We start again by acknowledging trauma is a real thing and we all have it. And, because capitalism has made "families" basic economic units instead of the support networks they are supposed to be, most people don't have the resources and support to develop tools to deal with their trauma in healthy ways. Therefore, even many of us who are well meaning, who genuinely desire to try and do something to address the problems we face in society bring with us the trauma we carry within our bodies. We bring it into our political work and to our organizations. And when we don't know how to effectively process it, eventually, it comes to infect our organizing work in very adverse and disruptive ways. There are examples everywhere we look. We were disrespected, discriminated against, verbally, physically, or sexually abused in any, all, or some of the dysfunctional ways that these terrible experiences manifest themselves in our various lives. These experiences growing up teach us that we cannot trust school, church, police, etc., to support us because interactions in those institutions scars, humiliates, and traumatizes us. Consequently, our developed ability to see through the capitalist propaganda and identify these institutions as the anti-human mechanisms that they are serves to reinforce our mistrust of institutions which makes it easy for us to be drawn to activist/organizing work which calls out the system for the corrupt entity it is. Unfortunately, our mistrust for institutions extends to people as well. We don't trust people. We therefore find it next to impossible to build and sustain positive relationships with people. With men. With women. With anyone we perceive as different from us.
When we first get involved these contradictions are not immediately evident. This is so because capitalism has trained all of us that form is more important than essence. As a result, we learn that how we present is what's most important. We must always appear to have it all together. We cannot let people know we are scared and extremely insecure. So, all is well until we move from the place of just talking about what needs to be done into the scary and unsafe world of actually having to build institutions and capacity to engage in fighting this backward system. I guarantee you that if you evaluate every organization you have been involved with. If you assess every relationship e.g. job, romance, etc., around you, you will find these same patterns playing out. And the end result is always the same. The minute the rubber hits the road, the relationships blow up and the organizing momentum ceases. Why? Because we lack the ability to build that required trust. So, when we receive the slightest bit of struggle, we perceive it as a personal attack against us because our fragility prevents us from seeing anything outside of how we perceive it on an emotional level. Even if the criticisms, etc., are 80% accurate and 20% dysfunctional, we only see the 20% while we ignore the majority of it that is correct. If its 80% inaccurate and 20% accurate, instead of us being able to acknowledge the 20% so we can improve ourselves, we use the 80% as justification to substantiate our theory that everyone is out to get us. We leave the organization when all of this happens in a flash. If we were truly invested in our relationships as we always pretend that we are, this certainly couldn't happen, but it does because we never had strong relationships to begin with. We had the facade of relationship when the reality is we are hiding behind the frightened child within us and when the pressure gets greater so does the potential that we may be found out and this we cannot let happen, no matter what. And, the moment the time comes for us to strike a serious blow for justice, our insecurities and lack of confidence in ourselves and everyone else explodes in front of us and we try to do everything we can - either consciously or unconsciously - to sabotage the work because if we sabotage it that is not nearly as painful for us as it would be had we placed everything we have into the work just to see it fail. Facing this is unimaginable for us. We would almost rather get run over by the truck because the idea of us failing reinforces all that painful stuff that we have spent all this time working so hard to hide from the rest of the world. If it gets revealed, we will have to start from scratch and we cannot bear the thought of having so little regard for ourselves and we have a right to feel that way, but the problem is none of this is going to help us change this system. But, instead of us being able to focus on that, what ends up happening is every problem is everyone's fault except ours and this gives us, in our minds, the justification to leave the work, thus permitting us to continue co-existing with oppression without feeling quite so guilty about it because those people drove us out, right? I know this process well because being a person who takes quite a bit of initiative to create and build capacity, I have often been the target of many people's dysfunctional attacks for no reason. I'm also familiar with this road because of the aforementioned trauma I've experienced on a personal level. And most importantly, because of the great deal of work I've done on myself to try and work through and process my trauma so that it doesn't define who I am and how I approach the work that I do. Of course, I'm not perfect and so this cannot be a perfect process, but Sekou Ture was correct when he said bad organization is better than no organization. Of course, it should go without saying that one shoe cannot fit all sizes. Yes, there are people who experience trauma inside unhealthy organizations because the organizations are simply manifestations of the people within them who are products of this dysfunctional society. These are all real problems, but the point here is to stress that in spite of all of those things we have to figure out, we have to try and stop the pull these problems have on the ability of healthy organizations to engage the work.
