The study of human nature and human culture over time teaches us that human beings are not meant to grieve alone, that in fact solitary mourning may be no mourning at all and instead the individual may remain trapped in perpetual pain, sadness, loss and defenses against these feelings. Without attending to loss, the future is likely to be little different from the past, just a repetition of the tragic life experiences that have already occurred. To move through loss we must develop a shared sense of tragic consciousness. Resistance to change within organizations is really about the fear of losing more than we already have and an unwillingness to let go and move on in acceptance of what cannot be changed. Lacking a vision of a better future and how we can get there, than there is nothing but resentment, reenactment, loss and further decline, even to organizational death. The Commitment to Growth and Change requires us to fully honor the losses that people have experienced, are experiencing in the present, and are likely to experience in the future as a necessary element of movement. But we must not stop there. To practice Sanctuary, formal and informal leaders must manage from the future, instilling, inspiring and modeling a vision of hope and possibility, and push a system and everyone in it toward a disequilibrium state that promotes the possibility of creative change.
"F" Is For The Future
Can we hope to move further along [a] continuum to explore such possibilities as restructuring society in an attempt to meet the problems of a technological age? … Here the urgency and personal anxiety may be absent in a large section of society. People, in general have not learned to identify themselves with larger social units than perhaps the home or their own particular peer group … To be a change agent in these wider problem areas is to court disaster. Who knows what directions society must take in order to protect itself from extinction? In any case these global problems are the concern of rational governments. Behind these valid rationalizations lurks the most basic problem of all – man’s almost universal resistance to change as an ongoing process.
Maxwell Jones, Maturation of the Therapeutic Community, 1976, (p. xv)
The Future, Change and Transformation
The future is a difficult topic to get your head around simply because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s always out there on the edge of the present, but you can't see it or make sense of it until it has happened. Depending on who you are, what your biology is, and the nature of your previous experiences, you may be open to eager anticipation of the future or the future may terrify you. When you work with someone in therapy you encounter a wide range of attitudes toward the future. So too, is the response to organizational change very diverse. This is largely because we are easily frightened creatures and experience uncertainty and ambiguity in the environment as potential threats to survival. The future is definitionally ambiguous – it hasn't happened yet so we don't know what it is. And yet, here is a central species dilemma. It is out on the edge of ambiguity and uncertainty where creativity, improvisation, and innovation occurs.
When we think about change – individual or organizational, we conceive of a linear process that can be planned – and using the traditional mechanistic word for it – engineered. The intention is to create a different reality from the one that exists or why else go to the effort of making change. The typical visioning processes envision a “future perfect” and then plan how to get there. The problem is that everything we know about the future is based on the past. In individual work we talk about “stages of change” that people pass through and in organizational change, the classic notion was that of Kurt Lewin’s model of change: unfreezing, moving, refreezing. The moving stage in between the two book ends of stability was thought to be brief and stressful until the system reestablished equilibrium.
But back in the 19th century, the prescient American psychologist William James wrote:
The traditional psychology talks like one who should say a river consists of nothing but pailsful, spoonsful, quart potsful, barrelsful, and other molded forms of water. Even were the pails and the pots all actually standing in the stream, still between them the free water would continue to flow. It is just this free water of consciousness that psychologists resolutely overlook. Every definite image in the mind is stepped and dyed in the free water that flows around it (p.225).
More recently, talk of change has focused not on episodes of change that interrupt equilibrium, but continuous and ever evolving change. It is supposed that the constancy of change, which seems to be happening at an increasing pace, that the future cannot be known from the past and all extrapolations from past experience are bound to be inaccurate.
"The limits on planned change (and planning) as a response to a rapidly changing future helps bring into focus the following key fact that the organizational change theory tends to overlook or ignore, though of course we all acknowledge it as true: We cannot know the future in advance. Planning starts from ignorance, and in a sense it can never go beyond that ignorance. Such ignorance is rooted in the bystander position and the stance it takes toward the flow of time; standing outside the flow of time, this perspective is based on not knowing the immediacy of experience" (p.191) .
