NEITHER ONE THING NOR THE OTHER

People fall out of favour, disappear for a while and then re-habilitate themselves.

So do words and ideas.

No–go terms at the moment might include ‘strong’, ‘stable’, ‘Weinstein’ (of course), ‘uncertainty’ (as in needing it to end) and any word that suggests anyone actually knows what is going to happen vis a vis this divorce thingy with the EU.

Which isn’t to say that the yearning to feel safe and sure isn’t a real and important need. But there used to be a couple of words in more general use that suggest a possibly lost understanding that there are ‘in between’ stages.

A leadership team in a session the other day were in a miserable state about a painful, badly handled location move that had crushed the morale of just about everyone involved: both perpetrators (sorry, that should have read decision makers) and victims (everyone told to get on with it).

All everyone wanted was for it be over, for everything to be up and running as if nothing had happened, as soon as possible.

A couple of words/ concepts might just have helped a little: ‘liminal’ and ‘convalescence’.

Liminal. We’re more familiar with ‘subliminal’, meaning just below a threshold. It was a threshold that this team was coping with – the vague and barely perceptible boundary between one state and another.

They had no way of acknowledging it, no way of marking it.

Anthropologists use the word when describing key stages in the rituals employed by more (apparently) primitive cultures to mark transitions – from childhood to adulthood for example – when everything feels strange and ambiguous.

A place has been left, but a new place has not yet been reached.

And this can, sometimes, be a state of great insight and creativity.

image1
Useful, no?

The possibility of facing and accepting – and celebrating, even – a real displacement derived from being neither one thing, nor, yet, the other.

Which is where convalescence comes into the picture.

Recovery was certainly going to be needed by this team after a such a traumatic process. Their recovery should include convalescence: a crucial stage of feeling better, but not yet feeling quite right.

It’s OK. It’s a distinct and separate phase.

And we all need help acknowledging that.

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