Holding Dynamic Tension

We humans don’t like tension – unless we are at a sporting event or a movie, in which case we know that the tension will be resolved by the end.  But the capacity to engage, hold and utilize tension is a critical capability of a Creator.

To suggest that we must learn to hold the tension as a Creator is definitely “counter-cultural” in our quick fix—relieve the pain society that longs for a smooth sailing life.

When tension does arise, we often look to resolve and rid ourselves of the uneasy feelings.  Rescuers may jump at the first solution to fix the situation, all under the heading of being helpful.  Persecutors will find a way to compete, blame or be right in order to control the tension.  Faced with tension, people with a victim mentality will give up easily believing they won’t get what they want.

In The Power of TED*, the tension we consciously engage is in the gap between what we want (Vision/Outcome) and an honest assessment of what we really have (Current Reality).

Educator Parker Palmer refers to this as the gap between reality and possibility. Parker, often referred to as the “teacher’s teacher” and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal,  once appeared as a guest on “Bill Moyer’s Journal” and raised a most important question: “what happens when we don’t learn to hold the tension between what is and what we know to be possible?”

He went on to observe:

“What happens when we don’t learn to hold the tension between what is and what we know to be possible – the reality and the possibility – is that we flip out on one side or the other.  Flip out into too much reality, and you get what I call corrosive cynicism… When you flip out into too much possibility you get irrelevant idealism.  (This) sounds very different from corrosive cynicism, but both have the same function in our lives – both take us out of the action…

I think irrelevant idealism that is not held in tension with what’s really going on on the ground eventually just disappoints and drops people off the wagon… because nothing changes… If you don’t have a capacity to hold the tension in your heart between reality and possibility, then you are just going to give up eventually…

I don’t think, in this culture, we teach very much – or have much formation – around the holding of these great tensions, which is so critical to our lives.”

As we engage the tension between possibility and reality, it is important to tell the truth about the current reality – seeing it for what it is and in its fullness.  We identify and affirm those aspects of current reality that support or are helpful in creating the envisioned outcome.  In turn, we also identify problems or obstacles that are inhibiting our progress toward the outcome.

As we hold this Dynamic Tension between vision and current reality, we explore alternative actions – possible Baby Steps – we might take:

  • to keep focusing on and leveraging what supports us;
  • to stop doing what is within our control that thwarts our efforts (like the self-talk that says “it’s not possible”);
  • to change or do differently something that currently exists that will further our progress; and/or
  • to start doing or attending to aspects of the vision that we have not been focusing upon.

From these options, we then commit to a few “Baby Steps” which will begin to resolve the tension by progressing from current reality toward the envisioned outcome.

By learning to hold the Dynamic Tension in the gap between envisioned outcomes and current realities – and then taking Baby Steps – we will grow in our capacity as a Creator in our personal and professional lives.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/holding-dynamic-tension/

Ask First, Tell Second

Many of us have a tendency to offer advice or to tell people what we think they should do.

By sharing our advice, our ego feels important and confident that its perspective and way of doing things is best.

Two roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™ are especially prone to giving advice.  The Rescuer will offer advice because they want to please. In the name of being helpful, Rescuers over step their bounds and give suggestions, whether they are wanted or not.  In an attempt to fix, do for, or take care of another – however well intentioned it may be – a Rescuer is nearly always in a “tell” mode.

The Persecutor, in order to control and dominate, will tell others what to do – and often how to do it! They give advice or direct in order to prove to everyone that they are right.

Both roles and their “telling” behaviors have the effect of discouraging creativity in others.

In our training, David always shares the following example, which he also uses in coaching leaders who have the tendency to “tell first,” whether as a Rescuer or a Persecutor:

“Suppose one of your employees approaches you with a problem and they ask you what they should do.  The natural tendency, from a ‘Tell First, Ask Second” mindset, would be to say something like, ‘If I were you, I would do A, B, C and D – what else have you thought of?’

