Gift Me with My Enemies and My Ministers
I woke up from a dream this morning that made me question: “Really?” It was only the last few seconds of the dream that seemed so profound. It was a children’s choir – all boys, and they were singing a Christmas song. The only lyric I heard was: “Gift me with my enemies and my ministers.” This is a pretty profound phrase, especially for a group of youngsters to be singing as a Christmas song.
My enemies infuse me with intense emotions – rage, hatred, vile condemnation and contempt. Judgments are automatic, so much so I don’t even know that I’m judging. How I respond, more often than not is a knee jerk reaction. I’m inflamed and my actions inflammatory. I want to violate them as they have violated me based on my sense of what’s right and wrong, good and bad. I want to wipe them off the planet so that I can live peacefully. However …
What I know is that my enemies are my best teachers. They reflect what I most hate in the world and most likely (like about 100%) they reflect aspects of myself that I do not wish to acknowledge or own. When my enemies are around, I have no doubt, I have something to learn.
Ministers are also my teachers, my coaches and counselors. They are my thinking partners, who also reflect back to me, through deep listening and questioning, how aligned I am with my highest truths and how I may be ignoring or distracting myself from the ways I’ve contributed to the very violence I hate in my adversaries. These wise beings bring my attention to the learnings so available for me by embracing the enemy as my long lost lover.
Sometimes, though, in the company of my enemies I retreat, hide and disappear into a myriad of disguises to protect myself from harm and from looking bad. I may throw stones from behind a barrier and pretend it’s not me at all who is engaged in warfare. I disown my anger, my feelings of righteousness and indignation. “It wasn’t me!” I exclaim with defensiveness and contempt for having been accused unjustly.
My ministers inquire regarding my actions, curious as to the origins of my behavior and the thoughts that precipitated them. What has me be blinded to my own truth – in denial (Don’t Even Know I am Lying) of my barbarous attitude and position?
We need our adversaries – our enemies to confront us. They bring out the worst in us and provide opportunities for us to truly reflect on the importance, value and priorities of our hierarchy of desires. We need our ministers, counselors, therapists and coaches to reflect what gifts are available for us by engaging with our enemies.
Many of us love to hate! It makes us feel good to think violent thoughts and even go to war for what we believe to be right and true. How can we get even, or better yet, how can we be victorious? What if I consider the possibility that my enemies are gifts? What would that mean – what are the consequences of such a consideration?
I’ll tell you right now, I hate the thought of giving up my armor of righteousness and entitlement, because I feel safe, powerful and in control when I can wield them with stealth accuracy. Without them, I believe myself to be defenseless, exposed and vulnerable.
I ask myself – what is considered right? What is considered wrong? Who is responsible for the woes of the world? My ministers smile and with their eyes they inquire into my soul’s wisdom for what is true; and I then, for that moment comprehend that I am an accomplice in all acts of violence on the planet. Only by recognizing the seed of vengeance within me I’m able to receive the gifts of freedom from my enemy.
Through deep discernment and with the support and empowering nature of my ministers am I able to choose to choose to see myself and my enemies differently. Through the annihilation of my own pretence and the shattering of the barriers of them vs. us, am I truly allowed to realize I am my brother/sister’s keeper, and they are mine.
The dilemma as a choice-point shifts when I choose to honor my highest truth and risk losing my attachments, my position, my identity – perhaps even life itself for something much larger than me. I’m working on it!
P is for Power
In my first book, Self-Empowerment 101, I devote the first chapter solely to the subject of power. The reason is that through power and the energy that generates power, every event since the Big Bang is a result of that power. Regardless of how power is used – whether in alignment with evil or good intentions, to look small and helpless or to be a superpower, all is generated from the same source.
Power is often synonymous with force; taking against the will of the other, be it from sentient or non-sentient beings, for the sole purpose of gain. Gaining is a reward that spurs us to generate unreasonably creative uses of power. Some of it seems absolutely ridiculous, like the guy in Norway who used his power to devastate the morale of a whole country, in order to gain recognition for his disdain for the rights of the people he hated. Other people use their power to stay under the radar, thinking this gains them freedom to ignore certain responsibilities taken on by those above the radar. Using power to stay small also gains invisibility from potential harm. Too many of us use our power to gain immunity from rejection, abandonment or betrayal, gaining invulnerability for the sake of avoiding the experience of losing control over the situation, other people and themselves.
