Saturday, 6 July 2013

Surfing the Psychological Waves

By James Kyle

"The work we do on ourselves, whether it's psychological, or spiritual, is not meant to get rid of the waves in the ocean of life, but for us to learn how to surf". Ken Wilber

That is one of my favourite quotes because it is a reminder not to be attached to the idea of a sudden spiritual breakthrough when following a path of self growth. Someone who thought along the latter lines would soon be abandoning their efforts. Instead we should expect to see gradual improvement and indeed it is this gradual improvement, this empirical feedback that tells us we are going along the right path.

I can personally see this happening in my business life. In the past when I had a disagreement with someone I would go into an angry, judgmental state. Judgmental of the other person for crossing me, and angry with myself for not standing up for myself, and for getting caught up in the emotion of the disagreement. Over the years I have taught myself some tools, some different ways of thinking that avoids these emotional waves.

In the first instance, I have learned to be very aware that another's point of view can be very different from my own. This is the foundation for Steven Covey's HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", a highly recommended book: Link to book on Amazon.

This awareness feeds into another essential tool, that of monitoring myself and ensuring that I do not go into judgement. The propensity to jump into judgement can be so compelling but I remind myself that a negotiation of a compromise over different views is inevitably going to be derailed by the participants going into emotional upset. And yet again, if the other person goes into upset in any event, then another well learnt lesson is that this is not my responsibility, and I recall to myself rules 1, 3, 5 6, 10 and 12 from here

And yes this is theory, but yes, from the psychological and spiritual work I have done on myself I have put the above into practise very recently in two very stressful business situations. The gradual improvement does pay off.

To reinforce how challenging this appreciation of just how different a person's point of view can be, I can share an incident from a holiday I had in Barcelona. I was with my partner of the time and we were looking for somewhere to eat. As we walked down a side street off Las Ramblas I spotted a tapas bar and was delighted to see it wasn't a air brushed tourist place but looked like a genuine local bar where we could anticipate some authentic local tapas style food. As soon as we walked in however my partner turned round and walked out evidently very angry with me. Now she was definitely a person who was not very good at communicating her point of view, a trait that would eventually contribute to us going our separate ways, but finally, several hours later I worked it out. I saw a genuine local tapas bar, while she was comparing it with the more "sophisticated" bars from the main tourist area and found it wanting. Who was right? Well, take that for homework.

I started this article with a quote from Ken Wilber, a philosopher, proponent of transpersonal psychology, and founder of the Integral Institute. If you would like to get a flavour of this thought provoking author, an interview with him can be found here: You are the river: An interview with Ken Wilber. Alternatively, here is a link to a book on his work at Amazon: