By decolonising we mean the gritty process of liberating ourselves from destructive power-over colonial culture - and the victim-persecutor-rescuer consciousness that gave rise to it.

Turning towards the process of decolonising is potent gateway to our inner experience and inner-led change. It is also an essential ingredient within the deep cultural transformation being demanded by our current crises.

Regardless of our particular history, skin colour, class, gender, sexuality or any other identity-politic, if you are reading this website you have been deeply conditioned by this power-over coloniser culture.

It is this conditioning that accounts for why human issues with prejudice, violence, consumption and pollution have escalated to the point where they’re in the process of toppling our lives as we have come to know them: we don’t always see the world as it is - and the impact of this reaches out into every corner of our lives, every decision we make.

The most damaging patterns of our society are the hardest ones to name. This is because we have absorbed them into our bones, into our tissues, into our very neurophysiology. They shape the way we sense and feel the world at such a fundamental level, we’ve accepted them as “normal.” And yet, I believe that the profound disconnection many of us experience – the unnameable, pervasive pain of our times – and the social structures and systems we build from this place are far from normal.

Madelanne Rust D'eye

Cultural somatics

Experiences which are too overwhelming, either physically or emotionally, to process in the usual way, are dealt with in the mind and body through a process called trauma. Without going into the complex biology and psychology of it (which you can read about in many other bits of this website), something of these states remains frozen in rigid patterns of physical and emotional reaction. These experiences are not stored in memory in the same way as other things, but are kept in the unconscious and the body as patterns which are triggered when something happens that reminds us of the initial experience.

Because this triggering usually happens in a split second, and usually completely unconsciously, it’s very common that the frightened, angry or desolate little one - the one who first experienced the trauma and a fragment of whose consciousness is now an inherent part of these patterns - takes over for however long we’re experiencing the trigger, plunging us into a state which subjectively now has very little to do with what’s going on in the present.

These frozen patterns of trauma are stuck fragments of our natural, healthy wholeness. Some of the most difficult and rewarding work we can do as adults is to explore how to release these patterns and integrate the energy and experience locked in them into a greater sense of wholeness.

This can look like a personal issue - something to deal with in therapy or in our close relationships. And in part it is. But the trauma we experience is way more than just personal - and it will take deep cultural shifts as well as personal growth to deal with it. We have found decolonisation to be a really useful lens to look at what’s happening in the world and within each of us, what needs to change - and what things might look like if we manage to do that well.

Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality.
Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits.
Trauma in a people looks like culture.

Resma Menakem

A potted history

The most recent colonial project, known as the European colonial period, was perpetrated by the European ruling class, dispossessing and mobilising their own population in order to colonise much of the rest of the world. Prior to this, the trauma of internal dispossession and enslavement - and of invading and enslaving others - had been repeatedly embedded in the European psyche.

This impacted so dramatically on culture and interpersonal relations that this most recent wave, which began in the 16th century and continues to this day under the guise of corporate activity, economic policy, politically motivated assasination and overt and covert ‘regime change’ wars, became, if not inevitable, then certainly no great surprise. 

The process of colonisation traumatises both the object and the subject in different ways. The surviving colonised people are forced to comply with their new ‘masters’ in ways that are inherently offensive to their sense of personhood and which severely limit their agency and ability to resist. Colonisers have to sever from their own innate empathy, sensitivity and sense of their own decency.