All Is Welcome Here – A Spiral Perspective On The World & Personal Development

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Spirals in nature

This is my second post on vertical, or adult, development. See the first one here.

According to Tantric philosophy there is no good or bad; all experiences are considered important and every expression of life force, even if it is from an opponent whom we think is the scum of the earth, is seen as holy. To understand and know this, not only intellectually, or agree because it sounds good, but to truly feel it in your bones, is difficult, yet still available to most of us. That is, f we are willing to inquiry into our thinking- and learning processes, if we can learn how to take a witness perspective, if we are truly curious, and are willing to question all our assumptions.  Besides meditating, and using inquiry techniques such as the one we use in the Diamond Approach, we can learn different models of vertical thinking, and as the next step, learn how to practice it, through, for example, inquiry, which I’ll come back to in a different post.

In this post, I take on Spiral Dynamics, which is one of the most used models when it comes to meaning-making, individually but also in businesses and culturally created by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. They in turn built their body of work on Professor Clare Graves’ model, a developmental psychologist. Clare Graves’ work has been key for Ken Wilber’s Integral Model and for many others.

Spiral Dynamics is great to use as a framework, whether we want to understand what’s happening globally, if we want to expand our business to cover different regions in the world or to change business models. And it’s extremely useful for leadership and any level of personal growth. It’s not a perfect model; like all these models they are quite disembodied, mostly related to our intellect, and don’t take in the deeper aspects of psychological maturity and soul development, yet they still are very useful and important. Mostly because it teaches us how to hold more than one perspective at a time, and can help cultivate wisdom.

And that’s invaluable, because the main reason why we have such a mess politically on so many levels, whether domestic or global, is due to a lack of awareness that in an increasingly complex world, politics can never be reduced to just a single perspective. With people retreating more and more into their respective bubbles, spitting venom at one another, I keep wanting a grown-up to show up and take command and help the fighting children to learn how to communicate with one another. And that grown-up, btw, is you. A you who can hold two opposing thoughts at the same time and be genuinely curious about the underlying reasons why people are. behaving like they are, even if your gut reaction is to reject their thoughts, ideas and actions. This is where  Spiral Dynamics come in.

Spiral Dynamics (and all other models of vertical development) asserts that people are at different vertical developmental levels also as grown-ups. The previous thought models postulated that we were essentially grown-up by 25, and that was it. Now we know, even scientifically, that that is very far from the truth. We create meaning, using Rob Kegan’s words, through different levels of meaning-making, and age often improves our capacity to handle more complexity. Yet to make it more nuanced, our capacity for meaning-making will also differ depending on a number of internal and external factors. Even being stressed, for example, has an impact on our vertical capacity, and most of us are at different levels in different parts of our lives.  If you are very evolved as a leader, for example, you still might revert back to a much earlier stage when around your own parents for an extended family vacation or when your children refuse to stop screaming inside a store.

Spiral Dynamics Assumptions

Spiral Dynamics is based on a few different assumptions:

  1. The life conditions for a person, group, culture and country will impact where we are at in the spiral and it will look different.
  2. General capacities of the individual or group for being able to dealing with the world, which include neurological abilities.
  3. There are no bad levels. For example, being at a blue level, and needing safety and security is not bad. For a country, and for parts of our lives, it’s absolutely necessary. Yet, if we get stuck at blue, and as a group create meaning out of this level, it will create an oppressive society.
  4. We cannot jump over a level. We go through them sequentially, even though some might stay only for a short while at a certain level.
  5. Very few people operate at the Second Tier globally, and a very small percentage of the population is at Turquoise level. Yet, more people are evolving upwards in the spiral, which is very hopeful – and most off all – almost everyone can grow vertically with training and awareness.

Spiral Dynamics Levels

Below are listed the differnt levels of the Spiral:

A BEIGE (reactive) perspective on life. Dependent on outside support for its survival. Today only seen in babies and very young children, and those who are debilitated with degeneative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A PURPLE (tribal). Subsumed in group, no separate identity of “I”. Family bonds and honoring the tribe. Naturalistic, Usually only found in more “primitive” and tribal cultures.

