I’m often asked to share the secret of recognizing accurately the kind of experiences a system will likely yield.
Well, at least whether it is likely to have harmony, conflict, or peace.
Like most secrets, this too is where it can be spotted by anyone willing to observe. But sometimes that which stares at us in the face is exactly what we can’t see. Until someone states the obvious and then we look astonished as to why we could not see it ourselves.
If only we know how to recognize the kind of experiences the system that we’re a part of will likely yield, it may save us so much of conflict, agony, and pain. It may also provide us with the power to heal the system and help us transform the experiences to peaceful and harmonious. And perhaps even find us joy and fulfilment.
So, what is my secret to recognising the kind of experiences a system will likely yield so accurately?
First, of course is that I recognize systems. Systems is not just another word to describe a collection of things, a network, a procedure, a process, something working together or interconnectedness to me.
Systems are the “wholes” that result from the actors who come together for purposes and interact with each other. For example, actors who interact for the purpose of raising children create a family system. Or those who interact for the purpose of sharing joys and sorrows create systems of friendship. And those who interact with the purpose of learning from each other to create learning systems. Actors who interact with the purpose of ensuring their views are heard create a representation system.
If you recognize that you are part of an ecosystem of systems – many systems where you are the actor who interacts with other actors for a purpose, you too will start noticing systems like I do. That is the first step to knowing what kind of experiences systems will likely yield.
If you know something about systems, you know that the experiences in a system are the result of interactions of the actors who have come together for their purposes. Experiences in systems do not result from the charm, aura or charisma of its actors.
That brings us to the second part of the secret. I’ve learnt to spot the difference between authentic and unauthentic interactions in a system. Authenticity is contextual. Authenticity must be interpreted in context of the purpose of the system within which the actor engages in interactions.
Authentic interactions are those where the interactions are driven by the common purpose, or purpose of the whole. Not by the purposes of individual actors. An interaction is unauthentic if it does not relate to the common purpose of the interacting actors. If the interactions are driven by purposes other than the purpose of the whole, the interactions will be corrupted.
Authenticity, then, is about presence, interacting in the system you are in that moment with commitment, conviction, and confidence to its purpose, and staying true to it.
You will recognise, then, that when you spot interactions that are not true or lack commitment, conviction, and confidence to the purpose of the whole – the common purpose – the system is likely to lack harmony or peace. It is likely to have conflict, feel coercive, exploitative, and dystopian. On the other hand, when you spot interactions that serve the common purpose, the system is likely to have harmony and peace. It will find its actors aligned. And the actors seem to accomplish challenges almost magically.
For instance, when actors who interact for the purpose of raising children and create a family system corrupt the purposes or confuse them with other systems, like their work and friendship systems that they may be part of, the system is likely to have conflicts and lack harmony or peace. On the other hand, when the actors in a family system interact towards their common purpose, you will find alignment and ability to accomplish challenges.
Or for that matter, those who interact for the purpose of sharing joys and sorrows and create systems of friendship may experience harmony and peace as long as the interacting actors ensure their interactions are driven by their common purpose. When they let their purposes be corrupted by those from other systems where they may be interacting, for example family or work, the system will likely lose its harmony and peace.
Those who interact with the purpose of learning from each other to create learning systems experience harmony and peace as long as their interactions are driven by a common purpose related to learning. If, however, their interactions lack a common purpose, they quickly move to experience a lack of harmony, fulfilment, or even peace.
Those who interact with the purpose of ensuring their views are heard and create a representation system will find democracy meaningful as long as their interactions are driven by a common purpose. When the common purpose is corrupted by their individual purposes, conflict, unpleasantness, indignity, and even unfairness become part of the experience.
Yet, we rarely talk of our purposes, let alone common purposes. I have yet to meet anyone who prefers unauthentic interactions to authentic ones. Yet, we experience and observe more unauthentic interactions than authentic ones. In fact, we routinely interact in unauthentic ways. We routinely pretend as if our unauthentic interactions are authentic and deny the common purpose of our systems.
How often have you found families interacting as if raising children was a matter of nannies, schools and other outsourced agencies? Are they authentic when their interactions are about raising children, or when they are about the outsourced agencies to raise their children? How would you feel about the family system where their interactions are about raising their children, and where they are not? Which ones are conflicted, and which ones bring joy and fulfilment?
How often have you watched friends interacting without holding the space or time that are required to share conversations, joys or sorrows? And how do you feel when they hold space and the time for these interactions? Are they authentic when they hold the space, or when they lack the space or time to share joys and sorrows? Is it authentic when they recognize, respect, value, and interact with your common purpose at heart, or when they choose to ignore the common purpose? Which of the interactions leave you feeling joyful, fulfilled, peaceful, and harmonious, and which one conflicted?
Or how often have you watched a teacher lecture and walk away as the students become less and less interested in hearing a monologue?
Were you lucky to experience when the teacher and students interact to learn together? Did that feel harmonious and peaceful? Did it bring joy? Which teacher is authentic – the one who lectures during the class time and goes away, or the one who co-learns with you? Which interaction gives you joy, peace, and harmony? Which one leaves you conflicted?
Have you experienced the representative refusing to interact because of a busy schedule? Or perhaps snubbing you if you finally got to interact because your issues were not aligned to the views or priorities of the representative? Did it bring dignity, or did you feel care, respect, and dignity had just been stripped from you? Or were you lucky to experience interactions where you and your representative discussed to evolve a plan to represent you on the issues you raised? Did that feel empowering and bring you peace? When did you find the interaction authentic – when you were refused meeting, when you were snubbed, or when you worked together to find representation?
You may have experienced a judge snub a petitioner and telling him or her not to waste the time of the court. Or a lawyer just taking yet another date and pushing the arguments of the case by few more weeks every time. Did that bring a feeling of justice and bring you peace? Or were you just stripped of hope when the judge and the lawyer were unauthentic – when they failed to recognize, respect, and interact as if the common purpose for which you were interacting mattered?
Perhaps you have experienced colleagues at work who simply have no time. And when they do, have interactions that have nothing to do with your common purpose but their unstated individual purposes. Did that feel authentic? Did it bring harmony, peace, fulfilment, or joy?
To be authentic, interactions of the actors in a system have to exhibit commitment, conviction, and confidence to the common purpose, and remain true to it.
Authenticity in your interactions is the magic of bringing harmony, fulfilment, peace, and even joy to the actors in a system. Authenticity is about interactions. So, all the actors in the system need to practice authenticity for you to experience its magic.
Now you know my little secret. Go spread it and practice it if you want to bring harmony, peace, fulfilment, and joy into your life. Or to spread it across the world.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals and institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph