The Crucible
The cycle of anything that lives. The seedling is planted and adjusts to its environment. It is starting to send out tiny white roots. It has felt the soil and the temperature is right. It can also taste straight away that the pH in the soil is balanced. This plant is forming. It is starting out on its life journey — a path of growth, of struggle, of stabilising and then of performing as we shall see. So with us. We are born into whatever place and time we happen in. We slowly acclimatise to our environment and start to form. We have already been forming in the womb and now the situation has drastically changed. Out of fluid and into oxygen. Into the world. Wow! OK so we are developing but not long into our forming, we experience a storming – being born.

And once there is a storming there will be a normalising process that takes a while and eventually we will perform. Performing means doing well at what we focus on. Speaking well, eating well, thinking well, learning well, sleeping well. Obviously, there are small wheels and bigger wheels of the cycle. We might go through FSNP in one afternoon at the side of the pool with our coach. On the other hand, a marriage, for example, might take decades to go through some aspects of the cycle while also having many smaller wheels in play.

To transform, we must first exist. Then we must be shaken, disturbed, even suffer. This is how we grow. This is what causes us to redirect our energies into healthier places. We often don’t even know we need to. It is like the universe itself is helping to form us if we listen. After storming, we normalise. We reach a new level. We have a new attitude, a new understanding of self and others. We are now promoted into action and we can do good things with what we have. And, as we normalise into the post suffering place we have risen to, we rise further the more we practice and we start to be able to perform – become super productive, effective, wise, capable.

It takes decades to muster wisdom. It cannot be bought. It cannot be gained quickly, there are no shortcuts. But, once wisdom is there, it is palpable. You can feel it, sense it, hear it, see it. With this wisdom often comes authority. This goes across all cultures and genders. But it is reserved for those entering the youth of old age. It will happen eventually to everyone in different measure depending on how open we are to the transforming process. How open we are determines how much we self-correct, self-examine, listen to others and make decisions to respond well to what happens around us, circumstances, fate, life – all we can do, the only power we have is to respond well or not well. We are not really in control of anything else. We can learn to see every challenge as an opportunity. Every new area of growth in our life is going to go through the stages and we can learn to recognise these stages. We start playing an instrument. We position it and ourselves. We make some sounds and they are interesting. We are just beginning to form a new thing. Music.

We know that the storm is coming but that’s OK. On the other side of the storm – we are going to be proud of what we have achieved (we are choosing to respond optimistically here). The storm is not far off. Fingers start to hurt, to blister. It is agony trying to press the 60-pound string even a little. I am physically incapable of this what do I do? Here is where many if not most will give up. It’s too hard. Right now they are not looking ahead, they can’t imagine ahead. It’s just the impossibility of now that is consuming them. This is the crucial choice. Pull back or push through. It is courage or cowardice. And life does not let us off the hook either. If we choose not to be courageous we take on board a different weight, guilt, self-doubt, loss of confidence – etc.… and more – whatever we face and do not overcome we encounter again and again and again all our lives until we either die or confront them. The earlier we face our challenges as they appear the easier it is.

One might notice these cycles beginning in childhood and certainly in what we call adolescence. Here our very bodies are still forming and our emotions are often heightened and it takes a lot of energy to achieve daily life let along all the turbulence within. It can be very confusing. Who do you listen to? Who do you accept and trust? You need others around you who are right for you. Others who don’t just let you off the hook but who love you enough to challenge and support you where ever you are at. And if you haven’t found them yet just keep looking. You will.

Fight or flight is our instinctual response to situations we encounter and the circumstances we are affected by. Flight means to run and hide. Fight means not to allow the circumstance or situation to conquer us but instead, we employ everything we have into the opposite. It takes courage to fight. It is a fearful response to flight or sometimes a thoughtful response knowing that in this situation there is no winning to be had. Self-preservation is important too! So the balance, each of us is different but we will find that the fight or flight habits and cycles have formed in us all at early ages. Also, depending on cultural background, some whole cultures teach their young one or the other. It is very difficult to change this response. it definitely takes a journey of transformation. Things that help though are themselves new growth like developing new levels of confidence through anything you take on, experience, developing stronger love, beliefs, passion for aspects of life. All these things make us more courageous, less inclined to run unless it is for the greater good.

