Interview: In DIALOGUE // Jackie Sussman
Executive Coach and Psychotherapist, Jackie Sussman’s approach to guiding her clients varies little from her approach to motherhood, family, and the rest of life: it all begins with compassion and love. Using Eidetic Image Psychology to open a window to one’s authentic self, Sussman’s work allows for one’s deep wisdom, inspiration, vision to emerge as a directing force in their life. In our interview, we discussed this power of the feminine to heal and change human potential, laying important groundwork for our growth and success as individuals, as parents, and as leaders.
VOICES: UNLEASHING FEMININE POWER, A DIALOGUE WITH JACKIE SUSSMAN
Rimma Boshernitsan: Let’s start from the beginning. What defined your childhood, and how do you see that influencing your current work?
Jackie Sussman: My parents and sister survived the Holocaust, disguising themselves as Christians after escaping a Jewish ghetto in Poland. They landed in New York City, where I was born. I feel my parents were exceptional in providing a very stable upbringing for my sister and me, despite the trauma they had been through. The trauma my mother experienced of course made her tough, but she also gained the strength to love fully afterwards, without fear. There was something in her love that really sustained me.
When I was a year old, we moved to Caraças, Venezuela. My father had been a manufacturer of top hats, but they had gone out of style, and he had to find a new business. He had heard manufacturing costs were low in Venezuela. So, we moved to Caracas, where he built a company that made zippers. I went to Jewish private school and learned Spanish as my first language. I was reared in a mix of cultures, ethnicities and religions, living in a Catholic, Spanish-speaking country, while being American-Jewish, whose parents spoke mostly Yiddish and Polish at home. That’s how it was - the whole mix. I remember saluting the Venezuelan and Israeli flags each day at school and I wondered: who was I supposed to pledge my allegiance to? When I was about 10 years old, a revolution broke out in the country, and there was gunfire in the streets. My father couldn’t take it, because of his life under the Nazis, so he planned for us to move to California. My mother was not excited to leave the life they had built, but I was. Everything I knew about living in the U.S. I’d learned from movies.
I became fully American, and in high school became an anti-war activist in the late 60’s. I think growing up in a different culture and with this energy from the Holocaust in the home gave me a particularly intense empathy for others. My mother had a vision of me sitting across from people, helping them, when I was only 14. Whether she influenced me or simply intuited what was already there, she was right. It was when I was a teenager that I decided I wanted to help people. My father also had a vision that I would write a book and give him the dedication. I wrote two books and put a dedication to him in my first.
RB: How did you come to discover the work?
JS: My career was shaped by my living and working at the Esalen Institute in the early 1970s, which was then in its heyday. It was the center for the study of the newly emerging human potential movement at the time: it represented a whole new vision and an introduction into the culture of inner exploration, self growth, spirituality and healing. Several years later, I met Dr. Akhter Ahsen in New York City. He was the leading researcher and theoretician in the field of Consciousness Psychology, which includes the study of Eidetic images. I studied many different modalities of psychology, yet I was most drawn to his practice of Eidetic Image Psychology.
The Eidetic Image originates with the early Pre-Socratic Greeks, who called these images, “The Gifts of The Gods” in the psyche. The study of the Eidetic image began in the late 1800’s at the time of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and has been researched in the scientific literature since then. At one point, it was thought that these images could only be seen by the very gifted, however, soon it became evident that everyone could see them. Eidetic Images are pictures seen in the mind, much like a movie image or photograph. Researchers have found that these images are neurologically recorded in the brain and stored away for future reference. The process of uncovering them breaks down the habitual, knee-jerk reactions that result in discordant solutions, while illuminating authentic capacities, innovative solutions, trust in oneself and wisdom.
Eidetic Image Psychology helps people tap into the non-conscious part of their brain where potent body-mind states reside intact, but remain hidden from view. It is like accessing pockets of gold in the psyche where one’s greatest abilities, genius, and creativity lay hidden. We are part of nature and so, just like a tree whose genetic blueprint destins the tree to become a huge, strong and vibrant oak tree, we too have a genetic blueprint wired within that contains our greatest potentials. However, just like the tree, maybe a little pollution comes in the form of acid rain, which for us arrives in the form of losses, traumas, and painful childhood events that diminish and inhibits us. The Eidetic Imagery process allows us to quickly see what is hampering us and brings out our authentic energy, power, ability and expression to be mobilized.
