Diversity From The Inside Out

In this article I will explore the idea that diversity is, at core, about more than just accepting and welcoming ’other’. It is, first and foremost, about accepting and welcoming parts of ourselves – parts that we haven’t yet had a chance to meet.
Firstly I am going to introduce you to a belief that has influenced me for a long time now and underpins all the work that I do. You will need to bear with me for a while as I take you through my own personal journey to arriving at this understanding – via shamanism, poetry, quantum physics, group dynamics and the other varied influences that have informed this belief.

When working with the shadow I work with the idea that we are all made up of many different parts. Some of these we are aware of and happy with, others we are aware of but we dislike and we’d rather they weren’t there. In addition to this there are yet other parts of us of which we have no awareness at all. They are missing from our conscious knowledge of ourselves and, as a result of these ‘missing’ parts, our experience of life is limited. Furthermore we can suffer much pain and confusion as these hidden aspects run things from the shadows.

Every day in my work I experience the truth of this idea that we are all made up of different parts. I meet and get to know many different aspects of my clients, and we continue to discover new parts of their personality together as they begin to come out of the shadows and make themselves known.
But how can it be that we are made up of so many very different, and often contradictory, parts? What deeper truth lies here? This is what I would like to explore now a little more deeply.

The Holographic Universe

I want to introduce here the idea of the holographic universe.
Both ancient mysticism and modern physics have suggested this profound, and for many of us counterintuitive, property of nature. Let me first explain about holograms themselves:

A hologram is a three dimensional image that is created when light is shone on to a holographic film. A holographic film is a small thin sheet of material where a 3D hologram, such as the image of a flower, is stored using laser technology. When you shine the laser through the film a 3D image of the flower will appear in front of you, hovering in space. This image looks just like the real flower, and can be viewed from many different angles, but it has no physical substance – it is made purely of light. That a hologram can be created at all is in itself pretty exciting – but there’s more. A fascinating property of a hologram is that, if you break up the holographic film into a thousand different pieces, and then you shine the laser through just one of these tiny pieces, the whole flower appears. It doesn’t matter how many pieces you cut the film in to, or how small each piece is, this is still true – although the image does get slightly blurrier as the pieces get smaller. For most of us this is completely counterintuitive and obviously profoundly different to the result we would get if we cut up a photograph of the flower, where each piece would contain only a small fraction of the whole image, and in order to see the whole flower again you would need to have all the pieces and then do a complicated jigsaw puzzle. This is not so for a hologram, the entire image is contained in each part of the holographic film. The whole is contained in each part. This is an idea that has been understood by mystics and poets for millenia. Famously it is found in the four lines at the beginning of William Blake’s poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’ :

‘To see a world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.’

Science, however, has only relatively recently caught up with this idea. For example, in the mid 20th century results suggesting that the whole exists in every part were found by neuroscientists studying the human brain. They found that, rather than separate memories being stored in separate locations, almost any part of the brain can access any memory, and there is no one fixed location for any one piece of information. Each part of the brain has been found to have multiple and complex connections with other parts of the brain and information can be accessed from any area. As well as this the mathematics governing the way the brain works has been found to have the same form as the mathematics governing a hologram, suggesting the brain has similar properties to a hologram, ie – The whole is contained in each part.

To help with your understanding of this idea I want to include an analogy using some everyday science that more of us are familiar with. This time we are looking at the human body. We all know that the body is made of a head, arms, legs, brain, heart and so on, all very different in appearance and function, yet, if we take one tiny cell from any part of the body and look deeply in to it we find the genetic information that gives the template for the whole person. It doesn’t matter where we took that cell from – it will contain the information needed to recreate the whole person. A nerve cell will contain all the information necessary to make a heart, a leg, a toe nail and so on. So again, the whole is contained in each part – if we look deeply enough.

The above examples only refer to three specific aspects of reality – holograms, bodies and brains. What is really fascinating however is that theoretical physics has come up with the same suggestion for the entire universe. That is, the whole of reality. David Bohm, a pioneer of quantum physics who worked with Albert Einstein, believed that although the universe appears to be solid, it is, in essence, a magnificent hologram. He believed in the “whole in every part” idea, and he believed that, just like a hologram, each part of physical reality contains information about the whole. Quantum physics has found that particles in the universe are connected in surprising and instantaneous ways and that the mathematics that governs the universe has similarities with the mathematics governing holograms. Each particle is instantaneously connected to other particles and the universe behaves as much like a single unified whole as it behaves like a collection of separate particles. If we study one particle deeply enough we can find connections and information about other particles and other parts of the universe. So theoretical physics provides a wealth of evidence which suggests that the universe can be seen as a giant hologram existing in a way where the whole is contained in each part.

I first came across this idea many years ago, when studying theoretical physics at university. I studied the bizarre predictions that quantum physics makes about the nature of reality, and although disagreements continue to abound about how to interpret this ‘strangeness’, no physicist would dispute just how strange the nature of reality actually is. Further experiments have only gone on to confirm some of the more weird predictions of quantum physics that are impossible to marry up with our ‘everyday’ understanding of the world. The holographic universe is one of the many ideas I came across at this time. These studies allowed me to open my mind to ideas that previously I might have thought were ‘unscientific’, and once I’d gained my degree I left the world of physics and began to study psychology, shiatsu and eventually Shadow Work.

So let us run with this idea for a moment – if the nature of the universe is that the whole is contained in each part, then doesn’t it make sense that this could be true for human beings too – that the whole of humanity may be contained within each human being? Could the “whole in every part” nature of holograms provide us with a radical new way of understanding ourselves? We are the creations of a holographic Universe. As reflections of it we reflect its nature and are holographic as well – with the whole of humanity being contained in each and every human being.

This is an ancient mystic and shamanic belief and is at the core of the work I do exploring the shadow. This idea provides us with a way to make sense of human beings presenting with so many different and contradictory parts – because we all contain the potential for every possible aspect of humanity. We are not simple but infinitely complex. We are not just individuals but we are also intimately connected with the whole web of humanity. This idea is beautifully expressed in this poem by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh written in 2015:

Please Call Me By My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Our 360 Degree Personality

In Shadow Work we often speak of the idea of being born in to a 360 degree personality. In a similar way to the ‘whole in each part’ theory, this idea suggests that at the moment we are born we contain the potential for all different aspects of humanity to be expressed. What does get expressed, however, depends on a multitude of factors: the people around us, the circumstances we are born into, the challenges we face in life and also perhaps a natural tendency to lean towards certain ways of being. In childhood we will quickly learn to hide or deny aspects of ourselves that might put us into danger. Similarly, the sides of us which help us survive become strongly developed. The situations life presents us with will powerfully affect which aspects of ourselves we call on, which we hide away, and which are never discovered and lie dormant.

Many years ago when I was training as a couple’s counsellor I read a book about working with gay and lesbian couples. As part of the author’s introduction she stated that if you have never had homosexual feelings you are repressing something. I was really taken by this idea and remember saying to myself slightly jokingly – “Wow, how interesting, I must certainly be repressing something, I have never felt any sexual attraction to women”. To my astonishment, a week later I had a dream about a sexual encounter with a woman. I was fascinated by this process…. it seemed like reading that one sentence had unlocked something in my unconscious that gave permission for attraction to women to be expressed. Although consciously I still have no attraction to women, given the dream I had, an unconscious part of me clearly thinks otherwise.

