Tag relationship

“Ley”

Zeddig remembered the courtyard of the Hanged Man the night she and Ley broke up – no, “broke up” wasn’t the right terms – the night their six months’ war grew too hot. Dreamdust addicts sprawled on couches, mewling in their stupor as dreams and bass pulsed from the dance hall upstairs. She reached for Ley’s arm, but Ley always could slide away when she wanted. “She didn’t leave us to die.” Just me. And not to die: just to live my life without her. “She just left.”

Ruin of Angels, Max Gladstone

Sometimes, but not always …

This is so hard for me
To find the words to say
My thoughts are standing still

Captive inside of me
All emotions start to hide
And nothing’s getting through

Watch me
Fading
I’m losing
All my instincts
Falling into darkness

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls for me now

So much uncertainty
I don’t like this feeling
I’m sinking like a stone

Each time I try to speak
There’s a voice I’m hearing
And it changes everything

Watch me
Crawl from
The wreckage
Of my silence
Conversation
Failing

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls

Every time you choose to turn away
Is it worth the price you pay
Is there someone who will wait for you
One more time
One more time

Watch me
Fading
I’m losing
All my instincts
Falling into darkness

Tear down these walls for me
Stop me from going under
You are the only one who knows
I’m holding back

It’s not too late for me
To keep from sinking further
I’m trying to find my way out
Tear down these walls for me now

Tear down these walls for me
It’s not too late for me
Tear down these walls for me

– “These Walls,” Dream Theater

Tired of feeling …

Chutes and Ladders.

Resilience IV – Is my dog unhappy?

In an earlier post, I summarized the ABC resilience methodology described by the authors of The Resilience Factor.  In this post, I’ll introduce a very simple example of a belief that seems to affect me on a fairly routine basis.  I will likely progress into more advanced examples in the future, but this is an easy one to explore and share this particular analysis methodology.

Adversity: My dog is staring at me and I am not sure what he wants to do.

Belief: What does he want now?  I need to focus on other things right now and I am not sure I really want to go outside again.

Consequences: A combination of frustration and guilt, and sometimes even anger.

While it’s perhaps easy to see why I would feel frustrated and even guilty, I have often been puzzled why I sometimes feel angry – sometimes to the point of being stressed out!  Let’s explore what these emotions are really saying about my belief system in this particular case.

Question: I take care of my dog almost better than I do myself.  Why does his staring bother me so much?

Answer: Because I don’t know what he is feeling and whether he is bored.

Question: Let’s assume he is bored, what is the worst part of that for me?

Answer: If my dog is bored, then I think he is unhappy.

Question: What does that mean to me if he is unhappy?

Answer: It means that I am not taking as good care of him as I should be and he deserves more than I may be providing.  It may mean that I am not doing a very good job at being a pet owner and that ultimately I may not be able to achieve a good balance between work and personal life if and when I do have children.  In some respects, I feel helpless.

It’s a safe bet that some pet owners don’t experience these feelings, but I am sure that many do.  Guilt, I think, naturally comes with having children or pets.  If you truly care about your pets and/or children, you are always going to want the best for them (i.e. their happiness) and thus any activity that impacts those feelings is going to result in some feelings of guilt.

As it relates to my feelings of anger, clearly these feelings are inward-facing.  My dog has done nothing wrong, and frankly it is unlikely that he is bored; perhaps he is staring at me out of pure affection? (or he just wants another treat!)

My anger is primarily about not being able to understand or satisfy a need that may not necessarily be there in the first place; feelings of helplessness are a natural byproduct.  At a much deeper level, it’s about potentially failing later on in a future partnership or family environment either due to a lack of understanding and/or an inability to make a positive impact / change (i.e. will I be able to attain a balance between my personal interests and those of my wife’s and or children’s?).

As you can see here, by taking a closer look at my emotions surrounding this particular adversity, I’ve learned quite a bit about this seemingly innocent dynamic. Given this in-depth analysis, however, it’s clear that this belief needs to change.  Being resilient in this case means the following:

  1. I’ll never understand what my dog is thinking, so yes I will perhaps always feel helpless but I can do what I can to ensure his happiness.
  2. Achieving a balance in this relationship (and in future relationships) is a simple means of establishing “boundaries” (in this case a loose schedule) and continuously measuring against those same boundaries to see what is working and what isn’t.
  3. There are some things in life that I will be able to change and many others that I will not.

While this is a simple example of approaches recommended in the text, you can see just how much information is uncovered and whether existing beliefs should stay or go.

The (New) Hierarchy of Needs – Part V

[This is the final segment of a five-part series on project management that is based upon Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”]

Problem Solving

The next level starts to go into the core of the project – problem solving.  This is essentially what all projects are about.

