When We-Space Safety Collapses

You walk into a grocery store. You expect to get groceries and to pay for them. The prices are marked or you can find out the cost before finally paying for them. The items sold there are expected to be treated carefully, as one would handle food hygienically to avoid spoilage and disease transmittal. There are “today’s standards” which you expect them to follow.

So let’s say you have filled your cart with fresh produce, deli products, and other foods. Then, as you are heading to the checkout, you notice someone drop a raw chicken on the floor, and in full sight of other employees, pick it up, dust it off with their hand, and then stick it on the rod to be roasted.

What would that do to you entire sense of safety about that store?

What I can say is that like a water balloon bursting, seeing that would create a “mess” for me. There’s no way my primitive brain could trust the “we-space” of the store around food safety. I’d not be able to check out with those groceries and feel good about it. You?

Right now many of our We-Spaces are seeing their containers collapse, adding a lot of mess to the emotional world

Okay, different store. This one has on all the front doors, “Masks required to shop here.” You walk in, all the employees have masks and are wearing them properly. And about 30% of the shoppers are not wearing masks. And they are not being stopped.

Chickens dropped on the floor, aisles 7, 9, 11, and 13!!

Why is that similar to our psyche’s? Because the we-space established a rule. Masks required. Says so at each door.

But the INTEGRITY of the We-Space Container is not being upheld!

Might be helpful to add some brief explanation of terms here:

A We-Space is a place (physical or virtual) where people come Together.

A We-Space comes with certain agreements (and expectations and rules) about what the space is for – and what it is not.

There’s a container for the We-Space…

And, there are ideally those whose role it is to support the integrity of the container… the space holders.

We-Spaces exist within and side-by-side with other We-Spaces.

  • A grocery store is in a shopping complex within a town within a state within a country… all on planet earth. Each container has it’s own ways that its health and integrity are preserved (ideally).

I believe that the integrity of the We-Space is what matters

Ideally the We-Space container is explicit where possible and refined and explained and maintained.

In this example, if masks are required by signage and by the overarching container of the state mandate, a container where that is not being held lacks integrity. For me a space that lacks integrity is by definition unsafe, and becomes not a we-space but “wilderness.” The rules in the wild are different. I act accordingly.

I’m grateful that here on the Community Center we’ve got some Agreements that even if a person is really repulsed by what I’m saying, or how I’m saying it, or is triggered by the examples, each member is welcome to present their frame of reference… but THIS We-Space is not a place for personal attacks. Calling me or any other member stupid, uninformed, a mindless drone… will result in that person not being in this We-Space.

Yet, I don’t have control over the local grocery stores. And right now, it is wilderness because… well, it’s complex. And unsafe as a container on many levels.

Space-holders are being “over challenged.”

I do not consider most people who are doing essential work in a grocery to be prepared and supported enough to be space holders if confronted by someone who becomes angry (or violent) even if politely (!!!) asked to wear a mask or leave the premises. Even with all my emotional training and skill, I’m most definitely NOT prepared to be a space holder at the entry to the grocery store where asserting the space rules could result in rage or intense confrontation.

I feel sad we cannot “get along” in such a vital we-space as a grocery store.

But, it is what it is right now. And right now we simply do not have other skilled and supported space-holders prepared and available to address that kind of situation. With the level of stress and distrust and overwhelm so many humans are experiencing right now… well, I hope you get the idea.

So what do we do?

I don’t know.

What I can offer right now is that if I managed the grocery store, I might have two signs, both honest and real:

  1. The State of North Carolina mandates that YOU wear a mask when shopping in this store. Home delivery is available at no charge if you cannot or will not wear a mask here.

  2. We so appreciate those who actively respect the mask mandate here! Thank you so much! We offer an extra points bonus for all those wearing masks. It makes it feel like a safer space for all of us.

And, you will notice that some people are not wearing masks. Without support from those prepared and armed to protect our staff and other customers from violence, we are unable to safely insist people to comply, and food is something every human needs so we stay open despite this. As sad as this is for us, please take this into account for your own safety, and do not confront others shopping here. Free home delivery is available.

