Threat levels…

I enjoyed the British threat levels hashtag that was trending a while ago. And because there was a little truth in a lot of the statements, I started thinking about my own threat levels and how frustrated I get with it.

It was such a relief to chuckle about those little things but it also made me think that this might somewhat explain why I feel at home in England. The social anxiety, political correctness, the tensions and the propriety obsession. I only feel like the odd one out some of the time 😉

Anxiety is more or less a constant companion for me. So any extra added anxiety or stress is tricky for me. I have noticed how other people can seem to enjoy getting stressed, worked up or scared e.g. watching scary films or having to rush for something or getting in to a debate. Like they get a bit high on the adrenaline. I really, really don’t. When I experience heightened threat levels I feel quite ill and it takes me a long time to recover – or get back to my normal uncomfortable but familiar level of anxiety.

Anyway I want to try and look at my threat level triggers and taking a bit of a humorous stance with them. Even though that might not come across in my writing.

So here is the ESMD* threat levels colourcoded overview:

Red alerts (things that make my body feel full of terror. Stress levels out the roof)

  • Waking up in the morning and realising I won’t be able to sleep any longer.
  • Bus or train arriving and it’s packed and i am having to quickly decide whether to get on or wait for the next.
  • Feeling like a tiny spider/aphid/fly is crawling around on my skin no matter how much I try to wipe it away.
  • The phone ringing! Here’s how it goes: withheld or unknown number I feel a little relief as I think I am less obliged to respond. Known caller – total panic and I spend so long trying to decide what to do that it goes to voicemail.
  • Voicemail icon showing up on my phone – do have to listen to it straight away? If I wait the icon just springs at me every time I look at the phone. I use the phone as a time piece – I start calculating whether I’ll need to look at the time any more that day. I put the phone away and for the millionth time start thinking about getting a pocket watch.
  • Looking in the fridge and cupboards and not seeing anything I want to eat. I decide not to eat – panic avoided for a couple of hours…
  • Getting dressed and having limited time to get ready and everything I try on just feels wrong and uncomfortable. Usually my hair then starts acting up too and my hands and arms start hurting trying to sort it out. Eventually go out the door ready to have a tantrum.
  • People getting angry with each other and saying rude things and I cant not hear it.
  • Penalty kicks in football. Or even worse: penalty shoot outs!
  • Packing for travelling.
  • Getting angry about something and not knowing what to do.
  • Something (read any thing) not going according to how I see it in my head.
  • Unpredictability.
  • Uncertainty.

Orange alerts (things that make me feel nauseated and slightly panicky. Stress levels elavated)

  • Whatching a knockout in a boxing match or a bad tackle in a football game.
  • A good book finishing.
  • My partner coming home earlier than expected. No matter how much I have been looking forward to seeing him. Luckily this rarely happens because he texts me advance so I know I have to make the transition from being on my own to being with him. I am just pure grumpyness if I haven’t had a chance to prepare myself. I am only a little bit grumpy and not for long when I have had time to prepare.
  • Being asked to make a spontaneous decision. Or just being asked to make a decision.
  • Feeling responsible.
  • In sports: The underdog looking like they are going to win but then something changes and they loose. I usually have to stop watching (beginning to think I just shouldn’t watch sports…)
  • A plant dying because I forgot to water it or its got some disease I can’t help it with.
  • Slugs eating little seedlings.
  • Food going off and I am having to throw it out.
  • Somebody knocking on the door.
  • Forgetting something. Usually after having reminded myself of it twenty times because I know I can’t cope with forgetting it.
  • Being around intoxicated people. A little bit easier if intoxicated myself but then of course even mild intoxication is like russian roulette (headaches, brain fog etc) so if I have anything remotely important planned next day it is not an option.

Yellow alerts (things that make me feel restless and uncomfortable. This is actually my everyday state… Thought it was normal till I was 24 and started doing bodywork, see blog on bodywork)

