Working With Instead of Against Emotional Dysregulation at the Workspace

The article with a focus on trauma and behavior, was written for and published by the online community “normalizing the conversation“, aiming to destigmatize and normalizing the conversation(s) around mental health. Thank you.

Healthy brain development serves as foundation for emotional regulation

Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist with a specialization in child complex trauma is known for his expertise in healthy and unhealthy brain development; The brains’ development starts bottom up with the brainstem being responsible for core regulational activities such as blood pressure, up to the cortex in which abstract forms or aspects of language are formed too. In between there is the Diencephalon responsible for functions such as arousal, appetite and other, followed by the limbic system for emotional regulation.

Ideally, all these brain regions develop healthy from the bottom to the top. That happens if one ,for instance, has been responded to when cried (crying is the expression of a need since babies cannot express their needs in language yet). Responses to cries can be hugging, feeding or humming the baby or child as it grows up, so that it or more specifically its emotions and feelings feel regulated and validated. Later on these healthy or regulated brain regions will then serve in better understanding and processing emotions so that these emotions are easier put into language so that one can express needs but also feelings well. In school or work this can look like more directly responding to questions, describing less, being more direct instead of descriptive.

What happens in unhealthy brain development and how does that show in adult behavior and how to better work with it?

However, if the baby has not been responded well to, or if the baby and child has been punished or ignored for crying or having in that sense a need, then the adult version of the child will likely have difficulties in regulating emotions, but later on also in expressing them. The consequence is that one who experiences emotional dysregulation, may also experience dysregulation in speech, not literally but the ability to express needs, including wishes and desires fundamentally to their livelihood and ability to thrive as a person, privately and at work. The inability or difficulty to express that can lead to greater levels of miscommunication and thereby create conflict at the workplace and in addition feelings that one is not listened to well or other forms of behaviors such as being avoidant, withdrawing, but also being very active or too affirmative, saying yes to most things to avoid being ignored or feeling useless.

This causes a lot of energy and this makes working for those who grew up in a less nurturing environment (not only as a baby but throughout childhood and teenie years) sometimes extremely difficult. It may not even show like that though, because being punished for acting out; this could be as normal as crying, being, angry or frustrated, – made it feel that the parts of oneself that feel or are not ideal to what a parent or other caretaker might have had expected, are unworthy of showing or being (basically feeling one can’t be sad or frustrated at work, home or anywhere). As a result, one could work in a permanent dissociated stage (detached from any feeling, working like a machine). One could also show up in the work personality, that lasts around a work day and present themselves as the best employee, while in a fact the mind beyond that look could feel much different; feeling that one is mistreated, feeling like one is not valued, feeling like one is unworthy, everyone else sucks, the jobs suck, everyone is evil, feeling like one just wants to run away, because one’s’ feelings don’t matter. Chaos breaks out, when finally out of the office, at home, anywhere.

Working like that is difficult and it becomes even more difficult if certain work policies or mental health programs are conflict avoidant too, so that someone having grown up in an avoidant or punishable home, has to keep up that mask or let’s say work identity. It can be like “ we are trying to avoid conflict here, by being more positive in team-work.” Urges big No Go and a sign for a lack of a supportive mental health environment, because it is indeed conflict or the ability to have different opinions, or to show different emotions so that working with a sort of “dysregulation” or an identity that works at home and at work, works.

In fact it is that a range of emotions have to be lived and expressed, so that one better expresses themselves and others can better respond too. By the way, there is no right or wrong to how one feels, but only in denying feelings and thereby oneself. Yet, while feelings are right, the result, or the action or conclusive thought that might follow might not be true and there a lot of frustration, anger or avoidance can pop up too. In practice it looks like that” I didn’t receive an email response within a day. I am sad. I conclude I am hated. I am the most hated and worst employee.” In fact it is not like that. One indeed can be sad, even very sad or any other sort of feeling, but one is not the thought. One is not the most hatred employee or a loser. In fact, another person might be out longer for the day, is sick, doesn’t feel like replying, is lazy, is too busy, is sad, is stressed, has to deal with other things. There can be so many reasons. And these are so important to think about so that whatever thought one has, no longer defines one or the feeling.”

To make life for any employee now more easy, it could be recommended to ditch some of the positive work culture and introduce concepts of clear communication without leaving room for interpretation. “Thank you for your email. I will reply by tomorrow.” Further “You did this great, and here this needs improvement, because of… Please get back to me by (date)/ I will get back to you by (date). You can contact me during the week here or there. Over the weekend I am not available.” The word because does magic, because it leaves nobody wondering.

Resources:

Perry & Operah (2022). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.

Rosenfeld, H. (1983). Primitive object relations and mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis64, 261-267.

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Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

When students enter the end of high-school, the question who they want to become for the rest of their lives becomes fundamentally present. “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Many don’t know, some know, and some know, but they can’t. So they deviate their choice of interest or begin with any interest, that eventually as adults might leave them locked-in or question, whether what they do is actually something they thrive in. “If I could go back in time, I would have done that.” “Why haven’t you?” I would ask back, and receive a range of different answers or the sheer expression of not knowing.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

I remember the end of my high-school and I wanted to study psychology. I had no understanding of psychology and at the same time, I could not study it, because my high school grade (NC) was too low to enrol into a German university to study psychology. I could not become who I wanted to. I looked over the border of Germany and I realized many universities do not have a NC. Instead they have intake tests and some (like mine) had intake interviews to validate student motivation for a certain study program. Mine integrated business and public health. I quickly specialized in mental health. I thrived, my grades thrived. I could become who I wanted to still a bit; just differently.

