Madhu Einsiedler

survive, live

Surviving vs. Experiencing Life – Part II

In Part I, I suggested ways to look at what we, as humans, are doing:

  • We treat ourselves as things, objects
  • We use ourselves and others as tools-for-result
  • We think we need to be fixed and improved
  • We thrive on adrenaline to feel productive
  • We mainly live in survival mode – we fight, we escape, we hold still, we divert our attention

live, adrenalineIn Part II, let’s look at additional options.

What if:

  • We treated ourselves as humans, as wonderfully complex beings
  • We saw ourselves as Beings and Becomings, constantly developing
  • We thought that we are good enough and evolve and develop – like other beings, supported by the right environments
  • We thrived on diversity, appreciation, love, acceptance
  • We mainly lived in what I call creative mode – we inquired into learned, ingrained assumptions, we discovered each other and thus ourselves, we let ourselves be surprised, we trusted life and the process of ongoing development

Now doesn’t that sound like a pink-glassed, fluffy dream of a middle-aged hippy woman?!

And don’t we all know how life really is!

Well, we did cover the ‘real’ world, how we structured it to keep us stuck in survival mode and how it limits our potential in Part I.

Let us expand here on how to free our potentials from those limits.

First, let me emphasize again the importance of ‘feeling safe’.

psychological safety, physical safetyIn order to being able to see and act differently, in order to being able to get out of our survival mode and into what I call creative mode– we need to feel safe. Psychologically and physically.

When I use the term ‘physical safety’ I mean that we have enough to eat, have a shelter – are, in very general terms, in an environment where the body is not only exposed to any harm but its physical needs are taken care of, in a generous manner as not to trigger … you know it by now … yes, the survival mode.

When I use the term ‘psychological safety’ I mean the lack of FEELING threatened. The feeling that we can say, act and be, without it endangering us, causing us existential, life threatening harm.

Yet, a boss that dislikes my suggestion might trigger the fear that I lose my job (and often that’s a quite realistic scenario) which DOES feel like it threatens my livelihood.

Psychological safety is also tightly tied to belonging. We, humans, are social beings, we need that feeling of belonging. In times of a saber-toothed tiger, one human being alone was doomed to die, and still today it needs a ‘whole village’ to support our development.

In a competitive world, as we have created it, driven by the belief that only the strong will survive, belonging becomes a tricky business. That’s why it’s important to create environments that don’t trigger.

Think about your environments – your work, your friends, your family – where’s the village that’s so supportive that you can stay in creative mode?

What do I mean by ‘creative mode’? Somehow we have outsourced the term to art, almost as the counterpart to ‘real’ business and performing.

Creative mode (or to borrow Lois Holzman’s/Frank Newman’s term: developmental mode) is basically our way of being when:

  • We’re not fighting, not fleeing, not freezing or petrifying or diverting our attention
  • We are open, playful, curious, appreciative, loving, exploring
  • We are trusting whatever is happening
  • We are taking whatever life is giving us with awe and looking at it as completing whatever we’re doing, thinking, feeling, being

Creative mode is the ominous flow that Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has written about, it’s the Presencing moment of Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.

What is it for you?

So now, that might sound as yet another state you need to get yourself into, in order to live your potential, to live life to its fullest, doesn’t it?

Well, if you think like this, then you have created yourself a wonderful example of tool-for-result thinking that you can observe now.

And you might want to let that sink in.

Then – think children.

They do what they can’t do yet – they talk, and we babble with them, they walk and we are amazed about how they learn by doing, by failing, by playing, by being what they’re becoming.

Somewhere on the way we seem to have lost this ability. The ability to play, to be and to become at the same time.

Somewhere on the way we seemed to have come up with the following assumption (and try to read the following in a very stern, earnest voice):

• Now we’re finished and need to apply whatever we have learned.
• We have goals now.
• We need to improve and optimize, to reach those goal.
• That’s adulthood, that’s what real life is about.

What if we treated our children like we treat ourselves?

What if we were to tell them – no, don’t babble, say ‘mommy’. No, don’t stumble but walk like this.

Imagine talking to your child, treat your child like you treat yourself.

Again, you might want to let it sink in.

The charm is – when we feel absolutely psychological safe, we are open to play around, we are open to listen to the other, see ourselves and others without judgement but with curiosity.

And like we do our best to make our children feel safe we can put the same effort into making ourselves feel safe.

It’s called self-care or self-regulation or self-love (whatever causes the least stress for you).

The first step is to acknowledge when survival mode kicks in.

Then lovingly doing what it takes to calm your system again, to make sure the scared child who is us, can feel loved and safe again. Not by putting something in their mouth, or buying them another toy – but by attending lovingly to them.

What is loving attention?

Listening is, hugging is, carefully listening (there is no such thing as too much listening) and not trying to solve anything, being there and, guess what, listen without any judgement, without the need, the urge to change anything. And yes, I’m talking about listening to yourself as if you were your child.

You see, listening is not a ‘tool’. It can be misused as one, everything can be turned into a tool, and we are quite skilled at this.

Let’s play around, what are ways is to un-tool listening, to un-tool attention, to un-tool relations, to un-tool yourself.

To discover and play as if you were a trusting, loving, curious, child, unharmed by life. Because somewhere in you, there is a space, a room where you are able to protect the child you once were from any harm and where this child awaits you to find it.

It’s ready to play, to curiously discover and re-discover the world, to inquiry into assumptions, to make friends, to play and create environments with others where we all can safely be in creative mode, develop and grow, in a way no goal could ever encompass.

If we needed a goal how about this one:
How can we all together create a safe environment where everybody can develop, can discover new potentials, can be and become?

And how about this one:
How can we listen and talk to each other without letting ‘the truth’, any kind of judgements, assumptions and so on, overrule our connecting, our belonging as humans, our developing as diverse and creative humans?

Let me leave you with a few questions:

• How would your work need to be that you and everybody can develop?
• How can you contribute to such an environment?
• How can you create with whom else such an environment?

No right, no wrong – just growth, just development.

I’m curious about your thoughts, feelings, let us connect and have a developmental conversation! Please share your comments via email or my social media! And don’t forget to get the whole picture on this topic when you read Part I.

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