HEALING THE DIVIDES
between normal and what we judge unnormal
between Interior Health and alternative medicines
between and within government and nonprofits
between individual and collective responsibilities
between the Western Mind-Body-Spirit split and Indigenous/Earth based worldviews of wellness
between emergency responses and prevention
between experts and clients/service receivers, policymakers and health care workers
between humans and the non-human world / the Earth
between the unintegrated past/frozen fragmented trauma, and the emerging present
between our ancestors, us and seven generations ahead
between our ears, between our minds and hearts – welcoming home all parts of ourselves
Mental Wealth Emergence workshops
That is how I felt called to start MWE, Mental Wealth Emergence. MWE is a non-profit startup that offers workshops/community dialogues and consulting for approaching the mental health crises in a systems way, using cutting edge methods from the researchers in leadership and organizational learning at The Presencing Institute at MIT.
“Theory U is a framework at the intersection of science, profound social and organizational change, and consciousness. It has been used by thousands of teams, organizations and communities worldwide to address more effectively our most pressing global challenges: climate change, food systems, inequality and exclusion, finance, healthcare and education.”
What can be possible?
A COLLECTIVE ILLNESS
Last year 2,300 lives were lost to the toxic drug supply in BC, most of them happening not on the streets. Teachers are alarmed over a sharp rise in anxiety and dysregulation in the classrooms. Most staff and students at Selkirk college are very or extremely worried about climate change. There is unprocessed grief from Indigenous genocide, the Covid pandemic and patriarchy. Many people are increasingly lonely. On a global level, more people die of suicide than of war and murder, reports the World Health Organization.
If mental health issues are at the top of the iceberg, what is at the bottom, the causes? Health is multifaceted but has a large socio-political roots. As it says on the Interior Health website: “The world is set up in unfair ways that result in some groups experiencing poorer health outcomes than others. To create the conditions where all people can experience good health we need to recognize why these differences exist and make changes.”
Disease is not an expression of individual pathology. Instead, people with illness are a “living alarm,” as Gabor Mate calls it, calling attention to the fact that what passes as normal in this culture is neither healthy nor natural. And things that are abnormal – addiction, mental health, and illness – are actually a reasonable response to the conditions of trauma and stress that many of us live in. It is actually more normal, in the sense of common, to have mental health issues, whether it is mental illness, wildfire anxiety or trauma from colonialism, abuse or tragic events etc. But it is not acceptable just because it is prevalent.
MATURITY NEEDED FOR HEALING
As we cope with immediate symptoms such as stress, anxiety, numbness, or indifference, our suffering further disconnects and isolates us from knowing the nature of our true selves. Our trauma is shaped by more than just the individual experience. There are unseen and unintegrated layers of trauma that develop outside of us––shared past and present experiences become deeply entangled with how we respond to any crisis both individually and collectively.
Thomas Hubl is one of many working with healing collective and ancestral trauma. If you ever experienced a family constellation workshop, you have felt the knowing field, the phenomena that I can know feelings of strangers and of their ancestors – threads of connection both the strangling burden of trauma and the lifegiving energy of healing together. When we can feel how our individual, ancestral, and collective parts are interconnected, we have a much more complete and coherent picture. And with awareness comes healing. We can learn to cultivate this social field.
Let me add another dimension of complexity, from ecopsychologist Bill Plotkin, how we frame ‘normal’ from looking at adolescence, not mature humans. The mainstream field of contemporary Western psychological science attempts to learn what it is to be human by studying the behavior of adults in the stage of early adolescence, so the entire discipline of psychology becomes a psychology of adolescence.
Due to the dynamics of egocentric-dominator societies, in which most humans now come of age, the majority of contemporary post-pubescent humans are stuck in the developmental life stage of early adolescence. What we’re facing — and must address — is a catastrophic and nearly ubiquitous failure of cultural health and of human development, each being both cause and effect of the other.
Disconnection within us and within society
Trauma can be seen as fragmentation, disconnection, lack of integration, the past hurt frozen and undigested. How can we bridge the fragmentation within us, and around us in society? The old ways of organizing are also fragmented, in isolated silos – Interior Health, schools, police, non-profits, businesses etc. with little collaboration between and little focus on the systematic view and long term solutions.
For all our expertise and technological sophistication, Western medicine often fails to treat the whole person, ignoring how the toxicity of today’s culture stresses the body, burdens the immune system, and undermines emotional balance and the very foundation of life – Mother Earth. Dedicated health care workers may struggle with burn-out and the increasing complexity of the problem. Even if some people have a burden or a gift of a different mind than the majority, how can we create a culture that minimizes their hardships and welcomes the wisdom of diversity?
Turning to systems thinking and asking what is below the visible symptoms of mental suffering – the beliefs, worldviews, patterns of relations to self and collective. What intelligences do we need to address complex, wicked issues? It is not enough to only use the rational thinking but we need the intelligence from the heart, as well as relational skills. The Presencing Institute is a key actor in this learning and I am honoured to share those methods with you here. Another example is the IDG. When realizing how the UN Development Goals are not being met, some developed a framework for drivers of change – the Inner Development Goals:
Being – Relationship to Self
Thinking – Cognitive Skills
Relating – Caring for Others and the World
Collaborating – Social Skills
Acting – Driving Change
The mental wealth of Nelson
One wealth of Nelson and district is the many wellness practitioners, for example the schools of massage and TCM, Kootenay Art Therapy Institute, the college’s nurse program, yoga studios, somatic relational therapy training, and plant medicine offerings people travel globally to attend. Another strength of Nelson is a vibrant entrepreneur, arts and volunteer community, for example fundraising for The coldest night of the year and the rich dancing culture.
And, look around you, delight in seeing this beautiful mountain landscape, (even if caribou are extinct and old growth trees are almost gone), how precious it is to live here on Sinixt land! We have a handful of nature schools – one that I run – the Forest Path, and such potential for choosing health boosting green time instead of screen time… There are 80 conservation groups in the Kootenay Conservation Program. Can we get 80 groups together for mental health? So let’s start, the future is calling us towards healing. Here are some questions I like to yarn on with with you:
- Who needs to be part of compassionate conversations on mental health?
- How can we connect the organizational silos and support the system to see itself?
- What is driving the mental health crises?
- What could happen if the stakeholders came together, if we could deeply listen to those affected by mental health issues, their families and to those working with mental health?
- How can we strengthen what is working and nourishing?
- What motivates businesses to take part (reduce costs of burnout, addictions, crime, anxiety, health care costs and so on)? What makes governments change?
- How can we walk the talk; have conversations with regulated nervous systems, trauma adaptive, social justice informed, embodied and vulnerable – not just talking?
- What do we need to learn, where are our blindspots, disconnections?
- How can we honour the true mature Elders here and learn from them?
- Your question___________________________________?