Lasers, Walls, and Relationships

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra

My name is Allison, and I shoot lasers from my eyes.

Ok, I can’t literally shoot lasers from my eyes, but it certainly feels that way when I am in a reactive mode.  Sometimes it’s like a wall comes up between the world and me.  The atmosphere becomes more sterile.  My emotions and thoughts are packaged away as much as possible.  Reacting consumes quite a bit of internal energy.  Welcome to The Protector.

I listened to a visualization exercise a while ago that has stuck with me.  The topic was about relationships and vulnerability, or as the recording called it, “intimacy.”  Just hearing the i-word at the beginning of the recording caused a flutter of panic, but I kept listening.

I visualized the setting of a recent significant conversation.  I recalled the feelings of wanting to lean in and yet holding back and not knowing what to do or say and realizing that I was holding my breath so then I tried to breathe normally as I sat very still because I didn’t want to disrupt the moment as my friend talked about something deeply personal.  And as the visualization guide instructed me to picture a wall between the two of us, I happily envisioned a black marble slab that spanned vertically as high as I could see.  I imagined the cold, smooth texture against my hands.  I felt safe touching the wall.  Best wall ever.

Then the guide requested that I remove the wall.  So soon?  I was just getting to know my feelings from the safety of this side of the wall, and now I was slowly removing chunks of the wall.  I would peek over the top at my friend and then hide behind the remaining wall.  Piece by piece, the wall came down.  This was it: intimacy.  Seeing and being seen.  I realized I was holding my breath during the visualization.

What is it about a wall that is so appealing?  I think there’s an air of possibility that comes from the wall.  With a wall, we can be both connected and not.  Without a wall, it is one or the other.  It’s like a Schrodinger’s cat scenario where not removing the wall leaves the possibility of emotions open to imagination.  Removing the wall means intimacy.  Scary!  Which is why I shoot lasers from my eyes.  The lasers of you-should-know-better.  Lasers of don’t-tell-me-that-I-failed-you.  Lasers of this-is-important-and-I’m-disappointed.  The disappointment burns inside and finds its way out of my eyes to the rest of the world.  Self: protected.  World: potentially injured.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and I’m working on it.  I remember how wonderful it felt to be embraced in a really long hug by a fellow coach last year.  It had to be at least 10 seconds of hugging.  Wonderful.  I hold back from proposing such hugs with the people who have made it into my acceptable-for-hugging circle because I haven’t found the words, but I do try to put extra care into the hugs I receive from them and hope the other person recognizes that which is unsaid: you matter to me.

Some relationships may be formed easily and some take more time, but I do not form relationships lightly.  It means I see you for what you are and what you can become, and I delight in it all enough to let you see me too.  That’s why I’m learning to power down the lasers and tear down walls.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.