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Archive for March, 2012

BEING INSTITUTIONALIZED — PART I

The following is a paraphrase of a story offered to us by Robert K. Greenleaf.

I visited a large mental hospital.  My guide was a staff psychiatrist.  After a bit we entered a locked ward, a large room in which there were about 50 men in the charge of two orderlies.  The patients were sullen and hostile looking and they were standing or sitting as isolated beings with no apparent interaction among them.  As we left, I remember turning to the doctor saying ‘this was scary to me.’  And then I asked if the staff were safe in that locked ward.  I wondered if there wasn’t a chance that the patients would gang up them.  The doctor’s quick reply was, ‘not a chance, they are quite safe.  You see, it is part of the illness of those men that they cannot get together on anything.’ 

I believe this story is a metaphor for most institutional life today.  I perceive it to contain a number of powerful implications for us and I invite you, dear reader, to consider the following:

==> unlike the patients – individuals in our institutions have chosen to ‘lock themselves in.’  Questions: In what ways have people chosen to lock themselves in?  When and how do you lock yourself in?  What is the benefit of this choice?  What is the cost?  Why would one choose to lock oneself in?

==> unlike the patients – individuals in our institutions have chosen not to use their power and have, in fact, given their power away to others.  POWER = one’s ability to act.  Questions: Why do people choose not to act (that is, to exercise their power)?  When do you choose not to act?  Why?  When do you choose to act?  Why?  What is the price one pays for choosing not to act?  What is the price one pays for choosing to act?

==> like the patients – individuals in our institutions have also experienced their ‘voices’ not being called forth nor honored nor nurtured.  Questions:  What does it mean, ‘to call forth’ the voices of others?  To Honor them?  To Nurture them?  When have you called forth your own voice?  When have you called forth others’ voices?  In what ways have you nurtured your own voice and others’ voices?  Why is this calling forth important anyway?

 ==> like the patients – many individuals in our institutions are driven by ‘fear’ – perhaps they have even chosen fear as a means of avoiding either bringing their ‘voice’ or of being ‘response-able.’  Questions: When have you chosen fear as a way of coping?  What is the benefit of ‘living from fear’?  What is the cost?  What are some viable alternatives to ‘living from fear’?  Have you ever ‘become’ your fear?

 

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THREE MORE SNIPPETS. . .

Here are three brief entries from my journal, August-2009.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that humans have a tendency to go to their opposites; light, then, would have a tendency to move to darkness – to paraphrase the poet Yeats, the center of light cannot hold and things fall apart.  One way I move from light to darkness (and hence have things fall apart for me) is to choose to become less aware, less awake and put myself to sleep.  For the most part, I am actually aware of making the choices that I KNOW will put me to sleep.  I use to struggle with trying to understand ‘why’ I choose to go to sleep.  I found this to be a trap.  My reality is that I do so choose to go to sleep and my question is: ‘At this time, in this moment, am I willing to choose to stay awake?’  AND, if I choose to go to sleep to accept that I am choosing to do so because I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!  I know there is more that can be said about this. . .

As a culture we are out of balance.  When we moved to embrace the mechanical metaphor at the time of the industrial revolution we moved more and more to valuing the ‘outer’ in our lives and hence the ‘inner’ has been, and continues to be, diminished in value.  Even our churches and our educational institutions have made this move for they are run more like businesses than ever before and have become more and more concerned with ‘doing’ and ‘being effective’ and less and less concerned about ‘being’ and ‘being faithful.’

I also believe that we are embracing an illusion in our workplaces: the illusion is that we espouse that we value the ‘humanness’ of the employees.  We use language that supports their being ‘human’ and yet there are powerful metaphors afoot that de-humanize the employees for we label them as ‘cogs’ in the machine or, to use our current banking metaphor employees are ‘assets,’ or ‘resources’ or ‘commodities’.  We also act as if employees are ‘cyborgs.’  That is they are ‘living-machines’ – if you cut them they bleed and yet they have the ‘heart of a machine’ and if they wear out we simply discard them.  ‘Assets,’ and ‘Resources,’ and ‘Commodities’ we ‘use up’ and worn out ‘cogs’ and ‘cyborgs’ we discard.  There continues to be a huge gap between what we espouse and what we live out when it comes to employees and their being fully human beings.

