the direction of love and hate

love hate constellation personal conscience
I was reminded yesterday of a this quote…

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him

GK Chesterton

It was offered in the context of the recent Paris attacks, but it reminded me of the truth in this for us all, not just for the soldier, the man on the battlefield, the terrorist. We all have a bond, a love of what shaped us, what gives us belonging, those ‘like us’ who give us a place. We feel strong ties to our formative experiences; strong connections to our family of birth; a place where we learned the unspoken rules of belonging. Where we experienced love. We all have strong attachment to familiarity, to the system we operate in, to its customs and culture and to the way of working we have become aligned to. It too gives us a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

Perhaps this in part explains why change can be hard? We have to let go of connections, friends, customs, behaviours, ways of being which have given us a security.

Maybe we don’t hate the change we face, but rather we resist it from a place of love for what has gone before? What is, or will be, behind us?

#prayforParis

banging the tribal drum…

tribal belonging
You may have read about the Twitter wager between two airlines over the result of the Rugby World Cup this weekend.

Quantas and Air New Zealand have suggested each other that the losers change the colour scheme of their planes, but now seem to have settled on the idea that Quantas pilots will wear All Black jerseys if the Kiwis win and Air New Zealand pilots will announce Australia’s victory on their aircraft.

It’s a bit of banter. A bit of fun.

But tribal belonging is deeply in our psyche as human beings.

It appears in our sport of course, supporters partisan to their team, chants such as the haka to intimidate the opposition, colours and songs to mark our tribal belonging. It appears also in organisations; departments and divisions having a sense of identity and creating competitive tensions. Members of merged organisations still secretly belonging to their original tribe, sometimes overtly. It happens in families and our language reinforces it with phrases such as ‘Beryl’s side of the family’, or in church at a wedding, sitting on the side of the bride or groom. Our family of birth is often our strongest tribal connection. Tribes appear in music tastes too – think Mods and Rockers. Even in such matters as car ownership – the MG drivers club etc. We wear uniforms, shirts, badges, fly flags, sing songs all to reflect the tribe we belong to.

There is a tension here of course. The up side is the sense of belonging that the tribe creates. The potential downside the sense of conflict and competition it engenders.

We need to belong. Our tribal belonging is an indication of who we are.

the search for connection and the fear of rejection

connection
A core human need is for connection. Connection to others.  We seek it in many ways.  Soul mates, lovers, friends, family, community …

Another dimension to connection is belonging. We seek to belong, to groups of ‘like-minded’ people, to social groups, ethnic and religious groups, groups of nationality, to teams at work, family and friend groups, communities based around our hobbies and pastimes as well as those where we live. I’m seeking connection in writing this.

Sometimes connection and belonging needs can be met by something as simple as acknowledgement by another. Acknowledgement that we exist. A look, a smile. This affirms our connection to the human race. To be acknowledged by another human being is very precious.

Yet there is a dark side to this search for connection and belonging.  Fear.

Psychologists tell us that fear is adaptive. That it helps us survive. I’ve heard it said we are born with only two fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud startling sounds – both in service of our survival. I don’t know if that is true.

I have seen fear though.  I have felt it myself.

The fear I see often in my work as a coach and working with the organisational system is the fear of NOT belonging. The dark side of the need for connection and belonging.

This fear stops us speaking up in that meeting for fear of being judged, for fear of being wrong. It stops us talking about our confidence dip or the worries on our mind, for fear of being judged by our boss or our peers. It stops us being who we are, because we’re a little different, unique, special; but that very uniqueness, that ‘not like others’, means we might be rejected. Rejected from the community. So we seek to conform. Because we believe conformity brings connection.

Yet.  Here’s the thing …

When someone you know, tells you their deepest concern, shows their true vulnerability, turns up as their authentic self, how often do you see pure courage?  How often do you reach out and offer support?

Show yourself some compassion and tell your story.  Share your fear. Be who you are. You might find it liberating. You might find it brings you real connection and a stronger sense of belonging than you’ve ever felt.