A conversation with Maria and Kamyar while preparing breakfast one morning in Axladitsa’s open kitchen brought me to an insight about how to articulate what needs to shift in our relationships if we are to successfully navigate the transition into the future we long for.
In our transactional worldview, where the dominant economic model plays such a pivotal role, relationships are coloured by some very unconscious, unquestioned but fundamental assumptions about how the world works. In a society where the market place rules, we step into relationships on the premise that I have a need, and that you are going to meet it. A relationship is seen as a contract.
As far as I can tell, most of us spend a great deal of time and energy projecting this unwritten contract onto each other, and then stressing ourselves by second-guessing other people’s unspoken (and probably unconscious) expectations of us and then somehow convincing ourselves that we have to meet them.
These expectations are symptomatic of the stage of development that humanity is currently going through – and our western society in particular. We are in the thrall of the adolescent syndrome of immediate wish fulfillment at all costs, and this is being acted out in the form of rampant consumerism and collective blindness to the toll this is taking on our living environment.
Part of growing up and entering adulthood is learning to recognise and take responsibility for our own expectations. Where relationships are concerned, this means recognising that the purpose of the other person is not to meet my needs. Relationship is no longer a contract, instead, it becomes purpose-driven in a whole new way, as we come together to co-create something that wasn’t there before, something that contributes to creating greater wholeness in the world we want to live in.
Part of the work in the dawning of the Aquarian age, then, is to learn to transform our collective ways of relating. Here is some of what I am learning about that:
- The days of the lone hero as leader are over. We are starting to learn what it means for leadership to emerge from the collective. This requires us, as individuals, to awaken to our expectations of ourselves and others regarding leadership.
- Working collectively does not mean inclusion of all in all cases. There is a need for discernment in when to invite participation and when to maintain a semi-permeable membrane. In advanced post-modern societies, there can be a huge, politically-correct pressure for blanket inclusion. There are times when this needs to be resisted.
- Ability to work well in a self-organising collective is a function of maturity. Adults operate at different levels of maturity and there is a threshold beneath which participation in certain kinds of group (e.g. core groups undertaking interventions in complex systems) is counterproductive. Again, in our politically-correct societies, treading this minefield requires a nuanced understanding of adult development and cristal clarity about what degree of maturity is needed in what circumstances. As a corollary, practices of radical humility are also needed if we are to fend off the real danger of elitism.
- When working with complexity, a crucial ingredient in relationships is intimacy. In all the professional environments I know, fear and mistrust are rife. People perceive authentic expression as a high-risk behaviour, so developing the degree of intimacy needed to function well together in a complex world is a real challenge. We don’t yet know enough about how to establish and maintain healthy intimacy in collective work, so some action research around that would be welcome. I am learning that calling for authenticity in high-risk environments is an act of leadership that often pays off. People are hungry for what’s real, and hurting inside from the lack of meaning in the story our civilisation is telling us about why we are here and what we are for.