My lovely friend Steve of 21st Century Soul has been a broker of healing in my life.
I met Steve through our mutual dabblings in the Dark Mountain Project – we exchanged emails in the runup to the second Uncivilisation festival in August 2011, an event that I helped to put together from behind the scenes. We communicated about event-admin details over the summer and then I must have met him briefly there at the festival – though I was in such stressed-out misery I could barely function, let alone make any real connection with anyone. I didn’t understand it at the time, but Dark Mountain was the instigator of the deepest and most difficult crisis of my life.
In her new memoir, Tristimania, Jay Griffiths writes beautifully about her own experience of crisis:
Do episodes of madness have causes? What do they need, to unfurl themselves? They unfold like tragic dramas and, just as tragedy needs a tragic flaw, a backstory and the dramatic incident which kicks off the drama, so chapters of madness also need a tragic flaw (genetic vulnerability), a backstory (long-term stress) and an incident (a trigger).
Genetic vulnerability? Tick.
Long term stress? Tick.
Trigger? Happened like this.
… And then he wanked all over me.
Gosh, that’s almost exactly what happened to me too! Only with Dark Mountain it was mansplaining intellectual ego-wanking that splashed all over me and left me stunned and vulnerable. For them it was nothing out of their own ordinary, so why on earth did I have a problem with it? No doubt they wished I would just go away quietly and leave them to their important job of shaping the cultural narrative.
Like Jay, however, the trigger had been sprung. Like Jay, I headed into a period of bipolar madness: long descents into terrifying depths and later, spinning dances among the stars and the angels.
It was during this time that I became better acquainted with Steve. We mingled in some of the same online circles and he contributed wise, and humble, contributions to the issues that were getting hashed over in the discussion threads. And then, eventually, by way of his Unpsychology project, across my threshold fell his invitation to join him in Soulmaking.
There was something about this invitation that tickled at me, something about Soulmaking that spoke to me, and beckoned me with its gentleness. It was the right thing at the right time, as so many things often are, when we look back in hindsight – even the painful things, like Dark Mountain. If I’d spent much of my growing up and adult life in building up scar tissue around a wounded psyche, then my experience with Dark Mountain was like ripping off the scab and setting the blood flowing, and now it was time to take a gentle swab to the sore spot. The wound was open but it needed a healer to tend it. Steve stepped gracefully into that role, and the Soulmakers Gathering of spring 2014 served as triage. Some wonderful and inspiring people came into my life there, and I felt a shift under the surface.
My journey with madness was far from over, but my story turned toward resolution, and began finding a path of restoration.
So this brings me to now. Steve recently published a series of essays which started with a cry of distress and discouragement at our current state of affairs, and then worked their way in – like a surgeon making an exploratory probe. In the course of this he made the following comment:
…this crisis cannot be done away with by pills and talking. It can’t be healed one person at a time…
and this pulled me up short. It felt so out of place, coming from someone who in my own life had contributed to healing – to my one person at a time‘s worth of healing – that I felt I must engage him in finding out where that thought had come from, and if it was true. It led to this dialogue between us, published today on the Unpsychology site via Medium. Please have a read of it, and join us in the conversation if you feel inspired.
I’ll end this here, with a heartfelt thank you, Steve, for Soulmakers and for Unpsychology, for your friendship and for your healing ways. xxx