There are two main areas of support that will greatly strengthen and enhance Transition work.
1: learning from each other – as individuals and as projects
This might be a form of peer mentoring or support, where people who are in similar roles, or who each have experience that is beneficial to the others, meet or speak regularly and each have perhaps an hour to spend on their work and well-being.
Some Transition projects have found it very useful to be in touch with other projects, both to network and to share learning and questions. For individuals supporting each other, the co-counselling movement has short trainings that address key issues around listening skills, boundaries, confidentiality and so on, which help to make peer support a success.
2: the wide range of feelings that come up during the Transition process
One of our strongest and most pervasive cultural figures is the hero who works alone, feels nothing, but keeps going despite attack, danger and death surrounding him (or, more rarely, her). This is perhaps the most unhelpful figure to have in mind when doing Transition work. Many organisations have cultures that require people to conform to this myth – asking for long hours, to prioritise work over home life, to give value only to things that produce hard outcomes, i.e. planning, doing, evaluating.
Transition asks us to engage with powerful information – from peak oil to climate change; from social justice issues to the despoiling of our environment. It is natural that we feel things as we learn more. Some suggest that Transition invites us to meet our deepest fears for the future, and our greatest longing. Feelings are a natural part of human response to what is happening, and when they can flow they energise and connect us. Unexpressed, they can be damaging – leaking into meetings as inappropriate anger or tension, sapping energy, and even leading to depression or burnout.
Some of us feel uncomfortable in this territory, and it’s important that it’s always OK to opt out. If you are in a position of responsibility in a Transition group it might be interesting to check how you feel about including some of your feelings in what you talk about, especially where you feel vulnerable, and to see what effect this has on others and the group culture. Talking about feelings, especially where we are vulnerable, almost always helps to build trust and a sense of connectedness in groups.
The Work that Reconnects
The work of Joanna Macy, John Seed and others has shown the power of creating spaces where we can safely express feelings, and witness others speaking out theirs. In groups from a few to more than a hundred, and across many different cultures, this work has enabled people to reconnect with their true feelings about what is happening in our world, and from this to find renewed energy for compassionate, informed action with others.
There are four stages to the Work that Reconnects:
- Firstly, gratitude for what we have, and what we love.
- Then, honouring our pain for the world. When a group has time to really connect with feelings of grief, fear, anger, despair, and not knowing, a shift happens, time after time – as people feel their love, courage, passion and energy for life, for action, for the beauty and wholeness of our world.
- The third stage is called ‘Seeing with new eyes’.
- The fourth phase asks those present to think about how to take their new-found energy and insights back into their lives, into action.
Many people involved in Transition have found this enormously valuable. In North London a group of Transition projects meet regularly for ‘Macy Mondays’, using a variety of practices from Joanna Macy and other similar work. This has helped to build and deepen trust, relieve stress, and help those involved to express emotions where they belong, so they don’t leak into groups and projects inappropriately.
Always give space...
The principle of giving space for digesting and sharing responses applies equally to public events. Be respectful of the power of the information you are presenting to people when showing films or offering talks about peak oil, environmental destruction, economic instability or similar themes. Always give space at the end for people to share, in groups of three or four, whatever came up for them, and perhaps hear from a few groups some of their responses.
Transition in Action: Transition Town Totnes’s mentoring scheme
by Rosemary Bell
The Mentoring/Support project forms one of the more tangible outputs of Transition Town Totnes’s Heart and Soul group’s work. It started in December 2007 to provide regular, reflective one-to-one support for activists at the heart of TTT. It is staffed by professional counsellors and psychotherapists, who give their services as part of their commitment to the Transition process. Three years after they started, they surveyed those making use of the scheme to get a sense of how it was working.
Here are some samples from the feedback:
- “It gives me an ability to find meaning and depth in my work that makes it even more powerful.”“It provides the opportunity to talk through all aspects of life/work with someone who has knowledge, compassion, experience and appreciation of the challenges that exist.”
- “It helps me in problem-solving, new strategies for dealing with things.”“It gives me support in recognising that there are limits to what I can do, that it’s not all my responsibility, that if some things don’t get done then that’s fine, but what I do, I mostly do well.”
- “The confidentiality and the trust to explore difficult feelings/relationships within the movement . . . a chance for the person being mentored to be appreciated, celebrated and valued for the work they are doing; the sense I was able to be part of a resourcing stream.”
- Two respondents said they would like more activists to take up the offer of mentoring, “. . . and for there to be a positive culture around this work which encourages people to take it up.”
Tool written by Sophy Banks