I was inspired to write the following after attending a workshop for social activists… This is a modified excerpt from feedback I sent to the organisers of that workshop…
Social activists – those of us engaged in trying to change the world for the better – are urgently focussed on making stuff happen. As a counsellor and someone who is active in the Transition movement, I sense a gap in what I feel would make a comprehensive programme for growing us as effective community and social activists.
The Transition movement, like some other newer movements for change, recognises that the process of creating lasting change is a two-part process – it’s not just about effecting outer change (getting things done), but also achieving inner change. Transition trainings for example are often 50% looking at the process of practical or ‘outer’ change & 50% looking at self-care/self-development and developing connection to others, or ‘inner’ transition.
Inner Transition can be about facilitating empowerment… building the courage to speak-out & speak-up; gaining confidence to trust and act on our ideas and take initiative, even when we have been brought up to leave decision-making and action to others.
Inner Transition can be about building connections, support & closeness with others to enable us to overcome feelings of isolation, hopelessness and despair or not losing our way in ‘burn-out’.
NB: I think this work is a particularly important aspect of growing social-changers if we want to encourage more working class people, people of colour, young people and other groups who have been left disenfranchised and feeling like the process of decision-making and creating change is not their domain. If we rely on people who have by chance found their way to the point where they can ‘just do it’, we are limiting our resources to those who already successful navigators of society – those who have enough self-confidence and personal strength to get on the first rung. Of course we need to and will grow these strengths though our actions, but I think we know enough to facilitate and support this growth more efficiently and therefore engage more folk and end up with even more effective actions…!
Inner Transition can also be about changing the way we think and live… It is clear to me that we urgently need to develop new ways of being if we are to improve our chances of long-term survival on a planet that will remain fit for our children & future generations. In the global North (or ‘developed’ countries), for example, we have all picked up the culturally imposed pattern of over-consumption of energy and ‘stuff’ whilst growing up in the temporary energy-rich bubble created by exploitation of fossil fuels. Now, as the bubble bursts, that pattern of behaviour threatens to damage our environment beyond repair and cause economic and humanitarian crisis. Transition introduces the idea of oil ‘addiction’ and proposes a ’12-step process’ as a way of unlearning these dangerous habits and developing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Joanna Macy talks about the ‘Work that Reconnects’ – she says (and I agree), that we live in a culture that disconnects us with our own feelings, leaving us numb and without inspiration or energy to effect change; we are also disconnected from others, leaving us isolated and therefore dis-empowered; and we are disconnected with the planet we live on and the life on it – spending our time in concrete boxes leaves us insensitive to the need to be guardians of our environment.
We need to reconnect to all these aspects of our life in order to be successful citizens of our world.
A sense of connection helps us start to see whatever we do in terms of the bigger picture – that no matter what we are engaged in, how small our local initiatives seem, they are all significant – small but important pieces of this bigger scheme of work of reconnecting us to ourselves, each other and the environment in which we live.
I believe that all of us engaged in the struggle for change need to recognise that this work we are engaged in is not just about getting stuff done and healing our planet, it is also about taking care of and healing our communities and ourselves. Without this we may not be successful – and even if we are, we may end up recreating the dislocated society that we are trying to heal.
Andy Stokes September 2015