The Seven Stones Blog

Grace and Grit: Leadership in the Face of Trauma

By Jen Cohen

Dear Ones:

Will this world ever rest in peace? In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the incredible trauma it caused for so many, we have been thinking about what to offer to our community. I keep trying to find what I wrote after 9/11, and have felt the discomfort of realizing that I could have used that writing four times since then for events in this country and each and every day for somewhere in the world.

As leaders and developers of leaders, it is important for us to be on the look out for things that might signal our people are struggling, even a month out from the event.

Signals include: sleeplessness, anxiety, restlessness, trouble concentrating, dissociation, staring off into space, forgetting things, uncontrollable crying, flashbacks to earlier trauma in one’s life both adult life and childhood trauma, being less productive, forgetful, and agitated more easily.

All of us, no matter how resilient, may experience and may notice that whatever we do to “cope”, that we are doing more of it. So if you know yourself, or your client, to be someone who likes to fix, you may be fixing lots right now. If you know you are someone who gets very anxious under pressure you might be experiencing a serious increase in anxiety. Whatever you do normally under pressure you will do more in response to the stimuli of the tragic events. When people are triggered into their reptilian brain, it’s harder to listen, to hear, to learn, and to rise up to meet the moment with grace.

This is a time to remind people it is ok, to support them to find ways to take good care. This is a moment to model what it means to call upon the best in us, what it means to take good care of us as an example of how to learn. This is a time to reach beyond ourselves to find each other, and it’s a time to reach deeply into ourselves for resources we did not know we had.

Many will express strong opinions. We all make meaning, and are struggling to try to understand what happened, to map it to our value set, our cosmology, our map of reality. This can give rise to deep and rich conversations; it can serve to further polarize, isolate or silence us.

Take good care of each other. This is yet another reminder that life itself is precious, easily disrupted, fleeting, and we are vulnerable. All of us.

We offer these distinctions for all leaders:

  1. The context is decisive. There is a context that drove this kind of terrorism to the surface. It does not come out of nowhere. Not ever. No behavior ever does.
  2. You are enough, really. Face this. Lead your people through it – to feel what needs feeling, to heal what needs healing. And, remember that doing more won’t fix your life.
  3. It’s already all alright, even though it does not seem like it. Really, it is ok, you are ok. It is gonna be ok, even if it isn’t. A reminder to us all that life was designed in the image of paradox.
  4. You belong. Period. Everyone does in fact. Everyone.
  5. No one is exempt. No one. This is tough in our culture but we too are subject to the forces of wind and argument and danger and violence, and yes, death.
  6. Knowing where you begin and where you end will set you free. We are limited and we are powerful and strong beyond measure. Knowing this paradox deeply will produce a lot of space for you and for your people.
  7. Letting go is critical to mastery. We hate this one in our culture. We love control and clinging to what we know. But our evolution is inevitable and we have to make room. We have tremendous creative power but that is not to be confused with trying to control life in all of its mystery and hugeness.
  8. Love is the Answer and is the only force strong enough to win out over fear and terror. So practice. All our lives depend on it.

If you have questions about to get great support for those struggling, please be in touch. We have lots of wonderful resources to share.

Our warmest regards to you and your communities,

Jen, Gina, Shea, and Sue on behalf of the whole Seven Stones Team



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