THE BELONGING SHIFT
FROM ‘WE’ TO ‘I’ TO ‘WE’
Conversations with our TIGS friends/colleagues continue to be a most healing salve in the midst of ongoing fear and uncertainty. However, each of us has noticed a shift in the energy lately, both in ourselves and in the world at large and we believe it may be helpful to share our reflections (keeping in mind that we’re a social microcosm!)
As the prolonged threat of the pandemic continues, we’ve noticed a subtle shift in the emotional climate from a focus on the similarities of our collective experience dealing with COVID-19 to the emergence of some differences in our individual reactions and coping strategies.
As we are asked to continue with social distancing measures designed to protect society from the spread of the virus for an undetermined amount of time, the individual is challenged to conform to this societal expectation of commitment to our collective wellbeing (the group), which might also be experienced as a loss of individuality. This may explain the emergence of the voices of frustration, righteous outrage, blame and indignation that hold our collective anxiety about the prolonged uncertainty of this pandemic.
As the individual survival experience is reflected in our communities, our collective challenge will be to acknowledge and integrate these differences in order to mitigate retaliatory impulses, polarization and scapegoating.
Recognizing that everyone does not need to have the same viewpoint to get along is a beginning … towards identifying and integrating difference so that we can continue to feel a sense of belonging and create meaning out of our individual and collective experiences.
Inspiration through the Arts:
Despite our differences, the arts whether music, poetry, literature offer us creative ways to connect with one another as we confront the painful realities of this pandemic. Our collective creativity provides meaning beyond our individual experiences through reflections of our common humanity and symbolic transformation that inspires communal action.
Kinfolk Magazine has a wonderful issue,
The Essentials Issue
( 2015 Issue Sixteen) dedicated to … the essentials. In it there is an article, written by Peter Block, titled “A Sense of Belonging”, which explores belonging as an essential building block for society.
For those who enjoy poetry, David Whyte’s collection of poems,
The House of Belonging
is a beautiful collection, particularly during this time of increased solitude.
REFLECTING ON OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSES
In our previous newsletter, we highlighted an article about grief.
Along similar lines, the following article by Gabor Maté, in a Special to the Star, April 29, 2020, outlines why reflecting on our responses is so important. In addition, staying present with these feelings of sadness and loss keeps us in the here-and-now and out of the land of anxiety and uncertainty.
As we sit with these feelings of sadness, we have noticed both individually and collectively, the need to
We long to find the ‘silver lining’, and the ‘lessons’ we can learn through this whole process. We have been preoccupied with the notion of how we make meaning of experience and the relevance of grief in this process.
There’s much discussion lately in social media about grief, and the importance of addressing losses (ambiguous and real) but what does that mean to me... and to us?
THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS AND CONNECTION
As we sacrifice some of the ‘I’ for the sake of the ‘we’, we recognized that in turn, the ‘I’ benefits. Professionally, the ‘we’ does this through research collaboration between private and public sectors. The collective repurposing of production in many factories/operations including distilleries, clothing manufacturers and car makers, to name a few… while providing needed supplies and economic benefits, also gives employees a renewed sense of purpose, working all hours to provide the required resources. A collective appreciation for frontline workers and essential services encourages our need to make a difference and highlights our interconnectedness.
And, when this pandemic winds down, the question of how each of us met our own individual needs will be answered alongside the question, how did we do at meeting the needs of others? At meeting our collective needs?
On leadership during the Pandemic:
It has been so heartening to read and watch the collaborative efforts of our provincial and federal governments in managing this pandemic. The pre-covid political polarization has given way to a recognition that in this time of pandemic crisis, leaders must exercise effective self-leadership and come together supportively before they can focus on leading others. The ability to self-regulate comes from an understanding of what is triggering us. The thought of never being willing to risk going outside again is as traumatic as the belief that there is no risk and no need to practice physical distancing.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Canadian leadership, the messages have been delivered calmly, rationally and with evidence-based thinking, even though that thinking may change tomorrow as new information emerges. Effective leaders appreciate the primitive fight flight freeze response. They understand the demand for certainty in an age of uncertainty, but don’t make unrealistic promises. They understand that there is a segment of the community focused on blaming and scapegoating. They consult and attempt to balance caution with vision. They take a deep breath and lead the way in fact-checking their own statements and the statements of others. They encourage us to do the same rather than simply screaming ‘fake news’. Whether leading a therapy group or a government, as leaders we need to exercise personal agency, take responsibility for ourselves and have a vision of leadership based on competence and empathy rather than ideology.
To conclude, we’d like to note that May is mental health month around the world. At a time when physical distance is necessary, emotional connection becomes that much more important. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Please take care and be well!