Note: Debashis is writing a series of letters to his infant daughter, Anjuli.
This is the second of this series.
Separating The Political Vs. The Personal — How Far Is Too Far?
A while ago, I wrote a piece about how to separate the political from the personal at work. I wrote that in order to cope with stuff that was happening at work. I liked what I wrote and it sure felt good to implement what I learned. And after some time, however, I got a little concerned about the article. I re-read it and thought, “How far can this go?” I mean, Into the Centre is all about enhancing the personal and creating intimacy. And here I go, sharing an idea that takes a marked departure from this line of thinking. In other words, I could be promoting a message of: “BE CAUTIOUS.” This is not good.
“How far can this go?” indeed. Too far, at times. I recognize in myself many of the blocks and barriers I utilize to keep the political separate from the personal at work. As a result of “BEING CAUTIOUS,” I become increasingly isolated from other workers, my own work (and my self). And these blocks and barriers help to raise WALLS. This too, is not good. So, do I forget about separating politics from personal?
No. I don’t want to toss the whole idea because I think that the real value in this is primarily to stay sane. As well, separating the personal from the political helps to keep some order in my life. And, clinically speaking, keeping some distance between the personal and political helps to maintain healthy boundaries. Ah ha!!! And there’s the difference -BOUNDARIES and WALLS. For folks who have been to Gabriola Island, B.C., to participate in Phase I at PD Seminars/Haven-by-the Sea, a whole afternoon is spent on learning about the difference between these two. We’ll talk about this another time.
When I think about the personal and the political, I find that the personal is all about what is inside different people. The political is all about what is between different people. Similarly, I find that boundaries are all about what is inside different people and walls are about what is between different people. And I also find that closeness arises out of sharing what is inside different people, while distance is created when different people talk about what is between them. Understanding is also about what is inside people whereas interpretation gets in the way of what is between people. We can go on forever here and maybe one day we should. But for now, you get the idea…
|Inside you and Me||Between you and Me|
How far is too far? Being too political does create distance, walls and leaves too much room for interpretation, or more accurately put – misinterpretation. My original intention in keeping things political is to maintain sanity and to focus on the task at hand. But I find that once I’m into being political, I generally have difficulty stopping. And my distance, walls, and interpretation spill out into other aspects of my life, namely my marriage, my family life, my friendships and my self.
Then come isolation, frustration, power and control struggles, arguments, misunderstandings, anger, frustration, silence, and a whole bunch of other nasty stuff. All because I want to “BE CAUTIOUS.” Sound familiar? Tell me I’m not the only one here!!!
The free screensaver that Wayne offers as part of the HeartPoint/Phoenix Centre has one shot with some daisies and the caption, “Plunge ahead slowly.” And I’m thinking that perhaps those three little words in this one simple line may provide a direction toward resolving part of this dilemma.
How does one do this? How do you plunge ahead slowly? I think of diving into a lake. It’s easy to plunge. You just move, let go, let gravity take over and before you know it, you’re plunging. The ahead part could be challenging. You do have to focus on moving forward instead of backward. To me, ahead means something new or working toward being on track. Hard, but quite do-able. And in diving, one does go ahead. And then slowly. Plunge ahead SLOWLY??? I don’t know about you, but when I picture myself diving, there is no slow diving. Gravity takes me down at the acceleration of 9.82 metres per second and there is no slowly. (This explains why I don’t dive.)
So how do we reconcile this oxymoron? I think the answer lies in really embracing the connection (the mediating factor) between the political and personal. And that is AWARENESS. Whew!!! I’m not undermining Into the Centre after all! In diving into a lake, then, you can’t help but plunge ahead. But the slowly part is about being AWARE of what’s happening inside you and what’s happening between you and your environment. The slowly part is about experiencing this awareness and living it and choosing what parts of the experience you wish to be more aware of.
At work, then, plunging ahead emphasizes for me, the importance of doing your work, doing it well and maintaining focus, while being respectful to others, honest about your intentions and being responsible. Doing all of this slowly means taking account of how what you do impacts others and how what others do impacts you. Simply being aware of your work is helpful.
So, instead of “BEING CAUTIOUS,” it might be far more productive to “plunge ahead slowly.” Instead of being too personal at work and instead of being too political at work, choosing to plunge ahead slowly might help keep the political separate from the personal, but not too separate.