“The story of Cassandra originates in Greek mythology. She was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo's romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.
The Cassandra syndrome is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others.”
Some folks literally believe that the sky will eventually fall.
It usually comes down to perspective. Some are afraid of the damage that might result from the flood that will come if it keeps raining. Others can’t wait to see what grows as a result of all this rain. Some seem to watch/listen to the news to be informed. Others seem to use it as a filter and justification for their fear and foreboding.
My former bond portfolio management life required that I be locked into world news and current events. There was a breathing in and out that happened daily as the market digested closing markets abroad, economic indicators, world happenings, and the daily news domestically. It all mattered and the markets breathing calmed or labored based on everyone’s reaction. I was plugged in.
I found myself walking deeper into a cave of fear and disappointment. Each hour of news from that channel, each radio show with that guy, and all those blog posts and daily news feeds from those people, were simply another datapoint that convinced me that the end was likely near.
How could things turn out okay given all that I was seeing?
No doubt, the weight of my fear and trembling was felt by others. Leading a family is about imagining a better future and nurturing them there. Offering calm and hope despite what circumstance might otherwise dictate. Business leadership is about bringing clarity, hope, a transcendent vision, and crafting a bridge to that inspired future. Even my Christian faith requires that my ultimate hope rest in things unseen and later on.
Identifying and eliminating the instigators of this syndrome in my life has changed everything. The things I watched, listened to, read, and even the people I spent time with had to change. Eliminating all the Cassandra’s from my life made room for clarity, renewed faith, and much greater impact. My posture with family, friends, and clients is more encouraging, inspired, and impactful.
The apostle Paul offered the most powerful perspective on all this. We may never know which day will be our last, so live each one as if it might be. That doesn’t mean that we should place our head between our knees, wait for further instructions, and brace for impact. It means we should charge into life with all the gusto, hope, and expectation that more life is available. We are the ambassadors of the prospect of a life more abundant. We should be living that life and inviting many others to join us.
Are you the proverbial “Debbie Downer” in your tribe? Or are the purveyor of hope and an expectation of a better future? What is value or cost to your family, business, or the organization you lead, of being so confident or fearful? What does all that fear say about the reality of your faith? One is the opposite of the other.
- Would you say that you tend to be more hopeful or fearful?
- What are the inputs (things, people, etc.) that are stoking the fire of all that fear?
- Who do you need to remove or spend less time with in your company or tribe?
- What is the fear or the complementary negativity costing your family or team as a result of your or another’s person’s fear?
- What do you need to do about it today to change the course of things?