Yet I am not a psychologist working in clinical practice. Can I become one still? No, unless I invest around 5-10 years of formal and practical education. However, I can enroll in further education (which I do) and integrate aspects of clinical knowledge in my work and private environment. I also do not have to become a psychologist “by titel”, but I can offer counceling services that also help improve the lives of people differently. So yes and no, I can and I can’t.

Could I (still) become a diplomat?

If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to answer it. But I remember having looked up political studies specializing in politics and conflicts, so that one could work for a foreign ministry. This never interested me, but for some time in my studies, or at the end I had developed a huge passion for ecosystem services in relation to livelihood. Eventually I decided to intern at an intergovernmental organization in China. I wanted to do so, because they specialized in bamboo. Ironically I did not know they were a diplomatic organization, but was quickly involved in that. Now I had diplomatic experience written on my CV and I could have continued that path. After all, diplomacy is about understanding differences and navigating jointly towards a common goal; Why does country a benefit from improved ecosystems and how can country b support such collaboration? ->Diplomacy. You can become a diplomat by specializing, being the expert in a field of your interest. Interest thrives!

Can I (still) work at the NASA?

If someone asked me that randomly, like a neighbour, I would quickly find out, that they might have expertise in a different field, let’s say pharmacy, being a cashier, kindergardener. I would say that the chance is quite low unless they changed their entire lives. Yet, I might just be so wrong. One of the alumnis from my Bachelor, developed a huge passion for waste and somehow she, her student team and professor came to think about waste in space and the effects it has on satelite crashes, whereby functioning satelites are essential for the many services we use today (mobile phones, health and more). She became so passion, that she founded the “Sustainable Development Goal 18“, is invited to give guest lectures on space and waste. As I last heard her talking, she got into the last round of job interviews at the European Space Agency for a job. She has to say 0 formal background in space, but much informal. Passion thrives and other people see that too. And passion/interest can be developed at any age.

Can I (still) become a teacher?

A teacher is someone who delivers information, ideally engaging, so that students learn, can feel empowered. I never intended to be one, but now I happen to be one ” a lecture at a University of Applied Sciences”. I don’t have the formal education for teaching, but I lived almost 7 years abroad, and I enjoy putting some of that knowledge together in a course and teach it to students. I will though. There is a demand for that, because education often looks for practical examples. So at any age, even without the formal education, you can become a teacher. Unsure? Put a free training course together and teach it (online). That also lands you skill-sets.

Can I work in counterterrorism/ intelligence analysis?

Often we look at profession as if they were a narrowed path, but less likely the skill sets needed for a certain profession; i.e. the ability to read people, to remove bias from information, to be fast, to communicate clear, to be a critical thinker, a single and team player. Instead we look at: To do this, I would have needed to study this in particular. Therefore, I never qualified and I still don’t qualify. In fact, often that is not true. For instance, in intelligence analysis the skill-sets listed above are important, but they can be found and developed in different professions. Of course, skill-sets very likely need further development, but the lack of a certain education that has let there, no longer should be an excuse not do it. Most of all; if you thrive, they thrive.

How do I know this is what I actually want?

I find this is the most difficult questions, because even if you remember, what you wanted to do or now think you want to do, there is a lack of certainty in that this is something you really enjoy. For instance, one could start studying medicine and realize, that one can’t see blood, so the “ideal” or the imaginary one holds of a job or profession may not hold true. That is years of time and money lost. To avoid that, it is helpful to go and interview people in the field “What do you like and what do you dislike?” I would even interview more since different people have different experiences and perceptions towards a profession (that’s what I like about science).

You may also want to do an internship, or see where certain skill sets demanded in a job, are skill sets you have but that show otherwise. In the case of the job of the intelligence analyst, I would see where else I am good at analyzing data. Maybe you end up finding out a skill-set unique to you that matches a profession you haven’t thought about i.e. being resilient or great at dealing with conflicts, possibly make you a good lawyer.

How does this relate to sustainability?

In one way its about thrivability. It means thriving in something, therefore feeling more content with oneself and experiencing a lower need to substitute something that is missing (negative feeling, or dissatsifaction such as with the job one choses) with something else that gives a positive feeling (pleasure) such as in shopping, drinking etc.. Often that type of pleasure does not sustain, because it aims at “compensation” or in other words “the coating” of the cake, while the cake foundation needs fixing. So it lacks.

Now by choosing a job, that sustains, that one thrives in, desire for compensation (up to addictions or levels of dissatsifaction) often decreases. One is more willing to “invest financialy” (cash flow;) ) into a career, because of the certainty of it. The return of investment (financially, but most of all emotionally is likely far higher). However, as one comes to think about, one also comes to think about being too old, too young? or too locked-in to implement changes. In addition, there seems as much as fear to change to something that makes one thrive possibly more.

