Working with Prejudice
Let’s face it, prejudice is a part of the world we live in. Some people are blatant in their expression of prejudice. Others try to hide it. But regardless of whether prejudice is hidden or overt, it creates stress. How do we deal with this kind of stress?
Prejudice can be experienced from three main points of view:
- As a victim of prejudice
- As a perpetrator of prejudice
- As an observer of prejudice
Let’s look at some examples of how to do The Work on each of these types of situations.
As a Victim of Prejudice
If you experience prejudice against you, it can be humiliating and enraging, and the experience is often one of powerlessness. The unfairness of it also inflames this feeling of frustration.
When faced with a situation that feels powerless, there are two approaches to regain a feeling of balance. The most common approach is to try to control the situation by asserting dominance or by running away. This may be appropriate and can change the situation. But often attempts to do this do not work and the prejudice continues.
The second approach is to work solely on the internal experience by questioning how you see the situation, mainly how you see the perpetrators. For this, I love The Work of Byron Katie.
Write your stressful thoughts about the perpetrators on paper. Use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet as a guide. Then quietly, meditatively, when you are back home away from the situation, question what you thought. Question the raw thoughts that make you feel powerless:
He hates me.
She humiliated me.
I want him to include me.
She should see me as an equal.
I need him to put himself in my shoes.
When you take your time to do this gently, you may find that your suffering depends more on how you see the perpetrators and yourself than on how they see you. Only you can discover this, so make time to go through this process.
As a Perpetrator of Prejudice
None of us like to see ourselves as perpetrators, but all of are various times. It takes humility to look at ourselves but, if you can do it gently with compassion for yourself, it can be liberating.
Stress will tell you when you are acting from a place of prejudice, as well as the hurtful actions you take from that place of stress. You might not think of it that way at first, but if you feel the stress, just notice what you are thinking. Someone may be annoying you, threatening you, etc. Take a look.
Write down your judgments about whomever it is that causes this feeling of stress. Use the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet for this to write about the person that you are prejudiced against. Write in a completely uncensored way.
I am angry with her because she threatens my manhood.
I want her to let me be boss.
She should aspire to a different role.
I am angry with them because they are taking over our country.
I want them to go back home.
They should respect our way of life.
If you can open your mind, first of all, to admit that you have such thoughts, and then take the time to question them slowly and meditatively using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, it can open so many internal doors. Fear and insecurity often diminish when thoughts like this are questioned.
As an Observer of Prejudice
The last way the prejudice comes up and can be worked, is when you observe it. The stressful experience can be just as intense when observing as when experiencing it directly. How can you work it?
One way is to notice which side you are taking as you observe. Are you siding with the victim or the perpetrator? Once you see this, then you can use the same approaches above.
If you identify with the victim here, write your worksheet on the perpetrator. Or vice versa, if you identify with the perpetrator, write a worksheet on the victim from that point of view. If it feels right, be the person you identify with as you write your thoughts.
Another way to approach this is to write from the point of view of a third-party observer, which you are. For example…
He shouldn’t be so prejudiced.
He is a terrible person.
I want someone to shut him down.
Then question what you wrote. If you were in touch with your stress as you wrote, then whatever thoughts you wrote, when questioned, will show you the way back to peace for you. This is the beauty of The Work. Your stressful thoughts, whatever they may be, will find their balance through inquiry.
If You Need Help With This, Work With Me Privately
I am happy to hold you as you explore any stressful topic including this charged topic of prejudice. Sign up for private sessions with me here.
Have a great week,
“If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is
Further reading: How to Stand up for Yourself without Getting Angry