What is a problem?  A problem is an obstacle which makes it difficult to achieved a desired goal or objective.  Problem solving can be fun as it helps to build a certain skill set regardless of the topic.  In the project management space, problem solving is the name of the game.  While many problems may be obvious, there are many that will not be as obvious and may remain hidden.  It’s the job of the project manager to uncover these hidden problems and take steps to address them.

To ensure understanding, hidden problems are those that are known by the project team but aren’t being surfaced to project leadership.  Team members are more likely to hide problems if they don’t have confidence these problems will be addressed.  Problems can also remain hidden if there isn’t a clear understanding of who can solve them.

Your role as project manager is first and foremost your relationship with the team – if team members have a clear understanding of the objective and team organization, and have confidence in your ability to lead, problems will be raised much more rapidly and the team will be able to make greater traction in the long-run.

Thus, your ability to lead, instill “order” and “structure” and tackle the tough problems are all very important in this “layer”.

Momentum

At the top of the pyramid is momentum – that’s what ultimately keeps the project going!  Initial momentum naturally follows the layers just described, but it ultimately requires a core belief that the project will be successful.

As shared earlier, the ultimate goal of this new hierarchy is to have every team member reach their full potential.  While this is a lofty goal, if you want to deliver a quality product / service in a short period of time, this is what you need to shoot for.

As with any moving object, ensuring that you maintain positive momentum is ultimately dependent upon the source of “power.”  In a project, that source of power is the team and the hierarchy tiers that fall just below this one.  The more organized and refined the underlying layers, the less “friction” and the longer you can maintain positive momentum over the long-term.

References:

The (New) Hierarchy of Needs – Part IV

[This is part four of a series on project management that is based upon Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”]

Accountability

The next level up moves beyond this “foundation” and starts to get into the tactical level – “who’s involved and who’s accountable?”  In this layer, we build an organizational chart that shows who is involved and where each resource “fits”.  Discussions around “workstreams” and communication pathways can be found here.

In order for a project to be successful, accountability needs to be defined and enforced at multiple levels – not just with the project performers.  All project participants – including stakeholders – have a specific role to play, and if they have a role to play that means that they are accountable for “something”.  Said in another way, if it’s difficult to define what that resource is accountable for, then they should not be part of the project.  It’s really that simple.

Creating a team organizational chart is the first step in this accountability definition.  The key is that there should be ONE and only ONE leader.  Ensuring that the leadership chain is clear and unambiguous in the visual is extremely important – if it’s not obvious who is running the project, then you have a problem.

Having a technical lead, for example, can be beneficial but only if the structure is defined such that the technical lead reports to the PM.  If the PM and technical lead both report to the sponsor or customer, then you have an accountability problem.  Similarly, if you have multiple customers, how does that working relationship look?

Again, if it’s not obvious in the visual, it’s not going to be obvious in practice.

Another tip is to keep the core team as small as possible.  Why?  Mainly because the more resources you have, the more communication paths you create.  Communication paths are critical to a successful project and need to be carefully managed.

For example, in a “loose” organizational structure, you are more likely to have communication “cross talk” and duplicative efforts which impede progress.  Maintain the team organization and manage communication pathways like a traffic cop – keep things organized and life will be easier.

What happens when your project scope requires a significant number of resources?  Your core team can and should remain small.  Just divide the organization into discrete areas of accountability.  Again, keep the core team small and hold people accountable.  Careful workstream definition is key here.

I’ve learned even when people are identified on an organizational chart, it doesn’t mean they “buy-in” to the structure you’ve created.  Unfortunately, the reality is that they are unlikely to challenge what you’ve “built” because doing so can put them in an awkward position and you’re likely to receive false acknowledgement.

The key is to ensure team participants are comfortable in the role that you’ve identified, and if they are identified as a workstream lead, doubly ensure they know what you are asking them to do.

If you have the luxury of leading a team where roles are undefined, it can be beneficial to utilize Strengths Finder to truly understand the strengths of each resource.  It’s easy to assume that each person has strengths that align with the task they have been assigned, but that can be misleading.

Get the most from your resources by understanding where they excel and how they wish to contribute.

Remember, your primary goal is to build a solid relationship with the team.  If you don’t have that, it’s going to be difficult to be successful in your role.  Your secondary goal is to delegate, assume positive intent, empower the team and let things sort themselves out – you are not there to micromanage.  If you are micromanaging, you either haven’t got the right framework in place or you have the wrong resource doing that particular task (or both).

The Grand Illusion.

One of the fortunate and unfortunate aspects of experiencing trauma (loss) is that you ultimately seek guidance and a level of understanding on why it occurred and what you should ultimately learn from the experience.  In short, you are looking for answers.

