Questions about friendship, parenting, and anxiety [new post]

Last week, I shared questions I’ve been wrestling/playing with as I coach executives, consult to organizations, and consider my impact on the larger world.

This week, I share questions I’m exploring in three other domains: friendship, parenting, and anxiety.

Friendship. What makes a friendship worth pursuing, and how can I recognize the presence or absence of these conditions?

Life offers a big spectrum of relationships. Between casual acquaintances on one end and best friends on the other is a wide variety of ways of relating. Since I was a kid, I’ve had at least one best friend and a variety of buddies. These friendships have offered me companionship, joy, learning, and solace—and occasionally disappointment and pain. In recent years, I’ve been noticing what makes a friendship worth pursuing or sustaining and how to recognize when these conditions are present or missing.

With this clarity has come greater boldness. I’ve started speaking up about what I need in friendship and to a lesser extent what I can offer. I’ve thanked some friends for what I appreciate about our friendship and told others what is lacking. These are hard things to describe, and society provides few teachings or role models, so I stumble along. I tend to overestimate others’ awareness of my needs and underestimate the level of specificity I need to give them. For each friend who has appreciated my candor and vulnerability is another who’s felt confused or hurt. All of these friends are men, so that adds another wrinkle. For many men, friendship is something you do after you’ve finished everything else, if at all. We are stumbling along together.

Parenting. What nourishments do my children need right now, and what can I do to provide them?

My five-year-old son, because of his stage of development, needs loving touch, a safe environment for sensory exploration, and a sense of rightful place. He is a snuggly little guy, so the loving touch comes easily. Due to his temperament and Montessori education, he’s good at playing on his own and with others, and takes delight in kinesthetic explorations.

Rightful place is a bit harder to provide. What boundaries, created with love and held with power, will help him feel like he is right where he belongs? How can I be “the mountain” for him, equal parts compassionate and firm?  Asking these questions matters most at the very moments I’m least likely to consider them: when he’s complaining I’ve made his oatmeal the wrong way, clamoring to go outside when it’s time for bed, or angry at his brother, my wife, or me.

My first instinct at these times is to do whatever most quickly quells the disturbance and pacifies the belligerent. These quick fixes may or may not create a short-term solution, but they are unlikely to foster his long-term development. So I catch myself, take a breath, and ask: what does he need right now?

Anxiety. Who am I when I’m not having anxious thoughts?

It’s no secret that my peers and I have our own “stuff.” Even the most mature leadership coaches have blind spots that, if unilluminated, can erode their clients’ trust in them and their ability to grow.  Even the most seasoned consultants have idiosyncrasies that, if unattended, can thwart their best designed interventions.

Earlier in my career, I assumed that if I hid my flaws from clients, they would trust me more. Needless to say, that didn’t work out well. It’s hard to trust someone who is hiding themselves from you, especially in a field like leadership development.

These days, I don’t spend a lot of time with leaders talking about myself, but I also don’t avoid it. One thing that I’ve begun speaking about is my own anxiety. No, I don’t tell long stories about my childhood or give detailed descriptions of how my mind catastrophizes. But I do mention, particularly when helping people understand themselves through the Enneagram, that my mind reflexively imagines worst case scenarios (Type Six), and that it takes presence and practice to tame this habit. On rarer occasions I reveal that I take medicine for anxiety; I do this to destigmatize mental illness.

My psychiatrist told me last year that of all of his patients, I’m the one he worries about the least. So he only needs to see me once a year. I told him that of all of his patients, I’m the one I worry about the most.

That’s the thing about anxiety—or any other condition or quality that can trip us up. When it is a subject of our awareness, when we cannot see it, it literally holds us in its grasp. Thus, we can see only what it lets us see, both about others and about ourselves. Nothing else.

What happens when anxiety becomes an object of my awareness, when I can recognize its presence, shape, and form? Instead of it holding me, I hold it. Who is this “I” that is big enough to hold anxiety?

That’s one heck of a fascinating question. I would tell you my latest answers, but I fear what you would think of them. 😉

 

President’s DJT’s Enneagram Type, my free new eBook

I’m pleased to announce the release of my new eBook, DJT’s Enneagram Type: The Case for Three. It’s shorter than most eBooks yet one of the most comprehensive explorations ever of a President’s personality type.

  • For fans of the Enneagram, you’ll find it fascinating. If this sounds like you, please forward this to Enneagram friends.
  • For people interested in adult development, join me as I take a stab at integrating vertical developmental stages with the horizontal typology of the Enneagram.
  • For people following U.S. politics, the book offers a break from the “He’s great”/”He’s terrible” debate. I use the Enneagram to understand the President–in particular, what makes him tick.

My own view of DJT’s Enneagram type has changed dramatically. I walk you through this evolution of my thinking and offer a point-by-point response to the argument of a highly respected Enneagram teacher and friend, Bea Chestnut.

