Global Social Witnessing
So many caring, committed individuals, social activists, health professionals and healers, business women and men and people from every walk of life look around and have no idea how to respond to global events that seem emotionally overwhelming, out of our control and with no effective way to respond and make a difference. Helpless, hopeless, sad and angry. Or protected by walls of absence, apathy and cynicism. But none of this gives us what we long for – the ability to respond, the possibility of finding some restoration to conflict, suffering, injustice.
Global Social Witnessing offers a way to restore possibility, an essential new social technology that’s about turning one’s attention towards rather than away from challenging events in the world. Introduced by Thomas Hübl in 2017, it was born from the recognition that collective trauma, mostly unrecognized and often unconscious, is at the root of the conflicts and destructive developments in the world. Collective trauma, like personal trauma, can only be healed in relation, and yet our world and our day to day personal experience are characterized by a sense of separateness and absence from events around us.
Once we realize that trauma infuses much of ‘the water we are swimming in’, our understanding and compassion for ourselves and for each other increases, and more effective healing and peace-building become possible. Global Social Witnessing offers us a way to face into world events, meet absence with relatedness and begin to heal trauma in the world.
“Global Social Witnessing begins with each individual. It is the ability to relate to processes, incidents and situations that happen in our culture. But in order to relate to myself, I need to have the ability to adequately map my outside into my inside … When I can create a physical, emotional and mental representation of (outer) events within myself I can really relate to them. This relationship, in turn, allows me to come to an appropriate (not reactive), creative action.”
The witnessing process, done in groups, creates increasingly coherent "We Spaces" that can be profoundly supportive for growing community coherence and resourcefulness. The process is based on being fully present with what is in the moment and this produces presence in the place of absence. Presence produces connection rather than the feeling of separation that is so common in our experience. This new movement in us increasingly nourishes our sense of being a part of a global humanity. Practicing over time, Global Social Witnessing supports new awareness in individual group members, elevating the overall capacity of the group and generating a more conscious holding community for events in the world - a subtle activism for healing, peace-building, and global citizenship.
"Since participating in practice groups and GSW sessions, I've noticed subtle but profound changes. There's more substance and flexibility to my bandwidth. I've noticed that during a GSW session there's often a moment, a sweet spot, when the individuals cohere, organically, and a new relationship among us emerges. This new relationship supports a fresh vision of how we can live, how we can be. Together."
Part of the magic of Witnessing is the way in which turning toward seemingly overwhelming events with others nourishes a sense of belonging and can be deeply healing personally. Participants have described it as an experience of homecoming in which being present with what is, with others, grows autonomy and intimacy with the group, and deepens a sense of connectedness, beyond anything they can create alone.
"The experience is difficult to put into words… Each practice touching the felt truth of how the topic lives through me and the others present brings me closer into contact with earth, within my own heart, and most beautiful aspects of humanity which we all share. How is it that turning toward what’s painful and forgotten leads to such a state?! This is part of the power and mysterious beauty of GSW practice."
Witnessing in a group space allows us to both include and go beyond our own experience and to hear, see and feel what arises in others. By attuning to the felt experience that arises in us and in each member of the group, we develop a more embodied experience of the event or issue, and become able to host more of its facets and complexity. This process can also illuminate ways we have unconsciously participated in or perpetuated parts of the issues or structures we are witnessing. All of this changes how we see, feel, relate and respond to events and in subtle and sometimes not subtle ways alters the way we are in the world. As we move through life with new, more embodied and grounded perceptions we impact others around us and create ripples of restoration. Changes to the tenor and focus of our actions also lead to more informed and effective activism.
"Encouraged by the holding capacity of the group and guided by Christine, Manda and Robert, I experienced my ability to take my embodied response to world events seriously and dared to intuitively speak while bearing Witness. Repeated experience strengthened my development in moving beyond strategizing and reconnected me to my desire to take practical joint-action on those some of these world events affect directly. "
From time to time, a witnessing process leads us, often unexpectedly, to an "Aha" moment in which the group suddenly has a new perception, or understands a deeper aspect of an issue being witnessed. At that moment there is usually a deep sense of shared presence, as if time stands still, and a shared experience that the new awareness or change in conscious understanding that arrived in the group, has also been made available in the collective consciousness. It has been described by participants as a wave of energy moving out from the group to the collective. While this phenomenon can only be confirmed through our personal, subtle experience, there is a strong sense that the work we are doing is contributing directly to building the structures of change. This is part of the potency and potential of Global Social Witnessing.
"The careful and spacious way we arrive together, the tender way we explore on our own, and the deep listening when we return, all contribute to a feeling of grace, of feeling, and of actual presence to the world's cry that fits a need, both within my self, and as i imagine, an ahhh from the world where it to can relax into greater harmony having being heard. "
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