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No Turning Back

July 2, 2013

My previous post focused on my work with a large corporation and an employee accident that resulted in the tragic death of a healthy young man. He left behind a wife and children and there were multiple individuals who were traumatized by the loss. It was a tragedy that required me, the onsite psychologist, to organize a large scale CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) effort for senior level executives and their work groups. In my previous column I described my anxiety and self doubt when faced with this extenuating circumstance; a situation that challenged my outer limits of training and expertise. In sharing my story about how I ultimately managed to bust through the paralyzing shackles of self doubt and fear and rise to the occasion I stated the following:
I abandoned my agenda of formal professionalism and instead I found an inner light of love and compassion. I was just me; human and flawed and ready to help. Instead of concerning myself with outer appearances and superficial acceptance, I rolled up my sleeves and prepared to connect. I reached out to embrace people and hold their hands. I looked into their eyes and tried to know them; everyone from the entry level worker to the highest paid executive. And I noticed a striking difference. My fear and self consciousness and internal doubt were gone. I was focused more on them than I was on myself. As my fear faded into an ascending light of love and compassion, I was transformed. In that moment I experienced an emotional and spiritual shift. A shift I believe has changed me forever.
Without a doubt, I am forever and irrevocably changed. When I reflect back now on the events that led to my emotional/spiritual transformation, beginning with the grand implosion of my personal life and culminating with the magnificent expansion of my professional career, I can see it all with such amazing clarity. It was only when I finally learned to love and embrace my own fantastically flawed humanity that I was truly able to connect with others in deep and meaningful ways. When I released myself from the emotional burden of my own past mistakes and vulnerabilities and shortcomings, the world seemed much brighter and the future appeared more promising. The guilt, shame and regret I once harbored finally diminished and faded from view. Through the grand implosion and the vast expanse of grief that followed, I emerged on the other side with a solid and unshakable sense of self.
I reflect back now on a pivotal moment when I found myself facing a senior level executive; a man of confidence and poise and years of authority. He asked me for guidance on how to better connect with his employees; how to truly know them and earn their trust. He longed to use his grief and despair as inspiration for helping others through his personal growth and change. At first, I was stuck inside my head and doubting myself; frantic for some type of logical roadmap or formal response. What if I sound stupid or panic or make a total fool of myself? What if I am not qualified to show him the way? My internal voice of self doubt and fear threatened to paralyze me and lead me astray. In analyzing the situation through the fog of intellect I nearly missed the entire spirit of this important exchange. For as long as I intellectualized the experience and doubted my competence I was completely and totally unavailable to help.
And then I knew I was faced with a choice. I could offer reasonable and logical answers based on the years of education that resulted in my advanced degree. Or, I could roll up my sleeves and prepare to connect. I could sit alongside him instead of rising to the podium. I could reveal my fantastically flawed humanity and display my battle scars with pride. Fortunately, I recognized this in time and in doing so, I transcended the limitations of my own ego. The conversation expanded, the universe applauded and since that moment I have never looked back.
I am convinced that the key to all success in life; the true path to emotional and spiritual wealth; the secret to authentic and unshakable joy; the answer to all of these things is the inner light of kindness and compassion and love. It all starts with self love and acceptance and the courage to be human and it radiates out to the world from there. And so it goes like the wise old expression, when god closes a door he opens a window. Through the tragic and untimely loss of one precious life; through my grand implosion and the grief that followed; through a senior executive’s desire to make a positive difference; I am enlightened and transformed with compassion and love.

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