In the midst of our current pandemic, political and climate crisis we will discover the values that bind us together in community, unravel our future shock, and move deeper into cooperation by responding to powerful questions that build the missing social capital we need and dig deep into our unwillingness to confront the hard realities involved in quarantines, evacuations, loss of income and property, and dependency on local people and resources.
Long-term emotional shutdowns in response to the threat of extinction comes from the victim identity. We have become a broken, fractured, isolated citizenry wallowing in our learned helplessness, carrying a story of separation between Us and Them. Do we not see that we have abandoned our own sense of ownership of our home community? At perhaps an unconscious level we are saying to ourselves, “I do not belong here.” We are saying we are homeless, even if we live in a house. We have psychologically become “internally displaced persons” and refugees, seeking shelter from these multiple super-storms.
Most people are looking outside themselves to take the focus off their own terror in our overwhelming environmental, economic, political crisis. People may say “I can’t feel secure!” when they mean “I don’t want to face this challenge!” Do we have a choice? Can we see the invitation to step up our game, to respond with creative, inventive solutions instead of reacting with obsolete behaviors?
The struggle with unknowns is arousing some core fear that we are headed for extinction, which is important that we acknowledge. However, it is also very important that we simultaneously become aware, for the sake of our own sanity, that although the story about the threat of extinction is helpful for getting our attention, it is not the whole story. It’s about 10% of the story that we need to hear.
Another 10% is about the possibility of thriving in adverse conditions, which generates curiosity and hope, the rocket fuel of social change. Yes, the world “as we know it” is coming to an end, and the pain of reorganizing everything we thought we knew is overwhelming. In the midst of all of that, this is a crisis of connection and belonging. The threat of extinction has an upside, as it forces humanity to “get real,” to search for meaning, to call on internal resources for creative adaptation and resilience that we never knew we had. We survive through adaptation. We’ve done it before, as an entire species, and we can do it again.
The other 80% of the story we need to hear is our personal story of loss, wounding and pain. Our trauma history from the time of our birth to the present moment has shaped our perceptual filters through which we see the world. We carry biases about right and wrong, good and bad, comfortable, not comfortable. Those biases affect our decisions, our thinking “loops,” our behavior and our willingness to be close and authentic with others, because they developed out of our need to protect ourselves.
Bringing our hidden assumptions into the light of day and sharing them with others reduces their power to control our thinking and behavior. Our best therapist is anyone who is willing to listen without reacting with efforts to fix us, mother us, or blame us. You may have to request your listener to remain silent while maintaining eye contact. You may or may not want them to paraphrase what they heard you say, but with no judgement or opinion. If they can accept us just the way that we are, then we can do that for ourselves, and we are much better prepared for re-creating novel solutions to life’s problems.
In this way, we can move from reaction to response, from desperation to inspiration, from isolation to community.
“While you may not directly cause everything that happens to you, you do have the capacity to choose your response to circumstances. And you have a great deal more responsibility for what appears in your life than you might want to admit. One of the biggest challenges is waking up to this reality, making the shift happen on a daily basis, and working to stay awake.”
– The Power of TED, chapter 9