Shadows, apologies and learnings

“Go meet your shadow” is what the former biologist turned Jungian psychoanalyst tells me on the way out.

I reply with a short “Again, thank you for your time. Au revoir Margareta.” before shaking the lady’s hand and exiting the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center on IMD’s campus.

Every IMD MBA student can – for a good part of the program – benefit from a personal coach and analyst to gain insights into what it is that makes him or her tick. This offering is part of the Personal Development Elective and plays a central role in the leadership stream.

I like the idea of the shadow – an image of everything a subject refuses to acknowledge about him- or herself, containing self-denied qualities and impulses – and the belief that the less it is embodied in an individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.

However, the very process of opening to an analyst and going through the layers of my inner workings is something that I am still not very fond of. Maybe that does say something about me, or maybe it simply says something about the culture and environment I grew up in and was shaped by. Either way, I am willing to take that red pill and go down the rabbit hole for a little longer (the cinematic reference in that sentence will most likely have been spotted by millennial readers).  

Those introspective journeys remain a rarity though. The amount of time that went into reading, writing, analysing, preparing and presenting during the entire month of February and the fact that we will continue to be swamped with work all the way to Easter makes any attempt at procrastination futile. Time for self-reflection is a luxury these days, which I think is a pity. As a matter of fact, this post is actually overdue and the only reason I have opted to carve out some time for it now is because I have decided to choose this battle instead of the other ones revolving around Finance, the start-up project and their likes. I won’t even mention the countless books I brought with me from Zurich and was looking forward to delving into, but will most likely not even look at over the coming weeks. The false feeling of having entered a “rat-race” can sometimes resurge and although I believe that it is often much easier to lie about the state of one’s heart than we imagine, I find it relatively easy to dispel those feelings.

It is true that due to their previous studies and professional experiences, some of us are familiar with certain contents of the program. In fact, that is one of the benefits of studying here since a lot of knowledge can be gained through those participants. But so far, what I found out for myself is that I probably wouldn’t have been able to understand certain things without coming here and that this knowledge alone will hopefully serve me well beyond the program.

I have realised that growing up between two cultures and having worked in various places around the globe is not a vaccine against cultural blunders and I have apologised twice during the past two weeks for causing pain to people I consider myself very fortunate to study with.

I have come to understand how important it is to let go of wanting to control it all, since there is only so much one can accomplish over an entire day packed with personal and team deliverables. I must concede: the German in me finds this one very hard to implement.

I believe I have grown slightly better at putting more distance between myself and all the stuff that’s flying around us during the program, somehow insulating myself a bit better than I was able to during the previous years.

Despite the shortage of time, I have found ways and means to maintain regular contact with parents, siblings and close friends; something I wasn’t able to accomplish that well while working.

And although all this feels pretty new to me, I am also aware that some of the previous MBA batches most likely went through similar experiences. If that is indeed the case, I will hereby put the blame on my relative youth and finish by quoting one of my favourite authors:

“Young people get the foolish idea that what is new for them must be new for everybody else too. No matter how unconventional they get, they’re just repeating what others before them have done.” – Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses

Lucien

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