  • Opening my email inbox.
  • Finding my phone after having left it somewhere where I cant hear or see it for hours.
  • Encountering a friendly, chatty person and not remembering how I am supposed to respond because I hadn’t prepared myself for being sociable.
  • Enjoying myself with a friend and beginning to feel overstimulated and then getting annoyed with myself because I want to keep hanging out but I know I’ll be grumpy once I come down from being high on social interactions.
  • Waking up briefly for the 5th time in the night and feeling like I’m not sleeping properly.
  • My morning or evening rituals being interrupted by things like: being to tired to do them, having to get out the door a certain time to catch a bus and be somewhere, my hair being so tangled it takes more than 2 minutes to sort out, my skin being so dry and itchy/painful I have to put moisturiser several times after I have lied down to sleep.
  • Feeling ready to sleep after having been up and awake for 2 hours. You know that afternoon dip? Well, mine happens around 11am.
  • Trying to have a nap during the day but giving up after lying there for an hour.
  • Knowing full well that sugar and coffeine will not give me a boost of energy but trying anyway and then feeling sorry for myself when it doesn’t work.
  • Getting annoyed with people talking about having a coffee buzz or a sugar high (oh just go away will you).
  • Feeling guilty for getting annoyed with other people.
  • Not having interacted with anyone but my partner for a week and when I notice it I am not sure what to feel about it.
  • Feeling something and not knowing why.
  • Being told to: ‘just come around’ or ‘give me a call’ and then never doing it. Then being told again and starting to worry about how to explain that it’s not that I don’t want to, I just forget, because most of the time I’m fairly satisfied in my own company. Not that I don’t want to come around or have a chat but if it’s not planned, more often than not I just don’t remember.
  • People bumping in to me. Especially if it’s in a queue and I cant get away and they keep bumping in to me. I have this trick of stepping slightly out of the queue.
  • Bumping into people. It does happen!
  • Walking towards people on the street and they don’t move out of the way before last second and then they’d brush against me if I didn’t do massive avoidance manuevres.
  • People taking me seriously when I am joking.
  • Feeling unsure whether it’s okay to write ‘I  enjoyed the British threat levels hashtag trending’ without honouring the painful context it occured in.
  • Beginning to think too much about what I write or say…

*ESMD – Elisabeth Svanholmer Most Days

Sort of related:

I found this read below a while back and it made a lot of sense to me and resonates with my personal experience so I thought other people might find it helpful as well.

The ability to wait

There isn’t much fun about waiting… Though some people say that half the experience is anticipating it and preparing for it. I guess what I am talking about is the aimless waiting, waiting for something to change or shift or waiting for things outside of your control to come together. Some people talk about precious time being wasted when we wait – like waiting for the bus or for the washing machine to finish so you can take out the clothes in order to get on with the day.

I think the virtue of waiting is underestimated. There are some valuable skills in waiting. When you wait you have to surrender your idea of having control over things, you have to be with your restlessness and boredom and face your powerlessness. And I am not sure we do these things enough.

There seem to be a lot of energy in society spent on proving one is in control – that one is productive and efficient – and surrounding oneself with an air of busyness. Waiting and busyness don’t go well together. I think a lot of us feel urged to distract ourselves instead of waiting. Or we feel like we have to fill the time with something useful.

I think we tend to associate waiting with being idle. And being idle has got a bad name:

 

No wonder our adult parts – the conscientious, image-oriented and anxious selves – feel uncomfortable when we have to spend time doing nothing.

I also think many of us associate waiting with being told off as a child for being too eager, too excited and too demanding. Waiting was a punishment or a frustrating thing we had to do to get what we wanted.  How many of us has experienced an adult telling us to do this annoying waiting-thing and then sit down with us to figure out how to do it and what it’s like.

No wonder our inner children – the excited, impulsive and eager parts of us – feel like waiting is boring and an awful state of lonely restlessness.

So if waiting is more than being idle or being forced to delay gratification, what is it then?

As I get older people feed back to me how they appreciate my ability to wait, my patience. I wait for a mood to pass, I wait for the energy to shift in a difficult situation, I wait for the next wave of conversation to come (rather than create it), I wait for life to get less busy so friends and I can find time for each other, I wait for time to heal the cracks in suffering relationships, I wait for opportunities to come along. I have practised a lot of waiting in my life. Doesn’t mean I can always do it but I find that its a useful skill to have.

Waiting is not a passive state. Waiting, for me, is an attentive state; a caring, listening state. Listening in to my body, listening in to life, listening in to a situation. And trusting. Trusting that things change even if I don’t actively interfere. Even if I don’t ‘do’.

Because life is bigger than me and there is so much I do not know, so much I do not understand. I am seldom capable of confidently taking action because it is impossible for me to know what the ‘right thing’ or most appropriate thing to do, is. So I wait. And in my experience inevitably the thing to do comes to me. Like in some strange dance with life, the next step appears on the ground under me. And because I was attentively waiting I noticed it. Sometimes it’s other people who brings the steps, sometimes its something I read or ideas that come into my head. Sometime stuff just happens and I dance along. Then it slows down. And I wait again.

When I was younger I found this dance difficult. I judged myself harshly when I went through times of waiting. I shamed myself calling me names like avoidant, lazy, indecisive, unambitious and lacking drive. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, not contributing, not out there enough changing the world, fighting the good fight.

But getting older I realise it just didn’t ring true to me deep down. I don’t want to be super-poductive and ‘out there’ because I don’t feel that rushing towards the good life and fighting for change actually creates the world I want to be in.

I am still waiting for the words to describe the world I want to be in and how I imagine the journey there…

 

Hello Self-loathing, my old friend…

Self-loathing as a belief system

Today I did a session on beliefs with a community team and one of the subjects that came up was self-loathing. 
It can be painful to witness somebody caught in cycles of self-loathing, it’s easy to feel powerless and frustrated and it’s only natural to want to bring relief. 

