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Self-Neglect as Service

approachThe work imperative within social justice organizations – taking action (working) as much as possible – ironically & tragically ends up sabotaging an organization’s capacity for effective action. We push ourselves, our work, & those around us, becoming increasingly ineffectual because we have not stopped to replenish our physical, emotional & mental health. This deterioration promotes cynicism, strains temperance & trust within relationships, & thus diminishes both our desire & our ability for collective vision & action.

This same cycle of self-neglecting service is also pervasive within oppressed communities, as citizens take on the burdens of economic & social disparity.  Many of us come to this work because we, or the people we love, have experienced deep injustice. These experiences shape a negative understanding of our self-worth & potential for empowered action. When instinctual mistrust of ourselves & others goes unchallenged, we end up taking actions that reinforce/recycle the wounds of oppression within ourselves & within our relationships.

At the heart of this dynamic is the thinking that self-care is an indulgence. In the social justice work ethic, it is a waste of otherwise productive time.  At the “macho” end of this thinking, self-care can even be seen as harmful; making us less effective by “softening” the rigidity of our focus & resolve. Most importantly, behind these canards lies an oppressed worldview – internalized from our own experiences and/or from the communities we serve – that convinces us we do not deserve it.

Our self- & community-narratives are a psychological state, but also significantly shape our emotional state, or mood. Finally, both of these shape our very bodies, as pessimistic thoughts & emotions bend our postures & lower our heads. Going the opposite direction, the stresses we put on our bodies produce moods that sour our opinion of ourselves, relationships, organizations & communities.

It is hard to imagine that liberated individuals, communities, societies or worlds can emerge from these broken fragments that make up the individual & collective bodies driving the work today.

Shifting the Paradigm

audre_lordeIn the venerable words of Audre Lorde’s radical self-love,“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation & that is an act of political warfare.”

UP’s approach to social change, ignited & sustained by social change agents, seeks to push this ethos to the outer most edge. We want to challenge movements & change makers to claim our individual & collective beings as shaped by the very systems of oppression & injustice that we fight against. Without self-reflection & understanding that we, too, are a product of these insidious cultures & systems as are the materials conditions that our communities & the communities we fight for are living in, we cannot begin to imagine & change our society & world to be more just & equitable. At least not in a long lasting, sustainable way. We believe that each of us needs self-care, healing, & transformation to become the embodied leaders our visions require us to be.

No longer can we drive ourselves, beyond our capacity, & expect that our own trauma, our own shaping, will not rise to the surface & overshadow our good work & principles. We must understand our individual, organizational & community’s historical shaping as the basis of reinventing our selves & our leadership as the methodology towards deep societal change.

Our approach, in this respect, is simple- we believe changing you is changing the world. That self-reflection, -work & -transformation are the most radical change any one individual can commit. Our work deeply integrates this approach on every level & kind of training & development work we do.

approachOrg. Developmentwritings
August 8, 2016

the “I” in “We”

The “I” In “We” The Need For Personal Growth in Organizational Development By Rusia Mohiuddin originally published in OD Practioner (Winter 2016 Vol. 47) The focus in traditional organization development (OD) has often concentrated on collective practices, structure, and overall impact of the work based on internal alignment…
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approachLeadership Dev.UPUP+lovewritings
October 12, 2015

vomiting rage

Part 1 of 3 In the 5th century, Greek philosopher Democritus, first theorized that atoms are constantly moving. Today, we understand that these building blocks of matter are, in fact, in constant motion and that this activity produces energy. Scientifically, in the most remedial sense, we are…
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May 22, 2014

regarding oneness

For over a decade, the use of the word transformation has become more and more prevalent in our movements’ work. Whatever the varying definitions of what transformation means, essentially we use it as an indicator for our desire to bring the present toward something more just and…
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