In a second hour of conversation with a resourced ally, consider slower-growing processes that are revealed and resourced by a conflict. Who am I becoming? How is the injury that brought so much agony and harm also serving as an initiation, developing my superpowers, and enriching me? How is it shifting my soul’s trajectory? How is it helping me to understand where I diverge from the practices of a mentor, the values of a community, the roles I assume in a relationship, or some cultural norm? What is the longing or new belonging that is making itself known in this experience of conflict? In a second hour with an ally, we can give attention to these slower, quieter experiences of emergence and divergence. We can notice where they are held and felt in our bodies. We can share something of their colour, texture, vibration, temperature, mood. If this part of us that is emerging or diverging had a voice, what would it say? We make space to get to know this aspect of ourselves. We let its slower pace and quieter voice feel honoured and welcomed by an ally.
If we feel responsibility to a relationship, a community, or to others who may be harmed in similar ways, we might choose to exit the conflict map at this stage, and re-engage in conversation with the person or institution that has harmed us. We can check in with our ally and decide if we are ready. With conscious awareness of what is emerging in us, and where we notice divergences, we will be able to speak of harm done to us with the power and authority of the magic we are manifesting.
The dominant culture paradigm, as expressed in the “justice” system, creates pressures to escalate conflict, amplify attention to injury, and increase the burden of proof. Victims must prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are irreparably harmed, so that the one doing harm can be judged and punished. Generative conflict in community does not need to happen at this volume. We can stop defending ourselves by requiring “proof” and meet each other in our divergent perceptions. Nor does generative conflict require an exclusive focus on injury. We can co-create processes where a commitment to repair of harm done can unfold simultaneously with curiosity about new wisdoms established. How can experiences and understandings that emerge through conflict guide us in going far beyond repair? This is a delicate inquiry, as we do not want to ever excuse harm, or imagine that injury builds character. And yet, if our souls survive the violences, we can sometimes generate new superpowers in the cauldron of trauma.
As an example of this process, we can consider harm done to queer and genderqueer people through overt and covert disciminations. Yes, queer people want the harm to stop; there is need for reparation and repair. Yet what a loss and less it would be, if this was all that got manifested in a rush for justice. What of the meanings and magic that queerness has mobilized? What of the unique cultures that have unfolded in the face of oppressions? What about the ways in which a queery-ing of gender, nature, sex and relationship can bring liberatory possibilities to all humans, no matter who and how they love? We can imagine processes where the emerging, diverging wisdom and power of queerness is expressed, along with the impact of ongoing injury. In such processes, normative paradigms are destabilized, and the perpetrators of violences are no longer centered as the potential sources of peace and the sole focus of activism. Those who have been victimized can be known in their empowerment, which actually amplifies awareness of an urgent need to stop the violence and create repair.
Another example is one woman’s (and many women’s) story of experiencing rape by a sexuality professional she was working with, who said he believed sex with him would be healing for her. The betrayal of trust almost brought her to end her life, but she survived the trauma, and found her way to the world of somatic sex education. A decade later, the experience continues to resource her as a practitioner and teacher who understands the need for ethics and boundaries from the inside out. How paltry and inadequate any apology from the rapist would be, if he and she could not both honour the empowerment, learning and teaching she grew from the trauma, along with the ongoing harmful impact of the violence.
When we are in a process of recognizing ways we have caused harm, taking time to deepen into emergence and divergence with an ally can resource us. We come to better know ourselves, and make our inner guidance system conscious. Is some unrecognized part of ourselves calling for healing, in a way that has taken us out of alignment with our values? Is some new, emerging part of us guiding separation from a community of practice? We can show up more fully in centered accountability for repair of harm we have caused, if we are not hiding and denying what is coming true in us. As an example, a man operating as a certified sexological bodyworker was persistently making boundary transgressions with clients. When called to account through a process that could ask him for integrity and repair, and also explore and honour what was true for him, this man came to see that he did not want to work under the ethical code of sexological bodywork, which specifies that a client is offered only a one-way touch from a fully-clothed practitioner. For him, this model for meeting people in their needs for sexual healing and well-being seemed inadequate. After making amends to those he had harmed, he could dive with relish into new studies, find new mentors, and develop a practice that ethically offered his clients interactive sessions and two-way touch.