Posted: Wednesday 30th June 2021
Over coffee recently my partner and I got to talking together about our shared take on the pandemic experience. After briefly enjoying our truth, we also began to notice just how great it felt to be ‘right’… Yet in the next breath, I started to feel uncomfortable. If we think that we are ‘right’ then other views held by other people must be ‘wrong’, and then surely we’re all heading down an ill-fated path? I began to ask myself, was my take on the pandemic shared as a reflection of my experience over the last year, just an honest exchange of myself with another person? Or was it coming from a place of revelling in awarding myself the prize of being ‘right’, feeling great about holding the one real and superior truth? I remembered hearing someone else giving a talk recently. ‘All of my answers are both right and wrong’ she had remarked. What a strange statement this could seem. What did it mean?
Of course answers, views and actions too, are commonly both right and wrong at the same time. Right in some ways, wrong in others. Right for some people, wrong for others. Right at this moment, wrong at the next. And how could it be any different? When we see life as a solid, fixed entity then we can believe single fixed views could be the whole truth. This is a modernist take on things. But when we see life as an ever-changing process, then we know that views can only ever be partial and temporary. We can only ever be ‘on the way to knowing’ as systemic academic John Shotter once put it. Taking a post-modern position, we can appreciate that ‘truth’ is not singular and fixed, not held by certain individuals alone, but needs to be constructed between people through a continual process of exchange, understanding and accomodation.
Our work at MyST takes place within networks for this very reason. As a group with and around a child, we build an understanding together which serves as a useful basis upon which to go forward. In this way of working, only with healthy exchanges of all perspectives can we skillfully adapt as things change. Sometimes, when people start working at MyST they begin by assuming that we work with systems so that we can tell everybody else the right way to meet a child’s needs. They assume that our job is to give everyone the ‘right answer’. But no. Over time, new starters come to understand that we work in systems because it is the system itself that, through its members’ exchanges of experience and perspective, constructs a truth good enough to provide a foundation stone from which to act wisely and effectively towards children. Acting from these shared, evolving truths, derived only from people collaborating in systems, we find out what our next steps together should be.
Systems, networks, partnerships, relationships….they hold a special power, and we couldn’t work anywhere else but among them.
Jen & Jael