In the work that I do I hold this understanding that each person has every possibility in them – even if they have never known that aspect of themselves or it has never been expressed. Holding this belief informs the way I facilitate. So if a client hasn’t found their ‘successful leader’, or ‘sensual lover’ or ‘brave warrior’ side for example, I will help them find it. I will work on the assumption that this is within them (in the same way that every aspect of human nature is within them) – they just haven’t found it yet. Similarly, if someone has difficulty with authority, say, and finds authority figures to be overbearing and critical, I will support them in finding their own inner critical authority figure. Only when they meet, accept and get to know this part of themselves will they gain the understanding and resources necessary to be able to manage such people in the outside world effectively.

In my early years as a Shadow Work practitioner I attended a week long Shamanic course where we explored and deepened our understanding of ourselves using many different shamanic tools and ideas. On one of the days we performed a ritualised dance. We had to imagine that the person we were dancing with was someone from our real life with whom we were in conflict. This dance was a battle – without touching our partner we energetically battled out who would ‘win’ and who would ‘lose’. The winner finally ‘killed’ their opponent who then dramatically ‘died’ and fell to the floor. I was absolutely immersed in this – and absolutely determined that I would be the victor in my dance! I couldn’t imagine why anyone would submit and be the one who was killed. True to form I ‘won’ the battle and ‘killed’ my opponent. Then, when all the ‘losers’ were dead on the floor we, the victors, were directed to go and be with the person we had ‘killed’ – to put our hands on them and absorb their being in to us – to breathe their essence in. We were accepting they were part of us. We had slain part of ourselves and were now absorbing and integrating that in to ourselves. It was astonishingly powerful. At the same time I was still very glad that I’d won! It was only when we had feedback in the group afterward and the ‘losers’ reported the beauty of being lovingly absorbed in to their victor that I realised I had missed the point – It didn’t matter who had won and who had lost – there had been beauty and love in this experience for the ‘losers’ too. This was the first time I really came across the idea of us all containing every aspect of humanity with no aspect being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any other. Anything we see and are in conflict with in the world is an aspect of ourselves we haven’t yet come to know and love. The battles we have in life are important processes to go through in order to meet and integrate these new parts of ourselves.

Meeting difference

It may be striking you by now that if each one of us contains the whole of humanity, we need to expand quite a lot to become whole and embrace every aspect of ourselves! This is certainly the work of more than one lifetime…. However, being part of a diverse group or society can significantly increases the potential for this process by introducing us to new and different aspects of the human experience. As we get to know people different to ourselves we are offered the opportunity to recognise new aspects of our own being. We can then explore, accept and integrate these parts.

There are, however, obvious and significant challenges in this. Familiarity is safe, and there may be risks for us in accepting certain aspects of ourselves. For this reason it may be very uncomfortable to be exposed to diversity. Because of the risks of facing particular parts of ourselves we may keep distant from certain people who are different to us. This offers us the opportunity to deny aspects we don’t want to see within ourselves and to use the different person or group as a convenient place to dispose of these parts. We can leave ‘abusiveness’ with authority figures, ‘moral degeneration’ with sex workers, laziness with ‘youth’, disconnection with immigrants and so on – so we can firmly leave those aspects ‘out there’ and not have to accept that they may also live in us. Of course, if we really got to know these people we would realise that they were much more than just our projections – that they may not even fit these stereotypes at all – that they are, in fact, not so different from us. So if we wish to maintain this illusion of difference it’s important that we don’t really get to know these ‘others’. We keep them, and the aspects of ourselves we’re not willing to own, at arm’s length. This may give us a sense of security and confidence in the short term – but in the long term it can limit who we are and our full expression of ourselves.

Most of us enjoy the sense of safety that can come from being in a group or society where people are ‘familiar’ or ‘like us’. We seek out such places and feel relaxed and comfortable there. Sometimes though, after a time, we might get the unsettling sense that our acceptance rests largely on us not ‘rocking the boat’. What would happen if we spoke a different opinion or revealed something different about ourselves? We are unlikely to trust the outcome of this if we haven’t seen it tested by anyone else. Or worse, we may have witnessed another person being rejected by the group for expressing their difference, and we may fear this to be our fate too if we share certain sides of who we really are. We begin to sense that our safety and acceptance depend on us being similar to the rest of the group.

For simplicity, and ultimately for safety’s sake we often try to fit ourselves in to certain boxes and to narrow ourselves down to just a few aspects with which we and others are comfortable. Human beings, however, are not simple, and at some point we will feel the pain of these restrictions as parts of our true selves are denied and repressed. A more authentic sense of safety can come if we get the opportunity to be in a group, society or family where those who are different are welcomed and accepted for who they are – where difference is approached with interest, and conflict is openly processed. We are then able to trust that we are safe to be ourselves and express the many facets of who we truly are, without the pressure to fit in or the fear of rejection.

My Own Journey With Inner Diversity

When I was a young mum bringing up my son alone I was very aware of how people might pigeon hole me. As well as raising my child I held many different roles simultaneously. At one point I was a Starbucks barista, an ‘A’ level physics tutor, a relationship counsellor and a shiatsu practitioner. Internally I was also a struggling single parent, someone who felt isolated and lonely, someone who had painful angry relationships, and I was a wonderful, devoted and loving mother. I could feel myself inhabit each of these stereotypes at different times. Some I enjoyed and embraced more than others, and some I felt deep shame about.
When new acquaintances asked me ‘What do you do?’ I rather enjoyed choosing from my varied list of jobs. Playfully I would often choose the role which I thought would baffle them the most. I was well aware that the answer I gave would result in people forming very different views of me and responding to me in very different ways. I envisaged people’s confusion when they couldn’t marry together the different dimensions to my life.
The different elements I expressed may have confused others, but primarily I believe I myself was confused by this diversity and I was struggling to integrate and feel comfortable with all these disparate parts of myself – especially the polarities of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. They didn’t all sit together comfortably within me and I wasn’t sure how to present myself to the world. I was self-conscious in choosing how I wanted to be seen. I was uncomfortable with the thought of the different opinions people might form of me – both positive and negative. I somehow didn’t feel that I was allowed to just be myself – containing such variety. I did my best to hide the parts that carried deep shame, trying to obscure these by developing what I saw as the more ‘acceptable’ and praiseworthy sides of myself. This may have looked ok from the outside, but for me it limited my true self expression and prevented me from feeling relaxed within myself.

The impact of denied aspects in a group

If there is no person or group of people available where we can ‘dispose’ of our unacknowledged sides then these will come bubbling out in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways. An aspect can get completely put in to shadow if a whole group, family or society are unaware of that side of themselves – it is pushed in to the shadows and can cause damage from this place. Let me explain this with an example: Imagine a group of people join together for a month long retreat. Now imagine that for one reason or another none of these people believes that anger is part of their personality. As this aspect is denied by the group over the month it goes more and more deeply in to shadow. All groups and individuals have a natural drive towards wholeness. So, if something (in this case anger) is missing from the group the tension of this will build. At some point, anger will erupt out in an uncontrolled unconscious and destructive way. When the tension gets too much it may result in one person having an extremely angry, explosive outburst and then being ostracised – scapegoated by the rest of the group as ‘the angry one’. This will restore the status quo for a while as anger is now consciously present within the group. (Although it will be extremely uncomfortable for the scapegoated person who is left carrying all the repressed anger of the whole group!) Alternatively the anger may show up as passive aggressive behaviours that fracture the group and reduce trust. Another result might be that the anger gets turned inwards, resulting in self harm, depression or suicide. One way or another the anger will find a way to come out, because it has to be present for the wholeness of the group. We all have an angry side – and if we can come to accept and know this side of ourselves we will be able use its power consciously and constructively rather than destructively. However, our using anger effectively also requires those around us to have an awareness and acceptance of this side of humanity, otherwise we can simply become a convenient scapegoat for their unacknowledged anger.

