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Understanding Oppression and Bias_Final

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>> Do you feel like oppression affects your life? Whether you do or you don't, I have a bold claim to make, we're all oppressors, and we're all oppressed. You might say, "But I'm a Health Coach. I'm not an oppressor. I treat everyone equally and with the dignity they deserve. And, hey, I'm not oppressed, I live a positive life of gratitude, obstacles can't hold me down." But stay with me here. I trust that you all have great attitudes and intentions, I would never doubt that. But the point that I want to drive home today is that oppression is the byproduct of bias. Whether or not something is true about someone, they're affected by the bias that they're labeled with as a result of simply being who they are. Since we all develop biases as we learn about the world around us, as children and teens, we all have a stake in this issue. Whether we outspokenly express our biases through hateful remarks or offensive jokes or we hold them on a deep unconscious level that subtly guides how we interact with people, we're all labeling others while being labeled ourselves. If we want to coach free of bias, we need to understand how oppression works. Bias occurs on the individual level within groups and in our society and the media, it's really important to have conversations about and reflect upon this stuff because if we leave it unchecked, we perpetuate the system of oppression that's embedded into our society. The only way to create a shift is, for all of us, to become aware of how we're affected and how we affect others. When we acknowledge the way we've been impacted by oppression and the way that we as individuals and groups have impacted others, we can develop empathy and can start to relate to each other more sensitively as humans. When we do this as coaches, we can grow as people and better serve our clients. Let's say you're working with an overweight client Nancy, and she wants to lose weight, but she keeps coming back each week and telling you the unhealthy food she's eaten. You may get frustrated with Nancy and think, "Uh, she's so lazy. If only she stick to her plan, I know she'd get results. " So this week you get a little firm with her and challenge her willingness to change. And next week, she doesn't come back. Uh-oh, what happened? You may have had the best intentions, but what may have actually happened is that you led with your bias instead of putting yourself in Nancy's shoes. And she felt her oppression as an overweight woman reinforced instead of feeling understood. So right now you may be saying, "What?" So I'll explain. Nancy repeatedly didn't do the work, so you concluded Nancy is lazy, where did this come from? Well, let's say you hold the belief that fat people are lazy. If you haven't done the work to examine who you hold biases about, this would go totally unchecked and you may end up in a situation like this. Instead of letting Nancy to lead, you let your biased perspective lead, so instead of meeting Nancy where she was at, you tailored your intervention to what you assumed she needed and ended up losing her in the process. What if instead you decided to come at Nancy from a totally different angle, and instead you asked her some bold high-mileage questions like... "Do you feel like you're treated a certain way by people in your life or by society because of your weight? What does it feel like to be a full-figured woman in a society driven by thinness? How do you feel about yourself as a result of this? What do you tell yourself about your weight?" This could lead to a conversation in which you connect with Nancy over the pressure put on females to look a certain way, and she ends up confiding in you that she had an eating disorder when she was younger because she felt like she didn't measure up to society's standards. And while she recovered from binging and purging, she never really got the whole body acceptance thing quite down. It turns out Nancy really just wants to get rid of the critical voice in her head more than she wants to lose weight, she's not lazy, she just feels doomed to fail after so many years of trying, so she's given up. Humans are resilient creatures, we're all born into this world with infinite possibilities, and we can overcome just about anything if we really try. So, as a coach, we try to instill in your clients that they're capable of achieving any goal that they set their minds and hearts to. Oppression in the form of discrimination and prejudice can create real roadblocks in people's lives, which can be heartbreaking and frustrating. You can't be afraid to go there and explore these delicate issues if you really want to show up and create space. It's important to always be a beacon of light for your clients, to champion them and lift them up to see that there's a world of possibility out there for each and every one of them. If you do this without acknowledging how they've been affected by bias, you're not truly empathetic and you're not actually empowering them, you're disempowering them. Let me explain. You can best serve your clients by delivering a healthy balance of validation and encouragement. It has to be both. Validation alone takes control away from your clients and lets them slip into the victim role while encouragement alone sends the message that up until now they just haven't been trying hard enough and places a little too much responsibility on them by devaluing their experiences. People typically sign up for