Personal Growth and Brexit Collide

Photo by  Justin Luebke  on  Unsplash

The ongoing turbulence of the last few weeks both here in the UK and further afield is for many perturbing.  Although the initial hiatus of Brexit seems to be settling we will undoubtedly be ’in it’ for quite some time to come.   Everywhere you look, the political landscape appears to be changing.  I find myself asking whether what we are going through will be valuable enough.   My purpose in what follows is not to enter a political debate about what has happened, but rather to look at change through the lens of transformation and ask what it might evolve if we were to take a different and deeper approach.  

We are moving through something that is referred to by the Strozzi Institute as ‘The Arc of Transformation’.  

We are in a process of transforming from an old relationship to a new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world, we don’t know how and what that new relationship will be.  We are, in Strozzi terms, in an ‘unbounded shape’.  That is to say much of what we know is shifting and moving to a new ‘shape’ or a new form.  We are, to some degree in that place we British refer to as ‘no-mans land’.   Although we now have a new Prime Minister, somebody ‘in charge’, no-mans land naturally produces huge uncertainty as we set out to determine the best way forward, the best way to put one foot in front of the other, and in what direction.    

Brexit offers us a large scale metaphor through which to consider what takes place in a journey of personal transformation.  It’s rarely a linear process, rarely is it sequential even though for ease of understanding we present it as such.   

We begin with what we call our current or ‘old shape’.  By shape we can literally think of how we are each physically shaped to move and act, as well as cognitively, emotionally and spiritually shaped.   We are shaped each by our own molecular environment right through to the universal forces that we experience.  Much of our shaping is oblivious to us, unless we make the effort to explore and understand, and even then we don’t see it all.  

The old shape comes to recognise that something is not working, that there is a breakdown or a yearning that wants to come to form.  This we call Somatic Awareness.  We begin to become aware of the possibility of something new.  We may move to a space where we make a commitment to the ‘new’, the evolution that is to come.   Whilst on our journey we are invited to become aware of how we are, what patterns we produce in ourselves, and how these help and hinder us.  We look for sensations to accompany the verbal descriptors that often come before.  By dropping into our world of sensation, and increasing our ability to notice how we are, we begin to improve our Somatic Awareness, vital if we are to change how we are.    

Awareness is but one element.   Our development journey also has to include Somatic Opening.   That is to create a body that is open to the new, open to letting go and to healing.  This can be achieved through regular bodily practices and enquiry.   We say that to work on the ‘self’, the most effective way is on, with and through the body.  The body is much more than a vessel for transformation.  The body is the ‘self’.   The body transforms.     As we engage with the body, we both increase our awareness as well as create new opening.

We are what we practice.   Somatic practices, those purposeful activities that we engage in regularly in the service of the new commitments we make and our personal transformation are the key to embodying a new way of being - however we choose that to be.   Somatic practices, when we pay attention, also create somatic awareness and  somatic opening.  It depends on how much we pay attention, how much we listen to our inner landscape.  

Here however is the rub.   We can be aware that we want or need to move through a period of transformation.  We are dedicated to practice, but unless we have been through the phase of opening, moving into what we call the unbounded stage (think conscious incompetence), all we do is put new practices on top of old patterns.    

Imagine, I can skilfully learn to be a centred and grounded presence.  Imagine also however, that I have done little to understand why and in what way I am vulnerably triggered.    Imagine I fly off the handle, or shrink and collapse when someone directly or indirectly questions my self-worth, but I know little of how I learned this, just that it happens. 

I can put centering on top of my fear/anger/frustration each time it occurs.    Despite the skilful centering practice, by not understanding my ‘trigger points’ well enough, I remain vulnerable to being easily knocked off centre whenever I feel my self-worth is questioned.  My personal survival pattern (aka fight, flight, freeze response) rears its head in an instant.  I haven’t deepened my Awareness and am caught.    

The Arc of Transformation asks us to recognise in our old shape how we are triggered - where we naturally go under threat and how this shows up somatically.   We are invited to consider what new shape we might like to have - what qualities for example might we like more or less of?  We are invited to make a commitment to that, which we eventually come to embody through practice.  

The challenge for me in Brexit is that we will move from ‘In Europe’ to ‘Out of Europe’ without deeply considering how we got here in the first place.  We will not spend enough time understanding how the vote to leave was ‘triggered’ in the deeper sense, how the greatest fear underneath it came about and how else it shows up in the British psyche.  

One hypotheses is that the vote to leave was a protest vote because the populous is not being listened to.  If we give proper credence to that, take time to understand what is really underneath that and its evolution, then what might emerge?  

Instead, referring back to SI model of Transformation we will begin our negotiations to leave Europe, we will move from ‘old shape’ (A) to ‘new shape’ (C) without actually going through ‘B’.  We will not that is, take the time to really explore why the leave vote and what is being called for.    Without listening deeply, we will be out of Europe with a new ‘shape’, and most likely not the one that was really being asked for. 

For a video explanation of The Arc of Transformation given by Staci Haines of The Strozzi Institute go to