I have always found a lot of truth in Ghandi’s words, “As human beings our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world--as in being able to remake ourselves.” Eidetic Imagery does just that. In order to solve any problem, the key is to shift ourselves first, whether an attitude, expression, belief, or a perspective that we carry as we deal with the problem. When we shift ourselves, we bring a different energy and perspective to the situation. Doors open, people respond positively and difficulties melt away. The power is always within us and never in trying to change another person or external circumstance first.
A woman I worked with at a major tech company kept going to her manager asking for favors to help her project. Every time she approached him, he said “no”. She called me and as we worked with her images, she realized that she was carrying a subtle inner feeling that she was not worthy of receiving. She could see in the image that her manager was responding to what she was emanating. Working with an image, she uncovered a part of herself that felt deserving of good things. The next day, emboldened by her new self-perception, she walked into her manager’s office with the same request and to her surprise, he said “yes” to everything she had asked for. Within six months, she brought three million dollars worth of business into the company from that one interaction. I have example after example of these types of inner shifts creating outward change for the better.
RB: Would you share an example of what an Eidetic Imagery session looks like and describe its impact?
JS: When I begin working with an individual, such as an executive at a company, I start with a review of the problems they are having. I write down all they tell me and then I take them through a specific Imagery visual questionnaire, which rapidly discloses the images neurologically wired in their brain of their unconscious attitudes, knee jerk reactions and patterns that limit their effectiveness. This same visual questionnaire also reveals the storehouses of their wisdom, authentic powers and strengths already existing within them to overcome the obstacle. This process is very effective because it gets to the root of the problem and also illuminates solutions very quickly. When I work with a problem with a whole team, the inner images of every member of the team are so impactful in bringing forth dozens of solutions to any problem, whether that means eliciting the team’s collective genius in creating a product, devising solutions to a given problem, or empathizing into difficult situations. With groups, what I love is the powerful bond cohesion that naturally occurs.
RB: You’ve brought your work into several Fortune 500 companies. How do you want to shape the future of business?
JS: I feel that the lens of the feminine is the shaping force needed now for the next stage of our evolution, not only in business but in society at large. It is clear to me that women’s psyches have an important contribution to make that the world desperately needs right now. I can see that my work for the foreseeable future is to introduce this feminine contribution to both men and women in order for companies to thrive, nurture their employees, and thus bring out the best qualities in their organizations. It is not that women are better than men, but the qualities inherent in the psyche of women, at this time in history, which have historically been downplayed, do bring certain qualities into play, which I now call “soul qualities”, such as love, wanting the highest good for their teams, playfulness, compassion and more. These are extremely powerful forces when it comes to dissolving obstacles, bringing cohesion, downloading innovative ideas and creating a culture where people thrive. As I work in companies, I see over and over that when women are totally themselves and not afraid of being so, the men around them relax, enjoy being around them and deeply respect them. It pains me to see brilliant women suffer at work not knowing how to be. They exist in a split state of stressful consciousness, constantly worrying that if they are strong they will be perceived negatively, as a “bitch”, but if they downplay their ability they will be overlooked. There are few role models for women who are confident, feminine and authentically themselves in the workplace.
One of the many distinctions between male and female leadership styles is that men generally approach each interaction with the underlying question of “Who is one up and who is one down”. For women, the question never crosses their minds. What they tend to care about is what would be that of value not just for self, but for others. I feel that these differences are due to the distinct socialization of men and women, in which men have been reared by being told that they need to be tough, keep an upper lip, not show emotions, which actually hurts them, whereas women are allowed to be emotional, but are inhibited from attaining the same levels of power as men.
It is time for a new paradigm. The hierarchical definition of power, which is one over another, does not bring out the best in people. While one is temporarily in power, the other has to feel “less than.” Feeling “less than” does not allow one to give all they have to a project or to their team. Although some men do embody these attributes, the qualities of collaboration, love, and synergy, it is more accessible in women at this current moment in history. I see true power to make positive change is an influence driven not by one-upmanship but by love. Love is the most powerful force in the world. When people feel valued and loved, they give their best to their company and they thrive in an atmosphere of support. I find that the people with most authentic power are those who exert positive influence on their teams, clients and everyone they interact with. When a person emits compassion, empathy, love, and positive regard, others want to be around them and do things for them and are open to the suggestions of such a person. To me that is the true definition of power.
