Hi All! Steve Longan here. You might remember me from such blog posts as "The Thanksgiving Post" and ....well, actually, that's the only one. But I have something cool to share from this fantastic book I'm reading right now. It’s called “The Examined Life” by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz (you can find it here) and it’s essentially just him weaving together personal stories of his own with those of his patients until they form observations of what is common to human experience (but rarely so clearly identified). In his opening chapter he details one of his first patients, whom he calls “Peter.” I don’t want to spoil to book for you all, so I’ll just say that Peter had engaged in fairly destructive behaviors that were counterproductive to his own stated interests and extremely damaging to his relationships. But Peter had sought Dr. Grosz's help as he had no idea why he was doing this.
Dr. Grosz’s response to his experience is very helpful, so I’ll paraphrase it here:
The author Karen Blixen said, “All sorrows can be borne if you can put them into a story or tell a story about them.” But what if a person can’t tell a story about what’s affecting them? What if their story tells them?
Experience has taught me that life can leave us in stories like this — stories we don’t possess the understanding or words to tell. And when we cannot find a way to tell our story, our story tells us...pushing us to act in ways we don’t understand. (p. 10)
Now, to me, that is a powerful insight and if all I did in this post was share that quote and then you went about your day, that’d be great. But, if I may, I do want to offer one further suggestion for us all as we head into the weekend. First, think about your work environment(s):
- Who’s bugging you?
- Whether it’s a client or a coworker, whose way of working have you noticed undercutting relationships and task completion?
- What about your organization itself? Does it ever undertake action at the corporate level that is crazy-making?
I want to suggest that, for all the people and organizations we’re all thinking of right now in response to the questions above, there are powerful stories operating behind the scenes that are pushing the actions we’re observing. Stories that our colleagues and organizations might not even have awareness of right now. It may not be your or my place to draw out these stories, but just understanding that this dynamic is in play will help us all as we seek to get the best out of ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations.
Okay, that’s it for me today. Have a fantastic weekend all!