Healing Unjust Power Dynamics


Blog by Valerie

Through a Shipibo elder of the Amazon I learned that about 90% of the thought-loops that circulate our minds are not based in ego, but in ancestral trauma. I learned through Dakota Earth Cloud Walker that ancestry is defined in three ways: blood lineage, ancestry of place, and personal karma. Personal karma refers to past, present and future versions of ourselves, and all of the complex identities we take on during our lifetime (or multiple lifetimes if you see things like that). Blood lineage is the most common way we think about ancestry, reflected in a family tree. Ancestry of place includes places where the people in our family tree lived, as well as where we have lived and live now. (Shipibo art.)

Places imprint themselves into us, and we imprint ourselves into them in human-and-environment interaction. If our ancestors lived for generations by the ocean, we may feel a connection with the sea even if we grew up inland by a mountain. Like walking into a room where someone’s had an argument and it just doesn’t feel right, when there is discordant energy in a place, we can feel it, even if we are not consciously aware of it. Most of us from countries like the U.S. and Australia carry traumatised and discordant ancestral energy. Most of our ancestors disconnected from their homelands because they were feeling persecuted, or lacked material or social support. Feeling forced to leave a place where your family has called home is itself a traumatic experience; just look at modern-day refugees. And indigenous populations who were already living in the “New World” found themselves traumatised by the behaviour of the immigrants. (Ancestral tree image.)


Unhealthy power dynamics set into motion through colonialism still drive modern culture, and though we talk about racism, sexism, classism, and heteronormatism, from an Earth Ethos perspective, we do little to address the root causes of these social diseases. Disease in most indigenous cultures is understood to be caused by both natural and supernatural forces. Natural forces include causes such as cold air, viruses and bacteria, and food or water contamination. Supernatural forces include wounds in social relationships between people who are living or with ancestors, as well as wounds in relationships with other beings such as spirits of a particular land or place (Sussman, 2004).

According to science, energy is neither created or destroyed. According to most spiritual and religious traditions, energy, or spirit, exists eternally regardless of physical presence. Ancestral trauma circulates in our psyches and plays out in our culture today. It is based in large part on unjust power gains of one group putting themselves over another. Healthy power dynamics requires honouring and valuing everyone through power-with, not power-over relationships. In healthy power dynamics, hierarchy is never based on a value judgment of any person’s role, skin colour, gender, etc. being better than another’s. Through an Earth Ethos lens, all people have gifts, and to make a value judgments or even comparisons of gifts is wrong.


Sometimes even when we are aware of our biases, we struggle to let them go see the world differently. In order to heal some unhealthy power dynamics, I offer the following exercise, which came to me after working with an ancestral healing exercise from Mary Shutan:

Close your eyes and visualise yourself and someone you feel out of balance with. Set the intention for a healthy power dynamic between you. Breathe. You may feel some energy entering or leaving your body, and in your third eye you may see energy exchanging. You may also do exercise between yourself and a place, an event, or even a group of people. (African ancestral image.)

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9 thoughts on “Healing Unjust Power Dynamics

  1. Great commentary. I’m currently reflecting on my own power Dynamics in a household. Do the same ideas apply to household? I recognize I may be creating a power dynamic. Are there no heathy power dynamics? What do you call the dynamic of one breadwinner and one homemaker? Working on those realms exclusivity.


    1. Thanks for the comment. I welcome dialogue. =)

      Many of us in modern culture suffer from chronically low or inflated self esteem, and most of us unconsciously create existential hierarchies in our relationships. Having healthy power dynamics is an ongoing process. Here is a recipe that works for me:

      (1) I do an exercise like the one in the post with an intention of healthy power dynamics.
      (2) If needed, I do shamanic journeying to see which roles or responsibilities I am overly valuing and/or devaluing. The aim is to see how I am contributing to the dynamics and shift my perception and behaviour.
      (3) Finally, I be with projections from the other person.
      It’s often easier for us to see where someone is devaluing us rather than overly valuing us, which can feed our ego. When someone is devaluing me, I may talk to them about what I feel or simply set a new boundary and affirm my own truth. When someone is overvaluing me, it often means they are devaluing themselves. I check that I’m not taking on their projection, hold us both in compassion, and make a conscious effort to appreciate that person’s role and gifts in our relationship to help them shift.

      I hope that helps!


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