pleasure activism

intergenerational trauma and triumph (pleasure activism series)

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
adham-ayyat-naJczO8dCWg-unsplashphoto by @leloupblanc

Message from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.

You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, you will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.

Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.

Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”

I deeply appreciate the wisdom of these grandmother leaders. In these recent weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing sense of fear and collapse as well as resilience at times. When these felt sensations arise, they don’t feel like they’re just my own. They feel collective and intergenerational and like they can offer wisdom about how to take care and how to be with what is if I can allow them to be present and listen.

I notice myself inviting my ancestors in, knowing that they can be a source of support, knowing that they have loving wisdom to offer, and feeling significant solace in that and also acknowledging the conditioning and trauma passed through my ancestral lineage that I can offer up for healing right alongside my own wounds that need healing. I feel gratitude to be able to be with the multiplicities of experiences and medicines that are a part of my lineage.

About Integenerational Trauma

D48cl3qXoAMkqyZphoto by @ayan_mukherjee

The impact of abuse, genocide, slavery, oppression, white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and trauma don’t only appear in the person or community who experiences or witnesses them. They are transmitted in the generations that follow until they are addressed and processed. Intergenerational trauma impacts us all. Acknowledgment of the trauma(s) and their impact as well as space for collective healing have to occur in order to break the cycle.

For more information about Intergenerational trauma, please see the videos below.


Impacts of intergenerational trauma by The Healing Foundation:


Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence, and American chattel slavery:


A talk based on the book It Didn’t Start With You, How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn:


In Pleasure activism, adrienne maree brown writes that we are “descended from legacies of trauma and triumph” and “it is still a rare thing for most of us to sit with what we feel, how we feel, the reality that we carry memories and feelings from what our ancestors experienced, and that we carry out current continuous collective trauma together.”

We don’t acknowledge that often when we are meeting, it isn’t just us who are in the space together. It is all of that history, all of that unresolved and possibly unrecognized pain, shame and self-loathing, difficulty with connection, distrust, and/or hypervigilance from our lineage, which also joins us in our moments together. It makes our already fragile interactions with each other that much more complex and volatile.

The histories of trauma that we are holding in our bodies can block us from pleasure, self-worth, wellness, and connection. Illnesses in mind, body, and heart can manifest as a result of all that we are carrying in the body that doesn’t get released.

akihiro-fujioka--g8Xfrut2xg-unsplashphoto by @aoitulip

How can we do our healing work?

*Normalizing trauma and community healing:

adrienne maree brown encourages a normalization of trauma since it is an experience that almost all of us know directly or indirectly:

“Trauma is the common experience of most humans on this planet… What we need is a culture where the common experience of trauma leads to a normalization of healing. Being able to say: I have good reasons to be scared of the dark, of raised voices, of being swallowed up by love, of being alone. And being able to offer each other: I know a healer for you. I’ll hold your hand in the dark. Let’s begin a meditation practice. Perhaps talk therapy is not enough. We should celebrate love in our community as a measure of healing. The expectation should be: I know we are all in need of healing, so how are we doing our healing work?” — adrienne maree brown

*Connection & Healing:

Reach out to those you trust for support in processing and being with this.

Consider connecting with your ancestors too if this would be of support to you. Lissa explores one example of this in a past post. Shirley Turcotte, a Métis knowledge keeper and registered clinical counsellor, explores the concept that our ancestors share messages and medicine for us in our felt sense experiences in this video. There are many other practices available as well. It may be helpful to connect with customs and traditions particularly meaningful to you and your people to help find what would be most supportive.

Here is a video by Turcotte demonstrating how to attend to intergenerational fatigue:

*Time for Reflection:

It can be important to allow for time for reflection on how intergenerational trauma has impacted you to support the healing process. This may be helpful to do alone, with loved ones, in nature, through creative outlets (drawing, writing, etc.)…

Reflect on your ancestry, country of origin and any other regions inhabited by your ancestors, customs, patterns, traditions, traumatic history and forms of resilience and triumphs that have been passed down. Do the best you can with the information you have access to. Stay connected with your body and its response to notice even the earliest signs of activation. Take care of yourself during this process with deep breaths, shaking, humming, breaks, and whatever else you find supportive.

