Wouldn’t organisational life be just a little bit easier if we could worry less about keeping safe? If we knew we could access our innate capacity to produce safety for ourselves and connect with people from that place?
Recently I dreamed I was possessed by some kind of ‘devil’ that lived in my throat. Very Arthur C Clark. This devil wasn’t thoroughly evil, and it certainly wasn’t that frightening, but I wanted it out. Within the dream-logic, the way to achieve this was simply to make the declaration, ‘I want you out.’
The problem was that I had to say the words out loud and I was in that strange state of paralysis that sometimes accompanies sleep. The experience in my dream was that I couldn’t speak.
But I persevered – practised if you like. Finally, I was able to croak out the required words. The devil left and I woke up to find that I had actually been croaking the words out loud, to the bemusement of my wife.
Next day I was thinking about the dream. What was this devil that I was trying to exorcise, yet was simultaneously quite attached to? Why was it that far from being frightened by the memory of the dream, I was, if anything, excited or even elated? A couple of realisations popped into my mind.
Realisations from my dream
- I remembered that that under pressure or when I’m distressed, I can lose the ability to make a point clearly. Indeed at times, I’ll even lose touch with what I think and feel. I metaphorically, if not literally, lose my voice.
- Then I thought about the ‘embodied’, somatic work I do – both in the role of practitioner and client. In this approach to leadership and personal development, the throat and jaw area is one of the key ‘armouring bands’ – bands of musculature that we inadvertently tighten as a way of managing our emotions and keeping ourselves safe, psychologically. The problem is that this can also cause us to choke off our ‘aliveness’. We become invulnerable behind our armour - we can’t be hurt but nor can we be reached or touched. I have found that when I loosen my throat and jaw, my entire body softens and relaxes, and I feel more connected to myself and the world. In that place, I am (paradoxically) both more vulnerable and more powerful.
Freud apparently said that an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter; so what interpretation might I make for my dream? Maybe it is about my own development journey?
Perhaps it is a signal that I am making progress – that I am ready to let something go? Maybe it is time to slough off an old skin – an exo-skeleton that I once needed for protection, but that is no longer required?
And wouldn’t (organisational) life be just a little bit easier if we could worry less about keeping safe? If we knew we could access our innate capacity to produce safety for ourselves and connect with people from that place?
It strikes me that great 21st Century leaders do know how to do this, both for themselves and others. Maybe now it’s time for me to join them. Time to wake up. That would certainly be cause for elation.