Gender Stories

A non-binary approach in the COVID-19 pandemic: a conversation with Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi

April 12, 2020 Alex Iantaffi Season 3 Episode 36
Gender Stories
A non-binary approach in the COVID-19 pandemic: a conversation with Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi
Show Notes Transcript

In this special joint episode of Gender Stories and the Meg-John & Justin podcast, Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi reflect on how a non-binary approach might influence the way we approach the COVID-19 crisis. 

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Hosted by Alex Iantaffi
Music by Maxwell von Raven
Logo by Lior Allen

Narrator:

I want to tell you everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello, and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Intaffi.

Alex Iantaffi:

Hello and welcome to a very special episode. It's the Meg-John.

Meg-John Barker:

And Justin.

Alex Iantaffi:

And Gender Stories podcast. We did this episode if you hadn't worked it out yet so love both Gender Stories and Meg-John and Justin that I know many of you do. You get both of us in one today, right?

Meg-John Barker:

You do. Not Justin sadly, but I'm sure he will enjoy listening to this.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, it's so exciting to mash up with you. The two podcasts it's like podcast slash but but not like, like shipping like shipping podcast.

Alex Iantaffi:

I like that. I like this shipping podcast. We need to get Justin up in here though. I will. I'm pretty sure we can make it happen with the....

Meg-John Barker:

We should definitely make it happen. Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. All right. That's the plan.

Meg-John Barker:

So So what are we going to talk about?

Alex Iantaffi:

Well, funnily enough, we're gonna talk about this COVID-19 aka Coronavirus pandemic, because you know, the kind of thing that's keeping us inside our houses, not being outside people because...

Meg-John Barker:

That thing.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah, like killed people like me who are immunocompromised and asthmatic. That thing? Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, that's, that's impacting everybody and so I...

Meg-John Barker:

I think we've both been talking about this on our respective podcast, haven't we?

Alex Iantaffi:

We have.

Meg-John Barker:

You did a gender episode, right?

Alex Iantaffi:

I did a gender episode, because I realized And I guess we'll probably reflect on a lot of what's going there wasn't much that I could think about apart from Coronavirus for lots of different reasons. And so I did an episode on gender. And then you and I were talking about how so much of our explorations around non binary thinking and non binary feeling and even around relationship really does apply to this time. So we thought we might as well have a conversation recorded for you all on this. And honestly, we on for us as well. But yeah, I feel like it's those chapters. haven't pre prepared, we just said we should have a conversation on this and here we are. So in our book Life isn't binary we have chapters on relationships, emotions, and thinking. And I think we're sort of thinking like to apply where we got to, to this particular situation. And look at some of look at some of the binaries in play here and how we might, how the binaries might be unhelpful right now, in terms of how we're thinking and feeling and relating, and how we might move beyond those and embrace paradox and complexity, and both and thinking that kind of thing. Absolutely and as I was thinking about this, actually, even even the non binary body's ideas, you know, from the body's chapter really apply here. So, yeah, we're just going to have a conversation, we haven't pre prepared the conversation. So it's going to unfold as we go and we hope that this is helpful for you as well, for you listeners. I don't know about you, I'm a therapist. So I'm really busy

Meg-John Barker:

Definitely feel free to put Life Isn't Binary on through teletherapy. But if you have time to read, I highly recommend our books. Well, it's such an interesting kind of binary, right there is your pandemic reading list. Enjoy reading. that some people are almost like having to work a lot more and a lot harder, often adapting their work to the situation. And then others of us are having a lot less work because a lot of my work predominantly with training and that's all being cancelled. So, you know, even you and I find ourselves at opposite ends of that spectrum. Yeah...

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and I think on social media, we've seen a lot of that, right? A lot of people saying, you know, oh, I'm gonna use this pandemic as a writing retreat and other people saying, I can't even think about writing because I'm so overwhelmed. And I'm so worried about my well being or my beloved's well being, you know, and people who are, who have lost their work and people are working more than ever, and also people like essential workers, you know, grocery workers did not sign up to kind of put their lives at risk in the middle of a pandemic and be essential workers, but all of the sudden, they are essential workers.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

You know, childcare, groceries, workers, folks who clean our streets who did not sign up to be at risk of being exposed to a biohazard. Basically, that's, that's quite intense for a lot of people.

Meg-John Barker:

about having the, you know, people needing the time to adjust to that right? And needing to, you know, needing to be okay with whatever the reactions are in them. I think the, in a way, the big problem is isn't necessarily the responses, it's the responses to the responses, right? It's like not, not realizing that this kind of change is huge and needs a lot of time to process.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and I think it's so overwhelming for all of our nervous systems, right? And how do you process something on this scale, which is basically touching almost every country in the world in different ways? You know, that it's really making us question, how we organize our lives, right? All of a sudden, capitalism has a lot less meaning. Money has less meaning, you know, things that we could never do online only for disabled people. Now we're doing online for everybody. You know, there's just so so many paradigms are kind of being questioned and they're also being exposed for not being reality, right? And I think that can be really disorienting for a lot of people.

