the formative journeys of a shared t-shirt dream

we share a dream

When we travel, we are sometimes physically apart from those we are most connected to. Family. Friends. Yet physical connections are only one way we share our lives.

This amazing t-shirt display at Buffalo International Airport (the picture only shows half) is an installation by Kaarina Kaikkonen, who works with large amounts of clothing to alter our perception of our shared spaces and shared lives. The 1000 t-shirts, which are tied together, were donated by the people of western New York. The linking of the shirts signals our movements together – the daily commutes, the migratory moments of our travels and the formative journeys we take in our lives.

It is called ‘We share a dream’.

Nice thought Kaarina.

…the guilt of growth

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I wrote yesterday about the innocence of belonging. The compelling sense of loyalty to the tribal rules, thereby securing our belonging.

Yet growth and personal development draw us to move to new systems of belonging – school, university, new organisations, new teams and maybe to create our own family system. As we grow and develop, we risk belonging to earlier ‘clans’ by electing to behave in different ways in new tribes. Behaving and acting in the fashion of the new clan customs ensures our belonging in the new group, but risks our belonging in earlier groups on our life journey.

This tension between growth and belonging, guilt and innocence is described in Systemic Constellations theory as ‘Personal conscience’. Sometimes particular ‘rules of belonging’ to older clans can entangle us later in life. Holding us back, like a rubber bungee, making freedom and growth hard.

When you feel stuck, look over your shoulder and ask yourself, “to whom or what am I being loyal in staying stuck like this?”

What you find there may surprise you.

Acknowledge what is.

 

the innocence of belonging…

guilt innocence personal conscience

As a child you may well have travelled to your grandparents with your family.

Perhaps at one set of grandparents, you were allowed to spread your toys out on the floor and generally make a mess? Perhaps at the other grandparentjs you had to wait to get down from the table after tea, and keep your elbows off the table? Maybe your family visits were to aunts, uncles, cousins?

Whatever your personal experiences as a child at your relatives, you somehow knew the rules. The actions and ways of being and behaving that were the family customs in that house; that clan, that ‘tribe’. By complying with those actions and customs, you cemented your belonging.

We do this following our sports team. We wear the uniform, travel in groups, sing the songs, tell stories of the history. We do this in organisations too, we call it the culture around here, and we (often) unconsciously comply in order to create belonging and connection.

This search for belonging starts in our family of birth. We learn the ways of being and the customs and actions that are the norm in the family. The clan culture. By being loyal to those customs and ways of being, we ensure we belong. We are accepted into the tribe by remaining ‘innocent’ to those tribal rules. This is a crucial learning for one so young.

Our sense of need to be loyal to the customs of belonging, particularly to our birth family system, is strong. Very strong. This need to belong, to remain ‘innocent’, is compelling. When we stray from it, in a sense, we experience ‘guilt’ – guilt that we are risking our belonging.

This ‘guilt’ and ‘innocence’ form part of the theory of personal conscience, from Systemic Constellation practice. More tomorrow…

 

is it time to change the baubles?

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Christmas approaches.

You probably have decorations up. At home. In the office. Maybe your house is lit up from top to bottom, with trailing flashing lights, illuminated elves and a ho-ho-ho-ing Father Christmas? Maybe not.

Decorations are a tradition at this time of year. As is the tree. So too Brussels sprouts, parsnips, Christmas pudding, mince pies, giving gifts, time off work, parties, over eating, old films on the television…

Traditions connect us to the past.

As individuals we have traditions too. Ways of being, behaviours, things we say or do. We learned them a long time ago, but they stay with us in the present.

Traditions can be thought of as the passing of customs, behaviours or beliefs from one generation to the next, usually within a specific group. Often they reflect a special significance, a meaning defined by our ancestors, long ago.

So too with our own traditions of custom, belief or behaviour. Except with our own traditions of being, we created the meaning and the significance ourselves. And we passed them down, from our childhood, through our teenage formative years, into our early adulthood, our mid-life (crisis optional) and on into our old age. At an early stage of our lives we decided something had to be so. Probably for good reason. Now we continue to live it. It has become our own personal tradition.

Sometimes we would do well to unpack these. To review them. To notice them. To see if they still serve us well.

Traditions can be good. Reminders of our past. Connections to where we come from. But sometimes they can become unhelpful, inappropriate or even a burden.

Reviewing our traditions is probably something we should all do, at this traditional time of year.

Keep what serves you. Change what doesn’t.