However, that isn’t the case and in any age and stage, there are opportunities to at least integrate parts of another discipline that one might have miss(ed) out. One might even look for new directions, not thought of yet.

What about you? Please feel free to comment, write about your situation, job choices and I am gladly responding. You can also book a free consultation with me.

Marketing for sustainability?

Sustainability should aim at enabling but also providing invdividuals and groups of individuals a lifestyle of their choosing, without causing damage to the environment such as the ecological ecosystem, people with who the environment is shared with and individuals themselves. To enable that, marketing for sustainabiltiy should educate consumers about products and lifestyles so that consumers are enabled to make concious purchasing and lifestyle choices. A good example is the sales of cigaret packages that often include marketing for the negative aspects of smoking such as its risk of cancer. Another good example is the use of health education as part of marketing, i.e. using an uber or other forms of car sharing as a means to circumvent drunk driving if other forms of public transportation aren’t available, helping thereby to avoid incidences from drunk driving. While there is a clear health benefit there are also business and environmental benefits that come from shared mobility.

In these forms of marketing, there is no sugarcoating. It is honest. This differs to growing strategies in marketing for sustainability, which can tend to market “sustainability” such as sustainable lifestyles and products, although the intention often still remains the sales of a product or service. Hereby sustainability becomes an ideal that is sold as part of a marketing strategy. The risk is that marketing for sustainability can continue to facilitate consumption or more specific growth behavior, while in sustainability, growth or the sales of a product or lifestyle (see push marketing) can work contradictive.

This can be seen in products with a renewable resource base; if the extraction and processing contradicts the resources’ needed regrowth time. However, these products might not be kept longer, because they were pushed onto the consumer and possibly not intrinsically needed. This might differ to other forms of marketing such as in pull marketing for sustainability, where consumers make more concious choices in terms of a purchase so that the product or service chosen is kept longer by aliging more with what the consumer needs and wants. Of course this might not be exclusive and there can be overlaps.

How does marketing for sustainabiltiy work these days?

Before marketing was sustainable, marketing sold certain imaginary that likely were not sustainable, think about the topless muscleman, infront of a BBQ of brand x with his guy friends and the woman in the background taking care of the children. Now in marketing for sustainability we may no longer see the muscle guy, but the well dressed husband or a lesbian couple, with a vegan steak in front of the now a newer and more efficient BBQ of brand x. One may now buy not only that lifestyle, so close to a sustainability ideal, but most of all one buys a new BBQ. Marketing did it again. It sold.

Because it is marketed as sustainable, does not mean it is (in the long-term). Source

What is more likely marketing for sustainability?

Marketing for sustainability should be as simple as that it is honest and deviate from selling sustainability ideals sourrounding the product or by idealizing the product for being sustainable. It is nearly as knowing a partner who one choses to marry or a partnership one engages with for an investment, because one knows them. For example, a tourist agency could sell a sustainble sailing turn across the atlantic ocean with vegan food, FSC certified timber and a romantic ride into the sun. However, it also has to sell the reality that being the risk of sea sickness, the storms on the sea, the team-work needed, 24 hours readiness and most of all the lack of romantization such trip might bring along. If it does so, it will find that consumers sustain the sail turn, but will also return as consumers again because marketing was honest, and the reality sold matched what was expected. Honesty hereby makes marketing sustainable – the product being sustainable tourism- long term profitable.

Curious about the many ideals sold here? Klick here.

For physical products that could look as much like “here is the product we are selling, but it also falls short on long-term battery life. We are being actually honest that you can’t expect this from this product, but we are looking into developing a new model that enables you to keep the product and be able to easily replace the battery so that you don’t depend on new product purchases. This will also be part of a new business service offering, so that you don’t have to deal with long returns and actually safe money over time, with benefits for us to save on production resources too. The product is actually useful for these purposes…. and we don’t recommend if … because you likely won’t end up using it. If you still want to try it out, we can rent it out too as part of our new service offering. ”

It could also be as simple as selling a lack of ideals or filling a niche or problem: Here you can use the GPS tracker for your pet in the city so that your pet can go outdoors, you don’t get mad during home office, while you don’t have to worry, whether it gets locked up in a garage without finding it. This type of marketing might even work better then selling such GPS in idealized sustainable scenarios with a wild tracker pet father or couple, conquering wild river beds and sustainable forests with their pets, because most people work during the week, so selling a product what it is for in the context, make it sustain and the consumers too. It may even increase the reach including sales, while improving coustomer loyalty.

Of course selling purely sustainable values is great too, particular if it does not prohibit behaviors by purchasing products and lifestyles that are for instance socially and ecologically friendly prodcued such as re-use bottles or bags bags as a means to avoid the use of continues plastics. But to sell to sell and then use sustainability as a selling point.. hmm hmm.

More thoughts ? Message me anytime.

References

Koelen, M. A., & Van den Ban, A. W. (2004). Health education and health promotion. Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Training courses on the unconciousness mind, ideals and fantasy.

Is there hope in the lack of it?

Someone asked me to reply to the following;

“Many people say we are driving towards extinction and horrible living conditions, basically the future will be really dark. Others say that everything will be fine. I don’t know if I can relax and enjoy the present moment with thinking that the future will be ok or if I need to fight more because the future will apparently be really bad.”