*Support for unprocessed grief:

Find practices that are supportive to help heal unprocessed grief, which is often associated with intergenerational trauma. Check out Lissa’s post about Being with Grief for some resources for working with this.

*Trauma therapy, help for addiction, and resources:

The impact of intergenerational trauma and unprocessed grief can cause mental health symptoms, substance abuse and other forms of addiction that interfere with a person’s ability to function in life. 

If therapy is resonant for you, it’s important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, who can support your particular set of identities, who has a deep understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impact, and who has specialized training in dual diagnosis treatment and in modalities such as Seeking Safety, Indigenous Focusing-Oriented TherapySensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

For some individuals, it may be recommended to engage in psychotherapy in combination with psychotropic medications to help with symptom management. Meeting with a psychiatric provider who prescribes medications such as a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist can allow for one to explore if this would be a supportive option.

Please see these resources from Ayana which provides therapy for marginalized and intersectional communities.


“It gives me permission like nothing else to accept myself in all of my own wildness and growth. Nature puts the struggle in perspective, and I am filled with my own power.” — adrienne maree brown

*Gratitude Practice:

It can be helpful in this processing and healing work to spend time celebrating the strength, the wisdom, the resilience of your ancestors. Bask in their goodness. Take in their love. Although there are aspects of wounds and imperfections in any lineage, there are many qualities and experiences that can also be affirmed and appreciated. This Ancestral Medicine article by Daniel Foor offers ways to appreciate and honor ancestors.

*Being held by nature:

“So much of our healing will include sweetening on, rubbing on, and laying open in the expanses of nature and letting it wrap our bodies in remembering and pampering. The ancestors in our bodies, known and unknown, need these rituals of healing and softness, as do we.” — adrienne maree brown


Please know that you are not alone. You can never be alone. The healing from the impact of intergenerational trauma is not something we can do alone because we are not only working with our own feelings, behaviors, or memories but those of generations before us and our healing allows them to heal  and allows for the healing of those who are to come to heal as well.


This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.

pleasure activism

joy and sorrow (pleasure activism series)

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
photo by Ben Heine.


One of the keys to having greater access to happiness and pleasure is allowing space for their presence in all circumstances, through all the ups and downs of life. As adrienne maree brown says in Pleasure Activism, “Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.”

Pleasure is the point. And yet pleasure does not mean ignoring or denying sorrow when it arises. The difficult times make it more possible for joy to be present. There is an indelible connection between joy and sorrow.  Without one, there could not be the other. Can we allow there to be space for both? Can we allow for there to be space for all of our experiences without pushing away the unpleasant ones or grasping tightly to the pleasant ones?

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” — Khalil Gibran in The Prophet: 

adrienne maree brown references Gibran’s quote about sorrow and joy in Pleasure Activism:

I recognize that my sorrow carves out the space for my joy, and that both in this lifetime and in the cycles of my lineage there is so much space that has been carved out by sorrow, and I get to fill it up with joy and pleasure. What a pleasure it is, after all, to be a free Black queer woman. To be a human, self-aware. To be of the earth, with such beauty and interconnectedness. — adrienne maree brown 

I didn’t always see this connection between joy and sorrow. For some time, I always saw my happiness as small and my unhappiness as vast. I think that was because I paid more attention to my sorrow, which allowed it to grow. With my mindfulness practice, I became increasingly interested in the seeds I planted, cultivated, and nourished within me. Was I nurturing seeds of discontent, anger, scarcity or was I supporting seeds of kindness, love, and gratitude to grow?

I made choices regarding the seeds I was nurturing with each thought I chose to believe, each person I chose to spend significant time with, and each activity I chose to engage in regularly. I began to let go of the people who did not value me and did not treat me well and stop doing things that didn’t support my well-being. I spent time listening to my body, heart, mind, time in nature, and time in supportive solitude to help me know how to make choices that were supportive. All of this helped me find and connect to the happiness that was within me all along. It gave me the space to meet wonderfully kind and loving community once I fully understand how to be my own happiness. That kind of happiness, completely predicated on my wholeness, on the miracle of me being alive in each moment, stays present even when I am sobbing in heartbreak over the many injustices of the world.