A RED (egocentric) a highly individualistc perspective on life, breaking away from the tribe, but can also be expressed as rugged authoritarionism. Expression of self is impulsive, based on what the self desires. Often the mentality of street gangs, and teenagers:). It is common in parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa, where the tribe rules the values meme and there is a lot of aggression overall. People at this level of the spiral don’t understand or trust democracy; instead it’s the family, and honoring the extended family that is key. Living in a society that creates meaning out of red is in most cases difficult for women and any minorities, since they usually are treated as commodities, but even men need to adhere to standards set by the tribe and the extended family.. Here there are no companies, except for street gangs and mafia mobs and movements like IS. Yet, having this said, we also need to access red within us, since red contains a LOT of power, and without it, we often don’t learn how to stand up for ourselves. So like the afore-mentioned example, we all need red, we just don’t want a company or a society built on that level of meaning-making.

A BLUE (absolutist) perspective on life is common in China, and increasingly in Russia, but also the governing principles in the kingdoms in the Middle East. This is the domain of military command and sometimes brutal order. The thinking is binary, and there is a “right way”. Essentially, you don’t want to disobey, or you will suffer the consequences. As China’s power grows in the world, and a rising Russia, we are going to see a strengthening of these values in the world (which is at a direct clash with the modern and in particular postmodern thinking in the West). Here the organizational world is hierarchical and this is where organized religion as well as a strong organized military force dominate. Some older industrial companies were also blue.

Blue is a community oriented level with strong “moving away from” motivation. There is a strong sense of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad and the need for order in society. In cultural terms, judicial systems develop at this level. Fundamentalist religious beliefs are seen here too. Core values include justice, security and morality. Also a desire to control impulsivity and “evil” deeds. Can be seen in movements such as “right to life” and “moral majority”. Blue, as given an example above, is also necessary in our personal lives. Without discipline, for example, we can’t build a business, handle a more demanding task, or study.

An ORANGE (achievement/individualist) perspective on life is a response to the blue perspective and it offers many ways and criteria (compared with blue). Orange is what we equate with modern thinking, and the focus is on success, opportunity goal-orientation and competition. This level of thinking is what governs most of the Western world but also partially China, India and Africa. This is the era of Scientific and Industrial Revolution, the age of reason, which is also what we equate with Liberal Capitalism. The downsides are the trappings of the modern mindset, with a consumer-based culture, and a mindless competition.

As above, we also need orange in our lives. Goals help us galvanize our energy and focus. The incredible force of individualism is also essential for us to in order to indviduate, to find ourselves. Yet, as above, there are many limitations with a society built on achievements and consumerism.

A GREEN (relativist/humanitarian) perspective is a response to the achievement-focused orientation of orange and the focus here is collaboration, consensus, harmony, love, and one is expected to sacrifice self to gain group belonging.  Socialism, but also postmodernism are examples of this level. Core values are around fairness and equality with the desire to free the human spirit from exploitation. Has generated the women’s movement and the civil rights movement in the last century. Wishes to eliminate poverty, racism, chauvinism and other forms of divisiveness.

In order to grow as humang beings, green is essential. Without it, we will never truly recognize or care about “the other”. Green has been quintessential in order to make society more humane and it’s a pinnacle of human evolution on many levels. Yet, getting stuck here, which is where Sweden and parts of Europe are today, fosters naiviety and pollyanna-thinking, together with a moral righteousness and political correctness that eventually become harmful and can create a backlash that, for example, most likely enabled the election of Donald Trump in the US.

