… is loneliness for?
… is loneliness for?
The mood of my garden has shifted. It looks like Autumn. Leaves scattered across the surface. New shoots torn from the trees by blustery winds and driving rain. Low pressure in our weather has descended. The flowers have closed. The bees buzzed off. The birds absent, sheltering, waiting for the mood to lift.
The movement of the weather systems on our planet can change the mood of our nature with ease. The elements in our earthly atmosphere; carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, mix with water vapour and dust to move and swirl at will. With that, the feeling and mood our weather generates flow across our lands with wilful abandon. Nature determines everything.
In much the same way, movement in our body systems can shift our mood. The same swirling, churning chemicals, hormones and enzymes can change the sensations we feel in our bodies. Those sensations influence and shape our feelings, our emotions and our mood. Summer can feel suddenly like winter. We can overheat. We can feel damp, drab, off colour. Twisted, shrunk, torn off… inside.
image from Berndnaut Smilde
We were contemplating this today.
As human beings so much of what we do is driven by a felt sense, gut, emotion. We combine this with cognitive thinking; adding reason, logic, judgement. Together these ‘brains’ afford us sense making, a motivation, value, direction.
Organisations are good at the cognitive often. The logical behind the vision, the strategy, the goals, the measurement, the success. By and large, organisations try to connect with employees cognitively. They are often not so good at connecting with the individual’s emotions. They talk about engagement or about hearts and minds, but attempt to influence, inspire and manage these cognitively with data, plans, employee surveys, roll-outs.
And what of the organisation itself? Does it have a system brain over and above the collective brains of the component people? And does it have its own emotions?
Systemic Constellations theory might suggest it does. The system behaves according to its own needs, maintaining the integrity and balance of the system itself. So, if that’s true and if it’s working well, is the system pleased, happy, excited? If the system is struggling to maintain itself, does it get upset, annoyed, disillusioned?
If organisations do have feelings, how do we engage with those and what are the implications for the workplace?
Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler.
Feelings are so hard to explain aren’t they?
We have these sensations that arise inside our bodies, that move, that have direction, have intensity. They’re hard to interpret, yet hard to ignore. We give them labels, because that allows us to communicate, but really the label does not do justice to the complexity and depth of the feeling, or its meaning and significance to us. We cannot rationalise them, talk them away, hold a conversation with them, like we can our thoughts. Yet our feelings are somehow more pure, more real, more now.
I watched Jesus Christ Superstar at Regents Park Open Air Theatre last night. We were lucky to be in the front row, where the lead actor sang solos right in front of us. His face maybe six feet from my face.
Pain, anger, terror all etched on a blood stained face. Every emotion every torment, every hope of his character leaking from his teary eyes. Every anguish, every struggle, every fear trembling in his voice. His sinewy body straining in desperation, twisted in unrequited love, taut with vulnerability.
It left me wondering “Are those who perform in musical theatre the most human of us all?”
He appeared normal. He spoke and behaved just like anyone else. The fact that he had no heart was very well concealed. Well, that’s not entirely true. He did have one. It was just not in his possession at the moment. And this is where the story gets complicated. The woman who had the darn thing was blithely unaware of the fact. Well, that’s not entirely true either. She knew that she’d left the relationship with more stuff than she’d entered it, she just hadn’t done a proper inventory. Regardless, his dilemma remained the same. A woman had absconded with a vital organ and the gnawing emptiness he felt was a direct reflection of that vacancy…
Chuck Lorre – Big Bang Theory
The point here is that our organs misbehave, or go awol. Sometimes our breath is caught, sometimes our stomach flips, sometimes our throat temporarily holds a lump which will neither be swallowed, nor be ejected. Sometimes our heart flutters like the wings of a gently rising butterfly. Sometimes our mouth appears to have lost all ability to contain moisture, a vital lubrication which seems, sometimes, to have inappropriately descended into the palms of our overly damp hands. Sometimes our eyes leak and we cannot stem the flow, however hard we try. Sometimes our gut aches, like an ever tightening knot, dipped in an acidic solution. Sometimes our jaw aches as if the laughter will never end and we are in its grip forever.
Bodies, organs, chemicals, breath, feelings, emotions … being.
Have you ever been driving somewhere and needed to get there on time, or you’re simply in a hurry, keen to arrive?
Ahead of you on the motorway, vehicles slow. Hazard lights are pulsed to warn you of rapid deceleration. Stretching into the distance is a long line of red dots; blinking illuminations signalling stationary or slowing modes of supposed transport. A queue.
How do you respond? Maybe your mind turns to being late? Maybe to the impact of that? Maybe you feel frustrated? Maybe annoyed? Maybe you sense a loss of control, your destiny in the hands of circumstance? Maybe that creates anger? Maybe your thoughts turn to those you are driving to? Maybe you worry? Maybe you begin switching lanes in an attempt to get some advantage over your fellow car crawlers, telling yourself you are winning and outsmarting those around you? Thereby generating a somewhat false sense of progress and movement. Maybe that makes you feel good?
