Bearing Witness

Sometimes your task is just to bear witness. And it can bring all of your humanity to the surface. Bearing witness is not necessarily a neutral task. It can be a deeply emotional, heart wrenching but necessary role. It can be absolutely vital to the person(s) or situation you are called to witness. And the question becomes – are you up to it? Are you up to all it asks of you?

candle in people circleIn our Worldview Intelligence Personal Leadership program one of the models we use is the drama triangle. We use it to help participants understand the patterns and roles in drama – our own or others – through how we tell our stories.

It is easy to get caught up in drama – our own or someone else’s. There is some pleasure in the telling of the story, in trading power for sympathy. It is especially easy to get caught up in someone else’s drama with the often mistaken belief that we can rescue them from their own stories, rescue them from themselves. There is something insidious about drama that has people wanting to engage the story, the gossip, the inside scoop of it, to offer advice and solve problems rather than to sit patiently for what wants and needs to unfold. It can be hard to remember that their story is not ours to tell.

I sometimes notice I have to stop myself from embroiling myself in another’s drama, stop the words “how can I help?” from spilling out of my mouth. It is very appealing to imagine ourselves as a “prince” riding in on a white stallion to save the day.

However, you cannot rescue people from themselves and you cannot save them from their own journeys. No matter how hard you try. It is not yours to do. If this is not yours to do, then what is – aside from your own healing journey?

Sometimes it is to hold the space, to bear witness. If the journey you hold space for is intense and heartbreaking, it can be heart wrenching to be a witness. It requires all of who you are to be present. This can seem like no action to someone who desperately wants you to intervene and yet it is sometimes the only action that is possible.

To witness another person into being. To hold the space for that healing journey. These are gifts beyond measure that would be lost if you are not up to the task of bearing witness, not up to the task of listening, or holding space, not up to the task of keeping yourself out of a story that is not yours to live or to tell.

Don’t go looking for it, but when it arrives, notice and appreciate the deep gift of bearing witness. Allow yourself to be heart broken too. Bring compassion to your listening. And, notice the person you bear witness to is not the only recipient of the gift of bearing witness.

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Not On My Watch, Although I Am Still Deep In Shock

The US election result on top of Brexit, fake news, new euphemisms like “post-truth” and “alt-right” has left many of us reeling in our emotional responses. At times I feel numb, other times I am angry, often I am confused and I am anxious about the future. It is like world events are unfolding in stop motion and at each new frame I can hardly cope with what is being revealed or what it even means. How will I respond? How do I keep garnering my internal and soul resources to stay functioning in an openhearted way, embrace what shows up and focus on what matters? I know I am not the only person having these experiences now. My work with worldviews makes me deeply aware that we need to find ways to really listen to people with very different worldviews and the more different and more challenging our worldviews the harder it is to find presence within ourselves to show up to the conversation. And it is exactly what is needed now. When I look back on this time, I want to be able to say, in places where I do have influence, “not on my watch”. What do we need from each other to collectively say, “not on our watch”?

Worldview Intelligence

It’s been seven weeks since the American election and I, like so many people I know, am still in shock. I find myself going through the motions of my life, living into the moments as they appear while at the same time there is a niggling little curiosity that tugs at the corners of my mind. Is this what it was like in pre-war (pick any time period) Germany, France, Austria and so many other countries? Were there people who wondered at the inanity of it all, who feared for the future, who could see disaster lurking around the corner and felt powerless to stop it? Did they think the things my mind turns to as I wonder what the future will hold? As on a daily basis there are choices made that seem incredulous? Like all the cabinet picks who couldn’t be more opposite than the intent…

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Listening Another Person Into Healing

Recently, I agreed to be interviewed for an academic research project about an intense period / experience of my life. A period that is years behind me, that I can now speak about in a much more detached way than when I was in it or immediately past it. The interviewer knows some of my story. In the role of interviewer, her job was to listen, not to interact with my story.

Listen into beingAfter she left, I found myself at times weeping for no explicable reason. The tears just flowed. Beautiful, gracious, glorious release.

I am reminded of the power of just listening, not interpreting, not trying to put words in someone’s mouth. It is a witnessing that can bring another person into being. Can surface what needs to be surfaced for healing.

I don’t know what was there that was surfaced. I don’t need to know specifics. I am aware that something I did not know was still there was released. I am shifting shape yet again as I lean even more fully into this journey to openheartedness. As I answer the call of what is before me.

And I am grateful.

When was the last time you listened to someone else’s story? Just listened. With curiositySlide1 and compassion, no judgment. When you waited to see if they were finished their thoughts – because more thoughts, more aspect of story arises in the silence – before you asked your next question? When the questions you ask are for the benefit of the story teller and not for your own?

When you listen well enough, you can listen another person into being. When you listen well enough, you can listen another person into healing. Try it. See what happens.