Withholds and Beyond
Part 9 –
In my last blog post I was talking about how agency is a way to move beyond dependency, and what making the evolutionary leap to agency looks like.
There are allot of different ways to describe agency, but for now we are describing it in terms of 2 poles, which make 4 quadrants.
On one side we have the pole of strength and the ability to manage well vs. weakness and the inability to manage well. And on the other side we have the second pole of being open and venerable and the negative pole is made up of being closed and contracted. When I last left off, I had just been considering the impact of combining the pole of closed and contracted with the pole of strength, which equals domination.
Now I want to go over to the openness pole and consider how that allows for the possibility of moving towards agency.
First, lets take openness and vulnerability and bring it over to the pole of weak and can’t manage. This is what I call being exposed, or being a sitting duck.
It has been very rare in my experience of working with people that they want to get vunerable. Rarely have I had the experience of saying, “This is a great place for you to get vulnerable.” And then to have people go, “Oh boy! Yes! Let me do that!”
I think there is a really good reason for that. I think allot of us associate being vulnerable with being a sitting duck, with being exposed.
For many of us, our early experiences of being hurt have been legitimately when we were dependent, un-resourceful, and legitimately did not have what it would take to manage. We were legitimately exposed. When you have openness and vulnerability and then you legitimately cant manage the sensations or the impact – that’s exposure. That’s helplessness.
What’s happening now, is people have fused that very young experience with being venerable so they go, “Oh, I cant be vulnerable”, because it links back to that exposure. That’s why I think allot of us avoid being vulnerable, because it links back to that association.
Now, lets shift a bit. Here is where we come to agency.
This is a very rare in the world. People who are very agentic have literally shifted paradigms. I think of Marin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Its not like they were perfect, but they definitely demonstrated a couple of key characteristics. They had an enormous amount of strength, the ability to manage, and to stand strong in their own legitimacy. And, they did it openly.
In other words, as Werner Erheart would say; they weren’t reasonable in their stand. People who stand for something, who have conviction for something, but they are not simply standing by just pushing off a reason for or against something else. They say, “This is possible and I’m standing for it” without the need to shore it up with explanations.
And, because there is no reason for it, other than because they say so, they are literally, proactively vulnerable by being out in the open – its vulnerability and strength in the same gesture.
I listen to Marin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech allot, because it speaks to me in many ways of agency. I recommend listening to it with that in mind.
See, that’s why agency so rare, because we are so afraid of being vulnerable.
And when we don’t act with agency, this is the world of inauthentic communication. When we associate vulnerability with exposure, what we do is say to ourselves: “On some level, I feel too weak to be able to manage what I’m afraid is coming (threat to identity). So I will either resign and wont talk, I’ll get helpless and hide, or I will use force and dominate the situation – all so that I can make a predictable outcome so I don’t have risk being exposed to something I think I cant handle.”
Agency. Try this, lets not make agency a thing but rather look at it as an activity. One of the ways we can look at agency as an act, an agentic act, is when I legitimately, authentically share my experience as it is for me without apology, yet in full consideration of the impact on you.
The essence of agency is self-permission.
I give myself permission to feel what I feel, experience what I experience, and think what I think. And, when I do that, I implicitly give you permission (and allow you to give yourself permission) to feel what you feel, experience what you experience, and think what you think – even if its opposite to me.
This is the source of authentic communication. Agency.
I take full responsibility for my experience and I allow and am open to your experience as genuinely legitimate.
Why? What makes your experience legitimate?
Because you’re experiencing it.
What makes my experience legitimate?
Because I’m experiencing it.
It’s unarguable. That you’re experiencing your own experience is unarguable.
And, if I have it that you’re the source of your experience and I’m the source of mine; and that is something to be celebrated, and I am not at fault (there’s no victims and there’s no villains), then that allows me to fully be able to enter into your world. It allows me to be permeable, yet to maintain my sense of self. Another word for this is intra-dependent.
Another way that Robert McDonald describes agency, which I really like, is this:
“I am going to medical school to be a doctor even though my parents want me to.”
In other words, I’m my own person. And I’m my own person – why? Because I’m my own person, period (even though I should be). I’m not defensive about it; I just am. I’m here. I exist. The fact that I exist, in and of itself, is my own legitimacy and implicit sense of dignity.
Now, I’ll leave you until the next post with this question: what does this make possible?