And here is my answer;

In sustainability we deal nearly every day with the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them. In doing so we tend to begin with the end in mind and often that is the worst; “the end of the world as a result of climate change”. This trickles down to the interconnections and reason for that to happen such as inqualities, growing gaps between the rich an poor, corruption, unsustainable production and consumption processes, homophobia, abuse of power, addictions, health disparities, greed, species destinction, terrorism, further illness and alike. A recipe for anxiety.

It is now not only climate change that is a threat to our own survival, but it is also the interconnections that, when we focus in extremes on them, become the reality of how this world is, or more specifically how we perceive it to be. Let me point out; it is not like that, it is not neither nor in extreme, it is in proportion. Yet, (please continue reading, the good part is comming soon), many of these challenges seem extremely difficult to solve though, because of how complex they are so that the proportion might feel overwhelming. Such an example is the current war going on between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no “stop” botton. And there also seems no stop bottom for corporations to pollute and exploit because they get to benefit from the perks of limited liability (see why that happens in the video below). It nearly feels like working towards a vacuum, a sort of helplessness in the messiness we fight in that field.

Now in sustainability we still work with the end in mind (the worst case scenario) and in some methods we imagine the best case scenario, in which we have saved the world and all problems this world is facing (see the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals). Yet even if we use the best case scenario in which we imagine the perfect world, we still break down the vision into things that don’t work out now and then how we need to change them get to the imagined perfect world. We may see again that all is quite wicked. It makes it seemingly perceive that we will likely run into a shitstorm; extinction. More anxiety.

Is there any hope globally?

In all the scenarios that we run through, in all the madness that indeed is real in proportion, there is yet also hope. That is in fact seeing that such things as the Sustainable Development Goals exist or that one or two typos become increasingly accepted (more biases being removed that against how things should be but no longer hold to true i.e. in innovation, being open for change and working with differences). Going back; although the SDGs may not be ideal, they give some sort of direction and thanks to the SDGs we see not only companies moving towards more sustainability in many different ways, but we also see more people being aware of it as a result of creative forms of education, being that funny TikTok movies to reach a broader mass, other forms of Entertainment Education, or simply because people care. We now also see that sustainability becomes a profitable business case, so that capitalism (one of course can critiques it) becomes also an opportunity for change.

There is also much efforts done by individuals as there is done by NGOs and even governments through the implementation of new laws and policy. One can now even see countries nearly competing in terms of which country or region is becoming more green or more sustainable. Why would they do that? Well it attracts investments. The more stable an economy, the more secure investments, or in some cases tourism and further employment opportunities (money is not too bad). In addition, the world is becoming more globalized, our perception is changing rapidly, so that we no longer live in our own thought bubbles, but also in ways in which things can change more rapidly, not our perception only, but opportunities of cooperation and in the fight for lets say climate justice (think about Greta Thunberg); She does a great job in bringing the issue at stake.

Is there more hope?

Many people don’t throw their trash on the floor, there are companies and individuals I know who are not driver for sustainability of the entire organizations, but their hearts are inside; While Twitter might not be known for promoting gender equality and feminism I know at least one employee who drives that type of thinking in her heart there and internal in the organization, so that in all that critqiues about Twitter there is also hope. And knowing her, I am sure she’s moving a lot.

K-Pop at the UN. That’s called fan loyality and awarness raising at high level.

And for the other topics; as much as there is war, there is also the lack of it (think about how many countries are not at war now) and while there is a lack of biodiversity there is also not a lack of it thanks to growing regulations on forest protection and because people like it (also thanks to instagram almost instagram nature tourism and romantic tags in forest/nature scenarios that are worth protecting nature for too.). Seemingly, there are many tech companies that invest into IT Tools for social innovation (I know at least one) and sustainability also becomes this cool thing to do, even in education it becomes increasingly implemented. In ways its nice, because it moves automatically (literally giving us a rest also thanks to different time zones and many people working in this field around the clock and thanks to social media running 24/7 in repetition). It also is becomming more fun and accessible i.e. being more able to shape our cities through tools or different ways in which the public can participate in legal decision making. This is kind of the way to go.

Will the future be okay or bad?

Coming back to the original comment; There is no certainty, because in certainty we know, and sustainabiltiy or the end goal of it seems quiet uncertain. There is direction and when we look at direction there is much hope too, and balance in how we look at things also.

References

Glick, R. A. (2003). Idealization and psychoanalytic learning. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly72(2), 377-401.

Swart, R. J., Raskin, P., & Robinson, J. (2004). The problem of the future: sustainability science and scenario analysis. Global environmental change14(2), 137-146.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2014). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. The International Journal of Press/Politics19(3), 360-379.

Cover Picture: Local Artist Studio.

On bias in adoption

Likely every day people have sex without being asked about their gender preferences, living situation, income, level of education and age. Why not? Because it would be discriminating. And so are many standards on adoption.

Why does this matter?

I found myself wondering, whether I would consider an adoption. I was single and I thought I had a safe yet small apartment, I was getting more concious with myself, I lived in a safe environment. Yet I was not too sure on what my job would look like when my contract might end in 2022, I wasn’t sure how I would manage alone, whether my part-time salary was enough and I wasn’t sure how to combine raising a child with my interests. At the same time I thought it must be doable. Particular in Germany, there is various child-support from the government and also civil society initatives.

Single parents, can be great parents.

I began informing myself on adoption and the adoption process. I quickly found myself in a bizarr world on parental requirements and bias. For instance, adoption shouldn’t happen later then the age of 40, and adoption is favored for married couples, there should be enough space for the child (like a single room), the income should be high enough and the employment status permanent. I thought, well that might then take a long time for me to adopt someone, since I don’t qualify for most of these criteria in Germany. I looked further into that, and found that for instance in China someone to adopt should be female and/or have a high school degree. And puh, so many other criteria around the world.

To give an idea on the diversity and many biases on adoption.

I stopped reserching more, because it got me thinking about the family image, what constitutes as ideals of living and how certain ways of being or certain ways societal images, shape the image of love and the ability to care. The ability to qualify as “ideal foster parent“. One could think that someone with a stable income provides stability and a single room for a child provides love and affection. Or that still two parents are needed (of different genders), ideally married, to provide a child with a healthy development. It is not the case.

These are symbols of certain ways of being that somehow managed to be perceived as “ideal”. They are not, because it does not say much about how the child is being nurtured. Instead they are symbols that remove the opportunities for adoption of a child that otherwise may continue to live in poverty, that may be stuck in a foster system being send in and out of different homes, a child that may no longer learn or get to know stability, so that as adults it may not know what stability means either.

Money does not buy love. Time sometimes does, affection, support. Of course it’s not exclusive.

When we talk about systems-change for sustainability, we also have to talk about perception. How a donation to an orphanage in one way may provide food for a day (which is important), but how when we talk about longevity of solutions – the sustainability-, a short donation won’t sustain. What does sustain is a change in processes and a change in the perception of cultural practices including belief systems; that being that singles, gays, and those above 40, or “1 room flatters”, very much can qualify as nurturing parent as much as those who fit the criteria.

References

Linkedin Conversation

Conversation with gay friends

GoogleSearch

Skillsets for teaching in sustainability

Sustainability increasingly centers around CO2 including ESG reporting and the use of technology to fix “sustainability.” However, sustainability and the quest to it is often interconnected, which means that different skill sets are needed teach but also to consult for it. So what is needed? Below I listed a few things I have learned about, at times teach and include into my work.

  1. Encourage thinking globally.

So many environmental topics these days are interconnected. One pair of shoes bought in country x buys one person happinnes. It also promotes a lack of happinness, if the person who has produced these shoes inhales hazardous chemicals or if a leakage of chemicals results in environmental destruction. However, if we think, act or teach too “local” we don’t think global. We don’t learn global. We learn that sustainability is limited locally and can be as quickly solved as when we “green the street”, when streets no longer are limited to a certain region (symbolically-spoken).

2. Challange perception

We are born and raised in a certain environment (nature vs. nurture). The environment turns into our reality, but the reality may not be someone elses’ reality who was born and raised in a different environment. Conclusively, there is no “one reality” but realities might overlap, some are individual realities and some realities are worth challenging. There are also realities that are frustrating because they clash with our own views on reality. Yet we might disown them because we perceive that our “reality” is right. Why would it matter? Science for instance, can teach how to regrow trees and what reforestration structures could work well with what type of trees, but it does not replace indigenous knowledge on how to manage different forests in what type of community structures, for that structues and how people organize and disorganize, differ globally and are subject to different realities, inlcuding experiences on what works and what does not.

3. Encourage emotions

In nature, animals can be obseved that are angry, they are wild, they fight, they express and after they may be calm, lay down, breath, rest. Yet, we so often feel that being angry or other emotions find little place, because they are perceived as “bad” or “angry” reactions may be perceived “as the problem of another.” Yet, reactions tend to affect another, so they are valid and important. If we don’t highlight that we are angry, frustrated, there is little room to be. And where there is little room to be, we might miss out on uniqueness and opportunities “Hey I am angry, that I have to comply to your funding requirements because they require formal education, however I am illiterate and I have 30 years of life experiences in that field.”

4. Encourage ideas

As I wrote, there are so many realities, that there are so little ways in which “to do something best”. We don’t know, because the systems we live in become so complex that being or doing something best, may be so subject to the individiual. Because of that, we shouldn’t redirect someone from piloting an idea or pitching it, because it is different. Instead, we should encourage that, because it is different, because its’ worth exploring and if it isn’t, how can we shape ideas so that they are worth to be explored more, worth to be shaped?

5. Be supportive of failure

Trying, experimenting can likely come with failure. Failing sucks, especially if energy , time, money and hopes were put into it. Yet failure is so important to encourage, because only then we learn and only then we dare. However, by banishing or making someone feel bad for their failure “pointing out whats’ been wrong” they may not want to try again or are less likely do so. Like that we won’t find out what their second, thirdt, fourth idea might have brought in terms of innovation and their (individual) success.

