“ Disequilibrium happens when you begin to see things in the world that don’t make sense to you. The things you thought you knew—the things that helped you feel stable and clear—are now in question. And, woof. This state is hard. We crave equilibrium.”
— SANDY SPEICHER, PARTNER, IDEO
I have written bits of this newsletter at home, on a run, at gyms,waiting for kids and finally, in front of a computer. The idea was bubbling, but I couldn’t quite get it down. Turns out, when you are in a state of disequilibrium, it is a difficult topic to write about. It wasn’t until I saw an article by Sandy Speicher, a Partner at IDEO, that it clicked.
In the article, The Uncomfortable Secret To Creative Success is Disequilibrium, Speicher talks about the moments of frustration and challenge when we are adapting or learning something that shifts our mental models of the world and it hasn’t quite clicked yet. These are the moments or weeks of synthesis, when you have gathered information, sorted it, but have not yet made sense of it. It’s a hard state to sit with. While Speicher uses this term to talk about the creative process, it is a great reference for life.
I was reflecting on this as it related to my clients after our private sessions and workshops. Something deep is touched in them. Often, it is an opening to a new understanding of who they are or why they are in the world. Sometimes the foundation of their life story is turned upside down. And sometimes, there is an internal limit that is dropped entirely. These are moments are great revelation.
One woman from a workshop marveled that being in play is a choice.
A client of mine discovered in one of our sessions that she was holding onto an emotional pattern that was akin to snuggling with Voldemort. This client also recognized how scary it was to let go of the attachment, even though it was not serving her.
Another friend and artist realized how her upbringing among a family and community of prominent artists had created some dust, expectations and paralysis around ‘is it good enough? is it serious? is it really art?,’ limiting the freedom of her creative expression.
These insights, because they are individually freeing, create a state of disequilibrium. We are stretching our understanding of the world and of ourselves. And as we do this internal expanding, as we let go of the old framework, it can feel like we are groping around in the dark, searching for firm ground and a light switch.
If play is a choice, then what have I been choosing when I haven’t chosen play?
Where will I be without Voldemort at my side?
(hopefully somewhere near Hermoine and Harry)
What does it mean if my art is already ‘good enough?’
To move through disequilibrium, we have to create a new ‘a-ha’ moment that invites these insights into meaning. We invite a bigger, more inclusive model into our life.
Perhaps this expansion is not for everyone. But each time we are willing to expand our understandings and let ourselves move through a phase of disequilibrium, we become more fully alive and more engaged in life. Our horizons broaden and we are a step towards greater freedom.
In simple terms, it is learning. As Speicher writes, “Learning isn’t about the consumption of new information. Learning is the process of using our innate abilities to construct—or create—new understandings of the world. Learning, by its very nature, is a creative act.”
These expansions are always my goal for you in my meditations and workshops. Whether through play, stillness of meditation, or the exploration of your inner wild, the chance for profound disequilibrium is just around the corner.