However, it is much more empowering to ‘Ask First, Tell Second.’ When the employee comes to you, you might say, ‘I have some possible approaches, but what have you thought of so far?’ If you have told your employees to come with their own thinking to such conversations, they may say, ‘Well, I think I should do A, B, D and E.’  Your affirming response could be, ‘I think A, B, and D are right on and E is a great idea I did not think of.  All I would suggest is that you also do C.’

The result is that the employee is going to leave much more motivated because they are implementing their own ideas – which you reinforced and complemented – AND a creative idea came out that probably would not have, had you shared your ideas first.”

By asking first and, then, if necessary offering suggestions or perspectives, we support the other as a Creator, holding them as capable and resourceful and help them increase their own capacity for creativity and innovation.


Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/ask-first-tell-second/

Thriving in Community

We create in community.  This reality, which we have written about before, came home again to David a couple weeks ago when he attended a weekend conference on “Thriving Communities” at the Whidbey Institute.

As a Creator, you are a member of a whole host of communities, towns, neighborhoods, organizations, work teams, professional associations, and families.  These are all examples of communities that hold something in common.

Sometimes we believe our unique creation is ours alone but the fact is, we cannot not create in community.  The illustration that David often uses is the craftsperson working alone in their garage making something–let’s say a table–and appears to be creating alone. However, the craftsperson draws upon the community of other carpenters who taught them the skills, or work from a previous drawing from another carpenter.  Someone created the tools they use and even others harvested and milled the wood they use as materials for the table.  All creating is co-creating and takes place in community!

We also turn to communities when we experience the Challengers of life.

During the weekend David heard a presentation from a group of psychologists who are working on identifying the qualities and characteristics that make for healthy and thriving communities.  Participants were asked to take 10 minutes and write of a time in which they had an experience of resilience (the ability to recover from adversity).  Each person shared their stories with 2-3 other people before the whole group came together to talk about common themes.

One common theme that virtually everyone reported was that they turned to some form of community for support – be it family, colleagues, friends, etc. – during their time of challenge. (Ironically, the disastrous Oso, WA mudslide that we wrote about last week occurred that last day of the conference.)

Creators resist going it alone when life’s Challengers show up.  They ask for assistance from their communities even though there is a strong human desire to hide or resist asking for support.

Take a few minutes to think about all the communities of which you are a part – personally, professionally, locally, regionally, even nationally.  How do you co-create with others in your communities?  Do you ask for help when challenged?  How can you support others as Co-Creators as they work to accomplish their envisioned outcome or face a challenging situation?

The more we make this a conscious practice and process, the more we will thrive in community.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/thriving-in-community/

Suffering Close to Home

We live on an Island a few miles west of downtown Seattle, Washington.  The horrific news this week of the massive and sudden mudslide a few miles northeast of Seattle, in the small town of Oso, is very close to home.  With instant global news, we can experience suffering from cataclysmic world events.  When it hits close to home, the suffering can be more intense and very real.

Suffering is an unavoidable part of the human experience.  It’s a false promise of the modern world (at least in developed countries) that if we work hard, get a good job, have loving relationships and be a good person, we will feel fulfilled and happy without the suffering.  The reality is suffering is an ongoing cycle inherent to life on earth.

Suffering is to be known and responded to wisely, rather than denied or rejected.   Wanting to live above the fray and not feel the suffering is a ploy we humans use to manage our pain.   If we fear being victimized by suffering we may minimize how we feel.   With this strategy we will suffer more and shut off access to compassion for ourselves and others when we deny suffering’s existence.

There is a difference between the actual suffering and our response to it.    A clear difference lies in the fact that, from time-to- time we all are victims of pain and suffering.  The family and friends, who lost loved ones and their homes in the disastrous mud slide, have been victimized by the circumstances.

Even when loss or tragedy hits close to home we do not need to identity with the victim mentality even though that may be our first instinct.  A Creator accepts that suffering is part of the circle of life and bears it with compassion and kindness.   By asking for support and admitting the depth of their pain, Creators allow others to support them rather than isolate or believe they must go it alone.

