6th Principle - ENCOUNTER
“A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at me with mine.”
Jacob Levy Moreno, founder of Psychodrama
Human evolution was forged by relationships. For millions of years, our ancestors were raised in community life, bonding and interacting with their peers. From birth, our brains and nervous system are wired to engage in social connection because, as newborns, we are unfit to survive without the nurture of another being.
From a psychological perspective, to leave our mother’s womb is like coming from a primordial state of chaos and non-separateness. Within the first years of childhood, we go through a process of separation, leading us to higher levels of self-awareness which lead to individuation. Paradoxically, there would be no ME without YOU. Self and other are two inseparable phenomenon, co-creating their individuated inner and outer realities.
During the individuation process, there is a developmental stage where the child experiences a healthy narcissistic state, where self-affirmation determines most of his/her behavior.
In a child with a “normal” development, this stage will be integrated and, eventually, give rise to a more empathic and altruistic behavior. The child realizes there are limits to his/her pleasure seeking impulses and accepts that other people’s needs must be taken into account. From this balanced interplay between the Pleasure and the Reality Principles, children grow into mature, empathic and resilient adults.
However, as we look at the history of humankind and witness all the suffering, violence, warfare and abuse taking place on a collective and individual level, we must question from what place are we connecting and relating with the world. How we relate with other human beings, other animals and the planet itself.
On a collective level, our relationship with the world is often based on power, violence and abuse. This violence varies from extremely raw forms of expression to subtle energetic abuse. When doing so, we objectify our relationships with other human beings, animals and Nature in order to satisfy personal momentary needs. This immature, narcissistic behavior, coined by the philosopher Martin Buber as an I-It relationship, causes separation and pain.
All spiritual traditions bring a message of non-duality, a reality imperceptible to the mind and accessible only from the heart, where we merge in unity with God, the Universal Consciousness or however we would like to call it. These transcendent experiences are not limited to spiritual practices. In many different situations, we jump into a state of flow where the limits of our physical body fade away, giving us an experience of being merged with the world around us. You may have felt it when playing a music instrument, walking in nature, playing sports or holding your newborn baby for the first time. Whatever the catalyst, one factor is common: the inner state from which we connect and relate with the world.
An Encounter, I-Thou, me and you, Self and Other forms of relating, brings us to the present moment. Time ceases to exist and the space of interaction becomes sacred. In this place, our being shows itself in all its potential, becoming authentic because its originality and uniqueness shines through. We resonate with the other as he or she does with us, both giving in to a deeper listening and allowing a fine tuning to take place. The quality manifested in such Encounters unfolds the potential of healing and allows creativity to flow freely.
In such moments, we become leaders of our own life, empowering ourselves to freely express our life energy and allowing it to be seen by the world. By embracing our vulnerability, we connect with our biggest strength and our heart becomes the door from which we perceive and step in to the world.
5th Principle - AUTHENTICITY
Throughout life, we play many roles. As newborns, we soon start to detach from a symbiotic relationship with our mother or primary caretaker and develop a sense of self. By then, with no or little conscious of it, we play the role of son/daughter, brother/sister and the role of the child. As we develop into adulthood, these roles multiply and vary in terms of responsibility and demands. We assume the role of man/woman, father/mother, husband/wife, friend and the professional.
We have adaptive skills that enable us to adjust and mold our appearance, posture and style of communication according to the context. We show certain aspects of ourselves when we are playing with our children and other aspects when we are in a business meeting, for example. The ability to do so is a sign of a healthy adjustment to the different environments and contributes to build and expand our personality.
However, these roles might turn against ourselves. When we over-identify with a certain role, it becomes a mask and it cuts us from our essence.
We’ve all gone through the process of needing or wanting to become someone or something which we are not. In different extent, each of us has experienced the feeling of not being enough, the need for approval of others and the adaptation of our behavior to match a certain idealized self-image. We already start this process at a very young age, adapting to our environment in the search of acceptance, nurture and love. In essence, we might end up betraying our essence for a sense of belonging.
Wether it’s a personal, a professional or a therapeutic setting, showing up in our masks or in our authenticity will determine how our relationships will unfold. Unfortunately, when we are too tied up to our personas and too fearful to showing up in our truth, the easiest way is to show up is our masks.
In 1961, the American psychotherapist Carl Rogers stated: “(…) personal change is facilitated when the psychotherapist is what he is, when in the relationship with his client he is genuine and without “front” or façade, openly being the feelings and attitudes which at that moment are flowing in him.”
Rogers realization of the importance of what he coined Congruence shook the foundations of Psychotherapy because the focus was - and mostly, still is - to arm therapists with theoretical knowledge and technical skills.
