Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Power of Being Heard

I am interested in restorative justice and this interest has led to my interest in truth commissions such as the one in South Africa and in Greensboro, North Carolina. In a recent article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the authors describe their findings that the oppressed group members seem to get more benefit from the experience than the dominant group.

The researchers found that the dominant group members tend to do more talking and so it is helpful to allow the oppressed group members to talk first. It seems that it is important for the oppressed group to have an audience. Writing their thoughts and feelings did not have the same benefit as being listened to by an audience.

While there seemed to be short term benefit in softening attitudes and animosities the effect seemed to fade after a week.

Having spoken several times at Victim Impact Panels on the story of my family and the killing of two of my children by a three time drunk driver I can attest to the power of being able to tell the story on me and on the audience.

I wonder what significance this study might have for activities planned at GA in Arizona this summer?

This kind of "truth telling" and providing witness is a spiritual practice which manifests the UU principles of "the inherent worth and dignity of every person", "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations", and "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning."

Have you ever spoken in public as a member of an oppressed and victimized group? What was the experience like for you?

Have you ever provided witness to a "truth telling" ceremony? What was the experience like for you? What did you learn and how did the experience affect your thoughts, feelings, and behavior?

How could these "truth commissions" and victim impact panels be used to raise awareness, change attitudes and behavior in a more positive direction, and deepen our spiritual life?

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