Recently, I’ve been hearing lots of people asking “how can I help” in response to the rioting and violence that is happening in response to the heart-wrenching brutality and subsequent death last week of George Floyd.
Being a mental health clinician (someone once called me a “soul farmer”), a human committed to living connected to my heart and someone who cares deeply about deep, systemic, embodied emotional change for others as well as of our world, I felt called to share some of my uncensored thoughts about this.
I woke up this morning thinking, as I often do, about how there really is an easy answer to how to fix these “unfixable” problems.
In fact, the answer to this is so simple. Although it’s simple, it’s not easy and likely something many people are not going to want to hear, let alone begin to do.
And yet, this is the way.
Listening is only the beginning. It’s a great start, but it is not going to be enough to bring about the deep and lasting paradigm shifts that our world so desperately needs.
Our efforts need to go a step further than just listening.
Hate and violence that is acted out onto others, both from our leadership as well as the groups that are instigating all the violence in the protesting, as well as the ongoing subtle hate and violence that gets perpetuated through stereotypes and preventing others from having equal opportunities….
Every single molecule of hate and violence that we are seeing right now is because we as a nation, a world and most importantly individuals are NOT ABLE to actually feel our hate and violence and so it gets acted out upon others.
When we oppress or discriminate, we are doing to others what is unable to be felt inside of ourselves. We are spreading that energy outward and perpetuating the very problems we are all exclaiming "this needs to change"...!
Change doesn't start "out there". This ain’t really about an “outside job”. Yea, there are issues with our system that need to change.
But if we only work for this first-order change around outside systems, it’s not going to go very far. Look at our past.
That change that we so desperately need right now is a deeper, second-order change kind of process. That takes more time and energy upfront, might even “hurt” a little bit but brings that systemic lasting change our country desperately needs.
This deeper systemic change starts inside each one of us with a willingness to take a deep breath and dive underneath the waves of violence and hatred that are flowing throughout our country.
It requires each of us to dive underneath the waves of systemic discrimination and oppression that has become easier for a large majority of people to "go along with".
We do this because it is easier and less painful to act out on others than to have to feel the deep, personal places where you were hated or marginalized energetically somewhere in your past and no one was there to hold you and support you as you breathed through that and cleared it out of your body.
That is the only way that deep and lasting change can happen: for each one of us as individuals to go inward and dive underneath the surface of our lives with a willingness to explore the depths of our unconscious pain that we did not get the support to feel at the time of its happening.
All it takes for trauma to take up residence in our bodies is for something to happen and then feelings about it are not allowed or supported.
It’s easy to keep looking “out there” for answers to our problems. But those solutions will not fully address the core of these issues.
We are a country that in theory, believes it is important to pay attention to your heart. However, in practice, we’ve become a society that lives without connection to your heart.
If you don’t believe me, look around. Violence. Hatred. Oppression. All this being acted out on others. Keeping someone else marginalized.
These urgent social issues stem from an “inside job”; our “outside world” systems are merely reflections of our inner world.
Talking about feelings is one thing. It's like pulling weeds out at the surface of the ground.
They are cleared away for a temporary amount of time but will always come back.
In order for deep and lasting systemic change to happen, we have to be willing to get on the ground, stick our hands in the dirt and clear these weeds out at the root. We have to be willing to reconnect to our hearts and feel, truly feel in your body, how these exist inside of you.
This solution takes more time, energy and hurts a whole lot more. But that is the only way these problems will ever go away. The more you make room for yourself and all your experiences, the more room you will organically be able to make room for others.
So, how do we help?
It's like Ghandi said: "Be the change you want to see".
Start now with you. Desire to know how your unowned violence and hatred inside are impacting our systems and the perpetuation of oppression and hate.
Be willing to look inward and begin the necessary, painful and courageous journey of a lifetime. Breathe into your own hate and violence, feel it, own it so that it can be on its way.
It’s not always fun, but this is the way.
Be safe and well. I look forward to meeting you sometime in the near future.