The book is free for subscribers. Click here, provide your email address, and you’ll get the download. When you see the words “Thank you for Signing Up”, rest assured: you’re already on the list.

Know anyone who would be interested in this? Please forward this email to them now. They’ll thank you for it!

Again, click here to get your free copy.

Episode 66: Men’s Sexual Shadow At Work With Keith Witt [The Amiel Show]

Dr Keith Witt

Men who are conscious of their sexual shadows at work are better leaders. They are less likely to do stupid things like sexually harass women or have illicit affairs. By spending less energy fighting their shadows, they can use their human superpowers to do good things like build great teams and guide them toward a better future.

People don’t talk a lot about this. Not in day to day work. And not even in classes about diversity and inclusion—or women in leadership.

That’s why I was so excited to talk with this week’s guest, Keith Witt, about his new book Shadow Light: Illuminations At the Edge Of Darkness.

His book and our conversation are about everyone (not just men) and all types of shadow (not just the sexual one). Still, the part I found most valuable was about straight guys who still haven’t gotten over their teenage crush on Suzie next door. Yes, we actually riff on this for 15 minutes!

Keith and I previously spoke about creating a marital love affair. You might say that this time we talk about loving your shadow.

For integral folks, we also talk about your personal moral system. How does this system change as we grow? What happens to our bodies when we violate it?

As if that weren’t enough, we also look at how healthy and unhealthy nationalism differ. Hint: it has to do with the collective shadow!

Highlights

  • The shame of violating your moral system
  • Constructive versus destructive shadow
  • Human superpowers
  • The roots of sexual harassment
  • Evaluating potential employees for their willingness to be influenced
  • Healthy and unhealthy nationalism

Listen to the Podcast

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Episode 61: Healing Trump Shock Using The Enneagram With Roxanne Howe-Murphy [The Amiel Show]

Roxanne Howe-Murphy

When the world turns upside down, when all that is solid melts into air, shock is a natural response.

Often, the shock is individual: Death of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis. Loss of a job or home.

And then there are events like the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, and 9/11. The ground beneath all of us suddenly feels less stable.

For more than half of the U.S. population–and millions around the world–the election of Donald Trump last week has been the ultimate shock.

I am no exception. I’ve experienced waves of disgust, sadness, anger, regret, and fear. My brain is wired to look forward, so it remains curious and anxious about the many future scenarios that could unfold. The gravest: unsteady hands on the nuclear codes and an impulsive and vindictive man interacting with other foreign powers.

It’s clear that I’m going to be reframing my work, friendships, and community commitments. Sobriety, imagination, and courage strike me as important guiding virtues. But how to express them? What actions would allow me to express my best self?

This week’s guest, Roxanne Howe-Murphy, suggests that I–and you–take an important step before plunging into action: get in touch with our own experiences with clarity and compassion.

Roxanne views Trump’s election as a leadership wake up call. The first task of leadership, she says, is to create a space for people to be present to their own experiences and share their stories. Not just because this is kind and truthful, but also because it produces wiser action. When we become present to our habitual patterns, we are more likely to do good stuff rather than head down negative spirals.

Roxanne is a pioneering teacher of the Enneagram, wise woman, and healing presence. Our conversation is very real. I hope you get value from it and share it with others in your life.

Highlights

  • Shock points can be transformative moments or downward spirals
  • The power of presence
  • I share my own experience this week to illustrate the core pattern of Type Six, the Loyal Skeptic
  • Roxanne describes Donald Trump as a low-average to unhealthy Type Eight, the Challenger. What can we expect from him?
  • What are skillful ways to influence a Type Eight?

Listen to the Podcast

Explore Additional Resources

New to Podcasts?

Get started here

Subscribe to the Show on iTunes (It’s Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without a Subscribe button (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on the Subscribe button. It’s in the upper left corner of the screen.

Give Me a Rating or Review on iTunes (It’s Also Easy!)

  1. Sign into iTunes using your ID and password
  2. Search the iTunes store for “Amiel Show”
  3. If you get a screen without “Ratings and Reviews” (a screen that looks like this), click on the show logo in the lower left corner
  4. Click on “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. Give it a rating. Bonus for a review

 

What Do You Do When There’s Nothing to Do?

Note: I wrote this in early August

The woman at the registration table thinks I’m going to kidnap someone else’s child. If she knew how hard it is for me to get my own kids to follow me, she wouldn’t be suspicious. However, her job isn’t to read my mind. It’s to protect the kids at summer camp from people doing strange things or, as in my case, asking unusual questions.

Curiosity can get you into trouble.

Bird up high

Denied entry

It all started two days ago. After finishing my work day, I drove to camp to pick up my older son. The man at the registration table looked down at a sheet of paper and said, “Sorry, you’re not on the approved list.” Many parents would get frustrated or angry to hear such news. I was excited. It meant that this camp was strict about the security rules—my kind of camp.