top of page

We all have oppressor parts

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

We are multi-faceted.

This is why I love parts work/internal family systems so much. Parts work intertwines beautifully with somatic work because it helps us become more aware of our complexity, and leads us to feeling safer in it.

Today, we're talking about some parts of us I imagine many of us hold a lot of shame around. I invite you to hold the parts of you wanting to respond reflexively with tenderness and care.

The truth is: there's a little (or a lotta) bit of oppressor in all of us. The histories we hold within our bodies are not simple.

Consider the simplicity of the statement that someone is racist or is a racist.

In some cases, someone's being racist is glaringly, explicitly true. But in many cases, one could say there is more to the story. In each of us, there may be some ways in which we are capable of managing our internalized -isms, and other ways in which we have not yet noticed or begun to unpack.

What these 'parts' of us look like, feel like, do, or don't do is quite different based on, for example:

  • our own identities (privileges and oppressions)

  • our upbringing/environment

  • our values

  • and our level of existing insight into how we embody oppression in our internal and external experience.

As we become aware of these parts, and their layers (because there are many, many layers and generations before within them), it is normal that other parts come to our rescue. This could look like:

  • avoidance

  • defensiveness

  • obsession

  • or any other response that your body and internal system sense as safer.

Reflexive responses are the body's normal response to danger, whether experienced in the present or the past, directly, intergenerationally, vicarious, or otherwise.

Here's where we get stuck:

Unfortunately, in many ways many of us are not actively safe in this neo-colonial system; our bodies know this and will continue with reflexive responses and resist slowing down (literally and metaphorically speaking)


On the other hand, the best way for us to show up in this world and do our part is to have space and time to resource ourselves. This includes safe connection with others, emotional insight and coping skills, boundaries, pleasure, and more.


Often times, we begin to feel guilt and shame here. It's hard to slow down when the grind culture of white supremacy is so interwoven with freedom fighting, and even just living.

If you're wondering what to do, experiment with building Self-compassion through context:

1) Find a way you can externalize the parts of you that are competing for needs. There might be an oppressor part, a shame part, a reflexive part, and perhaps others (I call this a Parts Party). You could use beanie babies, rocks, or any other objects.

2) Notice how you feel towards these parts. As you notice feelings, identify if they are also parts or if they are Wise Self energy. The Wise Self possesses characteristics such as compassion, care, curiosity, creativity, courage, and general adult-like "I got this" energy. If you need more objects as more parts are identified gather what you need.

3) Practice getting to that Wise-Self space. Start where you are. If it's only possible for you to feel compassion for one part, savor that. Keep coming back as you get to know the parts more and more.

4) From your Wise-Self, provide context for your parts. Explain the history of how your internalized oppressor parts came to be. Include what you know about what your ancestors might have experienced, felt, or believed. Notice what feels possible as you build context. If shame increases, remember it's just a part. Remember that compassion does not cancel out accountability. Notice the delicate balance between the two.

5) Allow the 'what's possible' from the Wise-Self to build slowly. Do not immediately plan the next revolution or your next self-care investment. Notice if the Wise-Self shows up in the small, everyday experiences you have. Let that embodiment sink in. Feel it. Ask for support if you need it.

6) As you move about your days, notice as parts arise. Notice how things feel when you respond from the parts versus the Wise-Self.

Remember you are deserving of endless compassion. Remember this is the only way we will find liberation.


I help interracial couples navigate issues related to race and identity. Learn more here.


bottom of page