seeing the world as we are

labyrinthWhen I say ‘we see the world not as it is but as we are,’ I’m offering a timeless leadership lesson consistent with groundbreaking work in the biology of cognition. We all tend to think of ourselves as objective observers, but none of us is. If I want to see things change ‘out there,’ first I need to see change ‘in here.’ PRESENCE: HUMAN PURPOSE AND THE FIELD OF THE FUTURE, Peter Senge, et. al.

Something I’ve learned, many times, as a trying-to-become-conscious leader is that, when we stop paying attention, stop opening space for processing relationship, groups entrusted to our guidance can flip into ‘negative mother’ projection. Their language starts filling with expressions of resistance to ‘control’; they rebel as if something unpleasant were being imposed upon them. In the absence of conscious structure and the ‘good enough’ mother, things fall apart. Enter the Shadow, defined by Marion Woodman as ‘unacknowledged resentment, competition, bids for power, jealousy.’

If we are to be leaders who do no harm, it then becomes critical to ‘do our own internal work’ so as to avoid projecting our shadow onto others. Over the 21+ years of Women Writing for (a) Change’s life as an actively evolving community of becoming-conscious women, we have all been faced with challenges to our leadership at one time or another. Continue reading

common sense for integrating shadow

Credit: creepypasta

Credit: creepypasta

from Mary Pierce Brosmer, founder of Women Writing for (a) Change(TM). This is part of a draft of the second chapter of her book with the working title Uncommon Sense: Leadership Lessons from the Heartland. The chapters are organized and being written seasonally, with liturgical and poetic overlay. The street paper, Article 25, published the whole chapter to date in its current issue.

Primer:  Common Sense Practices for Integrating Shadow
1.  Deal with your own shadow on a regular basis before attempting this work with those for whom you have responsibility.  I don’t care how busy you are. Stop. Write your personal versions of the prompts you’ll ask your staff to respond to. This writing is to keep you honest and grounded. You don’t share the private writing  with them, but when you  are in group sessions, you must write, and you must share, or it is an abuse of your positional power
2.  Enter this kind of work with the understanding that it’s relational, dynamic, and must never descend to pro forma, rote, or uninspired.  Allow it to be both steady and allow it to evolve or it will become just one more dog and pony show.
3.  Gather your staff or community on a regular basis, NOT just when there is a crisis, or when you have the energy for listening to them, or have just come back from a seminar filled with new ideas you want to suddenly implement. The practices I’m describing leverage the collective intelligence of a group. Continue reading