Feeling the way to clearer thinking
This post is part of a series of blog posts where I consider each component of the Thinking Environment individually, in order to better understand the relationship between the Thinking Environment and psychological safety. In this post, I focus on the component of Feelings.
Feelings: Welcoming the release of emotion
A couple of years ago, I lost my Grandad. He was nearly 90, and it was expected, but I was no less sad for that. He was my Grandad Reg, and I loved him very much.
When I heard this news, I was staying away from home on a training course. I considered leaving and coming home, but having thought about it, there didn’t seem much point. There was nothing I could do at home, and so I decided to stay.
Luckily for me, the training course was a Time to Think coaching course, led by Nancy Kline.
I remember walking into the room that morning, very clearly. One of my colleagues had already let Nancy know for me. She gave me a great big hug. I cried, and that was fine. I didn’t feel I needed to apologise, and there was not even a hint of my sadness making anyone else uncomfortable. Having let out those tears, I could sit with my sadness and engage fully with the day.
It struck me very clearly then, what psychological safety truly means, and the difference that our own and other peoples’ acceptance of our feelings can make.
Allowing ourselves to feel, helps us think more clearly
We did a lot of thinking that day, as you might expect on a Thinking Environment coaching course! And what was incredible to me, was how clear mine was.
Grief can do that of course, clear away all the un-important stuff, leaving behind clarity as to what really matters. But so can the simple ability to express what we feel, free of embarrassment, judgement, or awkwardness.
By creating an environment for ourselves and others, where feelings are just accepted as normal, we create real safety. There is no need to feel the need to apologise when we cry, or to hide our anxieties, or even to suppress a fit of the giggles for that matter! We’re human beings, emotional creatures.
It’s how we evolved!
Mindful practice teaches us to simply observe and accept our feelings for what they are, without judgement. I have seen the Thinking Environment supporting that, allowing feelings to arise, be felt, and subside again, in order to restore our ability to think clearly. And it works.
If I had sat there, on that day, trying not to cry, trying somehow to hide how I felt, to keep that ridiculous concept of a “stiff upper lip”, there is no way I could even have listened properly to what Nancy was teaching. Let alone had any kind of coherent thoughts about it, or expressed those, and done something with them. Yet I did, and with incredible clarity.
Feelings can be an overlooked component sometimes, certainly an uncomfortable one for many people. But to create a space in which our feelings are entirely and completely acceptable creates an incredible safety within which we can truly be our whole selves.
Click below for links to other blogs in this series