What is the Big Feels Club?
Here's the pitch. There are so many ways to think about human distress, and many names we use. Nervous breakdowns, mental health issues, spiritual awakenings. As if these experiences aren't bewildering enough, how do we know who to listen to, to make sense of it all? We wanted to create a space to explore different views about crisis and distress, in the company of fellow travellers.
Big, uncomfortable feelings can be isolating, lonely. But in our experience, they're also an opportunity for profound connection with other people who've been there too. We want to make those connections easier to come by. And we have a few ideas.
For now we're experimenting with 'little bets', to see what people want more of. There are a few things bubbling away. At this point you can check out:
Our newsletter - comes out every few weeks, with news about what we're doing, and one or two ideas about crisis, distress, and big feelings. Sign up to our mailing list below to get this. Click here for a sample issue.
Our book club for feelings - We explore different ways of thinking about crisis and emotional distress, with fellow travellers. Our ‘readings’ can be anything from NPR's Invisibilia to Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, talking about how lucky you are if your life falls apart. Read more about how to (eventually) get involved here.
Where is the Big Feels Club?
We're based in Melbourne, Australia. We're also currently exploring how we might start some experiments elsewhere in Australia, and also New Zealand. Some of the things we have planned will be available online too. If you’re a particularly keen bean who’d like to get something happening in your hometown, send us an email with some information about yourself and your idea.
Who are you people?
Honor Eastly is an artist, writer, podcaster, and professional feeler of feelings. She's also worked in the mental health system as a peer support worker, and now trains mental health workers. Honor talks often about her own experience of crisis and distress, and her work opens up important conversations about human distress, online and off. She's particularly interested in the role of new media in fostering connection and community. Find her on Instagram here.
Graham Panther has ten years’ experience as an innovator and researcher in the mental health sector in Australia and his home country of New Zealand. He consults to government and not-for-profit mental health agencies, and has published with some of the leading voices on mental health and recovery. Graham experiences periods of profound distress, which he sees as very much part of being human. He believes that given the right conditions, crisis is an opportunity for connection with others who've been through something similar. Find him on Medium here.
We also get help from design thinking dynamo Jess Beames, and a few other wonderful people.
Why are you doing this?
We've been involved in the mental health system one or way or another for a combined 30 years - whether seeking help for ourselves, or trying to help others. We've learned a few things along the way, including this: emotional wellbeing is a deeply personal thing. What works for one person might not work for another.
This may not seem all that profound. Yet, in our experience, there are very few spaces for people to explore different ways of making sense of crisis and distress. So often, our desire to help (other people, or ourselves) can mean we have a low tolerance for uncertainty. This can mean we tend to cling to the idea that there is 'an answer' - whether it's a treatment, or a diagnosis, or a spiritual practice, or a lifestyle choice that will fix the problem once and for all.
If we hold too rigidly to any one view, this can end up shutting down conversation, even when what we're really trying to do is open it up. The desire to explain the problem can get in the way of understanding the experience.
We want to create more spaces to explore the feelings themselves - how it feels to be very sad, or very afraid, or to question the meaning of life in profound, visceral ways. We also want to explore the meaning of these human experiences, with fellow travellers. For us, finding safe, inspiring spaces to explore such things has been life-saving, and life-changing.
And some more questions, that we'll put here, until we have enough questions for an FAQ...
Can I come to a book club?
Right now there's just one book club, meeting in Brunswick, Melbourne. It's a first-come-first-served thing, so register your interest over here on the book club page.
Same goes for any of you keen beans outside Melbourne - click on that there link and tell us where you're at. We're also looking into ways we can make the content available for people to run themselves in their living rooms wherever in the world those living rooms may be. WATCH. THIS. SPACE. (Not literally this space. Watch the newsletter. Also a lot of our discussion makes its way to the newsletter, so you that's another way to explore these ideas.)
Can I help?
There will definitely be things we need help with in the near future. If you’re good at a specific thing and you’d like to offer that thing to help build this thing - we would love to hear from you!
Send an email to hello [at] bigfeels.club with the subject line ‘I WANT TO HELP BIG FEELS WITH…..’, and fill in that blank with whatever. Event planning? Web design? Accounting? Dog grooming? Let us know!