“The schism, the disconnect, that the traditional model of work represents seems neither physically, emotionally nor spiritually healthy. Also, not sustainable. Behavior has to line up with values.”
Chrysula Winegar, who wrote the above words, has recently been publishing a beautiful series of posts. In them she takes the often glibly used “Work Life Balance” concept, and brings it alive by relating real people’s journeys, warts and all.
This week, she has been sharing Erik Orton’s struggle to reconcile his rich and diverse needs and interests. His capabilities as a business administrator; his artistry as a playwright and producer; his relationship and caring needs as a partner, and as a parent to five children. And how he has, at least for now, found integration, at nights doing a job with an investment bank that pays his way, allowing his days to be focused on both his creativity and on schooling his children.
Erik’s story spoke to me of the work life “schizophrenia” that I, and other people I come across, experience and I wanted to put some thoughts out there to open up the conversation and get your perspective on it.
The thing I particularly wanted to wrestle with is society’s need to put us firmly into one box or another and keep us there. So, we can be, to use Erik’s example, a business executive, OR a playwright, OR a home-loving father. The world as we now know it has little appreciation of the possibility that we can and indeed need to be a variety of things. It is not set up, either in its operating paradigms, or in its attitudes, to deal with our richness. In essence, it doesn’t want our soul at the table.
And I wonder who that picture serves?
I suspect that, because it has been part of my own journey, I attract people to me either as friends or clients for whom this issue is core. To the point that I am now unfazed when I’m sitting in a corporate office and a marketing director confides that he’s also a spiritual healer; or a banker shares her evening and weekend love of all things New Age; or a lawyer admits that he does creative writing on the side. So much so that I began to call them my “healers in suits”. On the one hand I cannot tell you of the honour I feel in having been let in on the picture, and therefore becoming an agent in allowing them to heal the splits in themselves. On the other, however, I feel such sadness that people have to hide parts of themselves in the closet.
In my own case, I’ve been a self-employed coach and consultant for over a decade now. Having been an HR Director, and Managing Consultant for well respected, global firms, I have no problem putting myself across as such. And people have no problem “getting” this about me. Also, I’m warm, friendly and have a pzazz about me that commercial people relate to. Suffice to say, this is the bit of “me” I’ve been most comfortable to project. And, indeed, it paid my way for many years.
What I’m less comfortable about sharing openly is that I’m also a trained psychotherapist. The psychotherapist in me has intuition and depth. I see things other people miss. It’s fair to say that I have struggled for years to reconcile this aspect of me with the one I’ve just described. Like I’d really rather I could just be that person and avoid this other bit.
And it hasn’t all been about my paranoia. Before I launched my blogging career, for example, and was doing more corporate work, I used to have a separate psychotherapy website. That was, until a corporate client, doing due diligence on me, found my alternative persona and then backed out of our contract. They could not understand how I could possibly have the ability to create outcome oriented relationships and be a “shrink”, to use their exact word. I felt such shame at the judgement, even if it was a reflection of the doubts I myself held.
Perhaps more profound and pervasive were the attitudes I lived with from professional colleagues on either side of my divide. I was constantly challenged by either my therapy supervisor for being too “coachy” in my work, moving people forward when I needed to keep them in their pain; and by my coaching and organisational supervisor for confusing therapeutic with coaching interventions. And while my therapy world colleagues gave me grief about “selling out” to the – in their eyes – more lucrative, yet more easily accessed field of coaching, my coaching world colleagues gave me its baggage about therapy being only for those who were suffering some major personality issue.
Just complete professional bollocks.
Luckily three years ago I found a top coaching supervisor, who himself was also a therapist and could supervise all aspects of my work. Finally I could begin to make it okay for myself to get past my own divisions and learn to put Christine out into the world, and let the world struggle with its incomprehension of Christine’s diversity.
I’ve dealt with only two aspects of my life here and haven’t even begun to touch on my love of writing, or my need for family, close friends and relationships, but I think you get the picture.
I won’t pretend I’ve wholly cracked things, but it’s definitely work in progress. What I can tell you is that the person you get here is pretty much the same person you’d meet in the coffee shop, or indeed in a coaching session or workshop. More and more I’m just trying to give the world who and what I am without being dumbed-down by its need to limit me or marginalise me. I wish I could pretend to you that it was easy, but I’d be selling myself and indeed you short.
What I’d love to hear is how all of this sits with you, what struggles you yourself confront, and how you deal with them.