In the previous discussion we concluded that the way forward was to demonstrate how voices could be heard and understood in reality. Immediately I became aware of magnitude and scale and volume about this discussion. It leads, wanders, meanders, in every direction. The Project Lead saw simplicity. What follows is a conversation. A conversation about voices, about motive, tone, pitch, volume, emotion, history and at the end, a little conversation that sums it all up: confusion in beauty. It was a difficult discussion. Why? It’s only two people conversing in a way that billions of people do every day. It didn’t take me long to feel irritation vibrating under my skin. Start with a question and wait for an answer. The answer however was elusive. Waiting for the reply was like waiting to find the source of a signal that was being bounced around every cell tower on the planet. Or maybe it was the question. The question wasn’t right. Or maybe it wasn’t right because her answer didn’t fit with the one already lodged in my unconscious. Maybe it didn’t fit with me. I had already limited her capacity to be heard and understood. And there lies the paradox. Voices are wonderful and powerful but they’re just as easily not understood and even worse disinteresting.
“Nobody’s interested in what they (families) have to say…” That isn’t true across the board but the reality is that it’s few and far between because the system has become target driven and the system targets its own employees. Employees are targeted because they don’t fit the system. They become systematically removed from the conveyor belt due to faulty compliance. If the purpose is to keep the organisation safe then fear of reprisal is a useful tool and would indeed be encouraged. Professionals are anxious and defensive, have no-choice in what they do. Their voice is not heard either. They are stressed, overloaded, medicated. A man being stitched up by a nurse in hospital winced as she carried out the procedure distractedly. Recognising what she had done she apologised and said she was having a bad day and proceeded to tell the man why she was stressed while he listened compassionately.
Disinterest spreads like a virus. Fortunately virus’s can create their own solution. As a result of a system trying to save itself it crafted this wall of impenetrable rhetoric. Buzzwords patrolled this wall. Any attempt to surmount this wall and you were dealt with like a foreign body. Very few made it inside the wall and those that did so couldn’t reside there for very long. What people were trying to do was to get to the centre. Once there change would be inevitable. What we are trying to do is to get to the wall. Bind to the wall and wait for it to turn on itself. In effect the very thing that was used to protect itself opens it up.
Easier said than done. The system is constantly in flux. Re-designing, moving, amalgamating, and splintering. It’s designed that way so that it may continue to exist. A constant shift in work-force. People coming in, saying this is what needs to be done and then collapsing and leaving after a few months. A system that survives by blaming other parts of the same system is an intelligent system. It actually becomes an intelligent being. One that can surgically amputate parts of itself. Sometimes it can hack off pieces quickly. What happens to the voices that were currently housed in those amputated parts? What happens to the voices that lie still in those pieces that were hacked off? The system can be disseminated and rebuilt under a different guise, can those voices? How many times are you willing to repeat your story? In the past voices were heard, “we got paid to do what was necessary for the family”. Now it’s become a practice of how many contacts per day is achieved, without relevance. Or relevance is completely irrelevant, “seeing a person’s bedroom instead of using the time to discuss what needs to be talked about.”
Voices are complex. They reveal our histories and motives without us even knowing it and in return history and motive can drown our voices. It can reduce a voice to a tremble. It can manifest a voice to a lie. Voices can have ulterior motives; using organisations to get what they want, to ‘play-the-game’. Voices lie because of, “fear of losing their kids”. Fear of their voice being used against them in reports, reviews, meetings and proceedings. Where did this sense of mistrust come from? This is no local ripple. This is a wave the full-length of the country where a genuine asking for help turns into mistrust. If you ask for help you are naive. Families say it to each other more and more, it’s becoming generational. Parent’s pass it on to their children. Children pass it on in the playground. Just as the system became impenetrable, so too do the families. Until force is applied. A force applied by a continuous diminishing workforce in danger of collapsing in on itself.
What fosters an attitude of honesty? The recognition that you can have an important relationship with someone without believing everything they say. People will lie. For a myriad of reasons. Even if they’ve come to you for help. It takes time to engage because there are barriers to engagement. If I say this then what happens? Scenarios are created and played out in the mind and the mind creates reality in the end. Services yank children away. Take away first, ask questions later. That fear is all consuming. How is this fear exposed in a safe manner? An open-mindedness to possibilities in engagement is matched by an open-mindedness to possibilities in fear and therefore people have to be carefully nurtured, if not ”darkness absorbs any mind, once it starts calling itself ‘unwanted’”, (Catastrophic Thinking- Denise Riley).
Something has to be done differently and it has to be genuine. Despite a voice not having the outcome it wanted, if indeed there was one, it still needs to be understood, validated even. A voice heard and understood reinforces your humanness. It mirrors your value, “I am valued”. Voices that aren’t heard and understood change into a different form of energy. That energy is behavioural and often self-defeating. No acknowledgement leads to extreme behaviour, violence and suicide attempts. Disinterest leads to death. The question is not about how many times are you to bang your head against a brick wall with repetitive story-telling. It becomes about banging your head harder and harder until something cracks. It is very rarely the wall that cracks however.
The answer lies in how you listen……