Isolation is emerging as a key factor for causing deterioration in both mental and physical health. I've been reading two great authors and researchers, Brene Brown and Susan Pinker, who are both looking into and writing about this modern phenomenon. Actually, TED talker Brene Brown in her book Braving the Wilderness led me to Susan Pinker's book The Village Effect: Why Face-to-face Contact Matters - a book that is jam-pack filled with research into the impact of social lifestyle on wellbeing. Both books are compelling reading if you have a thirst for social health issues as I do.
Brene Brown begins by exploring anger as a catalyst for courage, love, change, compassion and justice. She encourages using it as a positive drive rather than letting it regress into grief, regret and shame. Brown urges us to look at our pain and 'own it' rather than allowing fear and hatred to develop into anger. Anger not dealt with tends to develop into resentment and bitterness, both destructive emotions. Compassion can help us to break the cycle. She quotes Maya Angelou, who I have also read from this reference, and who I also loved, in saying that when we commit to closeness, "The price is high. The reward is great." Brown states that "restitution and resolution...happens in the wilderness when one person steps outside their bunker and speaks their truth". In this I read "wilderness" as the community with a lack of social capital, or people who are engaged and empowered in driving what their community looks and feels like. In the modern world it seems that the wilderness is the norm. Has it always been that way?
Brown quotes Bill Bishop (The Big Sort) that we are "sorted out and lonely", isolating ourselves by only listening to that which meets our own condition (thus sorting ourselves). The world is so hard in so many ways with the catastrophic dilemmas we face that we want to shut down. This causes a silencing dissent, or "the giant feedback loop" in which we hear only what we want to hear, leading to social disconnection. Brown claims that terrorism and the impact of fear is making people 'bunker down', being afraid to speak out about the grief and fear they experience in daily life. So that instead of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and loving, which would enable us to seek justice and accountability, we join a club of flag-flying ideological identities according to trending social memes. "Fear is burrowing and metastasizing."
Loneliness is something that we feel ashamed of, and we will not speak up about it. Yet loneliness has become a high risk factor for early death at an increased rate of 45% (Brown, p. 54-55). Brown warns that if we experience loneliness and feel shame about it, we need to turn our thinking around and see it as the warning sign that we need to find connection in our community somehow - and refers to Pinker in saying that the connection needs to be face to face.
Brown praises 'the magic of art', which gives us 'the ability to both capture our pain and deliver us from it at the same time'.
And this is something that Real Life Theatre workshops have the potential to deliver. In the workshops, people have fun and feel safe in relaxing protections, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and to unpack their fear from those deep hollows in the mind and body. It's an unusual form of theatre, in the modality of Theatre for Living, with the juxtaposition of lots of fun and laughter with going deep to look at what's really going on.
Community connection is now being recognised as a vital condition for wellbeing - so I urge you to get out into your community somehow and spend time talking and laughing with people around you. And look out for our theatre workshops in Mt Dandenong, Yarra Ranges, Melbourne and beyond! :) (also great for PD looking at relationships and teambuilding in the workplace!)
Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone