In his book Mindsight, Dan Siegel writes about integration as the “way we avoid a life of dull, boring rigidity on the one hand or explosive chaos on the other”. His thinking about integration is influenced by complexity science.
He talks about the importance of finding some middle ground between chaos and rigidity where the flow of independent voices are linked in a way that maximises both complexity and vitality.
“Complexity theory examines systems that are capable of becoming chaotic and are open to receiving input from outside themselves. Thinking in systems terms requires that we focus on the relationships among the elements that interact to compose the ‘system’…A complex system is said to regulate its own emergence…Self organisation emerges from the interactions among the basic elements that comprise the system.”
Siegel goes on to talk about a healthy mind, which naturally got me thinking about a healthy group or team. He describes a harmonious flow that is at once flexible, adaptive, coherent, energised and stable. But some days we lean towards rigidity – and feel stuck. At other times we lean toward chaos – and feel out of control. But mostly “we sense the familiar but are not trapped by it. We live at the threshold of the unknown and have the courage to move into new and unchartered waters. This is living a life as it unfolds, moment by moment, in a flowing journey between rigidity and control.”
This is the challenge of disruptive facilitation.
I’ve always found lots of inspiration from fields outside of facilitation. While Siegel talks at length about domains of integration for personal well-being, four really stand out as necessary for the well-being of groups (which, after all, are made up of a bunch of individuals).
The integration of consciousness This is about building skills to stabilise attention so that we can harness the power of awareness to create choice and change. In other words, being present, noticing, making choices..
Horizontal integration This is about linking the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Neither dominates, they inform each other.
Vertical integration At last! Something that validates the importance of noticing what our body is telling us. If we ignore our senses and bodily sensations we might live a life of ‘flattened feelings and perceptions’. This integration enables us to tap into our deeper knowing, and intuition. In other words, sometimes, your body knows before your brain does.
Narrative integration The importance of stories, of ourselves, of our experiences, of others.
And I’ve left the best until last. Siegel says “Whether my audience is parents or teachers, therapists or scientists, I know that the best way to help them grasp the power of integration is through immersion in direct experience.“
There’s the message for facilitation! Integration is not something that is abstract or theoretical. How often have you been asked about integration? How do we integrate our programs? How do we overcome silo mentality? Integration begins with ourselves as individuals, amongst individuals in a group and then, maybe, beyond that. Tackling integration in the absence of the human dimension just doesn’t make sense and is bound to fail.
Immersion in direct experience of integration. Right there is my latest, favourite description of disruptive and improvisational facilitation.