Chris had learned that to get on in the corporate world you didn’t want to rock the boat too much. That doesn’t mean not at all. Just not too much. So, a little rocking is good, that shows a genuine interest and passion for the work. A desire to change and be dynamic. But not a stickler for detail. They’re the worst. They’re so negative. The nay-sayers’. They’re so dull and miserable. You don’t want to be stuck in the corner of the pub talking to them. ‘I’d rather jump out of a window’ Chris used to say to himself.
So, Chris had come up through the ranks of the corporate sector in the 1980s and 90s. This was where he learned about the world of work. He even wore the ‘corporate culture’ outfits. It started out with the power suits, Gordon Gecko style. The 80s braces, bright shirts and ties. Then there was the 90s dress-down on Fridays with the Ralph Lauren tops and chino trousers. And then the internet came along and things gradually started to change.
The 80s had been the decade of material success and the 90s followed suit
Chris developed a specific model of the world alongside the outfits that came from corporate survival. This is all about getting on, moving up the corporate ladder, getting promotions and career progression. In those days this was a very viable definition of success. The 80s had been the decade of material success and the 90s followed suit. This map of success was seductive even if it left a gap for people like Chris. But that gap could be filled quite easily, with other things like a new car, a promotion, a few business trips to fancy places. Chris had never experienced these material things as a youngster, so they were powerfully seductive. Plus, Chris was settling down. He had a mortgage to pay and he knew of some people who had suffered negative equity in the recession of the early 80s and they still hadn’t really recovered from the financial impact of that.
Chris was making the best choices available to him. He had created a model of his current situation that completely justified the path he was on. And yet, something was missing for him. But, every time he got that feeling deep in his gut, he managed to push it to one side or even deny it completely. In fact, as the months and then years went by, that feeling became so buried, he often became quite unconscious of it. It was always there, and it was part of him but not a part of him that he could particularly recognise or acknowledge any more. Often Chris’s behaviour belied this aspect of him. The new successful, corporate Chris was in full flow and he didn’t need to worry about any other parts of him that were buried deeper in his consciousness.
He found himself setting objectives that everybody knew were impossible
Chris’s behaviour was helping him to get on. He was a different person at work. He started to feel good in his work outfits and create a character that fitted the environment that he was now quite used to. He was surprised at how easily he could join the corporate jokes about someone less fortunate than himself. He was tasting success and that made him feel so powerful that he was seduced into borderline bullying. He could revel in the lack of organisational clarity and ride the waves of vagueness. He found himself setting objectives that everybody knew were impossible. And when no one challenged him, he found a surprising sense of self-importance, that he knew, wasn’t quite right. Yet somehow it was exciting and surprisingly easy to pursue. This was all too seductive for him.
Meanwhile, his popularity was wavering amongst his staff. It’s not that he didn’t care. He really did care. He liked people and he yearned for the connection he had never had at school. He had always envied the boys who were good at football and cricket. He just hadn’t had that hand eye co-ordination and so this was his time. Here and now.
Man-up Curtis. Don’t show your weakness
But that feeling in his gut. It just wouldn’t go away. He couldn’t work out what it was, but something was murmuring, and it just didn’t feel right. He found it would reveal itself in the most surprising moments. Often, he’d be driving his car at the weekend or he’d be taking his boys to the park and he’d just get really, almost uncontrollably angry. He’d be sitting behind his steering wheel and find himself swearing at someone who had cut inf front of him on the motorway. And then in the middle of the night he’d wake up with a start feeling a little embarrassed with himself. Was this really the Chris that he had dreamed of being as a little boy growing up?
And then there were the times when his little boy, Curtis, would show some genuine sensitivity. He’d berate him for being too soft. “Man up Curtis. The world doesn’t have space for your whimpering. If you wanna get on you’ve got to learn to deal with stuff. Toughen up. Don’t show your weakness. People will jump all over you and eat you for breakfast boy!”. It often took days for Chris to truly calm down from these outbursts at Curtis. Somewhere Chris saw himself as a little boy and his son’s ‘softness’ was almost unbearable for Chris.
Chris had created an armour that he wore to help him to face the world of manhood and to get on in his career.
People are much more than their behaviour
Whilst this armour was a way of presenting himself to the outside world it isn’t the whole Chris. Even though it is ‘how he shows up’ there is so much more to Chris. The question is, how can he be more in tune with the other parts of himself? Chris is more than this behaviour. And if he can find a way of bringing more of those other parts of himself to the world, he might find that he is happier, more connected and more in tune with his place in the world.
What an idea!