This contentless flow of time in the future that these observers refers to, is why planned change and strategic planning often doesn’t really deliver what we hoped – things change and our planning doesn’t keep up with it, can’t keep up with it. This means having to deal with the future in a very different way:
"To engage the future directly, we can practice coming toward the future with a way of knowing suited to its ongoing becoming. This means coming to each moment with an active not-knowing, aware that there is nothing to be known. If we are truly confident "anything can happen", we will find that the future activates a powerful new dynamic of knowledge. Because it never comes to be, it opens immeasurable opportunities – not for 'later', but 'right now', in the heart of a time that is no longer conceived in linear terms” (p.94). 
This other way of dealing with the future has extreme relevance to the work of helping people to heal from trauma. It requires a willingness to have a “panoramic perspective, an ability to know the future with clarity and imagination, and an energetic relationship with the dynamic of time that creates a sense of possibility” (p.196) . This stance and practice toward an undetermined future may be the single most important element in creating an environment that supports transformation, particularly given what we are learning about the ways in which the capacity to engage the future may be negatively impacted by the experience of trauma.
According to the definition, the word transformation means a marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better, occurring when something passes from one state or phase to another. Trauma, transforms people and organizations, although frequently not for the better. Certainly life is no longer the same and the individual person, family, or organization has experienced a change is state. Because of this, once transformed, simple, straightforward, linear, socially engineered change is not going to have much of an impact when what is necessary is yet another transformation to an entirely different, unpredictable, unpredicted and as yet, unknown state.
Imagining the future, Trauma and the Brain
"For many whose fate has been to suffer trauma, imagining a future that is different from the past is often a seemingly impossible task. How can these patients turn their perspectives around so their lives will feel less determined by the traumas of the past and may be inspired more by their as-yet-unrealized potential, their unknown and unknowable destiny? ."
S. Naider, (2006). Between Fate and Destiny, p.458.
Traumatized children and adults have adapted to adversity – that is why they are still alive. But once a traumatized person has adapted to adversity, they have established a new equilibrium that suits them to live in the environment of adversity but does not necessary prepare them to live anywhere else. If anything, change is more frightening for them because the changes they have experienced have been traumatic change. All humans struggle to maintain control over their environment, but the more threatening, dangerous and hurtful the environment has been, the more the issue of control becomes a life-and-death struggle – even when reality becomes far less threatening. Behaviorism as seen in so many treatment programs for children is a good example of this. How many children fail? For how many children is what we term “failure” actually meeting the child’s deeper needs that are never really addressed – attachment, neglect, loss? How many children do not achieve what they could because we set expectations too low?
Very deprived children, adolescents and adults living in urban environments are in steady-state equilibriums with their environment unless a shooting, imprisonment or death temporarily disrupts that equilibrium but that steady-state is re-established – in all its unrelenting dullness. The only excitement appears to be stimulated by violence which demands an increase in control measures. The larger dangers – of life failure – cannot be faced because there is little to arouse that sense of danger when immediate danger is so, well, immediate. As disturbing as their equilibrium state may look to an outsider, it is important to see that the diminished world so well-portrayed in movies and TV series like The Wire, of good guys and bad guys, cops and pushers, pimps and prostitutes is actually a horrific steady-state equilibrium. The challenge for treatment or intervention – individual or community - is, how do we disturb our clients’ equilibrium state sufficiently to move them toward the edge of chaos without precipitating chaos?
Managing from the future means exploring where treatment is or is not going: “what is the goal for this child/adult/family – where are we going with this case? Where do we want to get to? Where do they want to get to? Do we believe recovery is possible? Do we believe this person(s) can change? If they are not changing, what are we doing to prevent change?” These should be the kinds of questions that are raised steadily throughout the course of engagement with a client.
