Leaking and identity

Posted: Category: Coaching

 Nigel Singer

This disc represents me (or you).

The blue raised segment is my general sense of who I am in the world and the way that I usually appear and behave; my identity as I and others tend see it.

This segment of this disc has formed due to a range of influences. When I was young, as a consequence of the other people around me I learnt to behave in particular ways. These were usually ways that met the spoken and unspoken requirements of the adults and children around me.  An easy example of this is that I grew up in a middle class family in Liverpool, my parents made sure I didn’t speak with a scouse accent because they thought it wasn’t ‘appropriate’, as a consequence I now have a neutral accent.

As I grew I also learnt that I liked people to like me and also to think I was competent and relaxed – so I behaved in ways that drew those responses.  I saw friends who wanted people to think they were rebellious or different, so they behaved in a manner that led people to view them that way.

At any given time in our lives we will be being ‘us’ in a way that elicits particular responses from the people around us.

When working, I turn up for meetings clean shaven and reasonably smartly dressed.  My preferred state is unshaven and sloppily dressed, but at work I find it easier, usually, to meet other people’s expectations rather than set up an immediate potential barrier.

In the circle above, the blue area represents the ‘me’ that usually appears in the world. 

So my question is - what’s in the other parts of the circle?

In my case a few of these sectors contain things like, the man who had a long term conflict with his dad, the man who cries easily, the man who paradoxically gets lonely and also doesn’t want to be around other people, the man who knows he  is right – and lots more.

These other segments contain bits of me that I don’t always pay a lot of attention to.  Some of these bits I know quite well but I am certain there are plenty that I don’t even know exist (the unknown unknowns).

What happens often when we are in conflict or under stress is that we leak. 

Bits of us that are not normally on display (the other segments) start to appear in our day-to-day behaviour.

Due to our ‘blue’ identity being under pressure our usual identity can’t quite manage the new situation and other bits of us leak from the more hidden aspects of ourselves into our visible behaviour.  We usually don’t notice this as it is happening, but fortunately – or not - other people do.

Ever had someone you know come up to you and say ‘what’s going on, are you okay?’  You may say ‘I’m fine’, you might tell them in detail or you may get angry with them and say ‘of course I’m okay, why are you asking’. 

The reason they have asked in the first place is because you have been leaking.  They have seen a part of you that is often under wraps; you don’t seem like ‘you’.

We all leak, some of us recognise it more than others.  Sometimes when others tell us we are leaking we may get upset, or we may be grateful; it may feel like an attack or a gift.

To manage our own conflicts it helps if we get clear about our leakage – the parts of us that want to say hurtful things, attack others, run away or burst into tears.  If we know these bits exist then there is less chance that they will unconsciously leak.

Knowing these facets doesn’t mean to say we will be perfectly at ease all of the time but we will be better able to take responsibility for ourselves and the impact we have.

If I am feeling ikky (to use the technical term), I may not know why but I will probably be noticing that something is going on.  The way that I can take responsibility is by letting people around me know that I’m not okay. I might say ’I’m feeling ikky and it’s possible that I will be leaking unintentionally’ or just, ‘something’s not okay in me, watch out’.

Naming what is going on makes the leak visible and helps other people to not feel that it is something they have caused. It can also provide an opportunity for me to look at a bit of me that I might sometimes shy away from.

If you are with other people and you notice that they are leaking you can help them to notice it.  Do it gently, the idea is to help them not to criticise them - remember you may need help to mop up your leaks one day.

The Mediator as healer

Posted: Category: Conflict and Mediation

 Nigel Singer

About 5 years ago, whilst on a process oriented psychology course, we were dealing with issues of our own identity, exploring our bigger self – the thing that drives and motivates us.  The exercise had a shamanic aspect and was not using rational, intellectual processes.  What appeared for me through the process was an identity as a healer.

My immediate reaction was one of discomfort and awkwardness.  It somehow felt too big or weird or unlike my general view of myself – the temptation was to push it away and give it no more notice.

To some extent I succeeded, I got on with my life, worked with conflict and only occasional thought about healing.

Recently though it has resurfaced, and this time it has come back again as a body based experience whilst on another course.  I wasn’t looking for it, it found me.

