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  • Meg Mateer

Manifesto for a paradigm shift in human connection: calling all change agents


I had the pleasure of facilitating an Empatiko workshop at the Alternatives conference in Washington D.C. last week with one of our strategic BOD members, Oryx Cohen. This conference brings together many different people from all over the US (and some of us foreigners) to envision and share alternative ways in which to approach being with extreme emotional or cognitive experiences, these experiences typically deemed by western society’s pathology-focused narrative as “mental illnesses”. While in the incredible energy of this conference, I had a flash of clarity and synthesis on communicating our inspiration behind and vision for Empatiko. So here goes:


We all are living in a society with institutional compartmentalization and ideological constraint on human connection. Institutional compartmentalization: the physical separation of different people into physical silos so that groups of people are not connected with one another and aspects of ourselves are put into characteristic boxes. Ideological constraint: even when we are in close physical proximity, our social narrative is so restricted, so risk averse, nudging us to choose shallow over deep, sameness over difference, cognitive over emotional. This predominant narrative also connects our intrinsic value as human beings to what industrialized society values.


The scary thing is that this is a sneaky form of coercion that plays on our ability and desire to connect. Paradoxically people’s want to be loved and valued by and connected with others, people’s social intuition and intelligence coupled with this limited societal narrative around connection keeps us more isolated, more alone. Why? Because we do not dare to share those parts of ourselves that fall outside of implicit rules that indicate what is socially acceptable and what is valued in society. In this sense, we remain connected on the surface, sometimes to thousands of people, collecting and measuring ourselves by the amount of kudos we receive in a day, without feeling that anyone truly knows us or, even worse, feeling that if people knew who we really were, we would experience rejection in the communities we hold so dear.


Numerous emancipatory groups and movements have, over the years, fought for the legitimacy of their group BEING valued, being included in this narrative, recognizing that elements of their identities were excluded from the story. This is incredibly important for our society to recognize and honor. However, somehow we have still remained siloed in our fight to be seen, perhaps not recognizing that it is the exclusion and separation itself of ANY groups, identities, experiences and qualities of our being that must be challenged in order to liberate all human beings from the chains of this institutional compartmentalization and ideological constraint.


The leadership from the experience of extreme emotional or cognitive states lies at the foundation of Empatiko’s movement because of the potential in which these experiences have to abruptly awaken someone to see the negative systemic underpinnings of the social narrative and the broad sweeping disconnection constructed by “society at large”. We, the founders of Empatiko, have come to see the restrictive, limiting and often disconnecting ways in which societal rules and conventions govern people’s behaviour through our own lived experience of and relation to extreme states. Extreme states are at the core of the Empatiko movement also because of the fact that the problematic narrative around “craziness” impacts everyone. “Crazy” in its truest and most explicit form, is used to blame, shame and exclude certain beliefs, behaviors, and ways of being, across many different groups and identities. However, this concept of “being out of your mind” is also a subtle yet strong warning to those who have not yet been deemed “mad” to adhere to the limited social code in order to maintain their space and value in society. In this way, “craziness” is a foundation of the limited social narrative that negatively impacts all human connection, regardless of whether your experience has been labeled in the “loony” bucket or not.


Empatiko is dedicated to enhancing freedom and authenticity in connection. Our movement and programs are designed to create opportunities for people to curiously become awake again to (1) the restrictions of our social narrative and the impact that it has on us both individually and collectively and to (2) our true desires and creativity within connection. Our disruption programs intentionally bring different groups together to envision new ways of connecting, to empower individuals to take back their freedom in connection. Our organization was inspired by the idea that in order to thrive together in this world, it is not the aspects of ourselves that do not fit inside of society’s socially acceptable “boxes” that need to be discarded and hidden but, instead, that it is the boxes themselves that need to be transcended.


We want to work with people and organizations who recognize this reality and are dedicated to do the on-the-ground hard work to unlock transformation. Taking that leap of faith will positively impact individual and organizational “output”, as the natural gifts of diverse thinking and ways of being will then organically flourish in our communities. This is innovation at its core. Are you interested in working with us? We are looking for people and organizations to work with in the upcoming year. Send a message to hello@empatiko.org and let’s start the conversation.


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