As it turns out, our deliberate focus on repetitively pushing clients to imagine the future – even the immediate future – is probably going to end up being an essential part of healing not just the soul, but the brain of traumatized people. New research indicates that some people with amnesia and possibly other memory problems associated with trauma, not only have difficulty recalling the past, they also have trouble imagining future experiences. It has long been known that damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain that's crucial to memory and learning, can cause amnesia. But it turns out that memory and imagination may be two sides of the same coin. "What we've shown is that people with amnesia really are stuck in the present. They can't recall the past, and now it seems that they can't even imagine the future or indeed richly imagine even fictitious experiences”  In this study, patients who'd suffered damage to the hippocampus were asked to imagine and describe in detail situations in commonplace settings, such as a pub, as well as plausible future events such as a Christmas party or a meeting with a friend. "We found that the role played by the hippocampus in processing memory was far broader than merely reliving past experiences… (The hippocampus) also seems to support the ability to imagine any kind of experience, including possible future events. In that sense, people with damage to the hippocampus are forced to live in the present” [6-7].
Collectively Imagining the Future: Large Group Interventions
Because in many organizations, the future has become inchoate as the pace of change has increased, a number of people have suggested and implemented different methods for approaching this idea of managing from the future. Many of these methods are considered to be “large group interventions” which means getting a large group of people in a room for a variable but prolonged period of time – usually a few days - and having them engage in a process of orienting toward the future and creating a shared vision [8-9]. The methods have some things in common including: 1) creating a future vision or contributing to something larger than themselves that compels people into action; 2) members of the organization or community collectively create a whole-systems view; 3) critical information is publicly available to members of the organization or community; 4) head, heart, and spirit of the members of the organization or community are evoked; 5) the power of the individual to contribute is unleashed; 6)it is recognized that knowledge and wisdom exist in the people in the organization or community; 7) everyone realizes that change is a process, not an event .
The Seven Disciplines for Transformative Leaders
Leaders are to a social system what a properly shaped lens is to light. They focus intention and do so for better or worse. If adaptive intention is required, the social system must be disturbed in a profound and prolonged fashion (p.40).
Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja, Surfing the Edge of Chaos
In their important book, Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja address the seven disciplines that leaders must pursue if they are to promote transformative change in their organization. According to the authors, the objectives of these seven disciplines are aimed at addressing the four principles of living systems: foster disequilibrium; surf the edge of chaos; unleash self-organization and cultivate emergence; disturb but don’t direct a living system. The same disciplines can be applied to therapists and counselors who recognize the need for transformative change in their clients. Let’s look at their seven disciplines as they may apply to the social service and mental health systems.
- Infuse an intricate understanding of what drives success
- Insist on uncompromising straight talk
- Manage from the future
- Reward inventive accountability
- Harness adversity by learning from prior mistakes
- Foster relentless discomfort
- Cultivate reciprocity between the individual and the organization
The disciplines help organizations sustain disequilibrium, thrive in near-chaos conditions, and foster self-organization. If taken to heart, they can also foster changes at the individual level. Indeed, they must be internalized if their far-reaching benefits are to be tapped at an organizational level (p. 229) .
Infuse an Intricate Understanding
The first discipline, infusing an intricate understanding of what drive success is key and perhaps, the most challenging, for many components of the social service system and definitely for the mental health system. It speaks to the long-standing inadequacy of defining what success is in the work we do. What exactly are the goals of a mental health treatment unit? To reduce recidivism? To reduce hospital days? If so, do we know that there is any relationship between the number of times someone comes in and out of the hospital, or a domestic violence shelter, or a substance abuse facility and their ability to function in the world, stay out of violent relationships, say sober, and raise healthy children? Often, success is simply determined by following the complex regulations of licensing agencies who also have not really defined success- so we just keep going in circles.
In the Sanctuary Model, we are much clearer about what success is in our clients, our staff, and our organizations. Trauma theory helps us understand what changes the clients should and can make to create lives that are generative and rewarding, not destructive to oneself or others.
We are after improvement – even a little bit – even under adverse conditions. For us, a person’s ability to function, including creating healthy environments for the next generation, is the criteria for success with our clients. In staff, it is an improvement in competency, kindness, efficiency, accountability and all that goes into honoring the Seven Commitments. For organizations, success is fully adopting the Seven Sanctuary Commitments, building a portfolio of successes with managers, staff, and clients, constantly developing new strategies to intervene in ever more complex situations, and being generative in a wide variety of ways.
