How we can really change

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Photo by Peter Berko on Unsplash

When I talk about the concept and action of pivoting I am not talking about some kind of rootless post-modern fluidity where you can shape shift at will between roles and stories. This is an important ability but I believe we have to pivot FROM somewhere. I would call this somewhere our soul, some would call this our true self. It is a bit like the screen behind all the activity of a movie projection. A still point of consistent presence.

Pivoting is not just about swapping out a bad story for a better one. It’s about shifting the whole operating system. Some forms of therapy or coaching offer the illusion that we can just swap one story for another, one role for another. This is too simplistic. There is a journey to be taken from who were to who we are becoming. It’s about being able to live from a position where we are able to pivot between different stories. It is about becoming familiar with the place of pivot. The truth is that in THAT place we rest into our authentic selves. …


Pivoting into 2021

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I write this on New Years Day 2021. Usually the soothsayers, commentators and ‘experts’ are making their predictions by now. This year it all feels rather quiet. I live just north of London and in recent weeks our part of the U.K has been hit hard by a new strain of the Covid virus. The atmosphere is subdued, fearful and edgy. This also happens to be day 1 of the U.K formally leaving the European Union. It feels like the tectonic plates are shifting beneath our feet. …


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This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Pivot Points

It is a description of one key part of a story that we can all identify with.

Failure

There is a point in our stories where we have been preparing for something, anticipating it, training for it. Hopes are high and confidence is up. We rehearse and rehearse and then finally we take on the new challenge. It may be a new job, relationship, leadership role or shift to a new culture. If you are an artist it might be showing your work in public for the first time. …


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The French philosopher Foucault used the idea of the Panopticon to show how we are dominated by an imprisoning and controlling story.

Imagine a prison. In the centre of the prison is an observation building. From this building, every area of the prison can be observed. This means wherever you are in the prison, you could be seen. Nothing escapes the gaze of the panopticon. This means that if you are one of the prisoners, you will adapt your behaviour around the controlling gaze of the observation tower. This tower has rules that must be followed at all times, otherwise punishment will be swift. This tower never sleeps or changes. So at all times the prisoner is controlled by the observing gaze. …


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It was the early 1970’s. I was seven when I learned two lessons about race. There are I’m sure many other events still to be remembered but these sum up how racism became woven into the fabric and architecture of my life.

Lesson 1: Foreign people invade and disrupt

I was in my red and blue toy Wigwam. It occupied the bottom of our rose-bedded suburban garden and I sat in it for hours during the summer. I daydreamed about the Cowboys and Indians running across the sweaty canvas. One evening in June I heard a strange language coming from the end of the garden. I emerged from my tent in full cowboy gear with my silver cap gun drawn and ready. The strange talking was coming from three men in white overalls painting the house on the far side of our garden fence. They were painting the white walls ORANGE. My parents were incensed. I remember them going on and on about it. My mum said, ‘this is what happens when ITALIANS move in’. I had no idea what an Italian was, but they sounded dangerous, and unpredictable. …


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At its core ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ directed by Celine Sciamma is a meditation on being seen. The critics have made much of this being a story about the female gaze. A painter in 18th century Brittany is given the assignment of painting a portrait of a young woman. This will then be sent as a calling card to a man in another country, a man her mother has chosen for her to marry, a man she has never met.

The painter pays exquisite attention to her subject who remains detached, sullen and cold. A painting emerges that is formal and conforms to the ‘rules’ laid down for artists, particularly women artists, of the time. The subject barely recognises herself in the dead, formulaic image. A new round of painting the portrait begins. This time the painter starts to see her subject as a complex, contradictory and sensual person. Being seen like this, for the first time in her life, starts to free her from the prison of others control and the tomb of her own rage and impotence. At a later point in the story she reveals that while she was being looked at she was also looking back. With new eyes she started to notice tiny details in her observer. Being seen, really seen, not just for her external image but seen to the core of her identity has changed everything. Now she is free to see herself and others with new eyes. Now, things that were just stories in books, things like love, are available to her. Much of the rest of the story tells of how she steps beyond her rigid and socially constructed persona to fall deeply and fully into the arms of love. …


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How can the arts make a response to the Covid 19 crises that is relevant?

What is the place of art when we are preoccupied with a pandemic that threatens the worlds health, economy and social fabric?

In answer to these questions I propose a form of art that could be described as ‘deep art’.

Deep art’ is prophetic, mythic, democratic and improvised.

In her posthumously published book Moments of Being, Virginia Woolf asserts a penetrating manifesto for the role of artists.

‘it is a constant idea of mine that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we-I mean all human beings-are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art, that we are parts of the work of art…there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven, certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music, we are the thing itself. …


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We live in a time where the connective tissue of life has been ruptured by a virus. Before Covid 19 came to town we navigated through life with our own maps. We thought we were far beyond the primitive cartography of the middle ages when vast parts of the world remained uncharted. These ancient maps indicated the fearful unknown with images of dragons, lions or sea monsters. Now Google Earth can map almost every square inch of the world. Technology has fostered our feeling of being in control of our geography. At least in some parts of the world. We lived up until a few weeks ago with an organising narrative that the world was knowable. We may not have liked the political, social or existential dimensions of this world but we thought we knew our stories about the world around us. Stories are the explanatory maps we use to give ourselves the illusion of understanding reality. What is often forgotten is that our stories are themselves composed out of visceral reactions to our (often bad)experiences. How we interpret these experiences becomes immutable truth quicker than any viral infection. Humans crave explanatory maps however partial and subjective. In many parts of the world we have seen a rising popularity in dualistic stories about ‘us’ vs ‘them’, the insider outsider binary. These narratives appear to bring clarity to complexity and answers to confusion. …

About

Andre Radmall

Andre is a life coach and therapist. He uses creative approaches to unlock new stories and opportunities for his clients.

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