 

 

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LEADERS. . . FEAR OR ANXIETY?

On 29 March, 2010 I wrote the following in my journal.

In our culture we frequently interchange the concepts of fear and anxiety.  More often we use the word fear to describe anxiety.  So it might be helpful to distinguish between the two.  Fear = a feeling of agitation caused by the presence or nearness of danger, evil or pain.  The intensity one feels is directly related to how one interprets the threat; if one interprets the threat as severe then the intensity of the feeling will increase.  When faced with a fearful situation one will engage the situation, flee from the situation, or get stuck and neither engage nor flee.  As soon as we perceive the threat we develop some automatic physical responses – our heart rate increases, adrenaline is rushed to certain muscles groups, we become hyper-focused on the threat, we sweat, our blood pressure goes up, and our higher level mental functions seem to slow down, if not shut-down as we move to protective reaction.  Anxiety = a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen or about what might possible happen.  The following example might help distinguish between the two: You are walking along and come to a street and you want to cross the street.  You look in all directions and don’t see any vehicle coming so you begin to cross the street.  All of a sudden, as if out of no where comes a car speeding down the street coming straight toward you.  Your normal reaction is one of fear for danger is bearing down upon you.  You quickly assess the situation and decide to engage the speeding car, jump out of the way or freeze in your steps hoping the car will miss you [an aside: if one is intoxicated one might well determine that taking on the car will be the best idea].  Now, let’s back up.  You are walking along and come to a street that you decide to cross.  You look all ways and see nothing coming.  You begin to cross the street and still nothing is coming and yet you have the same response as the person who is being threatened by the speeding car.  This response is as intense and since there is, indeed, no car coming – no real threat is present – what you are experiencing is high anxiety.

So what are some of the fears and anxieties that leaders might hold?  Here are some to consider:

–Financial failure [perhaps financial dependence]

–Not being  loved or not being ‘wanted’

–Being ‘’alone’ or being abandoned

–Chronic/protracted illness and/or pain

–Being repulsive to self or others

–Believing that you are a failure [especially in some important aspect of your life]

–Dying – growing older and running out of time in your role

–Not being good enough

–What lies deep within one’s self – the darkness, if not the ‘evil’ [that one  might see or that others might see]

There are some questions that might help if we choose to engage them:

–To what extent are you motivated by, controlled by, and/or demotivated by fear and/or anxiety?

–At this point in your life, what are the fears and anxieties that you carry with you?

–What were the fears and anxieties that you carried 5-10-20 years ago?

–If you continue on your current life-path what might be some fears and/or anxieties that you will be ‘invited’ to       carry during the next 2-5 years? 

–What is the difference between being fearful or anxious and being your fear or your anxiety? 

–In what ways do you project your fear or anxiety on to others?  What is the effect and affect of doing so upon yourself and upon the other(s)?

 

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JOURNAL ENTRY, NOVEMBER 2005

I am sitting in the  waterfall lounge here at the Furama Riverfront Hotel in Singapore.  I have been thinking about leaders and what they do.

CONSIDER: 6 difficult things for a leader to do – perhaps for most of us to do; they are a challenge for me.

  1. Return love for hate
  2. Include the excluded
  3. Admitting that he/she is wrong
  4. Offer healing when wounding occurs (especially to self —- self-violence is, perhaps, the greatest violence)
  5. Saying ‘thank you’
  6. Be vulnerable (two ways)
    1. Be transparent = fully human
    2. Carry the wound gracefully (from the Latin, ‘vulnus’ to carry a wound with grace) – You will be wounded, both intentionally and un-

What are the six most difficult things for you, dear reader, to do?

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THE ENCOUNTER. . .

Here is a story I noted in my journal in November, 2009.  An encounter took place between King Christian X of Denmark and a Nazi officer shortly after the occupation of the Danish capital in April 1940.  It is said that when the king looked out the window of the palace and saw the Nazi flag with its swastika flying over the roofs of the government buildings, he called for a meeting with the commander of the occupying forces.

