Healthy self-exploration and discovery: A View Across the Barricades

Healthy self-exploration and discovery, The world is spinning – again – into binary polarities and turbulent chaos. It’s almost as if, once the unifying global threat of Covid had drifted out of the headlines (at least in the wealthiest and well-vaccinated countries), we could revert back to our traditional patterns of fighting between ourselves over national and international power, resources and influence.

Gone are the utopian predictions in the midst of the pandemic that humanity would somehow be different now as if Covid could have altered something deep in our collective spirit, psyche and DNA.

Self-exploration and discovery

Healthy self-exploration and discovery – We are still who we are.

As soon as the first Russian tanks appeared on the borders of Ukraine, we defaulted straight back to the strange yet familiar place where we find solace of solidarity in the face of a conflict.

There are lessons from history that could help us here; not least from the near-distant Brexit experience of the UK and European Union (EU) where, paradoxically, the conduct and behavior of the Remain lobby arguably did more to ensure Brexit than did that of Leave.

Suggestion even with risk.

I want to suggest there’s always a risk that we inadvertently create, strengthen or contribute to the very thing we are trying to prevent.

I first wrote on this theme back in 2003 for the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management’s Edge journal in an article entitled, Blue Rabbits – Intervention Paradox in Leadership.

The title came from the instruction:

‘Don’t think of blue rabbits’ which, ironically, almost invariably brings images of blue rabbits to mind.

It has since become a recurring focus in my coaching and organization development (OD) practice, enabling people to develop greater critical reflexivity and, thereby, better results.

‘What’s your contribution to what you are experiencing?’ can be a powerful, searching question.

A challenge is that reflecting Jesus’ teaching (Mt 7:3-5), it requires a willingness for deep and critical self-reflection – and this can trigger defensive routines.

It’s easier to divide the world, including our own personal and cultural experience, into black-white, good-evil, and to project outwards onto other people or circumstances.

It releases us from the painful, anxious, or inconvenient discomfort of accountability.

Critical reflexivity can, however, enable a person or group to discern and differentiate their own contribution from that of others, e.g. ‘It’s about me, and it’s not only about me’.

It can truly transform relationships and situations.

Here are some sample questions I may use with individuals and teams. I would frame them as an invitation to healthy self-exploration and discovery; prayerfully, with humility and courage, challenge and support:

The healthy self-exploration and discovery:

  • What am I noticing?
  • What is holding my attention, and why?
  • What am I not noticing?
  • What am I assuming?
  • What seems self-evident to me, and why?
  • How am I feeling?
  • What responses am I evoking or provoking in others?
  • What am I avoiding?
  • What am I willing to take a stance on?
  • What will I do if I feel threatened or defensive?
  • How can we hold robust conversations that feel safe?

Nick Wright is a qualified and experienced psychological coach, trainer and organisation development (OD) consultant and a follower of Jesus. He is based in the UK and works with leaders, teams and organisations internationally (www.nick-wright.com).

Healthy self-exploration and discovery