As this current Global Pandemic chapter continues to stretch out, the conversations around us ebb and morph. We are all being challenged on deeply personal levels to form opinions that affect our here and now as well as our future, at the same time as trying to keep a handle on the operation of our daily lives.
The load on all of us is high, and we’re all dealing with it in different ways. Consequently, we’re all displaying different “symptoms” of humanness. Our mandate remains the same though – look inward and manage self; look outward, observe and be a good human. Breathe.
I was privileged to listen to a Zoom presentation this week entitled “The Long Slow Burn of Covid – Anxiety vs Fear and Children’s Emotions”. It addressed the 6 phases of the Crisis Cycle (Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance, and Resolution) and how we’re all cycling through them over this seemingly endless period of uncertainty. Whilst the presentation focused on how this is affecting children of different ages and how their reactions may vary depending on which phase of the cycle they’re currently in, the same is true for all of us. We are all juggling our daily lives because we must move forward, but we are all displaying some kind of response to the uncertainty of this chapter.
Because we are all uniquely individual, because we’re all dealing with our own unique experience of life and its considerations, and because we’re all coping differently with different phases of the Crisis Cycle – trying to get on the same page as anyone else (personally or professionally) can be incredibly hard.
Again, a reminder that our mandate hasn’t changed – look inward and manage self; look outward, observe and be a good human.
I was brought back to centre myself with a reminder from Brené Brown, the vulnerability guru whose wisdom is always a great source for grounding yourself and reconnecting with others.
“In order to empathise with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how you imagine their experience to be.”– Brené Brown
There is ample opportunity for disconnection at the moment. That’s the very nature of chaos. The more disconnected we become as people; the more chaotic life feels. We are built for connection, calm, and harmony. Productivity, growth, and forward movement. None of which can be achieved with disconnection.
Our choices are to mire ourselves in the murkiness of chaos that is widespread and uniquely barbed or to accept that each of us is affected differently and that connection beats division every time.
When we look outward first without having considered what’s going on inside of ourselves, we tend to observe the world through our own internal chaos, uncertainty, and fear. We judge everything, including others, through that lens – and everything looks threatening. Our responses to that perceived threat may vary. We may withdraw again and isolate ourselves. We may lash out physically or verbally. We may judge and challenge, trying to align others with ourselves.
When we look inward first and examine ourselves, we’re able to consider how much is going on for us and how difficult it can be to manage what feels foreign and uncertain internally. We can consider how uniquely personal our evaluation of each day and each decision is, and how much our ability to effectively manage ourselves affects our ability to connect effectively with others. From this vantage point of self-appreciation, we can look out and see a world full of others struggling with versions of the same – all of them winning on some days, and not winning on other days.
When we look out through this lens of understanding, our fear of threat is replaced by the first sparks of empathy. Empathy for ourselves and for others. When we consider how unique we are ourselves, we can understand that others are too. We can consider that every one of us is evaluating, coping, and moving forward in different ways – whilst trying to make sense of each day as it comes. We can consider how all these variations may challenge us personally and professionally.
I was raised in a family who believed that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that because someone else’s may vary from yours doesn’t necessarily make one of you wrong. I was taught to preface what I offered with “in my opinion” to make the distinction clear.
In my own life experience, I’ve come to believe deeply that people who understand and trust each other create powerful outcomes. I’ve also come to accept that I can understand someone without agreeing with them.
As human beings, we will always be uniquely individual. That is the beauty of how we’re built. Our strength lies in our ability to see that diversity of experience, opinion, and gifting as something that serves us rather than threatens us. We are ALWAYS stronger together.
Empathy, first with ourselves and then with others, is the first key to creating connection and effective communication. To empathise requires us to give thought to the phrase “because it is true for you”, and to accept what is true for others without arguing or dismissing it. Our challenge is to first manage self so that we can address others through a lens of openness and acceptance, knowing that their experience is as unique as ours, and without any assumption that we understand. Rather than being whipped into a position of defense by our own fear and judgment, we can create a space that invites connection rather than division. The offer to connect helps others take a break from their defensive stance and consider the invitation to breathe and engage.
Chaos and division, no matter how quiet and covered over, don’t help us find common solutions. Empathy, respect, and connection are far better feelings to experience, and we can activate them without any loss to ourselves, our experience, and our opinions. We can do so even without agreeing with others, but merely by seeking to understand them.
We will always be stronger together. That will always be achieved by connection rather than division. And our mandate will always be the same – look inward and manage self; look outward, observe and be a good human.
by Christen Killick
September 6th, 2021