Overcoming Mental Enslavement: A Practice in Decentering

You don’t have to believe everything you think. 

Many of our psychological schemas concerning the way the world works are often based on second and third-hand information. We then take these paradigms and apply them to most of the areas of life, without testing their effectiveness. 

Some of us take certain ideologies that we know to be false and force-fit them into our realities, causing undue and sometimes unwitting harm to ourselves and others. These behaviors become habits and then the habits — through repetition — become deeply ingrained, making it difficult to perceive any other method of accomplishing our goals. When solving a problem, it is important to remember to decenter.

Photo by Godfried VanMoorsel for Living Artist Project

What is decentering?

According to the American Psychology Association, decentering is:

n.

1. any of a variety of techniques aimed at changing one’s centered thinking (i.e., focus on only one salient feature at a time, to the total exclusion of other important characteristics) to openminded thinking. 

2. dissolution of unity between self and identity. 

3. see decentration. —decenter vb.

In other words, decentering yourself does not mean that you should neglect yourself, but consider other viewpoints as you work to solve a problem. In the case of healing our relationships with others, we want to “put ourselves into the other person’s shoes.”

However, changing behaviors can be threatening for some. It can mean a loss of comfort or some other benefit. Or it can mean gaining something, but we don’t know what it is to gain yet. These fears come from the human mind wanting circumstances, relationships, and resources to remain stable and measured. Still, decentering does not necessarily translate to destabilization. The idea that decentering the needs, wants, and agendas of a specific collection of individuals will destabilize their resources is flawed.

Perhaps the number one rebuttal to the expression Black Lives Matter is that All Lives Matter. This is an attempt at circumventing decentering. An extension of this is conflating the focus of other disadvantaged groups with the BLM movement. While there is some overlap between various groups, the problem with this response is the refusal to center the concerns of BLM when we discuss pertinent topics, as if this movement needs to be qualified by other groups with the same aims.

A peculiar assumption is if a person says that Black Lives Matter, they must mean that Only Black Lives Matter or Only American Black Lives Matter. This assumption illuminates the differences in schools of thought: when a white supremacist asserts All Lives Matter, they mean All White Lives Matter and That’s All That Should Matter. With this assertion, only caucasian individuals are people and have lives. Everyone else just exists. 

Centering does not have to be a bad thing. We center patients when they are in the hospital, and center our children when they are upset or scared. However, centering can be problematic when taken out of proportion, as in the case of white nationalists. White people have legitimate concerns and are the majority of the population in this country. That does not mean their lived experiences apply to everyone else’s life.

By white supremacists foisting psychological projection onto others, the aims of the Black Live Matter movement becomes problematic. Then it is called Black Nationalism. Many of our ancestors have been refashioned through revisionist history to be separatists, mercenaries, and boogeymen, because of the inability to decenter.

What are the benefits of decentering?

One of the main benefits of decentering is enriching your life with the stories, knowledge, and voices that may or may not be like you in some way. You do not have to walk in fear that someone is going to forcefully relieve you of something that can’t be taken. Fear can be a prison. In the next article, I discuss how to decenter.

Photo by Godfried VanMoorsel for Living Artist Project

Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 6): Radical Acceptance

There’s an old joke you may recall. It’s said in response to some quip that is not based on reality like this current news story. I grew up saying it to my sisters whenever one of them would not accept some truth that was right in our faces. My sisters laid it back on me, too, when folly consumed my sense of reality. We’d laugh, because it was it implies the obviously overlooked detail is relevant. The retort is a funny pun: “Denial [The Nile]: It’s not just a place in Egypt.”

Now that I’m grown, denial isn’t so funny anymore. It represents a lack of commitment to have integrity with oneself, the first and most important point of truth and honesty in one’s life. If you lie to yourself, you can’t and won’t be held accountable for your actions, or accept the truth. More of us than you can imagine take personal pride in ignoring the truth, especially when it’s inconvenient. The current president daily perpetuates false narratives about basic facts, and what’s worse, people believe him. More importantly, good people deny the reality and accept lies that they can verify for themselves. Small lies or big ones, it all amounts to the same toxic bathwater being used to cook, clean and run our homes. It’s time for new fresh water, and that starts with the practice of Radical Acceptance, a venerable DBT practice that demands we stop lying to ourselves in order to move forward in our personal healing and growth. Radical acceptance is often and uncomfortable and painful consciousness-raising activity.

