This week I started another session facilitating the Gordon Neufeld video course “The Vital Connection” as a practicum student with the Neufeld Institute. While this course is directed at parents in regards to their children, the participants were quick to see the parallels between the way in which we interact with our children and personal and professional relationships.
The first session focuses on attachment, in which a child seeks to be close to us. Neufeld explains that when a parent assumes a position of natural authority, or Alpha, the child tends to relax into the comfort of being taken care of. We also tend to enjoy our children more when they respond to us in this way. Attachment also engenders a feeling of comfort, a place where we feel at home. In addition, the child looks to the adults to provide what Neufeld calls a compass point, accepting parental guidance and engendering loyalty.
One of the slides that the parents find the most interesting, and the one that created the most lively discussion is the one in which Neufeld contrasts Attachment Power and Contrived Power as copied below:
· Source is the child’s attachment to the adult
· Works best when not drawn attention to
· Seeks influence
· Results in a natural deference that does not humiliate
· Is power to TAKE CARE of the child
· Source is the role of the adult or the control over circumstances and resources
· Works best when paraded
· Seeks capitulation
· Is hard on a child’s sense of dignity and can backfire
· Is power OVER the child
(Gordon Neufeld, Vital Connection handout, page 5)
Our discussion eventually led to a discussion of workplace relationships, and, as we looked at contrived power, we agreed that an adult who treats other adults in this way would be perceived as domineering and controlling. We could see that adults would tend to avoid working with someone who operates from a basis of contrived power, and would be unlikely to want to cooperate with such a person. We agreed that we want to find our way through to building strong attachments with our children so that they want to follow us rather than feeling that they have to do as we say in order to be loved and accepted.
One of the fathers taking the course commented that “this is all about good leadership,” which got me to thinking about all the ways in which we assume this role in our daily lives. Whether in the home or the workplace, we are called upon many times a day to provide caring attention to those with who we are in relationship. We do this out of respect and confidence in ourselves and our position.
When we think about adults with whom we work, those that we enjoy being with are usually those that we are most receptive to. Those who pay attention to us, respect us and provide an emotionally safe environment are the ones that we trust. These are the people for whom we like to do our best work, as we are able to focus on our work rather than being anxious about whether or not our supervisor or colleagues are seeing our work through critical eyes.
While adults are meant to always be in the Alpha position with the children in their care, adult-to-adult relationships are usually on more of a give and take basis. However, those that are in management reflected that when they have the most success as a manager, they are not looking to their staff to have their emotional needs met, but tend to have these needs met outside the workplace. This allows them to be in a healthy emotional position in order to provide stability for those with whom they work. This emotional stability is key, whether we are concerned about parent/child relationships, personal or professional relationships. Each of us, as mature adults, are responsible for finding trusted friends and/or professionals to provide the support that we need to be the rudder for those with whom we live, work and play.