we like to be seen, but from a distance

see me
How many people do you know?

How many of those do you see, really see?
How many do you allow to really see you?

I’m not talking about visiting, or noticing your new top or knowing how you take your coffee, I’m referring to a deep empathy, a real connection, a knowing so profound it is almost as if they are you, or you are them.

I use the term ‘see’ as a collective here. For some, the term ‘see’ will work. Experiment with alternatives for yourself. How many people really hear you? How many utterly feel you? How many truly get you? How many wholly understand you? How many do all of those things?

It seems we have a deep desire to be seen, to be understood, to be heard. We need to be acknowledged in a human way. Yet to be acknowledged in that total way, can be so desperately intimate.

Intimacy of that sort scares us.

Sometimes the person who gets that close sees more of us than we can see for ourselves.

So we employ tactics to keep ourselves safe, sometimes conscious tactics, but much more often, we employ tactics out of our conscious awareness. Games if you like. Games with ourselves and with those around us. We tease. Here’s a little bit of me, come closer if you dare, come closer if you care. If they do, we often push them away again. That way, we can tell ourselves they don’t really care, or we can shield our vulnerability. If we are the one being being invited in, sometimes that intimacy is too scary too, so we deflect, we joke, we talk about us, we change the subject.

When the invitation is extended, often subtly, often in a fleeting moment, often out of conscious choice … all it takes is to be present. To stand in the moment. If they attempt a game-play or to move away, gently and respectfully, hold them in that moment. Witness their truth. Rather than turn away in a kind of counter game-play, say “I see you (and you’re OK)”, not aloud, but through your presence, your very being. Hold them, carefully, whilst they witness their own truth.

That’s acknowledgement.
That’s seeing them.
That’s deeply human.

to run or not to run…?

tube run steve
The other week I posted something about my NLP training in Hammersmith and the coffee experience. I attended the training with a friend, and at the end of each day we would go to the tube station – the Hammersmith and City line rather than the Piccadilly. It’s a terminus, so trains are usually ready in the station, waiting patiently at a platform for their fresh cargo.

Each and every day we would stroll up to the ticket barrier, move through and see the display board signalling which platform the next train departed from. Most days there would be a train at that platform.

Then something strange would happen.

My friend would quicken his pace and often break into a run. Sometimes a sprint. I would be left to saunter down the platform and find him in his chosen carriage.

After a few experiences of this we began to ‘unpack’ these two contrasting behaviours. Initially I mocked him, because I had never missed the train, but we were curious about what lay deeper in this behaviour.

There was superficial evidence that might support certain theories. My friend was a runner. He ran for pleasure regularly. I did not. He was, and probably still is, much fitter than me – so he had more capability to behave that way and running was a familiar activity. Typically I don’t run for anything.

At a deeper level though, time isn’t important to me. So the possibility of missing a train wasn’t a significant issue, but more than that, it presented an opportunity. I would have time to watch the world and the people in it. I would have time to sit quietly and ‘be’. My friend’s map of the world was different – he had many things to do, things to get done, so missing a train would deny him possibilities.

We still see this pattern today, not with trains, but elsewhere. He tries to fit a lot into his life. I’m more content to see what life offers in this moment.

There will of course be more depth, more detail in explaining our run/saunter behaviour at Hammersmith, but the joy is discovering that.

So be curious about what you do … every little thing, from choosing what to eat for lunch, to buying new shoes, to how you plan your weekend or even how you live your life.

It’s not about running or not running. It’s about knowing or not knowing.

If you don’t take time to know yourself, who else is going to?

how do you know your truth?

feeling, body
I’ve recently been noticing how hard we find it to stay with a feeling.

It seems we are conditioned to move away from the somatic expression of our truth, to rationalise and explain it away, or to deflect it for fear of it consuming us.

I was in a meeting recently. The conversation bounced around, at times becoming heated, at times lost, at times held too tightly. I noticed an energy change several times. So I called it out.

“What are you feeling now here in this moment?” I asked.

The desire to go cognitive was overwhelming. People used a word, such as anxious, but then lost themselves in an explanation of why, what they were going to do; masks and deflections from staying with the feeling.

There is a deep knowing that comes from the way your body expresses itself and yet we find that hard to be with sometimes.