This, of course, is not surprising.  How often do you hear of people whose life mission becomes centered around the trauma they faced?  A mother’s loss to a drunk driver can redirect her pain into something that can benefit the greater good – e.g. M.A.D.D.  The degree of the trauma can, I think, have a direct impact into the degree of the life change on the other end.

This is perhaps my last post on the topic of my past relationship to a woman who I believe has borderline personality disorder.  What I thought was true love turned out to be, I think, something else, and this is the hardest part to comprehend and ultimately accept.

Within this post, I’ll refer to several other sites that I have researched over the past two years to connect the pieces of this complex puzzle. Ultimately, this post symbolizes the need for closure that will never happen in a relationship of this type.  In addition, and perhaps of equal importance, it’s about helping others who have experienced something similar and seek some level of comprehension to make their lives better.

First, it’s important to understand what borderline personality disorder is.  At its core, it’s an intense fear of abandonment.  This fear is sometimes established at an early age and can be caused by an interruption in one’s normal psychological development.  The loss of a parent is a concrete “seed” that can result in this disorder taking shape.

Because close relationships, by their very nature, have some degree of risk, relationships with someone who has BPD are very intense and unstable.  To be more specific, because there is risk of abandonment, partners with BPD swing wildly from love to hate and back again.  People with BPD will frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment and they will do this by projecting unacceptable or threatening feelings to their partner.  This type of psychological defense mechanism is called “projection”.

Not surprisingly, projection can do much damage to the relationship over time.  The main reason for this is that the person on the other side of BPD will be unable to bear the burden of their issues as well as their partner’s, and the relationship ultimately collapses.

In looking back at the relationship, I equate my experience with a bell curve – with time on the X-axis and the question “Am I the true cause of these problems?” factor on the Y-axis.  In the early stages of the relationship, you will naturally look past the obvious problems / conflict.  However, as the relationship progresses,  you will begin questioning what is happening.  After a certain amount of time, you will start to think that maybe you are the problem – graphically you are at the top of the bell curve.  It was during this period where I started to focus on issues that I was bringing into the relationship and started to think about what I wanted from my life.  After about a year, I moved past the apex and back to where I originally started – “Why is this happening?”

Unfortunately, and ironically, it’s around this time where your original goal in providing a sense of security and comfort to your partner is turned completely upside downYou are now the source of your partner’s abandonment fears.  You become the problem.

At this point, it should be clear that a relationship of this type is very damaging to all involved – particularly to the “non-BPD” partner.  Your belief in yourself, your ability to make good decisions, and your belief in a true partnership are all significantly damaged and take a considerable time to return to some level of “normalcy”.

It is, however, important to convey the numerous positive outcomes this experience has brought into my life:

– Expanded self-awareness
– Increased assertiveness
– Enhanced communication and articulation
– Accelerated maturation in personal and professional lives
– Positive career direction
– Increased tolerance for independence
– Accelerated creative exploration via photography, industrial design, writing
– Launched new business

I started this blog in November of 2008 as a vehicle towards understanding something that, at the time, was incomprehensible. This post is a symbol of a journey that I didn’t expect to take.

And that is the tragedy of it all.

Appendix: Web Sites

While there are a multitude of web sites providing information about this disorder, there are a few that are extremely beneficial:

Appendix: Common Themes / Quotes
(from a few of the sites listed above)

“We are initially drawn into a borderline relationship by the charm and glamour of extreme idealization about who we are and whom or what it is we represent that is presented to us – we are split white. This circumstance feeds our ego and makes us feel safe, wanted and loved.”

“When it’s good, it’s really good. You think you have found the one you are going to be with forever.  But it doesn’t stay good for long. Something happens to change the tide. That is what is sad for all involved with this disorder. For the person with BPD, it can’t be easy to live like that. And for the person who loves them. You’re left with WTH is going on?”

“If you’re with someone or love someone with bpd and they are not getting help, then be very very careful with your decisions. Enjoy the good times but also know that tomorrow it may change. Be ready and have your boundaries”.

“The borderline’s insecurities and feeling of inadequacy are never sated, so they continue to project these insecurities onto their Non partner with accusations, explosions about certain occurrences, and the like. They will start fights about, well, you don’t know. In the end, you will end up feeling like you are always rebuilding the relationship and starting from ground zero with regards to trust, respect and all the foundational elements and building blocks of a solid relationship.”

“… I miss the person I thought [s]he was.”

Contrast Ratio.

While the year is not yet over, 2009 has ultimately been a lesson in contrast.  In 2006 I went into a relationship with unique optimism, hope and love (marriage) to end up with feelings of terminal loss, distrust and despair (death).  Fortunately this experience has served as a catalyst to help me advance to a new level of consciousness and awareness.

