“Who Are You and Why Are You Talking to Me about This Stuff?” A chat with Shift CEO and Founder, Andrea McTague

Get Your Shift Together with Pattern Theory

Imagine you want to get fit. You’ve noticed your pants squeezing your waist like an over-eager dance partner and you catch yourself sighing every time your shoelace comes untied. So you go to your local gym.

“Hey,” you say to the toned, tanned gal who greets you with a 1,000-watt smile, “I’m trying to lose a little weight and improve my flexibility.”

“Great,” she says, with a flip of her blonde ponytail. Buff but accessible and friendly, Mackenzie laughs at all your jokes. Seems like a great ‘fit.’

“Hey, so I’m here because I want to…”

She cuts you off and has you do a few sprints. You had been expecting at least a welcome pamphlet but, “Okay,” you think, “just get down to business…” Then she’s got you doing bicep curls, a few downward dogs, and ten minutes of biking. Your heart is pounding and your muscles are wobbling.

Maybe it’s working??

“That’ll be $250,” Mackenzie tells you. “Cash or credit? See you next week!”

Next week you do an hour of deep breathing. The week after that, it’s pilates, followed by Qi gong, and then a week of long-distance running.

“Hey, so how’s the gym?” your friends ask.

“Amazing,” you tell them, “Mackenzie’s a great ‘fit.’” After all, you have a lot of laughs, in between the gasping and wheezing.

“What do you do with her?” they ask.

“Um… Exercise?”

As charming as Mackenzie might be, at a certain point, you’re gonna notice that your jeans are as squeezy as ever, that your shoes are just as far away — and all that’s different is your bank balance. You had a goal, and Mackenzie did not deliver.

One of these Things is Not Like the Others

If someone wrote a play about the service industry in general, it would go like this:

[Curtain up.]

Act 1: A client has a goal and the professional has expertise.

Act 2: The client pays for said expertise.

Act 3: The professional delivers said goal.

[Curtain down.]

Lawyers, accountants, personal trainers, wedding planners. It’s pretty cut and dry: goal, expertise, outcome.

But somehow, because we aren’t trying to balance your books or unclog your plumbing, psychology thinks it’s unique. We deal with the special snowflake that is humankind, so the rules of behavioural science and evolutionary psychology that have been so carefully tested by other scientists need not apply.

Shift Calls B.S.

There are seven billion humans on the planet. It’s true that there’s no one like Great Aunt Martha — to an untrained eye. However, psychologists are, in fact, highly trained. We know that we’ve evolved from a common set of animal ancestors and act according to a series of patterns designed for our survival. (And no one is saying that humans, just because they follow patterns, aren’t odd. We are the absolute weirdest.)

When these patterns drive us to do things against our needs, wants and values, we should be able to turn to psychology to help us figure out how to stop.

That’s why psychology exists, just like a personal trainer exists to help us live more comfortably in our bodies. And just like any personal trainer will write you out a program to follow every time you go to the gym, a good psych will have a plan to get you off their couch and into the world you want to inhabit.

pattern theory

Therapy With A Game Plan

Going into therapy without a game plan is a bit like going to the supermarket on an empty stomach — without a list. Let’s see how that works out for Jason.

[Act I, Scene 1]

Jason walks into the store, pushing a shopping cart, accompanied by Audra.

Jason: Boy, I sure am hungry. What are we here for?

Audra: Go pick out some food.

Jason: Do we know what we need?

Audra: Oh, yeah, I have a list.

Jason: Can I see the list? I feel like that might help me shop better.

Audra: Go grab some stuff. I’ll check off the list in my head.

[Audra sniffs a melon, as Jason starts wandering the store.]

Jason: Okay, I think I want to eat salad tonight, so maybe I need arugula?…Oh! Oreos…

Audra: I see you want some Oreos.

Jason: Yes, that’s why I put them in the cart.

Audra: And how does that make you feel?

Jason: Like eating Oreos…?

Audra: [nods understandingly]

Jason: Oh! Pizza Pops!

[As he’s about to put them in his cart, he hesitates.]

Hmmmm…not really ingredients for salad, but…Hey Audra, how’s our list doing?

Audra [nods reassuringly as she drops twelve blocks of tofu, a box of Cheerios, and a bottle of red wine in the cart]: Great, great.

Jason: Wait, I thought we were making salad?

Audra [checks watch]: Okay, time is up. Go check out.

Jason: But I–

[Audra has already vanished.]

Cashier [ringing up groceries]: $250 please, cash or credit. See you next week.

Jason: … [head explodes].

[End Play.]

Here’s what’s funny about this absurdist one-act:

If you rewrite it so it takes place in a psych’s office, it’s business as usual. There’s nothing “wrong” with a therapist letting a client talk in circles while giving them no direction, no tools, no endpoint in sight — nothing but validation with a smattering of “master of the obvious” and a big fat bill.

Could you imagine if a firefighter showed up as flames swallowed your house and were like, “Hey, your house is on fire and all your possessions are being incinerated? How does that make you feel? $250 please.”

At ShiftGrit, we help you build awareness about your blind spots. There are parts of our lives that are a raging dumpster fire and, even if we can feel the heat, maybe we don’t consciously know what’s up. So yeah, we’ll help you see the fire–but we’ll also bring you a hose, turn on the water, and help you make sure your origami collection doesn’t turn to ash.

We do that by teaching clients our framework. Pattern theory is rooted in psychological methods and theories, but we can explain it in five hot minutes. They can apply it, not only to themselves but to their children, to their loved ones, to their friends.

That’s why ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling is a radical departure from traditional psych: We give our clients a way to organize their world — scratching a deeply human itch — which empowers them to change their behaviour without being chained to our lime green couches for life.

In other words, when we go grocery shopping, we have a list and we share it with you. And if you want to pick up a pack of Pizza Pops, that’s okay too (as long as it’s the Hawaiian kind, just saying).

And that’s how we Shift!