In The Book of Awakening, Nepo (2000) shares a painful childhood experience in which he was “slapped with a vengeance” first by his mother, and then by his father. He describes immediately constructing a psychological wall. According to M. Scott Peck, emotionally abused children build massive mental defenses to survive the onslaught.
These same dynamics occur at work when we are singled out, sabotaged, shouted act, “spanked,” or scolded. Employees’ performance is of course subpar when avoiding punishment becomes their primary concern. Furthermore walls (whether physical or invisible) are not conducive to communication.
Acts designed to flex the muscle of power holders do a disservice not only to recipients, but to organizations that are unable to reach past self-imposed structures. Psychological walls are analogous to the tightly delineated, mechanistic physical structures reminiscent of bureaucracy. Outright abuse, negligence, and ignoring others’ bad behavior all contribute to employee moat building. The process comes full circle when we self-abuse – when we build back doors for ourselves within companies, and when we perpetuate the cycle of bullying through giving birth to negative thought. Low self-esteem is thus others’ hatred projected outward. Employees so treated become avoiders of predatory personalities, and more likely to become their future victims.
Despite his home life, Nepo explains that his spirit – that indomitable part of himself bigger than any outside force – shone through. Our true selves can unfold (in less than optimal circumstances) when we speak with conviction.
Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.