“When we liberate ourselves from the expectation that we must have all things figured out, we enter a sanctuary of empathy.”

Community Conversation

From reactive protection to proactive action

When I started my journey towards becoming an effective ally (I didn’t start there, nobody does), I was deeply ashamed and guilty about my ignorance around race and racism. How could I have spent my whole life ignorant of this massive dimension of existence–race?! I didn’t yet understand that the system is designed to keep white people complacent and asleep. To say I was reeling from the realization and overcompensating for my pain is an understatement!

I became a rampant evangelizer of anti-racism work with my friends, colleagues, random strangers on the street. Instead of appealing to peoples’ humanity and inviting them into the work, I pressured them in efforts to “rescue” them from the same fate as me.

And all this was so that, together, we could “rescue” people of color from the violence of racism. What a joke that was! I guarantee you nobody has healed or transformed any pain body through coercion and pressure. It has to come from the heart.

Over time as I learned more about the history and context of racism, I was seasoned and came to take it all less personally. I grew to acknowledge my role as a collaborator and partner in healing racism. I made space for my pain (still do all the time) and metabolized it into empathy and humility. And I’ve started to tell my story in efforts to cultivate a community of learners and strong allies like you!

One of the most helpful frameworks for me in shifting my consciousness has been the Dreaded Drama Triangle to the Empowerment Dynamic and this newsletter breaks down that framework for you to apply to your own growth and learning!



Become a Partner in Liberating Race

Gillian Shelley

The Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) has three archetypes attributed to it: victim, persecutor, and rescuer. The idea is that if you find yourself on the triangle at any one of these 3 points, you quickly shift between all three and spiral in drama. Effective action can’t happen when we’re on the Drama Triangle. When people start the journey as allies, the path can be very confronting, bringing up insecurities and psychological pain…you might have some idea of what I’m referencing 😉 And well-meaning allies can unknowingly cause harm unless they’re addressing these pitfalls upfront. Being a part of this community definitely can help expedite and ease that process! 

The goal is to evolve our consciousness to the point where we are a part of The Empowerment Dynamic (TED). In this dynamic, each of the 3 archetypes on the Drama Triangle transforms. Victim becomes Creator. Persecutor becomes Challenger. Rescuer becomes Coach. In the Empowerment Dynamic, curiosity and collaboration are centered. Effective action becomes possible and people and teams thrive. 

Read more about my journey and how to apply this map to your healing racism path here!


Who Do You Want to Be? Coaching with the Empowerment Dynamic

Donna Zajonc

If you’re feeling intrigued by the model and want to learn more about it, I recommend getting Donna Zajonc’s book. She is a co-founder with her husband of the Center for the Empowerment Dynamic. Together, they lead workshops and retreats helping folks become the authors of their own lives. This book follows a hypothetical example of a professional coach who is struggling and how she applied the Empowerment Dynamic to her own life.


The Body with Sonya Renee Taylor

Finding Our Way Podcast

This powerful conversation between Prentice Hempill and Sonya Renee Taylor speaks to another triad–the “epidemiological triad” as we’re in a time of pathogenic infection (covid) but extrapolating that concept to also be the infection of white supremacy culture and to the “bodily hierarchy” of how we prioritize certain bodies over others. The triad is host, pathogen, and mode of infection.

Sonya Renee Taylor opens by talking about how, similarly with the drama triangle, you only need to break one of these patterns to change the whole cycle. So we could change the stories we’re telling ourselves uninterrogated in secrecy in change (host) and change the stories we’re telling (pathogen) and amplify these stories of healing to change how the message travels (mode of infection). I hope you get to dive into this potent conversation about revolutionary, healing, and radical self-love.