SECOND TIER

Compared with the first tier, where each level competes with the other, individuals who operate from the Second Tier can fully appreciate the value and necessity of all the previous levels. They comprehend that the health of the entire spiral is essential and there is much less judgment overall. At the Second Tier, systems thinking becomes the norm, and mental activity consists of joining, linking, and synthesizing in pluralistic systems. Individuals who have achieved the Second Tier, especially from Turquioise and up, find a greatly increased capacity for love and compassion instead of  fear, which is present at all existing previous levels, at diminishing degrees. This is where trust creates a more solid base for our thoughts and actions. This is the “Self-Actualizing and Transpersonal” level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

YELLOW (systemic)

An individually-oriented ‘systems’ viewpoint. Sees the world as being in danger of collapse because of misuse of resources. Sees life as diverse and paradoxical. Has the pursuit of knowledge as a major driver but without the need to demonstrate his/her own ego. Can often see the bigger picture and be willing to take a position that is contrary to popular opinion. However, may get frustrated if others are not able to see their point. Another downside of yellow is that at this level, we still are pretty disconnected from our bodies, and systems thinkers can be quite mental, and operate without heart, which also can make them dangerous, since they have a much stronger ability to influence.
Some of the characteristic beliefs and actions of the yellow are:
* Pursuit of learning for its own sake.
* Systems thinking.
* Viewing life as a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems, and forms
* Valuing the magnificence of existence over material possessions
* Prioritizing flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality
* Valuing knowledge and competency over rank, power, and status
* Integrating complex systems with ease

TURQUOISE (holistic)

Sees a world in danger of geo-political collapse as a result of adopting short term strategies. Seeks spirituality and unity in living systems. Strives to eliminate war, poverty, disease, hunger and political oppression. Recognises the potential need to sacrifice self and others as may be required for the overall survival of life. Thinks and acts globally. Some of the characteristic beliefs and actions of the Turquoise vMEME include:
*Doesn’t judge and can handle not-knowing.
*Experiencing the world as a single, dynamic organism with its own collective mind.
*Acknowledging the Self as both distinct and a blended part of a larger, compassionate whole.
*Viewing everything connected to everything else as incredibly beautiful ecological alignments.
*Experiencing energy and information as permeating the Earth’s total environment
*Thinking that is holistic, intuitive and gnostic, i.e. following a deeper self-experienced truth.
*Synthesizing science and religion into a universal spirituality.

Green or Turquoise?

People at a green level sometimes believe themselves to be at the second tier, especially turquoise. An important distinctive feature between the two is the feeling of moralistic superiority that exists in green but is not present in turquoise. Green often rules by using guilt and shame as methods of feeling morally superior. A green perspective might be to say that Trump is the worst thing that could have happened to the US. A turquoise view would be to acknowledge that it could be the case, but also that it could be the opposite. Maybe Trump is a necessary catalyst for something new to evolve. We can also look at our own lives. Often what we most resisted, for example an accident, a disease or a divorce, has become the catalyst for a whole new life. Another way of putting it is related to the time-horizon. A green thinker looks at the current world and sees the potential dangers happening right now. A turquoise thinker thinks ahead, understanding that in the realm of 10, 50 or 100 years, things might look very different. It doesn’t preclude political activism, but it’s important to see where our activist energy is coming from.

CORAL

This is the latest recognized values-meme and very, very few people are here yet, so there is little research done. At the coral level, we can deconstruct our ego-structure,s language, ideas, our identities and are able to question everything at a profound level. Coral is essentially the meme for spiritual masters.  Yet, of course, more and more people are going to be able to achieve this level too. It will be highly interesting to see how an emerging coral can impact the world.

Tantra, Turquoise/Coral and the Zen Monk

Coming back to the Tantric perspective on life, which is Turquoise and Coral by definition, we can take a step back, and just like the Zen Monk’s refusal to label anything of what is happening to him as good or bad, we can become observers of our own thoughts, and actions – as well as of others’- and become curious about them. Especially when we are coming from reactivty, anger or hate, and their bed-fellows, shame and guilt. From that curious place we can connect with our hearts and what gives us joy  – which makes us infinitely powerful as agents of change – because we understand, on a deeply embodied level – that the (only) way we change the world long-term is by changing ourselves, and that the path towards change is by operating from truth, love and joy instead of anger. That is, we can identify problems and choose to address them, as most entrepreneurs do, yet, the difference is how we do it. If our actions come, for example, from the perspective that the environment is dying – and I believe that it’s my job to save it, my motivation is coming from a place of lack, and fear. If I come from a place where I say that I love the environment and I want to offer my services to it, my motivation is more holistic and encompassing, and I can therefore create a stronger impact, without being attached to the results.

All is welcome. Including your comments:).

PS. Note that I’ve compiled this article by using different sources, and added my own thoughts in the process. What’s also important to point out is that I’m not a researcher or specialist in this area, but I have a deep interest in adult development, which always has made intuitive sense to me.

PPS. If you want to read further, there is a Swedish researcher, Kristian Stålne, who studies Adult Development (within the school of Engineering), who writes in English, on a more academic level. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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365 days of Embodied Pleasure, Pussy Power, Inner Truth & Leadership

Photo credit: Davide Reppucci

I dedicate 2017  to be the year where I prioritize embodied pleasure and where I celebrate and teach Divine Eros & Pussy Power, while also honoring my inner truth and I step into my leadership. Huh? Let me explain. According to a spiritual teacher, say á la Eckhart Tolle, you get this:

“Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.”

Which is utter nonsense. I have respect for Eckhart Tolle, and he has helped me on my path, but he’s a man who doesn’t reside in his body. And this is the crux. Most spiritual teachers are men, who aspire to transcend, and most experiences of pleasure are also described by men, for men. But women are gifted with an entire organ dedicated to pleasure, the clitoris, which happens to be the only organ of the human species that is equipped with 8000 nerve endings helping us become inner directed through embodied pleasure.

Embodied pleasure, for a woman,  is when she is mindfully connected to her pussy. Plain and simple. And most women aren’t. The reason? Because of shame. Because we have been abused. Because we don’t know how to achieve pleasure at any level – most of us live on adrenaline instead, and when we relax, we check out, not in. Because we forget that our pussy even exists if we haven’t had a partner for a while. Yet, since a part of our distributed brain is located in our pussies, and because on a Tantric level, our sexual energy is considered the center of our entire being, the locus of our life force, we cannot afford to forget about our pussies – and embodied pleasure – if we are women. And if we dare to remember, that is also how we become truly powerful leaders.

This year, I’m setting the intention of honoring my embodied pleasure – and my pussy, which is also what I’m teaching other women. Read more here. Follow the blog and find out more.

PS. I will also cover other areas, ranging from leadership, beauty, vertical development, the source, creativity and innovation, Tantra, politics, as well as any other topic that feels true for me to express and share.

 

 

 

 

What is Vertical Development and Why Do We Need It?

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Vertical or Adult Development is a relatively new term in the management world and in leadership circles across the globe, even though the understanding of it goes back thousands of years.

Most management and leadership training in companies today is horizontal. Horizontal learning is aimed at improving our skills, e.g. time management, technical expertise in an area, or improving our communication skills. Its primary objective is functional.

Grown-Up at 90, or not?

Vertical learning, however, is aimed at how we think, feel and most important, how we make sense of the world. It is about increasing the complexity of our meaning-making. For a long time, it was believed that we stopped developing after our teens. At 20 we were considered “grown-ups”. Now, we know that we continue growing, albeit at varying rates, through different stages of mental development. At each stage, we make sense of the world a bit differently, we become more inclusive, and we can make sense of complexity. We see the forest instead of the trees. Many people mature as they age, but far from everyone, and since there hasn’t been any concerted or directed training to develop vertically, most never reach the potential they have as human beings. Furthermore, from a societal standpoint, we need people to start growing vertically, faster, and in larger numbers, if we want this planet to have a chance of surviving.

First in a Series of Posts on Vertical Development

Starting with the first vertical theorist that I want to mention in this series of posts on vertical and integral development, is a man that is well-known in Sweden’s and Europe’s management circles, Harvard Professor Dr Robert Kegan. Kegan is a Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development and a Psychologist, and has been researching this area for the past 30 years.

Kegan’s Model of Adult Development

Kegan has developed the so called subject-object theory, which is pretty close to the mindfulness concept of being the “witness”. In essence, it means that every level of development that we are currently at, we are subjects to. As soon as we move to the next level, we can start observing the situation we just were in, but now from a distance. We study it at an objective level. We can therefore think of the subject/object relationship as describing what we have in our perceptions, versus what has us. Or another way of describing it is to say whatever we are subjects to is outside of our control; it controls us. Whatever we are objects to we know and can look at without being beholden to it.

