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When “Normal” Ends

With the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, I keep going back to the question, “Who will lead when ‘normal’ ends?” A lot of illusions are being stripped away for a lot of us right now. “Normal” is ending.

White USers seem to be clinging to something that is going fast and isn’t coming back—the sense that privilege equals security. We need to face and grieve the loss of this illusion, so we can look at the reality that the situations and interests of all but the top percentages of the owning class are far more aligned than most of us realize.

Security can no longer come from having a lot of money in the bank or living in isolation. It can only come from deep and meaningful connections across our social, political, economic, and cultural divides. Harvey Jackins once said that security comes from having twenty or more people who can think well about you. This is what we are building in RC, and now we need to do it on a much bigger scale. I think it is time for “mental health” liberation.

“Mental health” oppression holds all the other oppressions in place. It has been described as the “roof” on the metaphoric carousel of oppression. Therefore we can’t “blow the lid” off any other oppression without tackling “mental health” oppression—because it is the lid.

“Mental health” oppression is a barrier to people coming into RC, because they have to overcome the fear of discharge and looking “weird” or “crazy.” It limits the effectiveness of our sessions by making us too scared to “fall apart” or “lose it” or even get enough sessions in the first place. It limits the extent to which People of the Global Majority and Jewish people are able to show their rage and terror to white Gentiles. It limits white Gentiles’ ability to hear the rage and terror and take a stand against the oppression. It is often the barrier to keeping people in RC, because people tend to leave when they hit something they “can’t handle.”

The more we do “mental health” liberation work, the more slack our Communities will have to welcome people who are from a diverse range of racial, class, and religious backgrounds and to keep them in RC. (The next time you are stuck as counselor or client, try the direction, “There is nothing wrong with you/me.”)

As modern industrial society struggles to maintain the appearance that everything is in order, cracks are showing up everywhere—in the form of rising unemployment, rising prices, food shortages, student debt, foreclosures, social unrest, the loss of habitat and species, the acidification of the oceans. We are looking at the end of “normal.” Therefore the thinking, leadership, and action that are needed will come from individuals who can think for themselves and act outside of what is considered “normal.” To create an economy that actually meets human needs and to bring enough people together to stop climate change, our minds will need to be working and our hearts to be open.

As RCers, we already know something about working in territory that’s outside of what is considered “normal.” We are in a good position to do things that have never been done before, for which there is no map. (If that seems scary, here’s a bit of wisdom from one of my Co-Counselors: “Then there’s no way to do it wrong!”) Tim Jackins and Diane Shisk are saying that now is the time to try things, to see what works, to pick ourselves up when we fail, to discharge the early discouragement, and to keep going.

We are living at one of the greatest turning points in all of human history. We have “won the lottery,” because we get to be part of figuring out what comes next. Each of us has gifts that only we can give. And we have the discharge process to keep our minds clear of distress so we can think creatively and flexibly as new challenges arise.

Who knows? What is on the other side of “normal” may be far better than any of us can imagine!

Betsy Ames

Western Massachusetts, USA

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00