6. Navigate through biases in perception

There are so many things we do and think, because of certain symbols or ideas we give to someone else “the older knows it all, the youngster doesn’t. A CEO might not want to take time for someone, because of their role. A mother probably won’t have a business idea. The professor knows it the best. “Yet these perception and their biases may be wrong. An older may know many things not and a youngster may do. A CEO is a person, and persons have time. A mother runs a baby business unpaid and knows the many flaws and opportunities that she deals with every day. The professor who is likely an expert in one discipline does not know it best, because there are a range of disciplines and ways of thinking, for that they are all right in their own ways, including your own knoweldge, perception, background. How often did you project something on someone? What bias did it hold and what resulted based on that?

7. Encourage subjectivity

Yesterday I gave a guest lecture on circular business models and their barriers. In one exercise I had my students turn to their neighbours and tell me subjectively, why they would and wouldn’t wear or use their neighbours clothes (from shirts to underwear). Reasons not to were; hygiene, lack of trust in the case of a phone, different individuality, tastes, sizes. And that is all okay! However, often we tend (particular for sustainability innovation) disregard the diversity of people and their subjectivity so that one solution tends to not fit into the diversity of people, their lifestyles.

8. Remove subjectivity

As much as I enjoy subjectivity (of my own and others) as much do I try to remove subjectivity. That is to see things as they are without a political or policy notion to it. Why would that matter? This is important to remove ideals and opinions related to behavior or innovation and even policy or law. By being subjective one could fall risk to be too supportive of an idea or ideal “a certain policy” and may fall risk to disregard the falws in it. After all, thats where science and solid scientific research comes in. Not into research? Ask different people with different expertise about one topic. You’ll get different answers that in conclusion are likely less biased or politically driven.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Where has all that meaning gone and how to get it back?

When we are children, we are yet too young to know what we want to do later in life. What passion will drive us. We make sense of this world, relate to our parents, maybe adopt one or another of their joys; their taste of music, their taste of styles, their taste of being. Our peers styles, what they like and don’t.

And there is us; what we like, the styles we enjoy, the interests we form independent of others. Interests and styles we merge and sometimes one interest swaps over into another, creating confusion or for others „disorder“. To be part of the girls group, you need to wear pink and listen to hip hop.

As a child just forming a sense of this world, being excluded sucks. Eventually the child gives in. Changes it’s writing style, changes clothing, wanting to be part of the girls gang. Yet, it never really becomes part of it fully, because its full part is the individuality it gave up to be part.

As adults we long for that. For that individuality, we lost as a child, we gave up because it made us excluded or because we had to because it wasn’t liked or too odd to be understood (at home, in schools and any other setting). There were informal laws full of bias holding us back ; not being allowed to mix Goethe with Techno, not spending too much time on homework one enjoys not because of the enjoyment, but because of the perception of homework for instance that it shouldn’t take too much time, loving long hair as a boy but cutting it short and now having it short because of the bullies experienced as child but now feeling one can’t fully be themselves because of the image created to oneself and others [feeling locked-in], loving to game and to connect to others thereby, but being shamed for being an indoor vampire and than as adult realizing how much one missed and learned from gaming with people around the globe. Now we are adults with the images we had created to be accepted. Where is the meaning now we had lost?

In these moments, others might made us feel that these were slight annoyances, but they were the annoyances that might have ended something that gave meaning to our lives and it’s continuity; a skill-set, a passion a genuine interest, a feeling worth living for that could have carried on into our adult life as is now. Yet where has that gone? Where has that feeling of belonging gone? Where has that meaning gone to? What filled you with joy, not because it filled others with joy, but because it filled you with joy ?

What was it that you loved so much and gave up? What exactly about it ? And for what reason did you not persue it? Can you get it back now? How would that effect you? Would it scare you? Why would it? Can you try it out? What do you need to do so?

Why would this matter for sustainability?

People thrive, where and when they can be. At work, privately and both.

What holds us back to love? On love and bias.

For a while, something preoccupied me. Love. When had we failed in love, when had we succeeded? Why did love feel so great, why did love scare? Why are we afraight to love? Why had love created problems? Where was <the> love?

I thought about the many stereotypes we internalize over years as a child, teen an adult. We think there is only one real type of love, the one we see in Hollywood, the one in which couples kiss, the one were couples hold hands. Yet, they were symbols for a certain type of love but these symbols might hold us back from realizing love; holding onto an extreme version of idealized romanticizing.


Love transcends and passes through a series of relationships in which people bond. Bonding as a connection, a form of love, outside of a stereotyped version of only one type of love and the symbols we associate to loving and being loved. As a result, love scares. In movies or social media; love in its “enactment” is sexualized, perceived as (too) unprofessional, a symbol for infidelity, something bad that must be kept secret, even punishable within the LGBTQ community.


But love is not wrong, threatening or bad. It is a feeling. A beautiful feeling. There are only interpretations of love or loving (a neutral emotion) in which, for example, specific enactments are portrayed as a sequence of the feeling of love. Yet, love is not a box. Love is not enactment. Love is not predescribed behavior. Love is merely a feeling. A feeling that sets free, creates warmth, closeness, forms and maintains connection.

Yet we tend to bend so much against this feeling, because love so often seems to be one particular “thing” associated or equated to stereotypes and how to be and not to. How to love and not to. Who to love and who not to. As a result we give little space to love. We reduce the possibility to love, to be loved, for love to surface, to be lived. We may decline and forbid one of the feelings most precious, not only to others, bust most of all ourselves. A feeling worth so living for.

