is it cable ties I really need?

tangledcables

Are you tied in knots?

All over my house, in sockets, in drawers, in boxes I have cables.  Cables to connect devices to other devices, cables to charge the devices, cables carrying data, sound, pictures. Many I have forgotten what they do. Some I have duplicates because two or three devices have provided them, but I keep them… just in case.

We have many things in life too that connect us to things. To old ways of thinking, to sad memories, to things long forgotten or no longer needed. Do you play the Christmas card game? Sending cards to people you haven’t seen or spoken to in years? Do you have things in your loft, attic, cellar which are boxed up, stored away, long forgotten, but we keep them, just like the cables… just in case.

It seems cables are not the only way we get tied in knots.

the nature of connecting

image

I was trying to explain to a colleague the other day how I see patterns and connections in things.

“For me, everything is connected to everything else…” I said.

Of course, on reflection that’s probably not true. Kumquats are unlikely to be connected to my retirement. The price of aluminium not really connected to the music on my favourite playlist.

What is true though, is that I do see patterns and connections in things which aren’t obvious to other people. They are however obvious to me. That’s not a statement suggesting that others are missing something, or somehow not as able, or that I’m ‘right’. It just is. I can’t always explain the connection, or why it is significant to acknowledge the connection, but they are often both real and meaningful, to me at least.

What is also true, is that I find it hard to do a mind map – for me, things need to be on more than one ‘branch’, some branches need to be joined up. It isn’t therefore a means to clarifying data, as it is for some, rather a way to create complication and frustration.

I have in the past noticed different people connect things in a variety of ways. I recall running numerous workshops over the years, where delegates, asked to group or theme brainstormed post-it notes, would often group them together if they had, for example, the word ‘training’ on them. To me, this ‘connecting’, whilst valid, missed out on the meaning beneath the words.

It seems we all make connections, make meaning, in different ways.  Maybe you make connections in one of these ways?

These things are about the same subject, so they must be connected?
These things are related through cause and effect?
These things are all connected to a specific outcome?
These things form part of the narrative, the story?
These things have a similar significance?
These things together open up possibilities?

Where we find meaning and connection, because we all do it differently, sometimes leads to misunderstanding, disagreement, confusion. So worth exploring the methods you consciously and unconsciously apply?

 

making sense or making meaning?

making meaning making sense
Is there a difference for you between making sense of something and making meaning?

For me, making sense is largely, though not completely, a cognitive process. It’s one that facilitates understanding. It is how I comprehend things in the world around me.

So, if I look at the picture above, I might deduce that this is a teddy bear, that this teddy bear looks soft. He is brown. I know that teddy bears are toys, that often children have them. I might make sense of this teddy bear as a child’s teddy bear. A bear that has been posed to cover his eyes. Equally I might understand that teddy bears can be adult gifts to reflect tenderness, affection, love. I might be curious about the teddy bear’s size, because I know bears come in many sizes, and without background in the picture to contextualise and offer perspective I have to surmise whether it is small or large.

Making sense in this way is how we exchange and gather knowledge about our world, how things work, how to use them, their purpose.

Meaning making and seeking meaning however are inherently human processes at the heart of our humanity. Making meaning facilitates significance. It bonds us to our purpose and sense of self and creates a richer, deeper connection than simply understanding, or making sense. It highlights patterns to aid with new learning, new connections and systemic thinking. It stirs our emotions. It connects us to our experience, our memories, our values, our personal story. In short, it makes us human.

So, for me, the bear picture might remind me of my own teddy bears from my childhood. I might connect to the memories of my own children and their lives now as young adults, way beyond the teddy bear years. I might notice the teddy bear makes me sad and I might recall other times I have been sad. It might equally remind me of happy times. It might remind me that I too sometimes hide. Or that I like a hug. It may bring back memories of parents, of childhood games, of key events in my human story.

In this way meaning making is important. It connects our world experiences, our interactions to people, to activities and to things with our own sense of self. It connects us to our memories, and to our personal story through a deeper somatic awareness. It is more impactful, but also more useful, in that it enables us to form both new and tangential connections, which offer new learning, new meaning and new possible futures.

I can be taught to understand the world around me, to make sense of it, but making meaning of it is a very personal experience.

Maybe it’s the same for you?

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.

how much is a hug worth?

hug
I read this morning about a Chinese mother selling hugs in an attempt to raise money and awareness to save her four year old daughter, who has leukaemia.

She is selling them for around £1.  It made me wonder what a hug is worth?

A hug at certain times in our lives can mean much. It says hello, it says I’m pleased to see you. It is an expression of intimacy. It says I love you. It also says I’m there for you. It says I acknowledge your existence, I see you and you’re ok. It transmits understanding and empathy. It says don’t worry. It says you’re safe. It says I understand. And much much more. Physical connection, touch, makes us feel good, emotionally, physiologically and psychologically.

Research has shown hugging has an impact on our health, reducing levels of stress and anxiety, reducing heart rates, cortisol levels, blood pressure. It has also been shown to increase levels of Oxytocin, referred to in some circles as the bonding hormone, raising levels of trust and feelings of security.

Of course, reassurance and affection of this kind, through touch, can also come through holding hands, fingers gently entwining. It can come through a stroke of the arm or face. Even meeting eyes, or exchanging a smile can have similar impact. The hug though, seems to be the ultimate. Its level of connection more total, more of us physically in contact with more of someone else, our bodily cores aligned, as one. It pulls our hearts closer together, so that each feels the other beat. It holds our very being, in that moment. It contains our energy, our life source, which, in that moment before, seems in danger of leaking away.

Maybe you can think of a time when you gave someone that gift?

Maybe you can think of a time when that was what you needed. All you needed.

At that moment, what was that hug worth?

I would suggest, priceless.

 

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.

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.