"A Larger Us": this new report from Collective Psychology says that our public polarisations have inner solutions

Earlier this week we noticed this tweet (right), which put A/UK in some fascinating company.

The poster was Alex Evans, author of The Myth Gap, and director of a new organisation called Collective Psychology. “All this stuff” refers to three previous tweets in which he summarises the three psychological transitions that can reduce the degree of polarisation in our lives - around issues like Brexit/Trump, climate crisis, immigration:

1: From fight-or-flight to self awareness. When fear and anxiety become central to politics, polarisation is the result. So we need to be able to manage our mental and emotional states so we can choose how to react to stuff instead of going into triggered defensive crouches.

2: From powerlessness to agency. Feelings of powerlessness - at home or work, in our communities or politics - make us unhappy, more susceptible to authoritarianism, less able to tackle real world injustices. So we need agency, both individually and collectively.

3: From disconnection to belonging. Loneliness isn’t just as bad for us as smoking: it also makes us less empathetic and more vulnerable to extremism. So we need to feel like we belong to something bigger - but a larger us, not a them-and-us.

Suffice to say, this is music to our ears (and perhaps we’re part of the music, as we are cited in their new report, A Larger Us, here):

As experience from successful mass mobilisations – the 2016 Bernie cam- paign, Momentum, Avaaz – suggests deep appetite for new forms of activism. So there’s real potential to create new resources, both on and off line, that can train ordinary people on how to build their power – everything from how to win a local campaign to how to build a political movement – while also teaching self-awareness, self-care, and bridge-building across political divides. Organisations like Citizens UK, The Alternative, Act Build Change, or the Social Change Agency already do a lot. There’s a lot more to do.

We’re really excited to see “A Larger Us”. Our model of the dimensions of an ideal and flourishing citizenship - the three realms of “I”, “We” and “World” - very much echo with Alex’s three transitions. Certainly, we can see all three running through the kinds of new social forms we’ve been trying to plan and prototype over the last few years.

In our 3-stage Collaboratory process, for example, we would certain see the achievement of feelings of self-awareness, agency and belonging as starting with our “Friendly” - an artistic, culinary, gameful, convivial and testimonial event. It’s not prescriptive, but exploratory and celebratory.

Performance and enjoyment - with artists/creatives curated from outwith and inside the community - are the “fields” or “zones” inside of which these transitions can be intuited and “felt”: collectively, but also pleasurably. Wonder and laughter and sentiment are fully allowed. Participatory exercises and games also allow for that precious sense of agency to be reignited, even among the most despairing and nihilistic.

Our subsequent stages are all about building on the complex, rich commonality of the opening “Friendly”. How can that warm feeling of wholeness generated by such a conviviality, become a motivator for an “Inquiry” into what the community needs, in the immediate and longer terms? (Indeed, well into the future - why should it just belong to the tech moguls?).

As our work in Plymouth at this stage shows, the arts and creative conviviality are still the enabling setting, the mood environment that makes shifts to a “Larger Us” possible, because of the sense of fulfilment and access to purpose is so attractive, so visceral.

A self-conscious “futures” approach also helps. When you map the assets of your community, and methodically envision where they’ll be over a future timeline, this also can provide the kind of collective creativity that reinforces feelings of self-awareness, agency and belonging.

Anyway, as the paper says, there’s much to explore, deepen and organise in this realm. We look forward to doing so.

More: a shorter article on the Collective Psychology Project from Alex Evans in Open Democracy.