So, when a group or society decides (consciously or unconsciously) that something is unacceptable, or taboo, it doesn’t have the effect of ‘stamping out’ that behaviour, or that type of person. Quite the opposite – this aspect, driven in to the shadows, rises up, forcing its way out, and carries a huge amount of power from its banished position. A helpful analogy is to imagine trying to hold a beach ball underwater. It takes up a huge amount of energy to keep it down, and if we lose control for just a second it forces its way quite powerfully to the surface. One way we can make sense of this hidden force is by thinking of all groups, societies and individuals as having a drive towards wholeness. This is their true nature, and the desire to be whole will eventually overcome all obstacles and win through.

There is a paradox I’d like to mention here regarding group workshops. A high level of safety is required if we are to explore our shadows. We can often find this sense of safety if we are in a group of people who are similar to us and who we feel will understand us well. However, if a workshop consists of only one section of society then, while the sense of safety experienced may be high, the work of the group may also be limited by this lack of diversity, which can limit what people believe would be acceptable within the group – and paradoxically make them feel less safe to express themselves. On the other hand, the more diverse the group the less safe each person may feel – at least initially, yet the greater potential for richness in the work. As more and more aspects of the human experience are welcomed into the room everyone present is liberated by this – shadows are lifted and people feel safe to express more of who they really are.

Every Part and Every Person is Necessary

Now let’s come back for a moment to my original statement – that diversity is, at core, about welcoming in and accepting parts of ourselves. I hope the links I’ve explored and the examples I’ve given have both clarified this statement and helped you to explore it more deeply. Diversity is intrinsically linked with the work that I do. It is vital when working with the shadow to invite in all aspects of each person – to make everything welcome and to understand the inherent value of each part. No one part is more important than another, and each is an essential, necessary piece of the whole. If a group is unable to accept certain members then that group is limited and diminished by this. If a person is unable to accept a part of themselves then their experience of life is limited and diminished also. Each person is necessary for there to be wholeness in a group and each part of each person is necessary for that person to be whole.

Who am I then?

This leaves us with the question – Who am I then? If we all contain everything what makes me different from others? Which parts are the real ‘me’? For myself – am I the wise, capable, confident group facilitator, or am I the person who can be found curled up in a ball overwhelmed by one of my many ‘irrational’ fears? Of course, the answer to this is that I am both – and much, much more. A more pertinent question might be – Can I expand enough to embrace and accept both of these aspects of myself? Ultimately can I continue this life long process of getting to know and accept ‘new’ aspects of myself – the ‘bad’ as much as the ‘good’, the ‘small’ as much as the ‘big’, the ‘hopeless’ as much as the ‘hopeful’? The more parts of myself I can know, accept and integrate the more whole I can become. Furthermore, the more parts of myself I know, the more I am able to welcome and accept all aspects of others. The more I know and accept myself the greater intimacy I can have with my partner and my friends as I will be more willing to allow and accept all aspects of them. I will also be better able to support those coming to my practice to explore their shadows and get to know new parts of themselves.

Once I know and have integrated new parts of myself I can then choose which to express and which not to express. This is different to being in denial of these parts and saying they are ‘not me’. This is about knowing and accepting all aspects of myself, so that I am in charge of myself and my life and no aspect dominates from the shadows. So, once I get to know the frightened part of me well, I can then listen to her and reassure her and take care of her so that she doesn’t need to dominate. If there are parts of ourselves we don’t know then we have no power over them and such parts can dominate us completely. Working in this way, whilst each of us contains the potential for all aspects of humanity, we can manifest our unique personality deliberately and consciously in the way we hold and express each part. We can also accept that who we are is something fluid, dynamic and changeable as we continue to explore more and more parts of ourselves.

Uniqueness and Universality

Rather than ending this article with our uniqueness and difference though, I’d like to share with you another paradox that often emerges when working with groups. As everyone’s differences are welcomed and expressed, what frequently comes across most strongly for everybody present is how, as we dive deeper and deeper in to each person, we find so much similarity there, and how, at core, we experience the same pains, the same joys, the same longings, the same fears. We’re each part of the same whole and the whole is contained within each of us.

‘… While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’

Jo Cox MP (An extract from her maiden speech in the House of Commons Chamber on Wednesday 3 June 2015)

 

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More information about Marianne Hill Shadow Work

Positivity versus Joy

People look to many different things to bring them joy – money, status, a beautiful place to live, the perfect partner, children, friends…. . However there is also generally a sense that a person’s way of being – who or how they are – has a greater influence on their happiness than the people or things around them. Many of us strive to find this joy inside ourselves, and equally we hope that those we love will experience this kind of joy and we want to support them in finding this for themselves – but how do we find this? In working towards joy being positive about ourselves and our lives sounds like a logical starting point and is encouraged by many different ideologies and schools of thought – surely choosing to think positive thoughts is going to bring us closer to joy….isn’t it? This article discusses why this isn’t necessarily the case, and how positivity can actually move us further away from experiencing the deep and lasting joy for which we are searching.

Joy

A core belief that I hold when working with the shadow is that true joy comes from knowing, accepting, loving and blessing all parts of ourselves. This means knowing and accepting the parts of us that are in deep grief, or filled with rage, frightened, hesitant, hateful or full of shame or guilt. It means welcoming these parts of ourselves in to our sacred realm and tenderly caring for them and listening to their needs and the powerful emotions that they carry. As we come to know and accept more and more of ourselves we find we are more able to sit back, relaxed in our own skin, knowing there is nothing in us that we fear, nothing we need to hide. Sitting in this place colours all our life experiences. It gives us a deep confidence whatever is happening around us and allows joy to arise even in the midst of life’s most difficult challenges. We lead ourselves through life from a foundation of joy. Throughout our life we can find joy bubbling up from this place in us, unforced and unbidden. When it comes there is no reaching, no trying, joy simply flows.

Positivity

On the other hand a rigid insistence on positivity at all times, constantly  striving for only the ‘positive’, requires a denial or repression of the ‘negative’ ‘unwanted’ aspects of ourselves – a pushing away or hiding of these unwelcome parts. This can be in complete opposition to the process of self acceptance described above. Other people can unwittingly encourage this in us through the espousing of certain oversimplified spiritual beliefs and practices and also through platitudes and well known phrases such as…..

♦ Can’t you just be happy? ♦ No one likes someone who’s angry all the time. ♦ You create more of what you focus on. ♦ What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. ♦ It’s all happening for a reason. ♦ Time heals. ♦ If you can’t think of anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. ♦ Cheer up – it might never happen. ♦ There’s no point in being sad. ♦ You look much prettier when you smile. ♦ Man up. ♦ Boys don’t cry. ♦ You have to be strong. ♦ I’m sure he/she loves you really. ♦ Can’t you just be more flexible? ♦ Just go with the flow. ♦ It will all look better in the morning. ♦ Life doesn’t give you things you can’t handle. ♦hYou’ve been through worse. ♦ Think about it from his/her point of view. ♦ I can’t believe they really meant to do that. ♦ That’s not a very constructive thing to say. ♦ You have to forgive or it will eat you up. ♦ You’re the only person who suffers if you hold on to this anger. ♦ You’re being very negative. ♦ Negative emotions give you cancer.

On top of the pain you are already experiencing you are now experiencing the pain of not being allowed to be yourself. Of being told your feelings are inappropriate, invalid. You now carry the shame of being ‘wrong’ somehow in the way you are dealing with your upset, and the guilt of upsetting others with your ‘negative’, ‘unhelpful’ responses.

