How Can We See Things Clearly When We Are Living in the Matrix?

How Can We See Things Clearly When We Are Living in the Matrix?

No Soy De Aquí nor from there

A series centering on the search for belonging, healing, and fumbling towards liberation!

By Christine Leone 

Send questions about the self, healing from racial trauma, and liberation to [email protected]. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited. 

How Can We See Things Clearly When We Are Living in the Matrix?

Q. Hi Christine- I live and work in oppressive systems. It’s exhausting. I just keep wondering: how can I stay centered while living in The Matrix grounded in the values of colonization and supremacy? How can I see things clearly? What can I do to help things change? -Feeling Overwhelmed

Answer: It can be easy to feel powerless and untethered when thinking about how entrenched our systems of inequity are. Especially if we are required to interact with oppressive systems to meet our basic needs. The matrix, or the colonial systems upheld by the collective delusion of supremacy, is designed to overwhelm us and make us feel powerless. It encourages a sense of urgency, individualism, soldiering through, scarcity, and deep feelings of inadequacy that keep us in a constant state of stress and distraction. While Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQIA+ folks are harmed the most by these systems, we all suffer. That being said, you can increase your ability to discern how and when these delusions are at play while taking care of yourself.    

As a cis, het, mixed-race, white-skinned, divorced, single parenting trauma survivor navigating these systems, I can share what’s helped me. 

  1. Learn from the folks whose lives are on the line and if you are a benefactor of white supremacy, compensate them for sharing their knowledge with you. 

To notice what is essential and be discerning, we first must educate ourselves about the values the matrix upholds and the antidotes to those values. You can begin by learning more about colonization and its derivatives – including white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism – to recognize when the delusion is at play and make informed decisions about how you want to respond. So many Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQIA+ thought leaders have educated and continue to educate us about the nuances of inequity, so staying ignorant as a privileged person is a deliberate choice.   

Once you begin your learning journey, compensate the most affected folks for their time, energy, and knowledge. Many people in the movement have multiple ways they can be reimbursed for their efforts (i.e., cash app, Patreon, etc.). You can pay what you can afford in addition to liking, sharing, and subscribing to their work.

  1. Slow down and rest

White supremacy is a colonial tool to uphold capitalism and keep the rich in power. As such, we are sold delusions that if we work hard, we can make it – we can be like them – providing a symbolic carrot that was never really there. It keeps us distracted by feelings of needing more and working harder, even at the expense of our health and well-being. The pressure and fear can keep us disconnected from our body, spirit, the earth, and community. This disconnection can cause us to fill this void with social media, entertainment, shopping, substances, and abusive behavior. This begets a cycle of exhaustion, loneliness, and emptiness that we try desperately to fill.  

We can begin to step out of this cycle and slow down. Even if practiced for just a few minutes each day, slowing down can allow you to check in with your body, mind, and spirit (which we have been intentionally separated from) and tune in to what it tells you. If you ask, it will often respond and let you know what you may need to attend to yourself. It may be a glass of water or tea or quitting your job, or getting a divorce. Whatever it may be, you must slow down, get quiet, and listen.  

We may find that what we need is rest or a break. In my work as a therapist, a common theme I have observed is how difficult it is for many people to give themselves permission to rest. Naps are scoffed at, days off seem impossible, and silence is uncomfortable. That is ok. It is part of the fear instilled in us that if we are not productive or valuable in some way, we lose value. It sometimes takes time to get comfortable resting your body and saying NO to others. However, if we don’t allow ourselves even a moment to connect with ourselves and attend to our most basic need of rest and restoration, we risk losing who we are. We are divine. We are essential, and we are powerful.

  1. Focus on you, then the world.

I have seen too many white folks and non-Black people of color cause harm to others because they had not done their inner work. It’s like putting out other people’s fire when your well is contaminated with gasoline. It’s just not a good idea. As you learn more about the machinations of colonization, you can begin to identify and address how you have been upholding and benefitting from oppressive systems. Once you are more aware of how oppression lurks within you, you can deprogram yourself from the matrix and cause less harm to others. The same goes for your trauma. Suppose you have trauma that has been unaddressed and you are working with folks who our society has marginalized. In that case, it is very easy for your emotional triggers to take center stage, replicating the marginalization you claim to be fighting against.  

There may even be People of Color who, because of injected racism (Shawna Murray-Browne), unknowingly uphold their oppression and others’ by succumbing to complicity. I know I have. But the more we can reflect inwards after raising our critical consciousness and connect with the truths purposely hidden from us, the more we can understand how healing ourselves does help to heal the world.

