What a Swiss Psychiatrist Learned From the Hopi Tribe Chief and How It’s Relevant to Business Today

I was recently reminded of an unlikely friendship between a Swiss psychiatrist and the Hopi tribe chief.

The psychiatrist was none other than Carl Jung. He describes his relationship with the Chief Mountain Lake in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

Despite all their differences, Jung and Mountain Lake developed a special bond; they seemed to be kindred spirits.

One of the reasons Jung valued Chief Mountain Lake’s friendship so much was because he was refreshingly open and candid with him.

Jung recalls in his book: “I was able to talk with him as I have rarely been able to talk with a European.”

Among many fascinating insights, Mountain Lake gave Jung a very frank account of how his people saw Europeans:

Their eyes have a staring expression. They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are all mad.

Jung was amused and intrigued by Mountain Lake’s remarks, and he encouraged him to share more.

“They say they think with their heads,” responded Mountain Lake.

Jung was puzzled. “What do your people think with?”

“We think here,” said Chief Mountain Lake, and he pointed to his heart.

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In 2020, almost one hundred years after this conversation took place, not much seems to have changed – the Western World still seems to be in the throes of madness.

We are living in a culture where thinking exclusively from our heads is considered a sign of intelligence, sanity, and strength.

Business cultures are particularly prone to discrediting the intelligence of feelings. Many leaders consider following their heart at work ludicrous and utterly counterproductive. Venture capitalists or shareholders rarely ask about the most joyful way to conduct business. Bosses never set KPIs to measure how inspired their people feel.

Recent events, including the heartbreaking death of George Floyd, make it clear that we need more empathy, compassion, kindness, connection, and generosity. We need more humanity.

It’s true for every single area of our lives. We all crave living and working with less fear and more ease and it’s time we made drastic changes to create families, societies, and businesses that don’t trigger the madness that Chief Mountain Lake saw in us.

We need to incorporate a heart-centered approach in how we think and we need to take action NOW.

In this week’s audio postcard, Melissa Agnes, a crisis expert, talks about the importance of bringing empathy and compassion to our relationship with all our stakeholders in the business. Here’s her message for you, sent from Montreal, Canada.

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