7 TIPS TO WALK IN THE DARK

For years, we have explained how Dialogue in the Dark is not a simulation of blindness but a contingency experiential exercise. Besides lack of eyesight, when our visitors go into the dark, they are confronted with their emotions, thoughts and behaviors when immersed in an uncertain unfamiliar situation.

Four people with canes entering the black box in a Dialogue in the Dark exhibition.

But I never imagined a global real contingency. And here we are sharing this powerful crisis which makes all equal. Here we are, most of the human race, immersed, this time not in an experiential exercise but immersed in reality with shaking certainties.

The Covid-19 and darkness share some similarities. Darkness makes us equal, when the light is off, both blind and sighted persons are immersed in the same pitch-dark reality. This virus has become an equalizer, too. It does not discriminate against any skin color, religion or gender.
A truly inclusive virus!

In order to contribute to your crisis management personal process, we want to share some strategies that the blind collaborators at Dialogue in the Dark have used during our workshops and tours in the dark. We have developed these strategies as the result of living with disability, which in some sense is like living in constant contingency:
 
1.    Unconditional acceptance: for those who have lost eyesight during our live or for those who were born blind, accepting this situation is key in order to carry on. What could we do to get our eyesight back? Not much, unless we are doctors, researchers or research sponsors who look for the way to rehabilitate retinas and other parts of the eye. When we manage to accept that our situation is what it is, and that we cannot really change it, we realize that what we can change is the way we interact with our disability. Today it is needed to accept this corona virus situation. For whatever reason this virus turned into a pandemic, and for the moment, what we can do to keep it under control is to follow the experts’ recommendations. Let’s follow the rules even though they mean some sacrifices. We must accept and think about a long perspective what will be the best for all. Today it is clear that in an interdependent society like ours, what is good for many is also good for me.

2.    Permission to be afraid: becoming blind is of course a terrible experience. Any of us guides who lost sight, remember many terrible days. Many weeks of crying, hopeless times and even years full of catastrophic thinking. However, what life has taught us is that despite blindness, there is light if we move ahead and there is light as much as we keep trying. You can allow yourself to be afraid, of course, but you cannot allow yourself to give up!

3.    Make community: when our visitors go into the dark and stop seeing the others, sometimes they are engaged with negative persistent emotions. At this point, visitors feel really alone. However, even though they are not able to see anyone, if they manage to calm down and listen, they will always find someone around. In today’s crisis, look for someone around you and make community: people who help us to calm down, people who help us thinking, people who provide us with energy. Do not lose contact with them, stay virtually in touch.

4.    Realize your limits: many of our visitors, when they go into the dark, share with us that they get some headache or are able to see colorful dots. It happens to them because they are trying hard to see in the dark. They do not realize their limits and push their eyesight until it hurts or produces visual hallucinations. The change happens when we understand that limits are outside us. Changing the world is almost impossible. That is your limitation. But if you change yourself, everything changes. The usual advises to our visitors are: Use the other senses, interact with people around you, be curious, listen to your guide… in summary, focus on what you can do and on your internal resources. Same in current crisis, maybe we are trying to push some limits which are not under our control: we already want to leave home; we want to hug our friends; we want our job back; we want to activate again the economy; we want to avoid the infection… Let’s realize our limits outside us and find out what we can really do inside: stay at home, social distancing, adjust our economy, think out of the box in order to help our workplace recover, stay calm, stay in virtual contact with people.

5.    Follow the experts: blind people, within the DiD frame, are given the role of the expert guide. The reason is simple, we are inhabitants of a reality with no or few images. Therefore, we have developed sensorial & communication skills which allow us to navigate the dark effectively. If you would have to go into pitch dark, for sure your best companion will be always an expert blind person. The current crisis is a good moment to find an expert guide. Therefore, be careful with fake news. Consider carefully what you read or watch. Think before sharing information with others if this is information coming from experts. The key is that you find guidance in experts and they manage to make you feel safe, accompanied, optimistic and help you to make the best version of yourself in this crisis.

6.    Appreciate and be grateful: losing eyesight is unbelievably important. However, not being able to see opens other choices: you manage to appreciate smells and textures, you can meet a person with no visual judgements, you savor the words you listen from others, and you develop some other skills such as great memory and active listening. We are blind but still we have one million things to be grateful about. No doubt that today we are going through a very difficult situation, but try to find at least two or three things to thank for  each day: that you can be safe at home, that you are together with your beloved persons, that you are healthy, that you have some money to live, that you have food on your table...

7.    Find new meaning: many of us, when we lost eyesight, even thought that life had no more sense without sight. We even thought our future to be miserable if we were not the same as the sighted. Today we understand eyesight is not all. Today we understand there are plenty of options to enjoy life and contribute with others around us. Today we understand we have developed the skill to find other eyes to see life. For sure many changes have happened to you in the last days. For sure your routine is messed up. Without losing hope for life to be back to normality, don’t forget there are many ways to live, remember we all are creative and adaptable, remember that we can develop different ways to still enjoy life and wellbeing.

Today, more than ever before, humanity can experience that we are all onboard together. Today we can really see how we all are interdependent and share the same reality beyond superficiality. In some way, most of us are trapped by the same darkness. But darkness is not the absence of light, but it is a confusing state of mind and spirit.

Today is time to decide if we want to follow the isolation, individual, competitive and depredator way, or if we want to follow a social, interdependent, collaborative and sustainable way to live together.

Pepe Macías, April 2020