As I reflect on my almost 4 years of intriguing and challenging research into balanced human behavior, my seemingly random choice of flight movies seemed to trigger more thoughts, but not this time, this time, I will go all the way to an animated feature, something more light and less philosophical.
But as you know, it won’t end well.
Ferdinand is a bull that doesn’t like fighting. He just wants to see the world being a beautiful place and to enjoy being part of this beauty, but being the intimidating bull he is, he doesn’t seem to have much of a choice as he is grabbed into fights. I don’t know if this was supposed to happen with everyone, but I did relate to Ferdinand.
I tried to understand and extract lessons from this story and from my own life experience that can help us make sense of this dilemma affecting many leaders today. The empathetic, warm and supportive person who shares a vision for a beautiful world, and being grabbed into bringing their hyperaware, confrontational, aggressive side.
The things that I have seen in common with Ferdinand are:
Trauma and Loss
Nice people are often struck by Trauma due to the exact qualities they exude, it’s the empathy, warmth, people-first approach that haunt them down, not just on a public stage but also on a very personal traumatizing experiences. It’s this moment in which you realize that these exact qualities are the core of your weakness as they will be used against you. From angles and from people you have never expected, it often results in resenting these exact qualities as the source of pain and loss.
Natural Expression of Rage
Driven, intelligent and strong people often have a very powerful dark side, they do good not out of lack of capacity to do harm, but out of choice and self reflection – right after or during the moments of trauma and resentment to these qualities, expect nothing but raw human rage, coupled with intelligence, the effect of acting upon rage could be immensely shocking and destructive.
Confusion and Identity Crisis
For the big-hearted leader, reflecting on what they have done. Not only this brings about confusion, remorse and identity crisis; but it also promotes a conscious reduction in assertive behavior, almost leading to total inaction. It is for the greater good, people like me are not meant to lead with assertive actions, I will just settle down here and pretend to be doing my best.
This is a state that I have personally visited and stayed at for a while and came to see people with great potential stuck at it, what seemed to work for me to evolve out of this state are the following:
Step 1: Identifying, Accepting and Channeling Your Shadow Sides
It is easy to identify, accept and channel our positive, socially acceptable traits like being empathetic, positive and loving. Though, the way we respond to sudden, shocking events often shows us snippets of our nature that we are more likely to deny and avoid dealing with. With deeper questioning and reflection you can discover the shadow sides that sometimes goes totally against how you see yourself.
The aggressive commander with outstanding oratory skills. The uber idealist with unrealistic expectations. The master manipulator with social hyperawareness.
Owning these shadows and putting them to good use is essential to reversing the cycle of inaction. Now, not only you don’t need to deny your shadow sides, but you put them to the best use through acceptance and proper channeling.
Step 2: Mastering your emotions and responses
Regardless of how much we tend to exaggerate events in our minds, a traumatic experience is only an external trigger, you can still own the way you respond to them.
Stoicism promotes getting yourself used to respond to challenging conditions (e.g. cold showers in winter), this way when you have to face an unexpected negative situation, you can still get your mind to lead, probably avoiding an immediate emotional reaction and planning a proper response.
As you have identified your shadow sides and know for sure the types of situations that’s more likely to trigger an unpleasant response. You can now set the boundaries to avoid being exposed to these situations.
Step 3: Building or moving to a new environment/social circle
It is certain that different industries, social circles, and environments have underlying dynamics that might be exposing you to constant confrontations that trigger and activate your shadow sides. The wisdom then is to change the industry, social circle or environment in which you find yourself under the constant pressure of acting in ways you don’t like.
In conclusion, don’t let your trauma lead you inaction, rather use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to get ready for the rest of your journey with more in-depth self-awareness and readiness to lead and respond properly while investing your capacity in the environment most receptive to your giving.
Have you faced a traumatic experience before, how did you manage to recover, share your story with me for more inspiration as I research more into the topic.
Also published on Medium.