Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Doubling for Empowerment

Originally posted on November 16, 2011

I was struck by a workshop announcement that included the following questions: “How do we hold fast to our values and stand up for our beliefs, when telling the truth often challenges the very systems which surround and govern our daily lives? As healers or clients, how can we claim our deepest beliefs and find ways to move beyond the fear that we will be shamed or silenced? In this workshop, we will explore and honor what we see, know and believe – in the public square and in the private rooms of the self…” etc.

This is an important dynamic in anti-oppression work, because many people aren’t sure of themselves. They are not sure they know clearly what they perceive, especially if others seem to see it differently! There is a significant power of social influence on perception, and discrepancies generate doubts and conformity. Also, many are temperamentally more diffident, in contrast to feeling and actually being “empowered.” Many who are in social contexts that tell them they should be empowered still cannot live up to the role and feel even more ashamed for that.

The theme of empowerment is important, and it’s a good topic for a workshop. My suggestion is to integrate the norm—as an explicit norm—for the group process of feeling good asking for help. Perhaps for a few sessions everyone always asks for a double, and someone else in the group volunteers to play that role. It becomes a norm that we all need a lawyer, so to speak—someone who takes up the challenge of being an advocate, of finding the words that will even more persuasively represent what we all feel. It’s a bit of a game in that there’s room to not be perfect and to take it over, to try to explore the frontier of articulating what may be more non-rational, emotional, even conflicted. But it can be done, and I envision groups that expand their power this way. What do you think?

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