Several years into attending HAI workshops, I found an intern sobbing and hiding her feelings from other team-members and the facilitators. I comforted her and asked her why she was crying. She did not want to tell me, saying that "I'm here to serve you." "I understand," I replied, "But you are in pain and I want to help." First, she said she felt inadequate because she was not being a good enough team-member. Then she said she felt inadequate because she was not "living the mission statement in her daily life."
This concerned me because the mission statement seemed grandiose to me. Stephen Covey in his book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" had pointed out that win/win was not possible in every relationship in every area and so the best that could be hoped for was "Win/Win or No Deal," which was enough of a challenge for most people, who he said would often assume the martyr position to help the other person win but not take a stand for their own win and complain that they were "slaughtered because we tried to be nice and go for win/win." It was obvious that a world where everyone wins included every intern winning, which included this woman, and she was not feeling like a winner at all. And rather than challenging the facilitators to scale down their mission-statement, or asking for help so she could start by winning herself, she was losing and blaming herself.
"Wait a minute," I said to her. "Have the facilitators given you any specific tools or training on how to "live the mission statement." She said, "no." "Are they creating a world where everyone is winning?" She did not want to answer in any way that made anyone look bad but herself. So I continued: "Unless they give you tools, training and skills that clearly work, it is shaming you to ask you to live up to a mission that is so grandiose that I would have no idea how to even attempt to bite into something that big, and have no confidence I could succeed at if I tried."
She calmed down, thanked me, and I decided to write the facilitator body a letter about everything that seemed questionable about HAI that related to this and several subsequent experiences in which team-members have revealed feelings inadvertently along these lines, and I have dug deeper to get to know what it was like to be on team - something I was considering myself.
The most important thing in this exchange was the issue of shame. A woman who had paid money to help me have a better workshop experience was reduced to tears of inadequacy by her experience of the team-training protocol and did not feel comfortable talking about it - in fact felt shame about her feelings. Shame was the key issue.
I started working on shame in my teens because I was already suicidal at fourteen as a coping strategy for the spiritual and psychological abuse in my family. Among the things I had learned from the Channel Lazaris was that:
1) Shame is always passed on if it is not healed or given back. We don't have the option to carry toxic shame and not pass it on to others in our lives.
2) Shame is passed on in one of two ways: Subhuman behavior, or Super-human behavior.
3) The recipe of toxic shame is the shift from "feeling like I made a mistake," to "feeling like I am a mistake." It is the primary identification with something unredeemable.
4) The method for giving shame can be many and varied, but the result is that the feeling of fear, inadequacy, guilt, helplessness etc. is transferred through the delivery method, be that violence, humiliation, abandonment, criticism, judgment, withholding affection or any other pattern that successfully transferred the shame of the parent/teacher/authority/lover to the person in their proximity.
The facilitator body seemed to fit more into the super-human form of shame delivery. Their performance was so above average:
- Personally meet every one in a large workshop of strangers.
- Dedicate themselves to modeling love and healthy relationships.
- Get nude and show the private parts in a culture that has shame around the body.
- Orchestrate one of the most intense workshops on the planet non-stop.
- Model service at every turn.
- Be warm and patient with every participant.
I knew that I could not pull this off. I also knew that 99% of people on the planet would be intimidated by the prospect of this role. It definitely qualified as super-human.
This was problematic on several levels: People naturally try and emulate their leaders. In one of Tim Ferriss' interviews of a general who chose to eat only once a day, they talked about the rage one of the general's subordinates felt upon first taking up this process to curry favor with the general, nearly dying doing it, and then discovering that the general snacked on pretzels when he needed them - something that the subordinate did not know or do himself. He nearly attacked the general because he had hurt his body trying to emulate his ideal. So where is HAI's problem? When you create a job description that 99.9% of the planet cannot fill, even if they want to, it makes the organization fragile: It's hard to find replacements.
The other problem was that human beings like this intern were not feeling like they had a right to ask for more training, support etc. from people who were demonstrating for short bursts of time a level of human interaction that is not sustainable daily or outside of specific environments. This made it probable that rather than feel angry at the facilitators for giving them an impossible job without tools or training, they would feel inadequate, resentful and perhaps passive aggressive, but not want to let their super-human hero down.
I suggested that the facilitators tackle this problem in several ways:
1) Give themselves another facilitator assistant who was there fully for them.
2) Give the team two team-assistants specifically to address the situation when a team-member signed up, then had issues of their own, did not want to back-out but also needed support to be at their best.
I gave this letter to Peter Sandhill. Then I waited...
After a few months I asked... "So?"
Peter said they had not had time to look at my letter yet.
So I waited...
After six months he finally said they had talked about the letter.
That was it.
Here is what's missing:
1) There was no thanks for taking the time to write a detailed eight page letter addressing HAI's vulnerabilities and ways to respond to them.
2) Pro-active follow-up. I was asked to nag or be completely invisible.
3) Any inquiry about the intern in shame so she could either get help or better understand her mandate.
4) No changes on any levels that I'm aware of.
5) No reasons for doing nothing.
6) No questions of any kind.
7) No invitation to share future feedback.
The message: We don't want to hear what you have to say. We don't value your time or thoughtfulness if it's looking at us. We don't want your help. We don't want to help our team in pain. We don't want to hear from you again and do not value your feelings or effort to care for us.
Question: Can a facilitator body or teaching body of any kind make improvements with this attitude towards hearing about their short-comings?
Concern: This behavior is consistent with super-human shame-dumping. The super-human shame-dumper profile will try and often succeed to appear perfect. The time when you see their shadow most is when you indicate that they made a mistake. The super-human shame-dumper does not make mistakes so will behave insanely when they do, like everyone else, make mistakes:
* Pretending they are too busy to hear their mistakes and demonstrating how important all their activities are "saving the world" so they have no time to hear your "petty" feelings.
* Ignoring and refusing to respond to communication of negative impact.
* Acting as if everything is fine when they have done nothing to address the impact they have had.
* Blaming the person who they had impact on for not being good enough in some way. Any mistake is passed on to the other party.
Naturally, I did not engage the facilitator body again.