Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cultivated Neutrality

Cultivate - to nurture (synonym: foster); to form and refine, as by education.

Neutral - belonging to neither kind, not one thing or the other; of or relating to a particle, object, or system that has a net electric charge of zero; a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted

Neutrality - tolerance attributable to a lack of involvement (synonym: disinterest)

I've had the idea of cultivated neutrality simmering in the back of my mind for a while now. Initially, it seems like a positive thing.

A person with cultivated neutrality can go into a new situation, so she can see what's truly there and make an honest evaluation with no preconceived notions or biases. When meeting new people, this cultivated neutrality can be an avenue through which a person is willing to experience the whole of another person's presence and absorb the experience without knee-jerk reactions, so that the experience can be processed at a later time. This is a definite plus.

The flip side of that is how the other person might experience one who maintains this place of cultivated neutrality throughout their interaction. It's rather like reading a book where only a very short introduction is written. The rest of the book is blank, so there's nothing for the reader to experience. The danger here is that, when experiencing the presence of a person who stays neutral or when interacting with a neutral person in a new situation, others might have an instinctual need to withdraw or pull themselves back because the presence of the other person is felt negatively, as though he or she is not truly present. Interacting with a neutral person can feel like dealing with a facade.

The person who has cultivated neutrality runs the risk of being experienced as disengaged.

It is interesting to note that in physics neutrality is when a particle has a net charge of zero. There is no energy. Interesting, too, that it is a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted. If gears are disengaged, and power cannot be transmitted, there can be no forward movement.

People are not neutral by nature. This neutrality has to be cultivated. If you observe children, they are anything but neutral. Energy is a child's trademark. Curiosity is a child's trademark, as is engaging with their world and the people around them.

Cultivated neutrality can be a safe place. It seems to me that it's a safety device, or a self-defense mechanism, that an individual cultivates as a response to having been hurt. Particularly if a person homesteads in that place of cultivated neutrality. It also seems to me that a person who has cultivated neutrality, and insists on making that her primary mode of experiencing life, has hobbled herself by choosing to maintain non-involvement.

Life is not neutral. Life CANNOT be experienced if a person is non-involved. Life can only be observed from that place.

There are times and places when, I think, we all step into that place of cultivated neutrality. The question is whether we stay there.

Where have you cultivated neutrality in your life? What would it take to reengage in the situations and relationships where neutrality has become the foundation?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Stench of Authority

Earlier this week a co-worker came to me for help. There was something that he needed taken care of and, though he'd tried other avenues, he hadn't been able to accomplish what was necessary so he came to me. This happens fairly regularly.

There are a couple of things that people laughingly say when they call me about something. The first is, "I'll ask Michelle because she knows everything." The second is, "I'll ask Michelle because she'll make it happen."

Today the co-worker who had asked for my help came to me, appreciative because I'd done, with relative ease and speed, what others had apparently been unable to do. All it had taken was a phone call from me, some instructions for him, and he got what he needed handled. I told him that I'd been glad to help, and that it hadn't been difficult. His response was to laugh and say, "That's because everyone fears you. You have the stench of authority!" I joked with him about being stenchy, but his comment gnawed at me for the rest of the day.

There was a time when I was dubbed "Supreme Commander" by a manager in my department. It was done tongue-in-cheek because, really, I'm no one's commander. The reality is that I've worked hard to become the sort of person who refuses to be intimidated. Nobody likes to feel intimidated, and I just learned to suck it up and stick to my guns when necessary. I refuse to be impressed by titles or position, or any of the things that turn usually intelligent people into squealing teenage girls. It's not that the emotions aren't there, because I'm wired as a highly emotional person. It's a matter of choosing the sort of person I want to be, which is strong and brave, and determining to look at others as mere mortals who are no better and no worse than I am.

Who I have chosen to be looks quite different from the outside than it does from the inside.

The truth is, I don't want to be feared. I want to be loved. Being needed for what I can accomplish is nice, but I'd rather be wanted for who I truly am on the inside.

Cultivating a character that is strong and brave has been a double-edged sword.

Looking at it from one perspective, I'm competent and efficient and will get the job done. It's earned me the trust of my boss. It's placed me in a position of leadership and authority. Whether I do or do not see it as my authority, which I don't, it's a mantle I don every day. Turn that over and, truth be told, it's a mantle I never consciously sought. It's a mantle that I don't really want, but it goes along with the job I do. It helps me help others.

I wonder how true this is of others, who are in far greater leadership roles than I. I wonder if, perhaps, some of the weaknesses I see in those in leadership roles is due to the fact that they've taken the mantle of leadership as their own instead of wearing it on behalf of others.

I've been in the presence of many, many individuals who are leaders and people of authority. There are things that I've seen that break my heart - attitudes of entitlement and subtle arrogance. Attitudes that have been fed by those around them, whose voices ring with admiration and even awe. "You are our leader!! We follow you!! Tell us what to do, how to live, who to be!!"

These leaders are just people, like you and me, whose hearts hunger to be loved and wanted for who they really are.

It's a hard, unkind thing to put another person on a pedestal. They might fall off it and get broken into many small pieces. Everybody suffers when that happens

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sharing the Joy

Please allow me a moment to laugh at myself.

As previously posted, the last time I took the MBTI my results showed that my personality type is that of an INTJ. INTJ means Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging person. This personality type is called The Scientist.

However, since 2009 began, God has been doing a lot in my life. And I do mean a LOT!

First, my heart was stirred to join a tribe of people whose hunger for life is similar to mine. We hunger for a dangerous, radical and free way of being. This is an awesome group of people who realizes that it's far more about who we are than what we do, because if we're really authentic then what we do will reflect that.

Next, I went through The Destiny Project. It really is as described - a transformational journey. I saw a detailed portrait of the person God envisioned me to be in a way that has turned my world upside down.

The Destiny Project launched me into this adventure of self-discovery. I'd spent 40-something years trying, and mostly succeeding, to be someone other than the real me. Glimpses were seen, but I'd been programmed from childhood to quash that highly energetic, emotional, gifted little girl so I lived out of the shadow mission. In DP language, a person's shadow mission is the enemy's plan for that person's life. Not God's.

So, as I've continued to walk out this journey of self-discovery, I decided to take the MBTI again. I followed my curiosity and laughed myself giddy at what I discovered.

I am not an introverted, thinking, judging person. I am almost the exact opposite of what had previously been indicated.

I am an ENFP. Extroverted. Intuitive. Feeling. Perceiving.

The portrait of an ENFP calls this personality The Inspirer.

An Inspirer. I LIKE it!!