Meg-John Barker:

Things that people.. Yeah, just assumed in the face of climate crisis, right, exactly what politicians were saying was, we can't make radical changes that are needed. And now a whole load of radical the kind of radical changes that were being proposed that people thought couldn't change happened really quickly, since like this massive changes to these external systems. But it also feels like our internal systems are adapting super, or having to adapt super fast to those changes as well.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. I think there's a lot of people feeling really disoriented, feeling really lost, not really being sure, kind of what are we supposed to do in this situation? Right, I think there's a lot of confusion and I think that's where starting to look at things in a non binary way can really help, right? Because I'm seeing a lot of folks struggle with, this is a disaster. And it's the end of the world and other people going, this is the the revolution we needed. And it's the paradigm change we were waiting for, and I'm sitting with, it feels like both right?

Meg-John Barker:

It's yeah, both I'm thinking right?

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly because it you know, there's going to be brief, it's very likely that people we know for all of us are gonna die. So this is not, you know, if this is how the revolution is gonna happen. This is definitely not what I would have chosen, right, and especially the people are going to die are the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the ones with least access. So how can that be good for kind of a revolution, right? On the other end, I totally understand that people were really saying maybe this is the paradigm shift we needed and yet there's going to be so much loss. The inequalities that we've always had are highlighted, you know, it's almost like they're bold, and by this pandemic so...

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah the sense of which lives are valuable, and which aren't, seems to be really stark, and instead of governments quite being able to get away with it, that they're being much more called on or called out on that kind of thinking, I think, which is, you know, what, again, so many of us have wanted for so long. And as you say, that sense that, that a lot of the things that disabled people have been asking for for ages, and haven't been given. Now suddenly, everybody's in more of a more of that kind of locked down southwest, isolated situation, those things are being made to happen. But yeah, I think it's so important to hold the bothness, and it's so interesting how much we were so drawn to that polarizing to somehow take a stand of like, is this a good thing? Or is this a bad thing? Rather than being able to help this really complex unfolding situation without kind of making it good or bad?

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly. I think this is a really messy thing. I know that's one of the conversation I keep having with people, you know, is this good? Is this bad? Is this the end of the world? Is this the change we were waiting for? And I was like this, this is the thing that's happening. It's very messy. It's very complex. And none of us have an easy relationship with it right? On one hand, for example, if I think about my own life, I feel so fortunate that right now I live with people I feel safe with, I have safe shelter. That's not always been the case for me historically. I feel safe in my relationships. I have not lost my income so my family is economically stable right now. And I'm also a disabled person and I'm hearing a lot of discourse out there around if doctors have to make choices, you know, they might make choices for people who are more able than we have more of a chance to come through right? All of the ableist really terrible discourse around medicalization of procedures is really up ableism is super evident. I'm also like visibly trans and non binary. And I'm terrified of being on a ventilator, with no family member or friend to be able to advocate for me. And being at the mercy of healthcare providers who might be bias. We have a lot of stories of trans folks who have not been given the life saving procedures they needed because an EMT or a nurse or a doctor hesitated because of their trans identity. And at the same time, I have white privilege, I have economic stability, I'm highly educated. You know, it's kind of this this weird, both ends place, wherever, lot of privilege and this also terrifies me, you know, should end up sick.

Meg-John Barker:

And again, like I think we talked about that in life isn't binary, that sense that, you know, I'm we're multiple axes of privilege and oppression. And that's really important to keep hold off, you know, again, I feel really lucky to be in a safe situation. I'm living in solitude, which is really new for me. But fortunately, for me, it's a really good thing. But I'm also someone who just went through this hugely traumatic year, which brought up CPTSD from the past and like, just directly the regular commoner garden kind of PTSD so has been just sent, you know, a lot of flashbacks and like, somatic responses and twitches and I just my whole body and kind of emotional state has been through the wringer in the last year. And it's like this on top of that. So this again, the bothness for me of like, Okay, coming through trauma to yet another trauma, that's a really, really massive trauma is huge and triggering at the same time. This particular trauma is actually giving me permission to be in solitude a lot, and to do a lot of the things that are actually really healing for me. And holding that bothness as well, allowing it to be full on to have gone through that much trauma, and then more trauma, but also at the same time allowing myself to notice what this what what's the opportunity here, like if I can really give myself this time to heal, that seems to have been kind of given to me on a plate in a way because so much has been canceled.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and I'm really glad that you mentioned trauma, because one thing that I'm seeing is, for example, a lot of people who have felt that something was going to happen for a long time. It's almost like their nervous system is settled. And they're like, Oh, now everybody's where I usually...