Kegan describes five developmental orders of the mind:

  1. Impulsive Mind – First Order. Mostly young children. Object is one’s reflexes. We are subject to our impulses and perceptions.
  2. Instrumental Mind – Second Order. Adolescents and some adults. Object is one’s impulses and perceptions. Here we are subject to to our needs, interests and desires.
  3. Socialized Mind. According to Kegan, 58% of the adult population is here. Object here is one’s needs, interests and desires. We are subject to our interpersonal relationships and mutuality. We operate following what we’ve been taught, how our families expect us to be, and how society wants us to perform. We follow an external authority. It is, for example,  difficult for a person operating at a socialized mind level to develop self-esteem or self-love for example, because there is no real inner foundation for the self at this order.
  4. Self-Authoring Mind.  This is where 35% of the population is at. Object here is one’s interpersonal relationships and mutuality. We are subjects to self-authorship, identity and ideology. This means that we can craft our own identity and walk our own path. We follow an internal authority. The entire self-help industry, where coaching has become an instrumental tool, is built on taking people from the Socialized Mind to the Self-Authoring Mind.
  5. Self-Transforming Mind. This is where less than 1% of the adult population is at. Object here is self-authorship, identity and ideology. We are subjects to the dialectic between ideologies. We start questioning our identity, and we see that there is more than one way to think and resonate. We are no longer beholden to one set of views, but are able to see value in both, without being caught in an either or perspective.


Integration, Moral and Spiritual Development

Looking at Kegan’s (and others) models of vertical development, it is important to point out a few things. Being at a higher meaning-making stage says nothing about our IQ or our EQ. We can be brilliant intellectually at Kegan’s third level, or be wonderful and caring people again at the socialized level. Furthermore, most of us operate at times at different levels. For example. Say that we normally are at the fourth level, the self-authoring mind, yet when we join our family around Christmas or the Holidays, we go back to the socialized mind, and maybe we even have such a tendency with our life-partner. Such a person can be said not to be fully integrated yet on the fourth level. And it might even be that we might have intellectual glimpses of the fifth level related to some aspects of our work, but we aren’t currently able to live from that level.

Finally, the way adult development is being taught by many, is not the same as becoming a wise, compassionate and an enlightened human being. Actually, you can be a major jackass, while still have a cognitive ability to see and handle greater levels of complexity. This can be compared with spiritual leaders that are high up on a spiritual awareness level, a level that might allow them to lead their followers into higher levels of enlightenment, yet who still can’t resist having sex with half of their flock. In order to develop our humanity, we need to dig down into our psychological ego-structure and start letting light shine in the dark crevices of our inner basements. And that is a whole other process than learning how to become more vertically developed. I believe both are desperately needed.

The Importance of Growing Vertically

No matter where we are at, we all need to move up the ladder. All the crises at our doorstep today, ranging from failing political systems to religious extremism, to global warming, to the European immigration and integration crisis, to Putin’s growing aggression, terrorism, increasing income differences, a failing school system etc, are all examples of what Kegan calls “In Over Our Heads“. We are living in such a complex society and yet both leaders and systems are operating at too low level. We need systems created at at least a fourth level of meaning-making in order to handle where we are going, and leaders who are at least at a fourth-level in order to help bring all of this about. This will by far be the greatest challenge of all leaders globally, and something I’m deeply passionate about.

 

 

First Year (Back) in Sweden – A Journey of False Starts, Clarity & Grounding

Skärmavbild 2016-05-31 kl. 13.53.24

Now it’s exactly one year since I officially immigrated back to Sweden. After close to 15 years in California, I’ve been trying to find my footing in my old native country, and it’s been a journey. Mostly consisting of false starts and stumbles, yet with each fall arises a new clarity of what I need and want. While I know, and sometimes envy, those who follow a more direct path, it seems to be either part of my pattern, or if you may, my destiny, or both, to learn in this roundabout way.

