I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way to respond to traumatic events such as the recent murder of George Floyd (and Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Kayla Williams… ). We need a full spectrum of action.
I do believe that what’s happening in our nervous systems at a chemical and molecular level is likely to affect how we respond.
Look at the diagram below. Notice if any of it seems familiar.
By an accident of birth, I will never really know what it is like to be Black and experience or witness racist state-sanctioned violence by the police. And by those in the criminal justice system, immigration detention system… or even our health and education systems. However much I listen to Black friends or Black folks I work with, I will never really know how that kind of violence and trauma would feel in my body and heart. The impact it might have on my day to day life, as I do my best to be me.
But I know that trauma vibrates in all of us, to some degree. Social media has its uses and also its shortcomings.
I know from my own experience that if, those of us as Non-Black folks who want to do something, we don’t take time to feel and process our feelings and soothe ourselves first, we are likely to respond in a way that serves primarily to make us feel better, rather than contributing to systemic change in the long run. And then there may be burn-out, or the focus moves on to something else. So the protests around these highest profile murders end up being like a pressure cooker vent…. until next time.
If we are committing to supporting Black leadership and helping birth a world where Black parents never have to have ‘the talk’ with their children and can confidently send them out into the world to follow their passions and be who they want to be without fear, we are committing to sustained action to heal racism; every day, every week, every year.
This is sacred work. In our spheres of influence: our families, neighbourhoods, workplaces. Stepping in, standing alongside, listening even when it’s hard. Feeling it all. Challenging racism we hear, pushing decision makers and being willing to have our own beliefs and actions challenged. Educating the children in our lives. Being conscious about where we spend our money and which voices we choose to amplify.
Yes, times are urgent. So please let’s slow down, research, reflect, take one step at a time. Sustained presence over time is fertile ground for transformation.
Related useful learning stuff about nervous systems and trauma:
- This great video from Street Somatics is a good place to start…
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When we perceive threat and experience stress our nervous systems respond with what we need to save our lives. This moment is no different. We can be grateful for the wisdom of our bodies that know how to turn up and at the same time we can self and co-regulate our nervous systems to cycle down so that we can be in the work for justice for the long haul. Before you go out be clear individually and with your crew on your strategies and agreements for regulation. And even if you are watching remotely, you are feeling and a part of this too. Be sure to have ways of coming back down and reconnecting. Shout out to @el_jemedari for the title and prompt. #somatics #blacklivesmatter