And this is the reality for most of our professional fields. What it creates is a reinforcement of the professional mask because it projects an image of the knowledgeable and skillful professional against a disempowered patient/client/listener. It leaves aside a fundamental aspect that can and should be stimulated and developed, which are our relational and communication skills.
It is challenging to apply the Principle of Authenticity in our professional and personal relationships because It requires a tremendous deal of self-work so that we might show up in our vulnerability. Authentic expression invites us to take risks, to accept mistakes as part of a learning process and to have the courage to stand up and admit the mistakes that we will make during the journey. However challenging it may be, to connect to our core qualities and expresses the essence of our being is what we will gain in return.
In our Authentic Leadership Model it is the conjugation of these five Principles: Sacred Space; Presence; Empathic Resonance, Deep Listening and Authenticity that will enable us to reach out and connect with others in such a way that the outcome will be an Encounter. In our next post, we will explore the meaning and true nature of the sixth and last Principle: Encounter.
Today we share with you the 4th Principle of the Authentic Leadership Model - DEEP LISTENING
The phenomenons of the world are perceived by our five senses, who mold and shape our experience, creating our impression of both worlds, the external and the internal.
Deep Listening is the ability to tune in to the information being processed in and around us at any given moment and bring it into awareness, thus creating our experience of self.
This process happens in two directions:
From the outside to the inside: we relate through sight, smell, touch, sound and taste with the world around us and thus colect information about our surroundings. In this interaction, we process information to understand how to react and behave. When the environment is safe, we relax and are able to socially engage. When the environment poses a threat, we either go into a Flight or Fright mode or we freeze. This autonomic responses are defense mechanisms that enabled our ancestors to survive in the wild and, still to this day, play an important role in peoples lives especially in those who suffered trauma, abuse or live in a highly stressful environment.
From the inside to the outside: when actively listening to our inner world, we can connect to a deeper layer of our being. Beyond the social and cultural conditionings that conform our actions, there are spontaneous impulses who constantly try to reach the surface and be expressed in the world.
Because of our fears of rejection, humiliation and shame, these impulses are often filtered to conform to social rules in such a way that, when finally expressed, they have lost their originality and authentic nature. They no longer are an expression of your unique being and have transformed to an adaptive response to the norm. Self-judgement is the filter and the blockage for our full self expression.
However, we’ve all experienced moments when we give space to these impulses. Whenever we express our creativity, when we follow our intuition and when we react in such a spontaneous way that we don’t have the chance to stop ourselves from expressing whatever is there to be expressed. We are not talking about acting out, recklessly and with no consideration for others. We are talking about making space for our being to express him/herself fully without fears and judgments.
When in a state of Presence (1st Principle), we start resonating empathically with the world around us and the people we relate with (2nd Principe). In this moment, we are able to listen and connect to our wisdom, intuition and inner guidance, thus giving space to our spontaneous and creative impulses to be expressed.
In our Authentic Leadership Model, we emphasize the importance to include in our professional practice what lays beyond the theoretical knowledge and our technical expertise. That is, the wisdom that sits deep within us and the ability to trust that our spontaneous response in a given situation will serve the relationship and support the other person’s process.
In this post, I share the 3rd Principle of the Authentic Leadership model - EMPATHIC RESONANCE
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
Little is left of Nikolas Tesla legacy to human kind. This quote, however, has become increasingly more meaningful as Astronomy, Physics and, particularly, Quantum Physics bring into light the hidden and still very much mysterious works of the sub-atomic particles that constitute our Universe. Physical reality, we now know, is composed by a constant energy flow, exchanged between particles vibrating at different frequencies.
Although the phenomenons observed at a quantum level are not perceivable by humans on a macro level, we can still easily realize how energy and vibration are fundamental principles working in and all around us.
One popular example is found in music. Sympathetic resonance or sympathetic vibration is a harmonic phenomenon where a vibratory body, such as a tuning-fork, responds to external vibrations of another tuning-fork to which it has a harmonic likeness.
In recent times, supported by discoveries in the Neurosciences field, the term Empathic Resonance has been brought into the forefront of the therapeutic relationship. The ability of the therapist to echo and feel into and together with his/her client is as important (if not more important) than the theoretical models and the technics employed during a therapeutic process. As obvious as this may sound for some, rarely we are trained to develop the ability to tune into ourselves and, from that place of emotional availability and vulnerability, connect with others.
To empathically resonate in the therapeutic process, first we need to be present to ourselves (the first Principle of our Authentic Leadership model). Bring into awareness how we feel and how our energy is flowing in our system. Then, we are able to connect with another human being, receiving his/her verbal and non-verbal communication as energy and information that will affect and influence our inner state. All emotions, feelings, physical reactions, images or memories that might surface in us are correlated to the relationship dynamic established in that moment and ALL of these responses are vital information enabling us to identify and experience what is being shared with us.
