An article by Anke Sommer
Everyone can potentially walk away…
Today is another of those days. I’ve already had an early-morning text from one of my favourite clients, an entrepreneur who’s interested in personality development, open minded, determined and the absolute image of a successful type. He messages me that he’s not feeling well and suggests it might be a good idea to sit down and put our heads together to think about his business. He feels he has his back to the wall and has no desire to do anything.
Or there’s the energetic superwoman, a friend whose 50th birthday is approaching and who puts into words what a lot of people around me are feeling. She feels she belongs to a betrayed generation: the ‘baby-boomer’ generation of women born in the 1960s who feel they’ve been taken for a ride. She said she was starting to sweat with fear whenever she started to think about her retirement provisions.
And it gets better! I just have to look down my street – in the centre of Berlin – to see the building sites, one after the other. To the left, a company from New Zealand with its headquarters in Austria has snapped up one of the fine old late-19th century houses and is refurbishing it out of the tenants’ price range: they’re all forced to move out.
To my right, a desperate tenant simply committed suicide because he was no longer able to pay the rent. A few withered flowers recall the event. In my house, after an extremely unpleasant refurbishment phase, the flats have been divided up between Italians and other buyers; estate agents and their hangers-on proudly march up and down the stairs, and tenants who were always unobtrusive, gentle and friendly have now turned into tenant warriors constantly rushing to the Tenants Protection Association.
That is all part of a normal day in the city, a tiny slice of all the many crisis-like moments in life. How do we cope? Close our eyes and keep going? Lose it and smash everything to bits? Take out a loan and buy a flat ourselves? Give up and hope that a severe illness will put an end to it all? Or simply wait until things get better again and the stars are in our favour, and till then ignore the reality of the situation?
The way out of the crisis that affects us all
No, what follows is not some calming proverb, a word of wisdom that turns the inner unrest into a stable balance.
No, what follows is a challenge and a request in one: to understand that the inner unrest that is indicative of this kind of everyday crisis that affects us all is a signal challenging us to look at it, not look away; to act, and not to freeze up. It demands that we recognise that perhaps we’re quite right to react uneasily.
In these situations, we should not shut our eyes to unpleasantness; it is not the time to soothe ourselves with calming phrases during sleepless phases, nor should we let a feeling of failure take hold. Instead we should switch on a process of understanding that tells us that not everything is in our power; that we also have to bear the consequences of our wrong decisions. We accept that all the encouraging words that activate our inner resilience take a break for once. We realise that there are some injustices that are simply disgusting – or that perhaps there are things wrong that require attention and action.
When this process of understanding is under way, that is the first step out of one of these everyday crises that affect us all – crisis situations that are triggered by external influences and automatically become overwhelming if you try to resist them internally.
f you close your eyes to them, these crises can quickly become threatening, because all the signals demanding that you look at the situation in order to be able to act are destroyed if you look away.
How these crises that affect us all can lead to illness
If you do take the route of sitting it out, seeing everything as your fault, and continuing on the same path while ignoring all your body’s signals, this kind of crisis turns into a pathological situation. External influences cease to operate and we ourselves become the trigger of our crisis.
In this case we lose touch with the warning voices from outside; we keep ourselves awake and continue to work hard, because that’s what our working conditions demand; we remain within the system that is making us ill and bravely keep going; we downplay offers of help as useless – and before we know it we are seriously ill.
You can always walk away – in theory at least
It would be nice if I could say at this point that you can always walk away. Everyone has the potential to get up and go… but not everyone does it. Why not? It’s quite simple: because breaking out of a cycle like this is triggered by understanding the situation and this understanding requires ourselves.
And it really isn’t easy to be responsible ourselves for the process of change, the starting gun for our own change. We have to understand it; we have to stop; we have to open our eyes and be open to support, exchanging views and working together with people who share our view. We need courage to stop, to look and to act.
We need creativity to develop new ideas and revamp old ones, and finally we need the strength to keep getting back up again, but with our eyes open so that we don’t keep going on in the same old way. Instead we examine the situation to see where our personal exit is waiting for us.
I wish you the courage and the decision to open your eyes when friction is causing excessive stress in your life – and plenty of strength to take action.