My own relative has wanted out of this world for many years, yet her commitment to something beyond herself has kept her here. I believe it is the ‘fear’ of taking her own life and a commitment to her deep seated beliefs, that she is still with us. We are all unique and therefore can never judge why we each take our unique actions in life, yet we can take a systemic look into our world, ourselves, our own actions so others hear our hearts not our words ...
My relative's life has taken me on a journey to understand human behaviour and our unique intrinsic natures and what it is that drives our personal motivation, how we stay inspired and keep hope in the face of adversity. So whilst you read this, I don't have the answers as to why people take their lives, but I do want to share some of my own vulnerabilities, and for us to consider how we and elements of the world we live in, impacts everyone of us uniquely. It has led me to understand how we urgently need to learn Systems Thinking, so we can begin to see and acknowledge the multiplicity of circumstances and events in our lives, and how these are impacting us, both negatively and positively. We need to learn a new language of understanding each other. I call this 'Interdependent Rules of Engagement'.
For most of us, work drives the majority of our working hours, it’s here where we meet others who may help meet our basic human needs of love & connection, belonging, safety, significance, esteem and self actualisation, and yet according to Gallup 87% of people are unhappy in their work, and this has seen a steady increase over the years. There are others who want to be part of a workforce, or should we say individuals who want to contribute to society, who cannot and may be excluded, thus living with unmet needs.
Both of these situations have unintended negative consequences because when our needs go unmet, we are unable to contribute through our intrinsic motivators, causing suppression. This can leave us feeling shame and unworthy. Yet these needs remain regardless and are what make up the uniqueness of our value offering to the world. If we cannot get our needs met positively, we will find less agreeable ways to meet these needs. But who understands what others are going through? Who is there to feel our wretchedness? Who will catch us before we fall?
In a world that puts profit before people, expecting compassion in a world that laughs in the face of empathy is an oxymoron. We are taught not to express our emotions and with the ongoing narrative of “big boys don’t cry’ is it any wonder that suicide amongst males is growing exponentially, sadly even in boys as young as 10 yrs of age? And don't even get me started on emasculation where our men will never live up to the pressures and expectations of our capitalistic society.
Brenè Brown talks about the practice of confident vulnerability and how it is through this vulnerability that we allow others the privilege to reach out to us. This practice breaks down barriers, opens our hearts and emotions, creating intimacy, friendships, and close relationships. Without this we remain concrete to the needs of others. I see glimpses on the horizon that our world is changing for the better, yet our vulnerability and the need to be deeply heard and listen to, is left wanting.
Events such as covid have allowed us to witness our own humanity and interdependencies and created spaces for us to open up to each other and, we have to admit, this conscious awareness has felt great, empowered us to realise our connection to others, and that we have agency over our own lives. Then, as shocking as the current conflict happening between Russia and Ukraine is, it is allowing us to ponder our own fragility and again, our interdependencies and it is now that we can choose to create our new preferred futures. Yet what will it take for a paradigm shift that says goodbye to competition, control, ego and hello to emancipation?
When I consider my own relative’s life and her Futures Systems Thinking and Idealism, she inspired us to believe everything is possible, that we can create our preferred futures, and I still like to believe that when we come together as communities that she’s right. Yet the work we still need to do, individually and collectively, is for us to choose conscious intentional awareness, to break down the silos and barriers and love each other again. We need to stop blaming God for not intervening and realise it is our choices that has created this world we live in: our futures, mindsets, judgements, and our biases.
The ability to impact the world and influence the thinking of others eventually became too much for my relative to bear, I can see that now, because too many of us have forgotten our humanity, are still putting profit before people, relationships, and communities. Yet my commitment to her is to carry the baton she has inadvertently passed onto me, whilst she is still alive.
In South Africa I learned and felt the beauty of Ubuntu- “I am because you are”, but it wasn't easy. I arrived in South Africa thinking the world owed me a living - with a major independent mindset. I would bark when someone wanted to put a greeting and niceties before getting on with the job at hand. I recall a time a time I went to the post office and asked for a stamp. "good morning" the assistant said. Oh, "good morning" I responded "can I get a stamp". "how are you" the assistant said ... great teaching from a nation that largely puts people first. You see Ubuntu is about seeing others first until you come to the realisation “I am because you see me”. Interdependence is a conscious choice.
Yet this takes the courage of going against our current world, against the status quo of linearity, silos, and individualism and moving towards interdependence, putting the needs of others before your own. I wonder how many people would still be with us today if they felt this deep acceptance from strangers at their core.
I personally felt particularly stung recently after I received a reply from a new contact who responded with “I don't usually recommend people I don't know. I'm sure you understand …” It made me think of Jesus’ words “forgive them Lord for they know not what they do” - because it is not always that easy for others to see they may have unconsciously fallen into the protectionist trap that has them guarding what they see as ‘rightfully’ theirs.
With diversity, equality, and inclusivity (DEI) being on the lips and minds of so many across the globe, how do we recognise that we need to drop "the gentleman’s club" narratives and mindsets and become more open to "Interdependent Rules of Engagement", which has us building trust even though there may be no guarantees, breaking through barriers that we are unconsciously holding in place?
The rule in our current meritocracy is to measure, not on our intrinsic value and the value offering through which we uniquely contribute - our God given talents - but through a piece of paper from an educational institution, and experience one can never gain without it. This becomes your right of passage. Yet it is judgemental and exclusionary, meaning that the future of millions of marginalised individuals will NEVER be recognised, seen, or exposed to opportunities. What does this do to our psyche? What thoughts run through our heads when we feel excluded? What negative action might come as a consequence of feeling so alone, fighting systems that are so firmly entrenched? It is our individual and collective responsibilities to change this.
