What do we love?
When I get honest about my former obsession with control, my approach to life was “How can I minimize my risk?”. Sure, that can be a good survival strategy; it sucks as a life purpose.
Like most kids, I had no voice, no control in my family. Because of my challenges at school, I had no control there, either. I quickly learned how to avoid challenges. I became good at hiding and avoiding — I became rigid. Yet there was a problem; no matter how good I became, chaos would always upset my control and I would become tenser.
Through a series of unexpected interventions — crisis and masterful assistance — my operating system began to shift to one of enjoying a little chaos. My rigidity slowly became resiliency. Personal and professional relationships continue to be my teachers.
Over the last 40 years, I have been in intense business meetings where my PTSD freeze has automatically kicked in: my body becomes super tense; my sight narrows. My heart rate and breath pick up. My emotions are in a panic. I am in survival mode.
Many years ago, I decided to step into the chaos with my good friend and business associate, Thomas, a former college professor. I spoke with Thomas about why our business arrangement was not working out, and that he needed to change his behavior. Thomas was much more articulate than me. He could have you believe snow was black. Yet, my gut and his inconsistent behavior told me that he was not owning or improving his behaviors. This time I decided to listen to my experience – not someone else’s words.
Once I began to focus on accepting my experience, my body began to shake. In that moment, I decided to go with my body rather than Thomas’s words. I might have lost the argument. I began to win my body back.
I later fired Thomas.
I hoped that experience would not repeat itself. I was wrong; it repeated many times.
In hindsight, I not only realized the power of leaning into chaos and subsequent healings, but I also began to understand deep change. I used those learnings to create the Sandpoint Men’s Group, the beta for EVRYMAN. I learned that real, sustainable change does not happen without diving deep into unfelt and disconnected experiences. Those experiences only happen when we are willing to step into not being in control.
Bill Eckstrom does an excellent TEDx talk on how comfort can ruin your life. He lays out his four growth rings where at one end, there is stagnation from too much predictability and control. At the other end, there is chaos. In the middle is order where there is movement, but it is controlled. Then the third ring is complexity, where there is action in the face of chaos. This is where you feel discomfort and act. As Bill points out, this is where deep learning occurs. He says this happens in three ways: it is forced upon you, someone such as a parent or teacher assists you, or you initiate it yourself by stepping into the unknown.
Intentionally surrendering to the experience and not giving up, and taking in all that is occurring means there is not much room for the control of survival. In those moments of consciously letting go, I allowed my old PTSD to release by having my body shake. I gave up short-term success for long-term growth.
Check out Bill’s TEDx video. He does an excellent job of laying out the range of options.
What is the complexity right now in your life? Is it at home? Is it at work? Where is there an opportunity to have chaos teach you? Or, where is the discomfort in your life that you are overwhelmed by or avoiding?
Do not just tell the story — feel it as you speak. If you are deeply connected as you speak, your body may shake too.
As Bill shares in his talk, do not rescue a man from his complexity. Encourage him to stay present to its intensity AS he receives support and acts. Teach each other that you can move through challenges and chaos to become strong and resilient.