Healing: agency, accountability and action

 

Two weeks ago I wrote about how the US election had galvanized me to think about the power of acceptance, openness and curiosity in the process of healing. This week I want to continue that discussion because I believe that this power is only available to us with three additional components: agency, accountability and action.

Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance involves seeing reality as it is, starting where we actually are, not where we would like to be. To accept reality does not require us to assent or accede to the rightness of being in that place. In other words, acceptance requires recognizing and claiming agency. Resignation is the abdication of our agency. It looks at the world from a stance of fear and paralysis. Acceptance, on the other hand, operates from a stance of hope and creativity; it tells others that we are ready to investigate where our values can help us alter our reality for the better.

Openness is not “anything goes.” When we are open, we seek to understand what might be driving people’s behavior, rather than dismissing them out of hand as crazy, stupid or incompetent. This is not the easy stance of rubber-stamping all points of view or all types of behavior, however. Instead, openness is accompanied by accountability. We hold ourselves and others to the standard that words and actions have consequences. Nor, moreover, does being open mean we take the pressure off those acting in ways that cause pain or harm or violate the principles and ethics we believe govern a fair and just society.

Curiosity is not passive voyeurism. To be curious means to fight apathy, boredom and indifference. Curiosity is more than that the blind consumption of whatever information is offered to us. It is the active search for truth and ability to face that truth honestly. Being curious obliges us to examine our beliefs and assumptions and seek data sources with regard to their accuracy, authority, timeliness, objectivity and completeness, as opposed to whether they support our personal position or the received wisdom. Curiosity also means that when we take action based on the best available data, we reflect on the outcomes we get and adjust our actions accordingly to improve performance the next time.

Acceptance, openness and curiosity involve work. Let’s do that work together and find out where agency, accountability and action, and our diverse approaches to healing, can take us.


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Healing: agency, accountability and action

Getting down to the work of healing

“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past…I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

Donald J. Trump, 9. Nov, 2016

Back in January I began The Diversity Dividend with a piece about three qualities, openness, curiosity and appreciation, and how the cultivation of these qualities could lead to leveraging the best that is in all of us. In the job of healing our country after a divisive election, I believe that these qualities must come to the fore.

When you are open, you can make connections. When you exhibit curiosity, your connections are deepened as you move toward a better understanding of what it is to walk in this other person’s shoes. When you show appreciation, you let the other person know that they have been seen, heard and valued.

Let’s, therefore, not underestimate the possibility for positive change going forward and accept the opportunity President-Elect Trump has afforded by offering our guidance and help. As people who work to help foster diversity and inclusion:

  • We are no strangers to difficult conversations
  • We wield tools that can help to steer conflict in productive directions
  • We embrace “both/and” thinking, can sit with ambiguity and endeavor to see the glass as half full
  • We celebrate growth and seek to validate multiple routes to personal development
  • We recognize that awareness that there is a problem is a crucial first step to making progress in unraveling that problem

From where I sit, our work is now more rather than less important. Let’s demonstrate the power of openness, curiosity and appreciation and seize this moment to lay the groundwork for an abundance mentality.


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Getting down to the work of healing

Der Pulsschlag unserer Natur

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Im Herbst fällt das Laub von den Bäumen und übersät die Gehwege. Wenn wir über das Laub spazieren gehen, bringen wir das zum Rascheln. Wenn wir dieses Rascheln gut zuhören würden, würden wir die Botschaft begreifen, dass jetzt die Zeit ist, loszulassen. Genauso wie die Bäume, müssen wir bereitstehen unsere Aussicht und Aussehen umzutauschen.

Obwohl wir oftmals verbinden Wachstum mit Entwicklung, Entwicklung hat auch eine Beziehung mit Loslassen, weil «entwickeln» etwas mit entfernen zu tun hat. Laut dwds.de hat die Vorsilbe «ent» Bedeutungen wie „rückgängig gemacht“, „weggehen“, „wegnehmen“ und „herauslagen“. Es erfordert zwar viel Mut, seelische Belastungen loszulassen, aber wenn wir nicht so viele negative Sachen tragen, haben wir die Kraft und die Energie uns zu bemühen. Dann könnten wir uns, wie die Blätter, bunt verfärben, um unsere Vielfalt besser auszudrücken. Wie Laub, haben wir immer unendliche Varianten drin, egal ob wir die erkennen, bestätigen, befreunden oder ausrufen.