However the people who make these comments aren’t intending to be cruel. They are simply sharing their own manual for living life. They have no experience of emotions being helpful in anyway. They just don’t see the point in them. The problem here is that the value of emotions isn’t something that can be explained intellectually – it has to be experienced. The invitation ‘Why not just be happy?’ is hard to argue with – it certainly sounds like a very good idea! Why would you take the risk of experiencing these painful emotions if you have no prior experience of what is to be gained by allowing them?
Yet unfortunately these phrases that sound so benign, even caring, are subtly (or not so subtly) asking the person to move away from what they are feeling in that moment and suggesting that it is not ok or welcome for them to be experiencing this. How can we possibly feel joy if we are getting the message that parts of us are unacceptable and we have to keep them hidden? We are being told to hide our distress away, and in doing we lose the opportunity of ever finding the comfort and support which could bring us relief. Resigning ourselves to this can create inner despair and hopelessness. Relentless positivity requires a deadness to our true selves, a repression of the emotions that are our very life force. Our smile – although beautiful, will have a hollowness behind it, and we will regularly need to find a place to hide, since being around others in this way is exhausting and impossible to sustain. Behind this lovely smile which others may enjoy and encourage an ugly battle is going on, where parts of us are being banished, gagged, strangled and silenced. This is very painful for our true self. A dream that many people have described having is one where they become aware they have killed someone and they are trying to hide the body. One interpretation of such a dream is that we have killed a part of ourselves and we are trying to keep it hidden. In our waking life we may develop the sense of wearing a mask and yet not really understand where this feeling comes from, as hiding our true selves has become second nature and we are no longer consciously aware we are doing it.

An insistence on positivity comes from a place of fear

It is important to recognise here that relentless positivity comes from a place of fear – fear of powerful emotions and the energy they contain. There can, of course, be validity in this fear – emotions can certainly be overwhelming, even damaging if they are not held and met effectively. However the insistence on positivity needs to be recognised for what it is – a negative response to intense emotions, driven by fear. It is a running away from what is true and alive because it threatens to overwhelm us and there is no one around us who can help us to contain it. It is a coping strategy for dealing with aspects of ourselves that we believe are not loved or welcome. It is a contorted, desperate straining for the light because we do not know how to be with the darkness.

The challenges and gifts in accepting ourselves

It takes a brave parent to raise a child and to welcome all their emotions. It takes a brave person to be in a relationship where all emotions are welcome. Yet the riches of such a way of life are profound, and the vitality and joy that naturally flow from this far outshine the fragile ‘light’ of positivity and the brittle unsustainable nature of such an outlook.

If you try, yet struggle, to be positive in your life it may be that this way of handling emotions was a coping mechanism that served you well as you were growing up, or got you through a particularly challenging time in your life, but perhaps now you are outgrowing it. When you reach a point where life is safe enough you may wish to weigh up the risks of exploring these ‘negative’ sides of yourself and to see if you want to take the challenge of exploring these hidden thoughts and feelings. This opens up the possibility of discovering the joy that can be released along with the grief and the pain.
The fact that joy comes from accepting the ‘negative’ parts of ourselves is one of the many paradoxes that we work with in Shadow Work. This is why arguments such as ‘You create what more of what you focus on’ along with other statements listed above, whilst having some validity in some situations, simply don’t express the complex way in which human beings work.

Being with the ‘negative’ feelings in others

In Shadow Work we believe that the Sovereign part of us is the place where this self love lies and there is a link to further information about this Sovereign part of us at the end of this article. If we do not love ourselves we cannot possibly fully love another. Not because we do not want to, but because it is impossible to offer someone something that we are not capable of giving to ourselves. If we cannot accept our own places of shame/weakness/anger/ hatred/grief/fear we cannot accept these in another. And if we don’t accept these parts of someone else then we are not fully loving them. Our love is conditional and shallow and the other person will sense our judgement and feel pain at having these parts of themselves denied.

We can sometimes push other’s feeling away totally instinctively without realising we’re doing it, or it may be because we just don’t know what else to say. Sometimes we simply can’t bear to sit and witness someone else’s pain and we may find ourselves offering them one of the platitudes above in the hope that we can move swiftly away from such difficult thoughts and feelings. If you’d like to try a different way of being with people who are experiencing ‘negative’ emotions one place to start is simply to show that you are comfortable with the place they are in and willing to allow it. If someone is telling you about something painful that’s going on you can try simply saying ‘That sounds really upsetting.’ Or ‘I can see why that would make you really angry.’ Or ‘I’m so sorry that happened.’ or ‘You really can’t see any good in life at the moment can you?’ Try to show them as best you can that you get what they’re experiencing in this moment, and you have no need for them to be feeling anything different. It is tremendously powerful just to let another person know you are willing to be with their ‘negative’ emotions. That you don’t fear these and don’t feel the need to push them away. But of course, the most important place to start practicing this acceptance and allowing is with yourself – and this is the biggest challenge of all – and for most of us a life long journey.

 

For further information about Shadow Work and the support available please visit: ShiatsuAndShadowWorkBristol.co.uk

Further reading:

Are you Leading From Fear Or From Joy?

A talk about the Sovereign archetype

The Myth of Positivity

 

Are You Leading From Fear Or From Joy?

This article provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your leadership.

Whatever kind of leadership role you hold, from organisational roles to parental roles to the challenges of leading yourself through life, this article will offer a framework through which to explore your leadership style.

Introduction

Below is a sign that is displayed in my local (and very excellent) fish and chip restaurant:

chip shop (1)

I have a little chuckle at this sign every time I go in to the shop, and I imagine most other people respond in this way too. It’s hard to imagine someone taking exception to the joke, and saying we really should support and respect our leaders. Leaders are not popular in our society. Very few of us have respect for our leaders or believe they are genuinely trying to lead us in the best way possible for all. They attract a huge amount of criticism and mistrust and are the butt of many jokes. Words that might come to mind are, privileged, out of touch, uncaring, self absorbed, ineffectual, bullying, manipulative, money grabbing, untrustworthy, corrupt, sleazy and worse.

Now picture the elders in a tribe. Any fictional tribe that you can bring to mind – don’t worry about whether or not such a place has ever existed. What words would you associate with these leaders? Maybe fair, thoughtful, wise, calm, strong, trustworthy. Similarly, now bring to mind an ideal loving parent – we may think of caring, supportive, forgiving, boundaried, fair, protective, attentive, listening, encouraging.

These imagined elders and parents have all the qualities that most leaders would say they aspire to – yet the higher up we go in organisations or political structures the less we tend to see these qualities. And even in some small organisations leadership doesn’t look anything like this – with bullying and manipulation being more the flavour of the day, or alternatively a ‘hands off’ approach where there is no presence or genuine leadership. Similarly with parenting, which could be thought of as the most important leadership role we can ever carry out, we often see manipulation and control, over the top anger and bullying or alternatively, a lack of boundaries and an ‘anything for a peaceful life’ approach.

Why is this? It’s as if being placed in a position of leadership people morph in to something different. Their integrity goes, along with the original passion and commitment with which they took on the role. People get channelled in to behaving in particular ways, and as the pressure piles up their good intentions get lost, instead they’re swept up in a struggle to prove their worth, gain esteem and stay in control. They end up leading from a place of fear.

This is so widespread that it is about more than the individual leader. It seems to be a societal wound that we carry together. Indeed, I believe this wound does not just belong to leaders, it also belongs to the people they lead. It is a situation colluded in at some unconscious level by all involved. What is causing this ‘sick’ leadership?

