Hannah Mello, MEd
Listening: Deeper than the Surface
Many of my clients come to me 2 years, 5 years, 10 years after not listening to themselves or not being listened to by people. They may have a brand, a website, an organization, a life, a dream, a community that exists, but there's a problem. It's not thriving, it's stuck, or it doesn't feel good.
In the business world, we talk about "root problem analysis."
I stumbled across these drawings of root systems on Instagram. For 40 years, starting in 1960, three researchers—Lore Kutschera, Erwin Lichtenegger and Monika Sobotik—explored how roots grow in natural environments, and what conditions they react to. These 1,180 true-to-scale drawings of root systems, drawn by Professor Erwin Lichtenegger fill up "The Wurzelatlas" book series. (Check them out here!)
We can endlessly spend time, money and energy fixing symptoms.
We can find out the cause of those symptoms—the root(s) of the problem(s) instead. Then, when we address the root(s), all the symptoms are addressed in the process.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
In my work with individuals and organizations, we've found time and time again—the fundamental root problem, philosophically, is "power OVER" versus "power WITH." Everywhere. Interpersonally. Systemically. Historically.
I shared this framework in a post a few weeks ago about the unknown. (Read more here)
If you go past all the superficial symptoms of what's happening (events), how those happenings keep happening (the pattern and trends), how those patterns and trends are supported and reinforced (underlying structures)—you come down to a fundamental worldview of "power OVER." It can show up in many strains: including power of some people other people, humans having power over nature, etc.
I could list major categories of events, patterns and trends, and underlying structures throughout history (past and present) that are fundamentally built on the worldview of "power OVER."
All disconnection—violence, unrest, dis-ease, ultimately boil down to resisting power. Interpersonal tensions in a marriage or family, politics within the four walls of a business or organization, politics in a society, dynamics between nations, and in the climate of the environment in our world today.
(There's 10+ sources I could quote here from scholars and authors across bio-psych-social-spiritual disciplines that cite these instances and themes.)
What is the alternative?
In the natural world, we see a complex, nuanced, vibrant ecology. Thriving through power shared. Power with all levels of the universe. The microbes and mycelial networks. The solar system and lunar cycle. A delicate balance that we humans have interrupted with killing off certain animal species or disrupting indigenous plant life—and yet, the ecology adjusts and continues.
(If you're interested in nerding out on this phenomenon, check out Yellowstone National Park's story about "how wolves change rivers." - Summary from Tufts University here, Video here, webpage here.)
The act of listening can be a choice to transform our worldview, our mental models—from what it is, to something else. Choosing to loosen our grip on control—on power over—and opening up to power with.
We're not alone, but together. Together in our being, and in our doing. Society, sectors of industry.
In nature, we see an incredible diversity within a thriving, vibrant ecology. Geographical variances. Microclimates even within a few miles of each other. There's room for all of it, all of us.
One of my favorite scholars, Dr. Tara J. Yosso (I got to do her brand and website a few years ago; what fun and an honor!) has offered a framework, a way of talking about this, called "community cultural wealth." ALL of life has value to bring. Every living thing or creature or human has contribution. Not all of us ultimately competing to be on top.
I work with individuals and organizations committed to this not just being an idea or wishful thinking for scholars and philosophers, but the bedrock on which to build a house, a home, an organization.
With THAT Iceberg, if you crash into it, it's because there's a whole set of events, patterns and trends, and underlying structures that ultimately disrupt our selfishness and invite collaboration and generative action instead.
That work can be observed through CAMBIO and Common Cause Collective, and with many other organizations around the world. I see that work with colleagues that apply this alternative way of being in consultancies, jobs within major sectors and corporations, and much, much more.
We're in it together.
Cheers to real life—the messy and the beautiful.