Die Steigerung der Finsternis kommt noch im Herbst dazu. Aber wir müssen nicht gegen die Finsternis kämpfen, sondern begrüßen. Sie schenkt uns die Zeit, ein neues Lebensmodell herauszubringen. Absichtlich und nachdenklich bereiten wir den Weg für etwas Neues. Was uns nicht mehr passt, was uns Sorge macht, was uns nicht mehr gefällt, was uns nicht mehr guttut: Einfach loslassen. Und auch weg mit den Vorurteilen, Vermutungen und Missgunst. Aus der Asche dieses Loslassens wird einen Schimmer in der tiefsten Dunkelheit erzeugen. Es fängt mit einem kleinen Schritt an – hör zu dem Pulsschlag unserer Natur.


Inspiriert von Im Herbst – Heinrich Seidel und Herbsttag von Rainer Maria Rilke
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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Der Pulsschlag unserer Natur

Diversity work with savoir-faire

I’ve been preparing for an upcoming trip to Paris by listening to the Michel Thomas’ Speak French for Beginners course. In one of the recordings, Thomas points out that the words voir, avoir and savoir are built up by adding one new letter to the head of the word, first an “a” and then an “s.” This relationship between the French words for “to see,” “to have” and “to know” prompted these reflections on the sorts of activities needed to build up support for diversity and inclusion.

voir – to see
Diversity and inclusion starts with awareness.
The word voir reminds us that we need to see that there is an issue around being inclusive and honoring diversity. In addition, we need to see not only the diversity around us, but also the diversity within us — we are all part of an interlocking set of groups/identities and at the same time a unique culture of one.

avoir – to have
Diversity and inclusion requires resolve.
The word avoir reminds us that we need to have the courage and strength in order improve our homes, our workplaces and our play spaces. Having passion for and commitment around diversity and inclusion makes our efforts sustainable because they become something internally driven rather than externally imposed.

savoir – to know
Diversity and inclusion necessitates know-how and its practical application.
The word savoir reminds us that we need to know how to put our ideals and aspirations into action and those around us need to know that we hold ourselves accountable for the results of these efforts. For diversity and inclusion work to be effective, we need also need to know if what we are doing is working through evaluation and feedback.

Diversity and inclusion demands SAVvy – to see, to have and to know. When we work to be savvy about diversity and inclusion, we SAVe-nergy, energy that can be put toward better performance. SAVvy D&I practitioners aren’t smug, but they do remember to SAV-o(u)r their successes.


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Diversity work with savoir-faire

Getting emotionally fit — A workout for the soul

I turn once again to the work of Miriam Greenspan for inspiration for this week’s post.

“Befriending emotional energy is about focusing our attention on these sensations and reactions nonjudgmentally, allowing the body to feel what it feels, and the mind to think what it thinks, | while maintaining a witness consciousness—a mindful awareness of the stream of sensations and thoughts as they pass through our bodies.”
p. 77-78

If, as I discussed in The dark emotions: Food for the soul, you can let go of shame, doubt, analysis and condemnation, and listen attentively and non-judgmentally, the body can be a source of wisdom. Following Greenspan’s suggestion, try to be present to your experiences and the environment in which they are taking place. Whenever possible, replace negative interpretations and labels with neutral or even positive ones to increase the chances of deriving a more hopeful understanding of your feelings, sensations and thoughts. For example, when your gut is churning, your fists are clenched or you feel like you might faint, stop and try these reframes:

  • If treated the churning in my gut as though it were a good friend emboldening me to take the significant first step in a new direction, what could I learn?
  • If I imagined my clenched fists as though they were strong companions encouraging me speak my own truth, what could I learn?
  • If I listened to my spinning head and weakened knees as though they were calm advisors protecting me with their consoling words, what could I learn?

