Updated: Oct 11
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
-James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
In a time of increasing polarization and an impending election year, I invite you to be self-reflective as a starting place for change. As you care about your own life, you'll realize that hatred destabilizes it. The prejudice we experience, often imperceptibly, is a part of other people's healing journey. It doesn't make it okay, but it's a truth of our times. Hatred is a poison that affects not only the receiver but also imprints itself within the giver. The pain we inflict or that is inflicted upon us copies and pastes itself into all of us. Everyone involved is traumatized in different ways. Perpetration, abuse, bullying, loss, poverty, and all forms of generational and collective trauma give and spread of themselves. In my early development and healing journey, I jumped too quickly to the conclusion that I must have created the reality of traumatizing and hurtful things that happened in my life. My way of bi-passing the pain was to assume full responsibility. It was a kind of punishing spiritual circumvention because I didn’t yet have the capacity to hold the overwhelming amount shame, grief, rage, and pain that had been imprinted in me. Certainly there is a truth to this statement and in taking responsibility, but it doesn't come before acknowledging and facing the physical reality of the present pain. It's more of an epilogue or simultaneous integration that comes out of dropping into the shame, grief, rage, and pain while accessing safe relationship and building the resiliency, courage, tenderness, and vulnerability to soften the mind's stories in order live from a place of authentic and grounded kindness. A place vowing to not create more of that pain and instead learn how to create humanity and compassion which, long-term, feels much more healing than re-injuriously funneling out any of the pain or anger.
Compassion can be misunderstood as a bi-pass of accountability, but really is an approach informed by a desire for accountability. I don't believe that people who are violent, antagonistic, or perpetrating harm should be let off the hook; they need to be held accountable. We can to hold them with the understanding that they too are suffering, they too have grief, they too are human, and they too are reenacting scripts they've been taught. I refuse to reduce my understanding and creativity to thinking that siphoning my rage into one person or individuals will fix or make change. Therefore, I reserve my rage for systems. Healthy rage says these systems are failing us, and because I see this, I want to make changes that benefit all of us. I'm going to offer individuals compassion so I can reserve my rage for the long fight. They need rehabilitation not more harm and as a result we receive reconciliation instead of more harm. In many ways, I've transformed my own harmful beliefs and conditioned scripts; I believe others have that capacity too. I care deeply about humanity because I've experienced its absence in people. I've seen the cruelty as a result of the absence of humanity, which has given me a profound appreciation for beneficence and grace. I know that being held is what we seek, and anything that gets in the way of that is a defense mechanism to avoid feeling our own pain. Through a commitment to doing my own work, which I consider a part of my political and social responsibility, I have built a connected, fluid, and flexibly internal system between my mind, heart, and body that can simultaneously contain healthy rage and compassion.
As a politically and socially responsible society we must ask ourselves: Why is the focus on "What can I do to prevent harm from coming my way?" instead of "What are we doing as a family, community, society, and collective to stop harm?" We believe we're free, but if we were truly free, why would we be restrictive, discriminatory, or unkind towards others just because we cannot understand, think, and or believe differently from them? We think we're joyful, but if we were truly joyful, why wouldn't we celebrate the diversity of race, gender, beliefs, and more? One example of this contradiction is our country professing to be a safe place for LGBTQ people while having over 500 bills targeting trans and gender non-conforming people in our legislative session. This is a mass traumatizing event with generational impacts, not just on trans and gender non-conforming people but on everyone. Policies can change norms for decades and create lasting imprints for generations. These policies create space for blaming or punishing ourselves and each other for not meeting certain standards. Instead, we need policies that promote connection and humanity, not hatred, separation, blame and collective trauma. Inclusion is not about minorities; it's about all of us. To achieve real health and change, we can't have anti-human and anti-connection policies. We need healing, graciousness, and love. Both materially and spiritually, we need access to resources and joy. To create a healing movement, we must acknowledge where we're broken, be honest about our pain, and express our emotions collectively. We need spaces where through creativity and art: sculpture, photography, drawing, poetry, writing, storytelling, meditation, and movement we can grieve, be joyous, and emote together about what and how we feel. We need safe public spaces for healing and to be in the process with each other, together. The beauty of vulnerability is something we have yet to fully experience. I do have belief in its potential as we move closer towards it.
“I’ve always wanted to show that, ultimately, there’s a root system that’s connected all over the Americas, which is one body.” -Joy Harjo
Our pain is connected to and through the structure of our society. Racism affects all of us. Gender norms impact all of us. Poverty impacts all of us. Scarcity and insecurity impact of us. Any and all norms or standards create shame. We move towards wholeness when we act in alignment with the idea that all life is sacred, especially the lives of those we don't understand. Conditional love teaches us to suppress ourselves to fit in and make others comfortable. Unconditional love allows us to become and be ourselves, even if it makes others uncomfortable. True belonging is only possible when we're allowed to become, to change, expand, transform, and shift.
I have compassion for the ignorance that says, "What someone else is dealing with doesn't have anything to do with me." But it is ignorance. Sometimes we have to be in the space of our own healing before we can move into intimacy with collective healing. I am not fluent in the language of politics, but I am fluent in the language of how to become softer, more loving, and more caring through practices of reconnecting ourselves to our minds, bodies, and hearts. As individuals, to handle the complexity of generational and collective issues, we must first attend to and heal our own nervous systems. If our nervous systems can't digest these complexities, we will default to the simplicity of uniformity, conformity, and what has always been. We currently live in a society that is the image of malnourished love. As we move into a new day, month, year, election, let's start small by changing the way we think about and act towards ourselves, then with each other, and eventually expand into the architectures of our societies. Different can be better.