Here at DIS-ORDER, we believe in “the power of conversation”...
The founding principle behind the company is to start conversations surrounding mental health. From its conception, the idea has been to “wear your heart on your sleeve” in order to bring attention and to engage in the discussions that are desperately needed by many but approached by few. The primary purpose of the existence of Dis-Course, the newsletter, is to create a platform for these conversations and help you feel seen and to know you are not alone. We believe that conversations are fundamentally inseparable from mental health and that they cannot exist without one and other. Furthermore, we believe that healthy community, vulnerable communication, and genuine connection are crucial parts of a healthy psyche, all of which rely on conversations as a building block. Communication and conversations are what root us in our humanity and what remind us that the human condition is not a solitary one. Therefore, I would like to take the space in this issue of Dis-Course to discuss some of the dynamics that exist in a multifaceted conversation.
So let's set the scene…
Four women barely in their twenties sit in the garden of a humble student flat. More than a couple of bottles of red emptied into mismatched mason jars litter the ground. Complimented by the ashtray overdue to be cleaned, left out in the Dutch autumn rain one too many times.
We spoke of family and lovers and exams and swapped war stories acquired in the fast paced week of a freshly independent twenty-something. The conversation circled to one of us suggesting we said the three adjectives we most associated with one and other. She had done this with her family over Christmas and as cheesy as it sounded, found that it was a good exercise in reflection. Words like nurturing, resilient, kind, stoic, creative, adventurous quickly filled the space. Each word came with explanations and justifications. “Resilient” came with “you're slow to ask for help when you need it”. “Patient” became “I worry people will take advantage of you”. “Creative” was paired with “just remember to touch down to Earth every now and then”. “Adventurous” was a simultaneous concern for her safety. They came from a place of love, care, and admiration from four people, who at that point in time knew each other better than anyone else. Yet each word also served a pragmatic purpose. They became actionable points. This conversation, had somewhere in 2019, stuck with me and shifted how I perceive myself. It is a conversation that informed my behaviour and aided in the dismantling of habits that didn't serve my wellbeing.
I’ve found that conversations, the ones worth having, take up space. The student garden we were sitting in stopped being just a garden, it became the ground that nurtured the conversation. The same necessity for the physical space is echoed in the need for the interpersonal.
My mother spoke to me a lot about non-violent communication in my adolescence. An attribute she did well in embodying which seemed to have skipped a generation when it came to me. Not that I was shouting profanities from a young age, but more the defensive -scrappy- spirit I seemed to have left the womb with. It took me a long time to internalise that “non-violent” or “non-defensive” was really the only way to achieve vulnerable communication. Part of learning to stop being defensive was to be honest and vulnerable with myself. Self correcting. I remember once, someone whom I cared for deeply was trying to talk about something that was bothering them in our relationship. Half an hour into them haplessly trying to get through to me I held their eye for the first time. A switch flicked.
I realised, that in this conversation where I felt like I was being persecuted or attacked, I was reacting in defence and condemning someone I loved into silence. They felt unable to reach me and in their eyes, I saw desperation. I remember being so engulfed by my self imposed defence mechanisms that I could not see them. Self correcting was the only thing I could do to salvage a communication channel I had obstructed. I remember feeling like I had entered the room for the first time when that aforementioned switch flicked. The person who was previously in the room was the defensive side of me that took the reins in a misguided attempt at self preservation. The compassionate side of me had to reclaim the space to keep the relationship safe. None of us are immune to making mistakes in communication. It comes with the territory of being human, I'm afraid. Self reflection and identification is crucial to the process of self correction; Self correction is crucial to building and maintaining healthy channels of communication.
Sohbet Sofraları - Cooking Up Dialogue
Additional to the internal power that conversations possess, they hold an immense importance in breaking down polarisation in politics, culture, and heritage. The only cure for the construct of the “other” is exposure to those of whom you might approach with prejudice. The conversations that provide us the most communal cohesion are often the ones that are hardest to have. An initiative founded by Jodie Harburt-Karadağ titled “Sohbet Sofraları” or “Cooking Up Dialogue” puts it best in their mission description. Their aim is “to increase community resilience, social cohesion, ecological connection and life quality through dialogue and connection. Whatever the setting or whoever the participants, people benefit from gathering around a shared meal and the act of sharing is a catalyst for emerging collective wisdom. The Cooking Up Dialogue initiative forges connection, dialogue, interaction, collaboration, compassion and a deeper sense of community between the groups.” The initiative is modelled around the simple yet powerful idea that a shared meal and shared conversation can forge connections in the most unlikely of groups.
Based in Turkey, the initiative was inspired by creating bridges between communities disconnected through differences: “Turkey is a country of many different groups that are living together despite misconceptions and prejudice about each other. A lack of opportunity for healthy dialogue keeps the diverse groups in isolation, suspicion, and potential volatility [...] Presently our dialogue skills are inadequate for the challenges that we face.” They utilise methods like Curated Conversations, Circles, Storytelling and Deep Listening in order to create spaces that welcome, nurture, and protect vulnerable speech and connection. Furthermore, they specifically cater to women in these communities who, despite historically being the connection makers, are often stripped of the opportunity, encouragement, or voice to access one and other. The initiative aims to reconnect us with our roots of sharing stories over a shared meal with traditional recipes in order to foster connection. It is an example of how simple yet crucial conversations, when harnessed, have the power to build bridges across communities and change our worldview by dismantling prejudices. You can read more about Cooking Up Dialogue here.
We can discuss the beauty and power of conversation all we want, but it makes little difference if these spaces feel inaccessible. From the micro to the macro scale, potential for connection exists in the invisible liminal all around us. Each person we meet and host in our lives, the people we invest our time and care into, have things to say and feelings to discuss. It's simply [easier said than done] a matter of encouraging and nurturing that stream of communication.
As DIS-ORDER we make an active effort to encourage connection. One of the social initiatives we take is to host different workshops. On the 19th of April will be hosting a Conversation Catalyst Workshop as a part of Maastricht University Wellbeing Week. We will discuss how to navigate and build these spaces and how to approach one and other in active listening and vulnerable sharing. If you are in Maastricht and would like to take part in dissecting and learning about holding space for one and other and starting conversations that matter, we encourage you to join us! If you can’t make it to this particular workshop, keep an eye on our socials [@disorder_apparel on instagram] We post about upcoming events so you don’t miss any.
[A Tangential Yet Conclusive Thought]
When you share enough conversations with someone and if you're lucky enough to match each other's frequencies something bordering on magical happens. You start to share certain layers of your consciousness. I messaged my mother while I was writing this issue because I couldn't remember the word “liminal''. It's one she uses often. She responded -after confirming the word- by asking if I’d mind if she became a patriarchy fighting vigilante. “A thought from the liminal” she stated. I needed no elaboration to know exactly what prompted her train of thought. For a woman who has embodied and practically perfected non-violent communication, fantasising about a parallel universe in which violence is her mode of conflict resolution is cathartic. She exists in the liminal space between those universes, and I accompany her in our conversations. Through the countless times we have held space for one another, we have tuned into certain parts of each other's consciousness. The same way four twenty somethings did in a student garden on a rainy Dutch autumn eve.
The more rooms and gardens we fill with shared words and thoughts, the more space we create in the liminal. The invisible inbetween. We garner an understanding for each other that cannot be achieved by any other means. There is power in community, in communication, in connection. There is power in conversation.