It’s quite a question.
It came up because my beloved Cassie, whom I see as one of the most capable ‘stepping up’ women I know, began talking about her past perceived life failures and how they had moulded her life experience. I began looking at my own life and saw that I too had a subconscious story of ‘not good enough’ running that mediated every good thing I attempted.
I was also stimulated by Dr Mark Goulston’s latest post on How to Drain an Emotional Wound. In a postscript to the excellent article, he gave the two most common and most avoided ideas people hold on to. The first was the idea that they had made some terrible, future life-changing decision that had brought them to this irreversible present. The second was that they really actually slightly crazy or unstable and that nothing could be done about it. These ideas (and I’m sure there are others) pervaded their conscious life while managing to remain hidden from anything that may change them.
I know I have an unconscious saboteur in my life.
It’s the one that seduces me to check my email and Facebook too often, to begin great projects and take them 90% of the way, that feeds me brilliant ideas with the caveat that I am ‘just too busy’ to execute them. It subtly pervades my working life and, as Dr Mark says, we exert 80+% of our psychic consciousness keeping it at bay.
Or not. I can only speak for my experience when I declare that it is my daily practice of slowly, slowly prising its icy grip from my mind. Hopefully I have chipped my way down below the 80+% mark because every percent released is a percent available for my true self!
I have been blessed with an amazingly inventive mind.
I think up ideas so fast I often don’t even get to write down the last one before I have the next. So my unconscious saboteur has added a wicked twist to my dualistic self-abandonment by telling me that I am somehow damaged because I can’t actualise these wonderful world-changing ideas.
As we discussed this over our paleo brainfood breakfast, another idea hit me. “Would you” I asked, pointing at Cassie, “employ yourself?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, we’ve learned through bitter experience from the people we’ve employed that they can – and will – say anything to get the job. In fact you have to be like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, picking up the small slips, the incongruencies of their story to make sure they are the real thing. What a hell of a way to talk to someone you will be spending eight hours a day with! What’s more, there is a whole industry training people to… lie about their past to get a job. And we’ve both agreed that in the future we will ask for and insist upon them being able to actually demonstrate – with referees or actual projects they have managed – what they say they can do – or are promising they can do. No proof, no hire.”
Cassie thought a moment. “So you are asking whether I’d employ myself, knowing what I know about myself? Ooh. That’s a good one!”
The creative force was with us.
I let my mind run free. We all have stories we cover up from ourselves. There IS another story of what we are, who we are, what we have really done with our lives, and without the judgement subtly and monotonously applied by our ‘small self’. But this one is being smothered by the one Dr Mark’s article says takes 80+% of our psychic energy. Looking back, our real experience of employing people always resolved into a long term story of connection with an employee – not just because of his or her abilities on paper but to a much larger degree, his or her actual personality. As a result we have some dear friends who happen to be great team members.
- Particularly, we wanted to know whether they were capable of remaining present and accountable.
- Whether they were really willing to be a part of our story.
- Whether they are all talk or all action.
Let’s be honest about being honest. Resume writing is somewhat like cheating the taxman. A permissible sin. So employing anyone is a battle of wits and often melts down to a gut feeling of trust for the employer when the applicant really shows they want to be involved in your dream.
Now let’s look again at the ‘employing yourself’ idea. What Cassie pointed out was that we are really asking interviewees is whether our offered position is just a means to an end, or are they truly committed to being an integral part of our dream. She went on.
“Am I offering my real self, or am I offering a ‘small self’ that works on the basis of my unconscious story; that I’m really unstable, or crazy, or irreparably damaged – and just presenting what I think my employer (me) wants to hear? Am I being basically dishonest with myself?”
Boy, that girl can nail it.
She has this amazing ability to attack my Gordian knots with a sword, cutting through the mindstuff and getting down to the ‘guts’ of the issue. Am I playing a dual role in my life?
One ‘me’ may be the one that runs my business, attempts to attract investors or purchasers based on a contrived story.
The other me is the one that is courageous enough to present my ‘warts and all’ story with the confidence that my other self across the table can and will accept me into his ‘organisation’ or dream.
Ah, if it were that easy. I know my battle for authenticity may last years. (Now hold on, Ian, that’s an assumption. You don’t ‘know’. You assume, and assumptions are presumptions without gumption) I assume (and accept) that the small self waits in the shadows, darting out to sabotage and remind me of my perceptions of my unsuitability to be a member of the human species. Yes, I admit it. I am perfectly imperfect and that’s perfect.
I understand that the hubris of George Bush declaring the war was won from a safe aircraft carrier far from the battle just doesn’t cut the mustard in this most personal of battles. I am in the trenches of my mind every day, acting exactly as any soldier does; remaining alerts for signs of threat, being ‘in the now’ so I am fully present and keeping my spirit high through communion with my higher selves, my fellow soldiers in my trench. And yes, we win some skirmishes and lose others. A bit like the Somme actually.
But would I employ me? In a flash! At the very least there would be no nasty surprises once I am ‘installed in the job, new business cards printed, new computer purchased… At the highest, I have someone I know will say yes to join me in my dream of a future of honesty, integrity, and yes, reward.
PS: I would love to hear your comments and experiences about this!