But if you think of self-loathing as a belief system it might become clearer why reassurance, pep-talks and affirmations either only brings short relief or at times might create more intense self-loathing. 

We hold beliefs because they help us make sense of things and organise our experiences. Beliefs can simplify the world for us or maybe they can give us a sense of direction. Beliefs can give us an excuse for doing things a certain way or for not doing something. All beliefs serve a function but it may not be immediately obvious what that function is. And it may be even harder to see how a distressing belief can be protective.

I believe that all people are born equal and hardwired for connection and it gives me hope for the world – whether it’s true or not I’ll never know. I also believe that most people are dishonest about their intentions – quite often because they are not aware of them and are living in default mode – which helps me be cautious and discerning about who I give my love and energy to. If I get too attached to this belief I start becoming distrusting and suspicious but if I can hold it lightly it helps me look after myself.

We might think of self-loathing as an emotion but I see it more as a state of being; a part of me that has its own perceptions and its own beliefs.

Quite a lot of my life I have believed that I was a disgusting, evil and horrible human being. I have believed that I needed to contain myself so that I wouldn’t pollute people around me with all the horrible stuff inside me. I have believed that I had nothing to offer to the world, that I was a problem to be gotten rid of and that I didn’t deserve love and friendships. I have believed that other people found me disgusting too and that they were just tolerating me in order to make fun about me behind me back. I have believed that I was cursed and that there was something innately wrong with me. I have felt incredible amounts of shame about my thoughts, my feelings, my body, my behaviour, my dreams and my personality. 

And at times I still feel these things. At times I go into states where my self-loathing beliefs feel like the only reality there is.

Letting self-loathing do its job

The experience of hearing voices has taught me a lot about holding reality lightly and accepting not knowing what the truth is. It has helped see how the world is full of realities, full of different perceptions and different ways of understanding these perceptions. Hearing multiple voices, each with their own take on the world, has made me more able to sit with the uncertainty of multiple realities.

So today when my self-loathing states visit me, I try to remember that they are temporary and wait them out. But I also try to acknowledge that they don’t come along out of the blue. I feel self-loathing for a reason.

Self-loathing does a lot of different jobs for me. Some of them may seem to contradict each other but it seems to me that it’s just an expression of different needs at different times.

Self-loathing gives me reasons why I at times feel disconnected from other people. It tells me why people don’t take an interest in me or why I experience being dismissed. 

Now the temptation might be to say: “But self-loathing has got it wrong. It’s not because you are disgusting that people don’t take an interest – they are just too busy, stressed and wrapped up in their own needs and feelings.” And yes that is a much nicer and more rational explanation but why are we so reluctant to admit that there may be some people who find me disgusting? It is extremely likely that there are people who I – for whatever reason – rub up the wrong way and they may find me horrible and evil. Self-loathing reminds me that I cannot please everybody and that there might not be any point in trying to.

Self-loathing keeps me in touch with my ugly sides. There is no hiding from self-loathing; it will remind me of all the horrible thoughts or impulses I have at times. There is no suppression with self-loathing.

Here the temptation might be to go full throttle on positive affirmations: “We are all unique and beautiful beings, blessed by life or a higher power and all of us worthy of love. You are not evil, I experience you as a caring and gentle person.” And I may express gratitude and acknowledge the attempt to reassure me but in a state of self-loathing I will also be thinking: “Well you don’t know me the way I do – how would you feel if I told you about my desires to hurt or be hurt or my thoughts of ridding the whole world of humans?” Most of us have thoughts or fantasies that we feel ashamed about and think we are alone with. When someone tries to reassure me, it can make me think that they are not willing to look at the horribleness of humans with me.

Self-loathing keeps me humble. Self-loathing gets intensely angry with me if I start thinking I am better than, special or a chosen one. Somehow it keeps me balancing on that edge of being unique and yet equal to everyone else. When I feel superior, self-loathing bombards me with my inferiority.

And I can hear someone argue: “Well surely there are other ways of keeping your megalomania in check? Staying humble could be achieved by other, gentler means.” And yes there might be other ways and that may work for other people, but I wonder why I should choose another way? Harshness and violence is a natural part of life, denying that it is part of me and not giving it a role seems problematic to me. I have no interest in eradicating self-loathing and keeping me humble feels like a good use of its natural talents.

Self-loathing keeps me safe. It allows me to give up and let go. If I am unworthy and unlovable what’s the point of chasing after love, of proving myself to the world or of trying to live up to others expectations.Things cannot get any worse so I can just stop trying and withdraw into my cocoon. Self-loathing and self-pity are familiar companions and I know where I stand with them; with them I am allowed to die and disappear.

Self-loathing tells me that I might have spent too much energy comparing myself to others. Self-loathing seems to get stronger when I – unawares – have been looking at other peoples achievements or the recognition other people get. 