The transformation model is based on observation and was initially invented for team building in business. Teams or groups, or families or any other type of community also go through these stages. At first, we are all new, all getting to know each other, all forming this thing called a group or whatever it is. Everything is new. There is anticipation and also some apprehension. Then we start doing stuff together and soon discover ourselves in the storming phase. Another way of looking at it is this is the getting to know you stage. That is why others have said it is healthy to argue with your spouse sometimes. This, of course, depends on the nature of the argument and whether it can resolve well. Sometimes spousal arguments fall into ruts that don’t ever resolve and are an ongoing argument under the surface at all times. This is when we get stuck in storming and do not have the opportunity to normalise. Here, storming becomes a phase that we don’t grow out of on a subject, an issue and perhaps an event, a trauma or a memory that replays at the same point each time around. Gets stuck like a needle on a record. Doesn’t go anywhere. There are the cycles that need breaking open. These are the ones that need guidance to get to norming. Most do not make it.

Not only are we dealing with our own cycles but with those of others around us. Now many many folks do not have their growth cycle turned on at all. They walk through life without really taking on many challenges. They seek simplicity, security and comfort. They may extravert their way past facing themselves or they may introvert their way into solitude. We are extreme, all of us, in the way we grow. Regardless, and as mentioned we will develop through time and age no matter what. Some a good deal and others somewhat. If we are open to transformation, we are generally reasonably brave, quite determined, relatively ambitious, and we appear confident. Optimism and courage, as well as faith and risk, are strong hallmarks of our approach. Each of these characteristics, even if they sound like James Bond or something has a bright and a dark side. Brave might be motivated by a violent streak – or sheer stupidity for example. Most people describe it as a virtue which it is if what drives it is virtuous. Ambition can be good or bad. Depends on the subject, object, context. Optimism too is associated with positive thinking but is also potentially at risk of a wax winged moth flying too close to the sun.

Who can ever get it right with all these subtle character floors and twists and growth and running and standing and all the rest? Well, it’s just a process and as we apply ourselves in good conscience, we are assisted somehow to achieve that which is good. Not just for ourselves but when our love matures to consider others and then even many others. If we are open to growth, we will grow and the fruit of the tree will become sweet and sustaining. The shade of the tree will shelter others in need. The roots of the tree will go deep into the banks of the river it straddles and when a drought comes, it will not cease to bear fruit. It will not cease to bring shelter. This tree has gone through many lives within this life and each of those lives is the transformation cycle. All of have unconquered cycles waiting for us. Some of us are young and have so many it is overwhelming. Those who are just, need to flow and learn to recognise the cycles and then to manage their own response to everything that happens with fresh eyes and a new resolve.

Why bother?
Because there is hope. Growing through the challenges and circumstances of life well raises us up to levels that can hardly be described. We can become so experienced and capable and even achieve some real balance in the hole process but we need to go through the imbalance (suffering) to obtain the balance.

What’s the purpose?
It’s a test of character as well as a tool of change. It is only those who have a character that has been refined like gold in the fire who can do good and make a positive difference in this world. Sadly there are some who are not open to transformation which is mostly a letting go process and a readjustment of perspective and requires real attention to work. No these others are by nature malicious, dark, power hungry. We are talking Cartel, Mafia, underworld, criminal minds and hands and actions. Addicts and those who have taken optimism and risk-taking far too far. So, what is the purpose? Well, if the world had no one willing to grow, to suffer, to transform and then to help empower others then where would we be? There would be no hope. Others have risen at different times in history – Martin Luther King, Moses, Buddha and Mother Terresa, Gandhi and Christ. There are millions more who in their quiet way have allowed transformation to take place in their lives either willingly or by some destiny. Millions who have transformed and then transformed their school, their community, their family. These lights always shine on others along the way too.

