MONEY, TRAUMA AND WISDOM
Money and class are complex. When we consider the addition of trauma in the aftermath of violence, this adds yet another layer.
For the last 18 years I have been speaking about the intersection of childhood trauma, class, race, power and privilege; I have been naming what has been taboo.
Trauma has no class consciousness. It was easy for me to identify with women who shared their experiences coming from their own herstories. My experience of wealth is that it keeps what is present more hidden, and adds another layer of shame, fear and consequence. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my own narrative in the hopes of beginning conversations.
When I inherited my trust, I had no idea how to make sense out of being a steward within the confines of my own class and privilege.
The first person I spoke to about class privilege and power, my experience as a survivor, and how my experience was creating a crisis in my work was Billee Laskin. I asked Billee to help support me in my role as Executive Director. I had used my inheritance to support my organization and I wanted Billee to help me address the complexities that were occurring. I was able to gain perspective about how to hold the position of power. I began a reflective process with her support that I still continue today.
Billee offered her expertise in the intersection of organizational management and the impact of trauma. I learned about mindfulness - ways in which to be skillfully present and navigate conflict, bothwithin myself and with my staff. Billee brought in essential supports to help my organization grow. It was a difficult and painful process to begin however I saw how my herstory as a survivor informed my life and this new awareness offered new opportunities. I discovered that my own feelings of growing up from a place of ‘not enough’ lent themselves to unskillful philanthropy.
Image taken from Just the Three of Us
by John Lapham: Christopher Mogil.
Often I would question paid versus unpaid work. As an inheritor living with an abundance, I felt conflicted when applying for funding for my organization. Questions of who to support first arose - me? Or me and the staff or just the staff? I learnt that making sure I was paid as Executor Director was important for succession planning.
In 2006, I read a book called Class Action and found people in the book that had an organization in the USA called classaction.org. I reached out. This was an opportunity for me to step into a room full of people who came from all backgrounds, including the owning class. To find commonality between us all at the workshop, we were presented with an exercise called Finding Common Ground. Questions, such as "Who in the group has brothers?", were asked and various people stepped forward. I gathered up enough courage and asked "Who has experienced abuse and trauma?". More than half of the group stepped forward, including the people who identified as owning class. I now felt proud to identify as owning class.
This experience opened me up to attending various other trainings in the USA and in Canada. I met people who were working on Social Justice Philanthropy, listening to conversations between donors and other organizations. I read books and met other like-minded people. I joined various organizations that would support deep dialogue and be in conversations with other people of wealth. A whole new world of possibility was present for me.
Through the years I have worked with therapists and consultants who understand class privilege, and they have supported me to understand its intersections with trauma and oppression, somatically and through Mindfulness Meditation. Part of my personal work continues to be to discern whether or not any one decision to give comes from a place of internalized messages of trauma and a sense of not being enough.
My journey has been one of opening to a greater understanding and embodiment of giving and receiving that reflect my spiritual and political values. I continue to embark and remain committed on all levels.
I healed my name Cohen, I have a strong presence and voice.