At this moment in history, during a deadly global pandemic, we collectively confront the culmination of centuries of internalized racism and oppression. Even with videos, news stories and daily enactments of violence, many Americans, mostly White Americans, refuse to believe and accept the truth about violence against people of color.

Lesson 6: Practice Radical Acceptance: Watch the videos of the murder of George Floyd, grandfather, son and brother, now Father of the Black Lives Matter Civil Rights Movement. Do not turn away. Practice Radical Acceptance of what you see with your own eyes, heart and mind. Examine and discuss with your family why this is such a difficult act of violence to witness and accept.

Together, we can heal our future.

Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 4): Cultivating Compassion

The work of unlearning oppression requires us to turn inward and listen. We must turn off the TV. Silence the radio. Cease all chatter–daily if possible. The work of healing begins with diagnostic work. We must have the courage to sit alone in quiet contemplation to open our hearts and minds to possibility. We can transform any moment with our actions, our body language and our behavior. And yet, without awareness and compassion we are blind to the messages we send and unreceptive to incoming signals. We need lovingkindness in the form of compassion to awaken our understanding and transform the future.

A common response to the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests is that people–so-called looters and rioters–are breaking things. This stance, at once negates the underlying causes of this civil unrest, while creating a false dichotomy about the motivations of protestor. In truth, the protesting represents our collective indignity over the sustained slavery-era violence against people with dark skin in America. Essentially, skin color is a unilaterally imposed death sentence to any man, woman or child who is caught by a person with internalized white rage and white supremacist ideology that devalues us. How then, can we transform this internalized oppression? Only by looking inward at the judgment of inhumanity for dark-skinned people living in America can we heal our nation.

Lesson 4: Dedicate 10-60 minutes a day for the next week to meditation, prayer, writing or contemplation on the following question: How would you feel if your father, brother or son was killed while going to the store for milk? Discuss your feeling, insights and questions with your family. Reflect on how many black fathers, brothers and sons do not return with the milk, and why.

When we see one another as we truly are, we will truly love one another.

8 Tips to Cultivating Consistently Strong Allyship

Read the news from many media outlets, or purchase anything at all, you may find political commentators and businesses stating their support of the Black community in light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. On one hand, one can be filled with hope that we can stand in solidarity against racism, sexism, and police brutality, but on the other, there are so many questions that arise.

One, in particular, is: Why do the same pundits struggle with being as vocal about the quotidian challenges that disproportionately face the black community? We face a higher maternal death rate, unjust treatment in the penal system, the discrepancy in generational wealth, and more daily. What are you doing to be a consistent ally?

But what does ‘being an ally’ mean? Does it mean that you as a business owner say that you stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement while not doing much else to alleviate injustices that Black and other underrepresented people face?

I hope that it means something else. Here are some ideas of what I think it might mean:

  • Correct others on stereotypes, misconceptions, and prejudices even when a member of the group you are defending is not present. It also means accepting correction from members of the party whom you are trying to advocate.
  • Hold space for opinions, emotions, grievances, and experiences that are not your own, without trying to invalidate or minimize the importance of them.
  • Offer full redress to those being harmed, and being fully transparent about your expectations concerning interactions — business and otherwise — with others. An example of this is realizing that certain rules and regulations in various institutions borne of one culture may muzzle the concerns and wishes of another, without making excuses about it.
  • Honor the ingenuity, business-savvy, beauty, and other traits of a group by extending proper compensation, protection of intellectual rights, and historical consideration as others.
  • Be self-motivated to become informed on the social mores, particular cultural practices, psychology, history, economics, and other facets of a particular population that have an impact on the role the group has in mainstream society. It means realizing that even though the group may be a “minority,” it is still a heterogeneous demographic that holds various ideologies by different factions within it.
  • Resist aggression and micro-aggression s through your behavior: ask yourself if you have to see, touch, say, hear, or otherwise assuage your curiosity or fear about an individual at that person’s expense. An example of this is calling the police on a person who has done nothing wrong, or “asking” to occupy personal space in a way that makes the person uncomfortable.
  • Understand that the law is not always just. For example, many citizens do not know that Miranda rights are not required to be read in every situation. In a similar vein, the law is not always applied reasonably, as studies have shown that darker-skinned defendants tend to receive more unfair treatment during processing and harsher sentencing when tried.
  • Do away with political cognitive dissonance: Our collective legislative and political workload increases when supposed allies vote for a candidate whose policies are known to unjustly target disadvantaged groups while espousing beliefs that everyone should be treated equally.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are stepping stones to being an ally, which is a full-time job. Being an ally is a full-time job because when you are a member of a disadvantaged group, the barriers that must be overcome are present on a day-to-day basis.

Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 2): Breathing into Fairness

Covid-19, civil unrest and curfew means we are in our homes. Miraculously, many formerly house-less people are sheltered. This is a good time for unlearning racism, by examining closely the root of this tree. California passed the Unruh Civil Rights Act (No Discrimination in Business in 1988, to try to prevent steering and blockbusting. “All person within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, they are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever…” (California Real Estate Practice, 9th).

Part of the Dialectial Behavior Therapy approach to dis-ease to undertake to change our thinking patterns. You practice the action that embodies the thinking, while staying in contact with your body and the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that when we touch deeply the present, we can transform the past and the future. In essence, our awareness, our attention and our love can transform our reality–for the better.

I started this practice of looking inward in my early twenties. As imperfect as I am, as we all are, I’ve worked to not repeat the same mistakes. I try to grow, do better and master myself. Yet, mastering oneself requires intimacy, silence and introspection:

Lesson 2: Meditate, pray, study, journal or contemplate the Unruh Civil rights Act implemented in California seeking to understand the root necessity of such legislation. Why was this legislation necessary? What are the consequences of steering and blockbusting to the families involved? Spend 10-20 minutes daily on these questions.

Who we are as a people is defined by our actions. Our deeds in the world will inspire awe and be remembered-no matter what we do. Only by looking deeply into the present, can we unlearn the unspoken. We are taught to look past and through one another. Together we can unlearn the damaging ideologies that puts a value on skin color and enforces that projected vale with systemic violence. It’s time to heal. It’s time to do the hard work or turning inward, in silence and loving kindness, a Gift of the Spirit.

Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 1): The Practice of Inclusion

I’m not going to repeat everything you already know about the national protests about the executions of innocent black people. What I will do is what I’ve been trained to do: Educate. It’s obvious that people need to learn how to change ineffective behavior that perpetuates dehumanizing oppression that manifests in sexism and racism.

There is a fundamental othering that occurs in enactments of oppression. It says that some of us belong and others do not. These lines are arbitrary, drawn upon personal privilege, individualism and systemic-historical rewards for the same behaviors. Racism in American society manifests as:

  • Discrimination in hiring, medical care and financial services
  • Poverty and poor educational services
  • Violence and aggression directed toward Black, Latinx, Native American and Asian men, women and children

The question arises: Can we end and unlearn the internalized violence and aggression that accompany oppression? The answer is yes. Similar to treating mental-health disorders, racism and other forms of oppression can be treated using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques. One simply way to begin to unlearn the thinking behind the action is simply to change your actions to include us. Try this simple strategy:

LESSON 1: Never ask a Black, Latinx, Native American or Asian man, woman or child, “How did you get in here?” unless you are in your private residence, hotel or car.

This simple technique will help you understand that public spaces like Starbucks, banks, college campuses, libraries and parks belong to everyone. No one need ask you for personal permission to co-exist in society. These are rightfully shared spaces. By practicing mindfulness and refraining for exclusionary language, we can begin to mend the historic rift tearing our nation apart. We all belong. Do your part to make sure we all feel included.

Dear US Representative, (An Open Letter)

We the People need your help to ensure that EACH AND EVERY US Citizen can cast a vote this November. We understand that we will not likely have a cure for COVID-19 by November 2020, we can only slow the spread. Therefore, we need to have a plan to VOTE-BY-MAIL before November 3, 2020 so that every American Citizen can vote.

How long would it take you to fire a teacher who told your child to drink bleach or Lysol? Trump’s actions in the White House are reprehensible and unacceptable to most of us. We the people want to fire him as soon as possible. That means that EVERY state in the US needs to have a VOTE-BY-MAIL option by November 3, 2020 so that American Citizens can vote him out of office.

