Frozen on the Inside
Frozen on the Inside
At least, that’s what it felt like whenever I found myself confronted by someone’s strong feelings.
When I took a new position as Director of Resident Services in the retirement community where I was employed, I suddenly found myself frequently experiencing the powerful emotions of residents and team members on concerns that were important to them. One casual observer even stopped by my office one day with a fire hat and christened me the new fire chief! Initially, I thought with time I would get used to these encounters, but I didn’t. I knew two things – one, that I was interested and two, that I felt helpless. In a word – frozen. I began to wonder, “how can I stay engaged in a meaningful way? How can I move beyond emotional overwhelm to the position of being able to facilitate a helpful discussion?”
I began to ponder these questions regularly through reflection, reading, and observing other leaders. At the same time, I began to investigate various theories of leadership and human behavior and my research led me to Bowen Family Systems and in time Resilient Leadership. Through understanding the Resilient Leadership Model, I began to explore in more depth the emotional process of organizations and families. Discovering the profound effect that chronic anxiety has on human behavior was pivotal. I could understand my feeling of “frozenness” was rooted in my southern culture of being nice. I identified self-differentiation as a specific area of growth for myself with the goal of increasing my capacity for independent thinking while maintaining a strong connection to others. My desire was to make the shift from being nice (and frozen) to being curious, thoughtful, and engaged. I began to be aware of the feelings that were present in moments of conflict. Rather than shutting down I used this growing self-awareness as an internal flag to stay curious and stay connected. In short - I was on a mission to become clearer in my thinking and my relating to others. Rather than feeling a need to change or convince others, I recognized that the real opportunity for change was within myself.
“The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change,” writes Edwin Friedman. “If you want your child, spouse, client, or boss to shape up, stay connected while changing yourself rather than trying to fix them.”
This new understanding of leadership has enabled me to experience delight and discovery in heated moments as I recognize the growth and opportunity that comes from the nip and challenge of change. It’s an ongoing journey, but rather than being frozen I believe I am bringing more of my best self to the conversation, and I am better able to act from my best thinking.
To learn more about self-differentiation, self-awareness, and achieving inner change with Resilient Leadership concepts, contact Florence Brooks – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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