The Choice

Rewilding purposively engineers showdowns for my students.

For every student, there comes a time when the project calls her forth. She possesses a particular bit of expertise, knowledge, or understanding that we need. Only she can do what needs to be done. We step back. She steps forward, leaves our surrounding presence, and moves to the center of the arena where she has a choice: execute her part of the project or exit the arena.

What will she do?

We are asking her to do something none of us do naturally. So, as you can imagine, this moment animates all her demons (self-doubt, self-sabotage, and self-reproach).  They want her to exit the arena. And, they are powerful. But, so is our Tribe.

Where does our Tribe draw its power?

The exclusive stance we take in the world.

The screening process, the rituals, the shared experiences, and the sixteen weeks of training are designed to set us apart from others.

It creates an US versus THEM mentality.

There are insiders. There are outsiders.

We are who we are. They are who they are.

The articulation of our 11 Promises, the inculcation of our culture, and the telling and retelling of stories of alumni who have gotten sick, thrown up and gotten back to work are intended to create a set of behavioral expectations.

This is who we are. This is what we are about. This is how we act. This is how we react. This is what it means to be one of US. Not everyone can be one of US. You want to be one of US.

This US versus THEM dichotomy is the key pedagogical tool of Rewilding.

It is what she needs while she stands in the center of the arena.

It is in there that the US versus THEM dichotomy transforms into US (Her Tribe) versus THEM (Her Demons). Her demons are the real THEM. Not others outside the Tribe. The same goes for all of us. We wage our struggle for freedom against THEM. Our demons are the only THEM that matter.

Her choice is a choice between US or THEM (Her Demons).

By choosing US, she chooses to execute. Executing is not easy. It’s downright costly. She puts herself at risk. She exposes herself to critique. And, she opens herself up to failure.

She can avoid these costs by exiting the arena. However, this choice is not without cost either. She is one of US. She made a set of promises. She internalized our culture. This choice to exit the arena breaks those promises. It contravenes our culture. She cannot make this choice without feeling guilty.

She is also part of a deeply connected community of like-minded individuals whom she respects. She desires respect in turn. However, this choice will diminish her standing in the eyes of the Tribe.

So, let me speak plainly.

Guilt and Shame wait for her if she exits the arena. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with that conclusion. I despise shame. I was a victim of shame (a lot of us were and are). But, I am also a student of Sun Tzu. Sometimes some of us need the door to our escape route barred, locked and welded shut.

One of the reasons she will choose to execute her part of the project is because it is too costly not to.

Yet, Rewilding is much more than the creation of costs that push her forward.

It is also about creating loving, trusting communities of imperfect individuals who know what it’s like to fail. On the other side of her demons, she will find love, encouragement, cheering and the exchanging of high fives pulling her through.

Win or lose. My students needed to know that they could hold my ground.

We are all here to create, construct and call for the future. We used to know how to do these things. They came to us naturally when we were young. However, we were educated to forget those abilities by those in power. Indeed, I think its fair to say that those in power have at times conspired with our demons to keep us from exercising our creative potential.

Its time to give our demons a long overdue smack on the nose.

Let me say that our use of shame is neither overt nor explicit. There is no public defrocking or discommendation. There is no finger wagging or name calling. It comes down to the fact that the project compels us to move forward without those who choose not to work.