Interviewer – Cristina Burduja, Journalist
Interviewee – Nicole Bogott, CEO of Philia
Cristina Burduja – You are the founder of an empowering organisation with a beautiful name, Philia, which means love, the love you have for a friend, for a person you appreciate. What led you to this creation?
Nicole Bogott – I moved abroad in my teens and being exposed to a new country and culture, to the diversity of the world, very much shaped my sense of self.
For instance, the first time I understood my nationality as a layer of my identity was when I wasn’t living in my own country and people recognized me as being different because of my language, my dress, my habitus etc. So, the first time I realised myself through others was during those early experiences. In this case, I was able to grasp what it meant to be German while being in the U.S. Before that, living only in Germany, I didn’t know what “being German” meant.
So, I realized that we can only fully experience ourselves in relation to something or someone else. And this is why friendships are so important. At Philia we celebrate deep and meaningful connections. When our conversations are based on benevolence and mutual respect, we can see and understand more about the world than we would on our own. This is essentially what PHILIA is all about – we realize ourselves in relationship to each other, in relation to true friends.
C.B. – Why are connections between women so important for Philia?
Philia’s approach is built on mutuality, which is a prerequisite towards breaking dependency cycles. Power dynamics start playing a bigger and bigger role once we start uncovering different layers of our identity such as nationality, as already mentioned, but also gender, sexual orientation etc. So, as you leave your comfort zone you usually realize the multilayered identities you have.
In terms of marginalization, gender is a big factor, globally. Forming a trusted alliance to a peer, but also fostering the connection to your own self and equally shaping the community you are part of, is the way PHILIA tackles this issue.
You might remember the first time you realised your gender. Oftentimes this happens when you are exposed in environments dominated by the opposite gender. Then you’re realising ‘Aha, this is what it means to be a woman’.
For Philia equal access to opportunity is a key goal in consideration of power and identity. With the Philia Method participants explore solutions on three levels: personal, relational and societal.
C.B. – How do Philia Participants deal with times of transitions?
N.B. – There are times when we feel alone, different or misunderstood. Oftentimes this happens when we have no one to share our struggles with, and this goes for our successes as well. Many people are also burdened by the pressure of expectations. There are all of these ideas in our heads to fulfil a certain role. So, the challenge is to engage in an ongoing negotiation that you need to have with yourself on the inside but also in response to expectations from the outside and sometimes you need help with that.
C.B. – Yes, the pressure of expectations can really lead us into unbearable situations. Suffocating even. What ways did you find to go through this?
N.B. – There are traditional ways to get support, like coaching or therapy. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to do it on a very regular basis. For once, it is pretty expensive. So, it prevents the same level of continuity that you can have with the Philia Programme. Some of our participants have been doing their weekly Philia Sessions for two years and not planning on stopping any time soon.
Also, traditional methods are usually one-sided. Something very crucial is missing – reciprocity. The experience of being the student as well as the teacher. And this you gain with Philia. This exploration of our ever-evolving identity is an ongoing process and witnessing someone else go through that process as well, is a profoundly empowering and healing experience.
C.B. – It’s hard to find the willingness. How did you approach this?
N.B. – Philia is a weekly check-in with your friend based on a checklist. During a structured call or meeting, everybody gets the space to express themselves. So, at its core, the Philia Method is based on consent – there is no struggle for attention or space. This is why it works so well.
Understanding mutual consent is a big element that once felt ties back into the previous point of understanding justice and injustices, the importance of boundaries and exploring your power potential.
C.B. – And this was the base of: ok, why not make it bigger?
N.B. – The Philia Method really changed my life. Participants from all walks of life also had results that were as mind-blowing. They loved it too.
As I said Philia Participants can do the Philia Sessions together for many years. Some started companies together. Many women came up to me and said: “Nicole, this weekly practice changed my life.” Examples were: I found the apartment of my dreams. I broke up with my boyfriend. I changed my job… These are crucial life-changing decisions that are easier to make when you have a Philia Partner by your side because life can feel pretty scary. And the best thing? The method does not work with only one single friend. Some Philia Partners also switch.
C.B. – So how can someone begin the journey into Philia and what to expect in the future?
N.B. – People can start their Philia Journey online with the Philia e-Course. All you need is your friend and the willingness to go on this exciting journey together.
We also have Philia Community Meetups all around the world: New York City and Sydney are new locations we are excited about. The method also works in Kabul, Lisbon and Paris. Stop by and join us. We hope that soon as many people as possible will have their Philia Partner and to experience how it is to have continuous emotional support and to be that loving support for another. That’s the beauty of it.
A lot of people are truly lonely when they do not have a safe space to fully be seen. The pandemic added an extra spin on this phenomenon of our times. A lot of people are sitting at home with no contact.
C.B. – I think now with the ‘new normality’ of the post-corona world, a lot of people are going through restructuring their own lives and they will be looking for new ways to connect.
N.B. – Yeah, Philia provides a new and very unique way to connect. The transformation lies in active listening. Being present for each other is the key to allowing us to really experience ourselves. The Philia Method teaches how.
You can check Philia here : https://wearephilia.com/
Write to Nicole at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture Credit: Janina Steinmetz Photography