The Sovereign Archetype

In this article I am going to try to answer this question with reference to the ideas and beliefs behind Shadow Work, and I’ll describe the shadows that can come in to play as we carry out our leadership roles. Finally I’ll take a look at possible changes that we can make on a personal level in order to begin to heal this ‘sickness’.
For the purpose of this article I’m loosely defining a leader as the person ‘in charge’ of others, the one who guides others, makes decisions and takes overall responsibility. For the sake of simplicity I am going to talk about the ‘Leader’ (The person ‘in charge’) and the ‘People’ (those being led by the leader in whatever given situation). I’ll use this to encompass the whole variety of possible leadership roles that we could be discussing here – parent, teacher, leader of a group, leader of an organisation, leader of a company, politician and so on. I believe this article is also relevant for each of us on an internal level as we consider how we lead ourselves through life – is there harmony between the part of us that leads and the parts that follow? How does this dynamic work? Do we bully oursleves, bribe, criticise, or give up on ourselves? or do we encourage and support ourselves and say ‘Well done!’? It is worth exploring these internal dynamics and discovering how effectively we lead ourselves. This is likely to give insight in to our Leadership in the outer world.

I am going to organise this discussion of shadows according to the four archetypes that we work with in Shadow Work –

The Magician,
The Lover,
The Warrior and
The Sovereign.

We believe that we need access to the healthy qualities of all of these four archetypes if we are to live our life fully and have a sense of wholeness. However in this article I will focus most attention on the Sovereign archetype as this is the one that we associate most closely with Leadership.

A summary of each archetype is given before the relevant sections. You don’t need to know anything more about the archetypes in order to go ahead and read the article, but it may be helpful for you to have an explanation around what is meant by the ‘Gateway Emotion’ that is listed at the end of each summary. The Gateway Emotion is the emotion that we need to be willing to feel if we want to have access to the healthy qualities that this particular archetype has to offer. It’s as if feeling this emotion opens up a gateway to these qualities. If we’re not able to feel the gateway emotion we won’t be able to fully live this side of ourselves. I’d also like to introduce here the concept of the ‘deep wound’ in each archetype. These are also listed at the end of each summary. We believe that that there are certain deep wounds that we can carry as individuals, often due to the circumstances of the family and society in which we are brought up. Archetypes can be caused to go out of balance as a result of these deep wounds. Each wound will cause a different archetype to become unbalanced. If you’re interested in exploring all of this further there are links at the end of this article that will take you to a more detailed 12/15 minute talk about each one.

So let’s start with Sovereign:

Healthy Sovereign – Our Sovereign is our inner Queen or King. The loving parent inside who guides and blesses us as we travel through life. This is the heart that cares.
Our Sovereign holds the vision and passion for our life, it is the part of us
that knows what we really want, and will encourage and
support us as we work to make our plans a reality.
Deep Wound – ‘I’m not good enough’
Gateway Emotion – Joy

In Shadow Work we believe leadership lies in the Sovereign archetype. If this archetype is wounded and out of balance we will lose our capacity to lead well. Interestingly, we will also lose touch with our capacity to ‘be lead’ well – to be effective members of a group, organisation or workplace, supporting and respecting our leader.
The wound that harms the Sovereign archetype is the belief that we are not good enough. This belief develops if we haven’t received the support and blessing we need in our life to believe that we are good enough – worthy, loveable and deserving of respect and care, – exactly as we are, without having to do anything. If we don’t have this belief then we have nothing to rest back in to. We need to be able to rest back, knowing we are held, loved, cherished and believed in – just as we are. From this place we can feel true confidence and find the strength we need to carry out our role. I liken this to the ‘Seat’ or ‘Throne’ of a Leader. A place in which we can sit and act from with confidence because we know we are blessed.
When we can sit back and relax in to ourselves, knowing that we are good enough, then what we do comes from a place of choosing – a place of wanting to – because it brings us joy. If we can’t sit back and rest in ourselves, then what we do will come from a need to prove our worth, or to get others to like and approve of us. Essentially this means we’re acting from a place of fear – fear that we are not good enough.

The Chinese proverb below captures this well:

‘Tension is who we think we should be, relaxation is who we are.’

If we can’t relax into who we are, because we believe that who we are is not enough, then we will always be tense, and we’ll be leading from this tense, fearful place. Our leadership will have shadowy qualities, and so will the way we allow ourselves to be led.

If you look at the Sovereign summary above you’ll see that Joy is the gateway emotion to the Sovereign archetype. This means we will not be able to access our true leadership (Sovereign) skills unless we have access to our joy. This doesn’t mean we need to be joyful all the time. Of course not. Carrying out our leadership role will include times of deep sadness, powerful anger and paralysing fear – and we will need to get the support necessary to move through these. What it does mean is that our disposition towards our leadership, our default position if you like, is one of joy. We feel joyful about what we do. We believe in what we are doing and we feel good about it, in the same way that we believe in ourselves and feel good about ourselves. Both of these things bring joy. If we are in touch with our joy and sense of goodness then we will naturally lead well, and we will want to bless and support those around us. We will give our gifts and our time freely and joyfully. If we’re enjoying what we do it will nourish and feed us and we will be less likely to get tired and burnt out. Our duties will feel less like ‘work’ and more like ‘life’.

Inflated and deflated Sovereign

So we can see that, if we’re carrying this Sovereign wound of ‘Not good enough’ then this will impact our ability to access our healthy Sovereign side. Instead we end up either inflating our Sovereign side – to try to PROVE how ‘good enough’ we are, or, alternatively, we deflate in our Sovereign qualities – giving up, and accepting a place if inferiority and the frustrations and hopelessness that go with this.
Typically those of us who inflate will be drawn to Leadership roles and those who deflate will become permanent (but often reluctant) followers.

The following are characteristics of the Inflated Sovereign: Going it alone. Risk taking. Shining for approval. Super hero. On fire, Blazing. Needs to be the biggest and the best or else they’re nothing. Performing for love. Giving everything to the cause. Not accepting support. Martyr – caring too much for those you lead and sacrificing yourself for them. Not resting or caring for yourself. Never taking a day off.

These people are working hard to disprove the belief they carry. They’re trying to prove to the world that they are good enough.

The following are characteristics of the Deflated Sovereign: Hopelessness. Lack of confidence. Resentment. Cynicism. No fire in the heart – ‘I can’t’, ‘It’s too hard’, ‘I’m tired’. A sense of betrayal. Wanting to criticise and bring down those in power (whilst not willing to step up and take power themselves)

These people are giving in to the belief that they carry and saying to the world, ‘You’re right, I’m really not good enough. I’m worth very little.’

This may look like two totally different sets of people, yet there is much less difference between the two categories than may first appear – they are bound together by the identical wound that they carry – a belief that they are simply not good enough. Indeed individuals may flip between these two places, between inflation and deflation. For example a person may be in a leadership role at work where they exhibit some of the inflated traits, but at home their partner leads, and they follow and exhibit some of the deflated traits.

What is missing here is support. As I said previously, we believe that poor leadership comes from wounding in the Sovereign archetype which is caused by not believing we are ‘good enough’. This belief comes from a lack of support, a lack of blessing which in turn leads to a lack of self esteem and self belief, and a deep lack of confidence.

