Right now, we’ve been forced into a personal development space whether we like it or not. We can’t escape from ourselves in the normal busy ways because the majority of our lives have been put on hold (or online). So, we have two options: we can be ruled by our reactivity or we can use this time to get to know ourselves better. What parts of your ‘self’ are showing up right now? And how might they be impacting your nearest and dearest?
We have many faces
I am a system of cells and ‘selves’ and there are many parts of me that are reacting to this crisis right now. There’s a part of me that’s afraid about my health, a part that’s freaking out over finances, and then there’s a part of me that’s grateful for this extra space and excited by the creative opportunities evolving.
We all have many different ‘selves.’ One day we might feel calm about the crisis and the next day completely enraged by the whole thing. So how might we begin working with our many ‘selves’ so that we can stop them from hijacking us? We can start naming the different voices that are showing up.
We’re going to start our World Work ‘project’ by looking at our internal voices, our own internal system. One way to do this is through a paper a constellation and it’s really simple:
- Get a piece of paper and draw a big circle.
- Write down (or draw) all the different parts of you that are reacting to this crisis. Give each voice a name like: Secretly Pleased Self or Overwhelmed Self. Put them out in front of you in your circle, so that you can start working with them objectively.
- Try to capture all of the voices. Even the ones that you’re ashamed of or frightened by.
If I’m completely honest, I have a ‘self’ that says things like “great, let the whole thing collapse.” I’d properly call her my apocalyptic self. She’s totally cynical: “If human beings died out the planet would be better off.”
Of course, I’m ashamed of my apocalyptic self. But she’s still a voice inside me and I’m sure many of us have a secret self that says something similar whether we admit it or not. If we name these voices, as opposed to burying them, we can start to work with these parts of ‘self’ more objectively.
What you don’t deal with doesn’t go away. It just becomes a rotating voice in your head that will unconsciously drive you. However, when you look directly at it and relate to it you become conscious. There’s no escape from knowing yourself. So, if you don’t process consciously you will inevitably process it unconsciously, through illness, burnout, panic attacks and anger towards the people you love. We can either bury these different parts of self and wait for these time-bombs to explode or we can get curious and find out what they need…
How do I want to be with these selves?
I’m aware that when I’m tired and anxious it’s like pressure building up inside of me. Like lightening, this build-up of tension is looking for a place to ground out and half the time it wants to ground out by being mad at my partner Marita, or my team. If I’m not conscious and intentional about it, I can end up taking out my anxiety on the people around me. I have done so before and probably will do again.
When we are triggered like this, we need to ask ourselves: which part of me is acting out? Which ‘self’ is wanting to throw all of the toys out of the pram? Once we’ve identified which voice is reacting, we can then start to deal with them directly. What do they need?
The other day Marita and I did a strange thing -- we went separate ways. Normally we’d talk about it but on this particular day, we decided to be responsible for the pressures that had built within each of us. We knew we were going to be bad company, set each other off and be easily triggered, so we took some time apart to work with our internal systems and to steady (sometimes you need to do that). Instead of adding stress to your environment how can you help to mediate it?
I’m sure many of you have heard of the hippo defense. For those who haven’t… Hippos are very dangerous, particularly in water. But when they’re on land they don’t move fast and they’re quite unwieldy. So they have a different defense mechanism: they eat river weed which passes through them very quickly and if they’re under attack they turn there hind towards their attacker and spray poo all over them!
So, who in your intimate circle is receiving the rear end of your hippo defense right now? Which parts of you might end up acting out against your loved ones? Your worried self? Your anxious self? If we can name it and become conscious, we can be at choice. And just as Marita and I did the other day you might choose to step away and self-regulate.
Agents of Change
One of the things that makes ORSC™(Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching) special is that we hold all of our students as change agents. You can be an agent of change right now by asking yourself how you want to be today… in your household, with your partner, with your kids, or perhaps with your elderly parents who are struggling to use FaceTime for the first time.
Never forget that your impact -- whether conscious or unconscious -- will be sending ripples out into the world around you. So, think of one thing you can do today to positively impact the people in your immediate circle. What do you need to be the person that they need?
Remember: World Work starts with Y-O-U!