Bottom line: The Presidential Election is Tue. Nov. 3rd. We need VOTE-BY-MAIL in all 50 states. Pre-emptively, let’s discuss the “Fraud Argument” often brought up by Republicans to DISENFRANCHISE PEOPLE OF COLOR from our right to vote. Congress Person, we the people are smart enough to figure out how to have a valid and fair election. Just in case, here are my considered solutions:

  1. Countless US Citizens Abroad have voted with the Absentee Ballot from overseas and military bases for decades. through Absentee Voting. We’ve never had a problem. We know it works.
  2. Perform an accurate 2020 Census. If you want to know how many citizens there are in each county, COUNT US ALL in the 2020 Census. After that, you can stop counting votes when they hit that magic number.
  3. Create a new VOTE-BY-MAIL option for November 3, 2020. This requires we keep the United States Postal Service (USPS) open for business. Trump is already trying to shut the USPS, the most egalitarian institution the American people have.
  4. A VOTE-BY-MAIL option is Russia and cyber-tampering proof.

Fascism, Racism, hate-mongering and blatant stupidity are unacceptable methods of running the United States of America. The world is watching us. We are failing our children. WE THE PEOPLE, DEMAND ALL CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE A VALID, FAIR ELECTION NOVEMBER 3, 2020. We elected you to support us. Get to work. We deserve better.

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Demanding Democracy,

All US Citizens

 

 

 

 

 

Get in Touch with your representatives:

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 224-3121
TTY: (202)-225-1904

Tell them LA County is leading the way! https://patch.com/california/pacificpalisades/all-la-county-registered-voters-get-mail-ballots

Dear US Senator, (An Open Letter)

How fast would you fire a teacher who told your kid to drink bleach?

I’m contacting you to let you know that Trump’s action in the White House are reprehensible and unacceptable. We the people, want to fire him as soon as possible. That means that EVERY state in the US needs to have a VOTE-BY-MAIL option by November 3, 2020 so that American Citizens can vote him out of office.

Bottom line, we need to #FireTrump now. The Election is Tue. Nov. 3rd. We need VOTE-BY-MAIL in all 50 states. Pre-emptively, let’s discuss the “Fraud Argument” often brought up by Republicans to DISENFRANCHISE PEOPLE OF COLOR from our right to vote. Senator, we the people are smart enough to figure out how to have a valid and fair election. Just in case, here are my considered solutions:

  1. Countless US Citizens Abroad have voted with the Absentee Ballot from overseas and military bases for decades. through Absentee Voting. We’ve never had a problem. We know it works.
  2. Perform an accurate 2020 Census. If you want to know how many citizens there are in each county, COUNT US ALL in the 2020 Census. After that, you can stop counting votes when they hit that magic number.
  3. Create a new VOTE-BY-MAIL option for November 3, 2020. This requires we keep the United States Postal Service (USPS) open for business. Trump is already trying to shut the USPS, the most egalitarian institution the American people have.
  4. A VOTE-BY-MAIL option is Russia and cyber-tampering proof.

Fascism, Racism, hate-mongering and blatant stupidity are unacceptable methods of running the United States of America. The world is watching us. We are failing our children. WE THE PEOPLE, DEMAND ALL SENATORS WORK TOGETHER TO ENSURE A VALID, FAIR ELECTION NOVEMBER 3, 2020. Get to work. We deserve better.

goes-well-with-bleach-70624167

Demanding Democracy,

All US Citizens

Make History Nov 3rd, 2020 with a Vote-By-Mail Election!

It’s clear by now, to most of us, that we will not be back to normal right away. COVID-19 is still highly contagious and has two known mutations so far. That means long-term planning for civic partition is necessary. I don’t care what your political leaning is, WE  NEED A NATIONAL VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT IN ALL 50 STATES.

The time to organize this is now. We will not be able to vote without it. I’ve been voting by mail since 2003, when I lived overseas for two years. The Russians will have a very hard time tampering with the United States Post Office. Here is how we get this done:

  1. Contact all 100 US Senators. Demand the VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT IN ALL 50 STATES, Nov. 3rd, 2020. (https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm)
  2. Contact all our mand US Congressional Representatives. Demand the VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT IN ALL 50 STATES. (https://www.house.gov/representatives)
  3. Call relative in other states, make sure they Register to VOTE.
  4. Call relative in other states, make sure they also call their representatives to demand the VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT IN ALL 50 STATES.
  5. Keep the USPS open so we cast our ballots. Trump is trying to close the United States Post Office. That is the only way to keep your vote.

Exercise your right to vote. Organize NOW to make history Nov. 3rd, 2020. Our lives depend on it.

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