our connections through time and space…

human connection
Systems of connection intrigue me. In Organisation Development we describe the organisation as a complex social system.

People are connected to each other. Connected to their friends and colleagues, to other individuals, teams and functions by responsibilities, processes and activities. Their behaviours, in part, defined by those connections and systems.

This isn’t just the realm of organisation though. It is like this in society too. People are connected to their neighbours, the street, the village. They are connected to their relations and friends.

If you were to float above the earth you would see the ‘neural pathways’ created on the earth’s surface to support these connections – the motorway network, the wider road system, the rail system, the canals and rivers all acting as arteries to facilitate people connecting, whether for trade, for shared interests, for friendship or for love. If you float higher you may also see the trails of aeroplanes, creating a less permanent or tangible network of connections, spanning greater distances, with semi permanent hubs. If you subscribe to the right app for your phone, or visit the appropriate website you can see the planes moving through this network, with surprisingly fixed patterns and pathways; following each other with a regularity and spacial deference not obvious to the person standing on the ground. Another system network connecting people.

Think about the cables and pipes underground, carrying gas, water, electricity, data, TV broadcasts etc. Tunnels for trains, moving us around, underground, under seas.

Now refocus your eyes and imagine the invisible network that connects us through the internet, through social media. Invisible waves of data, passing between masts and satellites, connecting people in this virtual world, globally.

Think about footpaths long overgrown, about Roman roads long lost to the eternal march of nature. Archeology long since buried. Relics, remains. There are many older networks which connect us but which lie like a faded script under the dominant visible thoroughfares of today. Another system, another network.

This may seem all man made. But nature works this way too. If you could map the path of each ant from a nest, or see the trails followed by foxes at night, or monitor the community of bees in the hive, or track the migratory routes of birds circumnavigating the globe, here too you would find networks of connection.

We are also connected through time. Connected to our ancestors. Invisible gene pathways that pass down traits, such as the colour of your eyes, the size and shape of your ears. Pathways that also pass down family and community stories, customs, behaviours, cultures.

Within our own bodies we are connected, tissues, veins, arteries, neural pathways connecting one part to another. Beyond that, chemical signals and communications, passing messages, connecting. The sounds of our organs, heart beating, blood rushing, enzymes deconstructing, all speaking to each other in an orchestral symphony.

We are, as human beings, connected.

And just like in the organisation, that complex social system, those connections shape us, enable us, influence us and limit us.

Take a moment to reflect on your connections.

The next time you are in front of another human being, pause for a moment to honour their connections, for those connections are a large part of their humanity.

Pain is a feeling. Yet feelings can be painful.

pain and hurt
I’m in pain.

A sleepless night. A trapped nerve in my shoulder.

It’s hard to concentrate and hard not to. I can’t think and I can’t sleep. The pain is my focus.

Physical pain can do that. But so can emotional pain.

Feelings can dominate your very being. Consume you. Just as much as physical hurt.

I have painkillers now for my shoulder. They should soon help the physical pain. Chemicals in tablet form that I acquired from the local pharmacy. Even though I’m in a fairly remote location, I can get help with physical pain.

Emotional pain is harder to treat.

Yet just as debilitating.
Maybe more so.
Harder to get help.
Harder to cure.

What’s the next act?

front stage back stage
So … I’m reading the Theory of Human Ecology.

Now, before you raise your eyebrows or quietly tut in that knowing way, or maybe steel yourself to slap me on the back and declare ‘well done that man!’… I should let you know it’s only the ‘Brief Introduction to the Theory of Human Ecology’, a mere 112 pages.

There are many interesting concepts therein – I confess to liking a concept more than a theory – so I thought I’d share this one…

As we know Abraham Maslow first documented the most basic of human needs is to be safe; we know that experiencing being unsafe or afraid can leave long standing memories in us. One of the concepts discussed in this paper is the idea of having a ‘front stage’ and a ‘back stage’ as one way in which we can manage personal risk and keep ourselves safe.

Our ‘front stage’ is the version of ourselves we show to the world. We develop it to gain acceptance and to belong, to retain the audience’s interest and maybe even get a round of applause sometimes, or at least a polite clap.

