Monday, November 6, 2017

Dealing with the Inner Shadow and the Darkness and Light of Leadership...

The following is a writing for a class on interpersonal communication, and my evaluation of the writing of Carl Rogers and Parker J. Palmer. If you're dealing with the struggle between who you are on the outside and who you are on the inside, there some good stuff here.

I think it is, anyway. And thanks for reading.


Kristopher Freeman
Trevecca Nazarene University
Carl Rogers - A Counselor's Approach
A psychotherapist and communication specialist, Rogers seems to write with a goal of understanding the total self (the being), and the four book titles indicate as much. Each title points toward the "becoming" or "being" of our complete self. Three values are presented as important to Rogers - total hearing, congruence, and unconditional positive regard. The first focuses on hearing and listening completely, which through this class has certainly been a goal of mine to improve interpersonal communication skills. The second is a greater sense of self-awareness which becomes "congruent" and therefore spills into our communication.
But it is the third value which is the most intriguing for me, as Rogers formulates the model of self-acceptance. Learning to accept who we are and communicate in a way which we can trust others and accept ourselves is the key to building a positive self-image and improving our esteem.
As I read deeper into this theory, I wondered if Rogers has the greatest understanding of depression and personality imbalance that I have ever read. His approaches are not medical, but rather psycho-sensitive and look deeper into the person. As a leader, this was (and will be more) further explored by Palmer in learning to see the inner shadow. It appears Rogers knew the inner shadow, too.
"I feel warmed and fulfilled when I can let in the fact, or permit myself to feel, that someone cares for, accepts, admires or prizes me. Because of elements in my past history, I suppose, it has been very difficult for me to do this. For a long time, I tended to brush aside any feelings aimed at me in any direction" (p. 663).
Depression is rooted in hopelessness, a lack of care, and a total belief of depravity that others could care about you or that it will ever change. While this medically has been proven to be a chemical imbalance, it can also be affected by our circumstances and our past. My desire for affirmation is rooted in my own father's lack of pride and acceptance of me. Therefore, when I battle depressive feelings, I know this is authentically a desire to be accepted.
So when I communicate, I often am seeking what Rogers understood. To be accepted changes everything about how I communicate, and then causes me to have a greater acceptance of myself and how I can listen to, project and communicate with others.
Parker J. Palmer - A Spiritual Approach
If the pedigree of Parker J. Palmer is based as an author, writer and teacher, then there is no doubt many would consider him a leader, but that he has interacted with many leaders at the same time. It sounds like a business approach, but is indeed a spiritual one.
As a Christian, my spirituality is tied to evangelical belief in God. However spirituality is a word that can describe many processes where leaders discover themselves within the shadow of a higher power or belief. A leader is being led, therefore what is passed on was once received. This spiritual approach takes what is within and projects it forward, thus coming "into the light."
The breakdown is when a leader refuses to deal with the spiritual self and simply leads from an external gift set which can hide the problems within. Eventually, those elements arise and if not addressed, the shadow is not a spiritual reflection, but can cast darkness. Leadership can go from good to bad, but unfortunately that is still leadership even with a negative outcome.
I love the heading Out of the Shadow and Into the Light, as Palmer navigates the process of moving our tendency to lead out of extroversion into a deeper look into our own being. I think much of the work of Palmer and Rogers interject and overlap, though it's said in different manner.
Palmer evaluates - and lauds - a speech of former president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel. 
"Consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim. For this reason, the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, and in the human power to reflect" (Havel, p. 669).
When we understand what is within us deeply changes what is around us, we are not afraid to deal with the inner shadow. We explore the depths of our hardest places - the violent, the fearful, the broken - for the sake of seeing them shape us into a better spiritual being. This gives hope to others around us, trust that we communicate our struggles not just in a way to be accepted, but a form of leadership to be followed.
"The problem is that people rise to leadership in our society by a tendency toward extroversion, which too often means ignoring what is going on inside themselves" (p. 671).
I have to understand what God is doing inside me, with the worst of my habits and depth of my struggles, so that I may use that foundation to influence others. Going back to Rogers writing, this not only helps me learn to be accepted by others for who I am, but rather it shapes who I am to be used for a greater purpose.
If one life influencing another is truly leadership, then Palmer understood we have to know ourselves first and use the good and the bad for what God can make the very best.

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