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How to Prevent Growth and Promote Cruelty

A few years ago, we collectively went through a sort of renaissance around shame and vulnerability. The researcher Brene Brown dropped bombshells of insight as she exposed the ways that shame undermines behavior change. She espoused the benefits of vulnerability, authenticity, and heart centered communication. We started shifting our self-talk, the ways we talk to our children, we worked to change old toxic patterns.

I believe that this clarity and new understanding is continuing to work in a collective alchemical transformation underground, like the 17 years our Brood X cicada friends have spent before their big transformation this summer. Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to have swung hard in the direction of shame and blame and accusation and punishment in the past five years.

We may have heard Brene, and we may have understood her findings, and we may have even wanted to tenderize our hearts and live from a more authentic space of vulnerability, but we couldn't make the full leap into this way of being. We backslid into name calling, behavior shaming (mask vs no-mask, vax vs. no vax, right vs left, etc) and a climate of cruelty and tribalism.

It is terrifying to do or say anything "wrong" because the reality of being drawn and quartered, metaphorically (for now at least), is always looming. We pre-emptively do this to ourselves to prevent the public gallows that we will sit in if we misstep. Our self-talk is critical and cruel. We punish and attack our friends, family, and children for their missteps. In short, we are ensuring that people do not have the safety to access their vulnerability and ultimately make a positive change. Further, we are almost gauranteeing the retaliation of those who are humiliated.

This is a deeply held pattern of behavior for white westerners. Our culture has grown out of practices of shaming as a method of behavior control. The risk of being ostracized and outcast, something my own ancestors experienced, the actively violent persecution of being non-conforming, and the growing presence of a militarized police force has all worked together for an internalized police state within the minds of our communities. We are conditioned to look for the outsider. The weird one. The one who doesn't conform. And to attack them, for the greater good. To protect the status quo.

At the same time that many in our culture have doubled down on the shame for behavior change model (which is proven not to work), a growing number of folks in our communities are actively non-conforming to the status quo. There is an awakening happening about sovereignty, identity, freedom. This is good and healthy on one level, but the same methods of the internalized police state are operating in our communities of non-conforming change makers. Even in our communities of growth and expansion, we pick up the master's tools of shame and hate and the threat of exile and erasure. This is internalized empire.

This is exactly the sort of programming that we must confront and heal in order to truly move into a world of sovereignty and freedom and authenticity and vulnerability. It is possible for us to grow wise as a people, to understand how to hold a boundary and protect what is important without using the master's tools of hate and shame and humiliation and exile.

I can feel the mother in me rising up and shouting that we all know better. We know that the ends don't justify the means. We know that hurting people is never the way to get to where we are going. We know that compassion and fierce clarity can operate simultaneously. We know this because this is what we would want for our own children when they are making a mistake. Or for ourselves.

Will you join in me in my committment to learn to put down the tools of shame and humiliation and exile? Will you commit to stop using them against yourself? Against your neighbog? Against your enemy?

Let's make a new way, together.


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