The Mahon Watershed!

The Mahon report has revealed corruption that challenges us as a people to reflect on how it is that so many of our leaders emerged into adulthood and secured major positions of responsibility with such a low level of personal maturity and social conscience?  What has struck me regarding the journalistic responses to the Mahon report is the lack of any psycho-social analysis of its alarming findings.

Personal maturity is where you are one with yourself and have a strong sense of your own and others’ innate goodness. In this mature state you are loving, fair, intelligent, just, expansive and creative and duly concerned for the wellbeing of others.  However, when you are not one with yourself, you can be powerfully and frighteningly defensive.  In this insecure place defences such as aggression, control, dominance and narcissism, being judgemental, critical, greedy, manipulative and arrogant, are unconsciously created and mask your true nature.  All defensive behaviours pose a threat to the wellbeing of others; nonetheless, the purpose of unconsciously formed defences is to reduce the experience of threats from other people’s defences.  It is for this reason that human behaviour is paradoxical and, thereby, confusing, particularly for those who are not at one with themselves.  Personal maturity is a responsibility for each person – clearly maturity is on a continuum from very low to very high – it is a responsibility with which we all struggle and one that requires considerable support.

The Mahon Report most certainly indicates that many politicians, councillors and property developers were not at one with themselves.  However, it would be unwise to believe that such a lack of integrity was solely limited to those individuals identified in the report.  After all, the kind of irresponsible behaviours involved were also evident in the banks, financial institutions, the Catholic Church, and in many organisations.  After all, Ireland had become known as “rip-off Ireland”.  The defensive behaviours that were, and are still, if perhaps, not as intensely prevalent, are – individualism, greed, superiority, depersonalising of others, cynicism and lies and more lies.  Those of us who stood idly by – inside and outside the political, financial, religious and property development arenas – were also in defensive places.  The whole sad saga begs the question: “where were the good men” – because they would not have stayed silent and let the ‘evil’ thrive.  To be fair there were some good individuals who did cry wolf but in what was a predominantly dark ethos they were dismissed, rubbished or aggressively sidelined.

As with the Murphy and other reports on the sexual violation of Irish children, the Mahon report raises serious questions.  The first enquiry needs to be how it came about that those individuals in key leadership positions engaged in such profoundly immature and defensive actions.  The second question that requires answering is how was it that those leaders were supported by their party members or by their work colleagues and, by and large, by the general public?  Furthermore, how did Irish society get to such a place that materialism, money, wealth, status, power and success replaced the dignity, worthiness and wellbeing of the individual person?

As regards leaders and managers there needs to be a non-let-out requirement to examine their lives before they dare to take on responsibilities that profoundly affect the lives of others.  The key leaders and managers are parents, teachers, school principals, politicians, clergy, third-level educators, CEO’s of organisations.  The training needs to be of a face-to-face nature and carried out by professionals who themselves have faced, or at least are facing, their own demons and know how best to provide the safe and dynamic ethos for others to do likewise.  It is a painful process – it raises the ghosts of the past - and invites radical shifts in consciousness in the present.  However, when we fail to examine our lives so that some parts remain unlived we cannot bring a maturity to those areas and the consequence is that everybody suffers, including the person who stays stuck in denial.

When we live out from the fullness of our nature we bring maturity to what we do; when we operate from an inner void that we attempt to addictively fill with money, power, success….. we rob those towards whom we have leadership responsibilities of the possibilities of a fulfilling life.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist, Author and Speaker.  His book Leadership with Consciousness is relevant to today’s topic.