The king requested the flag be removed.  The Nazi officer refused.

King Christian walked a few feet away and spent some moments in thought.  He approached the officer once more.  “And what will you do if I send a soldier to take it down?”  “I will have him shot,” the officer replied.  “I don’t believe you will,” said the king quietly, “when you see the soldier I send.”

The officer demanded that the king explain himself.  King Christian said, “I will be the soldier.”  The flag came down wit

Here are some questions I noted: Where is the line between being courageous and being rash?  What must my inner ‘king’ risk when I am confronted by my internal occupying forces?  What are those internal occupying forces that challenge my integrity?  What sustains me in my ‘leadership moment?’    

 

 

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SHADOWLAND RESIDENTS. . .

Here is a journal entry from 29 November, 2009: I have been holding a question: How can I discern my shadow?  How can I discern both the potential darkness (evil) and the potential light (good) that resides in my shadow-land?  For me there are currently five ways I employ that enable me to have the opportunity to bring the potential darkness and the potential light into my consciousness.  Once I become aware I then have a choice as to whether and as to how I might engage what I have now discerned.  I offer these ways as possibilities for you, dear reader; they are not the only ways, however.  So here’s my list in the order of my least resistance:

1. Discerning what I project onto others and/or the world.

2. Discerning my slips of the tongue and slips of behavior

3. Discerning how I respond to and how I use humor, especially sarcastic humor

4. Discerning and exploring my fantasies, daydreams and dreams

5. Intentionally soliciting feedback from those who know me well – and discerning / paying attention to / becoming aware of / being open to feedback I receive from others who encounter me along the way.

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EVIL. . .

Today, I found this long passage in one of my journals.

It appears as if the subject of evil frightens us; it is a dangerous subject in many ways and on many levels.  The first danger is that we see only the darkness cast by other people – individuals, communities, and nations.  Engaging the topic requires courage.  For Aristotle, courage was the most important virtue for without it he believed that we cannot practice any other virtue.  The second danger is that I/we fail to think about the evils that I/we are engaged in.  One effect of ignoring evils all around and in us is a way of being engaged in them.  It is not enough for us to look at the evil within.  At times we must take up arms against external evils.  Philip Hallie who fought in the French resistance against the Germans in WWII admired the pacifist people of a French village that defied Hitler to save Jews during the war; he resented them as well:  They didn’t stop Hitler.  They did nothing to stop Hitler.  A thousand villages would not have stopped Hitler.  It took decent murders like me to do it.  Murderers who had compunctions, but murderers nonetheless.  The cruelty that I perpetrated willingly was the only way to stop the cruel march that I and others like me were facing.  

 Sir Laurens van der Post noted that: Today what life demands of us most urgently is to find a means of overcoming evil without becoming another form of evil in its place. . .one culture after another is still running amok and men are still murdering one another in the belief that it is not they but their neighbors who are evil.

 A third danger is overlooking the price of repaying evil with evil.  Philip Hallie writes of his guilt over the killing of young German soldiers; he does not want to forget: If I did not keep aware of the conflict in my mind about being a decent killer, then I would be more immoral than I am . . . Because I deserve that agony; I want to believe in the preciousness of life and be a killer too.  And because I feel this way, I have to pay a price morally. 

 Not forgetting what others have done carries its own danger as well.  An evil you cannot forget or forgive lives on in your heart, and continues to affect you and those around you in countless ways.  The more one thinks about particular evils done to one, the greater the risk that one will do evil and the less able it will be to see that this is itself evil.

A fourth danger is that we come to imitate it.  Paradoxically, we find evil to be attractive, if not seductive.  Gregory Curtis captured this when he wrote: We must search for the good, while evil finds us out.  In Eden, Eve did not go looking for the serpent; rather, it came to her.  Evil accepts us.  It does not require us to improve.  No matter how great our faults, evil will embrace us.  Evil validates our weaknesses and our secret appetites.  It tells us we’re all right.  Evil does not ask us to feel guilty.  You are what you are, evil says.  In fact, if you want to, you can get worse. 

 You and I cannot escape the battle between good and evil; we will always be part of it.

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