At the same time that we may be using our power to gain what we interpret as control, safety and invulnerability, we are also using it in the service of good and truth. Extraordinary creations are making their way into our reality every day that makes this world a better place to live. More and more people are utilizing their personal power to empower others. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
All of us want a sense of control in our lives and we engage our personal power to do whatever it takes to make that happen. We use power to appear and feel disempowered, allowing ourselves to be victimized in ways that seem to be out of our own control, but really isn’t. Yes, the individuals killed in Norway by this crazed individual were victims and they were totally vulnerable to the circumstance they found themselves in. It important to distinguish when we use our power to create self-victimizing circumstances and when we are just plain out of control and all we are left with is a Big-Fat-Be-With. Even in such circumstances we can still use our personal power to be-with what is in the best possible way. It may not save our own life or the lives of others, but we can at least step into a more empowering interpretation.
Power and Empowerment
For some reason I find the notion of empowerment far more helpful and available than talking about changing your use of power. It’s essentially the same thing, but for me something changes with that one little em. Embodying, owning, self-governing, self-referencing, choosing to infuse oneself with the ability to self-regulate based on the outcome you are wanting – that’s empowering.
I’m working with a client in Israel. He is the owner of his own successful business. He rules based on control and domination. He uses his power to disempower others so he feels more in control. He is always looking for reasons to make others wrong so he can feel righteous. By feeling righteous he feels in control and powerful. At the same time, his use of power doesn’t allow him to have a sense of connection with his employees, and its contributing to a sense of dissatisfaction in all parts of his life. He sees that his GM has a great relationship with the employees because he leads differently, and he’s happier. What my client is wanting to gain from our coaching relationship is more fulfillment in his personal and professional life. He is beginning to understand that he experiences a greater sense of fulfillment when he allows himself to dismantle his current use of power. To empower himself to have more fulfillment more consistently has him willing to practice how he uses power in his business, and, he’s finding that it means shifting how he uses power in his personal relationships as well.
What brought my client into coaching was, though he had power and success he didn’t have a sense of fulfillment. He realizes that this is far more important than power and control. The invulnerability that he gets from the way he’s been using his power up until now isn’t satisfying. He’s considering the alternatives and is cultivating awareness by noticing what’s going on around him, how he impacts his environment and the consequence of that both professionally and personally. He’s becoming fascinated with the mechanisms that are influencing the results showing up in his life and in his business.
He gets now that he doesn’t have to give up one iota of power to have fulfillment. He gets that he can use his power to make different choices maintaining the sense of personal power he had when he yelled at everyone. Nothing is taken away. The belief that people won’t respect him if he doesn’t yell will be tested. He is willing to experiment – because he has something at stake that is greater than his fear of being vulnerable and out of control. Fulfillment has become a big enough goal that he’s willing to risk some pride – all be it, false-pride.
As the paradigm shifts, it becomes obvious that our business-as-usual mentality is causing incredible dis-ease in our work environments. Using power to maintain control in an environment where control itself is disempowering to the organization and its employees begins to be crazy-making. As a culture we are beginning to experience the requirement for less use of power as a manipulative force and more use of power to empower others to empower themselves and others. Enjoy the exploration!
L is for Loneliness
You probably thought that since we are talking about spirituality in business that love would be the L word for this week. No. Everything we’ve discussed and much of what we will be discussing engages and exercises the muscles of love. No need to go there today.
Though we spend hours with our cohorts, colleagues, team members, rarely do we engage in such a way that we feel heard and seen for who we are and for what we really bring with us to the office.
Loneliness is a spiritual crisis for every individual on this planet. It is isolation from ourselves, our highest truth and our highest good. It’s self-abandonment and self-deprecation that shows itself by the company we keep and the companies we work for.
We can’t blame anyone for this malady from which we all suffer and to which we all contribute. All we can do is to begin to cultivate the awareness that each of us can contribute to the resurrection of the Self through conscious and thoughtful connection with everyone at work.
It isn’t hard to cultivate connection– we’ve been discussing it all along. It’s just a matter of deciding what you are committed to. You heal others and the reward is you heal yourself at the same time.
Time to Google
There was a part of me that was unsure how accurate I was regarding the degree to which loneliness permeates our corporate cultures. Not every company or corporations is afflicted with employees that suffer from loneliness but there are enough.
I googled Loneliness in Business and found one website in particular that shared many views of loneliness and how sometime the loneliness and isolation experienced in the working environment led to depression, illness, stress, lack of motivation and the reality that nobody really cares!
Emily White, author of Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has a blog site on Loneliness & Work. It is an open invitation for those who experience loneliness at work to write and share their experience. Here are a few comments that I found valuable to share:
“I feel invisible at work more and more. I’m a manager and my job is to promote the great work my staff does, which they do, but I find myself feeling sad that the people in our organization don’t come to me for questions and the like.”