Meg-John Barker:

Yes

Alex Iantaffi:

Everybody, Oh, I feel like people get it now, you know that there's been a lot of those kinds of feelings. And at the same time, we're going through this massive trauma that's really impacting different bodies in different way. And yet, it's also impacting all of us. So there is so so much more bothness, so many contradictory feelings, so much relief that some people are feeling, and yet so much increased anxiety in our collective Soma and our collective body. Yeah, there's just no simple answer, right? It's like this, right?

Meg-John Barker:

And you can tell, I suppose, you know, what? Also to what extent are the feelings you're feeling yours? And to what extent are you picking up on this, the feelings of those around you in close proximity, but even casting the net wider to you picking up on more like community feelings and global feelings? Like, that's sort of in there, right?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. I feel like this time is also putting into question the all individual collective binary right?

Meg-John Barker:

Yes.

Alex Iantaffi:

I think we are trying to have individualized responses to a collective crisis. And then there are also people were saying, Well, how much can you know an individual do because this is the systemic crisis, and it's very much above hand, right? This is absolutely a systemic crisis, we could have been so much more prepared, for example, and I speak for the US, you know. I think in the world, scientists have been talking for a long time about the risk of, you know, airborne virus and the global travel and all of this. We could have been more prepared, there is no reason why we don't have enough protective gear for healthcare workers and those kinds of issues.

Meg-John Barker:

Which is the worst case scenario, in a sense that when both our countries UK and the US have people in power, who are all about undermining science and not listening to that. This is the time this hits, you know, we've become, we became this real anti expert kind of culture and anti kind of knowledge, anti facts, you know, so that's a really awful time for this to land but it's another wake up call of like, yeah, this is kind of what happens when you ignore scientists. And yeah, what people are saying

Alex Iantaffi:

And facts. Absolutely. So there is this systemic level, but also our individual choices, were absolutely gonna have an impact on how we manage, right? This idea that individually, we can be respectful, we can stay at home, we can follow guidelines, we can flatten the curve, so that we don't overwhelm the healthcare system. And of course, you know, government has some role in directing us but I love the approach that our state governor has taken in which is much more, instead of shelter in place, kind of like stay at home, not trying to militarize it too much, not trying to police it too much, because also if we militarized police, as we know, the first people are going to suffer from this are gonna be black and brown folks, indigenous folks, they're going to be more policed. And so there are all these systemic issues. But there, there's also our individual choices and decisions and behaviors and is so much of both, right?

Meg-John Barker:

illuminates that sense of interdependence and the need for collective care, rather than individual self care, that we've kind of talked about in Fife Isn't Binary, and our new book that's going to be coming out on self care kind of has that at the heart of it, too. Yeah, I think you're right, the boldness of thinking about yourself and your place in this way, the system is really vital, because you can get, you can kind of get too focused on either. You can get so overwhelmed by this, it's out there, and it's way beyond me, and I'm just this tiny, tiny thing. But you can also get overwhelmed by that sense of individual responsibility. And I must do all the things now. And somehow overinflated importance on you, when actually, maybe you need to take a step back and rest. And it's like, again, holding the both can help us find our way better.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and it's this both hand approach right? If you are a healthcare provider who feels compelled to go in without protective gear, and then you get sick, and that's one less health care provider in the system, right? Or if you're an individual who are like, my immune system is fine. This is only really gonna impact some people. And I've had to say this to some people, I said, you're implying that my life is not as valuable as yours. And I'm not saying that I was like, That is literally what you're implying, if you say, but I'm gonna be okay. Most people, you know, this discourse of most people are going to be okay. Well, first of all, that's going to that's been put into question by facts. Yeah so as younger people have been gotten sick, have been dying, but also like, what is the discourse of most people are going to do?

Meg-John Barker:

It's the Us and Them isn't it?

Alex Iantaffi:

Exatly.

Meg-John Barker:

Ok. If it's us younger, more privileged, people are going to be okay. We don't have to worry about them, whether it's them overseas, or whether it's them, the more vulnerable people or the poor people.

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly and this whole idea of some people are, while if most people are going to be okay, we can build herd immunity, and I was like, that is not how herd immunity works. And but again, it's this idea as an individual, I'm going to be okay. So not understanding that actually, as we, you know, quarantining ourselves as individuals is an act of community care right now. We're doing this for the collective and for ourselves at the same time, which really challenges that are us versus them, I think.

Meg-John Barker:

I agree and something Justin that I talked about on our podcast was also that the need for systemic shifts and cultural shifts to enable people to do this, because what we saw a lot of was individual, like, shaming.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes.

Meg-John Barker:

Like a lot of like, individual behavior being shamed. And it's that kind of panopticon society thing of like, you know, the government not doing enough and systems not changing enough. So people just end up policing each other through shame and fear mongering. And that doesn't seem like a great way either. It's like, you know, us being used to kind of police each other is not like the way we need to do it. It's like, we need to help make the positive cultural shifts that enable people to do the things they need to do, right?

