I’ve just read Maybe you should talk to someone by the psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author, Lori Gottlieb. It’s a humorous and thought-provoking book that takes us behind the scenes of Lori’s world as a therapist. I highly recommend it!
At one point in the book, Lori’s own therapist Wendell, shares a famous story about the prisoner shaking the bars of a prison cell. He’s desperately trying to get out but to his right and left, it’s open – no bars. All he has to do is walk around, but still he frantically shakes the bars. That’s most of us. We feel completely stuck, trapped in our emotions, unable to see a way out from behind the bars.
The story highlights how many of us become imprisoned by our thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, relationships, work, fears or the stories we tell ourselves. We imprison ourselves because it’s comfortable behind the bars, even though it is painful. We don’t free ourselves, because with freedom comes responsibility and most of us find responsibility frightening. It’s safer to stay in jail.
But there is a way out, as long as we’re willing to see it. Firstly, we have to identify what it is that keeps us behind the bars. (This is where professional help, really helps.) Secondly, once we have the insight, we need to fully feel into the situation and the emotions to understand its source before rushing into action. (This, by the way, is where I often go wrong – reacting instead of waiting and responding. Yep, I’m a work-in-progress!) Lastly, we choose to respond in a way that is helpful. We take positive action that takes us step-by-step out from behind the bars towards liberation.
It seems relevant right now to reflect on that story from a global and systemic perspective. I wonder if capitalism has been a system keeping us all stuck behind those bars? Perhaps we’ve been imprisoned by the story that our lives are dependent on the growth of the economy instead of the strengthening of society? Perhaps what lies to the left and the right of those bars is a new system; Communitarianism.
Communitarianism is a theory and system of social organisation based on small self-governing communities. It’s an ideology based on the African philosophy of Ubuntu which means ‘I am because you are’. Communities turn us away from individualism towards collectivism. They ease our longing to belong. They are the elixir for a new life.
What resonates for you in this story? Is communitarianism on your agenda? I’d love to know.
As always, if I can be of service, please reach out. I’m here. I care.
PS If you missed my recent podcast Conversations on The Coronation. Listen here
About me: I’m a Purpose Educator and author of The Purpose Project. I help leaders attract and retain the best people by harnessing the power of deep purpose and storytelling. I do this through The Purpose Project for Companies, a customised consultative process for co-creating a new purpose statement and The Purpose Project Course, a 7-step online course to help employees bring their own why to work.