In the Sanctuary Institute and the Sanctuary Implementation process, we support an intricate understanding by promoting a comprehensive understanding of the impact of adverse childhood experiences and trauma on biological, psychological, social and moral levels. We teach everyone in the system an understanding of how stress impacts them and help them come to terms with their own parallel processes. We help them establish clear connections between their overall strategy and individual performance and aim at improving the staff’s level of satisfaction so that each person is individually more able to play a positive role in every person’s healing and recovery.
Uncompromising Straight Talk
The second discipline, insisting on uncompromising straight talk is what we refer to as the Commitment to Open Communication. Leaders have to set the tone and create the environment of trust that allows conflict to emerge and be used as the energy for change. Leaders must see conflict as the vitally important drama of life that keeps the action moving. Without conflict, individuals and organizations get stale, bored, and boring. Leaders must find strategies to surface conflict, address conflict avoidance, create the environment for safe conflict, and embrace conflict themselves as the source of organizational learning.
Managing From the Future
Managing from the future is the third discipline and ties to our Commitment to Growth and Change, while the tool we use to navigate into this space we call S.E.L.F. – where “F” stands for “Future”. When managing from the future, leaders must set the bar and establish the organizational goals that draw the organizational members out of their comfort zones and gets them excited about the vision they want to become a part of.
Managing from the future can shift how people see the world. They come to believe that they are playing in a larger context that has revolutionary potential … The vision of the future (i.e. the attractor), like a magnetic or gravitational field, draws many small day-to-day contributions of collective intelligence into a constellation of concerted action. “Being it now” causes belief in the future to fuel daily activity….A good way to achieve this is through “back casting”. Imagine a highly ambitious goal. Make the goal as tangible and concrete as possible. Then describe “how it all came about” as if it had already happened. This is managing from the future….You can’t get there from here, but you can get here from there (p. 245-246).
Reward Inventive Accountability
The fourth discipline emphasizes both accountability and improvisation. Staff members must be free to innovate, in the moment, with a client and to use their own judgment to make key decisions that may have an immediate or long-term influence on success. Martial artist, Bruce Lee is quoted as saying “use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it” (p.44). In order to be able to improvise in a useful way and exercise good critical judgment, the Sanctuary Model asks people to make a Commitment to Emotional Intelligence and a Commitment to Democracy – both of which help individuals within a system and most particularly organizational managers, develop the skills they need to participate in a system of inventive accountability.
The Commitment to Nonviolence and the Commitment to Social Learning are all about harnessing adversity by learning from prior mistakes, the fifth discipline. “If it becomes safe for people to be accountable for breakdowns, it becomes possible for them to face failure squarely and they almost always take appropriate corrective actions”. It is up to leaders to create the climate that allows this discipline to flourish. This is expressed in the words of a Senior VP from Intel when he says “there is power in glorious failure. Failure is part of the culture of innovation. Accept it and you become stronger… We can now respond to any crisis ten times faster than before” (p.254).
The problem, of course, in human service delivery is that all too often, failure directly impacts people’s lives, and failure in mental health services, substance abuse treatment, child protection services can cost someone their life. However, in these dire circumstances, because the stakes are so high, it becomes vitally important to learn from whatever mistakes are made. But our systems do not readily lend themselves to learning from mistakes. Instead, the more punitive the climate the more individuals and organizations are driven to deny and hide their mistakes rather than learning from them. Organizational leaders to not have control over regulatory agencies above them but they can create climates within their own purview that do support organizational learning instead of organizational defensive routines.
The first level of harnessing adversity recontextualizes failure as a source of learning. This usually leads us to examine old norms and procedures that have unreasonably punished mistakes and foreclosed access to their instructive kernel. The second level of mastery arises when mechanisms are put in place that amplify mistakes into "show stoppers" and establish protocols to harvest learning. The third level of mastery builds in failure as part of the design. Accepting the premise of "adversity is life's best teacher" prepares us to welcome difficult challenges because of the failures that will be experienced .
Foster Relentless Discomfort
The sixth discipline is a little difficult for leaders to follow. Fostering relentless discomfort will rarely gain you many friends – at least not at first. This is not about making people uncomfortable by generating fear or guilt. It is by challenging each employee in the organization to constantly improve, do better, passionately push forward for more creative tension – rather like an artist is never fully satisfied with his creation but keeps painting again and again. As nice as the word “Sanctuary” is, when it comes down to practicing the Sanctuary Model, committing to the Seven Commitments means that the organization will be relentlessly uncomfortable.
