Deborah Lange is an author, advisor, mentor, and master of The Fine Art of Facilitation. She is a Social Ecologist by background and has spent over three decades facilitating cultural change and developing leaders. Lange is passionate about leadership with a “freedom within limits” approach, which results in high levels of commitment, collaboration, and creativity in achieving more than expected results.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in a seaside suburb called Somerton Park, Adelaide, South Australia. On the one side, I had a childhood full of family, laughter, love, and lots of adventures riding horses along beaches, going camping, and caravanning with family and friends. A wild, nature-filled childhood. On the other side, my childhood was full of terror and I escaped with my dog to the beach, and to my horse at the stables, as I cried I was soothed by my four-legged companions. I could not understand why my father could be gentle and loving one minute and angry, violent the next.
I spent my life overcoming these childhood traumas through connecting to the natural world and being a great seeker of self-awareness and self-knowledge through multiple domains.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I had realised how impregnated every cell of my being was with both love and fear being, what I thought was love.
That would have saved me money, friendships, my safety, security, contentment, stability, my career, my family, and my integrity. I could have kept on being creative and given my children a safe haven and love in my first marriage. Why? As I left a loving marriage to repeat the domestic violence experienced as a child, as an adult and had to overcome this immense trauma twice in my life.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I hear people being told they can have it all. I hear people say they can help you get over the trauma, that you can leave it behind…
I do not think anyone “gets over” trauma. We learn to live with our trauma so we are not crippled or paralysed emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and financially. We can learn to create love, to be loved, to have a healthy, emotional, physical, psychological life. We can live with our trauma, knowing the memory in our cells can surface at any time, and knowing we can be with the pain, and then we can breathe again and live in the next moment where another sense and emotion may arise. We do not get over it or leave it behind.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
The darkest period of my life was when I was emotionally, psychologically, and financially abused and I lived in a domestic violence situation as an adult.
I was a shell. I was lifeless. I had to leave my body to live through the pain. I had to learn how to bring life back into my body to reclaim my self, my soul.
How I came out of it is a long, long story. A journey across continents, of searching in the outer world and the inner world, of moving forward one step and moving back nine steps, and gaining a little more strength and a little more strength over a very long time. What I learnt is a very long story too. One of the biggest learnings. There are some people who can not be trusted and who intentionally set out to hurt others.
I learnt that we have expansive potential to develop our sensory awareness and we are only in kindergarten at this stage of our learning how to trust and learn from our innate senses. Not only thinking, not only emotions, but they are also only two of our multiple senses that we have available to expand our knowledge.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success
The art of perception that I will continue to develop for the rest of my life.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up. I look out the window at the sky as I do not close the blinds in my bedroom. I walk downstairs and open the curtains downstairs to let the light in. I unlock the back and front door and walk around my garden both out the front of my house and the back. I look at all of my plants and notice anything new in the garden.
I walk inside and make myself a cup of tea.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Learning to notice what I do, think, sense, or feel and make sense of what just happened that resulted in that sense, feeling, thought emerging. The art of perception that I will continue to develop for the rest of my life.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I sense and think systemically about the whole interconnection of things. In sensing this, I can sense what action, thought or feeling may ripple out and affect other things in a systemic way.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I will go for a walk, I will draw, I will breathe and move. Moving and breathing are critical for me. I am a highly kinaesthetic person, so if I get unfocussed it is likely I have been “holding on” to tension in my body, or stuck in one place in mind, thought, or emotion. Shaking this out helps me come back to myself.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Dr. Margaret Wheatley, and the new science, reading about how our society and the way we think was has had its’ foundations from Descartes who believed we could break the world into parts to understand it. and we could control the world. To now realising we are nature, not above it, not below it – we are one inter-connected self-organising living system.
Dr. Margaret Paul, Inner Bonding – how to love myself and my pain
David Abraham, The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal – bringing humanity back into realising we are animal, we are nature, not above it, not below it – we are one inter-connected living system.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Breathe breathe breathe.
Life is one moment at a time.