Updated: Feb 20
Photography by Emma Nathan
“ There is healing to be done..."
I’ve heard this a lot in the last few years. And those that worked in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion before me have been dealing with it for what feels like an age; this statement seems to be a wonderful precursor to the change that is possible and also a fantastic excuse to hide behind policy, cowardice, personal shame and unprocessed trauma -whether the individual or organisation is from the BIPOC or the ally community.
My mission to effect more healing and transformation for the performance and corporate communities has brought together many common threads since I began to look closely at what it truly means to heal in the practical sense for our communities.
For BIPOC practitioners it means we need to be really honest about our own limitations, our support structures and the ways in which we provide allegiance, services and offers to the professional sector, whether we provide incorporated DEI work by way of initiatives, workshops or performance rooted in social change. This also means making difficult choices in working relationships and standing up for our worth even if it is sent flying back in our faces - well disguised in privilege and elitism.
It also involves acknowledging when the problem lies with our own healing and inability to process past hurt and trauma and having the courage to ask for or accept the help we need so we can better serve our community.
For allies it means acknowledging things about our practice that are not as we would like them to be- whether we recognise prejudice, racism or a lack of clear communication, in our midst or not rarely enters the equation. This difficult process also brings to the fore our unprocessed ‘business baggage’ and past hurts and asks us to take a very close look at these in order to create true multi-level change. It can also require us to face up to the difficult reality that what is easy for us, and we thought we had all worked out, is in fact in need of total overhaul and may require us to be much more vulnerable than we are comfortable with- especially when it comes to reaching out to those communities we may have wronged.
The feelings that arise when we are going through these difficult changes in our realities are strong, confusing and defensive.
Think of it like this- when our body has a wound, it protects itself by growing an extra layer of skin on the area that was damaged. As time passes the likelihood is we will have picked at this wound or someone else else will have drawn painful attention to it, commenting on it’s appearance and even how it feels if they have come in close contact with us. And so of course we get used to explaining the why and how of our wounds, what caused them and in some cases who inflicted them and why- until one day they are scars.
The bottom line is when we have scars, they are on display whether we like it or not. They may be a part of us that we choose to ignore, but they are still a part of us. The process of protection both mental and physical (through hardening and explanation) continues, and can manifest in ways that obstruct meaningful healing and reparation.
So how do we know when we are ready to start the healing process ?
When do we know whether we are ready to move on from our own anger and misgivings or and properly address the pain underneath?
It’s simple- when we are ready to truly address the effects of our pain both on ourselves and others.
We cannot heal a hurt or pain that we ourselves have not yet faced or taken the time to understand on a personal level. Further, we cannot possibly attempt meaningful dialogue and begin to build bridges, if we refuse to acknowledge the effects our past actions have had on others and how they affect our process now.
Pain is pain. It is not tied up in ‘intention’, it is the body and the minds way of telling us something isn’t right. When we ignore it, whether it’s our own or other people’s, it leads to misunderstanding, injury and overload.
A lack of willingness to engage with our true feelings can manifest in constant and unnecessary clarifications, apologies and sometimes even repetitive ‘thanking’.
On the other side of things, it can cause a complete lock-down or refusal to acknowledge that the reality of a situation may have changed or moved on without us whilst we were stuck in our pain and inner conflicts. Sadly this also means our scars will continue to be visible and affect others, whilst we ourselves are completely unaware of this happening.
So if you’ve recently come to understand you need to work on ‘your shadow’, start small and be CLEAR. Take a good look at what no longer serves you and shed from the inside-out.
Do this by first taking a look at your own back-yard, then tell the world what you are doing, because I promise you- radical transparency and kind-hearted leaders that put humans at the centre of their practice are the key to true healing and therefore - the embodiment of leadership.
Founder/CEO Different Women Project
Advanced Yoga Psychology/Yoga-Psyche-Soul Practitioner (YTT300)
BA (Hons) Acting.
Ariane Barnes is a performance & diversity lecturer & holistic empowerment worker.
She helps people embrace their unique core gifts from a place of power through performance, psychology & diversity as a pedagogy for leadership.