Another Week Beyond – 2211

Dear friends,

“We are here to create a safe and brave space. What do you think that is?” This was how we began our very first session for 4 youth to explore if they would like to nurture a small community where members help each other learn strategies for psychological and emotional wellbeing.  A safe space is one where people feel comfortable with each other and experience a curious sense of trust and connection. It is also a space that protects them from the fear of abandonment or isolation, or being treated differently, after sharing in the space. They envision a safe space that is free from physical, emotional, and psychological harm and they will not be exploited in any way.

The youth resonated with this definition of safety and agreed when we expounded on a brave space, which was one where people feel free and confident to speak their mind, and to share their vulnerabilities. It is also where people can sit with discomfort, listen to opinions and stories without judgement but with kindness and compassion. Importantly, it must be one where seeking help is encouraged and not frowned upon.

HeadStrong is funded by Deutsche Bank and it is a programme that aims to nurture a youth-led community where members give and receive support to enhance their mental health. So, to help participants observe their reaction toward the difficult encounters in their daily lives, we used a gingerbread man exercise. Picturing themselves as the gingerbread man, they had to list all the comments they often heard from others and after that, describe the reactions within the gingerbread man. It did not take very long for the picture below to emerge and moments of very honest and vulnerable sharing by everyone made the space safer and braver.


A key concept introduced that would facilitate the growth of safe and brave spaces was “trauma” and what being “trauma-informed” meant.  Being trauma-informed, one would basically stop asking “What’s wrong with you?” Instead, one would ask, “What happened to you?” One would also be curious about the experiences and adversities, that led to how people are presenting themselves to us. However, trauma is not merely a list of things that happened to people but how their body and mind are responding to experiences they deem difficult. Being trauma-informed means leading with compassion and curiosity, not just focusing on the challenges and the problems but also looking at what’s already right with the person experiencing trauma. For example, how can we cultivate the strengths within or around us in and towards our healing journey?

The youth caught on quickly and were visibly enthused by the learning. It appeared like they were piecing together their thoughts, emotions and experiences in a way that made sense. It was a new learning they wanted to share, and we left the session optimistic that they will work with us to grow the “HeadStrong” community.

For peace and communities with many safe and brave spaces,

Gerard

Our brains are wired for connection, but trauma rewires them for protection. That’s why healthy relationships fare difficult for wounded people. – TheMindsJournal

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