November 14, 2023

Creating Safe Spaces At Work: A Q&A Episode

In part two of this special Q&A series, Thomas answers more of the thoughtful questions submitted by listeners during his recent live event with Dr. Gabor Maté. This Q&A centers on topics explored in Thomas’ recently released book – Attuned. In this episode, Thomas discusses the impact of individual healing and attunement on larger social systems, and what is needed to create more grounded, attuned, and trauma-informed workplaces.

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“Every internal healing integration process naturally also has a collective impact.”

- Thomas Hübl

Guest Information

Thomas Hübl

Thomas Hübl is a renowned teacher, author, and international facilitator whose work integrates the core insights of the great wisdom traditions and mysticism with the discoveries of science. Since the early 2000s, he has been facilitating large-scale events and courses that focus on meditation and mindfulness-based awareness practices, as well as the healing and integration of trauma.

His non-profit organization, The Pocket Project, works to support the healing of collective trauma throughout the world. He is the author of the book Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds.

His new book Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World is available now wherever books are sold. Visit attunedbook.com for links to order it online.

For more information, visit thomashuebl.com

Notes & Resources

Here are the questions that Thomas addresses in this episode:

  • How would you describe the relationship between individual healing, relational attunement, and systems change?
  • Individual and collective trauma are at play in most workplaces. How can we relationally attune in busy work environments?

Episode Transcript

Michelle Stransky: Welcome to the Point of Relation. I’m Michelle, producer of the podcast. This is part two of a Q&A series with Thomas.

In September, Thomas hosted a live event with Gabor Maté in celebration of his new book, “Attuned.” For that event, we invited participants to submit their questions for Thomas and Gabor during this podcast series. We’re asking Thomas some of the questions that he and Gabor did not have time to answer during the live event. So thank you to all those who submitted their questions, and we’ll get through as many as we can.

So, first up is this question for you, Thomas: How would you describe the relationship between individual healing, relational attunement, and systems change?

Thomas Hübl: I think the beauty of healing trauma is post-traumatic growth, obviously, that expresses itself through deeper personal integration. So we feel more energy. We feel more related. We feel more creative, more grounded. We feel more connected to life versus looking at life. We feel more as an integral part of than somebody sitting on the fence looking at what’s happening.

So there is like we are coming more and more into life, but it’s not just an unconscious involvement. It’s like being in life and having the capacity to still have enough inner space to also witness our own in the process as we participate. That’s different from being in something and being lost, like unconsciously lost in the process. Personal integration work deepens our relational experience, dispels some layer by layer, some aspects of separation. And shows us – reveals more and more interdependence. The interconnectedness that we are an integral part of and more we are the ecosystem. We are not just a part of the ecosystem. We are that.

So individual integration creates freeing up movement, creativity, which is an individual gain, but it’s also really a collective contribution. But it also melts a bit the separation between individual self and collective self, so that it opens up those layers that these are not two different parts of life, but they are a continuum. They are like a flow and movement system. So that means I am an individual with a specific quality – at the same time, I am also the ecosystem. I’m also the collective. I am also the ancestral data flow.

If we want to take it deeper spiritually, I’m also a much deeper perspective that goes beyond all these separate forms it seems that we can name. And the inner work is giving us access to that fluid continuum participation in life.

It also means that if our relational capacities grow, we are less fragmented and fragmenting. We are less othering, not just parts of ourselves, but also in the relationship to society. We are less polarizing and more able to host polarization. We are able to host conflicts. We are more able to host differences. That means that naturally, our contribution becomes more unifying by nature, not because now I’m trying to be less polarizing because my integrated interior is naturally creating less polarization. It’s not a mental moral stance – it’s an embodied way of living. It’s like walking my talk.

So that also creates more. When I feel more grounded in myself, when I feel I integrate more and more of my fears, then I feel naturally more secure and safe and related wherever I am, which means I can also contribute more generosity and more holding when people around me feel stressed or feel afraid because it triggers less of my own fears so I can be more available for it. And it’s not going to trigger me.

The opposite – it will bring more of my compassion and my care. And that’s why my own internal integration becomes naturally ecosystemically active. Because that way of groundedness and more regulated nervous system, more relationality will affect my environment: where I work, my family system, me as a parent, as a citizen, I will naturally create that around myself, not because I want to create it, because it’s a great idea or a great way of living, but because I’m creating it naturally by the way I am.

So every internal healing integration process naturally also has a collective impact. On top of that is also the willingness in myself to contribute, to give and to be of service and to notice how what was once my own traumatization and wounding because I spent more and more time to heal and integrate that I become a remedy.

So I want to engage and often these things call me then because I feel I developed actually a capacity that I can pass on. So my trauma turns more and more into wisdom. Wanting to be more engaged, being less defensive, being more unifying, and less subject to polarization means my contribution will naturally reach areas in society that I wasn’t able to be active in before because of my own internal or unconscious enrollment in certain levels of polarization and societal fragmentation.

So there are many ways how individual work becomes systemically active and also that our motivation, our resilience, our courage, our compassion, our love is growing and we want to be in this life. We want to be active in society, not because it’s good, not because it’s a career, but because we feel it’s a natural consequence of the essence of who we are.