This is a wound that many of us carry as individuals, and it is also a wound that is compounded and encouraged by the society that we live in. We are simply not given the message that we are good enough, just as we are. It starts when we are first born. I remember watching in shock as a friend’s mother told her young baby, who was crying for milk, ‘You’ll just have to wait till it’s feeding time. When you’re bringing in the money, then you’ll be able to dictate the routines of this household.’ This poor child (although clearly too young to understand this communication) will certainly not be growing up to believe he is worthy just for being him – that he will be loved and cared for no matter what. Only when he is bringing in the money will he have value, and only then will his needs be taken seriously. Many babies and children pick up a similar message, with parents not having the time to hold them or give them as much attention as they would like, but instead the child is praised for being ‘good’ or ‘quiet’ or for ‘helping’ or achieving in some way or for looking neat, or pretty. At school we are also required to perform if we wish to be approved of, and this is quite relentless throughout our childhood, with a constant requirement to improve on previous grades. There’s very little opportunity to reach a point where we are told we can rest – we are good enough. Advertising too tells us that if we want approval we need to work hard constantly – to have perfect bodies, skin, cars, houses, muscles, breasts and so on. We are not getting the message here that how we are is good enough – quite the opposite in fact. We’re being told we need to work hard and achieve or perform in order to be accepted and to be ok. To find a partner who will love us we need to starve ourselves or exercise relentlessly, or work hard to earn enough money to buy flashy cars or other paraphernalia. We need to go through prolonged beauty routines or have surgery, hair removal – the list is endless and the message is clear – for goodness sake don’t just be yourself – that’s just NOT ok. You’re not good enough just as you are. When people bring this wound in to their leadership they will find it hard to lead from an authentic place – to admit to their human limitations, to ask for guidance when they’re unsure, to ask for time off when they’re ill, to ask for support when they’re overwhelmed.

Equally, the People will not WANT their Leader to behave like this – to show any vulnerability. The People are, by and large, carrying the same Sovereign wound. They want their leader to be the one who, by some superhuman effort, achieves what they cannot – is able to reach perfection. They won’t want a leader who is like them – who has vulnerabilities, insecurities, indecisiveness, bad days etc. If they can’t stand these aspects of themselves and see them as failings, then they will not be able to tolerate a leader who is like this. They will be looking for the ‘missing’ parts of themselves in their leader, and they will demand perfection, strength, authority etc. But this is not possible. Everyone makes mistakes, even the strongest person has moments of weakness and the most authoritative person has moments of indecision.

So the dynamic is set, with both the Leader and the People buying in to a situation where the Leader is required to be superhuman. This, (being clearly impossible as he/she is human!) requires the Leader to hide certain aspects of themselves, their weakness, vulnerability, sickness etc, and so they are forced to to put these aspects in to shadow. It also requires the ‘followers’ to hide their gifts and strengths, so that they can be led, (and because they mustn’t step in and help out their leader, that wouldn’t be playing the game!) Hiding their gifts and strengths also ensures that they themselves will never run the risk of being put up in that place of impossible demands. The People expect impossible things of leaders and then sit back and watch as the cracks begin to show. They are quick to judge a leader who is failing and they struggle to see their leaders as human beings. The Leaders will often happily buy into these projections rather than questioning them, they will work hard to live up to perfection and super human requirements as this is their way of trying to show the world they are good enough.

What happens if we’re not leading from Sovereign?

If we can’t rest in our true sovereignty and authority then we will resort to using contorted versions of the other archetypes in order to push through our leadership role. I’ll describe what this might look like by going through each of the other archetypes in turn, starting with the Lover:

Healthy Lover – Our Lover is the part of us that feels, it connects us with what is going on
inside. This part connects us deeply to others and allows us to be intimate.
This is the spontaneous, creative, dreaming side of us that enjoys
nature, play and sensuality. Our child-like qualities
lie here, along with our vulnerability.
Deep wound ‘I don’t love right’
Gateway Emotion – Grief

If we do not have strong healthy Sovereign energy we may inflate our Lover side and try to lead from this place. This is especially likely if we carry the lover wound – a belief that we are not lovable, or that we do not love right. We may try to be intimate with those we lead and get our connection needs met from them. Examples of this might be a boss having affair with an employee, a teacher having a relationship with a student or a Parent sexually abusing a child. We may try to be ‘friends with everyone’ or to be liked by everyone. We may not be able to set boundaries or to be the adult. We may suffer from a lack of critical thinking. We may not be able to access the gravitas that is required for the role.
This isn’t because there is anything ‘wrong’ or ‘inappropriate’ about our Lover side, it is simply that this is not the side of ourselves that healthy leadership naturally comes from. We may certainly use some of our lover skills – of dreaming, creativity and an ability to connect deeply – in parts of our leadership, but this isn’t the appropriate place to be coming from the majority of the time. It works better to get our Lover needs met elsewhere in our life and this in turn will help us to feel more complete and whole and will enable us to lead from a more joyful place.

Healthy Warrior – Our Warrior is the part of us that can bring about change in our lives
and can step out and take action in the world. It is responsible for setting
our boundaries and saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. The warrior has integrity
and courage and speaks the truth. Our Warrior protects us,
and those more vulnerable than ourselves.
Deep Wound ‘I don’t exist’
Gateway Emotion – Anger

If we don’t have sufficient Sovereign energy another option is to inflate our Warrior to help us lead. This will result in us leading from a bullying place: Authoritarian. Not listening. Not being flexible. Stonewalling and not listening. A confrontational challenging manner. Forcing ideas through. Shouting and fist beating. We’ve seen this style of leadership many times in films – abusing those you’re meant to be supporting and leading.
We’re more likely to resort to this kind of Leadership if we carry the Warrior wound – not really believing we exist, or we are real. If we carry this wound we will want to be taken notice of – needing to prove that we exist. It will be hard for us if people disagree with us or question our leadership or our decisions. We will be over forceful to try to avoid our fear of being invisible.
Again, there is nothing wrong with our warrior side, indeed, we will undoubtedly need to call on our healthy Warrior sides at times during our Leadership. However it is not the correct place for our leadership to be coming from. It is something we want to be able to call in when necessary. We sometimes liken this to an imaginary Queendom with the Queen and her military. The Queen needs to call on the military from time to time, and they provide an essential role, but the Queen is the leader and firmly in control. She is the one with the authority. The Military carry out her will – but they are not running the show.

Healthy Magician – Our magician is the part of us that can step back and see things from
many different points of view. Our magician can help us to re-frame situations and
see things differently. This side of us is responsible for assessing risks and
keeping us safe. Our intellect lies here, along with our ability to
transform our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Deep Wound ‘I’m bad or wrong’
Gateway Emotion – Fear

Another alternative if we don’t have sufficient Sovereign energy, is to rely instead on our Magician, inflating this side of ourselves in order to help us lead. In this case our leadership may be: Manipulative. Threatening. Paranoid. Underhand. A reign of fear. No one trusts you. Turning people in the organisation against each other. A lot is unspoken. Deliberately unclear and confusing communication. Smoke and mirrors.
We are particularly likely to rely on this kind of Leadership if we carry the wound of believing we are bad. If we have come to believe there is something fundamentally bad or wrong about us then we will find it very hard to be straightforward and clear. We will always be trying to hide our ‘badness’ in lies, threats, underhand behaviour – anything so as not to be exposed and seen for what we believe we really are. Many politicians are a good example of this type of Leadership, with the practice of ‘Spin’ being a perfect example of using Magician skills to deliberately obscure the truth.
If we’re Leading in this way we are Leading From fear. We are driven by fear rather than feeling our fear. Of course there are things to fear – we may do something that makes us look foolish, others may be better than us and usurp us, we may fail, we may make terrible mistakes and so on… But we need to face this fear and somehow make friends with it rather than avoiding feeling it and being driven by desperately trying to avoid these scenarios. This is what is meant when we say fear is the gateway emotion to our Magician side. We need to be prepared to feel our fear if we are to have healthy Magician qualities. If we are not able to feel our fear then our Magician will come out in the damaging ways described above.

I love the quote by Margaret Mitchell

‘Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realise what a burden it was.’

Fear of losing a reputation is a big corruptor of genuine leadership. We need to be comfortable with our own fallibility if we are not to fall prey to these fears. We need to know how to ask for help when we’re out of our depth. Everything in life changes and we need to be able to embrace this and face the inevitable changes in our role.

