Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

It’s Memorial Day in the US and people all over the country will be honoring our veterans. It’s also the start of a new PBS series; tonight is the premiere of TED Talks: War and Peace. One of the people featured in the series is Sebastian Junger, whose new book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging was released last week, and who has a distinctive take on veterans’ issues and PTSD that I want to explore for what it says to those of us working as change agents.

“[M]aybe what determines the rate of long-term PTSD isn’t what happened out there, but the kind of society you come back to….In other words, maybe the problem isn’t them, the vets, maybe the problem is us.”

Out there, the mission is clear. Out there, cooperation is vital. Out there, structures are designed to support everyone. Out there, what you are doing is meaningful. Out there, you can make a difference.

Out there, there is a heightened sense of justice, a heightened sense of responsibility and a heightened sense of urgency.

And then you come “home.” The way forward is muddled. There is gridlock in government. There are political candidates promulgating hate. There is senseless violence. And at the same time, injustice, sidestepping of responsibility and apathy seem to be the order of the day.

“We’ve gotten used to it. Veterans have gone away and are coming back and seeing their own country with fresh eyes and they see what’s going on. This is the country they fought for. No wonder they’re depressed. No wonder they’re scared.

Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we can save the vets. I think the real question is if we can save ourselves.”

The times are scary. And depressing. Especially when what we are talking about is finding the will to save ourselves. I remain hopeful nonetheless. I see solutions evolving as we grapple with issues about who we are and what is important to us. I see energy being invested in learning how we can create a society, a culture, workplaces and home-spaces based around belonging and connection, rather than alienation and fear. I want to believe in a country rooted in respect for the individual and for the struggles of returning vets and all others facing exclusion, shame or isolation. Let’s use our talents to build a more inclusive community that can take those struggles, and through honest evaluation of our ills, make the case for greater justice and greater responsibility with all the urgency such concerns are due.

All quotations taken from: https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_junger_our_lonely_society_makes_it_hard_to_come_home_from_war/transcript?language=en


Along with my sister, Elizabeth Hirsh, I will be working on be developing a new platform from which to distribute our material on viewing life changing events through the lens of psychological type (material formerly available through CPP, Inc. as Introduction to Type® and Reintegration). We are endeavoring to make the material more helpful, accessible and user friendly, in order to better reach anyone, including members of the US Armed Services, who could benefit from a framework for managing the transition “home to oneself” following a life changing event.

To learn more about our approach, please get in touch: info@hirshworks.com

 

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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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Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

Identity is dynamic – what matters is what matters to us

Who am I? At first blush identity seems straightforward. There is some set of characteristics, both inherent and learned, both chosen and given, which defines my identity. Identity seems to come from within. To understand identity, however, we also need to look out, to the environment.

When I lived in Alabama, I was a Northerner. Now that I live in Germany, I am an English speaker. Previous to living in these two contexts, these aspects of my identity were not particularly salient because it was normative to be a Northerner or an English speaker. Moving to these new environments prompted me to reconsider my identity.

Mariann Märtsin has put forward the notion that when we undergo a life transition such as moving to a new place, we are driven to make sense of it and this includes adapting our sense of self to incorporate our new relationship to those around us. To understand identity, then, we need to appreciate that although it feels constant – I am me, I was me and I will continue to be me – identity is something we are creating and recreating all the time. Aspects of ourselves may always have been with us, like my Northern-ness, and yet it can sometimes take something outside of us to trigger our awareness of them.

That identity is constructed and that such efforts at construction take place as the result of life events, should influence how we do our diversity and inclusion work. For example, in my case, this has involved an awakening to my privilege in the US as a Northerner and in the world as a native speaker of English. As such my advocacy can seem suspect, inauthentic, patronizing or self-serving. My presence alone can stimulate feelings of being one down. I need to be conscious of how who I am can stand in the way of my being a catalyst for people forming more empowering personal narratives and claiming the full richness of their identities. This mindfulness around identity being constructed and relational is the diversity dividend.

 

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

Identity is dynamic – what matters is what matters to us

Unbundling the habits hindering us

I want to use my final post featuring ideas from Tal Ben-Shahar’s book The Pursuit of Perfect to explore how an open, curiosity-driven and appreciative approach can be applied to understanding our resistance to change. As Ben-Shahar focuses on perfectionism, I will use it as an example, however I believe that the method he has suggested is much more widely applicable.

