Social Change Originates from Within


The nature of a polarity depends upon its magnetic counterpart. North and south poles sustain our planet because they react when presented with each other, and the dynamism of life emerges. In human relationships, we see this as we relate with others. A spectrum is created, including everything from acts of service to tensions driving behaviors of violence. Within each isolated pole, we see the essence of extremism clearly presented through its contrasting partner. 

How does this relate to what it means to have an identity? When I carry unresolved trauma, I don’t feel connected to myself and I am not aware of my innate worth as a human. Therefore I build an identity based upon something external because I am not generating a distinct expression from within. To find this source, I can feel into the wholeness of who I am as a human, which includes opening to deep experiences of pain, grief, joy, and the unknown. Awareness, incentive, and community support are also essential. 

Until I find this source, when I navigate through the world my reactions become oppositional by nature because I have a subconscious need to reveal who I am through being presented against something else. 

So I oppose. I resist. I rebel. I seek to prove who I am by showing the world what I am not. When interwoven with unresolved trauma or disowned worth, this opposition builds a clarification of how I identify. As I continue to know who I am through this construct, I feel the need to defend it if I feel threatened. I only know who I think I am through a construct, whether it’s a far-right or far-left extremist, or even through my skin color or gender. 

Personally, I grew up taking on the role of a woman in society. Am I oppressed by men because I am a woman? When I peel back the layers and understand the ways in which I subconsciously give my authentic power away, or make myself inferior, I discern a pattern around certain, often charismatic, men. The more I come to realize how much I interpret they “get away with,” the more anger brews in my body and I feel a primal desire to put that blame onto the archetype of men. “Us vs. Them” narratives contribute to generating an enemy out of the concept of a patriarchy. 

Other cultural identities such as race, ethnicity, religious belief, politics, nationality, similarly present the concept of the oppressor emerging from within, assuming the “other” is to blame for my reaction to what I experience. An underlying illogical belief system emerges: if I eliminate them, then I am okay. Now I have a purpose, a mission, and often a group to rally with in camaraderie and protection. Collectivized victimhood creates collectivized oppressors. And vice-versa.

Whether this manifests as violent extremism or seeking to eliminate extremism, the method of opposition becomes an aspect of the perpetuation of the cycle. In this contradiction, how does opposition enable the very thing it seeks to eliminate? 

Perhaps through attention and focus.

That nature of opposition exposes a duality, or in other words, a divide. As expressed in polarity, each part of the divide needs the other part to exist. For example, in order to know peace, we must each have an awareness of what is not peace. 

We derive clarity through contrast. Positioning oneself as “against” something else is empowering a part of the contrast upon which the entire cycle depends. To more effectively contribute to a world of peace, we can instead put our attention upon living the peacefulness we seek to experience rather than contributing to an antithesis mode of operation. 

Why can’t we do that? Until we’ve built the capacity to understand unresolved traumas, reckon with pain we may be unwilling to feel, and own our inherent worth, we cannot begin to deconstruct our externalized identity to which we so preciously cling. Once we open to this healing and step into our wholeness, we will no longer need to seek validation and identity through constructs outside ourselves. We will also begin to see the disowned pain driving the behaviors of others, allowing us to offer empathy instead of judgement.

Resisting extremism perpetuates it. The very nature of fighting something is the hypocritical counterpart, providing a form of extremism itself. 

I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there. Mother Teresa

In my personal example with gender, whether I am or not oppressed by men becomes less the focus; rather the focus becomes the brilliant revelation that I now know and see that I am not owning my own worth and wholeness, allowing me to step into that wholeness. My energy is then directed towards deeply understanding and uncovering how I have been subconsciously giving my power away and how I might be contributing to the dynamic by somehow being overly identified as a woman. These revelations are challenging to reckon with because they imply that I am responsible in some way for my oppression, my own victimization. Yet, there’s truth in that self-discovery. On my journey I found leaning into community support enabled me to derive the safety and acceptance that allowed me to feel unprecedented amounts of pain. I was able to recognize how socialized identities manifested as trauma was something I could access in my body. This allowed me the capacity to feel without projecting onto others as a source. 

This doesn’t mean men, or anyone, should be able to behave however they want without repercussion. Rather it allowed me to stand in my centered, aware wholeness and also to communicate the impact. The more I am able to take responsibility for my own creations of victimhood, the more deeply I feel interdependence with the world of cause and effect, and the more I can build the capacity to communicate. This approach allows for the entire dynamic to be brought into light without the need to generate and perpetuate a predator/prey model. From this place I find liberation.

There are times when we need to stand up for boundaries. There are situations in which people have too much control, hurt others, and need to be held accountable. However it’s important to understand where we are coming from when we engage with conflict and seek to hold others accountable. If we seek to help people who are suffering or bring awareness to what we feel is oppressive by coming with an oppositional reaction, we are allowing polarity to govern us, and we perpetuate the cycle.

When we are centered in our worth, we can approach the world through the nature of deep care, activating a love more powerful than the charade of polar forces. This is a love that breaks cycles, a love that seeks others in their human worth through the very lens of knowing our worth own first.