The role of pain and tension in evolutionary leadership

 

[This piece is written for Dutch book Bloei! on leadership and organisation. I was asked to write on “lijderschap” which in Dutch is a play on words. Leadership is normally “leiderschap”. “Lijden” means to suffer.]

 

Passion – pp. stem of patī suffer (Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology)

Practice

We are on retreat with the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands. It is the last morning and we have just completed a forty-five minute session of Quantum Light Breath. I am sitting in a circle of seventeen people who fill a role in the organisation I founded and lead. I have just announced that I have something to say. My voice trembling with the emotion of the realisation that I have just had, I open my mouth to speak. I share that it has just hit me really hard what an honour it is to be entrusted with the leadership of these amazing people I see sitting around me. I tell that I allowed myself to accept that I may be worthy of their trust, which is a huge thing. I say that I realise that I have not always been able to see them for the great souls they are and have not honoured them fully in my leadership. For that I apologise and commit to remembering. The room is still. Then our master of ritual tells me to stand in the middle of the room and has everyone put their hands on my shoulders. People call out qualities that they respect in me and my leadership. I am rooted to the spot and feel my self expand. The pain of the realisation has bonded us more closely and installed me more deeply in my leadership role. Natural order is honoured.

Pain and Passion

I was struck recently when researching the etymology of the word passion that it had its roots in the word pain. It set me thinking – does all passion emerge out of pain? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do I only care about something strongly because I hurt somewhere? Does that mean that all the things I am passionate about are simply a projection of my own past pain? And if that is so, does that mean I should be wary of passion? Yet passion is what has helped me create, inspire and lead the organisations I lead in the world. What is this all about? And so my mind whirred around confused and challenged.

As I quieted the monkey mind, the chatter began to settle and clarity started to emerge. Yes, passion emerges from pain. Pain comes from a realisation of separation and split. Passion is our yearning for wholeness that looks to transcend the separation and heal the pain. My passion, as an expression of a desire for greater wholeness, is a valid and important part of my being and life’s movement towards more wholeness and finer definition. It becomes unhealthy when I demand that others share my passion. After all, it is rooted in my pain, not theirs. It is vitalising and inspiring when I own my pain and passion, and create space for others who resonate with my passion to embark on a journey together to do something about it.

Pain into Passion

Pain in itself can be debilitating. It can paralyse us – quite literally if it is physical. If we only feel pain and don’t see anything we can do about it, we are not going to be in a position to lead anyone, let alone ourselves. The first key step when transforming pain into passion is fully facing the pain and accepting that the situation one is hurting about is the way it is. There is no point in fighting that reality emotionally as it is simply that way for now and we need to able to accept that. Once we have accepted that, we can actually be in clear contact with that situation, unpolluted by our other fears and judgements. From that space we can connect to potential alternatives and hold the tension in ourselves between the present and the future in a way which can create a natural evolutionary movement that expands our possibilities while embracing the current reality.

Creative Tension

Tension is the pre-condition of all life. Buckminster Fuller, David Bohm and more recently Nassim Haramein and Marshall Lefferts have illustrated how that is actually so in the dynamic geometry of life. The following points draw on these sources.

Everything that we can perceive as a life form rests in what is called the Unified Field – that is a field of potential energy where everything is one. This is the inner experience of the absolute unity context that we can feel through meditative practices. It is a place of stillness where nothing happens. Life is created when a pull is exerted on the unified field geometry which brings a certain energy out of balance and starts a collapse of the unified field’s vector equilibrium geometry through the platonic solids geometries that are the foundation of all life. A dynamic is triggered between two poles in which a number of other polarities are activated, which creates a toroidial spin. The most recent scientific observations describe the torus as the foundational geometric form and dynamic of all living systems.

Without a polarity, nothing comes into movement and the unified field is undisturbed. Polarity creates tension which creates movement and spin, creating life. Pain is rooted in polarity, in an experience of a current reality compared to a possible other reality. It hurts because it could be so much better. A good leader knows how to hold polarities in such a way that they trigger passion and creativity, and build a movement.

Pain, polarity and change

Pain and polarity are key change conditions. If one is not feeling a tension between current reality and future possibility, why should one change? This issue is central to our current global crisis, which is of course also a crisis of leadership.

We are clearly in trouble as humanity at the moment. The Earth is destabilising the climate and ecology that has supported our life form for so long, at least in significant part due to our disrespectful and uninformed exploitation and waste of natural resources. Economic, social and ecological systems are showing signs of high stress. Nature is ruthless – if any life form does not adapt to fit the whole that it is a part of, then it will die out. That safeguards the vitality of the life system as a whole. As humanity we are pushing the limits of our own survival. Yet we seem to be extremely slow at changing.

Although the facts are clear, we are finding it very hard to let in the pain of the current situation. Species are dying out all around us, including some of the great mammals, peoples are suffering under increasingly challenging survival conditions and much of the beauty in our world is coming under great stress. The world that our children and grandchildren are likely to inherit will be a high-stress, conflict-ridden world of extremes.

So why aren’t we taking the action we should be? Because we are not allowing it in. We are keeping it out of our hearts and emotions because somewhere we fear that we may not be able to take it. When you really allow the current reality in, it hurts, badly. It breaks our hearts. Particularly when we allow ourselves to accept that we are partly responsible. Sadness emerges at the loss of beauty and potential, anger emerges at ourselves and others around us for not doing what we know we should be doing, and fear emerges that we may be too late. Reinforced by the consensus trance of the rational society and culture we live in, we are loathe to give our emotions the place they deserve. So we bottle it up. Yet as all psychologists will tell you, repressing pain will only lead to more stress in the future. We find all sorts of ways to distract ourselves, yet increasing numbers of people are at home with burn-out. Stress is the highest cause of absenteeism at work. Somewhere in ourselves we know that things need to change. And somewhere in ourselves we are hurting, badly. We need to let it out.

As humanity now we must create the space and conditions for us to name and face the pain of our knowing about what is happening. Drop deep into the despair, frustration, fear and anger. Let it rage in us and between us. As we do so, our beings will come to settle into a creative tension between what we have accepted is true now and our knowing that it can be different. In that space we can lead ourselves and each other into a world that reflects our deepest desires and potentials, an abundant world where all needs are met and people thrive on the beauty of life. The longer we refuse to let it in, the more suffering we will undergo as the Earth restores the balance on her terms. The sooner we let it in, the more graceful the transition will be, and the quicker we will find ourselves doing what we are really here to do.

Leadership

We live in archetypal times. As leaders, we need to work at the archetypal level. This is the place of deep pain and passion, the place of story, of heroes, of wizards, of magic. This is the place from which we can make anything happen, if we believe. To do so, we need to bless and release our cognitive minds from all the hard rational work they normally do for us, and open our hearts to the energies of the time. In our hearts we will find the fire and the deep knowing that will guide us through this turbulent transition. Fuelled by the pain of what is at stake and the passion for what is possible, grounded in seeing the present clearly, and held in our ultimate knowing that all is one, we will unfold a future worthy of who we are.

8 thoughts on “The role of pain and tension in evolutionary leadership

  1. Bless you, Peter! This is a wonderful perspective. I shall carry it with me into my participatory leadership work in the European Commission next week. There’s a place where people are afraid to let in the pain…

  2. Dear Peter, I just came back yesterday from a powerful and sacred CIYO retreat at Samaya and your blog really resonates. I experienced my pain and passion at her deepest and fullest. Embracing the dark and the light and feel fully alive!

    When will your book be released?

    Love for you and Marcella,

    Namaste,
    Daniëlle

    • Great! I’m glad the CIYO event went ahead. Pain and Promise will be out March next year. Leading from the Field hopefully in October. Love, Peter

  3. Dear Peter,
    I am inspired and moved by your passionate and very personal inquiry into pain, passion and leadership. It gives me courage to open deeply to my own sorrow and anger at the world situation. I think this will also enable me, as change agent, to dare to encourage others do the same
    Warmest,
    Mara

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  5. Deep Gratitude for this sparkling Truth you shared with us Peter…
    This gratitude comes from a very vulnerable place that Greece is right now… Vulnerable and Powerfully Leading on the Edge at the same time…
    Πάθος > Pathos > Passion > Pathology > …
    In Greek we also use the plural of Pathos/Passion, “Πάθη” which means the “passionate weakenesses” that hold immense strength and bring forward the uniqueness of each one of us…
    This is one of the most key~resonant articles I have read lately. And I begin to realise that you also play a key mentoring role along my Life~Path* (*no idea if this is related to Pathos! :D)…

    Much love & ΦΙΛΙΑ from the Aegean,

    Maria
    ~~~

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