To be comfortably English about this I feel discombobulated – do I ignore it again or do I try it on for size and see what happens?

If I do pick up this identity how do I do what I do through this filter?  Who am I if this is the approach I take to my work, my relationships and in fact to any interaction?

To explore this it seems important to think about my views and prejudices about healing?

From the initial experience, I noticed that my reaction was to view healing as something to do with the ‘laying on of hands’, and that this was mainly oriented towards helping the body.  I did this despite recognising that healing has many forms and works on all aspects of our humanness, but my prejudices were intact and working well – which of course meant that I wasn’t a healer.

As I thought more about healing I gently allowed myself to think about working with conflict as a form of healing, even though I continued to identify working with the mind and emotions as somehow less significant, from a healing perspective, than working with or through the body.

After the second experience of being told I was a healer – I felt as if I had to pay attention. 

So, when I engage with people as a mediator, what is my underlying intent?  Why am I making this engagement?  Is it to earn money, is it a job or is it something deeper.  For me it is all of these – I earn a living and it is a vocation, something I discovered that delights and fascinates me and in which I have built some ability.

My intent has often been to help, to see if I can support a conflict to unfold, so that the way forward becomes clear.  I have looked at my own need to feel good by ‘sorting’ the parties and believe I am not driven by this any longer (I was when I started).

If I pick up the healer aspect, what happens?  Is the experience different or new, does my intent change, do I or they behave differently?

I have yet to discover, this feels like a work in progress and I will happily receive any help that is offered.

Whichever aspect of a person I engage with, I am involved in a process of healing and I need to face this directly.  It is bigger than earning a living or feeling good that I helped within a dispute.  It is about saying clearly that mediation offers an opportunity to heal and then dealing with the consequence of this statement.

The consequences run in two directions; toward me and to the people that I work with.

When looking at the impact on me, does this internal stance change me?   My immediate thought is something to do with responsibility.  My usual stance as a mediator is to say that I have a responsibility to the people I work with but not for them – this stance offers me a bit of psychological distance and I believe helps me care without becoming over involved – I can be effectively multipartial.

As a healer, who happens to mediate, I have a sense that this responsibility has shifted but I’m not yet sure how.

Part of my limited understanding of ‘healing’ is that it is something that occurs through the healer – it is not them doing healing, rather that they provide a channel that enable the healing to occur.  The system ‘knows’ what it needs and the healer provides an opportunity for this to start to happen.  The healer needs to clear some space in themselves to support this movement through them and so will have required some training, healing and support for this to happen.

Is this different from the practice of interactive/facilitative mediation?

I am in uncharted territory – I want to know if others who happen to mediate also share this sense of identity, are you at ease with it, does it help or hinder.  Do you talk about it with clients?  If you don’t, what might happen if you did?  Can I offer my services as a healer rather than as a mediator?

How does faith or the lack of it influence this conversation?

At its best, mediation has had its magic moments, those times when my presence becomes irrelevant, the parties have moved into their own process and no longer need any assistance.  Something that had been broken has been fixed, perhaps even healed.  The parties have stepped through a pain into a different relationship.  My interventions have been graceful and fluid – I have been part of something much bigger than me.

Any thoughts, ideas or help will be appreciated on this journey.

A reminder

Posted:

 Nigel Singer

A conversation a few days ago with a friend reminded me about paying attention to my body and what it is telling me.

Two weeks ago my optician sent me directly to the eye hospital, do not pass GO, do not collect £200.  My comments of ‘I’m meant to be in Liverpool later tonight’ fell on unheeding ears. ‘This is a medical emergency, go now.

I went and she was right – and thank you to her - I had the operation and am in the process of recovering.

What I was mainly noticing today was that I was irritated.

Irritated that I can’t yet see clearly out of that eye, despite it being filled with oil.

Irritated that I can’t exercise.

Irritated that I have to put four different drops in my eye at various times during the day.

Irritated that my first check up is still four days away.

Irritated that it is still a bit tender.

Irritated that I have to sleep left cheek to pillow.

 

Looks like I am doing well in the irritated stakes.

Fortunately, there are moments when I get over this state and something more useful happens.  My friends’ nudge helped me move in this direction.

What has the operation given me?

An opportunity to appreciate sight.

