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A Manifesto for Pivoting

portrait of man

Andre Radmall MA MSc BA is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach who has spent the last 20 years in private practice having been Manager and Group Therapist at Priory Hospital North London and a Psychotherapist at Rafan House in Harley Street. He specialises in addictions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and stress, relationship issues & family therapy and issues of self worth.

When I talk about the concept and action of pivoting I am not talking about some kind of rootless post-modern fluidity where you can shape shift at will between roles and stories. This is an important ability but I believe we have to pivot FROM somewhere. I would call this somewhere our soul, some would call this our true self. It is a bit like the screen behind all the activity of a movie projection. A still point of consistent presence.

Pivoting is not just about swapping out a bad story for a better one. It’s about shifting the whole operating system. Some forms of therapy or coaching offer the illusion that we can just swap one story for another, one role for another. This is too simplistic. There is a journey to be taken from who were to who we are becoming. It’s about being able to live from a position where we are able to pivot between different stories. It is about becoming familiar with the place of pivot. The truth is that in THAT place we rest into our authentic selves.

So when we are developing the skill to pivot we are not just shape shifting between roles. We are stepping into the still centre of our soul and its from that position that we can enter the dance of story and role with ease and grace. Actors do this all the time. Why should they be able to play a range of stories while the rest of us get stuck in just the one?

The pivot point is a point of no effort, no habit and no thought.

I remember going to a clowning workshop with Theatre de Complicite. They are an international company with their roots in the mime work of Jacques LeCoq. We had to stand in a line with our backs to the audience and then one by one turn and BE funny. I turned round and tried my best to do something funny. Each time the teacher said, no, try again and do less. The more I tried the worse it got, until I gave up and just turned round. This time I wasn’t trying to do anything. And the teacher laughed.

What we may not appreciate is that all our trying and pushing and straining to BE someone means we never go below the surface and find a point of being, of consciousness. Our stories about what we ‘should’ be doing close us down. They stop us resting into the place where we can take a breath and pivot.

In the workshop, I got to the point when I stopped trying to be funny. I gave up, dropped any attempt to ‘act’ and just turned round. And for the first time, I could really see the people seeing me. And they saw something in me. And they laughed. They laughed because they could feel my truth and vulnerability and those two things will move the hearts of people every time.

To pivot is to operate from a place of rest not a place to ego and striving to achieve. It is from this position that we can genuinely re create our world.

Pivoting doesn’t mean we jettison ALL our old stories and roles.

It just means we are no longer held hostage by them.

From the pivot point we will weave these themes and stories into our story going forward. There is never any such thing as neutrality. We will always express something of our past, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economics and geography. But these things do not need to run our show.

Back when I was training to be an actor I learned something that I now believe is a fundamental key to transformation. The ‘method’ school of acting taught me that acting was not me pretending to be someone else. It was me finding and releasing the aspects of myself that the role called for. So just as putting on a mask triggers an immediate physical and emotional reaction from deep with the actor so does a new role, a new story.

This is a crucial truth at the heart of a pivot point. It is not fake.

The story may be new, the role may be new. We may construct something very different from our past way of living. But we animate and activate aspects of ourselves to inhabit these roles and stories. These may have been hidden and dormant within us but they are nevertheless real and true. This is no superficial change.

So when we pivot we don’t jettison our past experience. We make it work for us rather than us working for it.

It is vital that we don’t ignore that poverty, oppression, racism, sexism and lack of opportunity are endemic to our culture and will still be there to press down on us no matter how much we pivot. While these external factors remain, our response to them may change or pivot. We may find ourselves becoming revolutionaries in response to these controlling meta-narratives.

As we have seen, there is often more energy to pivot under the pressure of change. Sometimes these changes are forced upon us by unforeseen circumstances, like a pandemic. Loss, bereavement, change of job or relationship; all these can act as triggers that temporarily disrupt us enough to start dislodging us from our old roles.

When my mother died I felt relief. Of course I could never say that to the well wishing sympathisers I met at church. These old ladies with powdered and painted faces leaning into me and saying how VERY sorry they were to hear about my mother. Such a GOOD woman.

I however had experienced my mother as a life sapping dark cloud that loomed over my early years. I know she was a broken woman doing the best she could but at the time I saw her as the antithesis of the life, sex and glamour that I knew the world had to offer.

So when my mother died I felt free for the first time in my life. This also happened around the same time as being told that I was adopted. For my brother this was a cause for anger and recriminations. For me it made sense of my early years. It also gave me permission to be someone else. Suddenly a space was cleared for something new to occupy. Into this space poured songs, poems, acting, music, forming a band and chasing girls.

These liminal spaces often open up when there is a major loss or disruption in life. They can be painful. Our natural instinct is to return to the way things used to be but there is another possibility. We could enter blinking into this clearing in the forest and start to create something new.

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