Bearing Witness

Love sculpture by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov

Bearing Witness is a Social Transformational Model. It is a hands-on workshop that converts Social Inaction into Social Action. It does so by first identifying the core need that is behind the dysfunction. For instance, in the case of Climate Crisis, Climate Inaction protects people from the trauma that would result from acting against the current institutional, cultural, and social practices. As such, the core need here is for participants to maintain their current sense of Safety and Security, Intra- and Inter-relationally.

But core needs usually come with self-protective mechanisms designed to filter out or neutralize any threats to those needs. As for the filters, they are a set of Powerful Veils designed to reduce both participant’s exposure and their sensitivity to the immoral consequences of their action/ inaction while servicing their core needs. As for the neutralizing mechanism, they are a Cascade of Denials needed to reduce threats to their identity as a way to maintain a positive self-image/ self- concepts. As such, both sets of Powerful Veils and Cascade of Denials work together to ensure the participant does not challenge, reflect, or even have to—when these sets work well together—experience the heavy emotional and psychological labor[1] when , if ever at all,  faced with the immorality of their actions.

The needs of others that were previously filtered away or deeply discounted now make it onto the decision heuristics of the awakened participant

When the participant is guided in an empowering way to connect to their Powerful Veils and Cascade of Denials, their meta-awareness is resurrected. This is an awareness that does not require support from Veils and Denials to function.

As such, the participant now has a more panoramic context that clearly places their immoral action/inaction as untenable under this new framing.  But more importantly, this new panorama provides them more plasticity to organize holistically, provides more cognitive pathways, restores greater sensitivity, and opens more bandwidth within them to include more (especially the previously filtered out immoral consequences); all this removing the previous scarce conditions behind the past untenable act.

This results in the participant’s better agility to solve not only their core needs but also others as well, for the new path is one that is more holistic in nature. The needs of others that were previously filtered away or deeply discounted now make it onto the decision heuristics of the awakened participant. 

And this is how we fulfill the adage ‘We have to become the change we seek’.

The participant then is now on a path of aligning their personality with the deeper and soulful needs of harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life. In essence, they are on the path of connecting to their Authentic Power, a place that can not only brings individual healing, but also collective healing, and finally planetary healing.

And this is how we fulfill the adage ‘We have to become the change we seek’.

Application of Bearing Witness 

Because Bearing Witness is a structural paradigm change, as such, it can bring new framing to any entrenched topic by producing novel but meaningful pathways previously not available. Here are some applications where Bearing Witness can add value under different Social Justice Projects:

Community for Earth:

Bearing Witness will help activate necessary Planetary projects for greater reach and scale, with the latter requiring coordination between institutional, cultural and social practices. However, the above scale and reach are only possible if the individual weighs the ensuing social and cultural disruption and attendant trauma as necessary and unavoidable. This paradigm shift can only happen when an individual awakens to how they protect themself through Inaction, though dysfunctionally and short-term . It is only then the Theological considerations from Rev. Sewell[2] has a breathing chance to actualize.

Economic Justice Action Group:

Climate Change amplifies generational inequities:

    1. Intra-generationally (i.e. between developed Northern economies and undeveloped Southern economies; Industrial vs. Island Nations) and
    2. Inter-generationally (i.e. between current Boomers vs. Post Millenium).

The trick is to:

    1. Compress the events of the future spatially (bringing the fires of Siberia into the living rooms of communities in developed economies) and
    2. Compress the events temporally (bringing the Worst Impact scenario into the Now that is only seeing the beginning).

However, because of the unconsious Powerful Veils and Cascade of Denials, Climate Injustice is construed as Natural, Normal, and Necessary, preventing the participant’s ability to receive any meaningful information resulting from the above spatial and temporal compression.

Furthermore, the intersectionality of POC with other federally protected traits discounts the recipients of injustice. As such, lower-status groups are construed as having insufficient moral relevance as to harm and suffering. And by this, the Northern states are shielded psychologically from taking necessary just action.

Bearing Witness will connect the participant to their filters and neutralizing processes that shield them from the immorality of unabating unjust treatment. This then shifts the participant from shielding themselves with the imaginary boundaries of time and space to acting from the moral codes anchored in the universal concept of Interdependence and Interrelationship. This can then lead to the restoration of the universal qualities of deep empathy.

Advancing Racial Justice:

Part of the paradigm shift is deepening the spotlight of awareness past the effects of racism and into the invisible core needs behind racism, no matter how dysfunctional the link between core needs and racist enactments. This deep compassion work can only happen when we examine how a racist enacts out the Powerful Veils and Cascade of Denials, as well as perform social recruitment as supports for their enactment, as a way to shield themselves from exposure to the suffering of their victim. 

Animal Rights:

I recently presented to a Men’s Group on the Eating Meat. Rather than challenging them on a highly polarized issue, I framed this issue that they are unable to connect to their Authentic Power because of the Veils and the Denials they require so as to eat meat with impunity. This non-polarized approach tapped into the participant’s higher-performing self, a performance that would be necessary in the near future to respond adequately to Deep Adaptation caused by Climate Changes. However, and because of the participant’s cognitive investments tied up in the unconscious filtering and neutralization, the participant does not have access to this higher self. The Bearing Witness model will take Animal rights beyond a moral issue and into where the participant’s destiny is bound by their treatment of animals in general.


[1] of reducing the ensuing Cognitive Dissonance

[2] Radical relational, Respectful of the natural world, Informed by the sensory world and the arts, Inclusive of civic life, Conscious of generational justice, and Foolishly, irrationally hopeful (