It reminds me of when I spent my first visit to the US as an Exchange Student, last year of High School at Sandia High, Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was such a strange new desert world. In order to immerse myself, being socially awkward, still is, btw, I tried out most groups, starting with the geeks, then the potheads, and when I was desperate, other exchange students. As I became involved in writing for the Yearbook, the groups shifted to fellow writers. Through the debate team I became friends with the Class President and some others power players, even though I never felt that I belonged there either. Somewhere along this zigzagging, I found two solid American friends, two women who both operated outside the school hierarchies, and one Danish friend. I never joined the jocks and the cheerleaders. Instead I practiced Kung-Fu in a seedy part of town, until my arms were blue, as the only Caucasian, only female, and the youngest, together with a group of pretty hard-core Mexican, Native American and Asian men. One of the Mexicans, a scary-looking tall and wiry fella with long scars and tattoos, always carried a knife stuck deep down into his cowboy boot. I found it immensely cool:). They were very protective of me, though, and one of the Asian men taught me how to channel my chi when hitting a giant, impossibly tight-strung double-ended boxing sack.

Being back in Sweden has been somewhat similar, minus the Kung-Fu experience. Before I left for the US, I was married, part of a social context, had a career trajectory, and led a sheltered, bland, and non-aware existence. Since I got back, I’ve been different, needing a lot of solitude, yet also seeking out people and situations that I never would have met beforehand, which is why it reminds me of my High-School Year. Using the words of the Diamond Approach;  I’m not only trying on identities, but also sorting out my mental images about myself and about others. Both liberating and tiring, yet ultimately,  necessary.

Closing the books of my first year here, I’m happy to say that while there have been many stumbles, I am finding more steady ground, internally, to stand on. A lot can be contributed to finding  oases, or islands, of highly-aware people that make my heart sing. I’ve also enjoyed re-engaging with old friends and family, which has offered other dimensions that I didn’t even know that I was missing. Which altogether leads me to a strong sense of gratitude. It doesn’t mean that I have fallen in love with Sweden, or with Swedes as a collective. I still feel like an International Cali-Girl far away from home, but with a foundation of people I care about and because there is so much more to do here and in Europe, I see how I can be of service. Being in Sweden, I can operate in a way I couldn’t back in California. I can spread my wings more, which seems paradoxical, since it’s also harder to breathe here. I don’t pretend to understand, yet with that knowing, there is also a relaxation. I don’t know what comes next, but I’m trusting the unfolding of life and the Universe as it is.

 

 

Becoming More Real

winter photo

One of the most striking things about being back in Sweden, and in Europe, after almost 15 years in California is the sense of being closer to reality.

Here it is impossible not to be impacted by everything going on in Europe, the Middle East and Russia (brilliantly summarized in this NYT-piece); the refugee crisis, parallel societies, the rise of Islamism and right-wing extremism, and Putin doing his well-oiled war-dance literally an hour away. California, despite the assassinations in San Bernardino a couple of weeks ago, has been an oasis consisting of millions of people from across the world joined together in a social experiment focused on moving society and humanity forward, whether through technology, social innovation, art, music, storytelling or human potential. So in a way it feels like I’ve been at a retreat for close to 15 years and now it’s time to get back to work. Which is strangely invigorating. And I see how it’s shifting my perspective and what I feel I need to get involved with. It’s waking up my pragmatic political side and at the same time, compassion and human consciousness development feel more important than ever, together with the need for storytelling and new creative solutions to solve the problems we are facing. It feels more real.

In all spiritual traditions as well as within psychotherapy, it is known that we need self-delusions in order to create and develop a healthy functional ego-construct. As children we need to convince ourselves of how we, and the world at large, work in order not to break. Self-delusion is also necessary if we are an entrepreneur or creative who believe it’s possible to create something out of nothing. Yet, along the journey of psychological and spiritual development we need to start facing the things we’ve been running away from. Which btw, no matter how evolved we are, will continue till the day we die. Because self-delusion is a slippery sucker and it hides in the most unlikely corner of our psyches. So pursuing reality, and its increasing depths, is necessary if we want to grow, yet often it’s like eating kale. Not always tasty, especially compared with chocolate, but filled with necessary nutrients.  And beyond healthy, it ultimately brings us home. In the end, as A Course in Miracles says: “only reality is wholly safe”.

