‘The more clearly we remind ourselves we can have no unnatural influence on nature, the more our culture will embody a freedom to embrace surprise and unpredictability.’*
Originally these dolls, made in the form of witches, would be stuck with pins with the intention and hope of breaking the power of witchcraft over someone’s life by causing pain to the witch. More popularly, they’re seen as a way of exercising control over the life of another.
Perhaps we don’t use voodoo dolls, but we do try and blame others for situations and circumstances that aren’t working the way we want them to: someone in the family, someone at work the system. By blaming, we somehow try to control what others do, forgetting that we can really only control ourselves. As a coach Michael Bungay Stanier would find people wanting him to coach the other person or people, but for the coach:
‘The key thing to know is that you can only coach the person in front of you.’**
It took me back to something I stumbled on more by accident almost twenty years ago.
I’ve previously mentioned how I was going through a really tough time for which I could have blamed the system or certain people using and abusing it. Instead, I decided to focus only on my own part in the situation, believing I could only work on what I was willing to take the blame for. Perhaps from some belief that I shouldn’t blame others if I was going to make the most of a time of study, what I wandered into was the truth that I can’t control others – I can only make decisions for myself.
What I didn’t know then was how this would bring me to a place of peace, and to the beginning of an adventure. Here are three “scriptures” which make a lot of sense to me as I read them together:
‘True storytellers do no know their own story.’*
‘People don’t need new facts – they need a new story.^
‘I wonder if real art comes when you build the thing that they don’t have a prize for yet.’^^
As I breathed deeply at the beginning of the day, feeling the breath move through my body, I realised I can only experience this for myself; I don’t know what this must feel like for someone else – their experience is unknown to me.
I can only help another reflect upon their own story, knowing that my own story changes for the better when someone helps me to reflect – we can even come to use the negatives someone directs towards us to improve our story.
The best though, if I might borrow the words of Walter Brueggemann is to offer ‘passion and compassion that completely and irresistibly undermine the world of competence and competition.’*^
I don’t know if the people who’d wanted to control me moved into their own adventure – I hope they did, but I do know that taking control of our own life allows us to move into surprise and unpredictability, serendipity and synchronicity.
(*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)
(**From Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit.)
(^From Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(*^From Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination.)