Obstacles to Being an AllyMay 1, 2010
Surviving Oppression; Healing OppressionJune 8, 2010
The body traumatized by oppression becomes a “victim” body that—way underneath–is identified with shame and powerlessness. This body operates from a belief deep in our bones that we are powerless—it is hard to be creative and take positive action to challenge oppression when we are identified with this victim body. It is difficult to dialogue and build alliances across differences from a reactive, victim place. We are boldest, and most purposeful; we do our best dialoguing and collaborating for justice; from a creative, centered place.
But how do we get there? With trauma and trauma reactions so deeply entrenched in our bodies; with all these reactive words and behaviors erupting wherever and whenever we gather to undo oppression, how can we move into creative individual and collective bodies that can speak wisely and listen? How can we embody hopeful, resilient bodies that can collaborate and take action?
• We can acknowledge, with deep compassion and self-forgiveness, that oppression has taught us to operate from a victim body. It is nobody’s fault.
• We can start tracking the body sensations, emotions and automatic behaviors (including fight, flight, and other automatic survival strategies) that are present when we operate from a victim body. And we can love and forgive ourselves again.
• We can take responsibility for healing the trauma (both personal and social trauma) in ourselves and each other. Do your personal healing work. Support one another to do this. This gradually reduces our reactivity over time.
• We can get in touch with what we care about; what we long to create, how we want to act to promote social justice in our lives and in the world. We can let ourselves experience this vision vividly in our sensations and emotions.
• We can practice waking up and activating our creative body, our social justice “ally-body” by grounding and centering in the emotions and sensations of what we want to create and accomplish; and by practicing this body when we are in difficult situations and conversations.
• We can prepare for difficult situations by imagining specific situations that throw us off balance, notice what body sensations come up, and then returning back to our ally body.
• Since trauma is painful and difficult to be present with, especially over the long haul, it is important to practice resilience as well. Do things that you love, that restore your joy and hope. Do them alone and in community. Make a commitment—a fierce commitment to take good care of and cherish you and your allies.
(With gratitude to Staci Haines and Denise Benson for Generative Somatics wisdom)