To recognise my privilege as a sighted person and to think more about how difficult it is to recognise that privilege when it is my ‘normal’ state. 

A chance to slow down which has helped my hip to relax and soften.

This in turn has led to me making some clear decisions about looking after my joints in future.

To walk places, rather than cycle and to see different things as a consequence.

To think about the question ‘what have I not been looking at?’

As I pause a bit I realise that my irritation is connected to my reactions to the situation.  I have been taken away from my ‘normal’ state and I don’t like this and want it back.  As I relax, I start to get more centred and my responses start to appear, they are softer, gentler and thankfully, more useful. 

A twinkle in the eye

Posted: Category: Reflections

 Nigel Singer

How do I move through the world, what responsibility do I take for myself and others.

Whilst in hospital having an eye operation last week a particular moment stays with me.  Well in fact lots of moments stay with me but most of them had to do with surgeons, nurses and things inside my eyeball.

I had been doing a lot of waiting; for nurses, for doctors, for the surgeon.  I was calm but a bit impatient to know what was going on and when anything was going to happen, but I had a good book and was able to relax into the novel.

I was also people watching.

I saw a male nurse walk past me, I guessed that he was over 50, I could see several earrings in one of his ears and a long ponytail tucked inside his uniform.

A bit later, he walked toward me and as he went past me, he made eye contact; he didn’t quite smile but I caught his twinkle of engagement with me and I smiled at him.

Later as I think about this moment, I realise that I had received a gift, something of value and that it raises a question for me.

The gift is human to human connection, it is nothing to do with our roles (nurse, patient, doctor etc) it was just about his choosing to ‘be present’ with the people around him.

The question it raises for me is that as I seem to like and value this way of behaving, so, do I behave this way?

As I have pondered this my answer is both yes and no, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  This has led me to contemplate what is going on that causes the difference.

When I am feeling internally light, not taking the world or myself too seriously, noticing things outside of me – I can twinkle.

When I am feeling heavy, serious, caught up in my ‘stuff’, the twinkle disappears.

Having both states seems inevitable – losing focus, switching off or feeling low is just part of the deal but paying attention to it feels important.

Are you twinkling today?

 

Training Mediators

Posted: Category: Conflict and Mediation, Training

 Nigel Singer

It’s been a few months since I last trained a group of mediators and I had almost forgotten the pleasure of this process.

People in organisations come on this sort of course because they are looking to develop their skills - they get this but they also get challenged, pushed and nudged into a different way of thinking.

Most of us, whatever our job or hierarchical level, spend much of our time as paid problem solvers.    This may be about deciding which room to clean first or whether or not to merge with a particular company.  This tendency with our tasks can overlap into how we deal with people.  Someone presents us with a problem that they have and we often try to sort it (or them) out.

We feel like we have to give answers and know the right thing or suggestion to make.

Training in interactive mediation requires a letting go of this tendency, sitting back and letting the parties deal with the situation.  It takes some time and effort – and often some discomfort in quietening our desire to ‘sort it’.

In order to become a skilled mediator we also need to have a good understanding of the mediation process and possibly more importantly, we need to be able to manage our reactions to others’ conflictual behaviour.   This requires us to look at our own relationship to conflict and our conflict history – which is not always a comfortable journey.

The pleasure of being the trainer is that of guiding people through this journey; helping them stop problem solving and to become more confident with allowing conflict to happen.

They need to become conflict enablers.  Well that’s a new thought!

Grieving

Posted: Category: Personal

 Nigel Singer

Well apparently I am supposed to be grieving. 

I tell people that my dad died at the beginning of December and most of the time they then tell me that it will be difficult, that I should remember the good things and then they head into their own experience of the death of parent.  Not everyone does this – but many.

I am learning lots of things as a consequence of this experience.

We don’t all have similar experiences of death and grief.

There is no such thing as normal

We do lots of adaptive listening – (adapting the thing that someone tells us to our own experience)

There are some strong rules that say we shouldn’t think negatively about people who have died

I don’t miss him

I feel quite relaxed about him having died

I want and need to look at my relationship to fathering, how I do it, how it was done to me and the emotional residue

Not everyone will be sharing my experience

I now need to start sifting my experience and working out what I need from the social constructs that surround me.