I got home from NY TINRC’s Join the Journey conference over a week ago, it’s clear that I’ll be integrating my experience there indefinitely. I left the conference deeply inspired, and also with a hangover. It’s the heaviness that comes from honing in on trauma – my heightened sense of horror at our violent systems.
An activist and healer since my teen years, I’m familiar with compassion fatigue. This familiarity has guided my professional path and personal healing journey. I am accustomed to the fear-based impulses that often follow opening my heart to the pain of the world. Internal dialogue: The world is full of wrongness, and it’s by design. I hold so much privilege, and I am complicit by virtue of my existence. I am wrong and need to be doing more, better, now, fast.
In this PDF, Jones & Okun (2001) outline characteristics of white supremacist delusion culture.1 I used it to screen my intrusive thoughts and caught four: perfectionism, a sense of urgency, quantity over quality, and individualism. Guilt and shame are poor long-term motivators; they are not the seeds of revolution.
This thought whispered nastily that I had no right to share a stage with people like Melanie Funchess (her proclamation, “I am a Fully Realized Black Woman,” is still thundering in my heart), truth-teller and trauma-informed OG Cathy Cave, and Bouakham Rosetti. Yet it was Bouakham who, after I shared and before she told of being a refugee and concentration camp survivor, held me and said, “I’m only an email away.” She reminded me that like hers and yours, my story matters. I deserve the gentleness that I offer others.
I remember hearing a brilliant trauma therapist say that lack of shame is the opposite of trauma. He was on the right track, but lack of shame describes a vacuum, rather than the results of healing. I think joy is the opposite of trauma. That’s why I asked the conference attendees to laugh with me before I shared – anchoring in joy is like putting on personal protective equipment before diving into trauma.
My meditation teacher, Chrissy Joy Jones once told me, “You can’t change what’s wrong with the energy of what’s wrong.” Mic drop. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the wrongness, though – oppression is like food coloring in water.
Sticking with change asks us to expand our spirits and imagine realities beyond what’s wrong. Adrienne Maree Brown calls Pleasure Activism “the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy (p. 13).”2 Joy and pleasure work (e.g., that *lit* conference drum circle) are necessary in a healing-centered world.3 Sympathetic joy, or Mudita is an essential Buddhist practice because it promotes the goodwill needed for change. Sustained radical, systemic healing depends on our willingness to feel the pain of what’s wrong, and embody the joy of what’s beyond.
As Cendie Stanford said at the conference, we are stardust. I am grateful for the wisdom shared by Black women and femmes of the African Diaspora. In the words of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Until Black Women Are Free, None of Us Will Be Free. This wisdom connects us with our stardust – our essential, free selves.
The other day when those intrusive thoughts were corkscrewing, I recorded a guided meditation to honor our work in this stardust revolution. Remembering that my freedom is connected to yours, I paused in running from fear, and tossed a grappling hook to the stars. I invite you to join me in dreaming of what’s next by connecting with joy.
– Adair Finucane
Adair Finucane, LMSW, is a dedicated healer and wellness coach with a unique approach to trauma-informed care and holistic wellness. Her authenticity is rooted in her professional background and personal journey through health challenges during pregnancy and postpartum. She supports changemakers, helping professionals, and leaders by providing tools to enhance their impact. Adair firmly believes in collective self-care and practical trauma-informed care as instrumental in creating a safer and freer world.
- Sonya Renee Taylor coined the term “white supremacist delusion,” which points directly to irrationality of racism’s roots.
- Brown, a.m. (2019). Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. AK Press.
- In their workshop Getting at the Roots of Trauma: SDOH, equity Work, and Community Wellness, Robin Carter and Mike Boucher introduced Shaun Ginwright’s concept of moving from trauma-informed to healing-centered.