What is Inner - led change?
We framed the term inner-led change as a long-overdue reuniting of ‘outer’ change work (which recognises and challenges harmful societal structures and creates visionary alternatives) with ‘inner’ change work (which supports us; to explore our own participation in a power-over culture that perpetuates these harmful societal structures; to cultivate healthier relationships with ourselves, each other and other-than-humans; and to co-create the healthy, relational and just cultures our hearts long for - and which our current social and ecological collapse demands). Crucially, inner-led change goes well beyond personal wellbeing and western psychology to include dimensions that are richly relational, interpersonal, fractal, social, cultural, mythic, political, spiritual, soulful and other-than-human, in short, multidimensional.
Inner-led change seeks to expand consciousness beyond our current power-over culture.
It supports us to source our change-making from expanded dimensions of consciousness, rather than creating “solutions” from the same ‘power-over’ consciousness that created the perceived “problem” (and let's not forget that thinking in terms of ‘problems’ and linear ‘solutions’ is also in fact part of power-over consciousness).
What do we mean by Inner and why is it so taboo?
The lack of an accessible and shared term for this threshold of inner and outer change making has made connecting and collaborating around it very challenging. The differences in how we all experience and express our inner worlds, as well as our resulting perspective on the outer world, can create confusion, fear and a sense of separation and ‘not belonging’ between us, which in turn can lead to rupture and conflict. The lack of a basic common language around all this is both a result of, and further deepens the marginalisation of this inner dimension of life. It is rarely spoken about unless in specialised or intimate contexts which often have their own specific language for describing their approach (like we at Starter Culture clearly do!). This can be opaque, off-putting or alienating to those unfamiliar with it and can hinder attempts to connect and collaborate. This presents a creative tension for us at Starter Culture when trying to succinctly describe what we do - and is one reason why this collaborative work around inner-led change is so needed.
The difficulty so many of us feel around relating with and expressing our inner experience originates from so many of us having had our inner experience controlled, dismissed, undermined or ridiculed in childhood - and beyond. Tragically, very few of us were supported to relate with and express our inner experiences in healthy, generative and transformative ways. It is this that lies at the heart of our marginalisation of and alienation from our rich and transformative inner experiences and why inner-led change is key to navigating these times of collapse.
For these reasons from the outset of this project we have struggled with the term ‘inner’. We are aware that references to all things ‘inner’ - for example, inner experience and inner work - generally refer only to personal, individualised experience rather than the richly relational, multi-dimensionality that Starter Culture is all about. For us, the inner is the intra-personal dimension of life (which unfolds within each of us as individuals), in dynamic relationship with the inter-personal (the relational between people be it social, cultural, political, spiritual and other-than-human dimensions). This is what we mean by growing relational culture - supporting the inter-play between the intra-personal and inter-personal dimensions of our human experience and prioritising relating more deeply and authentically with ourselves, each other and the other-than-human realms.
Moving beyond our Power-over paradigm
In her essay "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" black feminist Audre Loudre, alongside a host of other black/ radical feminists, potently crystalized ‘the personal is political’. Inner-led change is born out of the fecund ground prepared by Audre Lorde and other radical black feminists and change makers. The inner is political in that, like the personal, it expands well beyond individual wellbeing to bring into consciousness how we each internalise and act out the socio-historic, systemic and cultural realities we react to and challenge in others - and blame our current crises on. The uncomfortable truth is that inner work that neglects the political implications of our inner worlds and fails to empower us to take radical self-responsibility for our own culturally conditioned complicity in the current crises, simply serves to support the power-over status quo.
Attempts to address poverty and suffering and create a more equitable and just world will likely fall short of anything more than sticking plasters unless they engage in the inner work needed to expand consciousness beyond that which created our current context of extreme inequality, crises and collapse. When we engage in the socio-political aspect of inner work, we directly dismantle the power-over culture within us and therefore the culturally conditioned ‘predict and control’ approach to change. And when we place an inner dimension at the heart of our groups, organisations and movements we help unleash their transformative potential and become responsive to Earth’s wisdom.
Being visible: Speaking the truth of our experience
One of the common threads emerging from our work is noticing the extent to which many of us tend to censor ourselves in relation to talking about our feelings, emotions and other inner experiences, which can often disparagingly be referred to as ‘touchy feely stuff' or 'hippy shit'. Or, when dealing with climate change global oppression and violence in activist settings, that we don’t have time for inner work. Or that it is an unnecessary privilege to do inner work. In fact, it is a responsibility that we in the global north have because we have privilege that is rooted in the violence and suffering of others (human and other than human). It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors, rather, it is our work to do so that we dismantle the power-over culture from the inside out and change the paradigm of extractive consumerist capitalist growth and success that we have come to depend upon for comfort.