While our other flagship course Conscious Use of Power more readily lends itself to a systemic power analysis, Building Personal Mastery required a re-frame before we offered it again in March 2019 to a group of 19 participants.
A challenge in our work at the Inner Activist is bridging the gap between the principles of anti-oppression, equity, and justice with the practice of inner work, personal development, and psycho-social analysis. This has been a challenge for Building Personal Mastery in the past because this course is focused on unpacking our individual “ego system”. By understanding our dreaded (all the ways I don’t want to be seen by others) and desired (all the ways I do want others to see me) images and unpacking how they serve us and all the ways that they don’t, we can begin to identify why we show up the way we do in relationships, at work, and in community. From a psychological perspective, an individual’s childhood experiences particularly in the family unit would be the main source of conditioning for the ego system. However, we know that our childhood and family units are immersed in a world that is full of inequity, complex power dynamics, injustice, and violence. This year, the Inner Activist knew that in order to support all our participants including those who hold marginalized identities to explore their ego system, context and community were key.
Contextualizing an individual’s ego system among social and political forces allows them to be seen and to access self-compassion when faced with parts of their ego that may not feel good or appear “good” when surfaced. In response to feedback, we often want others to understand our context (“I am acting this way because…”) before we can take responsibility or be accountable for patterns in our behaviour. Of course this can initiate conflict because to the person providing feedback, explanation may sound more like an excuse or justification.
We witnessed participants at Building Personal Mastery discovering their patterns which may not serve them in all or perhaps most circumstances but at some point these behaviours helped them survive their context of marginalization and injustice, and perhaps they sometimes still do. We don’t ask folks to sever their relationship with such a powerful protector but instead we explore the ways to honour and engage with this pattern through connecting with ancestral stories and locating ourselves at a place where we may be better resourced and no longer be acting at the mercy of our context.
Our communities have the power to hold our context by being witness to the world we live in and affirming our experiences of injustice as real. Doing ego system work with folks who have shared lived-experience of oppression and people who are doing their work on their own privilege is where healing and solidarity can begin. We make it our responsibility at the Inner Activist to create a learning space where individuals find themselves and their communities represented among the participants in the program, and in the people who are at the front of the room facilitating the process. We also know that we can always do more in this regard and that there are many experiences of marginalization that we fail to center. To this end, the Inner Activist team continues to renew our commitment and efforts to build authentic relationships and create the conditions required for equitable access to our programs. More on this to come as the year unfolds.
We thank all the participants who joined us at Building Personal Mastery this year for their courage to explore their inner world and for their trust in the Inner Activist to hold them in this intimate encounter.