Helene Smit

Helene Smit

Current title
Managing Director, Feather Learning (Pty) Ltd;
Director, Depth Leadership Trust

Course at Wits Business School
Master of Business Administration, 1992

A defining moment in my career
There are many moments that felt important in my career, such as when I conducted my first leadership development course for the Chief Justices of the Southern African Development Community countries.

However, one of the most meaningful defining moments of my career happened quietly during a workshop tea break. I teach depth psychology as part of leadership education, with a focus on the development of the human psyche and the functioning of the unconscious mind.

After a session for junior leaders, a participant who had been silent throughout the session came and asked me, in summary, whether I thought that his eight-year-old daughter’s unusual aggression could be caused by his own aggression.

This connection may seem obvious (and of course, alarming) to many, but to open such a window of inquiry in a traumatised and defended person’s mind requires delicate educational surgery. Many survivors of early trauma harden and defend themselves in ways that are destructive to the next generation and avoid the pain of reflection and awareness. The man made the connection, faced his shame, and continued to make the connection with his own violent childhood. This is a moment where the course of history changed, at least for one little girl.

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