Self-loathing encourages me to get clean; physically, energetically and mentally. It has very high standards – impossible actually – when it comes to ethics. But it seems to me that we need a lot more sustainable and ethically ways of living so I don’t mind that self-loathing helps keep me in check.

Exploring Self-loathing with others

Self-loathing can be a lonely place because the nature of it is full of tabboos and shame. Even though I have just made an argument for why self-loathing is an important part of my life, I also know how difficult it is when self-loathing takes over and controls your life. When it goes from being a state of mind or a part of you to being the only reality, your disgusting worthlessness the only truth.

I totally understand why people want to relieve the pain of self-loathing, why it makes us panic and go into fixing and reassuring mode. I myself am not that great at responding to expressed self-loathing. In the moment it can feel so uncomfortable, as if you’re getting drawn into this heavy, gooey, foggy swamp. It triggers off our caring instincts as well as our desire to stay hopeful and optimistic. How can we show empathy without making it worse? If we just accept and empathise are we not just colluding? Don’t we need to stand up to this kind of self-abuse?

I want to finish this blog with a couple of things that I have found helpful in terms of finding a place for self-loathing in my life. 

First of all there is the Voice Dialogue model which has helped me see self-loathing as a part of me that comes out at certain times. This helps me explore and be less angry with it or scared of it. One time when it got really intense I asked my partner to dialogue with this part of me. I had felt caught in cycles of anxiety, shame and overwhelm for a while and I could feel self-loathing working in the background. Having my partner talk to self-loathing helped honour it’s energy and bring it into the light which made it easier to deal with. 

Another thing I find helpful is when other people share their horribleness with me. When friends feel safe enough to tell me about tabboo thoughts or feelings they may have. It seems to me that self-loathing feeds off secret keeping and shame. Self-loathing seems to grow out of proportions when we cannot find spaces to talk about all those ugly things that live in us. 

I love the death-cafes movement. I would love for there to be similar initiatives around self-loathing and the darker sides to being human. 

When self-care bites

Yesterday self-care was like looking into the dark abyss – yesterday self-care meant making a painful decision. Only two-three options to choose from and they all sucked one way or the other… My head, heart and gut strongly disagreed on the way to go, so what to do?

When in doubt I listen to my gut.

Even though my head and heart make much better arguments, I have learned from experience that that wordless wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach is the one to go with.

I cried and cried and cried last night, totally despairing that I had to make this decision. I wanted to stick my head in the sand AND soldier on pretending everything would be fine. But there was no way around it. While I was dissolving in tears I had moments of hoping that the crying would sort things out for me. Or that I would have some amzing insight into a way forward. But the crying didn’t change anything. I still had my crappy decision to make.

My back injury has flared up and it means that I am in pain from the chest down. Doesn’t matter if I stand, sit, lie or walk – it hurts all the time, just in different ways. Pain killers don’t make a difference and the pain affects my cognitive functioning leaving me in a bit of a haze. It also hurts emotionally because I’ve been doing well for more than a year now and been getting back into ballet, so it feels like a massive set back. And the uncertainty is painful as well; whether this will last for months or if it will get better within weeks. Once it took over a year and the fear is always that it won’t get better this time…

Thursday and Friday this week my partner and I have put on a two-day course in London on Compassionate Communication Skills in Mental Health Settings. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and was excited when a friend, who is a certified NVC trainer, was up for doing this with us.

I woke yesterday hoping my back might get better during the day but as the evening came nothing had changed. I was feeling sad and moody, annoyed with myself for not having done enough to prevent this flare up…  I’d sat down with my partner to find something to watch together when I suddenly found myself saying “I wish we weren’t going to London tomorrow.” Until that moment I had been in denial about the effect the pain had on me. And it wasn’t till the words came out of my mouth that I realised I had to decide whether to go to London or not.

My three choices were: 1) to go and do everything as planned 2)to go but be less involved in the training 3)stay at home.

My heart wanted to go. “Go!Go! Go!” It said. “Everything will be fine. You can’t miss out on this, there is so much to learn.”

My head wanted to go but take it easy. “You need to learn to be more resilient and this is a chance to thicken your skin a bit. You can’t keep bailing out when things get tough. You might always be in pain so you have to learn to deal with it”

And my gut… My gut was just full of this sinking, wrenching feeling at the thought of the long drive, sleeping in a different bed, being nice and sociable, facilitating training, negotiating space and roles with my co-facilitators and keeping my head focused while managing my pain.

I knew my heart and head were right. I could do it. But it would undoubtedly be at a cost. All three choices would have difficult consequences.

At the moment I feel like I am in shock from being in pain again and I know that I would have to dissociate in order to go and do the training. I dont mind dissociating – it is very useful at times like this – but then there is always an aftermath that I will have to take care of. Maybe if I had had a week to gather myself it would have been more manageable.

