During the lockdown, we also explored how visualisation helps tackle intergenerational trauma and build bridges for understanding its inherited (and often buried) sources. Data visualisation helps us construct mental models to make sense of fragmented narratives and trust the veracity of our lived experiences. Since none of us is born with self-doubt and trust issues (these are learned behaviours), our willingness to face our demons is key to survival during times of uncertainty. We tend to re-imagine or ignore our trauma story thereby transmitting further fears and stress to people in our social orbit. It’s a matter of self-preservation; doing what we’ve always done feels safe, even at the cost of connectedness and creativity.
There is a commonly held view that peace is the absence of conflict but this assumption is potentially problematic because we so often conflate conflict and friction. In practice, they are not at all the same. Friction serves an important social purpose, as long as it is not a mask for avoidance, evasion or ignorance; or something worse. There should be friction in the form of emotional inertia if we persist in doing something that goes against the grain of common decency. The resulting healthy tension provides space for acceptance of the things we can’t influence by ourselves. Therefore it promotes collaboration by expanding our capacity to engage the wisdom of crowds.
This is one of the major learning-points unpacked by fellow-travellers during the lockdown “Living Lab”, along with the understanding that it takes courage to connect. In an atmosphere of fear and imposed isolation the ego is inevitably triggered and, strange as it seems, the ego wants to connect in order to make sense – albeit from a selfish perspective. Often peace is most influenced by the voices of those who choose to fall silent rather than fan the flames of conflict. Silence in this context can be more constructive than the mindless utterance of empty or misguided words. Especially so in today’s climate of uncertainty where words are somewhat amorphous in the clammer for new meaning. This kind of silence, therefore, is an act of selflessness, the deepest form of listening that humans can undertake. At the same time, there is a delicate balance to be struck.
“Don’t talk unless it improves the silence.”Jorge Luis Borges
When good people remain silent bad things happen. This dance between friction and completely letting go, tends to define the territories where ethical battles are played out and their impact is most palpably felt. It’s the land where the flawed concepts of “right” and “wrong” slog it out in an unwinnable contest for meaningless laurels. Only here do we truly understand how conflict depletes the spirit and leaves us in a state of suffering and deep confusion. This is also the space where real people in real places are co-creating real possibilities. It’s where we were born, where we must live and where, if we’re lucky, we will die with dignity. Here we bear witness to each other’s story and learn the value of holding space for possibilities we cannot conceive of just yet. We learn to trust.
Speed of Trust
People hurt people because they themselves have been hurt. Most often in their childhood by their carers who were themselves suffering. Breaking such a cycle calls for emotional literacy and resilience. Could it be peacemaking calls for the same spirit; the unbreakable strength of the warrior? An oxymoron perhaps, but again worth thinking about if only because of the powerful possibilities it points to. It may well be that knowing how not to fight is the skill that permanently removes the source of toxic disharmony.
“We always see our worst selves. Our most vulnerable selves. We need someone else to get close enough to tell us we’re wrong. Someone we trust.”David Levithan
The art of peace is never a question of when. It’s about “why” and ‘how”. It’s about rising above the planes of conflict to survey the birds-eye view of the tensions and sensing what is being strived for by the actors. It’s what some would call the systems view – where people are never to blame; allowances are made for the frailties of ego; where we learn to never give up by letting go of the meaningless.