Developing your Ethical Compass

Navigating traumatised systems and organisations as a trauma responsive practitioner.

This ‘Developing your Ethical Compass’ blog article was written by Rebecca Cort, Senior Advisor, at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

 

Part of being trauma responsive is learning how to hold your own centre of gravity.

As practitioners, we work in systems and organisations that hold huge power. Sustaining our own centre, in the midst and under the pressure of this power, is challenging. Impossible, if we are not aware of the power we ourselves work under. In this scenario, we can be absorbed into the larger force of an organisation we work within or alongside. In the field of ethics, we call this pull of power and absorption ‘ethical fading’. Ethical fading describes a process of getting lost, gradually. It occurs through a constant and unrelenting process of reframing the ethical dimension of social problems, biased towards the values of the organisation.  

I hold space knowing, none of us want to think of ourselves as lost. Yet, in my work around the country, there seems to be a global sense of ‘lostness’. I mean lostness in the sense of being absorbed into the organisation or being exhausted during the process of advocacy and agitating for change. In other words, lostness, is caused through a disconnection from our own ethical compass, but, through a process so gradual we don’t see it happening. Walton states, ‘we all work for more than money. We choose our jobs for many reasons and we identify with what we do.’[1] The ACF conceptual model of trauma responsive practice tells us we need to find meaning making in what we do to be grounded and integrated. If we experience ethical fading, we experience disconnection from this meaning making. Finding our own centre allows us to reconnect to the meaning we derive from work.  

Walton concurs, suggesting the solution to ethical fading is in reconnecting to our own essence of integrity. [2] In the work we do with our Graduate Certificate of Developmental Trauma students, we support the development of skills navigating ethical frameworks to solve ethical dilemmas. This problem-solving framework locates personal ethics as a locus or anchor point from which to work form. As professionals, we need to intentionally identify and articulate our own values and purpose. Not only is this the first step in a framework integrating our own ethical centres, it provides us access to protective features buffering us from burnout. 

As part of this food for thought, I suggest this intentional articulation of values needs to be a regular part of our practice. We need them visible to us, a road map to holding our centres in times of incredible pressure or uncertainty. I invite you to carve out some time this week to revise and strengthen your ethical compass.  

For more information on ethics and our Graduate Certificate of Developmental Trauma, go here. 

[1] Jane Walton, The Dilemma of the Law ‘Industry’-The Worm Turned, (Speech delivered to Specialist Accreditation Business, Property, Will, Advocacy and Commercial Regulation Annual Conference, July 2002) 13.

[2] Jane Walton, The Dilemma of the Law ‘Industry’-The Worm Turned, (Speech delivered to Specialist Accreditation Business, Property, Will, Advocacy and Commercial Regulation Annual Conference, July 2002) 13.