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, absolutely. Because also, it's like, if we start policing each other, you don't have the facts. So if you start yelling at somebody, because they're outside, you don't know if that person is like a healthcare worker who's going to work, you know, or if you are starting to shame people, for kind of, you know, using delivery service and putting other people's at risk rather than risking your life. My one of my question is, okay, what is your position in the world? Do you understand that for some disabled folks, this would, you know, be literally, this is very high risk. And I also understand that I don't want to put other people's bodies at risk, either. So how do we do this right? One of the things that I've been really excited about is in our cities, there are a lot of mutual aid networks.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

So in that way we can kind of really start to organize together, rather than organized in a capitalist fashion, people who have money versus people who don't. How can we support each other? We need to think about this in a different way. Right?

Meg-John Barker:

Definitely and I've encouraged people to think again, I've been blogging quite a bit about this, you know, thinking about what they have capacity for, also what their skills are, what they find fulfilling, like not just kind of plunging in and kind of burning out with like offering. It's kind of again, another binary I suppose, of like people being overwhelmed and offering nothing or people thinking they have to offer absolutely everything and maybe plunging in and doing loads of things they never did before. Like no can we take just a breather? Sense that it's a marathon, not a sprint? You know, being kind to ourselves sufficiently that we can really like, kind of get to an okay place, and then be like, Well, yeah, what is what is the best thing for me to offer? Do I want to offer a bit more at the moment? But what would that look like? And what what's needed? And what do I feel good about offering sets such that I could do it and carry on doing it rather than doing it for a bit, burning out, and then pulling it away? Again?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. I love I've been saying this is a marathon, not a sprint, like, for the last two, three weeks as I talk. I feel like I've said that multiple times a day, every day.

Meg-John Barker:

It's so hopeful though.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, it is because it's like, I think that that's what trauma does, right? It gives us a sense of urgency right now now now. And the reality is that this is gonna go on for some time. And by some time, I don't mean weeks, I mean, a long time, you know. For a lot of us, we understand that our life is not going to be the same in some way, shape, or form for the next 18 to 24 months, probably.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

It's not always going to look like this, but things are going to change the need to change. And I love what you said about some people are kind of rushing in and offering everything at once. And, and again, it's this balance between can we still check in with our capacity, our self consent, and also what is needed in community? But the other thing I've been thinking about is, again, this individualistic kind of savior complex, you know that I have to do the thing, I am the person who's needed. When I'm thinking about one of the things that one of my beloved Donald Angstrom reads talks about when he talks about balance per says balance is not something that's reached within the individual, but it's reached within community. Balance is a balance of give and take in a community, it's very difficult for an individual to have balance, because we are interdependence. So how could we have balanced in an individual life if we're interdependent within the collective? Right?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, absolutely and I think, there,

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. And I think that's so important, it's important to know, when we're, you know, to balance, say, the fact we're going to need support, sometimes we're because when we put ourselves in a box where, oh, I'm either the going to be the person needing support, sometimes we're going to be the person offering support, sometimes we're going person with privilege who is gonna give everything I've got to be doing mutual support kind of alongside each other. And I found that a really helpful thing to bear in mind as well. in the situation, or I'm absolutely need, and I'm going And it's okay to fluctuate, you know, and I feel like because of to take everything. That does not reflect reality, most of us what I went through last year, I'm still on the kind of needing other support side more, but there's been times in my life are, you know, most of us are able to give in some area and to where I've been much more on offering support, and just trying to. Yeah, trying to get that balance in, again, in receive in others, right. And that's part of being human, it's community rather than just in an individual of like, you know, giving and receiving and along siding with the support. part partially is having the capacity to give and receive. Yeah, it is a part of the systems. Yeah, again, it makes But then trauma can make it really hard to be in this both hand, and it can put us in a box of I'm always the victim, or I'm always the, you know, Savior, or I'm always a bad person, right? And this is not about that, which is why I loved what you and Justin did when you talked about shaming and social shaming, and really taking a step back. And I don't know, one of my colleagues says that shame is like a hot potato and we want to throw it at other people. And so I'm also wondering what this piece of social shaming is about, is it about our own guilt, about are we contributed to this or feel we contribute because of our own privilege? What is this throwing? me think of, I guess what so many, particularly kind of black feminists and intersectional feminists have said about the need to hold ourselves, to hold the, the sense of where we're victims and perpetrators or where we're the oppressed and the oppressor, and it's so vital to have that bothness rather than the binary but again, so hard for people not to go I made the holy the victim or I'm Holy, holy, the abuser, you know, and if it's like I'm holy the abuser, I've got to get rid of that because it's, you know, complete shame and terrible. Yeah, I feel like I see that playing out a lot like... Absolutely, I do too, you know, and I've seen posts, which I understand about staying at home is a privilege which absolutely I 100% agree. And also at the same time, I felt shamed by those posts, because I am staying at home and at the same time, I was like, and I'm going a minute if I am asthmatic and immunocompromised... Me, you know, being able to stay home it's also life saving measure to some degree. And it's an also Why am I being shamed for doing something that A. we need to do and I, you know, I feel fortunate that I can do my health care providing work from home. And I, my heart is full of compassion and fear, you know, for not just the nurses and doctors, but also the people who drive ambulances and who need to clean ambulances. And we're sweeping hospital floors who are not getting paid like hospital nurses, and are not being given protective gear, even though they're being exposed, potentially, like, of course, my heart goes out to them. But also, is it really appropriate for me to hold shame, because I'm taking care of myself and I'm also providing vital support to my side right?

