The expert is a vulnerable explorer

Over the past 48 hours, I felt a swell of emotions rising. The news of more people in distress, more lives impacted, more businesses struggling due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The heartache and hurt left in the wake of the virus surging through cities, countries and continents filled me with deep sadness and hopelessness. The question in my mind was “Am I doing enough to help others in need?” I couldn’t settle until I had an answer. 

As a teacher of the thinking environment we are simultaneously the expert and an explorer. Monday morning came and it was my turn to bring a topic of my choice to think through with my Thinking Partner. We began the call with a check-in with each other as we always do. I thought I would use the time to think through how I would restructure my Thinking Partnership Programme, which I will be delivering for the first time online in the weeks ahead. I had thought long and hard about delivering it online, given the nature of the programme. Witnessing the previous two week’s coaching with my clients and the impact being a Thinking Environment had on them, I felt called to share this way of being and coaching sooner rather than later with my delegates, who were eager to learn. This was one way I felt I could do more.

And so, I began to share my thoughts.

And then, a huge wave of emotion crashed.

It began with my noticing a discomfort in my stomach, rising to my throat. I paused and shared this feeling with my Thinking Partner. She listened, eyes focused on mine, always there, always interested, encouraging me. I began to let go. Tears rolled down my face as I let it go.

And there was more discomfort. I felt guilty for feeling hopeless. An optimist at heart, it was a new feeling to experience. Yet I felt guilty as I have so much to be grateful for, where others, not far from me, are suffering. 

And there was more! I felt I had to generate a sense of hope for others, and yet was feeling an emptiness inside. I felt as if all my resources had been drained out of me and I was searching for that shift to bounce back.

In the presence of the beautiful question, “What more do you think, or feel, or want to say?” I was able to share my feelings. Initially unable to put words to them, the tears did that for me. As they revealed themselves, I felt a release. Knowing I would not be judged, not be interrupted, not given advice, not offered a solution, I felt held. I felt cared for. I felt trusted. I felt liberated that I could work through this. And I did. 

I had assumed who I needed to be for everyone else. I had assumed that I should keep being strong, no matter what. I had assumed that it was not OK to feel a sense of hopelessness.  I had assumed this feeling was going to hang around for a while. I assumed I was letting them down. 

And then, with that question repeated in a caring, thoughtful, and encouraging tone, I began to challenge those assumptions in my head. I realised they were simply that; assumptions. They were not true. I had made them up! 

The release of emotion in the presence of an exquisite Thinking Partner had enabled me to restore my capacity to think more clearly for myself. I felt more compassion emerging from within. Having expressed my raw emotion, I consoled myself to rationally recognise that I am doing my bit in caring for my family, neighbours in need, my clients, and my connections in other countries who may be worse off than us just now. An acceptance that I am doing enough. I am doing all I can with who I am and what I have. 

Feeling free from my imprisoned self, in the last 10 minutes of our call, I clearly saw how to structure my programme online. I felt how I would keep my delegates engaged. 

I left our call with a sense of hope, not only for my online programme, but also for the goodness that will emerge from the sadness this virus has dealt. That I feel sure of. We have many lessons to learn from this new normal and are already seeing more compassion, more caring and more community, and I am hopeful these new habits will sustain.

I relearned that being a Thinking Environment is an act of love. Creating a sacred space for others to think for themselves, as themselves, is a gift of love. Enabling others to discover more of who they are and tap into a resourcefulness they may not have previously felt, it is a gift of love. 

As I complete sharing my thoughts and feelings with you, I am both hopeful and excited to run our Thinking Partnership Programme online and will be happy to share the outcome of our experiment with you in the months ahead. Simply connect with me here and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Thank you for reading. 

Photo: Zo-Razafindramamba on unsplash

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