So for now I have chosen to go with my gut, stay at home and get reacquainted with my pain-managing skills… 

 

 

 

After the floods

Thinking of ways to support the local area find its way back to some sort of normal…

The devastation is difficult to comprehend and people are still working hard to clean up. Rebuilding homes, businesses, schools and other community venues will take a long time. We all try and cope with the state of things in our own ways and there will be a continued need for support both practically and emotionally.

One way to support people in the beautiful valleys of Calderdale is to donate here Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal

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I love films and I love cinemas. My first memories of going to the cinema is from the wonderfully charming Øst for Paradis in Aarhus. I remember watching La Gloire de mon père there in the early early 90’ies and later many more arty and independent films from all over the world.
In my early teens I lived in Hornslet and the local cinema Kom-bi became my sancturary. There were films I would go watch again and again – such as La cité des enfants perdus – and this was also where I saw the Star Wars triology for the first times.

Even though I have some beautiful memories of watching films with friends, my mother and boyfriends, the cinema is a place I love to go on my own. Whatever my mood is, sitting in the dark and allowing myself to be absorbed into the stories, the action and the emotions on screen, is magical (unless its a really terrible film – but luckily I have not had too many of those experiences).
I can enjoy all sorts of genres but if I am feeling overwhelmed my prefered remedy is to go and watch either some macho action packed film or a thriller. Somehow that will give me a break from reality but also give me emotional release.

Now I live in Calderdale and what excitement I felt the first time I went to Hebden Bridge Picture House! The building is amazing and the interior made me feel at home, bringing back memories of Øst for Paradis. But during the floods on Boxing Day the Picture House was damaged…

Update on December 30th from Hebden Bridge Picture House

“Today, the Picture House and Town Council staff cleaned the foyer and kiosk, the Friends of the Picture House committee cleaned the balcony and a whole load of volunteers of all varieties, with power tools and strength and at very short notice, came and unbolted the sodden seats – removing all 257 from the stalls.
We are now in a position to open our doors, and would like to invite you all to our not-so-grand reopening on New Year’s Day, launching the January programme as planned!

During this period only the unaffected original balcony seating will be available, meaning capacity is reduced to 230. This also means access is limited for those unable to use the stairs – thank you for your patience during this time if you are unable to attend for this reason.

Heating will be limited (unless we can get hold of some giant plug-in heaters…), so feel free to bring along a cushion, a blanket and your good spirit – the show will go on!

Thank you for your support, generosity and hard work – we’ve been overwhelmed with your response. We look forward to seeing you all very soon!

Hebden Bridge Picture House Team”

Dear Friends of the Picture House and all volunteers, helpers and workers – thank you for bringing such an important part of the community back so quickly.

So now I am in the wonderful position of being able to combine my love for films and my desire to support the local area to bounce back after the flooding. On New Years day a group of us went to see the powerful film Sufragette. It was an atmospheric and slightly surreal experience. People in their coats and with blankets almost filling up the seats on the balcony and below us the bare floors and walls showing markings where the water had been. There is no real escape from what has happened but it was good to sit there and get a couple of hours relief and sense the spirit of this strong community.
And today I hope to go see Black Mass. Bringing again my blankets and hopefully I will remember my mug for a cup of tea to help keep my hands warm.

local

The perks of being a sensitive, worrying person – anticipating worst case scenarios

Some say you have to think positive for positive things to happen. That is not my experience.

And I am not sure it is something I want to try.
Because life happens – and yes our attitude towards things when they happen is important. How we receive things and respond to them is essential.

But to me thinking that I can affect things in advance by thinking positively is actually a bit scary. Cause what if I do all the positive thinking I possibly can and life still throws crap at me. Is it then my own fault? Did I not do it right? Did I not do it enough?
What if by thinking positive thoughts I am actually suppressing what is really going on in me? Will that not have consequences?
Being optimistic, trusting and hopeful feels good. I like it when I am able to do it. But for me it is not something I can enforce or choose. It comes from deep within, it is something which is nurtured to grow – not just by me but also by my surroundings.

I have been told I take things too seriously and that I think too much. And I do think a lot. But I don’t think it’s a problem.
In the past months I have been worried. Oh so worried. It has taken up a lot of my energy and my imagination have had me enthralled with all sorts of disastrous scenarios. And that may not sound very healthy to some of you.

But here is what you don’t know if you haven’t tried it.

When I arrive at the situation I have been anticipating I feel prepared for anything. Literally anything. There is nothing life can throw at me which I haven’t already thought through. 
And when things go well – as they most often do (partly because I am prepared) the sense of relief and gratitude is amazing.
And if things go really really well – if things go well beyond anything I could have expected or hoped for, if people are kind or things just flow effortlessly – it is the best high in life.
It is not a restless high. It is a blissful humbling high and a sense of being connected and looked after by something much bigger than me.

Highs and lows are the spice of life. If you don’t have them – create them!