Once your thoughts lead to a state change. Once the thoughts and feelings are connected in dubious harmony, you have set your intent. You will be anxious. You will be frustrated. You will be angry. Whether you want to or not, it will happen. It won’t get you what you want of course. It won’t move you forward. And not just literally.
If instead you were able to think about enjoying the scenery, or listening to some stirring music, or calling a friend to catch up. If you were able to set a positive, productive, happy intent. Leading to a positive, productive, enjoyable state. How would that queue be different?
Our thinking creates our state. Our state determines our thinking.
Setting your intent, for how you want it to be, can make it so. On the motorway and elsewhere.
Today I co-facilitated a learning session with 50 people. As facilitators, we both set our intent to learn everyone’s name … and we did.
The act of setting intent, directs our attention to where we want it. We have choice, rather than simply being at the beck and call of our thoughts and feelings. We are driving ourselves, rather than being driven. Intentionally.
There was a sombre mood around yesterday. Whatever your perspective, whatever your vote, it seemed to me the nation was reflective. A realisation dawning. Not so much of the implications, because those are still unclear. Instead, a realisation that something significant has happened. Something historic. Some were sad, some shocked, some pleased, but many seemed quiet, reflective.
And so it should be. Reflection is an important human activity. It’s the process by which we recreate our experience and mull it over. We exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about our fundamental human nature, purpose and essence. We explore our emotions, our thinking, our actions, our options… and from this reflection of our experience comes deep fundamental learning. Wisdom and awareness.
Taking time to reflect is important. The learning crucial. The time to be with and assimilate our thoughts and feelings vital. The Ancient Greeks, like many wise ancient civilisations, valued reflection as a form of contemplation by which our personal truth could be found.
It disappoints me that some seek to act immediately. Seemingly unable to internalise and reflect, instead they hit out, they strike forward, they speak out their emotions and thoughts in an antagonistic, blaming manner. They rush to take sides, to point fingers, to exert power, to make claims, to advise, to draw attention to themselves.
Maybe if some of our politicians, media and activists were able to reflect, to pause, to be still, they might find their own truth, rather than live a life constrained by rhetoric, by sides, by division, by debate, by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, by blame.
Let’s pause people.
When we think, we can tangibly understand and relate to our thoughts. They have a language. Our language. It’s like a conversation. We can hear or see our thoughts. We can reason with them. Disagree with them.
When we think, we can tangibly produce outputs. Pros and cons. Information and data. Benefits and implications. Decisions. Choices.
But when our gut feel is in use, it can be harder to understand and relate to. Often we don’t know what the feeling means. There is no language. In fact we often struggle to find a language for the feeling, let alone interpret its intent for us.
So what does that mean for a decision based largely or completely on gut feel?
The flipism normative decision theory suggests making a decision based on a coin toss. Not a decision based on the toss itself, but on the feeling associated with the outcome. The theory being, if your gut really wanted the ‘heads’ outcome, you will feel positive if that’s the result and disappointed if the toss comes down ‘tails’.
But how do we know a positive feeling from a disappointed one? And what if our feeling on the outcome isn’t ‘disappointed’, but is ‘sad’, or ‘let down’ or ‘futility’ or ‘shame’… How do we interpret a sensation in our body and know precisely what it means? If the outcome our gut seeks is ‘satisfied’, do we know if the feeling is that? What if it’s ‘kind’ or ‘justified’ or ‘rewarded’ or ‘acknowledged’…?
Yet we make gut feel decisions daily. Often these are among our best decisions. The ones we accept readily without a desire to revisit, unlike some of our thinking decisions.
It seems building our language in this area might be useful? Building a way to communicate with our own bodies, helpful?
Just seen a stretch limousine followed by a Smart car.
Amusing somehow; big and small.
But, as Harry Hill might say, “Which is better?”
Some things, it seems, we have a desire to go large on. Generally we aspire to own a bigger house or attain a larger salary. Indeed some things seem only to come in one desirable size. More leg room on a plane for example – I’ve never heard anyone seek less. Nor do you hear of people praising a smaller heart; having a big heart is a positive thing.
Some things though come with an aspiration for smaller. For little. Many aspire to a smaller waist and maybe a smaller appetite. It’s rare to hear someone say I really want an extra few inches around my middle. I’ve never wanted a bigger spot on my chin. A smaller inbox might be desirable; more emails anyone? And, as if in counterbalance to the heart, a big ego is often deemed a negative thing. A smaller ego might be seen as preferable.
Sometimes our size preference shifts. Occasionally we downsize, go smaller. Maybe retire to a little house with less maintenance? Or a smaller job, with less pressure?
We all used to aspire to a smaller phone, now it seems we seek a larger one.
Bigger or smaller seems to apply to much stuff in our lives but not so much to our lives themselves.
Do you aspire to a bigger life, to smaller thoughts, to bigger feelings?
Why not? Why don’t we assess these things in similar size ways?
Now that could be smart.