WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE -SEEING THE FULL HALF OF THE GLASS- AND DENIAL OF REALITY?..
In Camus' short story "Jonas or The Artist at Work" Jonas the painter expresses constantly his gratitude towards his lucky guiding star. He keeps going forward with serenity and acceptance, even when he is charged a huge rent for an apartment with very narrow rooms (rent included the "cubic air" accumulated under the very high ceilings). Even when his numerous daily visitors deprive his baby of sleep and do not let him work at his paintings. And even when a gallery owner proposes him an obviously disadvantageous deal.
It was Camus' short story that gave me more understanding of the position of two of my clients in a multi-cultural conflict management situation: a high-tech start-up, a CEO and a Director of Operations. As the heat of the market and the anxiety increase, my clients find themselves arguing excessively over the attitude toward the development of their product.
As it turns out though, the conflict included some personal / cultural issues: the CEO believes that there is that much one can do to influence the course of events. The Director of Operations believes that the CEO avoids taking responsibility as a leader and hides behind this belief that there is that much one can do, after which one needs to trust things will happen.
What are your opinions? Can you guess what are the cultures of origin of the two clients?
For years I've telling my clients (and friends alike) that running all over the place doing things brings only illusion and meaninglessness in our lives. Driving around from one "errance" or "appointment" to another, cramming in "activities" for them and their children, scheduling "playdates" (nobody really notices anymore how close to ridiculous this word is?.. Do you really need a date to play?!.. World renown Danish family therapist Jesper Juul names play as the one of the only 4 things children really need. The other 3 are food, shelter and affection).
It seems to me that anger, anxiety and conflict are the three major symptoms of a life that not only is unnecessarily busy, but it is cluttered in a habitual manner, in order to avoid dealing precisely with the sources of anxiety, anger and conflict.
It is Rollo May, in its "Freedom and Destiny", who points out a truth that we seem to be eager to ignore:
"The pause is especially important for the freedom of being. what I have called essential freedom. For it is in the pause that we experience the context out of which freedom comes. [...] When we don't pause, when we are perpetually hurrying from one appointment to another, from one 'planned activity' to another, we sacrifice the richness of wonder. And we lose communication with our destiny."
And it is the contemporary Tim Kreider who reframes the same issue, just in a more popular manner, in his New York Times article The 'Busy' Trap:
"It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."
I really admire this amazing Danish professional, Jesper Juul, who seems to truly go to the bottom of the issue of social relationships. He uses a lot of systems theory concepts, but he adds to that a certain warmth, rather than the cold evaluation that is characteristic to Minuchin, Watzlawick, Gregory Bateson, Jay Haley, or other systemic thinkers.
"Personal language -'I want', 'I don't want', and so forth- only works if it really is personal. If it is undetermined, used for other purposes, or used as a linguistic trick, such as merely replacing 'you' with 'I', it ceases to be effective. Those [...] who grew up in families in which personal language was forbidden or considered unsuitable, need time to rediscover this form of expression, but it is worth the effort. It is invaluable in rescuing not only our relationships with our children, but our relationships with spouses, parents, colleagues, superiors -- and ourselves. "
Applying this to my clients who are busy professionals:
Personal language has to do with knowing that someone addresses us in a genuine way. That they really mean what they communicate to us, that they are able to personalize their talk, their discourse, their communication. If someone really makes an effort to have a genuine dialogue with us, by using a personalized language, we feel that they truly appreciate us as we are. That means that we matter, that we count, that we exist!
Juul makes sure to specify that no behavioral or any other change will occur within a social system, which in this case is the stressful work environment, if we merely mimic the personal language, if we just pretend, imitate, reproduce a technique seen or learned in a coaching workshop.
There are thousands of motivational speakers and coaches out there who are very popular for "inventing" a recipe of how to fix relationships with others and/or your own self. However, real and durable change is not possible by applying recipes, by transforming the communication with Self or others into standardized, mass-produced interactions, delivered by a wellness machine.
It is the reason for which Synergis Counseling is working in a highly personalized manner. We custom our knowledge and expertise to EACH AND EVERY CLIENT. This ensures long term results, and not only a temporary decrease of the conflict level.
Synergis specializes in working with highly skilled, busy professionals who are experiencing difficulties in their workplace and/or personal life.
We work individually with each of our clients in order to help them identify
THEIR PERSONAL LANGUAGE, their specific way of relating and interacting with their staff, colleagues or friends.
This is why our "method" cannot be copied or reproduced, since it is PERSONALIZED, recreated every single time from scratch around a specific individual and circumstances.
"Neither adults nor children can thrive when uninitiated adults condemn spontaneous manifestations of their being. In this connection, the only difference between children and adults is that for a few years in their lives, children are under the impression that the world was created for them and that their parents are omnipotent and perfect. They will soon enough learn that this is not the way thing are; they don't need to be humiliated in the process." (Jespre Juul).
The difficulty of this process of transition is what often generates hidden, long term frustration, anger and aggression in the future adult. The aggression can be directed towards outside, and therefore visible, or towards self (inwards) and probably less visible. It ranges from aggressive behavior towards others to self-destructive behavior. A common self-destructive behavior is the addictive behavior, resulting from the compulsive and obsessive repetition of an certain action/activity: abuse of substances, food, sex, work, physical exercise, etc., aimed at numbing and diverting attention from what has been generating that anger for years. Of course, some compulsions are way less destructive than other. Physical exercise, for example, rarely becomes harmful. And being a workaholic is definitely better than being chemically and psychologically addicted to oxycontin or cocaine. What is important here is to ask yourself this question: what is that I am running away from? Why do I experience the obsessive need to avoid pain or gain pleasure?