‘Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.’ Anais Nin

Balance and Paradox in Leadership

In our close animal ancestors we see the behaviours of ranking – of each animal having a specific place in the herd or group, and of leading – where one animal leads the group during a particular period. We also see the Alpha female and Alpha male phenomenon where a particular animal will be given a ‘top’ position. In Shadow Work we believe that we, as humans, still carry these instincts to rank ourselves with respect to others, to want to be the leader, or to want to shine, to be the big one. We also carry the parallel instinct of wanting to follow, to be small, not to have responsibility. These are the animal instincts that we associate with the Sovereign archetype. We believe it’s important to recognise and understand the animal instincts that we carry as humans rather than denying them. Many of us feel shame about the part of us that wants to shine, that wants to be the biggest and the best. Similarly many of us carry shame around our wish to follow, not to have to think or take charge, but to rest in someone else doing that for us. However the idea of some kind of hierarchy, with people holding different positions, seems to be part of our nature, just as we see it in nature. Rather than rejecting these sides of ourselves it’s better if we get to know them. If we acknowledge and get to know know these instincts in us then we are not unduly influenced by them, but can embrace the positive qualities and let go of aspects that don’t serve us.

So it seems we carry a natural instinct to either follow, or to lead, and it seems things work better for us when we have a chance to experience both of these sides of ourselves. We are then in touch with our full humanity. We need to have times and places where we lead, and times and places where we follow. If we fix in to only one of these positions then we are repressing a part of ourselves, and this leads to shadowy behaviour. Those who are fixed in an ‘always leading’ position develop behaviours such as overconfidence, arrogance, overworking and not listening to or trusting others. This is because they never getting a chance to be a follower, to learn from another and to rest in another. Those fixed in a following position develop behaviours such as shyness, lack of confidence, not speaking up, resentment, bitterness and backstabbing, because they never get the chance to shine and to own their own power.

So if we are in a leadership role it is important that we find times and places where we follow, to keep the balance of humanity in ourselves. Interestingly there are two other Leadership qualities that also have this two sidedness to them, and require us to have a balance of each. The first of these is listening and speaking. Listening and speaking are two sides of leadership. Two sides of the same coin. An effective leader needs to listen as much as they speak. Their speech – their word – only has authority when it carries the wisdom that comes from listening carefully to all the People, and to any external advice that is relevant. The second two sided quality is the giving and receiving of support. Leaders are only true leaders if they are blessed and supported by the People. They are also only true leaders if they are able to bless and support the People in return, rather than using, abusing, bullying, coercing, belittling or ignoring them.

The paradox here is that to be a good leader we need to know how to follow, we need to know how to listen and we need to know how to receive support – these are as much an intrinsic part of leadership as are leading, speaking and guiding and supporting others.

So this gives us three simple ways to do a health check on our leadership –

is there a balance of supporting and being supported?
is there a balance of listening and speaking?
is there a balance of leading and following?

The beginnings of change

There are obviously shifts that need to be made on a societal/social level to bring about the changes needed in our leadership. However on an individual level we can start by getting in touch with the part of us that knows we are good enough just as we are, and there is no need for pretence, hiding, manipulation, bullying, or any of the other potential shadow behaviours we may express in our leadership. This can often involve first getting to know the part of us that believes we’re NOT good enough. The part that may be harshly critical or shaming or simply hopeless feeling. If we get to know and befriend this part – bringing it out of the shadows, then we will have a better chance of believing in our goodness and beginning to lead in an authentic way. Another important step towards believing in our goodness is receiving support and blessing from others – having people around us who reflect back to us our innate goodness, who believe in us no matter what and will stand by us. A good first step in this direction is to find a mentor, supervisor, counsellor or therapist who is seen on a regular basis. If we can get the support we need in order to believe we are good enough then everything in our leadership will begin to change. This, in turn, will affect those we lead and everyone else whose life we touch, as they experience us acting from a place of self worth, authenticity and true confidence. This is a radical act in a society where we have been taught from birth to believe that we are not good enough.

 

Links

Archetype Links:

The Sovereign talk –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHNer6Qv2dU&index=8&list=PLvgWYx0ae1cAqdaNvwB5k24DwEm-Rfs58

Magician talk –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDbtyE8bt7c&list=PLvgWYx0ae1cAqdaNvwB5k24DwEm-Rfs58&index=11

Lover talk –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oA1-KvSaLL4&index=10&list=PLvgWYx0ae1cAqdaNvwB5k24DwEm-Rfs58

Warrior talk –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itstCBJKaoo&index=9&list=PLvgWYx0ae1cAqdaNvwB5k24DwEm-Rfs58

Shadow Work information:

http://shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk

http://shadowwork.com

 

Communicating our Vulnerability with Dignity.

In the last blog we explore the first two parts of the Authentic Communication model – facts and judgements. You may want to take a look at this before you read on…

http://exploringtheshadow.co.uk/2016/01/13/communicating-without-arguing-2/

In this blog we are going to explore sections 3 and 5 of the model: ‘Feelings’ and ‘Wants’.

Please note, now that we’re working with 4 different aspects of the model altogether – facts, judgements, feelings and wants, statements from each different section have been colour coded for clarity. Facts are written in red, judgements in green, feelings in blue and wants in orange.

The Feelings and Wants sections are the two sections most likely to expose our vulnerability. Most of us find the idea of vulnerability pretty scary, and because of this we are likely to avoid the Feelings and Wants parts in our communication. This may not be conscious, and even when we believe we’re being totally honest, you will see the Feelings and Wants aspects are rarely stated clearly. The paradox is that it is only in exposing our vulnerability that we really share of ourself with another – and is that not what communication is really about? If we really want to be heard then we will need to risk showing our vulnerability and this means including our feelings and our wants in the conversation.

OUR FEELINGS.

There are many ways we avoid saying what we’re feeling. Some common examples are:

We may give our Judgements, ‘You’re a liar’, ‘You’re cruel’, and assume the other person picks up how we’re feeling from this. We may be shouting. It may be ‘obvious’ that we’re angry. But how often do we actually state that? ‘I feel angry!’

We may give these judgements ‘You don’t love me anymore’, ‘You’re always at work’, and assume the other person knows what we’ll be feeling about that. We may be crying or looking upset when we give these judgements, but how often do we say, ‘I feel really sad’ ?

Equally we may make judgements that show we feel frightened. ‘You’re going to ask me to leave’. ‘You don’t want me working on this project’. It may seem obvious to us that we find this a scary thought, but how often do we actually say ‘I feel frightened about this.’ ?

INCLUDING OUR FEELINGS.

In our model we encourage you to say, in one simple statement, the feeling, or feelings you have. We also encourage you to stick to what we see as the four most fundamental feelings:

Fear.

Joy.

Anger.

Sadness.

Below are some examples which include the facts, the judgement and then the feeling. So that the separate sections are clear we’ve coloured the facts red, the judgements green and the feelings blue.

If the fact is that our partner was in the pub when they had told us they were at work we might say:

Yesterday when you were in the pub when you’d said you were at work I thought that you had lied to me and I felt really angry.’

Or, if the fact is that our boss didn’t return our call.

‘You didn’t return my call yesterday. Because of this I started to think that you don’t want to work with me any more but you don’t know how to tell me. I felt frightened.’

Or if my son wanted to spend Christmas with his dad this year instead of me I might say.

‘When you told me you want to spend Christmas with Dad this year it started me thinking that you might prefer being at his house, and thinking that makes me feel really sad.’

