COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS
By Roberto Rodriguez & Patrisia Gonzales
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 3, 2005
Diagnosing Internalized Oppression
Patzin -- a special monthly edition on traditional medicine
First person By Patrisia Gonzales
For more than five hundred years, indigenous peoples have survived various oppressions:
land theft, genocide, rape, the killing of our ancestors, forced religious conversion,
boarding schools, the demise of many of our traditional ways of governance, languages,
and cultural and spiritual teachings.
This legacy is
called "historical trauma" or
History has left many of us wounded and it has been passed
from generation to generation.
One need only look at the impact of alcoholism on
families, the disproportionate rate of alcohol-related problems on future generations and
codependent behavior among some loved ones who are related to alcoholics.
disproportionate rates of suicide on the reservations, diabetes, and men of color in prison
are not solely because of poverty and racism.
"Those disproportionate rates point to internalized oppression as part of the cause," says
mediator and peacemaker Roberto Chene.
"It's a form of internalized oppression to see
so many of your own hurting.
It hurts you.
The daily expression (of injustice) forces
you to shut down and numb yourself.
If not, the daily anger would eat you up."
Many indigenous psychiatrists and community healers agree that "internalized
oppression" is a result of historical trauma passed across generations that continues to
actively wound people.
"Internalized oppression is when we take on the attributes
(psychological, spiritual) of the perpetrator and use these energies against our families,
communities, ourselves," says psychologist Eduardo Duran, who wrote Native American
Post Colonial Psychology with native scholar Bonnie Duran.
The oppression can be internalized in the form of self-hatred, or we may believe our
power comes from oppressing or hurting others.
"Internalized oppression affects
domestic violence in that the self-hatred is projected onto someone who looks the most
like us, i.e. family member.
In trying to kill the family member, we are attempting to kill
the internalized shame and injury we carry," says Duran.
Internalized oppression has numerous manifestations. Symptoms include:
Judgment and criticism of people.
Gossip, envy, intolerance of others.
Using victimization to make excuses for inappropriate actions.
Needing to create crisis and enjoying the rush of the crisis, or
feeling that this is the normal state of life.
Fear-based reactions - someone in our environment needs to pay for