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Managing tricky emotions along the way...

We're humans, but also human animals, with all the primitive emotional responses that go with that. Arguably, we don't acknowledge our animal side enough, don't engage with it, and don't learn how to manage it. We like to think of ourselves as above that, that our humanness can control it, overcome it, but the reality is very different. Just take a look at the troubles around the world for evidence. Indeed, how we conduct our closest of relationships, and how they can go very wrong at times.

Creating a community from scratch is inevitably going to trigger these primitive emotional and instinctive responses...fear of scarcity of resources, territory, "will I be able to secure enough of what my family needs", and "will conditions within the community align with what I am used to" etc...Team this with a conditioned learning of competition within an adversarial and competitive neoliberal environment, that teaches us to gain as much of everything as we can for ourselves and you have a potentially volatile melting pot. We recognise that our strong desire for collaboration and cooperation is what we want and need to encourage and relearn...

One way that we are currently looking at this has been taken as inspiration from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox', by Prof Steven Peters. Our inner 'chimp' is our 'emotional machine', that we all possess. It comes from the most primitive part of our brain, which is the limbic system. This system is primarily concerned with our safety, survival and all those basic things. It isn't good or bad, it is a chimp. It offers emotional thoughts and feelings, that can be very constructive or very destructive. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. We are learning to recognise that as we continue our journey with our housing project, our respective chimps are likely to be triggered on a regular basis, so we need to learn how to acknowledge them, manage them and to 'harness their strength and power when they are working for us, and to neutralise them when they are not.'

At the beginning of each meeting we have a brief discussion about our chimps, reminding ourselves that we each have one, and to be mindful during our meeting that they might emerge along the way. Rather than shy away from this emergence, we are encouraging each other to 'lean into' it, learn more about these emotional responses, and learn together where they have come from and talk openly about it. Personally I find this activity to be quite liberating and helps me to accept my own personal chimp and those of others too. At the end of each meeting we have something called a 'chimp check'. This is an opportunity for anyone in the meeting to talk about an emotional response they had during the meeting, for us to look at that response together, try to better understand it, placate it and then move on with greater understanding and mind management skills.

This is all very experimental obviously, but to date we find it most helpful and very interesting/fascinating. We hope that this activity will help us bond better as a community and lay strong foundations for the future...

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