I recently read Frederic Laloux’s brilliant book on “Reinventing Organisations.” It spoke to my longing for more soul, more purpose, more community, more trust and more compassion in our organisations, our society and our interactions. Buoyed up by the hope inspired by the book I’ve watched the events of the past week unfold and I’ve wondered what opportunity the current situation provides for the human race to move on.
Behind blame, hatred and violence are suffering, pain and fear. We feel deeply threatened and we act violently to protect ourselves. But what are we protecting ourselves from? Could it be that our highly sophisticated modern world is actually fuelling the fear?
Our world is predominantly based on competition; on being better than others. At school, in business, in our neighbourhood, our relationships and our leisure pursuits, our lives are driven by the pursuit of ever-higher goals and targets. We want to be top of the class, win a bigger market share, create a better product, buy a bigger house. We try to control the world around us in our quest for perfection. In an endless contest we win or lose, succeed or fail. But it’s a race with no end; for to be human is to be imperfect – and when perfection is the goal, we can only fail. So we protect ourselves with armour. We hide our true selves behind masks, disconnect from others, build walls and retreat into ‘tribes’. We build ever-higher walls and elaborate defence mechanisms (often disguised as rules, regulations, and policy) to protect our tribe and we project our fears of inadequacy over the walls as missiles directed at the tribes outside. But all this really does is reinforce our fear. Deep inside we continue to struggle with the isolation of imperfection – our fears of inadequacy, of being rejected by others, of simply not being good enough. We continue to suffer.
In a society where it is not Ok to be imperfect these fears grow secretly inside us – a time bomb ticking away. Then at times of crisis and uncertainty – like now – we explode.
An Integral Theory Perspective
In the field of developmental psychology, pioneers such as Ken Wilber have studied how the prevailing worldview has reflected the historical development of human consciousness through a sequence of transformational stages. In his book, Laloux suggests that the majority of modern society operates from a competitive ‘orange’ stage of consciousness. In this paradigm, rational thinking has contributed to great advances in science, innovation has boomed and global corporations have grown to greatness. Lurking in the shadows, though, are greed, materialism and exploitation – of others and of the planet’s resources. One can argue that social inequality and the loss of community are bi-products of a meritocracy-based society.
The next stage of development responds to this egocentricity. It is a more pluralistic, worldcentric ‘green’ stage of consciousness that values fairness, equality, harmony, community and co-operation. With this we have seen the rise of modern liberation movements, corporate social responsibility, empowerment of individuals and values driven organisational cultures. But extreme egalitarianism also brings its challenges. If the events we’ve witnessed this week are an expression of fear bred by the dominant materialistic and exploitative worldview, the more brotherly ‘green’ worldview finds itself stuck. How do we respond when others abuse our tolerance with acts of intolerance? Are we drawn into intolerance ourselves? Certainly my social media feed of the past few days indicates that this is where the ‘green’ worldview comes up against difficulty.
So is there something more that is possible? Deep inside I believe we know there is. We know that as humans we have more in common than what divides us. We are moving towards the next ‘teal’ stage of human consciousness. Wilber describes it as an integrated, evolutionary perspective that dis-identifies with the ego. From this perspective we let go of the need to control and we trust the abundance of life. We let go of our fears and allow life to unfold. We find a more soulful and purposeful way of being. Laloux has researched and found organisations operating in this way – successful organisations, large and small, in a broad range of sectors and across the globe. His uplifting book gives us hope for the future – and strategies for operating from a ‘teal’ perspective.
A Teal Response to the Brexit Aftermath?
Sounds beautiful eh? But how does this help us with what is unfolding on our streets as we speak?
My hunch is this; we listen to our souls and what lies behind our fears. Enquire into your reactions when you read the news. Perhaps you feel sadness, perhaps anger, perhaps something else. But what lies behind it? What are you longing for?
I have been sitting with these questions and reflecting. The answer that has come to me is that I long for compassion and connection. And with that realisation I feel compelled to respond with compassion and connection to all human beings. Easy enough in my tribe; the images of pupils handing out flowers to passers-by in Bristol were warming. But what about the people carrying out acts of violence and hatred? How can I extend kindness and compassion to them? In fact, maybe the question is not how can, but simply, can I?
The famous Gandhi line comes to mind. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What a challenge. But what a worthwhile one.
How will you respond?