Relieving Our Pain

Why would I judge you for needing relief from the pain you feel inside?

(Terrence Real in I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.

 

We do live in times of great pain and suffering—locally, nationally, and internationally. And with television and social media we can see and feel all  of the world’s angst—often more than we can bear.

Some of us use chemicals to alter how we feel and become addicted. Others become dependent on sex, porn, food, power, money, status, gambling, video games, the Internet, “likes” on Face Book, our children’s successes, and scaling the corporate ladder. And most of us appear driven to consume the biomass of the planet as fast as we can despite the threat to humanity.

Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel wrote in The Addictive Organization, “An addiction is any process over which we are powerless. It takes control of us, causing us to do and think things that are inconsistent with our personal values and leading us to become progressively more compulsive and obsessive. A sure sign of an addiction is the sudden need to deceive ourselves and others, to lie, deny, and cover up.”

Addiction is not the way to end our inner angst nor is profound denial of reality. For those of us with addictions (most of us), we must first manage our dependencies. We see reality honestly and stop the compulsive behavior, we feel the pain within us that we avoid so strenuously and we set out to learn how to live and how to feel alive naturally. We embrace the support of others and we get right with ourselves. We embark on a lifelong journey of human and spiritual development. We become wiser and better people.

Change is hard.

We must fight against relapse (the failure to maintain our improvement) as we work to learn new ways to deal with emotional pain. Research shows that 90% of open-heart surgery patients fail to sustain lifestyle changes longer than 90 days. Diabetics relapse when they eat too many sweets. Most offenders fail to learn how to live and go back to prison. Alcoholics “slip.” Few organizational change efforts sustain themselves because people fall back into old habits when under stress.

Relapse happens to most of us in one way or another — chronic disease or not. How many times have we failed to live up to our commitments for change in our lives?

When we stumble, we get back up, learn our lessons and go back to work.

We want relief from the emotional pain we feel. But quick-fixes only deny reality, refuse new learning, make our pain worse and are never sustainable. We’ll live wiser, better and longer if we do the hard work to manage emotional pain in healthy ways. Some things to begin with: daily exercise, a healthy diet, acceptance of the things we can’t change, change the things we can, cultivate healthy relationships, gain the perspective of time, meditate to calm our minds and make room for new insights, learn to feel and express our feelings appropriately and detach from materialism and nurture the spirit within us. And sometimes we just have to feel the pain of life’s realities.

Colleague Myron Lowe, said, “I learned to live with pain and joy at the same time.” We live with the pain of greater awareness and deeper empathy for all that lives and continually transform that sorrow into even greater compassion for others. And we see the joy of  moments of authenticity and glimpses of the potential that exists in each of us.

We may not change the world. But we will live true to the best within us and do what we can to stop the life-destroying ideas, lies and behaviors that destroy our spirits.

No one said life would be easy.

 

 

Addictive Organizations

Many people in organizations are in emotional pain. The suffering is sharp and searing–deep in the souls of so many. The source of much of this unnecessary anguish is, I believe, a worldview that alienates people from others, themselves, and the natural world.

To continue this unnatural, inauthentic, and destructive behavior, men and women must lie to themselves. People then become sincerely deluded; they believe their lies. Their pain becomes normal, and they become the walking dead characterized by anger, cynicism, indifference, and disengagement. Soon men and women fear their inner voices because the voices tell them the truth about what they are doing to themselves and others.

People are able to deceive themselves and numb their pain through denial. In The Birth and Death of Meaning a Perspective in Psychiatry and Anthropology Ernest Becker wrote, “If everybody lives roughly the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.”

Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel wrote in The Addictive Organization, “An addiction is any process over which we are powerless. It takes control of us, causing us to do and think things that are inconsistent with our personal values and leading us to become progressively more compulsive and obsessive. A sure sign of an addiction is the sudden need to deceive ourselves and others to lie, deny, and cover up.”

We think of addiction to substances like heroin, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, or cigarettes. We can also have process addictions. Process addictions are addictions to a series of events or relationships that together form a process. Examples of process addictions are money, power, status, competition, quick-fix change programs, and climbing the corporate ladder.

Addictive behavior in organizations prevents mindfulness, blocks authenticity, and separates people from their values and beliefs. Addictive behavior obstructs the formation of relationships with others, represses emotions and intuition, and blinds people from processes and patterns that embarrass and/or threaten behavior.

Addictive organizations do not allow feelings. People lose touch with their pain, fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. This separation from themselves leads to separation from others. If people felt their emotions, they would want to tell the truth, and there’s no room for truth, about many things, in addictive organizations. People who are honest about what they feel are, in many organizations, a threat to denial and are expelled from the system–literally or figuratively.

Addictive organizations hold out new promises for the future to distract people from the present. In recent years, grand visions for the future driven by quick-fix program after quick-fix program provide the temporary relief, and the distraction from self, that some want. Little really changes, except the level of pain in the organization. At the same time, these organizations absorb into their destructive essence anything that promises to be healthier.

The addictive system moves from crisis to crisis. Most people are kept too busy and too confused to challenge the system. Those who do challenge the behavior of an addictive organization are neutralized and marginalized. Change agents who challenge the status quo are often demonized and scapegoated. Often this neutralization takes the form of fabricated personality conflicts that allow the truth put forth by the change agent to be discounted.

Values and ethics are the ultimate victims of an addictive organization.

Transformation is a recovery process as much as it is a journey. Recovery requires a commitment to seeing the world and ourselves as we are and an intense desire to become who we can be.