Home Concepts Managing Stress & Challenges Finding Sanctuary in a World of Complexity, Unpredictability and Turbulence

Finding Sanctuary in a World of Complexity, Unpredictability and Turbulence

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We may have similar need for a “storm home” as adults working in a highly turbulent world. The “storm home” of the mind may be created through use of a technique or ritual that provides internal support and encouragement for our difficult decisions and risk­ taking behavior. In essence, we pat ourselves on the back or find a way (through meditation, daydreaming or quiet reflection) to calm ourselves down and gain a sense of reassurance. A colleague of mine who presides over an educational institution found that he could gently touch his forehead when under stress and evoke with this touch a sense of personal calmness. These moments of personal sanctuary during the day may be essential components in any postmodern survival kit. Another colleague ensures that she set aside one day each week for her writing. A third friend insists on swimming in the San Francisco Bay every day during lunchtime. In each instance, an internal sanctuary that is “safe and strong” has been created for both healing and reflection.


Many types of sanctuaries are available to us has inhabitants of the 21st Century. Some of these are quite beneficial, others are destructive . The safe spaces within our heads sometimes take the rather destructive form of projections upon our leaders. Our Tavistock colleagues suggest that we project onto our leader all of our own wisdom and knowledge. We perceive them as wise and compassionate people, when in fact they may be quite the opposite. This basic perception often prevents members of a group from “growing up” and when they do tend to grow up there often is a “revolution” in which the king or queen (i.e. , the leader) is deposed and replaced by one of the other members of the group. This cycle of dependency and counter-dependency is replicated again and again, leaving the group without continuity or an effective plan for group member maturation.

Alternatively, we project our aggressive attitudes onto the leader and make him or her a great warrior, or project our dreams and aspirations onto the leader and make this person into a great visionary. In the case of these latter two forms of projection, there is a swing back and forth from admiration of the leader to disillusionment — much as in the case of dependency on the leader. All three sets of assumptions provide temporary “storm homes” when we are faced with the need to make decisions and establish commitments in a relativistic, postmodern context.

In his essay written more than two decades ago on the spiritual hollowness of the baby boom generation, George Sim Johnston (1990) identified four other types of destructive sanctuaries that seem to be still prevalent. He suggests that these sanctuaries may provide a “manipulable sense of well-being.” One of these sanctuaries is sexuality — the obsession with seduction and the almighty orgasm. Unfortunately, this sanctuary in organizational life has often been employed by men, at the expense of women employed in the organization. A second destructive sanctuary, according to Johnston, has been politics. This sanctuary was particularly prevalent during the Viet Nam war years and has recently regained popularity with the threat of internal and external terrorism. War and politics become wonderful distractions from our immediate problems and concerns.

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