In my words – Looking back and accepting

 

“As I sat and reflected on the discussions I’d had that day, a wave of realisation dawned on me that all the usual conditions of judgement, blame and fear were truly absent – had I freed just myself from the depression and shame or was something bigger and more profound emerging for everyone around me?”

Not the usual reflections on discussions and meetings at work but this was now becoming a frequent occurrence for which I’m going to try and explain how I got here.

In order to explain, I need to take you back a few years…

In 2016, my confidence was high, following a few years of public recognition which felt great and it was generating a buzz internally and externally. My name was reasonably known and was attracting a small amount of attention from across the country and usefully in parts of my own organisation where I’d previously been (in my view) ignored – although I suspect the reality was I was seen as a dreamer with a woolly view of the world but had some kudos about me so it opened some doors.

At this time in my development I was blissfully ignorant and unaware of the shame and depression that sat at the heart of who I was professionally and how it was driving my behaviours and actions in unproductive ways.

Then in the autumn of that year, it all started to change – my reality would start to unfold and disintegrate right in front of my eyes – this would take a further 2.5 years to fully resolve and along the way I faced some of the hardest and most difficult professional experiences and learning I’d ever been through. But all of that was the in my best interests to help me grow and develop.

What changed, well, I went for a new job, a job I’d understood would be my dream job, or at the least a step toward it.

In 2017 my view of the world around me changed significantly but alongside that I held a huge amount of judgement towards other people which I now know was because of who I was not because of what they did or didn’t do.

I was being supported to learn how to develop and support the learning and development of others and this was when I realised the limitations of this approach with the frame of mind I held.

The limitations I understood were inside me – my ability to change myself and how I saw myself and the world.

When I saw myself, my inner self for the first time staring back at me, I’m not sure I knew what else to do other than to acknowledge and accept who I really was.

I was someone who inside was insecure, scared to get things wrong, advocating only my position and believing other people were wrong. I was judgmental and had no compassion for others. On the outside, well that didn’t matter anymore, it had been shattered by the reality facing me, although no one would have really noticed.

Now before you ask I was still maintaining an exterior of happiness and a general sense of being ok to a wide variety of people but to the people I worked with who without there support and emotional safety I would never had been able to work this through to conclusion.

In the spring of 2018 I found myself drawn to the work of Dr Brene Brown – I’d been aware of her Ted Talk on vulnerability for some time but was actually too scared to watch it for what it might make me face up to. However my sense of who I was had changed and it no longer mattered how I would feel – I really needed to connect to it and when I did – wow, simply WOW…

I remember I was working from home and I can honestly say I wept for about 45 minutes as I experienced a release of emotions one after the other, like a set of waves crashing on a beach…

I followed that up by quickly googling Dr Brown and searching for anything else I could read, watch or listen to. I found her books and discovered that she had an audiobook called The Power of Vulnerability.

I had a credit on audible so downloaded it straight away – 6 hours of…. wow…wave of emotions…more wow…some shame…sense of reality…truth…deep sighs and a release of emotion again. I’d recommend it but I’ll be honest it can be a hard thing to hear if you are open to hearing what she says.

From that moment I found my path and my journey deepened and I got more and more meaning and a sense of purpose.

I listened to this audiobook about 10 times in a row as every time I listened I heard something new – I shared some of my learning and insights in the team and others connected to her work which after a while allowed some group discussion and reflections – these really helped as I was finding it challenging unpacking the learning on my own.

This audiobook was followed by six more from Dr Brown and then more recently the audiobook and physical book of Dare to Lead (highly recommended)

I have written already on this blog about my learning from Dr Brown so won’t repeat it here but do check out the other posts if you are interested.

In addition to the books by Dr Brown other significant books I’ve read or listened to which have helped me in this area of development are:

  • Immunity to Change – Robert Kegan / Lisa Laskow Lahey
  • The Path – Christine Gross-Loh
  • The Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
  • The wisdom of Sunday’s – Oprah Winfrey
  • What I know for sure – Oprah Winfrey
  • The untethered soul – Michael A Singer
  • The Awakened Family – Dr Shefali Tsabary
  • The New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
  • The book of forgiving – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • Reboot – Jerry Colonna
  • Leading from purpose – Nick Craig
  • Start with why – Simon Sinek

During 2018 our teams external support changed and I had not anticipated the impact this would have on my development – initially it was a backward step but somewhere inside I refused to go back and something had to give – after many months (9 to be exact) 3 of which were filled with a hidden depression – I finally let go…free from the constraints of my previous way of thinking. Most of this journey is covered in the posts about shame as I had realised this was a period of time where I struggled the most with it.

Time passed and I felt myself healing. Short moments of realisation would occur but never long enough to maintain a sense of peace…but that changed too

In late spring 2019 I had a number of insightful and open hearted discussions and meetings – one of which was with a colleague and a senior manager in a meeting which was full of emotions, reconnection and forgiveness. As we do with all meetings we debriefed what happened and as I sat and reflected on the discussions I’d had that day, a wave of realisation dawned on me that all the usual conditions of judgement, blame and fear were truly absent – had I freed just myself from the depression and shame or was something bigger and more profound emerging for everyone around me? It occurred to me that a shift was happening in a wider group of people and this was really the start of a journey to truly and deeply transform the way we think, act and work with each other to deliver and provide public services.

