Wellness Circle: Finding Healing in Helping

Some of our greatest moments of emotional change can come from how we handle difficult moments. Or when we see others Find Healing in Helping, inspiring us to do the same. Throughout these past years (and much longer), we have seen continued political assaults on the Earth, sovereignty, injustice, and our families and communities. It hurt. It still hurts. There is that saying, “Healed People Heal People and Hurt People Hurt People”. How to keep going when there is so much work to do can be a big internal challenge. It can be so empowering to see an overarching (and dominant) response to these incredible challenges especially seeing the next generation step up in such bravery. We have seen youth stand-up against adversity. We have seen each other, allies, and youth give the most valuable contribution, their personal gift of time and energies. The “prayers in action” response to help others, protect survivors, stand with families of victims, surround each other as a collective to end violence against women, the water, the land, and the sovereignty of tribes or communities who are at the place the media calls “ground zero”.

As we begin the newness of the Spring and as the Earth reminds us of renewal and growth, this can be another time for renewal through reflecting on how we approach these same devastating challenges in advocacy towards the end of injustice we face as native people, but also what other people of color face that parallel the mixed bag of marginalization, lookism, racism, ableism, faith and gender-based crimes. Hatred does not discriminate. Recently, there have been heinous crimes. Acts against the sacredness of life in mass numbers, but also the impacts of spiritual and psychological abuses that are acts against another sacred loss of life, suicide. Anyone at any time can be walking their path with invisible injuries, invisible disabilities, and with barely visible calls for help.

What are the ways to heal ourselves and each other? When we talk about “wellness” and “selfcare”, we have been taught that the “self” isn’t the priority, but that our extended families and communities are a reflection of that care. In the anti-violence movement this is extremely visible. Let’s look at how many advocates are survivors. How many survivors are on a healing journey by dedicating their lives to help others who are experiencing abuse. Advocate Survivors are often on the frontlines making policy change for justice, are first responders to victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, are challenging systems for Two Spirit/Native LGBTQ continued barriers to services, fighting for the visibility of murdered and missing, this list goes on and on.

Helping can be Healing. Tillie Black Bear taught us ‘Treating Each Others as Relatives’ is a prayer in action. We saw hundreds of thousands of people come together to support the water, Mni Wiconi. We now see hundreds of thousands of youth empowering each other to heal from the devastating reality that there have been almost 300 school shootings since the first of the calendar new year (66 days). When we are hurting, acts of kindness are extremely powerful. Where there is trauma, healing is the answer.

Helping can be healing in action for the giver and recipient on a spiritual level, but also fundamentally positive physical and psychological neurobiological responses. Princeton University shares, “Giving back has an effect on your body. The mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, is triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.”[1] We already know the answer, from the countless survivor advocates are leading the way. We are powerful together, if we can bring those hurting into the fold with forgiveness and direction. For this Spring edition of the Wellness Circle, we leave with you some intimate questions.

What impact did this year have on you?

What impact have you had on others?

How can a cycle of compassion begin with you?

[1] https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/slinden/files/helpershigh.pdf