• Hannah E Greenwood

Creating the Future: moving forwards


Vancouver, June 2019

I am in Day 11 of quarantine following a vacation in Brittany, France. The UK edict happened whilst I was out there, though there had been murmurings prior to my departure which meant I was already prepared to quarantine, if necessary, on my return. My need to have time out for the first time in 7 months was the greater priority and as I wrote in Cascãd’s August Perspectives Post: ‘Our lives are changing in directions we cannot control or predict. So, in this strange betwixt and between place we are in, how about giving yourself permission to pause, to create precious micro-decompression moments to build your inner stability, resilience and equilibrium and to do whatever you need to be ready for what is to come.’ https://www.cascad.co.uk/post/creating-the-future-finding-a-third-way

I made the right decision. I live in central London and to be with my family in the homeland of my ancestors, inhaling the bracing ozone of the Atlantic Ocean was deeply restorative: I switched off, recharged and had fun! It was a very precious and unexpected oasis in this extraordinarily challenging year.

And yet it was not quite the relaxed atmosphere of yesteryear. It was inevitability sobering with everyone in masks and in a more heightened state of alert, a constant reminder that we’re not yet out of the woods. And I kept being drawn to the faces, particularly the eyes, of children. Children have a look in their eyes I haven’t seen in such numbers before. It’s a look of troubled wariness and watchfulness. As parents we want our children to keep innocent and free from fear and anxiety and we go to elaborate measures, quite rightly, to protect and uphold this childlike state. But it can, ironically, leave our children isolated, unable to tell us what’s really going on in their minds. Children are much more insightful and resilient than we often acknowledge and far too many children protect their parents from really knowing what they’re feeling.

All too often we project our own fears onto our children, placing the focus/onus on them rather than taking responsibilities for our own fears/issues. Instead of the old way of dealing solely with the ‘problem child’, Family Systemic Therapy sees that child as a manifestation of a dysfunctionality in the family system, namely the parents.

The old, albeit illusory, certainties that we could plan our way out of anything, that we had the control to stop illness, death, financial insecurity, etc. have gone. We can choose to stay huddled and cocooned in fear, telling our children never to leave home, in spirit if not in body, so they grow up fearful of life and unable to respond to all that life brings. It’s understandable that after we experience great fear, we huddle back into the nest. But this is the odd thing about staying in our comfort zone. When we are in it, we have a confidence, surrounded by our ‘family’ but it is an elusive confidence and one that is ultimately corrosive. We feel safe and secure in all that is familiar, but conversely, we feel increasingly anxious stepping outside those parameters, and we become infantile, clinging ever more dependently to the status quo and fearful of all that is new and different. Perhaps the more honest questions are: What am I really afraid of? And what other issues about my life might I be hiding from?

This week is the first week in 6 months that schools are fully open in England. I have been in education all my life, as a life-long student and as a teacher, and September is always psychologically a New Year for me. Teaching is in my blood. Both my parents were teachers and I grew up in an environment where learning was sacrosanct. The most influential teachers in my life have all had the same qualities: a passion for their subject and an equally strong passion to awake that hunger for learning and intellectual curiosity in me.

I have passed this love of learning onto my son, Louis. Twelve months ago, he wrote ‘Time for Chaos’, an unnervingly prophetic Perspectives Post.

‘We in the northern hemisphere are used to September being the end of summer, when everything gets colder and darker. We’re also used to school years starting in September, meaning that during our formative years it really is the time for unfamiliar new beginnings. But of course, it goes much further back than our own lifetimes. September was our period of harvest long before we had any concept of schools, summer holidays or even “September” itself.

This tradition has shaped the rhythm of our civilisation and influenced how we perceive time itself in ways we can never fully understand – small wonder that we feel its significance when it comes around. Whatever the causes, I’ve found that the key is to embrace it. There’s a time for order and there’s a time for chaos. For me, that time has always been September.

I don’t much like chaos. My instinct is to create order. I analyse, I plan, and I build. And yet, every September I find myself deeply discontented with the order I’ve built and lurching for some sort of chaos….I don’t plan the timing of these things, but they have a funny knack of happening around this time of year. Accepting that September brings chaos can be daunting. Order is just so much easier. But chaos isn’t a dirty word. In Greek mythology Chaos was the first being out of which all primeval deities (and the rest of the world with them) emerged. According to the Ancient Greeks, we would have literally nothing without Chaos. Nor is it a dirty concept. While order brings stability, chaos brings growth. A rich, meaningful life needs both.

There’s a time to dig in, settle down and appreciate the life you have, but there’s also a time to be restless, shake things up and see where the pieces land. If - for whatever unfathomable reason - that time comes in September, I’ve learned to put my hands up and say that’s just fine by me. I’m writing this on the last day of August and I can already feel the beginnings of chaos shaking up my life in ways I can’t quite predict. If you can feel them too, my advice is to embrace them’ https://www.cascad.co.uk/post/a-time-for-chaos

Prophetic words indeed! Louis was writing last year about choosing to embrace chaos and change. We are now in a world where there is no choice but to move forwards consciously into the unknown if we wish to find a way through these dark woods. Those of you who read our Perspectives Posts regularly will know about the Gestalt ‘Cycle of Action’ and that the ‘futile/fertile voids’ are not an end in themselves but the precursor to wise action. Timing is everything and the time is ripe now to move forwards.