ve brought in a friend from the Institute – someone who spent the month of January on the other side of my training program – to describe what is like to be an Explorer within the Option Process Dialogue and why this process can be life changing.

What is it like to be an Explorer in The Option Process® Dialogue?

Enter Shannon:

Being the Explorer in an Option Process Dialogue is a bit like being in the driver’s seat of a really nice car with a good friend and trusted companion in the passenger’s seat. You’re in complete control of the conversation and where it’s going. The Mentor is merely there to ask where you’d like to go next. They’re along for the ride, ready to follow you anywhere you want to take them. The most amazing part of having a Mentor as your passenger is that you can feel at ease because, with them, you’ll never get lost.


I’d like to share with you my experience of exploring with Robin, who I had the pleasure and privilege of Dialoguing with when he was in Mentor Training at The Option Institute.

The volunteers who were scheduled to Dialogue with our Mentor trainees would sit in a room, waiting patiently for our Mentors to arrive and whisk us away to our Dialogue room. Robin, always smiling, popped his head into the room, gave me a grin, and cheerfully led me to the room where we’d be spending the next 50 minutes talking about what was going on for me at the time.

As usual, Robin offered me tea, asked me how my day was going, and let me decide when I’d like to begin the Dialogue. Before starting, Robin reminded me that a Dialogue doesn’t have a goal. I don’t have to reach a certain conclusion or bust any beliefs. It’s merely about the process of exploring what’s going on for me, what beliefs I’m holding, and, should I desire, creating the opportunity to work on those beliefs.

The thing about Dialoguing with Robin is that even if I come in frowning and irritable, I end up smiling no later than 15 minutes into the Dialogue. There’s something about his attitude and energy that just sends HUGE love my way and I can’t help but to mirror him and respond. There is an incredibly amount of joy in these Dialogues because we both end up loving each other through the entire process.

So, I’m sitting there across from Robin and he’s asking me what I’d like to explore. I leap into a juicy subject:  why I push people away. On my own, I honestly couldn’t tell you why I was pushing people away. In a Dialogue, the exploration comes naturally. It’s so easy to just say, “I push people away because I don’t want people to hurt me.” What nonsense! If I’m a believer in The Option Process Philosophy, then I know other people can’t hurt me. But here’s the crazy thing about Dialogues:  sometimes you find out that what you THINK you believe and what you ACTUALLY believe are very different.

Robin questions whether or not I believe people can hurt me. I respond that of course they can’t or other people would be in charge of my entire life. So where does this belief stem from? They came from my childhood, when people that I was close to would say things with the intent to hurt me. I was often the target for others’ projections, or judgments they made about themselves that they put onto another person. This was true for my close family, my childhood friends, and my partner. I realized that I’ve spent most of my life surrounding myself with people who are uncomfortable with themselves and don’t love and accept themselves. I’ve allowed those people to judge me and call me names and I took it to heart, based on the belief that other people’s opinions are worth more than my own.

The Dialogue can get really deep, really fast. That’s an amazing gift. Personally, I’ve been through years of family therapy and therapy for an eating disorder, none of which got to the heart of my issues quite so quickly. Dialogues, similar to a traditional therapy session, are completely confidential unless intent to harm yourself or someone else comes up.

The difference between the two is that the Dialogue allows you to find answers for yourself. You are completely responsible for your own experience. You access your emotions, draw upon your beliefs, and question whether you want to hold on them. The Mentor is not in any way directive. They won’t tell you to change a belief. They won’t even ask you, necessarily, if you want to change a belief. They leave that decision up to you. This process is so incredibly empowering. It’s like the difference between your mother telling you “Your shoelace is untied” versus “Tie your shoelace!” when you’re a child. The former provides you with an insight, the other with a direction. We learn when we choose our own direction. That’s how the Dialogue frees you.

The Mentor in a Dialogue, as mentioned above, is also based in love. Robin, in particular, is SO loving. He sits there and just RADIATES his love for you. I swear that the feeling is palpable. You can tell that he’s totally accepting you for who you are and where you are without any trace of judgment. His facial expression will tell you that he is enjoying the ride you are taking him on and would gladly join you in any future adventure. He’s also so present! I’m not an expert in Dialogues, but there has never been a question that Robin has asked me where I’m like, “You know. I really don’t like that question. I’d prefer XYZ question.” His question follows your last statement and is spot on.

I know I’ve been going on and on about Robin here, but the Mentor is one of the awesome parts of a Dialogue. They really create a safe place to explore the core issues that are creating your life experience. In all honesty, though, being an explorer is a great blessing. It’s an opportunity to take full responsibility for your life – and not in a negative way! You get to choose exactly what you want for your life. You get insight into why you feel and act the way that you do. You discover beliefs and emotions that you didn’t even realize you were harboring. It’s a launching pad for creating a fuller, happier, and more awesome life.

Let’s go back to the image of the car:  where you start out in a Dialogue is not where you’re likely to end up. Chances are if you drew your route on a map, it would look like a bunch of squiggles. There isn’t a Point A and Point B, as Robin indicates at the beginning of the session. Sometimes you’ll start with something that came up for you that day and you’ll be transported back in time to the first instance you felt that particular emotion or you formulated that particular belief. This is totally cool! What you start off with is like the first layer of an onion. As you keep peeling, you get closer to the core. The more you Dialogue, the closer you get to the fundamental set of beliefs that are creating your current reality. Once you change one of those beliefs, a cascade of others will chance, too.

There is so much more to a Dialogue than just what I’ve indicated here. The best way to learn what it’s about is to try it out for yourself. A Dialogue is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. You can’t put a price on happiness or freedom, but Dialoguing is a sure ticket to achieving either of those states of being. If you just keep at it, believe in yourself and the process, you’ll start to see miracles happening in your everyday life. You’ll wake up one morning happy without any idea why until you realize that you shifted a belief that you’ve been clinging doggedly onto for years. You’ll feel freer than you ever thought you could feel because you’ll finally realize that you’re in charge of your own life. You make the rules and you can change them at any time. You get full control over how you respond to events, situations, and what other people say. How brilliant!

The Inner Strength class of 2012 at the Option Institute

Don’t waste any time in booking your first Dialogue (or your second, or your third, or your fiftieth). And, I know this is Robin’s blog but I promise you he in no way incentivized me to write this, but you couldn’t have happened upon a better Mentor. I will extol just how wonderful my friend and Mentor Robin is for the rest of my life because I know that he has a gift to help change peoples’ lives for the better. And I believe that a better world starts one person, and one belief, at a time.

Closing thoughts from Robin

I am booking a couple of dialogues each week and would be happy to talk with you more about scheduling with you. However, my purpose in bringing in Shannon to describe her experience as an Explorer in the Option Process Dialogue. I have been Explorer in well over 500 Dialogues in the last few years and the results in my life have been dramatic, life-changing. If you are interested in learning more, here are some easy next steps:

Happiness Is a Choice – the primer on the Option Process written by founder Barry Neal Kaufman

PowerDialogues – the complete write-up on the dialogue. Incredible and comprehensive.

Life Support – my fellow Mentor Greg Milk offers Life Support.

List of Mentors and Teachers – scroll way down

Contact Robin – mentor (at) robinpzander (dot) com

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