Meg-John Barker:

I'd go I'd go further than that. Alex, I would say even if you were doing behaviors that were questionable, still, shaming you would not be helpful.

Alex Iantaffi:

Thank you.

Meg-John Barker:

Shaming, you does not get the thing that the person you know, if they want to shame you into good behavior, it won't work, like shame makes people defensive. And what's more like now I understand a lot more about trauma from you. It's like, you know, shame, fear and shame are the kind of core of trauma. So when you do that to a person, you're just re traumatizing them. So you'll probably send them into trauma response, which, you know, A. it makes it more likely that their immune system is going to be rubbish, and that they'll actually get this damn thing you know, but B. it just doesn't, it just doesn't help anyone, when you have to, we have to just remove that as a tactic.

Alex Iantaffi:

Aboslutely, because it just perpetuates more of the same, it just perpetuates more trauma. I completely agree. Thank you for even taking you farther and going, actually, the behavior doesn't even matter. Why are we shaming one another? And you know, and also, it's very interesting around the idea of fear, right? Because there's something to be afraid of here, of course. And at the same time, another thing that I've been talking about a lot in the past couple of weeks with clients is how do we balance appropriate fear for something that is real but stay mobilized, so we can do what's in within our control to protect ourselves and others, and then know what is fear that it's outside of our control, there is a point at which we need to let go, right?

Meg-John Barker:

What I'm noticing, and it's a bit of a different point, but it's nice to have you as a trauma expert on the line.

Alex Iantaffi:

Go for it.

Meg-John Barker:

What I've noticed is that the trauma, fear is always combined with shame for me. So when I go to that trauma place, it's like I'm really scared, and the shame in the mix. And what I'm trying to do now is really slow down those moments and help myself see, like, what put me there and to realize I've gone into a binary. And for me how it plays out is nearly always the binary is either I can override myself in this situation for others, and do things that don't feel good to me and override myself consent and then I'll be frightened. And all I can I can be frightened because I think the situation is making me do that. Or I can say no and hold my boundaries, but then I will feel this terrible shame that it's not okay. And it's like that's the binary it's like choose yourself and feel shame or choose others and feel fear.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes, absolutely. That is absolute. Oh my God, I am so glad that you said that in such an articulate way. I love the maxim verbose. Like that's so articulate Meg-Jogn because that...

Meg-John Barker:

Because I've been living it for three months. I have like, I have the anatomy of this down now, I like know how this works because it's been happening in my system for months.

Alex Iantaffi:

I don't even know that I have anything to add on there. Apart from the fact think about a many layers of binaries are in there, right? And now we can talk about our trauma. One of the characteristics of trauma is that it leads us to this all or nothing pattern. Yeah, all of nothing, thinking all of nothing feelings, all or nothing the way we think about ourselves or others and think about all this layers all over all or nothing patterns...

Meg-John Barker:

It's binaries on top of binaries.

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly.

Meg-John Barker:

And what I realized is like, if I can, if I can notice that come up, like I noticed those feelings. And then I realized, oh, yeah, it's yet another situation where I feel like, you know, maybe it's feeling like I ought to do something more than I'm doing in in this crisis. And part of me is like terrified, because I know I haven't got it and I would be overriding my consent. So there's the fear, but part of me feels a whole lot of shame, because I feel like I really should be stepping up and doing more. And I'm in that fear, shame place. As soon as I can see it and really clearly, like have a conversation with me. I can realize I've got us just step out of that binary like and then I can suddenly see all these options. Since, you know, like, there's way more options about how I can navigate this and all the different things I could do it, you know, it's much more of a spectrum than a binary or even a multi dimensional, you know, it's like I can visualize it in a different way. And so I'm not any more stuck in the fear and shame. Or sometimes it's more that I can get to the grief underneath it or like, you know, bigger feeling that's kind of, but yeah, it's, it's for me, it's like, notice that fear, shame flicker, or, you know, somewhere on the light, you know, sometimes it's a flicker and sometimes it's a full blown flashback. But like, realize you've got stuck in that binary thinking, and like, gently, like invite yourself out of binary thinking and binary feeling into the kind of big space out there where there's just many more options then you've been considering?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely, because the landscape opens up completely right? I'm big into this metaphor of the landscape rather than the spectrum, right? Because I think a landscape is way better.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah a landscape is way better.

