Development and Regression: heads or tails, which side of the coin?

We live in a world of paradoxes, of contrasts and of juxtapositions. Since the global credit crunch this has become more obvious in the western world. While some people say “what recession? I’ve never had it so good” other people are wondering when the misery caused by the financial meltdown will ever end. This has created new challenges relating to the deeper FACTS.

In Chapter 10 of Challenging Coaching we talk about the evolution of individuals within society. The support and challenge matrix described throughout Challenging Coaching is expanded into a freedom and responsibility grid. In this context, as freedom and responsibility increases, individuals naturally develop from dependence, through independence and finally to inter-dependence.

freedom responsibility matrix

It was a neat and simple assumption of mine that development was one-directional. Development is described as a specified state of growth or advancement. As we develop, we are on an upward improvement trajectory. Like a train journey, you travel through any station only once and do not return when en-route to your destination. However, regression is a return to a former or less developed state, and the recession has made it clear that development and regression can occur at the same time. Some people may be developing and never have had it so good, and live next door to people who are regressing and struggling to pay their bills. Individuals can develop and then regress. This is a dynamic and fluid state of being. Taking our train analogy, we automatically get a return ticket whether we want it or not. Nothing is fixed; development and regression are two sides of the same coin.

To highlight this regression let’s look at some statistics:

  • Unemployment in the UK was 1.66 million in 2008, in November 2013 it was 2.34 million.
  • House repossessions are at around 35,000 a year, as opposed to the economic boom time of 2004 with fewer than 10,000 repossessions.
  • Most frightening of all, according to the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report of 2013, the rate of male suicide is at its highest since 2002.

Following John’s blog last week, there was an interesting discussion about why people tolerate the 7 Deadly Sins of Corporate Life. My view is that regression has significantly reduced freedom and increased dependency. People, once independent in the boom years, have suffered through the recession and are now dependent and reliant on others. This can be reliant on a job that pays their bills and keeps a roof over their head, dependent on a demanding boss who they must please to ensure promotion or bonus payment or simply an on-going payment of salary. Alternatively, this could be dependent on charity food banks to keep their children fed. This regression and dependence has forced people to stomach behaviour that would be intolerable for an independent or inter-dependent person.

If we consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, before the financial meltdown, some people who had achieved much in their career may have considered what next in terms of the ultimate level of self-actualisation. However, with the crash the world changed, and the same person may be forced to face their basic survival and security needs as jobs disappeared and homes were repossessed. So the recession created psychological, physical and financial regression.

Maslow pic

Maybe I was naive in thinking that there was only development and not regression. Maybe we become complacent about what we have, and do not consider the needs of others. Maybe we do not think about the challenges our coachees may have faced before we started working with them.

How can we reduce dependency?

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