Embracing Complexity

by Farah Khan

Embracing Complexity

A for apple; 2+2 = 4; question-answer; right-wrong - so on and so forth. From early on our minds get accustomed to simplifying things and finding quick answers. Added to the list are the recent additions of two minute noodles and everything else that promises to satisfy your needs quickly. The education system adds its bit by training us on how to write a single correct answer to a question and instilling a strong sense of right and wrong. Agree! It’s a human need to simplify things and find solutions to make life easier and it does make life easier and smoother to manage. However, in our need to put two and two together and find the four, we forget that life is complex and human beings are complex as nature is complex and the universe is complex. There are countless shades of greys between black and white. These countless shades of greys exist within us and it is quite hard to predict, which shade of grey is in action at what time as each shade of grey interacts and responds very differently to another person’s countless shades of greys and in a different situation and context. Ah! Complex isn’t it??

The fundamental need of human being is to seek harmony and equilibrium and to avoid chaos or confusion. All of us keep seeking peace and harmony in life. However the universe is dynamic and evolving and emerging and therefore the equilibrium keeps shifting from moment to moment.

Human being is a complex adaptive system that is unpredictable, emotional and often subjective. Most of the time we do not see that as human beings, we are not static but dynamic beings always interacting with another dynamic being. And this dynamism enables us to evolve and grow all the time. This is a process that goes on. Also most of us try to avoid any complex situation that throws us out of our comfort zone.

In my experience in working with self - exploration in group settings such as the Sankalan Programmes, I see that very often we get perturbed whenever there is a shift in the equilibrium in our lives. The need is to find a quick solution and come back to the normal. Very often in our hurry to come back to the ‘normal’ we do not delve deep enough in the situation; we do not look at the source level issue that caused the balance to shift. Such quick solutions may not work for long as the root cause does not get addressed. Another point to note here is that a strong need to go back to ‘normal’ comes in the way of accepting the ‘new normal’.

Another way we manage to maintain the status quo is to leave the situation and ‘move on’. Again, what we need to examine is the location from which the decision to move on comes from. Have we deliberated on it; looked at all possible options and then made a conscious choice OR is it coming from a location of choicelessness? Very often, when it is from choicelessness, the residues remain within us and keep coming back. And when the same choice is a conscious decision, it becomes a learning experience that makes us wiser. As someone said that “We don’t just respond to stimuli, we can make choices”.

What has helped me in understanding and dealing with complexity is to accept diversity and multiplicity within ourselves and in others. Also to acknowledge and accept that we are all shaped by the experiences we have gone through and be willing to flow with the ‘here and now’.

In process work spaces we offer people to look at some of the following to help in dealing with complexity –

  • First thing to be done is to accept that people and situations are complex and therefore not to expect simple, linear, cause and effect outcome all the time. Add some patience to stay with confusion and chaos. Chaos brings creativity.
  • The next is to learn to ‘let go’ of the need to be in control. Add some deep listening to others as well as your own inner voice.
  • Accept that any truth is not absolute and there are many more facets that we may not be able to see from our location. Add holistic thinking.
  • There are enough simple and creative things around. Engage with them when complexity becomes too much to handle. We all need some respite.
  • Very often we get awareness about many things but are not able to translate them into action. Add conscious effort for actionalising the thoughts and realizations.

Would like to end this piece by a line from an anonymous person –

“Dealing with complexity is not an approach to solve problems, it is a way of dancing the path we call life”.