An Invitation to Stand Against Oppressor Distresses

A letter from Joanne Bray, the International Liberation Reference Person for Catholics

Dear Catholics:

I would like to encourage us all to do more work on oppressor material.1 I would like to make it sound inviting, exciting, human. It is. But I don’t know if I can fully express that yet. I think I will get there as I do more work on it. But I want to say it now anyway.

I will use myself as an example.

I have decided to try and clear out as much fear and contempt as I can. I can see where I struggle with this material more than I would like to notice. It is chronic, even though I would like to not think of it that way. It is important to face it as chronic, and to face my job of cleaning it out. I don’t like being saddled with this material, but the only way I can get out of it is to stand against it.

I’ve tried to be systematic about this. I have discharged on the first time I turned oppressor on someone. I’ve gone back to my childhood, to a particular incident. I was feeling overwhelmed with oppression. I asked for help. I asked again and again. When I didn’t get help, I lashed out—turning on2 someone else. It was a decision to escape feeling bad, and it did stop the feeling for a while. A short while. But I hurt someone I loved. I don’t want to hurt anyone I love, or don’t yet love. I don’t think any of us want to hurt other people. I think that is the important thing. None of us want to hurt other people.

I’ve noticed that I carry a recording of “I cannot take it3 anymore.” When this recording is kicked,4 it feels unbearable. I am pulled to be mean (or some variation of that—petty, critical, and so on). I’ve learned that I have to stand against this recording. I cannot use it to justify acting mean in any way—whether it is visible or invisible to others—no matter what. And so I have taken the direction, “I won’t turn mean, petty, critical, vindictive, on you, no matter what I have to feel.” I’ve found this direction useful, because it is not about other people. It is about my decision. My power. My being human.

I think my clienting could be a useful model for other Catholics who are pulled to be mean, petty, critical toward others—strangers, family, RC leaders. I think we have to stand against our distresses and show others that they want to do it, too. I think we want to be fully human and not pretend that we have cleaned up the distresses we wish we didn’t have. We have them, and we each get to use RC to stand against the ways we are pulled to hurt and oppress other people.

I hope this sounds inviting to you. It is.

I think it is especially important in a culture and religion that expect us to be, or appear to be, loving, when we carry hurt that needs to be challenged and discharged. We want the real thing—our real love, our real connections, our real selves.

Please write to me with your thinking.


I am starting to get e-mail responses to my posting on standing against oppressor recordings. People are telling me that they are doing similar work, cleaning things up in relationships and Communities. People in Catholic support groups are discharging on early memories of oppressing someone. This makes me happy. More important, I think it sets us on a solid path toward how re-emergence is about being human. Always.

I want to add a note about recorded indifference.

I think indifference is the bedrock of oppressor material. It is where we do not notice that we are damaging another human being. I was recently thinking and discharging about drone missiles. These are missiles not occupied by human beings. They are weapons of death that are directed by human beings who distance themselves from noticing the impact on the humans they harm. A client once told me of using the direction, “Close and mean.” I think we need to face things intimately, with someone who sees us as we show it all.

I am reminded of Tim’s5 repeated encouragement to work on going back and fighting for ourselves and our connections during our first moments—on how we needed to be welcomed into this world by caring, connected human beings but how (given the damage, lack of discharge, and lack of information) that initial connection was tampered with (though not permanently destroyed). I think we have to fight fully for how much we love(d) and want(ed) each other. Now. Back then. We want human connection.

I think as we work full-out6 on these early efforts to reach other human beings, we will be able to make sense of the material we carry that is loaded with callous indifference. We never, ever, want to hurt other human beings. This is a fact that we can take back and stand with as we go to our earliest memories of oppressing someone else.

I think this is what we who are “catholic” (meaning universal) are aiming for. We want everyone.

I wish I could go to the Vatican and work with all the hierarchy. I’d like to counsel them, reminding them of their humanity and deep goodness. I’d ask about their first memory of being inhuman (oppressive) in any way and how they’d acted it out recently. I would, of course, observe the RC policy of confidentiality, so you probably wouldn’t hear about it. Please assume that I’ll be there someday—with a few of you, perhaps—working on removing the distress recordings from theology and policy.

Joanne Bray
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail 
discussion list for leaders of Catholics

1 Material means distress.
2 Turning on means attacking.
3 Take it means tolerate it.
4 In this context, kicked means restimulated.
5Tim Jackins’
6 Full-out means fully.


Last modified: 2015-01-24 05:01:58+00