So much fear

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived” – from Strictly Ballroom

Fear is what is on my mind today, looking back at the results of the recent elections in the UK and Denmark. Not that I am particularly fearful about the future – the way politics seem to work these days I don’t really know if it makes a difference which political party is in power – or supposedly in power.
No – fear is on my mind because there is so much of it in the political campaigns and the election results reflect that fear.
Fear of the other, the forreign, the unfamiliar.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of change.
Fear for our safety.
Fear for losing our comfortable lives.
Fear of losing our fragile identities.
Fear of powerlesness.
Fear of the dangerous, the mad, the scroungers
Fear of our fellow human beings

Today I went to a mental health ward and gave a so-called inspirational talk about my vulnerabilites, my pain, my experiences of hearing voices and my journey towards creating a more meaningful life for myself. And people were so welcoming and curious and I went away with this sense of awe. I love being around people who have been categorised as mad – I feel belonging.
Once I was told that I should avoid hospitalisation because “the wards were full of people crawling on the walls and you will only get worse”. I was shocked in so many ways. I have been hospitalised twice and both times it was a relief and both times I found the people who were in there with me, deeply inspiring, kind, beautiful and so wonderfully diverse. I see myself more clearly in others when all the pretence is scraped away. When people openly express themselves, their inner lives, their pain and fears. I can relate.

Today after the talk, I was asked ” how can you talk so openly about all these things” and I struggled a bit to give a coherent answer.
I tried to say that I talk about these things because I want a world, societies and communities, where it is okay to talk about these things. I do it because I can – I do not feel exposed or shameful afterwards. I do it because I think it is the only way to demystify our experiences and start talking with each other about what is going on for us, inside of us.
A woman interupted and said: “you do it because its your passion!” And I said “yes – you’re right, it is my passion”
I am deeply passionate about creating a world with less fear and more trust – less fitting in and more acceptance of diversity.

But is it the only way?
I’d love to hear ideas about how to create communities where trust can flourish – or what to do in our daily lives to contribute to a less fearful world.

Thoughts on Change #3

creating change -continued…

Knowing when to wait…

I am presently reading “Runes of the Earth” by Stephen Donaldson (7th book of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever). In this book the reader is told the story about an old man, Anele, who feels he is solely responsible for the grim state of affairs in “The Land”. Different forces are causing havoc and Lord Foul, The Despiser, is once again trying to find a way to break the Arch of Time to destroy the earth. Thousands of years ago, Anele’s parents had been given The Staff of Law and they spent their lives healing damage that had been done to The Land after Lord Fouls previous attacks. They taught Anele everything they knew and when they died, they left The Staff of Law in his care so that he could continue their work. Anele however had always felt too astonished with the Earthpower and the wonders of The Land and therefore unworthy of wielding the powers of the Staff of Law. He decided to go live in a cave and spend his time learning to listen deeply to all parts of The Land in the hope that he would then better understand how to meet its needs. Consequently he did nothing and carried out no healing for many many years. He just listened; “Trying to determine the form of service that was right for him” (p.460)

One day he feels a great unease in The Land and ventures out to have a look at it but leaves The Staff of Law behind him intending to come back for it when he has seen and understood what is causing the unease. He is then caught in a Fall – a great moving aura inside which time breaks – and he is transported thousands of years into the future and thereby separated from The Staff of Law. He is so distraught with his own failure to act and to heal as he was destined to do that now where he has lost The Staff, he goes mad. His mind becomes fragmented, trying to protect him from his unbearable guilt and shame. Initially he thought himself unworthy to take on the task of healing. He has tried to find a way to approach his birthright, his responsibilities and powers but is torn away from his life and thrown into a world in distress. He judges himself harshly and believes he is witnessing the future consequences of his own inadequacy – his hesitance, which he sees as cowardice, is the cause of the approaching ruin of The Land.

I can relate to Anele’s story in several ways; for a good half of my life I have judged myself too afraid of responsibilities, too weak, too lazy, too unworthy and to unskilled to be able to have an impact on the world. I told myself I was fleeing, pacified and petrified by my fears of failure. But in moments I would experience thoughts such as:

“I am learning to live with pain”

“I am trying to listen and understand what is needed here”

“I need to see a fuller picture, have more pieces of the jigsaw-puzzle in place”

In seemingly clearer phases I would see myself as waiting rather than fleeing. And I was waiting because I had to; to gain more experience, to receive more information and to get to know myself better and learn to play myself like an instrument. Rather than willing myself forwards, waiting seemed to be a way of honouring something deeper in me, something I could not and still cannot articulate or understand. I had to start trusting that in all my insignificance, ignorance and powerlessness I was also part of something bigger, much wiser than me. A moving energy or consciousness that had intention and direction that lay beyond my limited mind. I had to try and accept the slowliness of my living and trust that I had to keep living – however painful and pointless it seemed at times.

– and when to act…

Urgency and emergency, the sense of crisis and the unbearable pains and injustices we have to face over and over again, make us want to rush. Understandably; we want to change things as quickly as possible, relieve hurts, mend what has been broken, set wrongs right and make sure that injustices are not repeated over and over. We want the solutions to be clear and simple, we want to find the causes, point out the offenders and ensure ourselves that we have made the world a better place – whatever that means to us as individuals. It is only natural when we feel deeply and care deeply that we look for ways to change things within our own lifetime.

But if we do not believe we can make a difference we might chose numbness and distractions and live to meet our own basic needs and leave the fate of the earth in the hands of others. Again an understandable response to the overwhelming amount of pain.

When I rush or when I close my self off, I do it to protect myself from various things and I forget to trust.

It is probably unlikely that there is ever a perfect time to take action, but I believe it is good to keep an eye on timing. Try to get a sense of the bigger picture, listen to what is going on around you, get a sense of the atmosphere in a room or a conversation before deciding what to say or do. Tuning in on the space and the people we want to have a meaningful conversations with can at times be worth much more than the actual words we use.

Our collective intelligence.

In my front yard there is a lovely little apple-tree in a large container. It is only a few years old and has started to bear fruit. But the young branches need training in order for them to carry the weight of the growing apples without breaking off from the trunk. So I need to find a way to help them grow more horizontally which will make them stronger and able to fulfill their function as fruit carriers.

I wonder if the collective consciousness or intelligence of humanity needs some kind of gentle training so that it can bear its fruits without breaking off from the trunk; the core, the earth, the life source… A sustainable training that will enable branches to grow stronger, a deeper fundamental change in how we grow and expand, moving towards a way of living that honours the earth that sustains us. I don’t know what this gentle training would look like but in my own life I have found that I benefit greatly from slowing down, listening deeply and allowing things to unfold in their own time. When I am caught in the sense of crisis I feel like I have to do as much as humanly possible and not stop till all is done – or I break… But if I am able to step back, I might find that less is more. That my full intervention is not needed but maybe just my witnessing is enough to change the course of events. It is hard work to balance the sense of power and powerlessness. To be aware that I am powerless and powerful at the same time and that my actions can have unforeseen consequences, that something done with best intentions may cause harm and something done out of frustration might be helpful for someone…

Inspirations and aspirations.

I began to listen to popular music quite late – when I was around 13 years old in 1995 – and the first pop-artist I got excited about was Michael Jackson. Not knowing anything about him or the media attention he had had for more than 15 years I dived into his music without any preconceptions. Not only did his lyrics speak to my struggles at the time, they also seemed to weave themselves into my deeper values and already forming beliefs about myself and the world. “Man in the mirror” is a good example of this. Whenever I hear or read outcries about all that is wrong with the world, this song starts playing in my mind. In the words of Gandhi the song basically tells us to be the change we want to see. If we think the world needs more kindness, more consideration, more listening, more dialogue, more shared decision-making and more awareness we need to nurture these things ourselves; in ourselves and in our own lives.

I have found a lot of inspiration in the practices and ideas called “The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that matter”. The name itself strikes a cord in me and I like the values beneath the different practices. I have chosen to believe that if we can slow down, put aside our ideas of right and wrong and remember our sameness as well as our uniqueness, we might be able to connect in a way that enables deep, fundamental training of our collective consciousness and intelligence. We may be able to have conversations that raise our awareness and help us make sustainable changes within and around us.

Another concept that speaks to me is “facilitating” – making possible. My partner asked me recently: “What do you think are the circumstances under which love can grow?” I talked for a bit, sharing fragmented ideas. Then I was quiet for a bit, trying to listen deeper into myself and go beyond the words of love, growing and circumstances… I tried to remember times of love and then a thought formed in me that I then shared: “I don’t think it is love that grows. To me love is an eternal force; to me it love is not much to do with our emotions and attachments, love is life itself and divine energy. Love is everywhere all the time. Love doesn’t grow but our awareness of it can grow – or be diminished. Love is there to sustain us, very willingly.”

It is a very cliché idea that love is all we need but I can’t help thinking that love is exactly what we need to create change. We need to connect with that energy, life-force, sensation or whatever you want to call it – we need to allow ourselves to be aware of the love that is available to us, around us and within us. To me love is the fabric of our souls and it is in every cell of my body and in the living material world around me. Being aware of love is not a complacent state, there is still discernment and urgency but there is no moral higher ground and no rush to dampen fears.

I would love to spend my life facilitating spaces and conversations where our personal and collective awareness of love can grow. I am not sure what it looks like, whether there is a right way or a good manual.

But I want to try – one little, slow and trusting step at a time.

Thoughts on change #2

Creating Change – Continued…

Human littleness and complexity.