Alex Iantaffi:

And yeah, exactly, we can get that tunnel vision, and then all of a sudden, we can see so many more options and we make tunnel vision in a survival response. That's why we get tunnel vision because we need to, like, if we're in a survival response, we need to really focus on surviving. Yeah, and the issue is, if this is a marathon, not a sprint, we need to start seeing those flickers that you mentioned, fear, shame, yeah, take a breath if we can, and try to broaden that landscape as much as possible. And at the same time not to make another binary. If we get stuck into survival response, if we feel stuck into fear and shame, that's okay, too. This is a survival situation, you know, I think people are also putting a lot of pressure on themselves to like, do better, and really show up. So really, you know, I've seen this diagram like, how will you respond, you know, will this kind of smaller survival way? Or will you have like a growth mindset in the middle of this? And I'm like, Well, fuck it, let's just hope we survives, right?

Meg-John Barker:

I mean, absolutely, yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

Do we need a growth mindset in the middle of a pandemic? That seems a lot of pressure to put on ourselves.

Meg-John Barker:

Because I got to the point where I was doing so well at getting myself out of this, that when then they then hit, I got fear and shame around the trigger happening, because then I was like, now I'm feeling fair and shame and that's something to feel shamed about and that's something to be frightened about. So like, you can kind of get yourself back in there by and trying not to be there. It's good to give yourself that that you will sometimes be there. And I like that point that it's a survival response. So yeah, like when we're actually in life and death situations that maybe we have to choose self or other. But like, what I find mostly is that if I can think about the situation that's put me in the fear, shame response, it's usually both you know that the answer is not it's not actually, it's what we were saying before about collective and interdependence. It's not that choosing me would be choosing away from the other. And it's not choosing the other would be choosing away from me, it's that there's another solution, which holds both of us as equally valuable. And that's the thing that I need to find but it's because we've been so trained into that binary thinking that it is me versus you and us versus them, I think.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and I think it is really hard, because there's so much all or nothing thinking and all or nothing feeling that's promoted in the culture. Yeah, it's so hard to find that third road, that third place, that new pathway, that broader landscape, right? And that's why we wanted to have this conversation, partially because I think this is a huge traumatic moment in history, and all over the globe. And we are seeing even the all of the anti Asian sentiment and the racism and xenophobia we're seeing in the world that was born out of fear, right, but it's dreadful...

Meg-John Barker:

Someone in France, a doctor, was suggesting that they try a vaccine on people in Africa.

Alex Iantaffi:

Oh, my God, I saw that. That was so disgustingly racist. And, you know, it was like, both fun surprise them because of course, the world is full of racism and anti blackness. But yeah, just so so heartbreaking that in this moment where we should see should they're so easy to come up. But in this moment where we could we could choose, we could choose to feel connected. There is still this other thing that happens, right, who is less valuable, who can be experimented on and, and sadly, it tends to be the same bodies again and again. And I think we have yeah...

Meg-John Barker:

I mean, yeah, sex workers were mentioned in the same breath as well. So it was homophobic as well as yeah, unreal.

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly and it's an I think this is the paradox, It kind of yeah, shines a real light on it doesn't. But yeah, I think it's almost like this. It's never, it's never the wrong right? Where we see all those prejudices or this fear this bigotry, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, you know, being highlighted in bold colors, and at the same time, we're seeing networks of mutual aid, emerging, right? Local support, time to apply the non binary thinking and it's like, like you connection, and both of those things are happening at the same time. Both of the things are coming out of the same historical moment, and in some ways that could be seen as polarized. And in other ways, I think they're just manifestation of what is going on all the time. We're just becoming aware of it in a different way if that makes sense. say, even then we can easily get fall into binaries about binaries, and binaries, and binaries. But yeah, I think that that kind of stuff really lifts it for me. Yeah, noticing when I fall into binaries, and kind of lifting out of that. And, yeah, certainly, certainly one around, not treating myself as less valuable than everyone else, or as more valuable. Exactly.

