Editorial: Co-creative relationships

By Barbara Dewar

The overall reason the Esprit publication came into being was because we felt a need to share our pathways of discovery with others in the hope of connecting with a larger community. We are exploring how to co-create dialogue with our readers in order to understand how to foster healthy communications in our lives together on this planet.

For the most part we live in a hierarchical infrastructure where we all know that we can be placed above or below one another and in a patriarchal structure where one gender reigns. This leaves us to struggle with superiority or inferiority complexes.

We want to communicate using a different approach, one based on co-creative relationship.

In its simplest form, co-creation for us means that we put our publication out to our readers and dialogue with them based on the responses they send back, aiming for a greater understanding of each other. We have received responses that are encouraging, affirming and uplifting and we have received responses that are challenging us to further growth by having to give explanations of our intended meanings. We are learning how to work with this feedback.

In the last two issues, we had written that we may not be able to respond to everyone due to time constraints and we now feel that this has to be reconsidered if we are to stand by our desire to co-create relationships with our readers. By not giving a response, we recognise that we are acting as part of the hierarchical machinery. We resolve that if our readership becomes too large logistically for individual dialogue with every person who writes to us, then we will develop a general response to the concerns or questions sent to us by readers and will include these clarifications in the opening dialogue of Esprit. In this way, we hope to address all of our readers’ feedback.

In our last issues, many readers identified with our stories and felt inspired to continue their self-discovery pathway, which in turn continued to inspire us. Others responded with concerns, agitation and suggestions for readjustments. These questioning readers reminded us about the ongoing need to clarify personal meanings, and exchange dialogues with our readers. We need to acknowledge the gut feelings of our readers and then explain them to each other. A friend suggested that traditionally when women receive feedback that has the tone of negative criticism we can often feel hurt and will withdraw in fear, and when this happens to men they may wall up against each other and then compete on the hierarchical ladder. This introduction to Esprit is the result of an exploration of our readers’ questions through lively dialogue. Rather than withdraw from the challenge, we embraced it so we can continue to strive for healthy co-existent living with our expanded community.

Several readers expressed a fear about the possibility of idolising a leader in the Esprit circle and that this would create a loss of identity for the other members, by giving one person too much power at any given time. In other words, if one person is idolised then others are considered lesser and this demeans their contribution. Clarification around leadership is a very complex endeavour and we are talking about this issue. We believe concern around leadership in Esprit arose from the fact that one person in our publications can be seen as having more visibility than the others have. When we discussed this, we agreed that when a person goes through a huge stretch, they need more airtime to express this change. This can sometimes make one person appear more visible to the readers than others but we know that at another time someone else will require more space. What we do have to challenge are feelings of competition and jealousy and give space to acknowledge this to each other so that we can clear the air and come back to the equality of the circle without loosing our creative individuality.

Some people felt that a few of the narratives were not balanced in their rawness of communication. There was a feeling that some Esprit contributors were left more vulnerable in the face of public exposure. This perception helped us to realise that each published story is uniquely raw and risky for the individual writer, even if this risk is not clear for the reader. My contributions, for example, were very difficult to write; first because articulating my work was a new personal stretch and second, I was frightened to put my work out for peer review. I harboured a private fear that with my first public exposure in writing, someone out there will clearly indicate that I am still a kid, not nearly ready for this, and that I should go back to my fox hole and learn some more. This is a personal painful example of a hierarchical complexity. We invite readers who feel they don’t understand what the story means to the writer, to ask them questions and see what dialogue ensues. We have discovered that although a new stretch is personal, the process of movement for all of us has the familiar frames of vulnerability, fear, and excitement. We also know that new stretches can be more painful to hold back than to give them expression.

Some readers felt that the pieces were too raw for them and that there needed to be an adjustment in the use of words and as such a change in the nature of the language of communication. We know that a thought put into any form of language is limiting in terms of helping the reader to conceptualise the experience of the writer. It was important for us to try and express ourselves via the written word with as much personal authenticity as possible, and each of us is attempting this in her own way. We also know that through time all of our writing will change in character and colour as each person grows and writes a new piece. We hope that you will continue to challenge us so that we can clarify communication blocks that are created by the written word.

Another valuable response was that some people were looking for a clearer definition of what we mean by spirituality. We are supportive of each person’s spiritual unfolding. We do not want to fence anybody in to a held view and intend to invite each person to communicate to us his or her present spiritual meanings.

Whether our publication triggers fears, agitates you by disagreement, or inspires you, your responses are all valuable feedback. Without dialogue we are isolated in our thoughts and views and this has the potential to foster small exclusive and elitist groupings. This can be fodder for the creation of hierarchical competitors or enemies. When we struggle to work out sameness and difference, the harmony that can be reached by co-creative relationships not only leads to more joyful living but also provides wider safety nets for releasing held back human potentials to a larger community. Who knows how these released potentials could improve exponentially the health of our planet!

We would like to thank those who took the time to allow our stories to stir in you and then send your feedback. You can see that your responses were invaluable for us.