Why would this matter for sustainability?

We talk, we laugh, we cry, we challange, we grow together, we might start to love. We realize its love. We change. We feel bad. We stop. We end relationships. Yet what brings most joy, brings most saddness. We begin isolating, maybe hating, we might consume too much, drink too much, move away. We are sad. Not because of love, but the perceived consequences loving holds, although there are none to loving.

I can love you and you can love me in any way you want to, we want to, within the boundaries of the enactment we set to it or open up. Love enables. Love does never restrict.

[Cover picture by @Juni.ka on Instagram]

How does working part time relate to sustainability transformation?

Two years ago, before my current job, I had a job offer at a NGO in Indonesia. We negotiated the salary, which was around 1.200 USD. An acquaintance mentioned not to start with a low salary like that considering my education and work experience. Before he said that, I felt confident with 1.200 USD and after he said that I wondered whether my decision was right. I went back to management to talk about it and management asked me „What do you need more money for? With that money you can rent a small but nice apartment, eat enough food, have health insurance and after that there should still be enough for trips and fun. Locals also have fun with that amount.“

Now it’s been two years on a part time-Job(30/h) in Germany and I really enjoy it. Before 9 am and after 3pm I get to do what I want. I could have a side job, I can write, volunteer, I can practice playing music, I can play with my cat, I can google, watch YouTube, I can help a friend with after day care for their children, I can do nothing, I can play video games (for instance, Pokemon on my outdated Game Boy Colour 😉 ), I can spend time being.

This made me curious and I kept on having discussions on that topic more often with people. „How happy are you with your life and your work hours?“. Often we end up in arguments like „I want a large apartment, then I want a better car and it’s just nice to have more money. My job is so stressfull honestly, so it also compensates for that, like a nice vacation etc.“”Would you be okay with earning less money?” “Yes sure, I mean I could probably get a cheaper car” someone said then feeling insecure, whether not working full-time would fullfill their lives. What to fill time with?

And I get that, a lot and I wonder what would be needed for part-time to become a new norm. A norm in which we don’t run after an idealized version of happinnes (thinking that more hours worked, a better car and a house like symbolized in the American Dream are worth persuing), but a life-style of being instead. So that, when we talk about sustainability transition, the human focused center is thought of more often. Whether people can be more happy with less and viewing less as more? Whether people can spend more quality time, be that just laying on a couch, cooking, playing video games, anything they desire as human, and in retrospect can be more fulfilled at work and in their lives? Moving away from buying or other forms of overconsumption to compensate a lack of happiness or stress to being more, at the same time being the same or more productive at work.

What does that mean for sustainability? What questions should be asked?

  • What would be needed to make part time jobs the new norm? Do people want that? Why not? (How would they fill a potential lack experienced? How could that lack be filled so that it feels rewarding to ones subjective form of well-being)
  • How much money is needed to have enough to sustain and to engage in other interests? (Thinking about salary variances and people with different fundamental needs).
  • Can business models support a lifestyle with less money (renting of music instruments, cars, interior, etc) as oppose to people having them owned? (Enabling access to entertainment or well-being also for people with lower incomes, making sustainability more inclusive instead of exclusive)
  • How could such societal and economical transformation look like? (What does it mean for cities, companies and design-thinking, but also policy?)
  • How could the perception on working part time being shifted? (Part time not being for mothers or for people with specific reasons, but because people simply want to work part time, because people are diverse and because people have different interests)
  • What gains and losses would one have to agree to? (Not owning a car but agreeing to shared transportation or more rides on the bycicle and companies installing shower stations at work).
  • If less money buys less materialistic goods, how can time be used to provide the same or a similar type of quality meaning to oneself detached less from the notion of need for money (relationships, etc. what do people want today? what fullfills them?)

References

McGowan, T. (2012). The end of dissatisfaction?: Jacques Lacan and the emerging society of enjoyment. suny Press.

Oswald, L. (1996). The place and space of consumption in a material world.

Ruti, M. (2013). The call of character: Living a life worth living. Columbia University Press.

Warren, T. (2004). Working part‐time: achieving a successful ‘work‐life’balance? 1. The British journal of sociology55(1), 99-122.

What’s therapy like?

It’s mental health awareness week, 2022 and indeed, I am visiting a therapist too. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a good thing? Yes. Unfortauntely therapy is often stigamtized although in the USA it was for some time quit common to have a therapist. Therapy can be for everyone, of any age and often its not just about being “mindfull”, sometimes its a change in perception or putting emotions into language. Much I didn’t know about, so that I put together this small blog on a few of my learnings, to kind of change that narrative on mental health and illustrate that different forms of looking at mental health and perception can contribute to well-being as individual and within the broader cultural context. After all, its for all.

Look at the bright side!

Its’ been one of the comments I heard most in my life and also said it most to myself. Something didn’t go well, but I had to or made myself look at the bright side. “A relationship ended sadly, but on the bright side it ended. A family member died, but on the bright side, I was on holidays. I got rejected for a job, on the bright my CV looked great. I was sad about moving to another city, but on the bright sight new people could be met. I lent someone money who did not pay it back, but on the bright side I still had money. I was scared about teaching, on the bright side I looked beautiful. The project proposal did not get accepted, on the bright side new calls would come. I felt lonely, on the bright side I have a cat.”

