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Keep calm and carry on?

Posted by Simon Parke, 23 June 2017, 5.26am

‘Keep calm and carry on’.

It’s a classic (and much re-worked) line from WW2.

I’m told the posters were never actually used during the war; but some were printed, and have found a full life since on cups and T-shirts the world over.

But could the line be better?

It feels like a crime even to suggest it, almost a blasphemy.

And it has a wonderful alliterative simplicity and power, so full marks for style.

But content?

Well, maybe honesty is better than calm.

The thing is, if we are not calm inside - and most of us are not, most of the time - then being told to present as calm is not helpful in the long-term.

Yes, we can do it for a while, play the stoic, the calm presence, the strong tree.

We may even begin to believe it ourselves. I meet this a lot.

But the victory of outward presentation over inner reality is not one to celebrate.

It’s a habit that leads to the discrete repression of true feeling which is a path towards depression…and quite often, outbursts of un-calm and reactive anger.

‘Stay honest about your feelings without judgement - and carry on.’

This is a kinder, more aware version of the strap line.

It doesn’t have the same alliterative power as the famous ‘stiff upper lip’ original.

But it is a more authentic lantern to walk by as we step out into this present and mysterious dark.

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