Empathic resonance is one of the most vital tools in interpersonal relationships and we need to trust it as valid information whether we receive and process it as positive or negative experiences within us. It is information that we can and should use when relating to the other person in the dyad because it will brings a deeper and more human understanding of the conflict, pain and chaos that they might be experiencing.
This innate ability to resonate with others is equally valid to any other context or form of relationship. In corporate trainings, we often find that this is the Principle that unblocks group dynamics heavily affected by conflicts because it brings in the human perspective and it opens us up to the vulnerability of others.
All human interactions create resonance or dissonance. Our inner state influences and is influenced by others whether we are conscious of it or not. Connecting with someone might be inspiring, filling us with creative energy or it might drain us and sink us into depletion. Simultaneously, our individual and collective actions resonate with our planet and the state of our planetary ecosystem resonates back into us.
This brings self-responsibility, especially in a moment where we face one of the most serious humanitarian crisis and ecological breakdown.
Second Principle of the Authentic Leadership Model - EMBODIED PRESENCE
Being present, fully present to oneself is like coming home. It feels like the smoothing of the ocean waters after a violent storm. However, when we dig deeper we may recognize that being present to oneself is one of the biggest paradoxes of human consciousness. Let’s investigate why.
As babies, we soon start to develop a sense of self as we grow a stronger identification with our body-mind organism. This sense of self, based on memory, sensory perception, feelings and thought processes, acts like a frontier separating our inner world with the external reality which, in turn, reinforces our inner sense of individuality and separateness from the outer world.
Descartes famous quote, I think therefore I am, synthesizes this paradigm which fosters the entire western scientific knowledge and belief system. We like to think we are in full control of our minds, of our actions and even of our bodies.
Nonetheless, when we actually tune in with ourselves, we may acknowledge two experiences that contradict this assumption:
First, we spend most of our time focused on the outside, entertained with all the stimulus the world has to offer plus the relational, social and professional solicitations that we constantly face. What we sacrifice is a deeper sense of self-awareness. Of course, except in extreme cases, we never lose completely our sense of self. We are certain of who we are, what we are thinking and doing but can we actually say that we are present to what is going on in and around us? Most of the time, we cannot.
Our mind functions like a little monkey in a tree jumping from branch to branch. It jumps to the past, recalling pleasant or unpleasant situations in order to predict and control future events or jumps to the future fantasizing about something rewarding or, instead, anxiously anticipating what is still to come.
Secondly, how challenging it actually is for us to stay in the moment. Besides the fact that we seldom invite ourselves to experience the present moment, when we actually try to do so, it is extremely difficult to stay there - here - for more than just a few seconds. So, we may conclude from experience that
(1) the quality of Presence is constantly shifting and
(2) an enhanced state of Presence is very volatile.
This is the paradox, although we have a constant sense of being, we rarely invite ourselves to actually connect with… ourselves.
But why is Embodied Presence so vital for us?
To be present to one self is to bring into awareness how we are feeling at any given moment. To acknowledge our inner world is the first and most fundamental step when relating with someone because it will play a role on how we will send out our message.
As relational beings, many if not most of our conflicts find their root in (mis)communication. Part of this can be explained by a lack of awareness on how we are communicating. By disconnecting with our inner world, we often relate with others from an aggressive, judgmental or emotionally detached place. It is not what we are saying but how we express it- with our bodies, facial expression, voice tone - that is received by others as disconnected or even harmful.
As therapists, we know the importance of first attuning with ourselves before relating to our clients but this is valid for every kind of relationship. When talking to our loved ones, addressing our work peers or doing a public presentation, we should acknowledge how we are feeling in that moment, notice the tension or the relaxation in our bodies, where is our energy moving and where it is not, how are we breathing, how do we feel and how do we perceive the receiver(s) of our message.
Only by tapping into this, can we consciously shift it and attune to a more centered and grounded state of being. The way we will communicate will be adjusted to our intention which in turn, will have a positive impact in the people we interact with.
The Sacred Space is the first Principle of six that constitute the Authentic Leadership Model presented by me and my colleague and partner, Nuno Salema (www.nunosalema.com).
Rituals are as old as our species. Since the dawn of time, human beings have created rituals to connect with nature, to access the spirit world, relate with the unknown and to celebrate life and its renewal.
Over the millennia, these rituals evolved into culture, religion and art but their purpose remained the same, to enable men and women to transcend themselves and connect with higher realms.
