Politics, religion, gender, race and other social identity markers of being human often catalyze conflict across families, communities, workplaces and broader society. These tensions can lead anywhere from an argument with a friend to a full-blown collective war. As these tensions continue to appear in our world, how can we step into leadership that thrives in such a polarized world? What really is at the core of what perpetuates conflict and how can we understand who we are within the chaos and step toward wholeness, peace and the resolution of trauma?
The upcoming book: “You Are Us: How to Lead in a Polarized World,” explores these inquiries and more through storytelling. Twelve case studies of human transformational stories are presented across varied contexts of divided social issues. Interwoven through the stories, we are also taken through an exploration of the underlying patterns that these case studies ignite.
PATTERNS AND HOW WE CHANGE THEM
“The unknown is not far off; it is in what is.” — Krishnamurti
The beauty of the human experience is that it is always unfolding, always changing. As a starting point, humans are free. Free to feel, free to see, free to hear, taste and smell, and free to choose our behaviors. In our very essence, we are worthy of love and loving. When we begin to limit ourselves with labels, associations and an identity complex based on a lack of worth, we become stuck.
Being in a human body can feel isolating. Skin, literally, keeps us separate and distinct from one another. However, if we lean into unified consciousness (a matter of one’s mind-set), we can see and feel that we are both unique and unified at the same time. We are at once separate yet connected.
If we embrace these two seemingly contradictory places, we can begin to find an experience of freewill embedded within. This place of feeling our agency, our participation – conscious or unconscious – our “yes” or our “no” as a sovereign human is a brilliant facet of our human condition.
It means that when we are able to feel our agency, we can choose to bring forth love with how we marry what is connected in all of us with what keeps us separate. When we do this, we can work toward staying connected despite external barriers.We as humans can realize that we are in fact free. It’s from a place of freedom that we can channel love and acceptance.
Which begs the question: How can anyone love while imposing preconceptions on our own experience? The claim that love comes with conditions is a reflection of our own limitations, our own living in a state of reactivity and chaos. But love is non-reaction. Love is acceptance. Love is an infinite possibility.
We can still hold our concepts and ideas about what we are outside, while we also maintain the love and potential of who we are inside. This is the perspective in which our self-awareness helps us access a more forgiving, compassionate point of view. It’s from this attitude that we can see ourselves and others from a position of freshness, wonder, curiosity and awe that loves unconditionally.
It is with love that we break down barriers. Yet so often, our very concept of identity – external identity – is intertwined with these counterproductive barriers. Victim and oppressor roles, or superior and inferior modes of being, operate in a binary system, upholding each other. When one person chooses to disengage from either a victim or oppressor role, the system breaks down. As each person does this, the system dissolves at its very foundation, making way for social transformation.
This is an idealistic dream – that each person in society can break down their currently held point of view and begin to look at the world from an identity filled with love and compassion. And yet, there is truth in this dream as this is exactly where we as humans start: We are all beings worthy of love and loving.
In simple terms, idealism shows us what is possible. However, in order to adopt a new way of being, we must be able to know how to relax our nervous system enough to let the fear and pain out and the love in. Whether our barriers are due to environmental factors, acute trauma experience, prolonged exposure to violence, or simply passive conditioning of societal norms, our physical and emotional health, as well as spiritual connection, depends on building the capacity for resilience in direct relationship with the health of our central nervous system.
Consider how the vagus nerve is thought to serve as the gut-brain axis. In this hypothesis, gut-brain health is vital to the integration of our body’s ability to operate as a harmonious ecosystem. Far from the “fight, flight, freeze, or appease” model of brain-based reactions to danger, fresher studies indicate that the vagus nerve helps us regulate the crucial sociability that we cultivate when we’re not experiencing activation or suppression of emotion. Cultivating resilient vagal tone, then, is central to openness, receptivity and play.
We can witness the importance of the mind-body connection in stories of people who have learned to self-regulate their nervous systems, and how this self-regulation surfaces newfound qualities of comprehensive health, energy, capacity and overall well-being.
You Are Us takes readers on a journey that demonstrates the impact of how leadership positioned to thrive in a polarized world touches a vast spectrum of life involving the micro-scale of the quality of our relationships with ourselves, friends and family, the broader community, organizations, workplaces, indeed even nations and the entire world.
Gareth Gwyn is committed to establishing a new global vision of leadership founded on self-inquiry and restorative practices. She is the founder of Let’s See Labs, an organization that produces films, writing and cross-platform workshops that facilitate socio-cultural transformation at the individual level through embracing vulnerability.
Gareth earned her M.A. in Digital Communication at The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.