When you concern yourself with whatever is going on in your mind, your body and your immediate environment, you can hear the spirit speak. The trick is to determine what these broadcasts are saying: Are they warning you of danger, stiffening your resolve, empowering you to act, prompting you to defend your decisions, alerting you to a violation of your values? This sort of soul listening is hard work. The channel can be filled with static and the message can appear garbled.

“In the realm of physical exercise, most of us believe ‘no pain no gain,’ but when it comes to emotional exercise, we want the quickie route to emotional fitness. The fact is, as with the body, so with the emotions: no pain, no gain. You can’t be emotionally flabby and expect to come to a place of emotional transformation and spiritual power.”
p. 77

As with any exercise — be it in the gym or the classroom — the more you do it, the more skilled you become. This is not repetition solely for the sake of it, however. The key here is to exercise the emotional muscles with an open heart and without attachment. The goal is to achieve the “witness consciousness” that Greenspan describes. When you are prepared simply to listen to these dispatches from the soul, you can begin to integrate the wisdom of both your personal and the collective psyche. This is the self-awareness and self-appreciation advantage.


Miriam Greenspan. (2003). Healing through the dark emotions. The wisdom of grief, fear, and despair. Boston: Shambala.

 

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Getting emotionally fit — A workout for the soul

Driving better decision making

Faced with difficult situations in our lives, especially those where we need to change course quickly, we can let ourselves fall into a reactive mode where we bypass the stage of trying to understand our situation and instead jump directly to action. When we rush to do something —wait, perhaps make that when we rush to do anything— rather than spending time thinking about what to do and how best to do it, we may end up solving the wrong problem, failing to anticipate the resistance we may meet or the hurdles we may face in implementation.

One concrete sort of occasion where we need to change course quickly is braking to avoid a hazard while driving. The graphic above shows the number of meters it takes for drivers to bring their vehicles to a halt at different driving speeds. What makes this graphic interesting in the context of decision making and behavior change is that it divides stopping distance into two activities: the number of meters needed to react and the number needed to brake. That is to say, coming to a stop requires a certain amount of thinking time and a certain amount of time to act upon that thinking

Drawing a parallel between the impact of speed on stopping time and the influence of an outcome’s significance on the decision making process, just as a more time is needed to stop at higher speeds, the more difficult and important a decision is, the more time we need both to get ready to decide and to put this solution into action.

But how should we use this additional thinking time? Russo and Shoemaker (with Hittleman, 2002) suggest using at least part of it to “decide how to decide.” They asked managers about how they spent their time during decision making and concluded that thinking time was not typically considered a key part of the process. However, when introduced to a model which explicitly called out framing and learning from experience — that is, thinking time before and after the stages of intelligence gathering and coming to conclusions — the participants in their study said they would alter their approach to decision making in order to allocate more thinking time.

“Expert decision-makers…know that they must devote a portion of their time to making choices about the decision process itself—choices that are likely to determine the character of the entire effort—before plunging into Stage 1. In this preliminary stage, you will need to evaluate the nature of the decision, decide what it is that you need to decide, identify which stages of the decision process will be most critical, evaluate how much time to devote to each stage, and devise a plan for managing the decision, getting help, and so on…we call this preliminary assessment the ‘metadecision.’”
p. 9, Russo and Shoemaker, with Hittleman (2002)

And yet all too often, even when we do engage in a meta-decision making, we make a crucial misjudgment by imagining that stopping requires less effort than starting. When we are talking about things that we need to stop doing, we need to recognize that this will also involve thinking time, time to plan the most effective way to wean ourselves off these unproductive habits. We will likely also benefit by examining our past efforts at behavior change to learn from what worked well and where we were less successful (see The ironic truth about shedding bad habits for one possible reason our outcomes might be counter to our intentions).

Moreover, as I discussed in Unbundling the habits hindering us, we need to make an honest appraisal of the behaviors we have defined as “bad” in order to see them in a more nuanced fashion. If we continue to behave in a particular way, it is very likely that there is more than laziness or lack of awareness maintaining this behavior. When invest thinking time to get clear about what is keeping us stuck or what value we get from our current behaviors, we will find that the “breaking/braking distance” for our ineffective habits becomes that much shorter.