Meg-John Barker:

That's a good one to keep coming back to as well. Exactly, I'm doing it, and also noticing when I'm doing it, but like you said, understanding that cultural piece of like, we've all been trained in this, we can't just like leap to this enlightened place overnight. It's like it's going to be working, maybe that's sort of noticing in yourself, when you're doing, you know, when you're when you are behaving, or thinking in ways that you that aren't how you would love, you know, like, I noticed some lack of compassion and me like I, again, I guess, because of the trauma, I was just so in myself for a while, that I was not feeling the kind of sadness and grief I wanted to feel when I was seeing the people who were suffering. But what I did manage to do is instead of sort of shaming myself for that, as I might have done is sort of sit with the further level of sadness, that I couldn't feel the sadness. And I actually got to sadness that way, if that makes any sense. It's like, if you can just be with the feeling, or even the absence of feeling without loading all of this other stuff on top, then you can kind of get to somewhere quite profound.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. I think there is a piece about radical acceptance about what is right. There's a piece about like, this week, I felt really tired. And I was I was expressing this on Twitter, and other therapists were also expressing this as one of the hardest weeks of their lives, right? Nobody, nobody has trained us to work in, in a pandemic, well, you know, those of us who have kids, our kids are home, and we're trying to take care of ourselves, our family, and other people, there is no balance there, right? In some ways and but also, I was thinking this week, like, I will need to take some time off, it will feel hard, because it feels like there's so much need in the world. And it is unsustainable for any of us, including doctors or nurses not to have time off for the next 18 to 24 months, right? We will need to tag team, we will need to have some people being at the forefront and working and people resting and kind of cycle in and out of that. And I think we need to do that on a community level to not get stuck into this idea, 'if I don't give 100% of the time, 100% of me or maybe 150% of me, then I'm somehow failing' right?

Meg-John Barker:

Exactly, exactly. It feels like what's happening for a lot of people is they're thinking, Oh, well, all these boundaries that I had built up and all these ways that, you know, I've realizing what I'm capable of and what I am not and holding these boundaries with people, that all goes out the window. And suddenly I've got to do contact with anyone who asks for it. And I've got to override myself consent for other people. And I've got to go out and do all the things. And it's like, no, actually, this is a time when that stuff's vital and it's still okay to think about what do I need in order to be the best I can be in the world. And that's kind of what boundaries are about for me. So it's okay to hold those boundaries and say, you know, I'm thinking a lot about contact and like, it's overwhelming to have too many conversations in one day, I'm not good for the last person I have a conversation with, and I'm not good for me. So it's like, I'm going to hold some boundaries around how much contact I have, I'm going to learn what feels okay at the moment and I'm going to articulate that to people. And I expect people to be okay with that. And I think that's really important not to just let all that slide when it's really easy to just let all that slide in saturation like this.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and also really acknowledging that online contact is more exhausting, you know, it is different than in person. And so if you're feeling more tired, you know, folks have also been talking about the increased allostatic load, which in a simplistic way, it's the stress that our nervous system feels right. In this moment, a lot of people are feeling very tired. And even, you know, some people are like, I don't know why I'm so tired. I'm at home, and I'm not exerting myself.

Meg-John Barker:

I'm having that right.

Alex Iantaffi:

I feel exhausted. That's about the allostatic load. So the allostatic load. It's, it's another term for kind of the interpersonal neurobiology field, but this idea that there is a certain capacity that our nervous system has, and so de stress, you know, the allostatic load is all of the things that are put on our nervous system, all that stress, right. And at the moment that is increased because of the situation. So even if we're not doing anything in airports, whatever that means, you know, we're always, you know, if we're breathing, we're doing something we're leaving, we're feeling that stress. And so people are feeling much more tired, they're needing more sleep, and then they're beating themselves up for it. And I'm like, It's okay to be really tired. I've been having a hard time sleeping, I've been having a hard time getting up, I'm trying to do all the right things, again, in airports, whatever that means. I'm still tired, can that just be okay? Can I just think...

Meg-John Barker:

Exactly, the more you can allow it, the more these things will work through us. And I have this kind of faith that if I rest as much as I possibly can, when I feel that kind of tiredness, I am gonna get to a point of having more energy again, and I see it even in a week, like, if I have a real day, when I'm really gentle, often I will have a bit more energy the next day. So yeah, it's but it's, it's inviting us in a way into this radically different relationship with ourselves with our bodies, our nervous systems, if we if we can, you know, and again, it's a privilege to be able to play with this stuff at the moment. But if you can, you know, see what it's like to just allow it instead of pushing through, I would really recommend that.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely and also that this allowing, not allowing doesn't have to be an absolute binary, right? I have a lot of responsibilities as a parent and as a therapist, but it doesn't mean that cannot find moments of rest, it doesn't mean that kind of find moments where I can, you know, rest a little bit more or meet my needs a little bit more. And also, I would add, even if I do all the right things, and then I don't have more energy, or I don't feel better, because that's definitely one of the things that happens. For me, as somebody who's disabled, sometimes I feel like I'm doing all the right things, whatever that means, you know, doing all the things that everybody says, and I've tried everything, and I still don't feel better. That has to be okay. Like there has Also it is very capitalist, isn't it still very goal to be, that has to be okay. And also, that sometimes we don't, even if we don't do all the right things, that's okay. Again, is this year of value, right? What are we supposed to focused, it's very, this is, this is only good if it makes me do or how we should behave? It's like, it's so hard to get away from this binary thing of right or wrong or good or bad. It's like, okay, we're all doing the best we can, or I made some happy, or this is only good, if it's productive. Or, you know, choices that are supportive of my well being today. And I don't see any benefits, that's okay. Or I've made some choices that were supportive, maybe or my emotional well being but not my physical well being, can that be okay? Can things be what they again, I think there's an opportunity here potentially, to are? And I think often we're trying to make things not be what they are, we're trying to force our feelings, force our thinking in different directions, you know, also a lot really think more critically and try other ways of being that of ways. Absolutely.

