Towards a more holistic integration of one’s personal and professional lives: Dana’s story
As part of this research project, I interviewed someone who shared with me what I believe constitutes important feedback, as regards what they encountered in the Deep Adaptation Forum. This person allowed me to share their learning journey on this blog, anonymously. I will refer to them as Dana (not their actual name), and will use a gender-neutral pronoun. – Dorian
A life crisis
Toward the end of 2019, Dana had a life crisis. Two of the most important relationships in their life broke down, which precipitated a huge shift in their addressing (and breaking) intergenerational abuse dynamics in their family. This also led them to embark on an eco-psychology course.
Simultaneously, Dana’s career became a source of discomfort, as they realised their work had a strongly anthropocentric perspective, which instrumentalised the environment.
As a result, Dana started to feel like they had no anchor in their personal or career spheres.
This led them to use their skills and experience to work on a piece of research to show how the prevailing frameworks in their profession were instrumentalising the environment. It was through this research that Dana discovered collapse-related writing, including Jem Bendell’s research and framing of Deep Adaptation. This felt like an important discovery to Dana, as it helped them realise how much knowledge production in their professional field was in fact pointing to factors that are causing collapse, although the word “collapse” itself was barely ever used.
Discovering Earth Listening
Out of curiosity for the DA field, and hoping to connect with more like-minded professionals, Dana joined the Deep Adaptation Forum on the Professions’ Network. In fact, they almost didn’t join the platform, as they felt put off by how the guidelines were phrased: these felt parent-child. Dana was concerned they might be joining a cult, so they decided to give it two days to explore the forum, before closing down their account.
However, Dana then joined a Welcoming Circle, and had a very good experience there. They decided to follow the host’s advice and to attend as many DA events as possible, to get to know the network better.
One of the next events they attended was an Earth Listening circle. Although it felt a bit puzzling at first, they loved it, and began practice speaking with the earth on their own. This led to a profound change for Dana: now, they cannot imagine not speaking to the earth whenever they are out in the wild.
Dana also joined another DA-related course (in late 2020). This was another pivotal moment for them, as a finale on their journey towards healing intergenerational abuse dynamics. It was also the occasion for Dana to write several poems about the natural world, which felt novel and provided another layer of personal healing to them.
A new self-understanding
In March 2021, Dana was exploring whether to do a foundation course in ecopsychology. In order to make a better informed decision, they decided to book a session with a coach they met on DAF.
The 90-minute session had a critical impact on Dana, and was really valued by them as part of their journey. The coach helped them realise that they had been on a learning journey for decades (involving courses, books, coaching, therapy, etc.), and been intent on achieving continuous self-improvement, personal growth and accountability.
The coach then asked: “What if this drive for self-improvement is part of an ‘old you’, in which you always have to ‘do better’ and ‘be better’ in order to feel you are of value in the world? What if you have grown and learned enough? How about allowing yourself to step into the world with no more dedicated personal development – and just ‘being you’?”
This insight landed deeply in Dana. They decided that the next phase of their life would be about “self-fulfillment, not self-development.” So they didn’t take the course, and over the months that followed, simply allowed themself to be and enjoy life, in spite of their appetite for self-development.
Growing disenchanted with the Forum
Dana also regularly participated in many other offerings within the forum. Seeing the same people and familiar faces again and again made them feel increasingly comfortable and connected.
However, this didn’t last more than a few months. A sense of intellectual mismatch eventually developed for Dana, as they engaged with several volunteers, Core Team members, or event attendees. In particular, Dana experienced a tendency to perpetuate rigid norms, simplistic group-think, and an absence of critical thinking on topics such as overpopulation, decolonisation, and othering. This lack of nuance felt stifling to Dana, and limiting of freedom of information, opinion and expression.
As a result of the above, Dana left the Professions’ Network and stopped most involvement with DAF.
What Dana learned from this experience
Although Dana had first felt excited at encountering a network which felt like home, and then was disappointed to experience a lack of real belonging to it, they described this journey as a useful process of learning. This showed them that tribal acceptance is less important to them than their sense of personal freedom, and that they do not need to be part of – or aligned with – one group in particular.
In spite of the disenchantment, they remain closely in touch with several people with whom they developed strong relationships in DAF.
Besides, Dana feels that several experiences they had thanks to DAF, notably a course in which they had to record a song and display it publicly, enabled them to bring their whole self into the world, which felt very brave and liberating. And the coaching session proved to be a turning point in embracing life in a lighter, more “being” way.
So although they are now much less engaged in DAF than they once were, Dana still has a great fondness for DAF and all it does, and feels they have become able to more holistically integrate their personal and professional lives together – including both their love for life and nature, and the more brain-centred part of them.
I try to bring good people and exciting projects together within the Deep Adaptation Forum, where I am currently part of the core team. I am also studying social learning and radical collective change as part of my PhD at IFLAS, University of Cumbria.
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