I am reminded of a quote from somewhere…

Your body is the only part of you that is ever truly present

Trust what your body is saying. Give it time and the same space as your head. It has just as much to say.


is it vital to be alive?

alive vitality

Take a moment to reflect on your year so far.

On what occasion, in what scenario, did you feel most alive?

I mean truly alive. Alive in a whole body way. Physically and emotionally buzzing, an energy coursing through you like you were plugged in.

Maybe you achieved a work goal, maybe you experienced an adrenalin rush on your first parachute jump, maybe you were walking alone in the forest at dawn, maybe you had a deep realisation about yourself, maybe you completed your first ever triathlon and felt on top of the world, maybe you presented to a group something important to you and won them over, maybe you had a tender moment of love with someone close to you…


If you can’t find something. Go further back. Look for it like it’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Seek it tirelessly. If you can’t find a single experience, look to understand components, smaller parts that provide clues to where your vitality rests, then build, add, try, experiment.

Maybe you find it easier to locate the opposite? A sense of fatigue, of being drained, of a kind of deadness? Somehow we have become conditioned to notice this more. The drudge of the commute, the dull but necessary task, the unfulfilled aspiration, the tiresome social gathering…

It’s a useful exercise to list down how you spend your time and then reflect on what nourishes you and what depletes you. Simply getting better balance in your life will improve your state of mind, your sense of happiness or fulfilment, your well-being – swap some draining activities for ones that inspire you, lift you, nourish you.

But more than that, be curious about the nature of that nourishment. Score them. Look at ones that deliver most. Why is that? What properties do they have that align with who you are, what matters to you, what gives you pleasure, what gives you meaning and purpose?

Here lie clues to that vital experience, that vitality, that sense of aliveness experienced in a whole body way – psychologically, emotionally, physically

Never stop looking. It’s vital.

You think you are alive because you breathe air?  Shame on you, that you are alive in such a limited way


what does the map say?

constellation map
If you have a family, you may have heard yourself say something like this…?

“My brother looks to his eldest sister…”
“Our daughter is closer to her mum…”
“There’s always been distance between me and my brother…”
“There was a time when we were close…”

This language seems to suggest that we have an unconscious map inside, not only of the relative proximity of ourselves to other family members, but also their distances and orientations to each other; almost a sense of who is looking which way, where their attention is drawn, where they ‘stand’.

These maps would appear to be deep in our subconscious and in some way describe ‘what is’. They represent a form of truth.

The maps exist in our organisational worlds too. Individuals, teams, departments, functions, divisions can all have hidden relationship maps. Connections that can also exist through time – loyalties and ‘closeness’ to predecessors, founders, old colleagues lost through the last ‘organisational transformation’.

As with families, these maps inform behaviours, present and absent, they provide clues to broken connections, hidden loyalties, deep stuckness.

If you’re feeling stuck and have tried to logically find a way forward, try a different approach to finding a way out.

Build a map.

Decide the context and use a space on your desk to represent it – maybe it’s team dynamics, or the relationship with a colleague, or why the project doesn’t move forward?

Now find something to represent the most important parts. Any object will do, you just need to be able to indicate orientation (where attention is drawn). I sometimes use those little UHT milk jiggers. Place the most significant representative piece. Often this might represent you.

Where are you in this system, and where are you ‘looking’? Take some time to notice this – what does it feel like, what’s true, what’s new to you?

Now place the next most important piece of the map. Trust your instinct, don’t over think. Again take time to notice this piece’s relationship to you, where its attention is drawn. What does this feel like? What’s true? What do you notice?

Build the map slowly. Take time to acknowledge what is, don’t rush to make changes.

This approach is a method related to systemic constellations – a technique for exploring the truth of relationship systems. It was developed from family therapy and is now used in coaching and organisational development.

I recommend some research and a great book by John Whittington, who you can find here

Meanwhile, stay curious about your relationship maps and this hidden truth in your subconscious.

the true meaning of coffee …

beliefs change
Many years ago I trained as a master practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming. I trained with a friend.

The training was near Hammersmith in London and at the beginning of each day we would go for a cappuccino and a bacon sandwich at a little Turkish coffee shop nearby. Although the training modules were several months apart, on seeing us enter at the beginning of a new module the owner would always recall our order – one sandwich on white, one brown, one without butter etc.

