The question of why there is so much suffering in major transitions is really quite simple. It is caused by a combination of people from the old order clinging on desperately to what is ready to be released and people from the new order passionately obsessed with forming the new without honoring the foundations of the past that the new has emerged from. When we hold on to what is ready to be released we are afraid of losing what we know. When we obsessively push ahead with the new we are afraid of being pulled back into the old. Both responses are based on a lack of wholeness ourselves. Both are running away from something, one the inevitability of renewal and the other the embrace of the good in the old.

So all we need to do is be ready to release that which is longer fit for purpose while honoring the past for what it has given us, and integrating the foundation stones of the path we have walked so far. This is the difference between an ecstatic birth and a traumatic birth. Which we choose is up to us.


  1. You nailed it. Amen.
    Both camps feel uncertainty, instability, unpredictability, and that is IMO biologically programmed to be uncomfortable and is an appropriate and useful feeling/information in most historical contexts. It seems to me we’re just evolving into learning we can USE that feeling beneficially or productively. To learn to use uncertainty for growth, to even find delight in it, that’s a meta-skill of living.
    I’m going to share your perspective among some folks heavily into the current transitions! We’re in ’em so we would do well to minimize the pain, thank you very much, LOL!!

    Do you have any other suggestions for ways to put your insight into practice, of both releasing and honoring? I know there is an entire literature on “How to Deal with Change” but I bet it’s time for some fresh wisdom around that.

  2. Peter,

    I appreciate your articles, “Suffering in Transition” and “The Role of Pain and Tension in Evolutionary Leadership” and felt you left an essential door unopened to a deeper truth regarding role of evolution.

    It appears you speak to suffering, pain or tension as role or feature in evolution when it is the PATH. Why, because it is where our resistance is and what stops the consciousness and form(s) needed for further evolution to continue. In all of my best work … translated to the most substantial transformations leading to concrete measurable results, it was not led by concepts, words or understanding but to the degree I could recognize, accept and embody the suffering, pain and tension surrounding the realities they were operating within.

    It was upon my embodiment of their realized and unrealized realties that provided me moment by moment guidance to a process that allowed them to access a level of consciousness of where they needed to put their attention most that could leverage the amount energy needed to successfully actualize their intention into reality.

    Until one realized THE primary role this takes in human evolution, they cannot recognize the essential skills needed, i.e., use of language and other behaviors required to truly operate on the edge of evolutionary forces we are experiencing.

    Thank you for the opportunity in opening this inquiry!


    • Thanks for your great comment Robert. I do believe that engaging the pain plays a key role in major transitions. At the same I believe there are other roles which are played in parallel. For example, there are those who sense the emerging future so clearly that they just go ahead and start creating it, and although they witness the suffering and can empathize, it is not their primary focus. They keep prototyping and learning. They suffer less because they are not attached to the past, but are also not running away from it. This is also a key role I believe. So yes, suffering as one key role playing a key function, but not collapsed into all that evolution is. What do you reckon?

  3. Peter,

    Thank you for the reply and the continued opportunity to engage on this topic!

    I think your response is at a different level than the intent of my comment.

    Your point is well taken in regard to learning how to create from dynamic tension of a given situation. As reflected at IDEO (the world’s most successful design consultant) in supporting innovation of new products and services …. Or what Theory U attempts to create from presence of Open Will to prototype and pilot your latest creation.

    And under balanced conditions of human affairs, I would agree. But what I am pointing at is not balanced and is going out of balanced with alarming exponential forces of increasing complexity and velocity.

    There is a balance issue here. Yes, there are other focuses but since we humans have practiced through our cultures and social systems an on-going trait of denial and/or only the degree of openness that we can get away with, our historical habits has placed a significant imbalance in the process you are suggesting. We need to pay more attention to our resistance to what is because it is so ingrained in our culture and us. I recognize your response is appropriate from a teacher or consultant to always consider a balanced perspective but when reality has a significant imbalance, it does not seek a gentle path but a deeply confronting path back to center.

    In my experience of working with senior managements of emerging and established technology companies that operate in fast moving complex changing environments that are more and more reflecting humanity at large, your suggestion in working with parallel roles is true but we often want to escape the universe’s role of re-organizing ourselves to meet the reality of what is truly going on. We want to spend time and positive energy in the creative process…. Full of potential rather grounding ourselves in the complex reality we live in.

    A clarification of terms. Pain or suffering is not pain or suffering but our resistance to our inability to hold the creative tension required to be non resistance to what is in a given situation which opens our awareness to path(s) required to reach a sustainable response within the time frames required.

    Pain is not my focus but the primary experience that allows you to reorganize at the same level as the issue.

    What good does is do if we continue to create and prototype from a context (our present cultures and social systems) that can’t meet the deeper and broader human realities that has been created? Yes we feel good and we might create products, ideas, systems or approaches that others values and praise but still NOT the creative tension required to truly address the foundation of the chaos points we are confronting as humans!

    With all the above stated, I recognize again the severe limits of written communication to completely understand each other contexts.

    Thank you again for this opportunity!

    • Thanks Robert. I agree, in particular with the need to really dig deep before we go into visioning and prototyping, otherwise it remains grounded in the old defunct paradigm. Only by really letting go, which is where engaging pain is involved, can we drop into deep presencing out of which a truly new future can emerge.
      At the same time, it is my experience that there are people already around who inhabit a new paradigm and hold creative tension to such an extent that emphasising to them the pain is not relevant to their experience. It only holds them back.
      I guess what this points to for me is discerning where people are in the change cycle in relationship to a really new paradigm, and supporting them with the kind of intervention that would help them take the next natural step. That may be to really face reality and the tension that creates, or it may be to trust in the knowing they already have and go out there and prototype.
      Thanks for continuing the inquiry!

  4. Just came across this discussion and found it fascinating, as it is a paradox which I have struggled with in my work at a business school and as a psychotherapist – at the basis of which are the processes of change. I’m very aware of people who appear to be inhabiting a new paradigm and evolving/creating with great success within this – and inhabit part of this world myself at times. I do believe there is a danger at this edge however, that the work does not penetrate, witness and hold the depths that I meet in myself and in the psychotherapy practice – and yet it is often those in the depths who eventually emerge with a greater insight into cycles of change having undergone them consciously.They probably understand the ever-existing need for consciously balancing the mind and body and in that sense can tolerate and ‘bear with’ the suffering of others quite willingly, as they understand the routes out. Put another way, it will be ever present in the ‘field’ of communication, even in the new paradigm, but held with compassion.

    As the older structures are collapsing, what I am witnessing is those in the old paradigm appropriating the processes of the new paradigm, attempting to commodify the processes, which then need to evolve into yet a different form.

    Maybe the discussion could be rearticulated through the Buddha’s noble truths:

    there is suffering
    the understanding of what suffering is
    There is a path that leads from suffering
    The noble eight fold path to lead from suffering

    As the world evolves and globalises – maybe part of our task is to understand suffering both at an individual and a collective level?

    Thus, within the new paradigm the understanding means that one creates always with the furtherment of the collective as the overarching vision – so that suffering is consciously present in the field – and nothing gets excluded ?

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