The specific reflection relating to my realisation of letting go is summarised in a recent post titled A Choice. Again if interested check it out.

So I come to now, or more accurately Autumn 2019 and as I write this and look back on the most incredible personal journey I’ve experienced to date. I sit here peaceful, grounded and connected to my deeper self.

I’m continually learning how to develop practice that holds and sustains that peace throughout the whole day and in time I’m sure that will arrive but until then I see people as people, through a kindness and generosity that anchors me to a non judgmental state of mind.

I’ve pondered what the greatest lesson I’ve received though all of this is actually is?

Well…after much thought this is what I have learnt.

What I’ve found was always there. It wasn’t waiting to be found or discovered…..it was simply waiting, waiting to be accepted.

Unconscious suffering…

This is a reflective post – drawing on my own journey of self discovery …

We’re all suffering. I know that I’ve suffered.

Some people have found a way through or perhaps a cure if you like, but many, many people are suffering – maybe consciously but my assumption is people are unconsciously suffering.

We are suffering from ignorance – ignorance is the lack of knowledge or information.

We continue to unconsciously suffer as we choose ignorance through our collective divisive behaviours and whilst we may hold a belief that, our current views will keep us safe, we are all increasing the ignorance that leads to developing our fears, creates more instability and injustice and erodes the safety and human connection we all desire and crave in these times of distraction.

Until we tackle the root causes of our collective suffering the planet we call home and importantly all life including human life is at risk of ending and that is a tragedy

Our collective actions hold us all back from reaching our human potential and delivering the future everyone seeks and yearns for.

No single person can be blamed, for we all share and hold accountability through our collusion and complicity in all events we choose to participate in or ignore.

If we wish to see change from whatever perspectives we hold as our individual truth, we must first lean into and accept that for those changes to occur we must first change ourselves.

This is the single biggest challenge facing human kind – our denial of human development and growth.

This is the path open to everyone that leads us towards ending the suffering.

Development and Growth – A perspective on vulnerability

  • Leading inevitably involves trying to effect significant changes
  • It is very hard to bring about significant changes in any human group without changes in individual behaviours.
  • It is very hard to sustain significant changes in behaviour without significant changes in individuals’ underlying meanings that may give rise to their behaviours
  • It is very hard to lead on behalf of other people’s changes in their underlying ways of making meaning without considering the possibility that we ourselves must also change
    Extract from: How the way we talk can change the way we work – Robert Kegan / Lisa Laskow-Lahey

A number of years ago I participated in a Leadership programme that helped me focus on my strengths and helped me see that by focusing on my strengths I could provide more effective leadership and generally be more impactful as a leader (so the assumption goes)

However a number of years later I have learnt that holding that view has not just hindered my development and growth but in fact completely stopped my development and growth.

This has been shaped by a new insight and learning around what development and growth can and could mean to me. Significantly influenced by research on Adult Development by Cook-Greuter, Kegan, Torbert etc.

One of the main underlying theories behind this as I understand it is the Subject – Object Shift, as illustrated in the image below

The Subject – Object Shift
Moving through the levels requires the subject-object shift — or as i’ve also understood it to mean – moving from Assumptions that hold us, to Assumptions we hold.

This shift essentially allows us to see and understand more complexity and understand the world, ourselves and the people in it.

Along with this shift in my thinking and understanding, it has added value to and increased my understanding of Brene Brown’s body of research and work (Dare to Lead, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Gifts of Imperfection etc).

All of this has laid out a set of assumptions and logics which looks a bit like this for me now…

1) Adults continue to learn, develop and grow and can be supported to do this,

2) In order to learn, develop and grow it requires me to be vulnerable,

3) In order to be vulnerable it requires a safe and trusted space in which to be vulnerable.

Circling back to the strengths based model, let me touch on how I’ve understood that to have stopped me from developing and growing.

Only focusing on my strengths potentially ignores those areas that can unlock an internal transformation for me to work towards my fullest potential.  Focusing only on my strengths keeps me anchored in and at a particular development level and will only ever allow me to increase my practical skills within that level as opposed to overcoming and encouraging developmental growth of who I am capable of being.  I do expect of course to develop new skills, capacities and capabilities But i’m learning these are different to what I used to think they were.  The capability to see and understand the interdependence of all things is at the heart of developmental growth.

Understanding those areas within me that need development (some might call these weaknesses) I am starting to learn that the practices of shame resilience and understanding what stops me from showing up and being vulnerable are the areas that allow me to truly develop and truly grow.

I’ve learnt that development and growth requires constant practice and discipline – there are no quick fixes to becoming a better person. Its a blend of continuing the exploration into understanding what I know and understand, how I act and live my life and what I pay attention to and focus on.

So what started as a emotional and fragile journey into shame, worthiness and fear, has been re-framed as an opportunity, in fact a personal quest or adventure to becoming a better human being, anchored in compassion and love.