Most of us are trying to improve our listening or want to have good listening competency. But there is a barrier – the illusion that we already are good at listening OR we already know the truth.

 Absencing is Moving backward: It is a quite common response saying that the system is broken and that we need to orient ourselves backward. This response is much more radical than muddling through. It connects to the felt sense of frustration. But it operates on the closing of the mind, heart, and will, i.e., the amplification of prejudice, ignorance, hate, and fear. The five main behaviors of this cycle include:

Denial: Not seeing what is going on.  It blinds us to the various aspects of the current reality. It gets us more and more stuck in our head, in our opinions and judgments based on the past. Denial is ignoring or negating the existence of different data points, specially those which are contradictory to our current line of thought; something that would make us rethink and maybe even question our current judgments, decisions and actions. We live in denial of new data from all sources including spouses, children and other family members, colleagues, bosses, sub-ordinates, competition, people with different views on politics, religion, sports or almost any other topic.

De-sensing: Being unable to empathize with others. We label people or situations and once we label them, they seize to exist as real people or dynamic situations – they become just the label, for us. Once we are in de-sensing then there is no respecting of the people/ situations and it ends up in stock responses and behaviours – all triggered by cynicism. We just have to say ” She is _____.” They are ____”. It is ____”. Game over. Then you don’t have to listen, respect, consider them and it gives you the freedom from all rules of appropriate behavior; albeit only in your head but nevertheless that freedom breeds in the insensitivity and future isn’t bright.

Absencing: Losing the connection to one’s emerging future self—that is, getting stuck in the rigid identities of the past, getting stuck inside one’s ego boundaries: Me First! This is mostly the world of fear and then the triggered response to fear.

—-> <—- Blaming others: The inability to reflect on one’s own role. Blaming others deepens and hardens the dynamics of “Us vs. Them” and keeps us trapped in an architecture of separation. This is the world of silo thinking in the organizations and in the society. This is the end of oneness, togetherness and co-creation.

Destruction: The outcomes of this cycle result in the destruction of nature, the destruction of trust and the undermining and destruction of institutions that keep our societies together. Unfortunately, this is what we end with – in our relationships, families, organizations, communities and the world at large.

There is a cycle of destruction and self-destruction observable in many systems and sectors of our civilization today. In most global systems today we collectively create results that (almost) nobody wants.


Simple: Put our attention back on our intention. The big intention. The eco intention.

Presencing is about Moving forward: leaning into the unknown to co-sense and co-create the future. This response is perhaps the most important and least familiar. This response attends to disruption by leaning forward into the unknown, by sensing and actualizing the future that wants to emerge.

What is your big intention for your life? for your family? organization? society? planet ?

To do that you need three critical capacities: 

  1. listening and curiosity (an open mind), 
  2. empathy and compassion (an open heart), as well as 
  3. confidence and courage (an open will).

If you face a moment of disruption and you lack these critical capacities, you are easily thrown into the space of absencing—that is, into a self-reinforcing dynamic of separation and destruction.

Both cycles co-exist in society today.

We know both of them well from our own behavior.

They are separated only by the degree of openness in our minds, hearts, and wills as we respond to disruption.

This article is built on Theory U and related content by Dr. Otto Scharmer of M.I.T & Presencing Institute.

Happy reading. Contact for further information on our work for business and organization transformation, NGOs & Education sector and our Open workshops. Manoj Onkar –

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