As I look around at local, national, and global events, I feel deeply disturbed and afraid.

My heart breaks as I feel into the suffering that results from a re-emergence and regression back into systems of oppression that we’ve worked so hard to transform in ourselves and others.

We need a radical re-evaluation of human cultural norms. 

This starts by analyzing and critiquing the cultural constructs, perceptions, beliefs, and practices that we have each inherited, internalized, and bought into.

Remember that social systems, policies, and laws are all strategies attempting to meet (some) human needs. There is nothing sacred about them. They are simply snapshots in time of agreements that people made as they attempted to create communities that worked for those people.

Those agreements no longer work in today’s world.  

Oppressive systems only serve the needs of a narrow, homogenous group holding power and exploit those with less power. They create widespread human suffering, resentment, mental health issues, fear, hatred, division, and violence.

As we examine where these things came from, what needs they were trying to meet at the time they were created or emerged, and whether they are useful anymore, we need to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do these things still serve our collective well-being on the planet today?
  • Do they serve the health and well-being of the widest range and greatest number of people possible?
  • Do they honor and protect the rights and dignity of the widest range of people possible?

If yes, let’s recommit to them and protect them.
If not, let’s transform and update them.

This involves both individual and collective work, both internal and external work.
Transformation takes a combination of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and systemic work.

I know, it’s complex.
And overwhelming at times.
But don’t lose heart: we’re in it together.

This week, I’m offering you 3 observations about how humans currently work that might help you orient yourself on the transformation and change map. Read through and you’ll understand humans better and find a meaningful next step on your own path.

1. Humans seek security through sameness.

We feel better when we’re with…
• People who are like us.
• People who share our values and beliefs.
• People who look like us.
• People who think and speak and respond in the ways we do.

And, when we encounter something, or someone, new and different and “not like us” we tend to feel wary, initially.

The benefits? We create cohesive communities that run smoothly and efficiently when we’re operating under the same assumptions and beliefs. We have a shared sense of purpose and feel safe and secure with “our people.”

The traps? We dehumanize and devalue people who are not “like us.” We get stuck in echo chambers and divisive, violent consciousness. We create enemy images of anyone who is different from us, and feel justified in harming them.

2. Humans seek belonging through identity.

Lifelong learners and seekers go through life constantly developing an ever-evolving sense of identity, trying to answer the age-old, existential question: Who am I? No really, who am I really? No, I mean, the real me, who is the real me?

Our evolving sense of identity is an important factor in how we navigate life and relationships.

We want to be seen and known for who we are.
We want to be accepted as we are.
We want to be authentically ourselves.
We want to be valued for who we are.
We want to know that we matter.

The benefits? We seek out self-development, growth, and change. We become creative and choiceful about who we are. As we know and accept ourselves more and more, we get an increased sense of belonging with a wider range of people with a wider range of differences. We expand our sense of “me” including more and more things, and we feel increasingly part of the human race.

The traps? We get stuck in limited, superficial, or performative identities designed to get approval from others instead of expressing our authentic selves. We fragment out parts of ourselves we don’t like and create many “not me’s” that get projected onto others. We feel justified in harming and punishing others for identity factors we’re unable to own in ourselves.

3. Humans seek growth through individuation.

As we become aware of the suffering generated by the cycles of violence, dysfunction, trauma, and abuse that we’re collectively embedded in, we start to wake up and reach for something better that works for all people.

We leave and reject what was once familiar and “normal.”
We become aware of our socialization and programming.
We question our assumptions.
We think critically and creatively about what we were taught.
We seek out universal truths instead of inheriting dogma.
We see through propaganda, indoctrination, and myths that keep us fearful and controllable.
We question the status quo, keeping what works and transforming what doesn’t.

The benefits? We grow, we question, we evolve. We get creative and innovative, and we can make massive changes and improvements. We build upon what is good and transform what no longer works. As we know better, we do better.

The traps? We try to change things “out there” before taking care of the things “in here.” We spend energy on things we cannot change instead of those things we do influence. We lack nuance or sophistication and throw out the good with the bad. We turn on one another instead of working together. We create enemies, assign blame, seek to punish and harm – inadvertently creating more of the very things we’re trying to leave behind.

The paradigm shift we need starts in our hearts and ripples out into the world. 

Let’s radiate change in the ways we show up in our lives.
Let’s connect deeply to our shared humanity, love, and principles.
Let’s use our precious life-energy to create a peaceful, sustainable world that works for everyone.

And, let’s dedicate ourselves to cultivating the compassionate consciousness that we so desperately need to make lasting changes in our cultures and lives.

Want to learn more? Join me for a 12-week deep dive into developing the insights and capacities that we each need to make this world a kinder and healthier place for all people. 

Registration is now open for the Gold membership summer intensive Moving Beyond Us vs. Them. If you’re not already a Gold member, now’s an excellent time to try it out – you get the first three months at a 20% discount.

Sign up, dive in, and join us. Let’s transform the world together, one conversation at a time.