Find the pleasure path for your life and follow it. Let it reverberate healing back into your ancestors’ wounds. Let it open you up and remind you that you are already whole. Let it shape a future where feeling good is the normal, primary experience of all beings. –adrienne maree brown 

Are you on your pleasure path for life? What supports you in feeling good? How can you share more of that with yourself and gift it to others?


This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.


pleasure activism

Pleasure Activism as a Form of Care and Justice

abundant tree
photo by @jeremybishop

What happens when we as a collective center pleasure as a form of care, justice and liberation?
I have been exploring this concept in my life and also in my offerings particularly InterPlay, deeply guided by the work of  adrienne maree brown and her book  Pleasure Activism.

I have found Pleasure Activism to be an incredibly powerful approach to healing that not only affects the individuals engaging in the practice but all of those who in turn come in contact with them. Pleasure, compassion, and care intersect with each other and promote a more just society where we have the agency and capacity to care for ourselves and each other.

It gives me great hope that I can center pleasure as not only a practice that allows for well-being but as a loving form of rebellion against oppression, a form of individual and collective perseverance and strength for me and so many others in my communities and my ancestral lineage.

rosie-kerr-DoUUDaNwHJM-unsplashphoto by @rosiekerr

The permission that is the foundation of the work, according to adrienne maree brown, is a reclaiming of “our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy.” This reclaiming is in complete opposition to what makes up many principles of capitalism and oppression as it centers abundance, our natural goodness and enough-ness, and tuning into what offers us happiness and making space for that. It is a reclaiming of the gratitude and celebration of the miraculous nature of the earth and all of the earth’s creatures. It emphasizes that pleasure is not related to accumulation, money, materialism, greed, or excess.

“It turns out, being present is the most important part of every single experience in my life.” — adrienne maree brown

I was never taught about pleasure growing up. It wasn’t something I or anyone that I knew placed value on. The value was in acquiring wealth and fancy objects, in assimilating to the dominant culture, in being perfect with the perfect house, career, family, etc. It always seemed so strange to me how acquiring something off that list only bought fleeting happiness followed by worry about what if I lose this or a quick momentum onto the next item on the list to be happy again.

I slowly gave up on the list and began allowing myself to be led by the simple moments of connection, the times of ease and expansion, the present moment experiences of aliveness, that I found great wisdom in and which seemed like sustainable forms of not only joy but vitality. By being with these experiences, I could see more clearly and live in harmony with life, with my experiences, with the universe,  rather than the previous disharmony of always needing myself, someone, or something to be different, to be better.

waterfallphotophoto by @azharckra

Is it possible for justice and pleasure to feel the same way in our collective body? Could we make justice and liberation the most pleasurable collective experiences we could have? — adrienne maree brown

What’s your relationship to pleasure? Is it something you could make more space for and see as a form of care?

Is it possible to see a connection, a companionship between justice and pleasure and for it to be a collective embodied experience?

Feel into what arises in the body in contemplation of this.

Imagine the type of world we could live in if this was all of our embodied experiences. A pleasure devoid of materialism, oppression, supremacy, greed or narcissism. A pleasure that is simply a reclaiming of the whole selves we always were before systemic oppression and associated trauma, before the conditioning around scarcity and inequities, before the retelling around our good enough-ness.

A world where everyone knows how good enough they truly are. A world where your mere existence validates that fact again and again.

adrienne maree brown writes: Do you understand that you, as you are, who you are, is enough?” She asks us to be “stay mindful of our relationship to enough.”

What if you could feel that sense of enough-ness permeating into your every pore, your every breath? Would you welcome it in, make space, and invite it to tea? It’s here and available whenever you’re ready. I’m happy to remind you of this whenever you need it: You, as you are, who you are, is enough. Always have been and always will be.