Though, my therapist taught me, these statments have nothing to do with the experience felt. They devalue and they distract from what has caused the feeling to begin with; Why did the project proposal fail? Why was I scared of teaching? Why couldn’t I be sad on holidays? Why did I lend money to this person? Why didn’t I get the job? Not feeling “the side not bright” instead pushed feeling inwards, made expressing them difficult, has led to isolating more inwards. It devalued, took away the meaning of what was felt, created uncertainty and supported acceptance over the non bright side. Leading to no changes that could serve a truly brighter side. Its’ called toxic positivity.

Your feelings are wrong!

I remember one of the first conversations with therapist and I said “Sorry for crying I know it’s stupid to be sad about this.” From then on many conversations were about “Why would you feel stupid for feeling a certain way? It’s how you feel and there is nothing wrong about feeling. It’s like saying it’s stupid that you feel sad for having lost a leg [if you did]. It’s not stupid. It’s valid in your own experience”. From then on, more conversations centered around the validty of my feelings, the fact that each of us has an own “subjective narrative” to which we react in certain ways that holds true to how we feel and perceive. Indeed telling others that their feelings are wrong, is by fact wrong. Its okay to be annoyed, its okay to be angry, its okay to be happy, its okay to be.

A narrative on celebations on mothers day being for happy mothers only is one-sided. When we have a society that celebrates or rewards only certain type of behaviour or feelings and disregards different perceptions and experiences, society is limited in its being. That is reducing the feelings of people to an inadequacy that more likely pushes them into shame instead of finding a supportive networking or feedback that more likely reinforces or is accepting their feelings. Telling them, that their feelings are”right as oppose to wrong”.

This won’t work!

There are probably many times in which we got rejected, as child, as lover, as employe, so often that trying feels scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Trying to avoid rejection, is a bad thing. Telling someone that a change in direction won’t work because the risks are uncertain may not pay out in the long term. Sometimes we do have to risk. Telling someone they can’t love someone because the circumstances are off, minimizes their feelings but may also leads them to self-reject, before they may even try within the circumstances that are off. Recommending someone to avoid talking about a certain topic, because it won’t be liked, likely leads to that things will always stay the same.

It is not rejection itself that people fear, it is the possible consequences of rejection.Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself (Robert Foster Bennet)

It’s not important!

My shoe is dirty, but it’s not important. I have relationship problem at home, but it’s not important. I feel lonely, but it’s not important. I am stressed because I have to pick up my child earlier, but it’s not important. I want to take a shower, but it’s not important. I want to become a writer, but it’s not important. I want to try out a new music instrument, but it’s not important. I want to study something else, but it’s not important. I want to set up a business, but it’s not important. I want to change my curricular, but it’s not imporant. (…)

“Why isn’t it important?” my therapist asked and I said , some things I think, in the large scale don’t matter. I can’t change them, I have no experience” “It matters because it matters to you.”

Whatever small it is , it matters. If nothing really matters or if importance is reduced to the smallest feeling, then everything that is perceived as seemingly not important, will always stay that way, when its the small things, the small irritants that need more listening to. Small things, that make living so worthile, a clean shoe, a random post, a great conversation, an egaged student, a happy pet, a great meal, shiny hair, a great book, time to breath, time to do nothing, a boring holiday, a cool class, an experiment that fails.

This has to be perfect!

There is no perfection. Even in nature, leafs don’t look perfect symmetrical. There is always some sort of lack of perfection. But we tend to want make things perfect, write perfect, say everything perfect, think it all through, wait so much, copy other people who we think that make something perfect, lose some sort of sense of self or how ones own uniquness can be perfect to another, thinking one needs to be like another, than realizes one is not, had their own perfection already been perfect to themselves. Misses hours and days of simply “doing” or “doing” by perfectionizing, when things aren’t always perfect. They may appeal, more or less, but there is no guideline on perfection, and where there is, they miss out the uniqueness that imperfection offers; a typo in a CV or text of a brilliant person, an academic article trying to be published by a non-native struggling English speaker, an idea terrible explained, but fantastic in its implementation, a haircut not appealing to the mass, but so appealing to one it truly does appeal to, love true and messy in the eyes of others, but so rich and fullfilling in the eyes of oneself with the other, a uniqe business to be shared, but isn’ because its not like other [go for it !]

Narratives on mental health?

Hiding, not feeling, pretending not to, ignoring, avoiding, not living, not being, determine how things should and should not be, all that effects our mental health. It is the range of feelings, the range of narratives, the range of experiences that makes being human more human, within the experience that one shapes with oneself and the expereince one shapes with another. There is no right or wrong to being, there is more likely wrong to “denying being” and that is where much of the mental health headeachs reside ; thinking one isn’t good enough the way they are, devaluing feelings, the experiences one makes, not wanting to change, because one things they can’t, wanting others to be the same, denying individuality, denying love, denying being.

(…)

Resources

[Experiences from my therapy and readings following Freud, Lacan, Instagram posts from therapists]

Mari Ruti (2013): The Call of Character: Living worth being. Book