If I’m being honest about it, the term ‘lived experience’ made its first appearance in my personal dictionary only about a few months ago. The team at SoulUp would constantly talk about the ‘value’ in sharing ‘what one had lived through’ as the core idea behind one-on-one peer support and that is when I first understood that there is a scientific term for this phenomenon - lived experience.
The term soon fixed its hold on almost every conversation that I had with anyone where I was trying to explain how peer support worked and the more I spoke of it, the more I realised that the concept was in fact, not new at all! Before I knew it, lived experience seemed to germinate in every single situation I found myself in. Friends telling me the best time of the week to visit the local market so we would not get devoured by the crowds, my mother giving me detailed instructions to perfectly execute an age-old family recipe, the midwife offering little fixes for every little hiccup with rearing of a newborn- all very simple yet glaring examples of lived experience hiding in plain sight in our daily lives.
All conversations we had, were a conscious or more visceral registering of the experiences of others so that when we were next faced with a somewhat similar situation, we would not be left wanting of at least a feeble sense of what was coming or what we could do. Everywhere I looked, I saw that ALL of us operated from the (lived) experience of others.
As someone going through something which no one around us seemed to know anything of, our first instinct was to tell all the others about it. For all others, it would quickly become the modus vivendi.
At times, it was just a way to talk about something ‘new’ which would be met with piqued interest but more often, the thought behind sharing was to ‘help’- making sure that others could deal better with what we had suffered through.
From a child telling her friends how she hurt herself meddling with a said toy, to our vast literature - there are few things bereft of ‘lived experience’.
For something so universal, how could it not be an obvious solution to issues that put us through paramount turmoils.
Now, when I think of it, I’m left bewildered that peer support for better emotional health is viewed as exotic and inexplicit as a concept.