Feminine qualities exist in both men and women. When men actively cultivate them, they often become even more effective as leaders. A senior executive I worked with in an advertising firm had been given negative feedback at his review. Although, he had acquired some major accounts for the firm, his people skills were lacking because he was perceived as being dominating and not a team player. His team felt afraid and alienated from him. In working with him, I noted how much value he had given to his father’s influence, that to succeed made a person valuable. When I asked about his mother’s influence, he dismissed her as just a housewife. I asked him to keep his father in his mind and see himself working with his team. He replied, “My goal is to win the account. That is all that matters. When I feel my direction is right, I don’t let others opinions sway me.’ I then asked him to keep his mother in his mind and see himself working with his team. He replied, “All of a sudden I feel a softening within me. I feel care for my team and I am imbued with more of a feeling of love for everyone.” Using this technique, his leadership skills grew. He began to truly care for his team and they in turn felt more devoted to him. His mother’s gifts within his own consciousness rounded out his father’s competitive spirit and he began to truly lead.
RB: You speak and teach about love in your work as a powerful force for success, can you say more about that?
JS: When we feel love within our very own selves, we relax, our mind opens, creativity downloads and inspiration flows. It puts us in a space where so much more capacity is available to us at any given moment. Love is also a presence and a palpable energy that is sensed by others and which always creates positive outcomes.
Whatever, I teach, I have practiced over and over in my own life. So, in embodying, which is truly feeling the love within me, as I interact with my clients, as well as, with my family, and friends, I noticed that I became calm, centered, non-reactive and that a wisdom arose from somewhere within me, from which I instinctively knew how to interact with that person, or team, bringing about the most cohesive and positive interactions and results. I realized that love is an incredible power in real time that brings concrete optimal results.
I devote significant time each day to cultivating my heart. I have noticed in doing so, that amazing healing happens around me, opportunities open and solutions miraculously become clear. It puts me on a kind of a track of manifesting good things around me and leaves me deeply fulfilled. Everyone needs love: men, women, young and old. Everyone responds to love. When I have worked with CEO’s in Fortune 50 companies, I have seen that the most effective and brilliant leaders utilize love as they lead, creating a culture where harmony, loyalty and the best within people prevails.
RB: You’ve been working in this field for a significant amount of time. What still surprises you?
JS: What I find surprising is how impactful what I call ‘soul qualities” are, such as love, compassion nourishing, wisdom and care are in creating business success. Even though I have example after example of this, I am always still always surprised when I see a person change their inner feeling or attitude of self, to then witness how their outer problematic circumstance resolves. It is always so unique to the person. I will never forget the woman manager that had to go to weekly meetings with all male managers, an atmosphere that left her feeling insecure. She saw an image of herself insecure at the meeting and then with my prompting, she saw another part of herself emerge that was very playful, a quality not considered to be a business quality at all. However, she went into the next all male meeting being her playful, as well as competent self and noted that all the male managers gravitated to her, wanted to hear her opinions and suddenly respected her more. Who knew that playfulness would be a power? I am constantly surprised by what emerges from inside people that changes their outer circumstance for the better.
I am also surprised each time I work with women in business and how when I use a technique to scratches the surface of their outer persona, what collectively emerges from their psyches is wanting best for the company, for their team and for others first before thinking of themselves and by how quickly they feel compassion. I sit in rooms with women lawyers, techies, managers, sales people, creatives on and on and I feel like I am actually in rooms full of healers. The consistency of my observation about the psyche of women still always surprises me.
RB: How does your work shape human connection?
JS: Human connection is the outcome of the work I do. When I use the imagery techniques in a corporate or business group setting, the shared images of the group create a tribal feeling of oneness. The imagery work, whether in working with groups, or individuals, dissolves pre-conceived separative attitudes and allows for people to see through the eyes of another. It cultivates shared perspectives and deep understanding. This process is very effective in diversity work, or in one team understanding another, such as between the creative team and the marketing team. Also, the work always brings to light the best way to cultivate connection and understanding of those one works with, a critical ability to have for successful outcomes.
RB: What would your future self, ten years from now, say to your current self?
JS: I would tell myself, you lived your passion. You kept going and going through all obstacles with the sole purpose to bring out the best and highest in others. Your determination to do so, helped people thrive and bring more light into the world. As a child born into genocide you truly fulfilled your purpose.
RB: What would your past self, ten years ago, say to you now?
JS: My past self would look at my present self and say, “How you transformed your own self is a great example of what is possible for others.” It would remind me to trust my intuition, and visions and to follow the promptings of my inner being and to be true to myself, no matter what always, as those are the ingredients that led me to be so fulfilled now.
RB: What is your definition of happiness?
JS: Relieving people from their suffering is happiness for me. Happiness is being able to help a person trust in themselves, see their own greatness, and to courageously live who they are fully bringing good to others. Happiness is in uplifting another. Happiness to me is to be of service. Happiness to me is being with my family!