Being back in Sweden feels like a multi-layered reality project with more kale than chocolate, yet it also feels strangely precious and it makes me more whole.

 

The Light and the Dark Within Us

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One of the most powerful tools in the Diamond Approach, of which I am a student, is that we work with “forbidden” emotions like hatred, anger, jealousy, and revenge. We learn to accept that these emotions exist – in every human being – and that the work is to not reject them. Instead, we have to FEEL into these emotions, fully, while NOT ACTING them out. If we dare to go into our emotional black holes, we discover that there is a bottom, and that when this bottom is reached, the ‘dark’ emotions get transformed into something else. For example a feeling of hatred towards someone often turns to sadness for having been rejected or abused by that someone, or we discover that we feel inferior to said someone. When we stay with that feeling of inferiority or sadness, our hearts crack open to reveal yet another layer. It’s profoundly healing and the world would be in such better shape if we all had the tools and the desire to face our darkness.

I’m thinking of what’s going on in the world; the hatred that is so prevalent in terrorists, from IS to right-wing extremists, to women-haters across the world, to the desire for revenge that many Heads of State espouse, as well as the everyday scorning of others who don’t share our views, together with the small jabs and attacks that we all are guilty of. When we reject the shadow-side of ourselves, we pay a steep price since that is the gateway to profound goodness. In the shadow lies incredible gifts that can be unearthed if we dare to admit that we are all flawed, AND that we all are capable of redemption and incredible light.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

When No One Wants To Lead

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To lead or not to lead

What happens in a company or in a country when no one wants to lead? And what happens to the world when we don’t lead ourselves?

Most of the leaders and executives I have worked with, individually or in a group, struggle with the issue of both wanting, and not wanting to, lead themselves and others. Yes, most people want to lead their lives on paper and most executives have made an explicit choice of wanting to lead others. But not when the shit hits the fan, not when it involves sacrifices, and not when it takes real courage. This struggle has always been present for me as well. I would say that my entire life has been a series of awakenings where I, each time, discovered another self-illusion. It is actually really difficult.

We are deeply conditioned by the society we live in, our family of origin, and the people we spend our days with. Our brains are wired to fear the loss of anything we have more than to rejoice at the potential of gaining something new. We are also wired to fear the loss of social standing (no one wants to be thrown out of paradise, facing nightfall alone in the wild is not for the faint of heart).

The fear of being disliked, combined with a lack of knowledge on how to deal wisely with dissent, are probably the two main reasons why leaders, especially in conflict-averse Sweden, prefer not to act in a clash. Over time this allows tensions to fester and positions get entrenched. It has been acutely visible in the political domain ever since I got back to Sweden, where the pride of being labeled as “good” or the fear of being labeled as “evil”, has stopped any form of needed intelligent discourse, and it has closed the hearts of many.

Finally, the most apparent example of absentee leadership is when a mistake has been made, and there is a fallout based on that mistake. This is probably the hardest test for any leader, and it shows us how far we’ve come in our own development. Unfortunately, in politics, as well as in the business world, most of us end up abdicating from  responsibility, not in the least in the US, where there is always a real risk to get sued, especially if there is money involved. We blame the circumstances, the structures; we plead naivety (Sweden), ignorance (the US), and as the often is the case, we try to pin the blame on someone else.

It is very difficult being a leader in the spotlight, whether in business or politics, if you never  learned how to lead yourself. Therefore it always comes back to basics; namely that in order to lead others we first have to be able to lead ourselves, and to make the commitment to keep evolving as human beings. We have to want to assume the responsibility of being active co-creators of our lives, of being agents instead of victims, and we have to dare to stand up for what we believe in – and to take the consequences of those beliefs. If not, we shrink as human beings, our souls shrivel up and we stop expanding. We never get to fulfill our potential, to become the wise, compassionate, creative, and absolutely unique person and leader we could be – and that the world needs. That is a high price – for ourselves and for the planet – to pay.

Lotta Lovisa Alsén