We need to become a Larger Us.
We just can't solve issues like climate breakdown, pandemics, poverty, inequality, or mass extinction if we're at each other's throats in a hyper-polarised Them-and-Us.
Whether we become a Larger Us depends a lot on how we respond to perceived threats.
Because when we're in fight-or-flight mode, we're less empathetic, more prone to extremism, out for ourselves rather than the common good. Which is fine if you're being physically attacked. But not much use for shared 21st century challenges.
We need to respond to threats in tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight.
When we react to threats with tend-and-befriend, we tend ourselves and those close to us, and befriend others to build collective self-help networks - and so focus on the common good rather than narrow individual self-interest. To do that, we need to make 3 shifts.
From powerlessness to
From disconnection to
From fear and anxiety to
Feelings of powerlessness - at home, at work, in communities, in politics - make us unhappy, and prevent us from tackling real world injustices that in turn undermine mental health. So we need to build agency in our lives, and the ability to organise to shape our collective future.
Our epidemic of loneliness isn't just disastrous for health: it makes us less empathetic and more vulnerable to extremism. So we need to feel like we belong to something bigger - but an inclusive larger us, not an exclusive them-and-us.
When fear and anxiety become central to politics, polarisation is the inevitable result. So we need to be able to manage our mental and emotional states so that we can choose how to react to events instead of sliding automatically into fight-or-flight mode.
Right now, we're exploring how to apply our approach in four key areas:
Supporting mental health during Covid-19
As millions of us grapple with loneliness, anxiety, boredom and grief during lockdowns, we need practical tools to help us manage our mental and emotional states.
You can read some of our thinking here.
Larger Us campaigning
We’re working with partners in movements like Extinction Rebellion and NGOs like Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid and WWF to explore new forms of activism that build bridges rather than deepening divides.
We've got a new report on that coming out soon.
Just like climate change, Covid-19 presents us with deep challenges about how to grieve for collective loss, and look for the seeds of the new even amid the passing of the old.
We’ve got a new report on that here.
The Larger Us Course
We’re planning an online course to work on both inner and outer change, and be part of the shift from a Them-and-Us to a Larger Us world.
If you'd like to get involved once we launch it, you can sign up for updates here.