Jews and the Oppressed/Oppressor Dynamic

For us Jews, understanding our oppressed/oppressor dynamic is a key to working on all of our Jewish material (distress), including that related to racism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How do we counsel more effectively on this dynamic, so we can bring rational leadership to our people?

I recently assisted a client who had a particular patterned difficulty. He felt terrible about it, and had counseled on it, but had had limited success in altering the distressed behavior. I counseled him three or four times over the course of a workshop and was consistently loving but completely unreassuring: “You are good, good, good, good, and at the same time this behavior is awful.” I kept being firm on both “ends.” When he felt horrible about himself, I would insist that he was thoroughly good. When he said the behavior “wasn’t that bad,” I would firmly and lovingly, with no soft pedaling, say that it was bad behavior. To my surprise, after several strong sessions he began to find the leverage he needed to turn around the distressed non-survival behavior.

I experimented with this same approach in my Jewish leaders’ class. First, in mini-sessions, I had everyone work on the question, “What is a behavior that you often feel bad about?” Then I counseled two people. The first worked on being a Jewish parent. When she worked on feeling awful about herself as a parent, I would remind her, over and over, of her complete goodness. When she jumped to, “But what I do isn’t that bad,” I would be equally firm in saying, “It is bad behavior. You are passing distress patterns on to your children.”

In the second demonstration, the client wanted to work on her “bad behavior” of never being able to say no and agreeing to do things that she knew she would never be able to do. She was particularly concerned with the racism in it when she did it with people targeted by racism. I again held out strongly and firmly, over and over, her total goodness. When she said, “Well, it’s really not that bad,” I would keep saying, “Well, actually, it is bad behavior.” And every time I said that, she would shake and howl with laughter.

We all felt hopeful about this being a way to effectively discharge oppressor material.

I think the key is to keep working on the unbearable spot where we are both completely good and we do awful things. As counselors we can’t avoid either side. We can’t offer reassurance that doesn’t let our clients face with honesty the distresses they actually yearn to be able to face.

I am excited about this work. Those who want to claim that Jews (or Israel) are all good and not look at the oppressor patterns miss the whole picture. And those who claim that Jews (or Israel) are mostly oppressors and refuse to look at the very real oppression underlying the patterns miss the whole picture.

Communicating this complex piece of RC Jewish liberation theory—that Jews are both “oppressed” and “oppressors”—will be much easier when we ourselves have discharged more on being in both roles. As we counsel more effectively on this material, we can help our beloved Jewish people do the same.

Cherie Brown

International Liberation Reference Person for Jews

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion listfor leaders of Jews

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00