There are popular resiliency lessons in the modern world that talk about Icebergs. No, they’re not talking about floating ice masses that peak out over the surface of the water, but metaphorically, the analogy is similar. ‘Iceberg’ refers to the idea that we all have surface reactions and interactions that are driven by deeply seeded core values and beliefs. In an effort to better find ourselves and to evaluate positive, helpful interaction with others in our daily lives, the Iceberg lesson began.
In general, our surface emotions are the day-to-day responses we have based on our core value systems. If we believe that we should respect our elders, then we might react towards another person being disrespectful towards their elders adversely, perhaps even without knowing why. Not all Icebergs are bad, and it isn’t about eliminating the core value that produces a surface reaction, much like a real iceberg, it’s about understanding that it’s there and negotiating it safely.
Complicating the matter are enablers. These are usually friends that reinforce negative surface behavior out of the notion that they’re supporting their friend (perhaps an iceberg in and of itself) rather than helping their friend discover the methodology behind their reactions. The key to this is the questions during the discussion. Whereas an enabler will ask ‘Why’ questions, the helpful friend will ask ‘What’ questions instead.
For example, a man sits down to watch football with his son and his wife reminds him about the leaky sink. The man thinks in his head that it’s a small leak and he can fix it later, but on the surface he yells at his wife to back off.
The conversation he might have with an enabler might ask questions like “Why did she do that?” Or “Why didn’t she get your son to do it? Is she babying him?” Or even if they’re trying to be helpful, they might ask “Why do you think you got so angry?”
Conversely, another friend might ask him objective, root-searching questions. “What did it mean to you that she asked you to do that?” Or “What was the part about that conversation that upset you the most?” Or even “What do you think made you react like that?”
Discovering the root cause of the problem doesn’t make it go away, but it does help the man and his wife navigate their icebergs a little easier, reducing their conflicts and enabling their happiness. The chain reaction is positive and helpful, not deconstructive.