Trying to look at the whole picture of pain and injustice will have to wait a bit as I have started to think about our human littleness instead. I am remembering how it feels to be walking alone on the moors, moving away from all artificial light and at some point looking in to the pitch black darkness of night. No outlines, no sense of direction and feeling blind and lost. On a clear night though, the night will not envelope me in complete darkness and looking upwards and into the skies, the endless amount of shining stars tells a story of limitless space and of our human littleness. Our insignificance and powerlessness in the face of the entire universe. Sometimes experiences like this can invigorate and inspire people; make them decide to make their mark on the world in the short time they have here. Sometimes at can throw people into despair and existential distress. Deeply feeling ones own powerlessness is scary. We are such vulnerable and limited creatures in our little bodies made of soft flesh and fragile bones. No matter how much knowledge we put into our heads, our minds cannot understand much of the complexity of life. And as the wonders of technology are making the world smaller, the amount of information we receive every day about anything and everything has become ginormous – enough to break anyone’s mind if they tried to grasp it all at once.

The complexity of human life is intriguing to me and I struggle to understand how we continue to exist. Here on earth we are approximately 7 billion people and each of us live in our own unique little universe created by all the experiences we have had – whether they are conscious to us or not. All that has been happening around us, all that has been said and done – all of it has shaped our present way of thinking, our subjective way of perceiving the world. I sometimes do this thing where I imagine every person as a sphere and the world full of billions of spheres, of personal universes moving about, weaving in and out and between each other. Colliding, moving apart, changing directions and paces, transforming as they glide through time and space. All of these unique little universes are moving about, trying to figure out how to live and in doing that they sometimes cause pain. Some more than others, some deliberately, others semi-intentionally and unintentionally.

Pain.

I think pain is a natural human condition and I am not sure that the way forwards lies in minimising pain, stopping people who cause pain or seeking retribution for pain caused. I think we all cause pain one way or another, to ourselves and others. Should we all be punished? Should we be at loggerheads with each other about whose pain is more deserving of acknowledgement or about when causing pain is justified? I believe it is good at times to give attention to pain, try and understand it but it is interesting to me that in trying to relieve pain we sometimes end up causing pain… Some times it is accidental, sometimes the wider social norms justify it and sometimes individuals and groups are completely aware that they cause pain to relieve their own.

None of us know the full extent of the consequences of our actions. Most of the time we do not know whether the stone we throw into the water will cause a tsunami somewhere far away or if it will bring life-full movements into stagnant waters. We cannot know and maybe that is good – we might be paralysed with fear or go mad with the sense of power if we knew. What we can do is look to the past; we can look into our own life experiences to try and extract what felt meaningful, what felt deeply honouring of all life and then consider how we can support the creation of more of that, more of those moments. We can also try and pinpoint personal and collective patterns that seemed to limit the amount of life-full moments we ourselves and others experience.

I want to go back to the list of things I find it painful to think of so I will pluck up my courage and write on. In this moment I feel pain when I think of:

  • The continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine

  • The fear of terrorism

  • The racism and discrimination billions of people face every day

  • The beating and raping of children, women and men all over the world, every day.

  • The intensive farming of animals so that humans can eat stressed out, medication-filled meat.

  • The demolition of ancient forests

  • The abuse and neglect of animals that are dependent on human kindness because we have domesticated them

  • The exploitation of the land; for gas, oil, minerals, metals and other assumed essentials.

  • The injustice to all native people in the world who have been and continue to be colonised

  • The plight of the aboriginal people in Australia

  • The extreme unequal distribution of resources and food globally

  • Food waste

  • The industrialisation of food. We do not need processed food…

  • The loss of human connectedness with the spiritual world – forgetting that there is more in this world and to life than us

  • The dumping of endless amounts of non-degradable waste in the underground, in the oceans and in space

  • The perceived need for weapons and warfare

  • Child soldiers

  • People feeling more safe with things and objects than with other people

  • The pornofication of sex and the fear of sexuality and physical intimacy

  • The hunger for money and fame that drives some young people

  • Elitist thinking

  • The “them and us” thinking that creates divides and justifies injustice

  • The millions and millions of people isolated and restrained in prisons and mental health institutions and that they are considered by some to be beyond help and second rate human beings

  • The growing amount of asphalt and concrete sealing us off from the earth beneath us

  • The architectural demonstrations of power and exclusivity that is deemed appropriate and even necessary for administrative, governing and financial buildings

  • People being forced out of their homes

  • Man-made pollution of the air that we need to breathe

  • People who don’t know how to connect meaningfully with others

  • TV-shows and advertising that manipulates and distracts us from living. And all the money spent on those…

  • The justification and celebration of violence in mainstream media

Many of the above items are just headings or titles for long, long lists of more specific incidents. Writing abstract titles seemed to be the only way my mind could handle the awareness of all of this. The things that need our attention and consideration in the world are innumerable and we can only do so much; both as individuals and as groups, communities and societies.

Chosing what to do and how to do it is a daunting task…