Develop the Skill of Being With Uncomfortable Energy.
There’s a lightbulb moment in business coaching sessions where the CEO realizes he is not alone, that in fact nobody else knows what they’re doing either.
Everyone else is winging it or waiting to be caught out. There’s a moment of relief before the next thought: “How is stuff actually happening?”
We always assume there’s a clever plan. There is a strategy, of course. Something to create the illusion that the future can be controlled. But it’s only a best guess, because no one knows what’s going to happen next.
If we dig beneath the surface to the energy world, everything begins with a thought. Thought creates energy, and we must decide what to do with that energy.
1. Direct it to a target (You’ve got one shot, as Eminem would say).
2. Play with it (pass the ball back and forth).
When a target is hit, there’s a feeling of winning. But the energy then stops. A win is often followed by a feeling of emptiness.
On the other hand, when energy is in play, there’s a feeling of excitement, but also anxiety. It’s always interesting to watch the audience at a tennis match — nail-biting anxiety followed by despair or elation.
How this game plays out in business or politics is similarly two-fold.
1. One person (an entrepreneur, e.g., Elon Musk or Donald Trump) takes an idea and pushes it towards a goal (I’m not throwing away my shot, as Lin Manuel Miranda would say).
2. Everyone else plays ball together, sometimes called the workforce. There’s excitement (OMG, I don’t believe Trump/Musk just did that!) and also anxiety (OMG, I don’t believe Trump/Musk just did that!).
We’re now in a complete mess.
1. Entrepreneurs are running around brandishing their winnings, unchecked and unregulated. Some people assume they know what they’re doing, but others are waking up to the truth that they’re making it up as they go along.
2. World events are resembling a 24/7 soap opera drama. Some people are finding this exciting, but most are in a severe state of anxiety because, really, How is stuff happening? What is the plan, and who is in charge of it?
5G. There must be some kind of conspiracy whereby Big Tech wants to rule the world. More likely? 5G is the evolution of an idea. 3G evolved into 4G which evolved into 5G.
Coronavirus. There must be some kind of conspiracy in which the Illuminati want to rule the world. More likely? Coronavirus is the evolution of an idea by Mother Nature. We are surrounded by pathogens which are constantly mutating all the time.
Vaccinations. There must be some kind of conspiracy in which Bill Gates wants to rule the world. More likely? It’s the evolution of vaccines, some of which are good and some of which are bad.
Ending lockdown. There must be a conspiracy to kill off the old and sick.
Extending lockdown. There must be a conspiracy to keep people imprisoned so that the workforce can be made redundant and replaced with AI. More likely? It’s a no-win situation. Lockdown will cause death. Opening the economy will cause death.
Everybody wants to rule the world, as Tears for Fears would say.
It’s more interesting to place our focus on what’s happening underneath the surface in the energy world. We’ve been familiar with the concept of Winner takes all since Charles Darwin introduced us to Survival of the fittest, but it’s more revealing to look at the energy that drives this concept.
All our actions are driven by a need to feel something. We move forward towards the feeling of winning, or we move forward to get away from the feeling of losing.
The drive for Bob Geldof to raise money for the African famine was a knee-jerk reaction to witnessing starving children. A lot of the money raised was misappropriated because of the need for personal wins by corrupt officials.
The drive for Bill Gates to vaccinate everyone could come from an egocentric need to save the world, or it could come from the need to stop seeing people dying painful deaths. No one knows how this will play out, but there are bound to be problems. Bill’s need to solve the problem quickly could create a problem that’s worse than the original problem.
Both of these towards-the-goal and away-from-the-pain reactions prevent us from the genius solutions that can arrive in the gap between the two. As Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Questions we can’t answer create tension in us, and that tension seeks release. If we developed the skill of being with uncomfortable energy, we might rise to something approximating genius, or at least wisdom. At the very least, this exercise would expand our hearts. There’s more room in a broken heart, as Carly Simon would say.
If Mother Nature could speak, perhaps she would say, “Learn to play nicely together, or I have to end the game.” Unlike humans, nature copes well with paradox. It is creative destruction… order and chaos… a terrible beauty. We can’t control what’s going on, but we can control our response to it, in our…
… mind: are we knowledgeable or wise?
… heart: are we cynical or compassionate?
… psyche: are we in survival mode or creative consciousness?
Active is much better than passive, if we’re aware of the energy driving the action. Is it need (the need to win, the need to avoid pain) or love (the desire to create something new, something better)? This pause in business as usual could allow us to raise our game, change the game, and invent whole new ways of organizing society.
Eleanor O’Rourke is a writer and creativity coach, specializing in creative blocks. She is the author of 40 Days 40 Nights: One Woman’s Quest to Reclaim her Creative Mojo, Breakdown: A Rebel’s Take on Depression, and The Freedom Project: How To Find Contentment in a Crazy World. She believes that creativity is the birthright of every individual, and that if we don’t collectively learn to tap into that, the human species will have a tricky time evolving to the next level. You can contact her via her website, Twitter or email.