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  • Writer's picturelolafagbamila

I knew about the power of intention far before I had a working definition of capitalism.

We learn about external systems of power far before we learn about internal ones. External systems of power are social, political and economic structures that inform our physical world – i.e. white supremacy, settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy and so and so forth. Internal systems of power occupy the metaphysical realm, addressing the nature of being, most often addressing the significance of energy and intention. Metaphysical means “beyond the physical”.

For good reason we’ve historically centered the importance of addressing physical / external systems. Unfortunately it has led us to devalue and undertheorize the significance of the metaphycial / internal. I learned about my internal power far before I learned about the external political powers that profited from devaluing and dehumanizing people like me. I knew about the power of intention and gratitude far before I had a working definition of capitalism. I learned that I had the ability to determine which types of thoughts are given space to occupy my mind before I knew what patriarchy was. (This is not meant to be an ableist narrative that disregards the reality that many people do *not* have the ability to determine which thoughts occupy their mind. It is meant to speak to those of us who do have the capacity to make those decisions.)

We have been trained to view power as something that exists outside ourselves. We have been trained to center external power and undermine our internal capacity. This is why so many of us walk around in such states of hopelessness, helplessness, extreme sadness, and what feels like powerlessness.

From birth most of us learn about the divine as external power – something that exists outside of ourselves, rather than understanding that if we were made in the divine’s image then we should be called by our names… and treat ourselves as such.

When we learn about our internal power we’ll know that we have the ability not only to heal already existing trauma but to *prevent* certain traumas as well. I’ve observed that we are in a moment of surface level “self help” / “self care” where one goes to the nail shop for a manicure and claims that they’ve done their “self care” for the day. Manicured nails will not get you out of that toxic relationship. Manicured nails will not give you the courage to step away from a circumstance that does not serve you. Manicured nails will not empower you to eat cleaner so that you can get your hormones in balance and get your mind right. (And for anybody who does derive these types of powers from polished nails, please ignore me I don’t know what I’m talking about.) This type of self care is cute but we need something a bit more substantial.

So yes, I understood my internal power to make decisions that would ultimately serve me and to take responsibility for my happiness and wellbeing far before I had a working definition of colonialism. The thing is, I needed both. We need both. People usually have an understanding of one or the other -- external or internal. That's how you end up either having the self help apolitical accountability warriors that refuse to acknowledge the structural realities in creating and maintaining systems of power and repression, OR on the other side you have the folks that understand every nuance of these structural realities and external systems of power but refuse to take accountability….for anything, including decisions that they have made in their own lives that have ended up causing them harm, pain or trauma.

We need clear understandings of both the power that exists within us and the systems of power that exist outside of us. Neither is useful without the other. Those of us who struggle and work toward building movements to create a freer world must always know that collective group power is not really possible unless we cultivate personal power as individuals. Personal power is the internal work. Cultivating personal power is movement work. This has been on my mind. Love ya’ll.

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