Case Study, Empathic Intelligence In Practice

A Truth and a Lie

“Help! I need an emergency consultation!”

The person calling is a wise and thoughtful leader in her organization. She explained that she was amidst end of year fundraising, and scheduling meetings to review her organization’s performance and direction.

But the reason for her call was that she was angry, and she couldn’t get over it.

She had been meditating daily and taking long walks in the woods. She was reflecting on her own mistakes and how to improve, she was empathizing with her colleagues and how they experienced the year. Yet every morning, she would wake with a rising anger at two of her closest colleagues.

Several months earlier, disagreements and misunderstandings had created a painful rift that continued to deepen. She called me wanting help, because she knew that she would not be able to address the larger needs and mission of her organization if this conflict continued.

Hidden dynamics. People come to me because the work I do as a systemic constellations facilitator reveals the unseen dynamics driving our conflicts. These dynamics are usually found in older, unresolved conflicts that are being activated by the current one.

As we sit together, I am reminded of something I wrote down when I was being trained. “There’s a truth and a lie. Our work is to figure out what they are, and put them in their right place.”

img_4794The client described the nature of the conflict and I started to sketch the system: The client. Her partner. Her colleagues. The project they were working on. The money to fund the project.

But as I listened, I heard other words, some she spoke, some hidden underneath: Betrayal. Shameful mistake. Forgiveness. Magic.

As we felt into each element, a complex and beautiful picture emerged. The conflict was triggering a return to a “Shameful Mistake” in the client’s past. We didn’t discuss what this was, we simply felt how, when faced with her colleagues accusation, it drew her back into the “Shameful Mistake”. At the same time, the power of the client’s “Magic”, that is, her capacity and visionary leadership, was misunderstood by her colleagues and perceived as threatening. These insights were the truth.

The healing movement came as a surprise: the “Betrayal” wasn’t betrayal at all. There was, in fact, no betrayal in this system. This was the lie. Instead, “betrayal” felt itself as spacious, generous and accepting. It was Grace. A large tree, Grace offered it’s comfort to the Shameful Mistake, transforming it into a life-supporting resource.

With the truth and the lie in their right place, we could feel that the client and her colleagues could face each other. The misunderstandings were gone, replaced by openness and forward movement.

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