Making space to slow down

Following on from Bryonie’s exploration of process over outcome, I have been thinking about how this can apply to our perspective on our sense of self, emotional health and memory. Any engagement with others around identity, heritage or narrative, can be difficult. At the ‘easy’ end of the scale, it is still hard to share something personal of ourselves with others and at the far end, sharing something which someone else is opposed to or doesn’t immediately understand is something we often avoid as it feels too risky. This may feel familiar to our personal relationships, work life and in how we relate to ours and others’ broader communities. When I think about all the people who have taken part in workshops, events, discussions and projects which quarto has been able to engage with, I’m aware of how the impact of that participation is hard to pin down, but people have a strong, felt sense of how connecting with others created a shift somewhere.

Often, when deciding to take a leap into this very personal and sometimes challenging work, there can be an expectation of things being ‘better’ afterward. That there will be a start, middle and end, where the end is measured by feeling ‘better’ or relating ‘better’; of there having been healing. In my work in quarto and in counselling, I have had the privilege of getting to facilitate and observe people taking risks, allowing themselves unfamiliar degrees of vulnerability and most importantly, experiencing their capacity to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

The process, as I have witnessed it, has been an expanding of people’s tolerance for difficult feelings and messy, conflicting narratives. I have seen again and again, people discovering in the very process of sharing, and making the moment by moment decision to continue with that sharing, that the bounds of their courage are far broader than they expected. Coming to the end of a therapeutic journey, is for some a series of counselling sessions, for others, it may be participation with others in a group. Rather than lying in the outcome, the value may lie in embracing the process of connecting: with ourselves and our history, with others, with stories and with conflict and pain. Rather than needing to rush to fix things, we often first need to fully acknowledge, and bear witness to our stories and those of others and the difficulty that those bring, before anything can be made safe and tidy again. The meaningfulness of the work that is happening evades measurement in outcomes, and is often not even apparent until sometime afterwards, when the process that people engaged with and risks they took, have had time to percolate. The challenge perhaps is to have the courage to stay a while in that space and process in the middle, while stories are heard and to give that time to settle, before any expectation arrives of something having changed. Whether participants or practitioners, can we make space to slow down and recognise changes as they develop in us, before rushing to arrive at change in circumstances?