by Joel B. Bennett, PhD.
We begin with a lyric story–a myth–to help us all look past the literal, information-glutted world, and together find answers from our under-nourished souls. You can skip to the end if you are a lemming who chases after information, only to see the ledge at the last minute.
The bottom-line: We need to move away from an over-focus on trauma (and culturally divisive elements that reinforce trauma) and find a balance, if not a marriage, with thriving—together. Both trauma-informed and thriving-informed.
— Thumbelina’s Gold –
Click play to listen to Thumbelina’s Gold narrated by author, Joel Bennett.
Our humble seed of soul, Thumbelina took her stroll;
With warmth and true resilience, always finding gold.
But the weather cold, overcast, and oh, so very gray;
Big Daddy Disconnect had come to steal the day.
Everywhere, people only saw the gloom;
Cold, yes polar-ized, opinions in each room.
Burned-out, they paid for lessons, trauma-informed;
And forgot the gold that could keep them true and warm.
Big Daddy dripped them info about what caused their strife;
Rarely giving guidance that could bring them back to life.
Mr. Internet Echo Chamber was Big Daddy’s Friend;
Making people think their opinions would contend.
When Thumbelina saw this, she had to pivot from her path;
To wake the contenders, make them happy, make them laugh.
To remind of their inner seed, the one that made her small;
But that harbored all the light, to cast thriving on them all.
And show that each one also had the same, yet dormant within;
That Big Daddy Disconnect was just a glitch, a trial, a whim.
Showed them facts were senseless, could be used to cause real harm;
Big Daddy’s titillating media used distraction as a charm.
Thumbelina brought them far away from Resignation;
Made them talk to each other, with their hearts, and to listen.
Together, all cultures, all levels, resilient at their core;
Big Daddy, his minions shouting: “Aren’t you all bored?”
But in the end, all cried: “We are not lemmings, no more!”
We found each other wanting, the truth lies at our doors.
We now just welcome each other; Yes, it’s an exciting thing.
Thriving-informed is the answer, a birth right we all bring.
Even Big Daddy Disconnect came to realize,
Thumbelina lives inside him, the true gold, the virtuous prize.
Now they dance together—one so big, one so small;
Polarized no longer, but warmth and wisdom, for one and for all.
— And they Live Happily Ever After —
This lyric story is meant to spark discussion, real dialogue with others. Please share it, as is, without having to share my musings below. The point is to connect to it, and through it, to find healing with oneself and others. My interpretations below are just a way to get you started if you are a nerd.
Research Background and Musings
I was invited by the National Wellness Institute to write this article in response to a 2022 publication in The Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, titled “Community Resilience: A Dynamic Model for Public Health 3.0.” The authors cite seminal work on social capital (1, 2) and provide a wonderful vision on ways to overcome structural racism, adverse childhood environments, and strengthen social capital and cohesion. Documenting effectiveness of the community resilience (CR) model, I applaud the move from a focus on vicious cycles (aka “Big Daddy Disconnect”) to virtuous cycles. The latter may result from increased graduation rates, stabilized family housing, increased investment in school personnel, more alternatives to incarceration, and decreased arrests of delinquent youth.
I do, however, think that lasting community resilience requires a very special social determinant that we all can do: real-time, supported, human interactions; that is, thriving-informed relationships and intimacy.
Thriving-informed Thumbelina is not just a hero in our lyric story. She is an archetype that gets little attention these days. You can learn about this Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale character by reading commentary in Wikipedia. Essentially, as a modern-day symbol of woman’s empowerment, she is a resilient woman who was mocked because she was different (small) but, in the end, was empowered to find her own path.
It is Not the Great Resignation: It is The Great Disconnect
The “Great Resignation” is a phrase often used to describe employees leaving jobs—finding their own path—since the pandemic. Research on employment trends suggests that this label is inaccurate. Consider the March 2022 article in The Harvard Business Review, titled “The Great Resignation Didn’t Start with the Pandemic” by Joseph Fuller and William Kerr, from the Harvard Business School.
My read of this and national surveys —which I have presented on to various groups—strongly suggests that “resignation” is a euphemism, a cover-up for a more long-standing erosion in friendliness, empathy, and connection between employers and employees. Alex Alonzo’s new book “Talking Taboo: Making the Most of Polarizing Discussions at Work” corroborates these earlier studies.
In our story, “Big Daddy Disconnect” is symbolic of political polarization, negative social media, social fragmentation, narcissistic culture, lack of empathy and compassion, and an underlying move away from education in ethics, morality, and understanding the greater good. Any CR model can only be effective in the long-term if it grapples with these social issues and seeks to create dialogue and bring others together: “all cultures, all levels, resilient at their core” (also, see my talk about multi-cultural resilience).
Many who read this will likely have some alignment with the professional field of wellness or health promotion. If so, you know that many models suggest different dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and occupational.
The NWI model is the most credible and grounded of all models I am aware of. It inspired this post about Thumbelina who, by the way, embodies all wellness dimensions, including another one I would like you to consider.
Ethical Wellness or Ethical Health.
I define ethical health as a combination of two enduring principles that inform how we should treat each other as human beings. First, the Golden Rule:
I shall treat other people with the same respect
I wish to be treated.
Second, a key phrase from the Hippocratic Oath that medical and other health practitioners abide by:
I will abstain from all intentional
wrong-doing and harm.
We now need more than social connection and community resilience; we need to see the value and virtue that connection brings beyond our own (sometimes narcissistic) needs for self-actualization. Ethical health is more than social health. We need to be called back to the greater good.
Our hero, Thumbelina, was ethical. The Community Resilience 3.0 article, talks about a “virtuous” cycle. In the end, even “Big Daddy Disconnect” finds the virtuous prize.
See this blog, if you want to study more about Ethical Health. Thumbelina shared it with Big Daddy over a recent chai latte and cranberry scones. Isn’t friendship a great thing?
About the Author