While the phrase “experience” leaves considerable room for any sort of time measurement, for reasons of simplicity let’s assume there is a measurable start and end to the experience at hand.  For those who go into a situation that turns out similar to their original expectations, one can leave the experience with a sense of increased confidence in her/his ability to predict an outcome.  If these experiences repeat themselves – i.e. one is able to repeatedly predict an outcome – their confidence can grow.  In essence, these “positive” experiences begin to build a self-fulfilling prophecy where predictability and success go hand in hand.  After all, if I can look into the future, by default I have greater “control” over that future and my own destiny.

If, however, the experiences in which I partake have a different outcome than originally foreseen, then I may find myself taking part in an alternative self-fulfilling prophecy where “failure” and “unpredictability” are the norm.  In essence, I am losing the ability to predict the future and thus my feeling of “control” over my own destiny can and will likely erode.

Of course, what I am describing here are macro views and do not address the numerous nuances that can affect either scenario.  For example, one “bad” (or “good”) outcome does not necessarily mean that all subsequent outcomes will share a similar fate.  In addition, my ability to learn and adjust after each situation can significantly affect future experiences and their eventual outcomes.  While a continuous string of failures will eventually have a negative impact on one’s self-confidence, failure of any frequency or magnitude can be a powerful catalyst for action and innovation.

The ultimate goal is to find a balance between predictability and unpredictability, the latter of which resulting in some form of “lesson” that maintains this equilibrium.

So, what does an experience entail and how does one build the skills to achieve positive and more predictable outcomes?

An experience has a beginning, a “core” and an end.  A determination of whether the experience is going as originally planned or is deviating “off course” can occur in any of the three phases.  At a fundamental level, the basis of an experience is time.

While one can argue that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” path for a given experience, at a basic level you have a sense of where you want that experience to go.  For example, if a relationship is showing signs of erosion, not doing anything may eventually lead to its failure.  Thus, making corrections to the experience “course” to enable its long-term success may be right thing to do.

Whether to begin a new experience depends a lot upon your values and your goals.  While this decision is usually subconscious, if you don’t have a clear sense of either, your experience will be somewhat random. However, if your goal is to experience things with purpose, then your ability to choose experiences that provide a foundation for the “predictability/unpredictability balance” will become that much greater.

Let’s assume that you have chosen an experience with purpose – you are now operating within the experience “core”.  Your next logical goal is to participate in the most meaningful and positive way that you can – i.e. striving to reach a “self-actualization” phase of consciousness and operation.  In order to achieve this state of being, you need to pay close attention to the “hierarchy of needs” structure – not only in its original definition but one that is applicable to the experience at hand.

Focusing on the concept of self-actualization – and the supporting hierarchy – are both important because they can determine the quality and duration of the experience.

For example, in attempting to reach self-actualization, the mind becomes overly concerned with reaching that pinnacle, and virtually ignores everything else.  When layers of the hierarchy become eroded, and you no longer have the direction that your goals were providing, your reality crashes to the ground.  It’s similar to climbing a mountain, reaching the apex, and then realizing that you are out of oxygen (i.e. your support structure).  How are you going to get down?

The aspect that is central to avoiding this dilemma is time.  Time is the only thing that is constant through your journey across the hierarchy.  It’s the measurement that you need to be focused on to ensure your long-term “survival”.  What is happening in the “core” of the experience?  Is the hierarchy “intact”?  If it is not, what are you doing to ensure its overall stability?

If you are able to identify with these questions and answer them objectively, the quality of the experience for not only you, but others that may be involved in that experience, will be that much greater.  At a basic level, it’s synonymous with an individual vs. team mindset – focusing on the former is appropriate, but not focusing on the latter is not.

It’s worth noting that simply because you believe an experience is worth the investment doesn’t mean that the operating environment will work in your favor.  Forces can work with or against you in all phases of the experience.  Being able to clearly recognize these forces and how they impact your experience (and your hierarchy of needs) is another valuable skill.

Making a decision whether the experience needs to “end” depends a lot on the experience itself.  Taking inventory of whether the experience is obligatory or optional, and/or if it continues to align with your values and goals are both excellent barometers to appropriately close or abruptly terminate the experience.  Delaying a decision to bring closure to an experience can ultimately erode aspects of the hierarchy of needs without it being obvious that you are doing so.

What’s the lesson here?  In order to benefit from any experience, you need to have a clear understanding of what you value, what you want to achieve and what you desire.  Once you have this level of understanding, your ability to benefit from and self-actualize within the experience is dependent upon your awareness of the experience itself.  It is this level of awareness and the resulting decisions which will pave the way towards experiences that ultimately build self-confidence through a unique balance of predictable and unpredictable outcomes.

While you don’t have control over the future, you do have some level of control over your own destiny.

(While I’ve used my career and relationship as a basis for the “experience” definition, it’s important to recognize that the use of this phrase is applicable for all experiences regardless of classification.)