Wow! 2017 was a perfect storm in which shocking waves and angry seas converged. The winds of pent-up change roiled vast and deeply personal waters. Forceful swells took us by surprise, roared through our country and across the ocean, and shook us to our core. As the fury of the storm tapers, we’re tossed onto our collective and individual shores, where the personal has become the political, and the relational the organizational like never before. As the storm waters recede, it’s exposed a damaged, unhealthy substratum on a level and to a degree we’ve not known or acknowledged.
I’m talking about our workplaces and communities, our cultural and gender identities, and our planet. I’m also speaking from personal experience consonant with that of so many–friends, peers, loved ones, members of my own, related, and distant tribes. Those who’ve endured physical, emotional and psychic traumas, and who are coming out on the other side, surveying the landscape of our lives and world with a new clarity and intention.
Collective trauma is heightened in our digitally hyper-connected world. In reeling from the shocks and aftershocks, we barely know how to take a breath, let alone assimilate the dramatic truth amidst all the noise, and move forward.
From the exposure of Uber’s machismo workplace to Trump’s opening up public lands for drilling; from the #MeToo to the #TimesUp Movements, the world is up for grabs and also for restorative justice and healing change.
On the grand and individual stage, some of 2017’s pain sprang from prior-year weeds that weren’t pulled at the root. They shot up in spring with a noxious tenacity. In 2016, someone I loved and had valued as a dear friend for several years deceived and betrayed me, gaslit me in a shared community, and abetted startling harm against me. Upon a long recovery, I published an article last March on Transformational Leadership and Agility, stemming from my work as Transformation Advisor for a multinational IT corporation. That day, I had a freak ski accident that required four major surgeries, and extensive and ongoing PT and rehab. Not two months after my third, excruciatingly painful surgery, the ex whom I’d not seen in 16 months came after me out of the blue in the form of a spurious lawsuit. My successful defense caused substantial emotional and financial duress.
The profound measures I took to grieve and learn from all this injury–including my broken body—not only allowed my healing from this trial of fire, but also, cumulatively, bred an unprecedented creative breakthrough, and the transformation that led to my new business model and website. While I’ll write about this process in an upcoming post, today I connect my body’s atypical, protracted healing path to our collective body figured in the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements. To who we are and where we go from here.
On a steep slope in total white-out conditions, my skis abruptly plunged straight into a catwalk. In one instant, I popped out, face-planted, and a rotator cuff tendon tore off my bone. In response to this trauma, despite concerted efforts, my body laid down a tight band of internal scar tissue that restricted full range of motion. Seven months after the surgical repair, I received the startling news that I needed another surgery to cut the scar tissue and free the shoulder.
In the #MeToo Movement, the internal scar tissue is the systemic complicity that covered up the trauma of abuse, violations and harassment. As A.O. Scott put it, “one of the mantras of the moment is that ‘everybody knew’ about what the predators, rapists and gropers were doing, and that the ubiquity of such behavior was an open secret.” In speaking truth to power, the #MeToo Movement cut this scar tissue of embedded lies and cold shoulders. The cut tissue exposes the condition of our social body, from ancient times to right now: cross-industry, sector, tax bracket and globe.
We are an interconnected people in need of healing. The #TimesUp Movement to redress sexual harassment is a formidable beginning.
Transformation is an inside job with exponential, collaborative, and lasting effect. It ensues from undergoing change so deep and dramatic—and often traumatic—that, when we surface on the other side, we’re not the same. Like my body, improperly functioning since last March, our social body is constricted in its healing and force. I’m engaged in a hard, fine-tuned process of neuromuscular re-education. Over the course of ten months, my body took the “’fast-and-safe track” to movement by recruiting the wrong muscles to lift my arm thousands of times, from dressing to down dog. It takes acute mindfulness and patient commitment to get the muscles that shut down to fire, and the overtaxed muscles to relax. I’ve thoroughly learned that true healing is only possible from the inside out.
Likewise, our global social body needs neuromuscular re-education. Our masculine and feminine muscles—in men and women—have been misfiring and our circuitry crossed. For too long, we’ve malfunctioned. We must evolve to our greater potential because our planet is at a tipping point and needs us, all together. Finally, we’re publicly acknowledging the grisly underbelly of a hyper-masculinized culture. Yet, as the fracas around Matt Damon’s recent comments show, in the wake of #MeToo, even well-intentioned men are unsure as to how to show up. We’re struggling to hold a national conversation about harassment that’s been ubiquitous and yet in the shadows for decades and centuries.
Like many women, I was raised to hide and protect my strong feminine beauty—shamed and warned, lest I incur unwonted attention from a man or intimidate one. I internalized messages that beauty was dangerous, not something in which to simply reside or relax into. Now we see women who’ve been heroes in this respect – gorgeous, talented, capable women from Angelina Jolie to Salma Hayek and so many, who despite their own power along with that of husbands, money and prestige, paid the price for their beauty. From Silicon Valley to Washington DC, the revelations that sickened and enraged us reveal our dysfunction – that the norm of gender relations hurts women and impinges us as a whole. We’re craving the healthy masculine and feminine: alive, well, and powerfully co-creative.
The way forward is for women and men to work in concert to create interpersonal, organizational and systemic health. All and each of us must learn to be in in relationship and collaboration, to empower each other, our children and our future.
Where do we begin? Keeping the conversation alive circulates healing blood to impaired muscles that have been under-used, and allows other, misused muscles to calm down. Men do need, as Oprah succinctly put it, “to listen.” And yet we also need to know what the healthy masculine looks like, so we can cultivate it.
Just as the Weinstein scandal broke, last October, my 13-year old son said, “Women have Oprah. What do men have?”
It’s a great question that we need to answer and live into. In my public talk on Tuesday, 1/23/18, I’ll be speaking about cross-cultural archetypes and how we can imagine and become new women and men in a world that we don’t yet fully see. By definition, creativity involves building something that doesn’t exist.
I’m deeply moved and grateful that my 16-year old daughter, among her Class of 2020, is growing up in a radically different world. Unlike me, neither she nor her brother will ever unconsciously accept harassment as somehow okay — “the way of the world.” These future leaders and culture-shapers will have boundaries, a dignity, and a certain moral compass that we, as a society, have generally lacked until now. The thousands-years-long era of “brutally powerful men” is UP. Times are changing. And with clear intent, vision and purpose, transformation is on the horizon.