Monthly Archives: May 2016

Intersections of Privilege and Oppression

I’m preparing to cover a class on working as a cross-cultural clinician for a class specializing in working with individuals who identify as LBGTQ. The biggest challenge in any class like this it so provoke thought in the diversity of students in the room while expanding their capacity for compassion – for their clients, for themselves, and for their fellow students and future clinicians.
The basic rule I always come back to is “Know you don’t know and believe the story of the person in front of you”. I could take time here to explain the concepts of intersectional oppression and privilege – however that’s not my intention. It is enough to know and recognize that each of us lives a life that has many factors that support or hinder us in different environments – the color of our skin, our country of origin, our gender, even our height – most CEO’s are 5’10 or taller – that’s not an accident – it is because of our belief that our leaders are in fact “larger than life”. Height then becomes a contributing factor to being selected as a leader.
Being the Difference does not mean being colorblind, gender blind, ethnicity blind or blind in any way shape or form. It is recognizing that we are in a world that, in its default mode, views those who are different than us, as “other”. Strangers and possible enemies that may take away the resources we view as limited due to both our biology and our socialization that has reinforced the survival messages our biology carries.
Over thousands of years we have created striations of race and class based upon this view of difference and who, in that moment of the world’s time, had the “upper hand” to create a narrative based upon many factors including technology – whether that technology was the ability to harness fire or harness nuclear power.
It is easy to be “blind” the intersections of privilege and oppression that people experience based upon a combination of all the possible factors that create an individual – height, weight, eye color, hair color, country of origin, family of origin, laws that restrict access to privileges, laws that enhance social and economic classes.
What is difficult is to notice all the differences. To notice our own place both in privilege and oppression. To notice our own contributions in privilege and oppression. To consciously choose to use our privilege in a way that provides access to resources for those who have less access. To consciously use any oppression as an avenue towards advocacy not just for ourselves but for everyone.
I am in a place where privileges intersect – straight, white, educated, male, raised in a family system that was free of physical and verbal abuse and in a city that looked mostly like me, talked like me, and supported the development of my own individual identity. It is a rare intersection of privileges that also has enabled me to take in feedback from others to then seek out my own education so that I have been able to support families from other cultures, other spiritual systems, other races, other genders (yes plural), and with other factors including physical disability and chronic medical conditions without pushing my own belief systems by always moving towards the understanding that all of us hold different beliefs that – as long as they do not cause direct harm to another – deserve their own place of co-existence with each other and under the best circumstances enrich and provide innovation in the thought processes of both me and those I encounter.
So all this to say, I encourage you, the next time a thought of judgement comes to you, instead reflect – if I had their life, their experience, their circumstances, who is to say I might not be exactly like they are? What they do, what they say, in their world makes sense. Let me understand their world without giving up mine. Let be reflective and compassionate, and in this way, let my own spirit evolve without trying to control their thoughts, choices, and actions… and in the best of circumstances, allow me to be in a place of service that in fact enhances their ability to access the resources they need as well so that both of us can truly make a positive and lasting impact in the world.

Affirm the Story You Want

Affirm the Story You Want

My father has spent years connecting what is known about anger and the brain as well as how to apply this knowledge to concrete interventions. In his domestic violence groups for perpetrators he has them develop a clear and specific belief that they will use to create change in their lives.

Essentially he has been working with perpetrators of domestic violence to actively generate a new story that they will live in to for the duration of the group.   My father has integrated the information he has learned around brain change and knows that just like a new habit, if the perpetrator has reached a point in their life where the negative outcomes of their previous thought habits have led to enough consequences then these perpetrators will have the passionate motivation they need to make a change. He is well aware that all habit change requires a passionate commitment.   He is also very aware that habit change, from a physiological perspective, takes 13 weeks or 91 days, in which time if the new habit is used on a daily basis the brain will literally change how it’s wired to create new connections enabling the new behavior to now be the brains “go to “ or “default” thus allowing the old behavior, in this case habits of thought that lead to aggression, to dwindle and be replaced by the new pattern. And so for the duration of the group, each week, they review the brain change plan, review the level of commitment to it, and identify what is needed to recommit on a weekly basis.

This is the “brain change” method he utilizes. There may be a few more bells and whistles, but underneath those, this is the foundation for the work.

As my father described it to me I realized that essentially he was creating what I would have called an affirmation.   A story that affirms a new belief enabling someone to let go of a limiting belief, and thus the limiting behaviors connected to that belief that they often have held for years and which have led them to their current life results. However I also got something more important out of it. That affirmations, like goals, require passionate commitment. Creating a new story doesn’t mean writing down a simple statement such as I allow myself to receive, I am joyously receiving money in my pockets every day, I forgive myself, or I am calmly and competently completing my work.

Creating an affirmation, creating a story that affirms, means that I am identifying a small number of core areas I want to enhance, I am writing these down and keeping them near me, and I am reviewing them and visualizing them as if they are already real in my life 3 times a day, and ideally each time I am about to engage in an interaction or experience where those beliefs would come to play.

For me, right now, “I am competently and compassionately adding value to everyone around me”, “I trust myself”, and “I allow myself to receive” are the stories I am choosing to affirm.   Each of these addresses areas of habitual thought – for what is a belief, except a thought we keep thinking over and over again – that UP UNTIL NOW, has limited my capacity to Be the Difference in my life and the lives of others.

If you were to create an affirmation that with passionate commitment would allow you to Be the Difference in your own life what is it and would you be willing to passionately commit to it today?