But it is the seventh discipline that is the biggest responsibility of leadership and that is keeping it all together – cultivating the interactive reciprocity between the individual and the organization all the time. From a living system perspective all workers are knowledge workers.
If the goal is to maximize profit, it seems obvious to me that the best way to get there is to have happy people who are motivated to work. And the way you do that is to bring together different types of people, allow them to be themselves, get them behind the larger corporate vision, and then give them room to create. Above all, if you want breakthrough thinking and innovation – and you definitely do in this business to survive – then you have to cultivate those aspects of each employee’s personality…. Imagine if you could build a company that was capable of learning from all its experiences, as well as from other companies’ experiences. What you’d get is a new kind of asset: corporate wisdom. Now, combine that with the kind of compassion that accepts employees for who they really are, that motivates them to reach their potential, and you’d have something truly extraordinary. Dave Marsing, Plant Manager of Intel’s fabrication plant (p.278) .
This is the job of leadership and to the best of our knowledge so far, the Seven Sanctuary Commitments are the most effective way for a leader to inspire the workforce to follow these seven disciplines in the social service arena. Our profit cannot be measure in dollars but in human well-being and if we can reciprocally help the larger society place a higher value on universal human well-being we may too see a time when those of us who do this work are also more highly valued.
Transformation Means Disturbing the Equilibrium
All systems tend to stay in equilibrium and returned to equilibrium if balance is disrupted. It is a natural quality of living systems. An organization maintains equilibrium through persistent social norms, corporate values, and orthodox beliefs. These are the “attractors” in a system – the magnets that keep a system where it is and that draw it back if it is disrupted. It’s true that none of us can tolerate constant change but at the same time, prolonged equilibrium dulls the senses, saps our ability to recognize and respond to pending crises, and creates a boring and demoralized workforce. So one critical job of leaders is to be constantly disturbing equilibrium, creating discomfort, yes, but excitement as well.
The role of leaders in the Sanctuary Model is a very different one from traditional forms of leadership. For centuries now, social engineering premises have dominated the corporate world: the leader is the head, while the organization is the body and intelligence is centralized near the top and is to cascade downward once it has been decided what the leader wants the organization to accomplish. Leadership studies and methods in general reflect a world view of organization-as-machine so that the leader is the head and gives top-down orders that every subsequent level of a hierarchy obeys. Leaders focus on planning, control, and linear change. Traditional views of leadership grow out of the long-held view of organizations as equilibrium-seeking systems whose futures are knowable. There is in this a premise of predictable change. But as many corporate leaders have been discovering over the last two decades as change efforts have repeatedly failed (70% of the around the world, is that “social engineering as a context is obsolete – period” – ‘Living Systems’ isn’t a metaphor for how human institutions operate. It’s the way it is (p.14-15).
Newer work in complexity theory points to thinking about organizations – and leading them – along principles of emergent self-organization instead, where by multiple local agents interact and these interactions produced unintended outcomes without a central controller. produce perpetual novelty. What, then, is the role of leadership in complex organizations? If leaders cannot predict and control the organization's future, what do leaders do?.
In self-organizing systems, leaders facilitate processes that engage many people with different points of view. They focus on trust, coordination, integration and synthesis rather than mechanistic control and rather than distinguishing themselves so much by their individual efforts, they are the ultimate team players who know when to promote process and when to help the group come to a decision . This also means that leadership can be enacted collectively by a number of team members who lead based on the task at hand, timing, needs of the group and the demands of the moment. Researchers are beginning to think about leadership in teams as a set of distributed role requirements, rather than always being located in a single individual leader .
Interestingly, the idea of multiple or group leadership was discussed by Maxwell Jones in the 1960’s.
