A year of living ‘dangerously’: Reflections on risk, trust, trauma and change
This paper examines the role of emotions in the construction and performance of mis/trustful relations; with medical professionals, their technologies, and ultimately, with oneself. Using personal experience of two common conditions as illustrative examples, it questions what it means and feels like to trust, and how, where and by whom such feelings can be enhanced or undermined. It explores some of the ways in which discourses of risk are mobilized and embodied to create a crisis of trust, asking; what kind of selves and emotionalities surface, and what are the health outcomes, when bodies are viewed as ‘at risk’? Visualizing technologies that probe the interior for data play an increasingly prominent role in healthcare, and are typically considered more trustworthy sources of knowledge about the body than anything that might be produced by the tech-free sensing self. However, not all (even ‘physical’) trauma can be seen or quantified, and not all information is equal. The paper reflects on the emotional dissonance that ensues when one’s own perceptions and representations are at odds with those of medical experts for whom one is supposed to perform trust. It examines the feeling rules that are broken when we fail to appreciate our treatment at their hands, and asks: What happens when we resist expert author-ity by telling different stories about our embodied selves, ones that make space for emotion in contexts where they are rarely seen to count, and where only what can be measured matters?
Jane Speedy is emeritus professor of education at the University of Bristol where she directed The narrative inquiry centre. Her interests lie in the contribution that arts-based methodologies can make to human inquiry.
Staring at the park
When I emerged back into the world from my near/ fatal stroke I found myself staring at a square metre of grey Lino NHS hospital flooring. There were conversations going on around me. I was surrounded by flower girls in their 80s and 90s. – Ivy’s Daphne’s Iris’s & daisies… And short- named nurses Ruths Sues Jans and Betts. This was the beginning of my practice of staring. Not looking or watching but hard edged intense rude staring. By the end of my three month stay I knew that patch of Lino with all its marks and scuffs like no other. I came home to sit in the chair in my bedroom and stare out at the park opposite. After the stroke the whole world turned to poetry – stanzas sneaked in between the clanking of ambulances and the talk of nurses, I found haiku hiding under the hedgerows around the park/ everywhere and everything seemed at once fragmented temporary and subtly connected. This is the story of that time …