Human beings find it hard to practice violence against other human beings. Some people in power play on our fears and turn us against each other, deliberately dehumanizing people to justify hurting them: from Matthew Shephard (beaten to death in 1998 for being a gay man) to the 49 Latinx people who died in 2016 at Pulse nightclub; from Indigenous people viewed as “savages” to internment of Japanese Canadian citizens in World War II to the six million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust; from ongoing anti-Muslim violence to #blacklivesmatter protests against racist violence.

“We must never tolerate dehumanization – the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” Brené Brown

It is impossible to have authentic connection within and with others when we are afraid of being hurt and when we are in a survival mode of fight, flight, or freeze. Ideally individuals feel accepted as part of their birth or chosen family and community. This helps to mitigate the damaging effects of internalized self-hatred and dehumanizing from the culture at large.

Is your whole family part of a dehumanized group or is it you individually as different from your family? A person who is LGBTQ2S+ may feel like an outsider in their biological family. Dehumanizing based on race is shared by a biological family. Physical or neurological differences may or may not be shared. Dehumanizing, misogyny and objectification based on gender happens between members of families and at home, work and community. 

We all have the experience of being an outsider in some groups and included in others. Being a member of a hated or dehumanized group powerfully shapes our life, as does the less easily seen impact of being a member of a dominating culture or group.

Let’s look into our experience more deeply. We do mindfulness practice with the intention to support ourselves and be kind and present. Stay connected with your body and breath as you inquire. Open your eyes and ease up if it is too intense for you at the moment. Tap on your forehead to bring your attention back to the sound and sensation in this moment. You could open your eyes and move around, Shake The Tree or do a 5 4 3 2 1 senses practice. Become familiar with Emergency Practices here.

I am an outsider
Where do you fall outside the “cultural norm”? 
What is an early memory of feeling like an outsider or not measuring up?
What are your memories of this during your teen years? 
What beliefs did you form about yourself and your body?
What is your response now to look at a picture of yourself from that time? 
How have things changed and what is still sticky?
If this is your experience, what does it feel like to never or rarely see the way you look and live reflected back positively in the wider culture? 

I am a member of a hated or dehumanized group 
What does it feel like in your body right now to acknowledge that? 
What experiences have you had where you felt hated and feared?
What beliefs did you form about why this happened to you?

I am not a member of this _______ hated or dehumanized group
Do this inquiry as a thought experiment about a group of which you are not a member
What does it feel like in your body right now to acknowledge that? 
What might that feel like if you were? 
What experiences might you have had? 
What beliefs might you form about yourself from being hated and feared?

This inquiry is from my upcoming book Ordinary Trauma, Extraordinary Healing: Inspiring Stories and Powerful Practices to Heal the Pain of Being Human

Compassion for ourselves in these challenging times guided meditation playlist

Never tolerate dehumanization ~ Brené Brown