By acknowledging losses, and grieving them when they occur, we can journey into a new relationship with the aspects of life we don’t like.   It is paradoxical, that by accepting suffering as part of life, we are able to ease the burden and eventually bring closure to the pain.

As a Creator responding to the unwelcome Challengers that ignite suffering, we can still choose our response, which includes acknowledging our grief and asking for help, and take whatever small Baby Steps that will eventually move us forward.   Our hearts go out to those who are suffering from the Oso tragedy, and so many daily misfortunes small and large, that are part of the human experience.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/suffering-close-to-home/

Waiting for a Rescuer That Never Shows Up

One of Donna’s clients recently shared an awareness about how he “lives” in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.    He is a high level executive who recently learned about the DDT and alternative TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ roles.  The epiphany he had was that when he feels stuck or confused he continues to hope for a Rescuer, even when he realizes one will never show up.

We thought this insight was powerful because of the impact it had on him.  Once he observed himself looking for the Rescuer it dawned on him, “If I am looking for a Rescuer, that must mean I am thinking and acting like a Victim.”   (Read more about how Victims look for Rescuers).

This successful business leader did not initially identify with the Victim role.   Like so many people we meet, he would say, “I am not a Victim and even resent the idea of that label.”   Yet his new awareness stopped him in his tracks.   Like the characters in Samual Beckett’s famous play, “Waiting for Godot” by waiting for a rescuer to help him when feeling stuck or confused, he realized he gives his power away to the hoped-for-rescuer that never arrives (just as Godot never arrives).

The effect of the looking – or hoping – for a Rescuer strategy is that we don’t take responsibility for what is ours to do.  This unconscious habit can be quite debilitating because we do not access our own power and ability to take one Baby Step forward.  Doing so, we deny our own resourcefulness.  Once we stop and see that there is a step we can take, no matter how small, we own our responsibility to take action. We stop looking for the Rescuer and focus on being a Creator.

One of the surest ways to shift from Victim to Creator is to take responsibility for what is ours to do. We stop comparing ourselves to others, believing they know best and will save us.  By moving beyond the idea that others know better or that a Rescuer will rush in and save the day, we focus our attention on what we have to offer.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/waiting-for-a-rescuer-that-never-shows-up/

Is Drama Addicting?

When we first started sharing the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™ as an antidote to the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ and its ever-so-familiar roles of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor, we were frequently asked, “Is drama addicting?”

Somewhat puzzled by that question at first, over the years we have gained more insight into why people ask this question.

Think about the last time you were in a drama-filled situation with another person, an intense circumstance that raised fear or anxiety, or even self-directed drama with yourself.  What was it like?  Some of our observations are that our hearts beat faster; we might feel anger, irritation, frustration, agitation, or excitement, often accompanied by an adrenaline-rush.  Drama and these intense emotions go hand in hand.

If we are dead to our emotions and do not cultivate the life-giving feelings of joy, creativity, pleasure and bliss, then our human need to feel has been thwarted.  Deep inside of every human being is an innate need to experience connection with other human beings.  If the basic need to feel positive connection and emotions has been denied inside of us or does not seem available, then drama-filled emotions are better than not feeling at all.

That is why drama can be addicting, because it results in some form of connection and the adrenaline allows to feel “alive.”

David recalls a particular person with whom he worked who always seemed to be surrounded by some sort of workplace drama.   Over time, David observed a pattern in which if this person did not have a drama to engage in, he would create one, often through some rage-filled confrontation with one of his direct reports or by engaging in manipulative organizational politics of blame and power posturing.

Becoming the person we want to become and having the life we want will not be nurtured by the more negative emotions that drama evokes.  Sure, we might feel more alive at times, but after the emotions have settled, we often feel dissatisfied or shameful; that our emotional life is limited to reactivity and drama.  And this drama draws us into relating to ourselves and others as victims, persecutors and rescuers.  None of these toxic roles will develop the relationships we long for.

