Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

'When the Crisis Broke out, Our Whole World Went Upside-Down': Special Skills and Knowledge That Sustain Us during the Economic Crisis in Greece

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

'When the Crisis Broke out, Our Whole World Went Upside-Down': Special Skills and Knowledge That Sustain Us during the Economic Crisis in Greece

Article excerpt

Greece, the ancient home of Gods, is nowadays experiencing grave adversity. The financial crisis has penetrated every single aspect of the social, political, and personal lives of the Greek people. As such, I wanted to explore the ways this 'Crisis' is creeping into Greek society and identify possible steps that could be taken to prevent and respond to this. In this paper, I will share the process I undertook to interview ten Greek citizens, selected randomly, and engaged them in externalising conversations; elicited, collected, and documented their stories of resistance; and hosted a definitional ceremony.

When I was first introduced to narrative theory and practice, I was impressed with the idea that even when people are facing hardship, they often 'develop fantastic mechanisms' (White, 1995a, p. 85) that allow them to respond and survive. Honouring the special skills and the personal qualities people develop when they are faced with abuse and hardship was the inspiration for this work. I was interested in enabling people to have the opportunity 'to stand in a different territory' (White, 1995a, p. 85) where their responses in the face of exploitation, violence, and crisis might be understood as special skills and knowledge to address injustices and sustain their lives. The work of Yvonne Sliep and the Care Counselors (1998, p. 150) in externalising and personifying 'AIDS' and 'Care' also sparked ideas for me. I began to imagine how personifying the problem of 'The Crisis' might provide a focus for uniting the community and how engaging in my practice as a 'hope counsellor' might open up opportunities for participants to strengthen connections with their own stories of resistance to 'The Crisis'. In this way, I envisioned a project that could assist people 'to move from an identity of crisis to an identity of courage, hopes, and dreams' (Kochala in Sliep, 1998, p. 150).

Externalising the problem of 'The Crisis' - Using a questionnaire

Having created a questionnaire in order to engage people in externalising conversations about 'The Crisis', I asked each person:

* When did you first notice 'The Crisis' in your life?

* How long has it been going on in your life?

* Has 'The Crisis' got any allies?

* How does it affect your life? (self-image, work, lifestyle, mood, feelings, social life)

* When does it become stronger?

During a series of interviews, I was able to explore with people what 'The Crisis' was saying about who they were; how it had affected their lives, their bodies, their thoughts; how it interfered with their relationships with others; and the processes by which they were being recruited into selfblame and shame. The externalising questions assisted us to deconstruct 'The Crisis' and we made more visible the knowledges, strategies, and techniques that 'The Crisis' used. Consequently, people were then able to expand on possibilities to take action, to resist, and to challenge 'The Crisis's knowledges and practices in their day-to-day lives. Hearing people's responses, I experienced both hope and sadness. I was inspired by the steps they were taking in reclaiming their lives from 'The Crisis' and the ways in which they were having 'the last say' about who they were. I also found that externalising conversations helped them give voice to their experiences of hardship in ways that were profoundly healing to them.

Entries into alternative storylines

Having deconstructed the problem of 'The Crisis', I invited people to continue to develop and tell stories about their lives and, as such, support them in identifying 'some of the more neglected but potentially significant events and experiences that are "out of phase" with their dominant storylines' (White, 2007, p. 61). These events and experiences can be considered 'unique outcomes' or 'exceptions' and they provide a point of entry to alternative storylines. Through the following questions, I encouraged people to 'recruit their lived experience, to stretch their minds, to exercise their imagination, and to employ their meaning-making resources' (White, 2007, pp. …

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