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Covid Creates 4: Envisioning Silver

February 17, 2021

Responding to a tweet, I imagine was written in humour, has activated my otherwise fatigued grey cogs:

‘TV Pitch: Silver Mirror. Instead of showcasing endless nightmare versions of the future, an anthology series that envisions a better, more equal, and just world. @NetflixANZ hire me.’

With increasing news of how Covid is impacting mental health, both for adults and children, I wonder at our ability to envision wellness, a different, more ‘positive’ future, not just as individuals, but as a society… 
There are real, direct and practical implications of Covid and the restrictions it has enforced locally and globally, for example, closure of schools and loss of jobs, delayed response to GP and mental health facilities (already strained and slow pre-pandemic), as well as the pressure cooker of families all working and homeschooling in the limits of shared physical space, single-households more alone and isolated than ever, and the closure of leisure, cultural and sports venues… and I wonder if amidst all this, what was already in short supply is proving particularly dangerous, namely, our ability to tap into our sense of resilience, not just to cope with the present but to envision a better future, is drowning in the currents. 

I used quotation marks for ‘positive’ because I grew bored and cautious of the term, when used as a delusional broad brush stroke for an IG filtered facade, denying anything deemed draining, dark, unattractive, not Like worthy. Positive Psychology  for example, is largely about honing in and bolstering the strengths, raising awareness of what is working, not just what isn’t. As well as meditative and spiritual practices, from mindfulness to daily prayer, there are practical applications to professional and institutional workings aimed at re-orientating focus from ‘what are we doing wrong?’ to ‘what’s working?’ 
Appreciative Enquiry is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes’ (Starvos et al. 2015).
When I was introduced to Appreciative Inquiry  by a supervisor on a pilot humanitarian project in 2014, I felt like someone had ushered me into a parallel universe, where my starting point was an inquiry into what’s already working, then imagining how good it could be, conceptualising my ideal vision then creatively sourcing the steps I need to get there. I often arrived at sessions exhausted and full of the struggles and realities of working in a refugee camp inside a developing country (already struggling with its hosts let alone its migrants!). Whilst I felt my feelings were held, validated and attended to, I was also invited to stay curious with ‘what am I doing well?’, which for me, often needs to be excavated from the rubble of ‘what didn’t I get right this time?’ attitude. Something as simple as having managed a session where the children didn’t all shout at the same time for an hour, where we managed to draw a picture together, move to music, play a game…or the mothers attended the weekly Women’s Circle; I remember reviewing my discouragement that then the women often brought their daily chores with them (peeling potatoes, folding clothes, breast feeding their infant), smoked and joked alongside the deeper sharings and breathing exercises, until I saw that they were claiming this space as their own, and this is something to celebrate, not commiserate because I wasn’t managing to recreate some Californian, Esalen-eque group in South Lebanon (!). These simple realities would have been easily missed, when this transient community had no promise of stability, when the host population was being attacked by ISIS, who were (then) the newest monster to crawl out of the woodwork, screaming a vision of beheadings and enslavement.
I imagine for the majority of us, it’s so easy to believe I am not as competent as others perceive me to be, where concepts like Imposter Syndrome were originally conceived with high achieving women in mind, and I would argue, alongside these women, stand the BAME/ IPOC/ other minority acronyms for people who were told a story that no longer serves them. Transactional Analysis’ Critical Parent ego state arouses the inner voice of the parent who put you in place as a child, who told the 8 year old you that you should be this and that, who reprimanded me for asking too many questioning, who told you that you needed to watch your weight, who said that girls shouldn’t speak too loudly and that big boys don’t cry… these voices weave themselves into our inner fabric, so that I don’t recognise theirs from mine. You don’t need to be believe in a one true voice, though perhaps recognise the voices that serve you today. What are the Nurturing Parent voices that hold, soothe, energise, propel, and encourage me to realise my dreams, to creatively envision? A Critical Parent is still needed, for example, to be on time to my dentist appointment (if I can get one!), to stop myself from watching a fourth episode of a Netflix series, and a Nurturing Parent parent may come in to encourage you to have a soothing bath and catch some rest, to help me see that maybe I needed to watch the fifth episode because I’ve worked really hard today and needed to vegetate and reboot. Not put me in time-out, scald with reprimands that diminish and humiliate me…

I mentioned spirituality, which includes faith and religious practice for me, and whilst I appreciate many are (rightly) cautious and skeptical, it’s still a key resource for many. I’ve been revisiting the Muslim and/ or Sufi practice of evoking God’s 99 Names, where polarised, expansive facets of the Creator, nature, the cosmos, are roused within. For example, Al-Jame’/الْجَامِعُ guides towards a pathway of gathering, whether of people in your life or of the resources needed at the moment, inviting a process of gathering parts of yourself that can help you better reflect your purpose in life; or Malik Al-Mulk/ مَالِكُ ٱلْمُلْكُ offering an opportunity to open your heart to a passionate vision that would compel you to live your life in service to Unity. Unity of self, of your home, your community, world, past-present-future and also, according to the spiritual belief, unity of God. Not in a shouty fanatic way, but in an inner, integrated and grounded way, holding both the challenges of reality, alongside gratitude, joys, beauty and accomplishments worth acknowledging (maybe celebrating) at every turn.

This is what propels me, what nourish and feeds me, and what I believe can support moving away from the black mirror of society, to a brighter, more silvery one.  

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