Anger was always a difficult emotion for me to feel.
I, like many women, was conditioned to not be angry.
I could be nice, pretty, quiet, and pleasing.
But, not angry.
Reclaiming my anger, feeling the fire that burns within when a value has been violated or a boundary has been crossed, has been a process of coming home to myself.
Anger is protective.
Anger is powerful.
It’s a signal that something isn’t aligned.
Anger is healthy.
Anger is transformative.
It’s the voice of “I’ve had enough.”
Enough destruction in the world.
Enough playing small.
Anger is sourced from the part of our psyche that is outraged when the rain forests are desecrated, when the animals are tortured, and the children are abused.
I’ve come to welcome my anger as the part of me that loves fiercely, the part that wants to incinerate all the invisible ties and restrictive lies.
Anger awakens our heartbreak so we can harness our power to make the changes that need to be made.
Recently, I’ve been feeling fired up about cancel culture. I have been working with clients who have been cast out to swim in the stigmatized shame of cancel culture.
It’s a brutal place.
Most people need help unpacking their own internalized shame, guilt, and judgement – they are hard enough on themselves and don’t need the added burden of being cancelled by the people they love, humans they trusted, or strangers on the internet.
Public shaming has been around for a long time (public restraints, head shavings, Salem Witch Trials, the Red Scare, tarring and feathering, boycotting) as a way to keep people in line.
Cancel culture is the newest iteration of it.
The intention of cancel culture is to demand change and, in many ways, it has been successful (like the #OscarsSoWhite movement that challenged and changed racism at the Oscars or the #MeToo movement that brought to light the pervasiveness of sexual assault).
Cancel culture can, and does, create change.
But, there is a difference between condemning a particular type of behaviour – like racism at the Oscars or sexual assault in the workplace – and canceling people for making a mistake when they were a child.
I’ve seen cancel culture migrate from a powerful strategy for taking on systems of oppression to a problematic tactic used to expunge friends, family, and coworkers who are not in perfectly perfect or in perfect agreement.
When it comes to individuals, cancel culture sends the message “you are all good or you are all bad.”
I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the secret inner worlds of thousands of people and I know for sure – no human is all good or all bad.
Human nature is much more complex than that.
We all make mistakes, we are all imperfect.
Almost everyone I know – myself included – would have done better if they knew better.
I haven’t met a human who doesn’t have blind spots or who hasn’t been reactive (usually as a result of trauma) or unconscious (usually as a result of conditioning).
Expecting humans to be perfect for their entire lives or risk the threat of being cancelled is inhumane.
Here are a few alternatives to cancel culture:
Conflict as a gateway for change. When we approach conflict with compassion, we create stories of transformation, rather than traumas of disconnection. And, if you really want to change someone’s mind, deep listening (read: respectful, non-judgemental conversation) is 102% more effective than the brief interactions of cancel culture.
Positive change without punishment. Cancel culture pushes people into self-censorship, denial, and avoidance for self-preservation or into coerced change through shame (hint: these are not conditions for meaningful change or healthy relating). When given the chance, plenty of humans want to learn from their mistakes.
Life is relational and discourse is the essence of relationship. Some of the most growthful conversations I’ve experienced have been with people who see the world differently than I do. How can we have a rich, diverse, inclusive, and nuanced world when people, stories, beliefs, orientations, ideas, and experiences that are different from ours are cancelled?
We can do better than the fear that cancel culture promotes. I’ve caught stories of too many people afraid to learn, engage, speak up, and ask questions. I want to live in a world where love leads, not fear.These are divisive times. We will make it through it with a whole lot more love if we swap cancellation with curiosity and enemies with empathy.