Hear me read this post.
Recently I attended a personal development workshop called The Wall, taught by Carol Peringer of Excellence Seminars and eight supremely helpful volunteer assistants. For the eighteen people who attended, the workshop transformed initial hesitation into a powerful and moving exploration of purpose, relationships and inner space. I came away deeply satisfied with the experience and put my learnings to use immediately — and just as immediately saw positive outcomes from that joyful and intentional energy.
More from my reactions than anything formal in the agenda, The Wall taught me again how easy it is for me to project onto others all kinds of stuff that doesn’t belong to them, including such things as placing negative intentions on another person when he/she gives me feedback. The Wall gave me a chance to examine the process by which I literally put someone else’s face on a stranger (such as my father’s face or my brother’s) and loosen the grip of my more or less hair-trigger reactions when there are power-differences in my immediate environment. I noticed how I’ve learned to quickly suppress real feelings in order to deal pragmatically with the moments that come and go in any meeting where tensions abound. I found I was turning stuff around in ways that hurt me without even knowing I was doing it. That was my Wall. Other people had other issues to attend to. But mine was like the “Gravity” that John Mayer sings about:
Is working against me
Wants to bring me down
And after a few days I was very much in tune with his vulnerable prayer at the end of the song to “Just keep me where the light is.”
Sometimes it surely seems true that we live and work in environments that do not support the heart. And yet, The Wall also surely made me wonder how much I bring to that equation. I do not wish to be naive. And yet I also do not wish to bring the instincts wrought from hurts of the past. And to what degree do I bring that unconscious programming, racing ahead of myself in my relationships and situations to warn me without any particular foundation of the bad things that might happen? Anyone who leads — anyone — cannot afford projection, cannot afford to assume. There has to be clarity, light on the water, light on the branches and the river-worn stone that knows so much better than any of us what it means to endure, and more: to live with vibrancy and passion at every single beautiful moment.
Dan: it’s wonderful to have some fresh and insightful words and photos from you again! As someone only dimly aware of my own shadow projections, the workshop sounds like a powerful experience.
Your observation about assumptions — “Anyone who leads â€” anyone â€” cannot afford projection, cannot afford to assume” — reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz’ third agreement: don’t make assumptions. I’ve struggled with his fourth agreement — always do your best — but lately, I’m struggling with this assumption business.
I think it’s impossible to drive a car without making assumptions about the other drivers on the road. Sure, one wants to be prepared for unexpected actions and reactions on the part of other drivers, but if one doesn’t assume that most people will abide by most traffic laws most of the time, one wouldn’t be able to drive.
Tying this back to leadership, how can one lead if one isn’t willing to make certain assumptions — about the competency, integrity and dedication of those whom one is leading? Of course one wants to “trust but verify” but isn’t alot of that trust based on assumptions? I think we cannot but help make assumptions … perhaps the key is to be more conscious about when we are making assumptions.
On a related note, I also don’t think we can help but make projections. All I really know is my own experience (and I don’t even know that very well). As much as I may try to understand you for who you are, I’m not sure I can ever honestly say that any perceptions I have about you are not some kind of projection. Perhaps, again, the key is simply to be conscious of the projected nature of these “perceptions”.
Obviously, I don’t have any of this worked out — thanks for helping me to be more consciously in the question(s)!
These are great questions, Joe. In a logical sense, everything you say and ask is true. No, we can’t easily relate without assumptions (I was speaking most directly about negative assumptions). Can we ever get past all our projections? Possibly not. Excellent. And we can keep trying. My point spilled over into something a bit more poetic and rhetorical. If we could ever get past the filtering projections, see without bringing our unconsciousness out of ourselves in this way, what would that be like? I’m simply pointing to what is beyond — and probably mostly for myself — using the metaphor of light water, on branches, on river-worn stone. For me nature always holds that promise of seeing without ego, of seeing what it is to be without ego. Is that attainable, really? I think we better go ask the Buddha.
Wow, great write-up on The Wall, and I so concur having gone through it with you. Iâ€™ve explored your website just a little bit so far, and I love what I see. Your wisdom and beauty comes shining through. Thanks for sharing part of you with us. Iâ€™ll be back to review the rest of it at another time.
All the best,
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