  1. Learn about your innate ability to regulate your nervous system. 

Often, the sense of overwhelm keeps you silent in the face of injustice, and history proves that silence equals complicity, which equals death. But it is so easy to feel overwhelmed. As stated earlier, this overwhelm is designed to keep us distracted and sick. As a result, we may experience chronic stress, symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, or a feeling of hopelessness. What the matrix intentionally hides from us, though, is our innate power to heal ourselves and each other.  

Yes, a therapist is helpful but not always necessary or accessible. So, learning more about the body’s stress response, polyvagal theory, the vagus nerve, embodiment, or ancestral healing can give you vital information to begin understanding yourself and discovering what type of healing practices help to regulate your nervous system. I am a big proponent of going back to your pre-colonial roots and learning about what your ancestors did to connect with the earth and their powers to heal. Now that doesn’t mean drawing on your 5% Native American heritage and co-opting healing practices or appropriating someone else’s culture. Instead, it means learning your roots and exploring the healing techniques practiced by your ancestors and their descendants. Fascinatingly, the more you know about your ancestral healing technologies, the more you will understand that modern therapy is a repackaged version of that knowledge in many ways.

Moreover, you will begin to realize that you already embody this knowledge. It has just been tamped down by the matrix and its upholders. The more folks tap into this knowledge and cause even a slight disturbance in the matrix, the more we strengthen the wave of resistance. 

For non-Black and non-Indigenous folks, this also means understanding the trauma your ancestors and their descendants have caused others. For example, I wanted to know more about my biological father a few years ago. After taking a DNA test, I learned that my European ancestry included British, Spanish/Portuguese, and Scandinavian roots. My European ancestors were the biggest culprits of the mass human trafficking of West African People in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America. If I hadn’t learned more about the atrocities they were responsible for, I would have struggled to understand how I benefit from systemic racism and how it shows up in me. If I had only focused on what felt good or exciting (i.e., pagan beliefs, Tarot, Wicca, etc.), yes, I would have known more about healing, but I would not have a clear understanding of what I was healing from. 

I would have chosen to stay complicit and unhealed if I had willfully remained ignorant. Learning about the good and the horrific helped me begin to diagnose the ailments and explore the associated cures. Learning to hold both the horrors and the healing of your people is an antidote to the either/or nature of white supremacy.    

  1. Connect with yourself, with others, and with the earth.

The pandemic highlighted how the matrix in which we live disconnects us from our bodies, spirit, the earth, and each other. The global pause allowed many to reflect on their values and how they align with their jobs, relationships, and commitments. It caused many to extract themselves from people and places that were no longer serving them and refocus on people and decisions that connect with their authentic selves. As we continue to create a new normal for ourselves, for me, it has been essential to keep this in focus. 

For me, it became crystal clear that if I did not feel a sense of safety, transparency, reciprocity, or integrity, I had to let the thing/person/project go. I left a job that abused my love and labor. I disconnected from relationships that were draining to ones that gave me life. I delved into the trauma I was passing on to my son. I said no to opportunities that required me to shrink or betray myself. I tended to plants rather than toxicity. I moved or stood still when I needed. I cried and fell apart when it felt like too much. 

The more I slow down and connect with myself, the better I can form genuine connections and make choices that align with what is important to me (rather than what the matrix decides is important). It’s not easy, though. And it takes time, strategy, and emotional labor. 

An intentional connection with others who care for you or share common values can ease the difficulty. Also, finding ways to connect with the earth can be a powerful source of groundedness. This can be as simple as stepping barefoot on grass, noticing the birds chirping, or watering your plants. The more often you do it, even in tiny or sporadic increments, it all adds up. It all matters. Even the smallest acts of healing disrupt the matrix that feeds on our pain, isolation, and sense of powerlessness.

As a therapist, I have the privilege of bearing witness to folks healing themselves and experiencing the growth and joy that comes with it. The details, contexts, and identities may be vastly different. Still, the common thread is that initially, they feel alone and, by proxy powerless. However, with time and gentle (and sometimes painful) reminders, people begin to remember their innate ability to heal and the power within them. So, when you feel overwhelmed and untethered by the oppressive collective delusions we live in, know that you are not alone. There are many others like you, and allowing yourself to slow down, learn, heal, and meaningfully connect will strengthen the collective power in bringing in the waves of change.

Still overwhelmed? Stay tuned for Part 5.

Missed last week’s post? Check out How do you begin to dismantle white supremacy? It starts with you.

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Hi, I'm Christine, and I'm a counselor who helps people explore healing through liberation practices. I currently offer counseling services here at Chicago Compass Counseling and specialize in EMDR, anxiety, and Race-Based Traumatic Stress. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.