Climate: The atmosphere surrounding a meeting. This is better understood if it is thought of as a ‘field’ as in a magnetic field and each of us is strongly influenced by every aspect of the field in our meeting. Everything, from the venue and all it contains, to the guidelines adopted by the participants in their interaction with one another. Everything adds either positive or negative energy to the field.
The concept of climate is far more basic to group success that we have realized. I prefer the term ‘field’ because it more accurately captures the wholeness, the entirety, and inclusiveness of the concept. It is also gaining scientific acceptance in areas beyond quantum physics (see the articles in the Psychotherapy Networker [Discoveries from the Black Box by Mary Sykes Wylie and Ricard Simon and Brain to Brain by Brent Atkinson, September/October 2002] I sent you, K). Recent brain research has discovered that the brains of children subject to abuse or neglect form neural networks that trigger defensive behavior whenever the person senses threat to meaningfulness, in other words, disrespect. Since we all suffer some punishment and neglect in our growing up years, virtually everyone is on hair-trigger for signs of disrespect. Defensiveness, as you both know, is occupying my mind these days as I believe many of our destructive behaviors are triggered by perceived threat and our neural networks take over and govern us. To avoid the pain of anxiety, our foresight function substitutes impatience, boredom, withdrawal, negativity, anger and the like, for anxiety. We tend not to perceive these defensive reactions for the destructive and limiting actions they really are.
The field in a meeting (or anywhere) is like a magnetic field and we are like iron filings in the field and are strongly influenced by everything in it.
From e-mail to Kimberly Hooks with Terry Gilliam on cc, October 10th, 2002