Having heard crickets regarding methods at healthy regenerative work against oppression while working to eradicate oppression, I'll tell you what my work has consisted of. Having grown up in a very dysfunctional, violent, and non-supportive environment (not of any particular fault of both of my parents who did their absolute best), I developed a very low self esteem and a pretty clear perspective that horse poop held more value than I did. To me, everything around me reinforced this 24/7. I was ugly. I was stupid. I couldn't do anything right. And these were the internalized manifestations of the psychology of oppression within my own family and community. My exposure to naked white supremacy was brutal. On three separate occasions, once by three adult European (white) men, and two other times for multiple older Europeans, I was jumped and beaten badly, simply for being African in the "wrong" side of town. And this was outside of the institutional interaction with agencies like police. I honestly lost count of how many times I was harassed by police as a youngster, but I can tell you that several times this was done at gunpoint for committing outrageous crimes like playing basketball or music in European neighborhoods. I see no need to explain the overt trauma from school, hospitals, etc. I think you get the point. All of this drove me right into the African liberation movement, but I arrived without any preparation on how to process any of that. Consequently, I was impatient, aggressive, and angry most of the time.
Fortunately for me, I joined the right organization. The All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) when I was a very young man (21). The A-APRP had its work study process and I religiously read the 70 pages every two weeks as required and that was extremely helpful in terms of teaching me how to put my personal experiences within the context of the broader struggle for African liberation and justice for all people. And, the most important aspect that the A-APRP introduced me to was the process of criticism/self criticism/praise. This was a tool of the Democratic Party of Guinea which the A-APRP was closely patterned after, at least in our organization's early days when Sekou Ture was alive and still the leader in Guinea. This criticism process was invaluable although it took me a few years to understand how to use it. At first, we all used it as a weapon to attack the people we disagreed with and with my other dysfunctional issues, I used criticism with great certainly, but eventually, I learned to use it as Ture intended it. As a method to critically and honestly evaluate myself. My shortcomings. The ways that I can improve myself to better serve humanity. This realization led me to learn that the best way to build relationships is to sincerely make yourself vulnerable and I used criticism of myself to practice doing that. What I learned is the more I did that, the stronger and better about myself I felt because people would respond in supportive and not judgemental ways. That helped me learn to do this more and in turn, others began to take risks and our trust for each other grew and our strength grew also. The results were the relationships began to have substance and that is why many of those relationships I still maintain 30+ years later. Of course, I've also done a lot of one on one counseling, but I don't believe for a second that any of that would have worked had I not had the organizational foundation because it was that process that helped me learn that solving these problems is a collective process that must involve everyone. It was the A-APRP that taught me to be honest about my shortcomings. My fears. My faults and my hopes for myself and for us. And, I learned that my comrades had similar concerns and fears and this helped me learn to realize that I didn't need to hide from them. That we could be exposed together and that made us stronger. It made me stronger. In other words, I knew I couldn't conquer this with just one on one conversations with bourgeois professionals. So, what I'm saying is I've always relied on my culture and my organizational socialist resources to guide me while using the counseling as an augmentation to that process.
Today, what all that has done for me is help me build an overwhelmingly strong sense of confidence in my abilities and that has permitted me to avoid seeing other people as competitors. Instead, I learned how to invest in people and share my skills with them. I learned to rejoice in seeing people "come up." So, instead of being a problem person in the organizations I learned early on how to be an asset and I believe I continue to be one today. I continue to make mistakes everyday, but I realize now that this doesn't mean there's something wrong with me. It just means I'm trying. Now, there are many other variables that have to be considered in order for more healthy interactions. I believe that the appendages of capitalism - patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, etc., make it much easier for those in the beneficial position to avoid dealing with our issues because there is no demand from society that we do so. In other words, if you are European, no matter what type of European you are, you still are in a better position than any person of color in your status e.g. working class, LGBTQ, women, etc. Therefore, it is easier for you to avoid facing the issues in front of you because you don't have to. I believe that this is ultimately a decision we have to make. We have to decide that our mission for liberation of the planet and humanity is more important than our individual selves. Therefore, we cannot define our organizations as extensions of ourselves and we cannot see our organizations as serving as safe spaces for us to work out trauma. I'm not saying those spaces aren't needed. I'm saying if the organization is going to tackle that responsibility, it must create structures like the criticism/self criticism process and it must work diligently to develop those structures so they can play their proper role. Otherwise, our political organizations cannot be that place. The primary role of these organizations should be building capacity to combat this backward and oppressive system. Not to provide you with safety from this oppressive system. If you are seeking that then you are probably not ready to engage in this work because the truth is there are no safe spaces until we win.
So, the ask here is that if you consider yourself an organizer/activist then take a long look into the mirror. Whatever fears, insecurities you have, make that commitment to yourself to do work to address those things and hold yourself accountable to making sure those issues aren't driving your participation in this movement. The way you will know whether they are or not is when you ask yourself if you are contributing more to building your organization or are you taking up more space than you are contributing to building? Are you sucking the energy of the people doing the work or are you working besides them? If the answers to these questions are not the ones we want, that doesn't make you a bad person. It just means you have work to do and the sooner you do it, the better you will be for yourself and the movement.