I participated in a simple and instructive “Listening Circle” at the Systemic Constellations event in Croatia this week. Amid all the goings on with international presenters, most of which were wonderful, and meeting new people from all over, there was this simple space to hear each other.
It wasn’t that different from the Listening Circles that I and many of you know, by whatever name they’re called. Places in which your experience and perspective are welcomed just as they are.
When we can tell the truth of how things are right now, and when it’s safe enough to really say, something is noticed that’s usually hidden from view.
That something is usually hidden in the social conversation between women and men too. In fact it’s usually hidden in all of our social conversations. We enter them with inherited or social biases about what’s important to notice and miss the good stuff.
Pretty much all the good stuff. Terrible isn’t it?
The political conversation, ever since there were two different tribes, has a framework of us and them, and how to manage that. There is an us and them when there is, but it’s also true, and just as true, that there isn’t any us and them when there isn’t. And there’s a strong case to be made that getting to “just us” is where we need to go in this fractured world.
The conversation with women and men is similar to the political one.
Because of our social conditioning (aka evolutionary development), virtually all of us have been locked into the experience and perception of our own sex. We don’t notice this usually. We’re usually bound to see what our tribe does.
Think of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. D’Arcy in Pride and Prejudice and how different their motivations, objectives and context were. They simply lived these without having an analysis of them. There was no stepping outside to have a look, just lives lived from within their particular points of view.
This is still the case today for women and men. We’re commonly locked into the experience of our own sex. We have judgments but no frame for holding them. We’ve little practical understanding of mutuality, just like we don’t recognize the implicit us and them in the political conversation. The result is that we perpetuate the duality.
Of course we do have a feminist analysis but this is, in my view, as yet one-sided and unintegrated, making the picture more complicated and difficult to see for women and men both.
The way out of the labyrinth is simple – but not easy. It’s to be in a safe enough space that we can speak what’s true for us – and listen to what’s true for others – without slipping into the unconscious bias. It’s tricky! But we do know how to do this and many of us are learning to do it. Slowly and modestly, but we are learning.
My time in Europe will be spent learning from those who are doing this and continuing to be in “listening circles” of different kinds with many of you. However, the conversation about gender feels like it’ll take a back seat for just now. Reply to this email and let me know if you’d like to be notified when it happens!
Details of this week’s Listening Circle here