Caught up in anxiety III

In the workshop there has been much talk of renewal: we cannot continue as if it were business as usual, things have to change. This produces both excitement and anxiety amongst people and we take the opportunity to remind people that there is always change, but also continuity as well.

But what form will this change take? There is a tendency to think in terms of spatial metaphors. It will be a ‘new direction’, we will need to change our ‘positioning’, this is what we will be doing ‘going forwards’, where do we want to be in five years time? All of this is very future-oriented. A number of participants are beginning to worry that we haven’t defined enough new things to do: it doesn’t feel ‘concrete’ enough.

The difficulty is that there is a tendency to try and contemplate the new in traditional ways. So, for example, all week we have been discussing how important it is to explore similarities and differences, to agree to disagree, to stay with the difference that makes a difference. However, some of us would still like to do games and exercises that are based on consensus, even in situations where no consensus is needed to do what needs being done. This way of thinking manifests traditional organisational thinking, of  the need to share the vision, or align our values. It pretends to try and guarantee that what we would like to happen will definitely come about.

What very few people are paying attention to, however, is what we are becoming in pursuit of our renewal. In contemplation of what we might be we have already begun to change. Renewal, then, starts in the here and now, in our interactions and struggles over what we mean by what we say. How have we begun to change in the engagement with each other’s otherness?

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