The antidote to the addictive adrenaline of drama is cultivating the passion for creating and co-creating with others outcomes that have heart and meaning to ourselves.  We do this by adopting a Creator Orientation and relating to others as Creators, Challengers and Coaches.  Such passion has its own rewards and forms of excitement that are much more fulfilling, resourceful and effective.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/is-drama-addicting/

The Power of the PAUSE

We recently heard a statement that helped describe the magnitude of cultural change we often feel.   During a radio interview, a person made this observation:  “It took 200 years for the labor movement to achieve a 40 hour work-week and it took only 5 years for the smart phone to destroy it.”

We certainly identify with that statement.  We are aware of how often we check our electronic gadgets and sometimes feel victimized by the 24/7 never-stop-to-pause culture in which we live.

Right after we heard the quote about smart phones monopolizing our work life, we learned a new insight about the word “pause.”   It could stand for:  Pray And Use Spiritual Energy.

Learning to PAUSE is an essential part of the TED* work.  We wrote about it last year in our essay titled:  Hit the Pause Button.   We appreciate the reminder of the acronym PAUSE, to use our spiritual energy as a path toward stopping and asking for help—which is what we believe prayer is about.

Asking for help is a way to surrender in the moment.  When either one or both of us slip into the drama roles of Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer, we are learning to pause, take a breath, and request help by asking: “Given the current circumstances, what do I really want?  Where am I willing to take responsibility for my choices?”

We now understand that these are prayerful questions and they bring us back to our highest good and on a new and more empowering spiritual path.

Without pausing, it is almost impossible to shift ourselves out of the DDT and toward a more resourceful way of living.  In the space that holds the pause, we are able to redirect our focus toward what we want to create rather than focusing on problems and what we don’t like or don’t want.  The power of the pause is huge and an absolutely essential key to shifting out of drama.   If we don’t pause, our neurology continues to be hooked by the fear-based response that pulled us into the drama in the first place.

The rapid pace of life today, with smart phones and whatever new gadgets are coming next, is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity because of the toll it takes on our health, relationships and the stress it adds to our lifestyle.  Learning to PAUSE and tap into your spiritual “higher power” energy, for just a moment, is one of the easiest, yet profound, new habits you can build into your life.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/the-power-of-the-pause/

3 Differences Between Goals and Intentions

Goal setting is a valuable skill that helps us stay on track and get things done.   They are essential for completing tasks.  We set goals such as developing a new business skill, learning a new hobby or cleaning the garage.   The question becomes, are you going to fulfill your goal?  Will you be a success or not?  Will you be happy once you reach the goal?   Will you set another goal or feel like a failure if the goal is not reached?

Goals, while moving us toward what we say we want, can take us out of the moment and create a feeling that what we have isn’t enough.  A background feeling of unease can come over us if our goal-oriented life discounts our present moment.  In short, while goals can move us forward, we can also feel victimized by constant goal setting.

Living your intentions, on the other hand, is much different than having a goal-oriented focus. Being intentional allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment, independent of whether you are winning or losing.  Allowing intentions to guide your moment to moment focus, means you are living your values and what matters most to you.

Focusing on your intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire for achievement.   By partnering goals with intentions you will become one of the few people in life who enjoy the journey as much as the destination.  Here are three differences between goal setting and intentions:

  1. Goals are focused on the future.  Intentions are in the present moment.
  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement.  Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
  3. Goals are external achievements.  Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.

A metaphor may help make this distinction.   We live in the Pacific Northwest with many wonderful day hikes that allow spectacular views.   Our goal may be to hike to the top of a small mountain and wish to see the extraordinary view from the summit.  It’s a worthy goal that gets us excited and motivates us to schedule the hike.

Before we begin the hike, we set our intention to be present to the sights and smells along the trail, noticing the beauty of the plants and unexpected vistas with each twist in the trail.  Even if the Northwest fog unexpectedly rolls in, our intention to enjoy one another and nature’s beauty can be fulfilled.  We return home not feeling victimized by not reaching our goal but, as Creators, fulfilling our intention.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/3-differences-between-goals-and-intentions/

Do You Resist Asking for Help?