Meg-John Barker:

Just not how we work. Like you say, you can do aren't so much about like, something's only a value if it all the right things and get the wrong outcome. But it's like, reaches some kind of cultural ideal of what is success? Yeah. well, what is this wrong and right outcome and whatever these wrong and right things even?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely, because I think there's a lot out there about the right or wrong way of doing a quarantine. And a lot of that there's also a lot of counter messaging about, there is no right or wrong way of doing a quarantine, there's like, you know, and I would take even farther because it goes into this, if you do nothing, that's okay. If you do all the you know, it goes into this all or nothing and patterns really easily. I would say that it's also okay to ebb and flow and feel more or less productive again, whatever that means more or less present, to float in and out of, you know, whatever it is, but it's just so hard for us to just allow our experience to be what it is, you know, lots of people are feeling guilty, some people are doing okay. And, you know, they they're feeling so much guilt about not being the people who are struggling right now. There's no moral value in struggling, I don't know.

Meg-John Barker:

Again, again, our society is based on an idea that there is that we shouldn't be uncomfortable, you know, that the whole, I think most organizations and institutions kind of revel in this idea that you should be working too hard and feeling uncomfortable. It should be painful, certainly academia where you and I both worked for a long time.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes.

Meg-John Barker:

It's, you know, somebody was saying to me recently, you know, it's like, you're supposed to enjoy the pain of it. It's just awful. Like, that's, it's supposed to be painful and you're supposed to enjoy it. So, yeah, I think we're doing a kind of radical act and the just the allowing, that you're talking about and I just I do think it's it's really important to let that ebb and flow and I was Yeah, I was talking to a lot of people last night about this sense of relief guilt, that those of us who are feeling some relief at the new way of living that perhaps we're in at the moment, then have this layer of guilt on top of it again, if we can try not to do that, you know, the Buddhists call it the second arrow yelling about the feeling like. You know, if you feel relief, fantastic, you know, relief to people is a great thing to have right now that people who feel relieved and can allow it probably will have a bunch more energy, longer term. But if we put a whole load of guilt on some of the relief that we're feeling, then we don't have any more energy for anyone, including ourselves.

Alex Iantaffi:

Well, if we're co regulating with one another and then feeling some relief, having some nervous systems are not super activated, can only be good for our collective soma for our collective body, right? Because if we're all in the state of hyper vigilance, embracing that cannot be good for our collective right? Ah, that feels so good. Is there anything I mean, I'm sure there's more than good place to land on this idea of elaborating and this kind of balance in interdependence, I don't know what do you think?

Meg-John Barker:

I love your ebb and flow as well. I mean, I live by the sea now. So I have a lot of title imagery and see imagery. But yeah, that sense that we could allow ourselves to ebb and flow and be where we are, you know, again, it just comes back to that, doesn't it? And then I think we are gonna be better for ourselves for each other, and for the wider collective.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love it. What a beautiful place to end on. So until next time, dear listeners, I hope you can ebb and flow with whatever you're thinking, whatever you're feeling, most of all, I really hope that you are, feel safe, where you are and your your relationships. I know, this is a big deal for a lot of people and if you aren't, please reach out there. I think there are many places that are still available for you to reach out to if you're struggling.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, I agree. If you're if you're interested, I wrote on my blog, some ideas about what you might do if you're stuck alone at this time, or if you're stuck with other people. And again, like you I emphasized, you know, my my real concern is for people who are in unsafe living situations, and yeah, just to, you know, you don't have to stay in dangerous and damaging dynamics, even even if they're not completely, you know, the height hard end of abusive, you know, you don't have to be in situations that are making you re traumatizing you and putting you're under a lot of stress. And there are people that are out there to support.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. And maybe we can put a link to that blog post in the episode description but if you are hopefully in a safe, supportive situation, whether you're alone or with others, I do hope you can let a little bit ebb and flow. I love that title imagery MC John, that you talked about, just kind of just observe that and see where you are on any given moment or any given day.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, definitely. Thanks, Alex. This was awesome.

Alex Iantaffi:

Thanks, Meg-John, this was great. This was so fun. Let's do it again soon.

Meg-John Barker:

Yes. All right. Bye everyone.

Alex Iantaffi:

Bye.