facing ourselves is the hardest direction to look

not looking at ourselves
It seems like we stand in the centre of the world.  In the centre of our world.

From this place we can observe all. See sights. See situations. See people. Be drawn towards. Turn away. Fit.

From our vantage point, with our map of the world as the world should be, we can assess everything, place a value on it, judge it. We can rank things, place them in hierarchies of choice, want, need. We can compare this external vista of things, people and their actions with our perception of right and wrong, good and bad.

And we do…

We critique the behaviour, choices, necessities of others. We glance at the unsightly homeless person from the corner of our eye, thereby maintaining a dignified separation. We wince at the teenager’s language and lack of respect in the street, like we skipped that life stage. We place the drunk man in a story, a story of our own creation, so that we can explain his ‘condition’. We assess the parents and their actions towards their screaming toddler, like frustration, tiredness, learning are all experiences we have never had or at least have always handled better. We gossip about the neighbour and the affair we think they’re having, so that we can stay in the ‘moral’ club through our action of placing them in the ‘immoral’ one. We whisper with colleagues about the boss who seems oblivious to the impact of their actions, because there is safety in collusion. We mutter about the Sunday driver who meanders when we’re in a hurry to be somewhere, like they have no intent or purpose.

That person is good, this one less so. We’re OK, because they’re not. How can he do that? Why is she so…? Why don’t they…? I wouldn’t do that. Who wears that? Does she know what she looks like? Really … pink? Why doesn’t he wash his hair? Another holiday!? Why can’t she just say? He’s a waster. She doesn’t realise what she’s doing to him. Amazing, awful, not good enough, disgraceful, shameful, good heavens…

We all do it, every day.  It comes easy. Too easy.

Maybe because in our map of the world, our view of right and wrong, of good and bad, we can be exonerated? We are innocent. Never guilty. We are successful. Never a failure. We are ethically and morally just. Never wicked.

But maybe facing ourselves is merely the hardest direction to look?


what does the map say?

constellation map
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.