Why is life so hard?
We often unconsciously expect things to go our way. There is a real difference between expectation – holding our breath for something – and hope – having an inner confidence that the future holds possibility and scope. If we tap hope in ourselves or perhaps receive it as a gift, then we start a new cycle. It begins with forming hope in us. It is about trusting. Trusting ourselves, life, the universe. It is about daring to believe in a better world and learning the steps we need to take to get there. If we let go of expectation and grow the hope inside us, we will change remarkably and maybe cause remarkable change eventually. But this is not easy. The global culture of this age is around entitlement and playing the blame game. These are merely avoidance techniques designed and executed to smokescreen the transformation process. Again probably subconscious but certainly powerful. In short, we make life hard for ourselves if we don’t learn to take responsibility and if we don’t realise that every word, every action, even every thought has a consequence. Equals and opposites – the law of nature. Bad attitudes destroy us from the indie out. Good attitudes build hope and life in and through us. They accommodate for the loss of letting go, the struggles of the cycles and the reality of life and its many forces. Life is so hard so we can discover the right way.

Why do we have to suffer to grow?
We would just play around otherwise. We would do anything to avoid suffering if we can. It is also a natural defence, self-preservation. Sometimes we are too fragile to suffer and sometimes that fragility is an excuse for avoiding the suffering! Sometimes we suffer unnecessarily or bring misery on ourselves or others when it seems we cannot control it. I saw an old friend the other day. I hadn’t seen him for a year. He walked towards me and as I saw his face, I saw he had suffered. Later I asked him if he had been in much pain. He explained his pain and its causes. This is unavoidable suffering. I asked him if it was making him grow. He said ‘in patience, it is making him grow. Now he is not young, over 40. It is quite likely that the patience cycle has been spinning past him in different ways since he was a child. We all have this kind of challenge to overcome and sometimes many. The type of growth that comes through suffering is the kind of growth that can be acquired in no other way.

What is that suffering like?
It hurts, it is painful, it is a loss, it is grief and bitter deep and often confused emotions and rapid mood swings. Or it can jets be physical as in a crash. Or emotional as in a breakup. Or mental as in an exam. These are interconnected, so regardless suffering means change. And it is often the change we resist. A boy who breaks his leg can gain confidence in the mere fact of the experience and discovering a (dis)forming, storming, norming and eventually performing. Once the boy got used to the cast and crutches, he found he could get around twice as fast as his schoolmates. He used the crutches as extra legs and the cast leg was in full use too. He could gallop around the place like a house and left everyone for dead.

Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual… turmoil is the worst suffering. It can bring us to the brink of death. But we need to go there sometimes too and into dark forests and underwater and so on. We all have fears. Fear is irrational but has a real grip. It is always of that which is unknown or memorised in archetypical or visual form. A ghost, although you have never actually seen a 3D ghost and like had a conversation and touched their hair (let us know if you have) you will have some pictures, even faintly at a deeper level of yourself. Some idea that illustrates the concept ‘ghost’. Maybe it changes. Casper is common because we were all brainwashed when we where kids with Caspar. But there are villain ghosts, headless ghosts and so on, also informed to us through screened reality. We also tend to have specific fares or phobias. Almost everyone has a few. Heights, spiders and falling down deep holes are mine. All my life with the spiders. Heights is weird because I am comfortable doing aerobatics in a glider ( I grew up with it), but I couldn’t possibly jump off a cliff in a hang glider. And maybe the deep hole my brothers dug and then lowered me down into on ropes when I was 5 caused my fear of deep dark holes.

But the huge one is the spiders. Oh, where to begin. Let’s just say my evil aunt who I was cursed to live with when I was 9 took my sister and I and her daughter, my beautiful cousin Pete to the beach in Botswana Land. I was so sunburnt that large blisters appeared on my shoulders and back and legs and then on my face and lips. I couldn’t eat and had to use a straw. The night that happened the aunt decided to play a trick and put a dead wolf spider as big as my hand as black as shiny soot and as mean and evil as the very heart of hell under my soft white sheets. When I pulled the sheets back to get in, I saw it there looking very alive although it was actually dead. It scared me so much and I was in such a strange place with strange people and well that’s probably where it started. But I have been attacked by, haunted by, stalked by, sabotaged by spiders on countless occasions. It was a cycle. Doesn’t seem to happen these days. It was suffering to teach me something. I still would start at a spider, but they don’t seem to be after me and I don’t mind looking at them now as long as they are not on me.

I think the saying is true: perfect love wipes out all fear. Perfect love includes trust. It involves seeing a way past ourselves into the deep, into life and the lives of others. It takes us past fear, but fear is at its heals.

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