Our ‘back stage’ is the bit of ourselves we keep hidden away – it’s where we do our rehearsals, our script writing and where we keep our costumes and props. We don’t tend to let the audience backstage – only those we really trust.

By developing a front stage and a back stage we keep ourselves safe in an inherently unsafe world. It allows us to show the world what we believe we need to, in order to be accepted, affirmed, welcomed in. Meanwhile that part which we need to protect – our vulnerability – we keep hidden away from harm.

A nice theatrical metaphor…?

The seduction of addiction

seduction of addiction
Drug addiction can be a destructive thing.

Yet we are all drug addicts and at the same time drug pushers.

Our addiction in life is often our way of being. It is seductive to stay with the familiar, however much that familiar harms us, limits us, hurts us.

Being exhausted. Lonely. Always moving. Looking out. Looking in. Critical. On the edge. Miserable. Hyped. Caring for others. Not caring for yourself. Catastrophising. Leaking power. Being guilty. Hiding. Needing love. Taking responsibility. Blaming. Saving. Out of balance. Looking back… and many more drugs of familiarity. Each with a high. Each with a low.

We can also become used to beating ourselves up in that internal dialogue of not good enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not talented enough… In a strange way the familiarity keeps us safe. It becomes seductive to keep doing it. Hard to kick the habit. We find ways to give ourselves the fix – seeking evidence to prove the theory, so we can reaffirm its ‘truth’ again, and so stay safe.

We can do this in relationships too. Give our power away. Bemoan the way the behaviour of others makes us think or feel. Yet we are often drawn back, to get another dose. Sometimes because there is an element of that interaction, that relationship, which meets an unspoken need deep within. It gives us a reward. An unconscious lift, an energising boost, a buzz. But all before we experience the fall, the difficult feeling, the disappointment, the hurt, the down after the drug wears off.

Beware the pushers. Those who draw you in with their sweeties. But especially look out for the pusher within. The part of you that also gets you hooked; seduces you; feeds you the familiar yet painful drug.

Choose what you consume. Notice what is addictive. Seek out the truth of the seduction.

Don’t hurt me…

Sometimes we interact with people and feel hurt, anger, pain, frustration following their action or words.

Sometimes we keep that emotion inside, but sometimes we throw it out with a statement such as…

“You hurt me when you did that…”
“He really makes me angry when he says that…”
“When she says that, it really annoys me…”
“You upset me when you don’t…”

The notion that one human being has the power to create a powerful emotion in another, by saying or not saying something, by doing or not doing something is intriguing. A dark art.

In reality of course, as receivers, we do it to ourselves.  It is our interpretation, our meaning making that generates the hurt, the anger, the pain.  It is our internal sense of ourselves that allows the action, inaction or words to generate the feeling. Our own beliefs or values.

Maybe the better response would be…

“I allow what you do to hurt me”
“I take his words and I use them to create a sense of anger within me”
“I convert her words into a feeling of annoyance within me”
“I interpret your inaction in a way that enables me to generate feelings of upset within me”

Owning the feeling we have, the feeling we generate, gives us power and choice. To no longer blame or attribute the emotion to someone else, but to say this is mine allows us to change it.

What is your journey?

What is your life journey?

Is it a saunter along a meandering woodland path? Is it a route march along a Roman road? Is it an invigorating swim across an extensive lake? Is it a breathtaking parachute descent from 30,000 feet? Is it a dizzying playground roundabout spin? Is it a race down the motorway? Is it a steady climb up a long spiral staircase? Is it a lazy river float? Is it an absail down a deep rugged ravine? Is it an underground exploration? Is it the soaring glide of an eagle over mountains? Is it a scramble down a rough rocky track? Is it a sightseeing bus ride through an unfamiliar city? Is it a run through the surf on a sunset beach? Is it a speeding train ride through a blurring countryside? Is it a tightrope walk over a cavernous gorge? Is it a deep dive from a towering cliff top into a deep green sea? Is it a horseback gallop through a never ending desert? Is it a precarious rope bridge crossing over a river torrent?

What is your life journey?