Which brings us back to the sensitive discourse around suicide. We all need to have our “raison d’être” - our reason to wake up in the morning. Without it, why are we here?
I once trained with an individual who taught us “everything swims in the waters of relationships” and she is quite right. When we are emotionally connected to others we can find our place in the world, yet we need Ubuntu, this spirit of interdependence. We need others to see our value in order that we may bring this and contribute.
My biggest take away from my Masters Studies in Futures angered me. Pandora’s box had been opened to reveal a world of linear thinking where we have been brain washed into believing there is only one answer, through a schooling system that firmly entrenches compliance and obedience, diminishing our agency and denying us the opportunity to learning systems thinking. Have you ever wondered why you left school without any understanding of who you are?
Knowing thy self, helps us entrench our own uniqueness and place in the world, whilst understanding we need others to fill in where we are weak. DEI is a consequence of this one-size-fits-all system which has taught us the toxic dependencies of independence, dependence, and codependence, over the beauty of interdependence. In our current systems there is no place for the incredible uniqueness of each person. Instead it is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ narrative where we either tow the line and fit in - or fuck off.
I chose the latter because ‘the “Emperorer’s new clothes” and “The Wizard of Oz” world we have created has no essence, no humanity, and it is killing our souls. This false way of being is unsustainable. We have to find new ways of engaging to bring hope.
I have spent my entire life feeling judged and dismissed for going against the status quo, even by my own loved ones and friends. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said I should find myself some counselling. My Mother would say in her day our elders, grandparents, and friends were the people to turn to to feel safe, express vulnerabilities, and find a listening ear, not through the counsel of strangers. What have we done to our extended families and communities and what is the impact of nuclear and fragmented families on our societies?
It was reading Sam Cande's post this morning on the loss of her beautiful friend Jenni to suicide, that inspired me to write this. We will never know why anyone takes their own life, though it stands to reason that it will never be just one element. I identified with much of how her friend felt about herself because for me, “I am, because you see me” became a negative reflection of how others saw me, until I no longer believed in myself. I am strong willed, as anyone who knows me will tell you, however, this has not prevented my own emotional melt downs. We all go through them to a larger or lesser extent. My tertiary studies, matching my intrinsic nature to what ‘I’ chose to learn, has been the making of me. This has helped me to "sing my song back to myself, to remind me of who I am". The ongoing support of fellow students, my 'like-minded' interdependent tribe, has been extremely value and validating.
Yet if we choose to remain unconscious to who we are at our core and our impact on self, others, and the environment at large, we will continue to exacerbate the negative causal loops that ultimately lead to to suicide, chronic illnesses, depression, war and conflict ... and we will never understand Systems Thinking whilst we are looking at the world through a linear lens. We will stay stuck in these systems of linearity that need to be upended to create the change the world drastically needs.
"You know someone said that the world's a stage and each must play a part" Elvis Presley
We each have to find our place in society, plant our beautiful ‘tree’ in soil that is right for our unique contribution, it is the making of us. The caveat is recognising when we are hogging someone else’s space - the practice of interdependence - and having the integrity to move over and create a place for others besides ourselves, inviting them in to take their rightful place at the table of our globe.
We need a world where we put others first - imagine a future where we we are all doing this for each other ...
This post is dedicated to all those beautiful unique individuals whom we have tragically lost - "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you" Don McLean
Sam McDonald has been married for twenty-eight years and has four children. Their home is in Hampton, UK and Rooi Els in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a Futurist and Chief Visionary Officer for WITH - Global Change Institute (www.withglobal.org.uk) with a dream to "Unlock the IntrinsicIdentity© of all Individuals in service of a greater humanity".
She is a Normative Visionary, Systems Thinker, Disruptor, Change Agent, Activist - engaged in a Masters in Futures Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, influencing thinking in order to create futures led enquiry & change towards a future we all want to be part of - linking strategic leadership and management with futures thinking and using Interdependent Rules of Engagement© and the StrengthsFinder© Assessment as tools of choice to help people understand each other's unique world views which are coloured by their Strengths Language.
She moved to South Africa in 1983 from Nottingham in the UK and has lived in both dysfunction and functional environments which has become her "the cross you bear is your gift to share". This has led to the creation of a concept for youth in South Africa www.with.org.za/mom. If you are interested to get involved please reach out.
She works with motivated clients using the Strengthsfinder® assessment as a power tool for:
Strength Based Interviewing & Recruitment
Assisting motivated individuals to fall in love with their careers and find the work they were born to do.
Working with high achievers to discover their value and purpose
Working with Start-ups to gain momentum, motivation & self-awareness of the Entrepreneur
Assisting Students to gain a greater self-awareness, expediting their career path, building confidence and self-esteem.
Working with individuals to re-engage in their work environments & leveraging their strengths
Working with marriage relationships to help you love again and understand the toxicity, reduce negative experiences, create understanding and, in turn, assist with long-term strategies for lasting transformation
Finding your true Purpose, Passion and Value in Life
Falling in love with your life and work again
She teaches the 'Interdependent Rules of Engagement© & Vulnerability' to focus on living 'Interdependence' as the key to healthier environments - choosing this as 'rules of engagement' over 'Dependence', 'Co-Dependence' & 'Independence'.
Follow the link if you would like to take the Strengths Assessment and engage in Strengths Coaching.