Monday, October 22, 2012

Emotional Justice: Introduction

Sometimes I lurk on Christian or Mormon wifely websites.  Have you seen these?  These aren't shelter blogs or family/design/fashion/housewifery things-although I love those too.  These are blogs that are straight up with the big guns-words like "submission"and phrases like "joyful service" or "yielded heart" . . . . the kind of talk that would drive me out of a church pew like the hounds of hell were behind me.

When I cruise through these sites I look at the families, the smiles, the sparkle . . . and I marvel at how seductive it all is.  The message seems to be "if you just let go, you can have all of this too".  You can have peace of mind.  You can have security.  You can have a life that looks like this one-bright, shiny, (mostly white), bookended with scripture and made for Pinterest.

The fantasy falls apart for me when I start to read the posts.  *These might be triggers for anyone who is dealing with or who has ever struggled with mental or emotional abuse.*  A lot of posts about marriage deal with the issue of biblical submission within a marriage, husband as spiritual and literal head of the household and so on.  Women share their experiences and their struggles and provide encouragement for one another.

What bothers me most is when the posts sound like this:

(The context: a disagreement between husband and wife and husband retreats to pray about the situation.  This is the wife's response.)
     Everything in me melted at that very moment---all my anger, my fear, my willfulness. How could I’ve been so stupid? Why had I been such a stubborn, silly, self-willed girl?     It was a sobering revelation for a new bride.  To think that I was willing to defy my husband and the Lord who put us together for the mere sake of getting my own way.     Can you guess why? Well, you're right. It’s because I had more confidence in myself than in him. It’s because I’d rather fight for what I wanted than to give in to another.
From "Perfect Stranger"by Lisa Jacobsen found here.  Emphasis added is mine. 

This post struck a chord.  They reminded me of that loop of negative and hurtful self-talk I engaged in when I fell victim to mental and emotional manipulation.  I bore the burden of my own emotions, but I also bore shame for having them in the first place.  How stupid, how silly of me to be so upset and so on.

Can we talk about emotional justice?

There is nothing stupid or wrong about feeling anger or fear in the presence of something that makes you angry or fearful.  I often think that one of the ways we are most brutal to one another is when we deny, or attempt to deny, others access to their own emotions without shame.  

Consider what Yolo Akili has to say about this kind of oppression of the spirit.
Oppression is trauma. Every form of inequity has a traumatic impact on the psychology, emotionality and spirituality of the oppressed. The impact of oppressive trauma creates cultural and individual wounding. This wounding produces what many have called a  “pain body”, a psychic energy that is not tangible but can be sensed, that becomes an impediment to the individual and collective’s ability to transform and negotiate their conditions.Emotional justice is about working with this wounding. It is about inviting us into our feelings and our bodies, and finding ways to transform our collective and individual pains into power. Emotional justice requires that we find the feeling behind the theories. It calls on us to not just speak to why something is problematic, but to speak to the emotional texture of how it impact us; how it hurts, or how it brings us joy or nourishment. Emotional Justice is very difficult for many activists, because historically most activist spaces have privileged the intellect and logic over feeling and intuition. This is directly connected to sexism and misogyny, because feeling and intuition are culturally and psychologically linked to the construct of “woman”, a construct that we have all been taught to invalidate and silence. So by extension we invalidate and silence the parts that we link to “woman” in ourselves: our feelings, our intuition, and our irrationality.
Emphasis added is mine.

I get angry.  Sometimes I cry in rage or frustration.  I become quiet and withdrawn.  I escalate my use of the word fuck exponentially.  I become brutal in my deployment of logic.  I plot.  I create revenge fantasies in my head. . . . In short, I have feelings and occasionally, I feel them.

I am within my rights to do so and so are you.  

If anyone attempts to suggest otherwise they are attempting to invalidate and silence you-don't do the same to yourself.

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