So the question here is about how to integrate different experiences into our collective stories, and this very much has to do with the teaching of history. What often happens, especially after a violent past, is that someone decides there's one story everyone has to learn – it's hard to present multiple perspectives. There have been attempts at textbooks that have tried to do this, but these are generally the exception. When we focus so much on one particular narrative, this creates these blind spots again. People who fall into them claim they aren't represented, or at least not represented in a way that satisfies them. These voices, if not processed healthily, can erupt back into the discourse problematically.
There was an organization she met in Bosnia called Euro Clio BiH
that creates kits for high school students. There are photos of war from the area of the former Yugoslavia, and the facilitator divides the students into groups and gives them a themed batch. Regular life, for example, or soldiers. They have to go through the photos and talk about the meaning they attach to the pictures. Where it came from, what the context was. Then each person had to pick a favourite and describe what it means to them. Then they string them together into a timeline: did it happen before the war, in which country, in which group? The facilitator then shares how at one point there was this country, the former Yugoslavia, then these pictures happened and now we have six republics. She asks: do you think it was worth it? All answers are engaged with.
So they do interesting workshops like this, teaching from different perspectives, inviting participants to think critically about what actually happened. It's a complicated (and necessary) thing especially because they're working with history that's not 'history' yet – there are people who have living memories of the event and are still processing what happened. Another way to address history that isn't history yet is through story exchange.
The organization that has ownership of this process is called Narrative 4
, and it's a methodology that helps promote empathy. Participants are prepped ahead of time and given prompts to think about their lives through specific topics. Facilitators are always in pairs and model the process: they tell the story of the other person. It creates a kind of radical empathy because, when we hear someone else's story with the goal of telling it, we pay deep attention to the other person. We take in their non-verbals, we try to be present in the way that they are.
It also increases self-awareness because we're confronted with how other people think differently, feel differently, and we become more aware of how we feel and think. This can be called 'increasing one's emotional literacy,' and gives us an opportunity to be more curious and open-minded. She uses the word metacognition to describe the process of thinking about how we think – our patterns, our tendencies, the things we think are 'normal' (for us).