coaching because they're experiencing some kind of internal conflict, they're feeling stuck about something, they want to make a shift in their own behaviors, or up their game. Generally, we're trained to look towards what a person is doing or not doing which can leave out important context. Someone who's been discriminated against or stereotyped as heard messages about their flaws and inadequacies maybe for their entire life. Some people hear this stuff every day from people in their lives, from the media, from strangers, and what's so toxic isn't the messages themselves but the fact that these messages become internalized, and the person begins to oppress themselves. When we become oppressed, we become our own oppressors and create labels of our own. We don't do this because we hate ourselves or because we're all secretly masochists, it's just how our brain works. Oppression and bias become adapted as our own limiting beliefs. If you glaze over this stuff and only send the message to your clients that they can choose to be happy and that they're responsible for how they feel, it just gives them one more thing to feel inadequate about. You definitely want them to get to the place where they can realize that they can choose happiness. But first, you need to sit with them and let them know that you understand that the struggle is real. As a coach, this takes both patience and bravery. It isn't easy and it's not done overnight. It can bring up uncomfortable material and sensitive language, and it can make you feel labeled yourself. Imagine you're a white coach working with an African American client Antoine, who struggles with his identity because stereotypes and stories in the news frame a young man like himself as dangerous. His experience of his identity could be playing a major role and what's going on with his personal relationships and his feelings of self-worth. Things he's been working with you on but he might be hesitant to go there with you, especially if you're white. He may feel like life is unfair that he's disadvantaged, he's angry, and maybe it all stems around this issue. But if you don't open the door to talking about these topics, he may never go there with you. You don't need to be an expert, but you do need to be able to acknowledge the system of oppression and privilege and ask questions like, "What's it been like for you living as a black man in a white suburb?" And furthermore, you need to show him that you're sitting alongside him which includes not getting offended by what he shares with you because let's say Antoine's only learned defense against racism is reverse racism, and he starts telling you everything he hates about white people. He, like many others, tries to free himself from oppression by oppressing others and tries to break free of judgment by judging others, you might be offended by Antoine, especially, as a white coach in this scenario, and you might shut down. But look, this might be his best attempt at self-preservation. Without acknowledging this, it will breed defensiveness on both ends and you won't be able to really hear or understand Antoine. It's important for you, as the coach, to fully hear out his beliefs and his experiences even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. It's your job, as a coach, to know the mechanics of all this stuff, but it's not your job to point it out. The best thing you can do is to just be totally present and receptive and hold the space for him to have these judgments and see how they're affecting his life. This isn't about having a coachable moment and it definitely should not be about justifying the behavior of, in this case, white people, it's about being there for him when all of these people in his life haven't. If you feel like you need to express to Antoine that you're not racist and that you would never do these things to him, you're still sitting in your shoes not his. This isn't about you, it's about exploring how Antoine came to feel this way. When these touchy subjects come up, it's tempting to justify ourselves to show that we're on the good side, but really we do this to preserve our own images and justify our own privilege. If you are to respond to Antoine saying something like, "Hey, that's not true, not all white people are bad. " You'd be sending a message of invalidation and imposing your own worldview, instead stay with him by exploring his experiences and attitudes further without bringing it back to yourself or offering rebuttals. You may be the least prejudiced person you know, but in this scenario, as a white professional, you're by default part of the institutionalized level of oppression which as a result of affording you safety and status in life hold people like Antoine down. Your experience becomes your reality. If the world is repeatedly a cruel and cold place to you, you're going to believe that the world is cruel and cold and respond to as such and with good reason. So it's problematic when you don't step into people's shoes and challenge them by saying, "No, it's not. The world is a loving happy place. You just need to adjust your perspective. " This is invalidating. And when people's feelings and experiences are dismissed, they just feel more misunderstood and more alone, another experience of the world being cruel and cold. So while it's true that the way we process and react to things is what creates our feelings and our realities it's also true that our experiences of the world and how the world responds to us varies greatly from person to person and culture to culture, it can create legitimate