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On agency: your thoughts, words and actions matter

How are you doing?

Are you experiencing some big feelings around the horrific world events of the last days? If you, like me, tend to lean toward the sensitive side, my guess is yes.

This email starts off with a sombre tone, but I ask that you keep reading. Because I think we have reason to feel relief, too.

For a long time I turned my eyes away from the news, jaded by what (I thought) I was seeing with regard to mainstream media controlling narratives, and deeming much of it simply a way to attenuate the individual's sense of personal power and responsibility over their own experience.

But the further I travel into the individual psyche with my clients (and as a client of myself who is constantly in "the work"), the more I can see the reflections of our shadows playing out in the world. And just like I don't believe we should turn away from our individual shadows, I think we need to pay attention outwardly, too.

One thing seems very clear.

We're in an epidemic of disconnection.







Where you look and see suffering, you can almost bet that it stems from this root of disconnection. Denying, suppressing, repressing what is there. Othering. We couldn't possibly inflict this level of pain on each other and the planet if this were not the case.

If you've been here reading with me for a while, you'll know I don't subscribe to a sunshine-unicorns-rainbows form of expanding human potential and accessing "high performance". My clients know that spiritual bypassing is not allowed to slide in my practice. We get good at identifying and feeling our feelings and looking at things very honestly with the intention of integrating the ugly bits, so that we minimise the risk that they leak out in an unhealthy expression.

That means looking at anger, shame, resentment and all of their cousins, too. Releasing some of that energy that has us feeling bound.

From there, we can see more clearly the work to be done to create a better reality for both ourselves and others on a more stable, sustainable foundation.

And that is the very idea that gives me such a great sense of relief that we can do something about the state of the planet - both in the macrocosm ("out there", in the world) and in the microcosm ("in here", in our own lives).

But for most of us, it really does have to start with the latter. Putting things in their proper place in the context of our direct experience.

According to Stanford and Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr Paul Conti, who has extensive experience in clinical practice working 1:1 with diverse individuals over a matter of decades, if we want to have more peace, contentment and delight in our lives, there are two key ingredients for this:

1) Agency

2) Gratitude

Since coming across this simple explanation of the internal forces that drive well-being via his interview on the Huberman Lab podcast, I've been sitting with the premise and reflecting on how it might translate to the way we interact with the world as individuals, especially concerning the first point of agency.

My assertion is that if you want to experience a sense of agency over your life—which might also be described as "personal freedom"—it will be important to work on seeing the world correctly, as I pointed to above. As *it* is, not only as *you* are.

Aligning your perception and reality.

This is not an end-state, it is a practice. So how do you do engage in that practice?

As Joseph Campbell said, "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

In other words:

Face what is uncomfortable.

The more you work at this endeavour, the more the circles of perception and reality will overlap, creating in you a sense that you can intervene in your world because you will be interacting directly with it, instead of with an overlay of how you think things are/should be. Here, the principles of cause and effect are in full force (well they always are, it's just sometimes they don't make sense because one's perception is filtered). And with that in mind, you can better put yourself at cause rather than effect.

The last few weeks have been a period of extraordinary expansion of awareness for me personally, and I am seeing patterns in my life more clearly than ever before (read: reality is fusing evermore with perspective). Some of these patterns are simply interesting to notice. Some of them are really uncomfortable and calling for a good old-fashioned spring clean. Never mind it's autumn where I am. Consider this your permission slip to spring clean whenever necessary (as if you needed one)!

Side note: Because here we play the both/and game rather than the either/or game (refer my earlier post on this), we get to work on the shadows at the same time as nurturing the good.

So what I am also noticing as I get curious about this growing awareness is that I have more power to influence what happens around me, in the most beautiful and subtle ways (even while some challenging stuff happens in the background).

Owing to the fact that we are relational beings, I consider my behaviour in the world a vote for what I want to see in the world.

Because I want to see a world that is more deeply connected, I've recommitted to go out into the world open to connection. I look people in the eye on my morning walks, and say 'goedemorgen'. I give fellow runners a wave and a grin as I pass them. I set an intention to carry myself around with more welcoming energy... and the world responds. I picked up some trash that I was running past in the park the other morning, and a passer by (who also received a smile) thanked me.

Well this has completely blown my story that "Dutch people keep to themselves don't like to speak to strangers" right out of the water. Good riddance!

It's these little moments that weave the fabric of the world. Don't underestimate them. Don't underestimate the impact of being intentional about how you show up.

Don't doubt your ability to change your experience and those of others for the better. The only ones who ever did, were those who believed they could.

And absolutely don't doubt your ability to "befriend your dragons", as my dear coach encourages me.

Perhaps your sense of true agency even depends on it.

Your thoughts, words and actions matter.

Thank you for showing up.

Keep showing up.


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