by Liv Scott
Illustrations by the author
“What is the biggest challenge of living on a commune?,” I asked when realizing that the regenerative farm I was spending my COVID days was just that. It was as much an icebreaker as it was a question to ease my nerves, as I was taught growing up to proceed with caution when it came to communes. I awaited the answer.
“We trigger each other.” It was so human and so true for moving through life, commune or not.
Without a car, in a pandemic, for five months, I was submerged into the small commune. What struck me most was the awareness of social hygiene of the community: the meetings to form a collective understanding of an individual’s growth and role within the whole. We certainly got on each other’s nerves, but we also held each other, bonded, and evolved as people together.
Every human has baggage or “areas of improvement,” which we so often cannot recognize until a sudden disruption forces us to stop life, in order to see the pattern of ourselves. Our own pattern of responding when under a stressor ripples out affecting others. We trigger each other. Perhaps in the hectic pace of life we can, overtime, put our pattern together make it conscious and actively “work on it.” It takes time to see that pattern when interactions are brief and often shallow.
However, in the community, these ticks are apparent immediately, where we are constantly bumping up against people’s ups and downs of life. I saw how we quickly learned what each person needed on an emotional level during their ups and downs. It was remarkable to see how people got vulnerable and held each other through COVID anxieties, moods, disagreements, and mournings. Personally, I learned how to communicate my own emotional needs and to trust people in sharing my needs rather than bottling everything up until some idealistic romantic love comes along. I learned how to lean on and be held by others. I was flexing my emotional intelligence muscle.
All the emotional flossing, holding, trigger-induced growth on that small commune, I found beautiful. Yes, at times it was frustrating, but it was also special. It was how strangers coming together to live together can live, work, and build together. It is how basic needs of survival can be met, so the collective can be rooted in their ability to offer something outwards.
This experience opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about the so-called emotional underbelly of human interactions – being triggered. We live in a traumatized and traumatizing culture, but safe collectives can be catalysts for our own self-awareness, emotional growth and trauma healing. I am grateful for my time living in a commune. Like any real challenge, it is where the true learning lies, so I am glad to have cast my caution aside, built relationships and experienced some healthy individual growth.