obstacles for people. It's really important to acknowledge this. If you don't acknowledge the bias that people are innocently subjected to as a consequence of belonging to a certain race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever else, you're contributing to the oppression by upholding the system that weighs them down and not seizing the opportunity to show them a different experience. If you see everyone is part of one race, the human race, that's great. But this ideology doesn't acknowledge that while this would be ideal, it's not our current reality. The reality is that people have been judged and oppressed based on a number of factors their entire life. And literally, no one escapes it, men, women, children, the elderly, people of all races and ethnicities, and people of all sexual orientations. There are positive and negative biases for them all. And you can't have bias without also having a counter-bias. This means, for any given quality if you're not part of the oppressed group, you're part of the privileged whether or not you choose to be. With privilege comes the responsibility to admit that the power of the way you're regarded and treated in society comes at the expense of the oppressed. This doesn't mean you should beat yourself up for who you are or renounce yourself, but you should appreciate that your dominant status in any category provides you an opportunity and a responsibility to help and be allies for those who live on the other side of that judgment. Your clients who face discrimination or feel oppressed by the way society treats them need to hear that you care. They need to hear that you recognize that life can be hard, and unfair, and messy, and that it's not necessarily their fault. The point is not to blame society for their hardships but recognize that their struggle is a tough one. Have you ever heard of the concept of learned helplessness? This is a mental state that occurs as the result of a persistent failure to succeed. You try to achieve an outcome and you're met with the same external obstacle over and over and over again despite your best efforts. After a while, you just stop trying because your subconscious brain works to protect and spare you from the repeated pain. It gets the message, you cannot succeed, so response like, "All right, all right, well, I'm done. I quit. " And it shuts down. So it doesn't even notice when the obstacle is removed. This concept was documented in a famous experiment back in the 1960s where dogs were placed into crates that were divided in half with a low fence that could easily be jumped over. The side of the crate that the dogs were placed in had electric floors that could deliver a small shock to the dog when the experimenter randomly triggered in. When the dogs were shocked, they'd all quickly jump over to the other side of the crate to try to escape the pain but there was another group of dogs who received some shocks prior to going in the crate, they didn't hop over to the other side of the fence to escape it, they actually lay down and took the pain thinking they had no choice in the matter assuming they'd still be shocked on the other side of the fence. They simply had given up trying because the past had taught them that they can't succeed. As humans, we'd respond to repeated adversity this way too. Have you ever experienced this in your own life? When you see your clients doing things that seem contrary to their goals and just not trying at all, try to have the sensitivity to look at not just what they're doing to self-sabotage but to see where society or the people in their lives have kicked them when they were down. You need to be able and willing to step into their shoes so you can say, "Wow, I totally understand why you feel like giving up. " This is you meeting your clients where they are and only from there can you start to encourage them to explore how they can overcome the biases in their lives. Now you have the solidarity and the trust established to explore how the messages they've received have become internalized as limiting beliefs. Only from this place will they start to see that they have a choice to change the way that they feel about themselves and to rise above the state of learned helplessness. The main takeaway point from this lecture is that oppression affects us all both as the oppressors and the oppressed. In order to put aside your biases and step fully into your client's world, you need to be able to recognize what your biases are. By being bold enough to ask difficult questions and having the empathy to listen as your clients go deep, you can help your clients change by demonstrating a balance of validation and encouragement. This will help them recognize that they've internalized the negative messages they've received about themselves. And while they can't change how others treat them, they have the power to change how they feel about themselves. This is a tough topic to embrace, so I thank you all for showing up today. I realize that it may be sensitive or triggering for some, and I encourage you to apply this information by doing the work to understand how oppression exists in your life. The worksheets in this module will help you tap into these concepts, so be sure to check them out. Thank you for watching, and we'll catch you in the next lecture. Bye for now.

Video Details

Duration: 15 minutes and 8 seconds
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 5
Posted by: integrativenutrition on Jul 10, 2018

Understanding Oppression and Bias_Final

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