“I used to work for a small advertising agency and in the beginning, I felt it would lead to more friendships, but it didn’t. … there were also the usual stresses of personality conflict and turf battles in the office. Plus, the … already well-defined cliques …”
“I work from home myself and the isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. I do have to go to meetings occasionally, and I meet people for lunch every week, but it isn’t enough.
HR regulations ignore the fact that in many cases we spend more time with the people from work than we do with anyone else in our lives. Regulations in our lawsuit-fearful, spineless management work lives are imposing isolation – not alone-ness – on all of us. We become so fearful of lawsuits or invasions of our private lives by corporate attorneys claiming that associating in our private times with workers is the company’s business that we avoid making meaningful relationships or even attempting.
A Lack of Shared Values
I asked a friend of my, Jen, about her experience of loneliness while she worked in the corporate world in Silicon Valley. She expressed that she had a lot of friends at work but found they didn’t share the same values. This gave her a sense of disconnection and isolation. As she spoke about it today, eight years after leaving her job, she realized that she was unaware of the degree to which she felt disconnected from those with whom she spent the majority of her days. She didn’t have the awareness or the language to even know her own feelings. Her current lifestyle fulfills her requirements for connection and for solitude, which she says is so important to her.
Bringing awareness to the quality of life we live within ourselves and within the environment within which we not only work but create most of our significant relationships and with whom we spend the greater part of our day – this can only begin to break the barrier of silence we’ve created within ourselves and those around us. It means interfacing with vulnerability – as is always the case when growing ones spiritual intelligence.
Residuals of childhood patterning too often are the foundations for the choice-making process we enter into to create the social and professional environments we find ourselves in. Choosing to choose intentionally what it is you are wanting to create for yourself and others regarding your work environment will contribute in phenomenal ways to the actualizing of such a place. The question to ask is — What is it you are wanting?
Ask Dr. Rosie: The Constraints of No Boundaries
It’s not uncommon for children to grow up not knowing their own beautiful thoughts and feelings and their essential needs and wants. You might be asking “How can that be?” Well, it’s one of the ravages of families and the individuals inside them. They are at war with themselves with no one to mediate a peace treaty.
In some ways we have no choice in the matter when it comes to which family we arrive into as infants. I don’t know a single soul who asked to be born into violence, depression, poverty and sickness. But here we are, thousands of years of cultivating intelligence within societies and cultures and we still have children arriving in families that just don’t know any better than to fight, implode, lack and ache.
So, I’m going out on a limb here and assume that many who are reading this know what I’m talking about. All of us are refugees of families to one degree or another. All of us struggle with who we are as individuals in relation to the world around us. All of us are persons in exile, either from family and friends, and quite often from ourselves.
When, as children it comes to surviving, the majority of us choose to choose survival and belonging rather than choosing to be a lone wolf. Somewhere, somehow our little choice-maker whispers in our ears “don’t think that; don’t feel that; we don’t need that; and soon, we forgot that we could want!
“Just tell me what I’m supposed to want.” My client Andrea shares. “I don’t know how to know what I want. I think I want a relationship but when I get close to someone I get scared and want out! I don’t know – I just don’t know what I want.”
Andrea is a successful Lawyer in New York City. She’s very competent in every aspect of her life, except when it comes to personal relationships. How can that be?
Growing up in a family that looks as normal as any family in her community, Andrea’s grandmother would shame her when she came home with A’s. “What are you, some kind of a smarty-pants?” When Andrea came home with B’s, her grandmother would say “What are you, some kind of an idiot?” Whatever Andrea did she was made to feel guilty or shame for doing what she did and being who she was. Neither her mom nor her dad sheltered her emotionally from the barrage of insults. They each contributed in their own ways to Andrea’s dilemma of not knowing her own thoughts and feelings, wants or needs.
Andrea, like so many of us, gave up her self-respect and dignity for the sake of shelter and food, knowing that someday there would be freedom from all of this.
Enmeshment is the word used in Marriage and Family Therapy for the process of losing one’s self in support of family culture and for survival. Though I believe that early on, we do know that this doesn’t feel good, after awhile we forget and try to find hope and peace amongst the fragments of life that we’ve come to consider “normal.”
Enmeshment occurs not only in families, but in religions, corporations, and our educational institutions – anywhere and everywhere we are not allowed to know what we want or need, or what we think or feel. It occurs anywhere and everywhere we have to choose to silence our own thinking, our creativity, our sense of integrity and personal accountability. Is there any place that is safe?