As “recovering Rescuers,” we have both struggled with asking for help.  Our job is to help everyone else, not focus on ourselves.   And if we need help, our wrong-headed reasoning convinces us that there must be something wrong with us that we would need help from others.

When we resist asking for help, it is a cardinal sign that one or both of us are stuck in the Rescuing role by fixing the situation or saving others.   It’s not pretty watching two Rescuers trying to “one up” each other by being overly helpful but not allowing the other to help.  Whew!  What drama!

We have noticed it also may be hard for Persecutors to ask for help.  They don’t like asking for help because Persecutors want to control the situation and if they ask for help, they may get information that doesn’t fit their plan.

People stuck in the Victim mentality don’t like asking for support either, because if they ask for support, they might have to take responsibility to create an empowered life–which Victims want to avoid.

Not asking for help or support is a huge issue for anyone stuck in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™.  The rationale behind not asking for help may be different, but the pattern keeps all three roles in the reactive DDT patterns.

In order to shift into the TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach, it is essential to first recognize the behavior that keeps you in the DDT roles.  We guarantee, from personal experience, that resisting asking for help will keep you in the reactive roles of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor.  Observe when you resist asking for help.  Do you:

  • Assume that others should be able to read your mind and know what you need or want?
  • Assume that you should know what others are thinking and therefore don’t ask for their input or support?
  • Criticize yourself or apologize for asking for help?
  • Feel exhausted or isolated because you resist asking for support?
  • Become angry or frustrated when others ask how they can support you?

When we resist asking for help, we may not see ourselves as co-creators on equal footing with others.  This keeps us separate and unable to co-create together.

We are all partners in the creating process.   We invite you to take note when you resist asking (and receiving) help from others.  When you see yourself and others as fellow Co-Creators, the limiting idea that you can “go it alone” begins to fall away and you will be ready to more fully embrace an empowered life.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/do-you-resist-asking-for-help/

The False Self

The false self is a psychological ploy that occurs in the mind to help us manage the fears and insecurities we experience.    The false self gets its start early in life by receiving in-coming information from the still developing five senses.   The young mind evaluates the data and makes a judgment about the situation.  Is this good or bad?   Am I loved or not loved?  Am I safe or not safe?

Over time the child develops habits of thought and behavior as protection from worry and fears. Gradually the mind creates more and more thoughts and behaviors that support the false self.  As life goes on, the false self-identity becomes very real.

Another way to describe the false self is through the work of Dr. Stephen Karpman who first named the three roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer that make up the Drama Triangle (we call this the Dreaded Drama Triangle or DDT™).  We all play these roles as our false self, attempting to manage our fears and anxieties.  The power of naming the roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer is in the ability to step back and observe the false self in action.

The Victim, as an aspect of the false self and a strategy to manage fears, decides they won’t get what they want in life and feels powerless.  The Persecutor decides the way to feel safe is through control by criticizing or putting down others.  The Rescuer wants to make others happy, in hopes they will get love in return.  These three roles of the DDT™ originate from the false self.

Once able to observe the false self in the DDT™ roles, the true self, rooted in TED* (*The Empowering Dynamic)™ has a fighting chance to emerge through the roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach.  Now our true self can ask:

Do I need to give up responsibility for my response to any situation and act like a victim? Do I need to persecute and tear down others in order to feel safe?  Do I need to jump in and rescue others when it’s not my job or role?

The false self, masquerading as the DDT™ roles, is a master at tricking us.   It is both a barrier and a bridge to a more empowering way to live if we understand its dishonest attempt at helping us feel safe.  We can liberate ourselves and grow beyond the false self, much like we grow from a teenager into adulthood, by shifting from the DDT™ to TED* as a way of relating to others, life experience and ourselves.

Permanent link to this article: http://powerofted.com/the-false-self/

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