One of the challenges of fearless conversations is the "stuff" in us that we don't know much about, but it's there and sometimes shows up whether it's welcome or not. The personality theory behind the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
helps us have a language for this "stuff", i.e. parts of us that are less conscious. We say they are in shadow. Whether we use the
or not, we still have a sense of this shadow experience. It can feel strange, awkward, clumsy, startling, intrusive, wrenching, "rough around the edges". When we are having a shadow experience, it is common to feel reactive, even explosive. We can feel shocked, off-guard, out of our comfort zone, in the grip of an unfamiliar force.
This "shadow stuff" wants to be seen and heard, as it were. It bears both gifts and challenges to help us become the person - or the people - we can be. This is true of ourselves as individuals, our organizations, our workplaces, our relationships, our communities, our country, our world. It's as if the shadow parts say: "Listen - don't be afraid - we're here to awaken something good in you." They give us a kind of wake-up call.
An example of a shadow experience, as I'm referring to it, is a disruption in a relationship that leaves us confused, defensive, lost. A friend, spouse, partner, colleague, family member does something or says something that beckons for a response, but, for whatever reason, we find that what usually works for us, doesn't. It's as if we're dislodged from the sense of ourselves that we count on and we don't know how to get anchored again. Then we get into a tailspin of judgment about ourselves and the other person. We get out of the tailspin by stopping to pay attention to and honor what really matters to ourselves and to the other person. We replace judgment with empathy. Even if the relationship isn't healed, we get in touch with something in ourselves that helps us be more whole.
As a country we are having a highly-charged shadow experience. We are out of our comfort zone. Even personal relationships are being affected. We have been dislodged from the sense of ourselves that we have counted on and trusted. It doesn't matter anymore what side we are on or how we voted in the election. Something has come out of our shadow that demands attention from all of us as human beings/ citizens of the world - not as Republicans, Democrats, pro-this-or-that, anti-this-or-that, neoliberals, conservatives or whatever labels we put on ourselves and other people. Our shadow experience is asking us to dig deeper than ever to find and create ways to talk to one another and work together to solve urgent, practical problems that affect all of us.
Sometimes we feel up to having fearless conversations, sometimes not. Fearless conversations take energy and sometimes we don't have the energy if we are afraid, angry, "tired of it all", despairing, vulnerable, overwhelmed with grief. If we take time for compassion and empathy, for ourselves and others, we can begin to regain trust, support, courage and hope in talking with one another. We can find ways for everyone to know their needs matter. We can regain a sense of who we are and want to be as a country.
I want to close with two links of things that came my way as I was finishing this article. One is a very short article:
"Reactivity & Fighting for Your Cause"
. The other is an
example of people gathering to talk with one another
. It was a Facebook post.