This is the first part of an eight-part series on deep inner work at Evolute Institute. For the other parts check out:
- Article 2: Moving into higher mindsets
- Article 3: From disconnection to re-connection & addressing trauma
- Article 4: Healing Psychological Wounding and the Work of Grief
- Article 5: Overcoming Cultural Conditioning
- Article 6: Increasing Psychological Flexibility
- Article 7: Fostering Integration through and beyond psychedelic work
- Article 8: Acquiring Wisdom for a Good Life
Perspective 1: Increasing our inner freedom
So, why do the inner work, what is all this developing good for, you might ask?
Well, one of the best answers to this question is: to enhance our inner freedom, to give us more options to choose from when we act in the world. We want to obtain more inner space so that we do not just automatically react to our circumstances but so that we can respond consciously, voluntarily and appropriately even in challenging moments of our lives.
As the late Dr. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and renowned psychiatrist, famously expressed:
The process of acquiring more inner space and freedom can be viewed from within the field of vertical development. It is important to point out that vertical development is different from skills development (horizontal development), what many of us know from corporate development courses. While the latter only hones certain skills, e.g. becoming proficient at agile project management or learning how to communicate effectively, the former implies a growing capacity and ability to perceive aspects of one’s inner world, to develop a more fine-tuned outer perception, and an enlargement of the inner space so that one can contain more of oneself, of others and the of world (think of it as a “tea cup” or “container”).
It also usually goes along with a better access to core qualities such as calm, strength, connection, love and groundedness – even in the midst of turbulence, uncertainty and chaos. Gaining access to those core qualities, to an inner sense of purpose, and to a connection with things larger than oneself (the transpersonal domain), can be a tremendous source of strength and power.
Increasing our capacity for self-regulation
This kind of inner work and the ensuing development result in a higher capacity for self-regulation, which is the degree to which we have control over our mind’s functions, states, and inner processes. Thus, it is the basis of self-leadership and of leading others effectively. People on the path of inner development learn to act competently and adequately in different situations, adjusting in new and effective ways to their environment. This is made possible by learning to take different perspectives and dealing with them with a high extent of empathy and compassion.
Connection, strength, groundedness, a sense of really being alive, of freedom, of abundance but also of heightened response-ability (the ability to respond) – these are the fruits of doing the inner work.
Who wouldn’t want to cultivate this way of being, living, and working ?
The question is, then, how can we increase our degrees of inner freedom? A simple answer is hard to provide, and maybe we start our answer with how not to do it.
Controlling the world as the solution?
A lot of people think that inner freedom will be achieved once they have sufficiently reduced their dependence on the outer world, together with stresses and annoyances in their life. They think that their ability of disconnecting from the inconveniences, obligations and drudgery of everyday life will bring them peace of mind and liberation. In our society, we are sold the idea that the most direct way of achieving this (ostensible) freedom and security is through financial wealth. Most of us, at least at some point in our lives, have been swayed by the lure of the promise: “If I only had enough money, I could finally be free, follow my true passions, be nicer to my partner and parents or [you name it].”
The idea is that the more we can control our outer circumstances with power and wealth, the freer we will be – by limiting our dependence from the world. There are numerous examples of this happening right now, e.g. the global ultra-rich hermetically separating themselves from the rest of the world in their presumably apocalypse-proof, freshly built bunkers in New Zealand.
Of course, one could spend one’s life energy on trying to construct an impenetrable fortress around oneself to try avoiding any harm entering from the outside.
Building a sense of freedom from within
However, the way we at Evolute Institute prefer viewing it, is that a deep sense of freedom can only come from within. Imposing our will on the world through control and power cannot be the answer, for we will never obtain enough control. Being alive means being vulnerable – to disease, aging and death, to betrayal and sense-less catastrophe, to hurt and loss, to natural disasters and to man-made action. No matter how much money we pour into those bunker walls, there cannot be an absolute protection from the evils of this world, since we all carry a part of that evil within ourselves. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made the following painful yet sharp observation in his literary masterpiece The Gulag Archipelago:
Even when we isolate ourselves from the world in a bunker – at the huge cost of loneliness and of cutting ourselves off from the web of life – we will meet evil and be it only the evil in our own hearts, which, by the way, is an ancient idea that can be traced back to the Bible’s Genesis with the appearance of the snake in garden Eden.
Honoring our interconnectedness
Erecting fortresses around us only detaches us from what the world might need from us. Through our striving for “independence”, we reject all responsibility and this eventually turns us into tyrants – whom Joseph Campbell described as “the man of self-achieved independence”. Instead, we might as well face the unalterable fact of life that we are connected, that we are vulnerable, that we will die and that the solution has to be something else than closing ourselves down. Thus, we must find a way of encountering freedom amidst of it all. Amidst all the annoyances, inconveniences, and pains of the world, we must find that inner space Viktor Frankl talked about. As Philip Shepherd puts it:
This requires us to open up to life, to dare to feel and to become vulnerable. It demands us to let go of our self-stories, to connect with both our intellectual and somatic intelligence and to relax into the present. It is about sensing what the present moment requires from us, because our freedom is found in relationship and in willingly chosen interdependence with the whole, not in isolation from it. Our wholeness is found in the attunement to the present moment, and in our conscious choice to face our demons and to make sacrifices so we may be redeemed by our chosen values and our committed actions.
Dismantling our intellectual and emotional walls
At Evolute Institute, we employ different consciousness-expanding and heart-opening techniques to help our participants carefully dismantle those emotional and intellectual walls they have been building up over years. With every brick tumbling down from these walls, our participants can relate more directly and deeply with what reality is truly confronting them. People start reconnecting with themselves, and eventually with the “wholeness” of their lives. We train their capacity to be fully present, so that they can open up, get to know intimately their fears and hopes, and relate to them with more compassion and equanimity. We help them notice and gradually expand their innate space of inner freedom, which allows them to move from reactivity to consciously chosen behavior. One of our EvoLEAD program participants – a CEO of a tech company – described his journey like this:
Another lens through which to look at the enlargement of our inner space is the leadership mindsets framework developed by Martin Permantier, an author and organisational development expert and partner of Evolute Institute. So in Part 2 of this 8-part article series on deep inner work we look into how thinking in mindsets can be used to accelerate personal and professional growth. Check it out here:
 WHO 2022 https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/world-mental-health-report
 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services https://zenodo.org/record/3553579.
 Sebastian Braun, Jan Stuhler: The Transmission of Inequality Across Multiple Generations: Testing Recent Theories with Evidence from Germany, in: The Economic Journal 128 (March) 2018, 576-611.
 Jason Hickel & Giorgos Kallis (2020) Is Green Growth Possible?, New Political Economy, 25:4, 469-486, DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964