Counselling in Cheshire - providing a service for Knutsford, Northwich, Tarpoley and Crewe

Spok and overcoming the impossible

Published: Jan 27, 02:01 pm

The tagline on my business card reads, ‘There are always possibilities.’ This, supposedly, is a quote from Startrek’s Spok, who apparently used this phrase whenever the Enterprise crew found themselves in a tight jam. Being half-vulcan, half-human, Spok’s irrestible logic, as sharp as a steel trap, could most times see a way out of a problem, unlike the minds of those exasperating humans who would let irrationality and emotion cloud their judgement and narrow down their choices.

‘There are always possibilities.’ I felt that this soundbite perfectly captures the essence of my approach when working with troubled individuals. Hopefully, I don’t come across like Spok (impersonal, inscrutable), but the jist of what he says when faced with impossible odds – don’t worry, there’s an alternative way out – is a mindset that I aim to cultivate in the mind’s of those who come to see me, trapped in whatever it may be, depression, anxiety, an impossible relationship.

What is it that presents the world to us as a realm of impossibilities, rather than possibilities? NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming – described as the art and science of personal excellence), with it’s focus on ‘possibilities’ rather than ‘necessitites’, provides us with a useful explanation.

First, here’s a quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass: (Carroll, 2010)

‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw along breath, and shut your eyes.’
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I dare say you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

The Queen believed in impossibilities. Perhaps in the topsy-turvy logic of Alice’s world, what the Queen was declaring was that for her, there was no ‘I can’t.’ In her belief system, anything was possible. And this is the point. Our beliefs act as strong perceptual filters and become our self-fulfilling prophecies. If we believe in the creed, ‘I can’t’, this becomes a portrayal of our potential, and will condition our brain to fail, rather than discover our true capability. Thinking about our problems as possibilities, instead of viewing them as impossibilities, results in a perceptual shift. Consider what ‘can’ be done, not what ‘can’t.’ Look at the choices, not at the limitations of a situation.

NLP, along with the Queen from the world of the Looking Glass, scandalously believes in impossibilities. It says that, we often mistake possibilities for competence. We declare something is not possible, when in fact we haven’t developed the skills to do it. Here’s a quote from the ‘NLP Workbook’ (O’Connor, 2002):

‘We all have physical limits, of course – we are humans, not superheroes. But we do not really know what these limits are. You cannot know what they are until you reach them.’ (page 18)

O’Connor gives the example of Roger Bannister, the man who ‘impossibly’ ran a mile in less than four minutes at Oxford on 6th May 1954. Everyone had said it couldn’t be done. His achievement inspired more and more athletes to run a mile in less than four minutes.

What can’t be done, cannot be proved (negation can’t be proved); it follows that you cannot prove yourself incapable of anything, only that you haven’t done it yet.

So, whenever you feel like saying, ‘beam me up Scottie!’ when faced with an ‘impossible’ situation,
consider the list of objections and then decide which are real obstacles and which are your beliefs. One is then presented with three possibilities:

1/ The obstacles are genuine, and make it imossible to accomplish that goal. Don’t consider this failure, just feedback – adjust your sights to a more realistic goal. Besides, circumstances might change.
2/ The obstacles are real, but there are alternative ways of tackling it – all that is required is time and effort to do so.
3/ The obstacles are really your beliefs, and you’ve never taken the time to disprove them. Put them to the test, the results will then fall into one of the first two categories.

This approach makes you assume responsibilty for your outcomes. You’re the one now in control!


Carroll, Lewis (2010), ‘Through The Looking Glass’, Harper Collins.
O’Connor, Joseph (2002), NLP Workbook’, Thorsons.