“Once I define those areas where I want to change and those where I do not, I am likely to be less conflicted and consequently more ready to change.” p. 171

Like many of our characteristics, perfectionism both helps and hinders us. If we fail to investigate its helpful aspects, we may miss valuable information about what makes us effective, and, at the same time, create larger barriers to changing those aspects of perfectionism that hinder our ability to perform at our best.

“Why was it so difficult for me to change my perfectionism, even though I knew that it was making me unhappy? Because although I saw perfectionism as problematic, I also associated it with being meticulous and driven. And because I didn’t want to be sloppy and lazy, I chose—or my subconscious chose for me—to remain a Perfectionist, despite the price I knew I was paying. To be able to change, we need a nuanced understanding of what exactly it is that we want to get rid of and what we want to keep.” p. 171

To find the energy and courage to change, we must remain open to the possibility that all of our characteristics offer something of value. We need to undertake to embrace rather than demonize those imperfect or unloved parts of ourselves. To sustain change, we need to work with rather than against our natures in the effort to create new ways of being. How might we achieve this? Ben-Shahar suggests using the process of unbundling, and offers a series of questions designed to help us implement this process (he credits Dina Nir with the basic form of these questions). Here are his questions (p. 171), using perfectionism as the example:

What does perfectionism mean to me?

What do I gain from being a Perfectionist?

What aspects of perfectionism am I proud of?

What price do I pay for being a Perfectionist?

What price do others pay for my perfectionism?

Which aspects of perfectionism do I want to keep?

Which elements of perfectionism do I want to get rid of?

By unbundling, we move from a fearful, all-or-none view of perfectionism to one that is more balanced. Getting curious about what perfectionism offers that is good and striving to appreciate its beneficial aspects can allow us to reframe these positive qualities in ways that unhook us from the other elements of perfectionism that diminish and derail us.

 


Tal Ben-Shahar. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. New York: McGraw Hill. Or the 2010 paperback Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life.

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

Unbundling the habits hindering us

Inclusive leadership starts with self-leadership

In my very first post on The Diversity Dividend, I talked about how critical it is to be aware that diversity is personal, to understand that it is about each of us and who we are, as well as being about others. What I didn’t talk about there was that how we act on this knowledge is also vital. For just as we can recognize the diversity within our families, teams and classrooms without taking steps to build an inclusive environment that allows everyone present to thrive, we can also see diversity in ourselves without embracing or validating it.

In part this is because awareness is often nothing more than registering that something is present. This noticing can be relatively free from judgment. For example, compare “I smell something” — awareness — with “Mmm, what is that delicious aroma?” or “Eew, what stinks?” — evaluation. Similarly, when we become aware of multiple aspects of our identities, we likely also decide which identities make us proud, “Mmm,” and which we are more likely be reticent about sharing with others, “Eew.” Therefore, although we most often talk about diversity awareness in terms of its positive impact, noticing some characteristic or feature about ourselves (or others) does not commit us to affirming or celebrating it or to contemplating how we can leverage it to produce more effective performance. To get there, we need to think in terms of inclusion.

So imagine the self as a meeting. The various parts of you show up and the meeting is therefore quite diverse. But is it inclusive? Only if the environment is one where the barriers to contributing are low, encouragement to participate is high and this holds across the board. Further, the meeting of the self needs to be structured such that different approaches are valued rather than stigmatized. In addition, these approaches are supported not to be nice or as a form of tokenism, but rather because they have qualities that all the meeting’s attendees deem valid.

Both diversity and inclusion need to get personal. We need to acknowledge our multi-faceted identities, the “Mmm’s” and the “Eew’s,” the gifts and the challenges. If we find new information threatening, we can endeavor to stay open, curious and appreciative, rather than trying to suppress or reject the knowledge of our personal diversities. We can treat ourselves with compassion, celebrating positive steps and progress made, rather than giving into the pressures of comparison and conformity. Having established an inclusive atmosphere in our internal worlds, this self-leadership skillset can be transferred to understanding and honoring others in our external world. This is the diversity dividend.

 

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

Inclusive leadership starts with self-leadership