Personal Stories: Jan Brause

In a recent zoom call with my peers we were reflecting on the topic of ‘The Discomfort of Uncertainty’ using Otto Scharmer and Theory U as a backdrop for the exploration. The question that invoked my childhood story was:

What is coming into emergence as you sit at the bottom of the U considering who you are and what is your work?

It hit me (as these childhood experiences often do) like a bolt out of the blue. My childhood story had emerged again.  As the world shifted in response to Covid-19 so did the context in which I would be doing my work.  Invites to join podcasts, write articles and have my voice heard sent me into retreat.  Whilst part of me so wanted to engage, the past was holding me back and my response instead was to go into hiding.  What do I have to offer? What can I contribute? Who wants to hear what I have to say?  The old internal narratives laid down so many years ago had emerged once again.

What I realised in that moment of clarity was that I had returned to my childhood story – the one of being a compliant child – where the mantra ‘children should be seen and not heard’ had taken over.  Love, acceptance, acknowledgment and belonging became dependent upon how I showed up in the world.  The new context, with changing rules, new ways of working and engaging had me confused and feeling less sure of myself.  Easier to stay safe and quiet then!

I was resisting the adult urge to be both vocal and visible as the childhood story had me in its grip, clinging on to me as if our lives depended on it.  With open will, heart and mind I could become receptive to this new phenomenon, able to connect with this from a place of curiosity, enquiry and opportunity.  

Letting go of the past I could reconnect with my new and more resourceful internal narrative, ‘It’s OK to play, to be mischievous, to have fun and to be me, all will be well!’  I found a relaxing in my body, a dropping down of the tension I had been holding in my neck and shoulders. How serious I had become over these recent weeks of lockdown. Shifting back to that small child, I had retreated to a place where I felt safe.  If I hid in my (metaphorical) room then life would be fine, I would be out of harm’s way and yet I knew something was waiting to emerge into this new world in a different way.  I could be free to play, explore, investigate, engage my curiosity again, to have my voice heard, to venture into the unknown, be brave,  for what is the risk in that …really…what risk?  

I needed to reconnect with my courage and so when Sarah asked me if I would write a piece about my own childhood story, it made sense to step out of my room and put pen to paper.  No doubt my childhood story will come back to grab me again at some point and I will have the resources to work with it.  For now, I am holding a curiosity about what choices I might make moving forward and what gifts and opportunities may open up as I explore this new and different world in the knowledge that I am free to be me.

My work with clients often invites exploration of the childhood story and how this manifests itself in beliefs and behavioural patterns that can hold us back.  I am constantly amazed that by catching the moment we can honour these insights and rewrite those old internal narratives into something more resourceful.

Jan Brause, Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor and childhood story lover!