This is really important, because it’s not like we can point our fingers at Daddy or Mommy or Grandma, for that matter. Each of us somehow plays a role in wanting people to want what we want, how we want it and when we want it. Any of us in a position of authority has the power to decide how we want others to respond to us. How we be with our authority and how we use our authority is the question at hand. None of us gets immunity for acts of unkindness that in the end burdens others with our unresolved anger, sorrow and fears.
In my studies, at first I was appalled with the concept of enmeshment. It meant that most families were just big balls of emotions, which no one could know about or talk about. But through my experience as a therapist it began to make perfect sense. Now as a transformational coach a great deal of my work is about empowering clients, like Andrea, to realize their own wants and desires and their own thoughts and feelings. What they are finding is that there is freedom that comes with making choices – choices that are in right-relationship with their own truths, not necessarily in alignment with the emotional needs of potential partners, co-workers, friends and most importantly those individuals who have authority over us. Like Andrea, they are learning to create boundaries based on what’s true for them. This can get really squirrelly for a lot of us who can see that maybe we want two opposing things at the same time. And, we want the sense of emotional clarity that comes when we’ve made the “right choice.” Looking to others to tell us if we’ve chosen correctly keeps up using childhood ways that really don’t work in a grown up world. Really – they don’t work!
For Andrea, she wants partnership, romance, security, connection and belonging. She also wants safety, freedom, independence and respect that who she is, is all she needs to be. At 49 years of age, she’s afraid she’ll never get it. My experience tells me that the more clear she becomes with who she is; the more clear she can speak up to those she’d made into authority figures (we do this a lot with our bosses, our partners, even with our children) the more freedom she will experience to create a relationship that includes all the good things that come from being able to speak her truth. We actually create better relationships with people when we can know our thoughts and feelings, know our needs and wants and speak authentically from this place of knowing. Isn’t this what we are all wanting?
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition that boundaries, made by free choice, create freedom. Who would have ever guessed?
What if I’m Wrong?
In the course of any choice-making process, whether its regarding career, relationship, health, finances – you name it, there is that underlying whisper gnawing at you taking that first step, or even the 59th step: “What if I’m WRONG?” Do you know what I’m talking about?
This past month I had a difference of opinion with an associate of mine. The conversation, as far as it went, didn’t satisfy my sense that we would be working this out in a way that would rebuild lost trust and connection. I severed the tie, I burnt the bridge and said goodbye. Then, self-doubt arose; what if I’m mistaken? What if the way I’m perceiving this is wrong? What if he comes to decide that I, Dr. Rosie, am not all that kind and compassionate stuff I seem to be?
For the majority of my life I’ve made thousands of choices in service to avoiding this question. To be wrong can feel catastrophic to that part that only has ONE interpretation of what it means to be wrong: I’ll be HUMILIATED!
Now, this part that fears humiliation is normally a very one part of each of us, who has been shamed, guilted and embarrassed. I don’t know if you remember what that feels like – that first conscious experience of being wrong, but basically, it’s unbearable and something to be avoided at all cost.
Many time I’ve stayed in relationships and in jobs, in locations etc, far too long, just to avoid the possibility that my choice may be the wrong choice and the consequences would be unbearable! At some point though, suffering the consequences of being wrong outweighed the staying; the scales were tipped and, well, I took that first step not knowing if I would survive.
Survive I did, yet, I’ve never gotten completely comfortable with making those choices that creates separation from another person. There’s always two sides to the story and distinguishing the who’s right and who’s wrong always gives me the heebie-jeebies. One of us is going to fall short in this conversation, one of us will be the bad guy, one of us will have to eat crow – you get the picture. In my first marriage, to avoid these conversations and the potential anger from my husband (fear of anger is right up there with fear of being wrong), I’d capitulate, I configured in my head how I was WRONG, I said I was sorry and the whole conversation would get dropped. I saved us both from long heated battles. That was how I avoided vulnerability. That may sound backwards, but sometimes that’s what we do.
Taking the Leap
Today, taking that leap by saying goodbye to this individual, I still feel that vulnerability to the potential consequences of being wrong about him or the circumstances. However, this time I’m willing to risk the consequences, feeling the vulnerability – actually being vulnerable to . . . .
When we make choices about what we want to do with our lives, our jobs, careers, etc, so often that questions what if I’m wrong hold us hostage.
Even now that feeling of being wrong is excruciating. I hate feeling the piercing emptiness, the blow of defeat to my ego. However, weighing this possibility against the integrity and dignity of being me, makes me step into my life with a straighter backbone, with more courage to face the possibility that I may be wrong, and if I am, I know that I’ll be learning something from the situation.
I’ve come to understand that it’s the learning that’s more valuable than maintaining safety from making mistakes.