Multiple leadership is probably the most important aspect of leadership, and it is here that there is the greatest need for change. The hierarchical social structure of institutions, whether medical, industrial, or political, invests the leadership role with enormous power. There is probably an element of truth in the common statement that power corrupts. There is nothing wrong with authority as such, but its abuse leads to frustration and incompetence in organizations. Multiple leadership means the distribution of authority and power to many people, and even more important, to people who communicate freely in groups. This brings us to the fascinating concept of group leadership, which may well become increasingly important as therapeutic community principles are developed. Such a concept seems compatible with the ideal of making the optimal use of the potential within any one functional group or organization (p. xvi-xvii).
Focus on Strange Attractors
One of the roles of leadership in the Sanctuary Model is to focus on “strange attractors”. Strange attractors lure systems to the edge of chaos and arise from interactions between the system and its environment. They are generated in a co-emergent way, arising through the convergence of many factors within the organization and its environment. We envision the future and use it as a means to alter behavior now – the vision serve as the catalyst for the changes that have to happen . Trauma Theory – and the notion that we can get much better recovery from many more people if we use the science of post-traumatic stress to guide our understanding is one “strange attractor” in the Sanctuary Model. Another is a vision of working in a healthier, more diverse, more democratic, safer, more pleasurable, more exciting and challenging environment that is provided by the Seven Sanctuary Commitments and the process of Sanctuary Implementation that they engender.
Cultivate From the Fringes and Seek Diversity
Another guideline for leaders is to “cultivate from the fringes” – it is out there on the edge, the new things, the things that sound “way out there” where creativity and innovation are generated. Organizations are more likely to extrude the fringes rather than cultivate them, developing its own kind of organizational antibodies to anything that might upset its carefully maintained equilibrium.
How many years have we spent tweaking ineffective strategies, building complex regulatory systems for approaches that don’t work anyhow? We have systemically been steadily decreasing variety in personnel, in treatment approaches, in expectations, in interpersonal relationships - and it is killing us. “The survival of any system depends on its capacity to cultivate, not just tolerate, variety in its internal structure. Failure to do so will result in an inability to cope successfully with variety when it is introduced from an external source”(p.20) . Leaders must seek diversity in every way – race, age, gender, sexual preference, class, experience, education, opinion – to generate creative options.
Sanctuary: Not Just a Place But An Orchestra
We have often used musical metaphors to explain the process of Creating Sanctuary, often referring to it as improvisational jazz. Recently we came across a book describing The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, one of the most famous musical ensembles in the world. The musicians of Orpheus have been producing music out of Carnegie Hall and around the world for over three decades. Recently, their long-time consultant released a book describing the Eight Orpheus Principles and we were struck by the similarities to the principles of the Sanctuary Model.
The Eight Orpheus Principles
Like most human service organizations, most orchestras typically have a powerful leader known as the conductor. The conductor is the brain of the orchestra and it is his/her job to integrate the various individual components of the orchestra and regulate their output. It is largely the conductor who decides what music is going to be played and how it will be played.
Unlike this typical format, Orpheus is a leadership orchestra. At every stage of rehearsal and performance, the musicians are deeply engaged in their own parts and aware of the thousands of things that are going on around them so they can simultaneously evaluate the mix, balance, and direction of the entire group. Each player is responsible for his or her individual performance and constantly strives to meet the technical demands of the music. At the same time, he or she is also taking personal responsibility for the outcome of the group effort, giving painstaking attention to the thousands of details that ultimately shape the design and interpretation of a musical program. Leadership changes with every new piece that the orchestra collectively decides they wish to perform and leadership occurs in teams that they call “cores”. The key to their performances is open communication, learning constantly from whatever mistakes occur and actively surfacing and resolving conflicts . The Eight Orpheus Principles include:
- Put power in the hands of the people doing the work
- Encourage individual responsibility
- Create clarity of roles
- Share and rotate leadership
- Foster horizontal teamwork
- Learn to listen, learn to talk
- Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus
- Dedicate passionately to your mission
Link to Mirsky, The Sanctuary Model: A Restorative Approach for Human Services Organizations
Link to Bloom, S. L. (1998) By The Crowd They Have Been Broken, By The Crowd They Shall Be Healed: The Social Transformation Of Trauma
Link to Bloom, S. L. (2010) Change Starts with a Vision
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