Listening to the System

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By Faith Fuller

It’s an open secret that ORSC practitioners hold themselves not only as coaches, but also as change agents and world workers. I think it is inherent to being a systems worker to move on to ever more complex systems. We may begin with coaching individuals (the first system), then pairs and teams, but as our capacity to hold systems evolves it is natural that we begin to be aware of the larger systemic issues of organizations, societies, countries. It is the growing interest and involvement in ever larger systems that develops us towards being world workers. It also keeps us forever humble for as soon as we get comfortable at one level there is always a larger and hairier system to challenge us. It’s impossible to get bored in this business!

As we work with ever more complex systems it’s important to be grounded. Not the grounded of a fixed position, but the groundedness that is the stillness in the center of the storm; the flexible groundedness of a martial artist who is ready to move in any direction. As we evolve as systems workers our capacity to read the energy, or the emotional field, becomes more important. Even the relatively small systems of couples can be like 500 pound gorillas; it is very difficult to try and counter the direction that they want to go. Instead we have to meet systems where they are and watch for energetic shifts in the direction that indicate where that system needs to go. It is much easier to support a system to go in the direction its inherent health is taking it, (even if that direction is to dissolve.) There is a wonderful Indian epigram that says, “You can help an elephant that is trying to get up, but you can’t help an elephant that is falling down.” Great systems workers know how to align with and support the energetic direction of the system.


The ORSC model is tool heavy, yay! We have lots of wonderful practical skills and practices we can bring to bear. Yet these tools must always be in service to an awareness of the emotional field, of what is trying to happen, or even the best tool is doomed to failure. For me it brings a new awareness of the meaning of “the clients’ agenda.” The system is always signaling to us its agenda, where it needs to go if we pay attention to the signals in the field.

We see this often in certification supervision. As coaches, in our enthusiasm to try out a new and shiny tool we can become tone deaf. We have a hammer, and by god, everything in that system is going to be a nail, whether it needs it or not! This isn’t really a problem, but an inevitable stage in our development in learning our craft. It’s just important to remember to listen first. If we listen closely to what the system is signaling, then the right tool (or no tool) is easier to find. Here is a handy exercise for learning to listen to the energetic or emotional field. Watch your favorite television program with a pad of paper in hand. Just sketch out the emotional shifts; where does the energy rise or fall? What is the quality of the EF, choppy? Smooth, hot, cold? Play with just watching the energy and let it tell you what it needs.

In service of becoming more in touch with emotional field energies, I’ll be doing some blog posts on the 4 Buddha Family Energies, which are Pacifying, Enriching, Magnetizing and Destroying. So if that sounds intriguing- stay tuned!

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