Just Imagine, by Kate Macairt – Circle of Life Rediscovery Director
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. Thinking back to New Year’s Day 2020, there I was sending out positive messages to family and friends; ‘2020 Vision Happy New year!’ I think I was imagining a year in which climate activists, friends of the earth XR Greta… all would grow in strength and more of the population of the world would wake to the Crisis and demand our Leaders re-wrote the rule book.
Then came February, remember February? We were all still busy, busy earning money ferrying children to and from school trying to juggle responsibilities as we sat in traffic jams.
I remember listening to BBC World Service and the speakers were taking this corona-virus thing very seriously but somehow it didn’t seem to be part of our story here, our crisis were the storms and floods which had decimated areas of the country.
Come April everything had changed. Life as we knew it had stopped. We were all required to retreat into our safe ‘caves’ and enter an internal space where the imaginings and memories began to resonate more.
According to research by Kings College London (quoted in the New Scientist 9th May 2020) people are sleeping more and reporting that they are experiencing more dreaming, this is partially due to turning off the alarm clock and getting more REM sleep, and also because without the daily stress of going to work and earning money people have begun to relax allowing their internal unconscious processing to function better.
For many who could get outdoors it has become a pleasure to take a walk, to watch the birds, to notice how Spring was waking up the earth. There has been a sense of collective cooperation within the isolation and folk united to clap and thank the workers who were suddenly recognised for their importance.
As the weeks progressed, I lost count of the days, it seemed as if Father Time had relinquished control to Mother Earth and each passing day relaxed more of the old routines.
A realisation dawned that DOING less and spending more time BEING made them feel happier. Of course, there are those who feel lost without the old work routine and worries about money and paying bills are real for us all. For some families I work with time at home has deepened relationships but for others the confinement has revealed cracks and stresses and a disintegration of connection.
Even for the most sanguine there has been an underlying anxiety which has seemed to fluctuate from day to day. Our innate fear of death has been fed into with each media report.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2020
This week is National Mental Health Awareness week. How ironic, it needs to be re-designated as National Mental Health Awareness Year. The statistics for 2019 mental health illness before the virus crisis was showing a dramatic upward curve. Anyone who works with children, young people and adults will recognise that modern life was becoming intolerably stressful for a large number of us.
I know that I am not alone in feeling concerned about how our already struggling mental health teams will cope with the return to ‘normality’.
The increase in suicide is not being reported and I know the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) services are running at a fraction of their normal work load, Social Services are aware of a frightening increase in domestic abuse cases.
Circle of Life Rediscovery works in partnership with organisations in Sussex to support children and young people who are accessing mental health services, and their families. You can find out about their work here.
Their Woodland Project in East Sussex offers days out in nature for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18 year olds who are accessing mental health services.
These old -world problems will inevitably be a destabilising factor in whatever form the ’new’ world takes. Now we are being encouraged to come out of our safe spaces and re-integrate, I am sensing a new anxiety taking grip, there are so many uncertainties and for many a realisation that a return to life as it was pre 2020 seems impossible and undesirable.
So, what can we do? Now is the time to start dreaming for the external reality we desire. Now is the time for us to imagine the world that we would want our children and grandchildren to live in. Now is the time to awaken our minds and look deep into our shadows. I think we have been forced to experience a new way of living which has given us time to process the inner world or unconscious mind and create new neural connections to our experience of outer world and conscious mind, we are experiencing ourselves in a new way.
I understand that lockdown is an infringement of liberty and many argue that there is a dark and sinister authoritarian force at work. There are so many contradictory ‘conspiracy’ theories bouncing around the internet to add to our anxiety, it seems a great testament to the power of the human imagination to create stories.
Story telling is an intrinsic part of my work as Play Therapist. Working non-directively with children I have come to appreciate how well they can utilise archetypes to play out the struggle between good and evil. The child’s struggle is to explore and ultimately accept the negative aspects of themselves and their experiences and balance them with their positive attributes.
In a Jungian sense the battle is within ourselves. “I have seen the enemy and he lies within”. The Shadow has featured in stories since humans first began telling tales, our ancestors had good reason to fear the darkness, they did not need to imagine monsters.
Our modern technological culture has become obsessed with the power of the shadow baddie.
We have been absorbing the narrative for decades, Dracula will suck your blood and make you bad, Darth Vador is lurking waiting to take control and reduce you to a robotic killing machine, the devil will tempt you to join him in his ghastly ways, the green goblin will try and destroy the world and so on and so on.
The narratives have become so ingrained in our unconscious mind we may not even be aware and perhaps in times of personal Fear we need to identify the baddie, we need to externalise the enemy; the baddie is always the ‘Other’.
Of course, I am aware that for some to be the shadow baddie feels powerful – and then it is real, the appeal of and obsession with the Baddie is seductive to some and dangerous for many! Have our modern stories, imaginings and narratives led us to unconsciously connect power with being bad? Where have all the heroes gone? I am purposefully imagining a future in which self-questioning is a norm and being fair, considerate, tolerant, grateful, loving is what we demand of ourselves and those we choose to govern us.
What can we do to feel hopeful about our personal and world recovery from the trauma that is this coronavirus global pandemic? I have been reflecting on this and I feel very apprehensive. If I start to attach to the narrative of good versus evil how do I know for sure which side is which?
We are all mammals and lone individuals, we have an instinctive drive to seek a tribe or pack to belong to, it helps us to feel safe. But our tribalism inevitably creates a need for the Other, the enemy. Is it our own shadow aspects we project onto the enemy?
If we are to create a future which is less stressful, more collaborative and cooperative do we need to start acknowledging our personal greed, spite, envy, hatred, despair and fear and be more aware of how we may try to project our shadow onto others?
We can change, we have all reduced consumption in this enforced lockdown, we have all stopped driving, flying and shopping as much and Mother Earth is less stressed. Can we imagine that this will become the new normal? Do we want to? Production and consumption has kept us focused on the external world of doing things and our internal world of sensory based feelings has been ignored, we just have not had time for reflection, and we have not been providing ‘being’ time for our children either.
Nature Connection, Outdoor Education and Forest School in the old world (pre 2020!) were available to a minority of children and families. Circle of Life Rediscovery (CIC) has been pioneering projects aimed at extending the provision to mainstream schools and organisations for years. Since ‘stay at home’ many more people now appreciate the simple pleasure of connecting with our living world and I am sure that outdoor play and activities will be a vital part of the healing process for all ages.
We will need to allow time for dreaming and imagining a more satisfying life which balances inner and outer worlds and gives us time to ‘be’. I suggest we need to be more consciously aware of how stories of the shadow infiltrate our minds. Stories, movies, videogames are a great escape, but we enter an other’s imagined world and all too often it is a world of their projected fear.
We need to free time to imagine the world we want. Does it sound too idealistic? Is this an example of Utopian dreaming? Perhaps,
“the future is not there waiting for us. We create it by the power of imagination” – Vilayat Inayat Khan; Sufi Master.
Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space
Play is essential for all of our well-being and learning. In the below interview link, Marina Robb and Kate Macairt discuss the impact of sensory input on the brain and will provide an introduction to:
The holistic person – being and doing
The Importance of the senses
Simple play examples
What is play?
How does it look in and out of doors Setting up the space
The Nature Play continuum
The Power of play
Two Day Training with Kate Macairt and Marina Robb
This two-day training has been created to help those working with groups of young people and children to understand why some children present difficult behaviours and are unable to participate in the group activities.
Date: This will now take place on either Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th July OR Thursday 24th and Friday 25th September.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP
Time: 09.00 – 15.30
Booking: please book online here.
Transforming education, health and family through nature.
Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.