With the progress of the western culture, our civilization lost the connection with the roots of these rituals. Boys and girls no longer experience initiation ceremonies into adulthood, religious rituals are often disconnected from their original meaning and some (if not most) of artistic expressions became conceptual and mind-centered thus losing its transformative power and magical essence that was experienced in the so called primitive cultures.
In our Authentic Leadership Model, we consider to be of the most importance to relinquish the essence of the ritual as one of the Principles that shapes an authentic relationship with ourselves and with others.
Talking specifically about the therapeutic relationship, the importance of the ritual has two complementary intentions.
First, it creates safety.
With every client, we sign a therapeutic contract that sets specific times and dates of our sessions. We make clear what are the rights and the obligations of both the therapist and the client. The location, duration and purpose of the sessions is determined and the objectives of the therapy are agreed upon.
All this procedure gives a work frame, it promotes clarity and reinforces predictability which are essencial for the client to feel safe to embark in a challenging journey which a therapeutic process always is.
Secondly, after this work frame is established, comes the deeper connection with the symbolic importance of the ritual.
In our sessions, we invite people to take off their shoes and leave them outside our working room. Jackets, bags, phones and so on also stay outside. In an unconscious way, we are inviting our clients to step into a different space that is symbolically separate from our daily busy and hyperactive lives. By leaving these objects outside the room the person is stripped from this superficial layer of self-identification.
In our case, at the beginning of each session we light a candle, say a little prayer asking for guidance and then attune with our clients by breathing together, holding their hands and sharing our intention for the session. This is our ritual and by doing so we wish to, together with our client, go from the ordinary world to an extraordinary space. Mircea Eliade speaks of it as leaving the profane space and reaching the sacred. It is in this sacred space that a deeper connection and relationship can develop.
The therapeutic setting is a very specific one but this quality of connection in an extraordinary space can be created and nourished in basically any form of relationship, starting obviously with yourself. We can promote this quality when interacting with our partners, as parents when relating to our children, as well as in our professional environment. It is certainly not achievable all the time and every time but in some moments it is crucial that we strive for this quality in relating.
We invite you to be aware of what rituals you created to connect with yourself and others and to value their importance and meaning. In case you think you have no rituals, look closer. We all develop ways to connect deeper even when we are not fully aware of it and, in any case, you can always be creative and find (new) ways of nourishing this innate qualities in us.
Authentic Leadership is first and foremost about Self-empowerment. It is about connecting to our core qualities and trusting they can be expressed and shared with others. The uniqueness of our soul and of our life journey makes us all one and only human beings. No matter what we may think, judge or block in ourselves, the truth is that all of us have the creative potential to enrich our world.
So, why do we overthink before acting? Why do we judge ourselves so harshly, smothering our creative impulses and visions? Why do we block our self expression to a point that, when we actually express something, the original impulse is already so much transformed and filtered that all that comes out is a grey expression of ourselves?
We are blocking our originality, conforming to the norm, conditioned by what has been imposed on us by others. The “leaders” who come into our lives, people we look up to, wishing that some day we can be like them. Our parents, older siblings, uncles and family friends. Our teachers, the sports man and women we admire, the movie stars and the pop stars whose posters we stick to our walls in our teenage years.
These leaders are the politicians we see on TV, the millionaire entrepreneurs, the scientists, writers and so fourth.
We project into them an idealized image and are conditioned to believe that to achieve their status is either impossible or the result of a lot of sacrifice and hard work. As children, we are not inspired to connect with our natural born talents, we are not taught to connect with nature, to privilege play time over study time and we are led to believe that happiness will come through the sacrifice of our dreams and conforming to the reality of the real world built on career achievements and financial prosperity. Study, work, buy a car, own a house, retire and die. This is the mantra. We’ve seen our parents do it, as they have seen theirs, so we should comply to it as well.
In a moment where the politicians lack the courage to make a shift to save our existence in the planet, in a society where the school system is castrating the students originality and creativity, in a community where oppression (wether it is religious, sexual, doctrinal, racial, …) still rules over equal rights and freedom to self-express oneself, the shift has to come from within each one of us. It is about taking the self-responsibility of claiming what we long for the most, to manifest to manifest our deepest intentions and to lead through example so that others may feel inspired to undertake their journey.
Authentic Leadership is about coming forward with all of you. It’s about taking the risk of coming with your truth, your fears, your vulnerability and allowing yourself to be bigger than the small version of yourself that was imposed on you. It’s about connection to the whole and acting in a responsible way that will create a respectful and sustainable living in communion with all life forms. For those who already are in leadership roles, authentic leadership means to empower and support other people to achieve their full potential and coming into their own leadership.