[ICYMI] How to Heal a Community
September 11, 2021 | Vincent Kovar
The last few years have wounded us all—individually, as a city, and as a planet. These wounds have been inflicted not only physically but also psychologically and sociologically. Nearly 1,400 people in King County alone have died from COVID. Our city has been convulsed with protests and riots. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. We have been isolated from friends, families, and social supports. Our city has been convulsed with protests and riots. Our authorities seem at best rudderless and at worst actively corroding our illusions of social justice without replacing them with some semblance of actual reform.
Much of the traditional media almost delights at this wounding and serves up thinly disguised propaganda such as "Seattle Is Dying" and "The Fight for the Soul of Seattle," while social media mouthpieces keep calling us to go "back to normal."
We don't need normal. Normal is a state of wounding and being wounded. We need something new. We need healing, a word with etymological roots in "to make whole."
Give and Care
We need something new. The only experience we have in common, as a whole, is being wounded. So let's start there. As a community, we can begin to heal by extending kindness to each other and by cultivating groups to care for one another. Many family caregivers say the months or years they spent caring for their loved one was the most important time in their lives. Usually, that act of compassion not only provided a final intimacy but inspired an essential scrutiny of their own life and that critique extended to the culture and the community.
Often, someone who is ill, unemployed, depressed, or otherwise struggling feels incapable of giving anything. They might fear that if they don't put their own healing first, they will never get their own wounds resolved.
But we can never become whole with a "me first" approach. Alone, we remain wounded. Remember, It it was the people who went to work selflessly cleaning the Capitol that started healing the nation, not those that sacked it.
Many family caregivers say the months or years they spent caring for their loved one was the most important time in their lives. Usually, that act of compassion not only provided a final intimacy but inspired an essential scrutiny of their own life and that critique extended to the culture and the community. The Ancient Roman healer Galen (who some consider the founder of modern medicine) believed strongly in the meaning of dreams. And that is the first thing we must do, : we must imagine and dream.
DreamWhat will our new normal look like? . What will you leave behind? What will your next phase look like? What clubs will you join or start? What volunteerism can you do? What friends have you not seen for a really long time that would jump at the chance to start an art project with you or meet up for a game night?
And what will you leave behind? Create two vision boards or memory boxes for the next phase of your life in community. Into the "pandemic" box, put all the resentments you've been carrying with you, all the little grudges (or big ones) that are weighing you down. Into the box of things you're leaving behind, put all those toxic people you haven't seen for a year (but who you know will start coming around again). Put all those toxic habits of your own, and start fresh.
If you need to, grieve what you leave behind, but really seize this chance to craft your new, improved life in your new, chosen society.
Change Your Character
In his book The Laws of Human Nature, Robert Greene describes turning your character flaws inside out. None of us are likely to change our character; it is too ingrained. But we can change how we use the powers of our character.
If you went into 2020 hypercritical of other people or overly sensitive to criticism yourself, take this coming spring to think about how you can turn that sensitivity into empathy and that criticism into leadership. Write down how this time of separation, isolation, and trauma has changed your views of and relationships with other people. Turn these reflections outward. How can you be more neighborly or effective at building community?
Socialize Face to Face
Once the virus has passed, observe how face-to-face communication makes you feel. How does body language speak to you?
More and more psychology studies are showing that not only does body language speak much more than we thought but that moving together (dancing, synchronized movements, sports, exercising) actually bonds us as humans. We feel closer and our overall performance improves as we draw strength from one another. How will you use your body and new freedom to create new bonds in a new community?
Communicate and Celebrate Your Triumphs
The process called "anamnesis" (recollection, reminiscence) is a way to remember the positives that came out of this stressful time. These don't have to be big achievements, like having learned a new language or programmed an app (though they could be). For many of us, just surviving this time mostly intact, with some sense of self-esteem, is enough.
It's important to communicate these to others in your newly forming community. It could be something as simple as "I found reserves of strength within myself" or "I learned to grieve loss fully." Share these stories and use them to weave threads of connection back into your life.
Also listen to the stories of others. Really listen and find threads of commonality—not just "Yes, I also learned to bake homemade bread" but "Yes, I also felt that pain. I really hear you and I feel heard."
This era we are passing out of has been hard, nearly impossible, but it gives us a chance to make The Roaring Twenties 2.0 not just a restoration of a broken normal but a better, more just, more compassionate, more communal era.
Together, we will heal. Together, we are made whole.