That coffee shop has sadly gone now, but that experience still anchors me to that time of learning, and I doubt the owner and his cheery waitress have any knowledge of how much that stays in my memory.

It serves to remind me that interactions between human beings can sometimes have more importance than their seemingly ‘low level’ content might suggest; they can carry more meaning than those involved at the time might ever realise; the spoken word or behaviour may have a completely different result or impact to that intended at the time – indeed one NLP presupposition is that the meaning of the communication is the result it elicits, not necessarily the one the giver intended.

Every day, all day, we give out communication, consciously and unconsciously. Everyone we meet takes their own meaning from that, even if several people experience the same ‘message’, each will create their own meaning.

In our early years, much of this gives rise to our beliefs about the world. Some of that serves us well in later life. Some does not.

The parent with the adolescent child, studying for their exams, will doubtless have the best intention to support them. Comments such as ‘never mind, you did your best’ or ‘all you can do is try’, have positive intentions. Yet I have seen such people in the middle of their lives, still running a belief that ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I have to work hard’ or even a more complex belief such as ‘If I don’t succeed nobody will love me’.

Spoiler alert: you probably believed in Father Christmas when you were small. Your parents span the yarn. It served you to believe – you got toys, chocolate, the excitement of presents to unwrap, and as a child that’s desirable. My guess is most of you no longer believe in Father Christmas.

The meaning we take at one point in our lives doesn’t have to be the meaning we live with. Trying hard when you’re 15 might be useful – please a parent, pass an exam. Trying hard later in life, when your work life balance is out of kilter, or when you’re in a job you loathe, or when you’re burning out through effort, or when you just want your boss to notice you, isn’t necessarily so helpful.

The barista can make many coffees.

You have a choice whether yours will always be the same.

if you think you think, think again…

Chocolate behaviour

We are at the top of the food chain. Our ability to think, to cognitively assess, decide and act is unparalleled.

Or is it?

Yesterday afternoon I ate a large chocolate bar.
I wasn’t hungry. I know it’s not good for my waistline. Only the other day I was reading about the hidden threat of too much sugar in our diet. I had a banana on my desk, which, despite its curvaceous yellow appeal, remained ignored.

Human behavior is complex and rarely, if ever, purely rational. In fact our rational internal dialogue almost always loses out to a deeper, hidden, irrational, impulsive, unconscious drive to act.

But, behavior doesn’t happen by chance or out of the blue. It has a structure – trigger, behaviour, reward. In one real sense we are machines: input, action, output. Mechanistic rather than thinking.

Behaviour can be conscious or subconscious, mental or physical, learned or inherited, voluntary or involuntary… some behaviour is genetically and biologically underpinned – we all withdraw our hand from the hot saucepan handle, from pain, without thinking. Some behaviour is influenced by social and cultural norms. Some by persuasion or even coercion.

That doesn’t however explain my chocolate addiction.
Nor does it explain much of our behaviour day to day.

I’m not genetically coded, socially expected or forced to curse that driver sat in the middle lane of the motorway. Nor to stop working on what I should be doing to do something more interesting. Nor to be late for that meeting. Nor to run for the bus. Nor to buy those trousers I don’t need.

No, these behaviours are motivated internally, by our beliefs, values and biases. By hidden patterns developed and evolved by our life story.

I regularly curse middle lane drivers. I’ve examined this behaviour closely. It’s not that I’m a stickler for the Highway Code – I confess I don’t always follow it. It’s not that I’m in the habit of moaning at people. It’s not that I’m often late and they’re simply in my way. For me, it’s because they aren’t honouring, recognising, making space for a fellow human being. They’re self absorbed. That value drives other behaviours in me; some I’m not proud of and that just happen before I can rationally think. So the unfortunate motorist is merely the trigger. My reward is I can honour a personal value – yet the irony of my own behaviour contradicting that very value is not lost on me and therein lies another behaviour puzzle. What remains true is that in that moment, the behaviour is unthinking, subconscious, mechanistic, programmed … out of my control.

Or is it?

You see, consciously understanding my internal motivation, beliefs, values and world map gives me choice. Noticing the triggers and the rewards of my behaviour gives me choice. So be curious about you.

If you think you think, think again…