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.