Russo, J. E., Shoemaker, P. J. H., with Hittleman, M. (2002). Winning decisions: Getting it right the first time. New York: Currency/Doubleday.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

Driving better decision making

The dark emotions: Food for the soul

For this latest post inspired by Miriam Greenspan’s Healing Through the Dark Emotions, I’d like to talk about what she refers to as “affect tolerance” or our ability to feel our dark emotions, to experience them fully, and wherever possible, without judgment.

“To befriend the dark emotions, your intention must be to get close to what you want to run away from. You need to take your time and give yourself permission to let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling without shame, doubt, analysis, or condemnation.”
p. 77

How do we engage with the energy of the dark emotions long enough to learn and grow from the experience? As Greenspan suggests, when it comes to the dark emotions (and perhaps emotional energy more generally), we need to release our shame and our doubt, our need to analyze, and our tendency to condemnation.

Shame. As Brené Brown has highlighted we all battle shame in the effort to see ourselves as “[worthy] of love and belonging” (Supersoul Sunday – Shame is Lethal). To be mature, we are told, is to be free of certain emotions. We are socialized to present a façade which conceals our discomfort or pain when fear, despair and grief strike, not solely because the expression of these emotions could make other people uncomfortable, but also because of our should’s— we shouldn’t feel this way, we shouldn’t react this way, we shouldn’t express ourselves this way, if we want to be seen as a proper grown up people. These should’s keep us stuck in a sense that we are “never enough” (Supersoul Sunday – Shame is Lethal); and, until we let them go, we will find it difficult to absorb the lessons of the dark emotions.

Doubt. When we doubt, we deny the truth of our emotions. We call into question the their very existence. We get caught up in thinking that we are losing our sanity because no one else seems to feel despair, fear or grief. If we believe that we are alone in experiencing these feelings, we may come to question both the validity of our emotions and our right to feel them. Operating from this place of skepticism and distrust, these feelings will appear unreasonable or suspicious. Unless we can adopt a more open perspective that affirms the legitimacy of these feelings, we will struggle to benefit from the transformative power of our dark emotions.

Analysis. When we turn to analysis, we seek to hold back the rawness and the pain of the dark emotions by boxing them up neatly. Instead of despair, fear and grief, we have a problem that can be solved or a list of actions to be taken. Instead of feelings, we focus on facts. We examine the current situation, the wrongs from our past or our concerns about the future, neglecting the emotional and spiritual realm in favor the intellectual one. Yet without an emotional appraisal, we cannot be truly engaged and any solution we do find is likely to be lifeless and uninspiring.

Condemnation. We are brought up to see some emotions as dishonorable, disgusting or even wicked. With these labels comes the sense that we are these emotions incarnate, and, because they are bad, so are we. When we move from saying “I am afraid right now” to “I am a pathetic coward” or from “I am overwhelmed by despair right now” to “I am a pitiful loser,” we condemn ourselves to an understanding of self that is inflexible and limited (a fixed mindset in Carol Dweck’s terms). This mindset blocks our growing and changing through these experiences. Until we can recognize the invitation in our dark emotions— to do something different, to ask for help, to fail better the next time, to develop a richer model of who we are—we will wrestle with them fruitlessly. But when we take a welcoming and appreciative approach and sit with them patiently, full of wonder and curiosity, the dark emotions cease to make us feel as if we are destined to live in hell and instead can reveal a route to the divine.

In truth, we need to recognize that emotions simply are. To accept this idea, it may be helpful to think of them in terms of a physical process like digestion: You take something in and this sets off a cascade of processes where some of what you take in nourishes you and some must be released as waste. Everything deserves to be “chewed on,” however, because the more you can focus on maximizing the value you extract, the stronger you grow.

 


Miriam Greenspan. (2003). Healing through the dark emotions. The wisdom of grief, fear, and despair. Boston: Shambala.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The dark emotions: Food for the soul