... Is a Shy Hormone!
Thanks to that construct we call a calendar year, we gather around a fistful of festivals, owned by a variety of religious beliefs and stemming, further back, to pagan rituals. We say something is ending, and something new is beginning.
We think about what this thing that is ending has meant to us and we think about what we intend, hope, dream, commit to, envision, want for the new beginning. It’s all made up. And it can be empowering and motivating.
I started the year in a “something has to change” state of mind. And of course, things did. And, as the French say, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. But now that I am at the end of the year, I can see that something of what I really did want and ask for has happened. It seems we say this year on year these days……."it’s not been an easy year for our world". There is so very much that is deeply disturbing, unsettling, threatening. My friend and colleague, the amazing home-birth and community midwife, Ruth Ehrhardt, has taught me many things. One of my favourite sayings of hers is “oxytocin is a shy hormone”. I am hoping that parallel lives do exist, and that in one of mine I am a neuroscientist. From the very little I have learned and understood so far, I can see so clearly in my own experience, and it seems to me in that of others, that brains that are almost permanently drenched in adrenalin and cortisol are a very bad idea. And as far as I can tell, the part of our brain that releases these chemical cocktails is not available to most of us through conscious choice or even effort. I do know that some yogis in India can slow down their breathing and heart rates well below that which my body could tolerate, and can do it at will.
For most of us though, I think it’s true to say that threat produces adrenalin and cortisol in our brains without our having much say in the matter.
The “say” we do have, of course, is to move to the country and eat peaches………except all of that is deeply under threat these days anyway. Climate change to name but one. We were never designed for permanent adrenalin and cortisol. It was meant to be a short-sharp dose so we could win the fight or be the faster runner, and what we were probably supposed to do thereafter is rest on our laurels and collapse for a while, until the effects on us of those hormones had drained away, and we were restored to a more positive outlook on life. But these days!!!! So, it seems to me that the “practicing of a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism” embedded in the Component of Appreciation of The Thinking Environment™ is literally essential now, and can no longer be relegated to the “nice to have, feel good, fluffy” box that outdated human cultures have assigned it to. I suspect the fact that year on year we say……”that was hard” may be to do with the collapse of those cultures. The “more, bigger, growth at any cost culture” of capitalism and the impact that has had on what we call democracy. Many much more erudite teachers than I, in the world, are saying this is so. And, at the same time, this year a consistent message has reached me, over and over again, through many channels.
Focus on the here and now, and be aware of what there is to be grateful for in the present moment.
I know it sounds cheesy. And here I have my BUT…….. Given the amount of threat, and the daily overdoses in our brains of chemicals that shut down the centres of our brain that are to do with strategic, forward-focused, creative, problem solving thinking – given that………surely ANYTHING we can do to mitigate those circumstances for ourselves, is worth considering. Deeply.
And practicing a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism is do-able – always available to us regardless of the circumstances, in any given moment..
Yes, of course, it is way easier said than done. And it is do-able. So, I started the year out wanting to change my experience of getting work, and feeling valued for the work I do. And this year I have had such amazing opportunities to work with some of the finest everyday people in the world….. of whom there are billions. I have worked in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Radwell outside Baldock outside Letchworth (!), Schaftlärn outside Munich, Gummersbach near Köln and Tbilisi in Georgia – thanks to my incredible friend and colleague and journey companion Marike Groenewald. Every single person I have had the opportunity to engage with in my work this year has been a good person, creative, loving, wise, seeking the best self-expression in their lives, seeking to make a difference in what they do and in how they are in the world. Teaching the Thinking Environment pretty much guarantees that every one I interact with will be one of these humans. And my experience of all the teaching and learning I have done together with the people who committed to a Thinking Environment learning journey has been such balm for my soul, and so, so good to be a part of. Thank you to everyone who has worked with me this year. You enable this human being to feel fulfilled, empowered, satisfied and oh so grateful! And I hope I have been able to do some of that for you. And thank you to Nancy Kline. I am amazed by the power of what you observed and then wrote about and taught, and continue to do so, for all of that, and for who you are and the impact you have in our world, for that I am grateful beyond words.