We hope you can see how adding the feeling so clearly deepens the level of communication, and also the level of vulnerability. We may not want to communicate this deeply with everyone, but if we really want to be understood and heard then including our feeling can really help.

OUR WANTS.

So far so good. We’ve said everything now haven’t we? No! This is the mistake so many of us make so often. We have actually left out the most important part of the conversation – what we actually want from the other person.

Usually we are communicating because we want something to be different. Or sometimes it is simply because we want to be heard and understood. Whatever our reason we want SOMETHING from the other person. Yet wanting something from someone is potentially a very vulnerable position to be in. So without really realising it we may slide off actually saying what we want.

For example, if John’s partner is in the pub when she’d told him she was at work he may be really upset with her, He may tell her all his judgements and feelings – but what does he actually want from her? It may seem to him that she ‘should’ know what he wants, or that it is screamingly obvious what he wants – but it is still, we believe, the responsibility of the person communicating to state clearly what they want.

Does he want her to tell him honestly where she is all the time? Or does he want her not to flirt with other men? Or does he want her to come home to him if she’s not at work? Or does he want her to give up drinking?

He may think she knows what he wants, but she may really NOT know. So it is important for him to state his want clearly. It is important to state it as clearly as possible. It’s not necessarily helpful to say ‘I don’t want you to lie to me ever again.’ Or ‘I just want you to be more responsible’. These are too vague, and include hidden judgements of the other person.

Now, of course, if we ask for something we don’t necessarily get it. This is why stating our want makes us so vulnerable. We have to state it knowing we may not actually get it. This can be the reason why many people don’t clearly state their want. It can just be too painful.

INCLUDING ALL OF OURSELF.

So to conclude, let’s look at an example including facts, judgements, feelings and wants. Let’s go back to the example where John’s partner was in the pub when he thought she was at work. Different people will have very different thoughts, feelings and wants in response to this situation, but one example might be:

‘When you were in the pub the other day and you’d told me you were at work. (Facts. He may want to double check that she agrees with this as a fact before we go on). I thought you had deliberately lied to me. I started to believe you were avoiding being with me and you’re not enjoying my company at the moment. (John’s thoughts and judgements). I felt angry and also frightened. (His feelings). I’d really like you to tell me honestly how you’re feeling about our relationship and if there’s anything you’re finding difficult at the moment. (His want from her).

This is clear communication and offers many opportunities for John’s partner to respond, and for communication to flow between then. It may be that she is having difficulties with the relationship, or it may simply be that a colleague invited her for a drink and she fancied going. There are many different possibilities, John can’t know the truth until they begin communicating, and beginning a conversation in this way gives a good chance of them getting to the bottom of things and understanding each other more deeply.

To watch a talk about Shadow Work go to

http://www.shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk and see the talks on the home page

How can we communicate with authenticity and depth?

There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.

When we share ourselves fully we are stepping in to the unknown and we cannot predict the consequences. Communication becomes much more about expressing ourselves and what we are thinking and feeling, and less about trying to achieve a particular outcome or hoping to get our needs met by the other person. However, what we stand to gain is increased intimacy and deeper understanding – both of ourselves and the other. This deeper trust and understanding increases the chances that we will be able to work together towards ‘win win’ solutions where we can both feel happy with the outcome.


In Shadow Work we find people often communicate only half of what is really going on for them. If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share if we wish the other person to open their heart to us and really hear what we want to say. It is necessary to share these things if we want true communication to flow.

We also tend to avoid saying things we fear might compromise our relationship and cause the other person to leave us or judge us. Yet, if we wish to communicate with full authenticity we need to be able to accept that the relationship may change or end, otherwise we will always be compromised to some extent in our communication and there will always be certain thoughts, feelings or ideas that are ‘off limits’ in our conversations. In Shadow Work terms we would say that these have been put in to shadow. Paradoxically, once something is hidden away in shadow like this it has the potential to cause way more damage and destruction than if it is acknowledged openly.

 

In The Authentic Communication model that I use with couples, clients and groups we break communication down in to 5 different sections:

The Facts What actually happened

Our Judgements What we think or believe about what happened

Our Feelings How we feel about what happened

Our Boundary What is not ok for us

Our Want What we want from the other person

 

Now let’s look at using this model in more detail.

Some of us find it relatively easy to tell another person what we don’t like about their behaviour, and to let them know the judgements we have of them. For example:


‘You’re ALWAYS late home from work – you’re so THOUGHTLESS.’


What we are leaving out in this however is how we feel in response to their behaviour. Our genuine deep feeling, such as sadness, anger or fear. We are also forgetting to say what we actually want from the person, in place of the behaviour that we don’t like. It might be better to say:


‘I feel frightened when you’re late home. I fear that we’re growing apart. I’d like you to come home earlier so we can spend the evening together.’

However it can take a lot of courage to say what we fear. We may not want to have our fears confirmed. We may have a sense that speaking our fears makes them more likely to come true. Or we may worry that our fears will be seen as childish or silly.

It can also feel very vulnerable to ask for what we want, so without realising it many of us leave this out too. Yet this can leave the other person floundering, they only hear what they have done ‘wrong’ and yet are left with no idea what the ‘right’ thing to do would be. If we want to communicate effectively we need to let go of the hope that someone else will magically know what is right for us, and we need to communicate what we want clearly. We also need to accept that we may not get what we want. However it’s still important to communicate this so that the other person can know us better.

Another difficulty with communication can come in muddling up what has actually happened with our judgements of it. This too can leave the other person feeling confused. For example, if my friend was an hour late to meet me yesterday, and I got very annoyed waiting for her, I might say:


‘You’re so late, you really don’t value our friendship do you? I bet you were with your new boyfriend, you think he’s more important than me. You’re just not a good friend to me anymore and I need a good friend right now that I can trust.’


Now, for my friend to hear this is quite a lot! She may well respond defensively and communication could break down between us.
It would help for me to separate out what actually happened from my judgements of the situation. So, the only fact I know is that she arrived an hour after the time we arranged. The rest are all my judgements and it’s much clearer if I state them as that. Once I’ve had time to think about it I might say this instead:


‘I’d like to talk to you about the time you arrived today if that’s ok. My understanding was that we arranged to meet at 8 and you arrived at 9, am I right about that? While I was waiting for you I began to get the idea that you might be taking some extra time with your new boyfriend rather than getting here on time. I thought that maybe you don’t value our friendship so much now, and I actually thought – you’re not being a very good friend to me at the moment!’


It can also be helpful is to tell the other person that we know our judgements are not necessarily true. They’re just our guesses. They’re the sense we’re making of what has happened. Below I go on to say this and state my feeling (angry), my boundary (what I wasn’t ok with) and what I would like from her in future.


‘I know none of that is necessarily true, It’s just what started going round in my head while I was waiting, but the result of this was that I started to feel quite angry. It really wasn’t ok with me that you arrived so late. I’d really appreciate it if you could turn up on time when we meet as that would help me to believe you value our friendship – and right now I’d really like to feel secure in our friendship.’

All of this may still be hard to hear, but my friend can at least have some understanding of where I am coming from. I am sharing my vulnerability around our friendship and I’ve said clearly what I want from her and why. She is much more likely to be able to hear me and to enter in to a constructive dialogue with me. She is quite likely to share what is really going on for her (which may bear no relationship to what I was imagining!). This then paves the way to further genuine communication between us.

So in Shadow Work we try to break our communication down in to:

1) What Actually Happened.


2) Our Judgements/opinions/thoughts/ideas around what happened.


3) Our Feeling about what happened.


4) Our Boundary – what wasn’t/isn’t ok with us.

5) What we Want from the other person.

It takes a lot of practice to communicate effectively in this new way. I’ll talk more about using this model in future blogs..