That’s also why I often say our deepest humanity is our highest possibility. Which means the more we ground ourselves and heal, we become more human. And we become more ourselves. There’s less need for that kind of behavior that we need to put in place in order to fit, in order to belong, in order to feel safe. And so it makes us feel more authentic, more real, more grounded. Also, in many ways, sometimes more simple. But that groundedness becomes the vessel for the higher spiritual potential, the higher updating potential that lives in us: the creativity, to also manifest more in the world.

So that’s why so often that in our deepest humanity, the more we ground ourselves in the world, the higher potential can really express itself in us and impact the world. I think that’s a deeply beautiful process and a very needed process, and I think systemically very, very relevant, including all the systemic sensing capacities and a deeper perspective that I’m not trying to fix things outside of myself in the society, but that I’m more and more deeply connected to the things that I saw before as external problems, I changed my relationship to that and that’s why I am also more effective in engaging those and being part of a change. Yeah, so maybe I think there’s so much more to say, obviously, but maybe we keep it here.

Michelle Stransky: I love that concept that we are the remedy and that our individual and relational actions can ripple out into the collective. That’s great.

And for this next question, you touched on it a little bit in your response to the previous one, but maybe you can expand on it a little bit more, this is from Caitlin.

She asked: Individual and collective trauma are at play in most workplaces. How can we relationally attune in busy work environments?

Thomas Hübl: Yes, let’s first look at the word “busy.” There is busy in the sense that there is a lot to do. And there’s busy in the sense of sometimes conscious, often unconscious traumatic stress in our systems individually, ancestrally, and collectively, creates a basis of busyness on which a lot to do busyness lends. So there’s often a mix between a higher baseline stress level and a lot to do, and maybe the collective synchronization of many people having higher baseline stress levels.

Even if everybody or many people have 10% more stress through attachment trauma or other traumatization or ancestral trauma transmissions, that increases just by 10% distress in an organization. Let’s say it’s just a number as an example, and that 10% higher stress level is the basis on which the busyness of the day-to-day workloads landing, including all the trigger moments when somebody gets triggered, gets stressed, talks to another person in a power-over way. There’s fear. There’s all kinds of dynamics or behaviors: the conflict, friction, passive-aggressive behaviors, and so on.

So there’s a whole dynamic. So when we say it’s busy, we mix some of those. So one important aspect of a more attuned way of creating workplaces is to become aware of that underlying stress, to develop together a more regulated way of living in our own bodies, emotions, nervous systems, and then re-relating a more regulated way as we form organizations, so that will already decompress a lot.

And then, on the second level of our development, we are increasing our capacity to attune to each other, to practice “I feel you feeling me,” I feel the team that I have a meeting with. I am somebody that holds a bigger relational awareness with the board meeting. I am more aware of everybody in the state as we are having those meetings. I am more aware of the tensions in the room, the difficult conversations that need to be had. But they are not being created or being initiated.

So there are unspoken things in the organization that create more stress. So there is a heightened awareness of the social, relational, and cultural environment in organizations that can be trained and learned, that will improve the holding capacity.

Then, of course, that needs individual training and development, but it also needs a collective awareness that in organizations, especially in organizations where traumatic events happened, like massive layoffs, scandals, transgressions, ecological disasters, pain has been inflicted on other cultures, indigenous populations through the way business is being practiced and many, many other things. Or COVID, for example, in some of the organizations where COVID left a lot of mistrust. There’s disrelatedness between employees and organizations. There’s less trust in leadership. There’s less trust in maybe opinions that we held during COVID that were conflicting. And so we need digestion spaces. Organizations also need to create spaces where the ecosystemic stuff that gets accumulated can be looked at, made transparent, made adjusted, be integrated, and channeled into new growth.

So in all of that, attunement, relational awareness building, but also trauma informedness, this is important because all of it is needed in order to upgrade our cultural holding spaces. See also biases, overt or covered-up racism, antisemitism, gender inequality – so that the different levels of collective trauma that resides in our societies become more visible for the organization to use that visibility as a growth dimension that creates a bigger, better, more fair, more just environment for us to work together and to flourish together.

So I think it’s very, very important that there are trauma-informed organizations, trauma-informed leaderships, trauma informed coaching and consulting. There’s trauma-informed kind of governmental activity that helps us to create those collective structures we need in order to take care of our collective health and many, many more aspects that I think derived from what I just said.

So I think that’s a very, very important question. Sometimes we say, oh, because of the fact that we’re very busy – it’s not possible that X, Y, or Z.

I think first of all, that’s not true. It might seem that way, but in order to catalyze systemic change processes in organizations, we have to begin somewhere to develop practices, skill building, and also maybe leadership development in order to change our systems without needing to stop them for a long time and go through a healing process that is not compatible with business practice. I think there are ways to implement that. And I also see in my own work how many organizations are actually ready and open and want to do that change. So it’s definitely possible.

Michelle Stransky: That’s great and exciting to hear and imagine more trauma-informed workplaces where many of us spend our time are possible. So that’s great. Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for today. We do have more questions, so we’ll explore doing more Q&A episodes in the future.

If you want to dive deeper again into some of these concepts, please go ahead and order your own copy of “Attuned.” You can see where to order that at https://www.attunedbook.com/

We’d love to hear your feedback about the podcast. You can write to us if you go to https://pointofrelationpodcast.com/ and please be sure to leave us a review and rating wherever you listen to podcasts, let us know how you liked the Q&A episodes, and we’ll be back with another episode next week. Thanks so much