Yeah, I’d probably be fired from any grocery chain for speaking the truth about the container’s limits. But you know, it feels good to acknowledge WHAT IS to me rather than how I’d like it to be in a “perfect” world… but it is not… and will confront people expecting the space to be congruent with the sign at the door.

What about less “safe” but honest containers?

Before I end this initial message in what I hope will be a community exploration, I want to add an example sign:

“Masks are optional and also encouraged here. Please respect the choices of others and enter or not as feels right to you. Free Home Delivery or Curbside Pickup are also available.”

See, that helps me navigate the container. :slight_smile:

What’s your take on all this?


I think this is a really important and deep discussion Rick and, as usual, you bring all kinds of fresh aspects and a clarity of language for me to consider. Thank you. I really appreciate your mind… :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m not sure what my opinion or thoughts are on this whole ‘thing’…the ‘mess’. This current situation is the sort of Petri dish where the emotions of tribalism fester and grow and kind of make emotional sense simply because tribalism doesn’t have to account for the feelings of ‘the other’. Tribalism cuts through all the complex messiness of empathy and inclusiveness and simply creates the ease of ‘we’re right, you’re wrong’. I’m afraid there’s something very attractive about that…especially in complicated times like this.

I sometimes try to wear the attitude of George Carlin and view it all as some sort of grand entertainment and that can work for me when the stakes aren’t too high. For George, it would seem, the stakes could never get too high to maintain that perspective. But I’m not wired that way it would appear.

So, perhaps what I’m suggesting is that it’s going to stay messy because life (and humans …especially humans) are messy by nature. There are no straight lines in nature and signs and rules are an attempt to draw straight lines through a terrain (a container) that rejects them I suppose.



It does. And to me that is a signal – like the smell of raw sewage on the wind – that something is toxic in the emotional ecosystem…


I appreciate what you wrote here, Rick. My primitive brain was so activated by seeing those in the store with no masks. One woman was standing at the deli waiting for her order talking to the person who was serving her. She had no mask. Another man came by with a child, neither were wearing masks and he got way too close. I said to hubby, “I’m out of here.” So while he was waiting for his order I walked toward the front of the store. I stopped and asked someone who worked there if they were allowing people in without masks. She said masks are required but we are not allowed to talk to them about it if they aren’t wearing one. I asked a manager the same question and got the same answer.

I was angry and when I got home I posted it on my FB page. I got quite a lot of comments. Then I private messaged Ingles headquarters, I tweeted the Governor and said I thought masks were mandatory but guess not in grocery stores? I tweeted Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary to the health. No replies whatsoever. Not that I expected any but I felt I was doing something. And I don’t like Twitter.

Then I brought it to the call and now you posted this. So I wish those “in charge” would post an honest sign on their doors like what you wrote. I wonder what would happen if I tweeted that? Would you believe that Ingles is just now hiring shoppers and there is only one store in the area where you can get curbside service?

Yes Glenn, this will probably stay messy for a while. Thanks for your post too.



To reflect @Angelsloveyou Jean, what I see you do is feel the collapse of the safety of the Ingles we-space and then you went out to the we-space of which that store is a part: the larger chain of Ingles, and the state health requirements.

That’s what we can do. And yeah, we don’t always get a restoration and clean-up of the issue. :slightly_frowning_face:

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I had a collapse of the we-space at the Doctor’s office last week. It so disregulated me that I just had to pull back from communicating online for awhile. She made me feel so small and so childish. It brought up so much from my past and the way authorities made me feel. She walked into the room with an attitude that was so cold before I even asked for her help. It was a horrible experience but maybe it was Divine filtering. We have an appointment to consult with a new Dr. on May 3 through several recommendations. It is a little further to drive but hopefully much closer on the we-space.

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That’s so hard, and it takes time for me to process things like that, too. When we really want a way of being, and we’re clear on that, when Ugly Contrast shows up it isn’t, uhhh, easy to know where to go or what to do.

I am hearing you took the time to get your clarity after calming some of the input (communicating online) and found a potential better match. I’m actively holding a good thought for that!

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