The Revolution Will be Titrated

In my emerging practice of cultural somatics, I hold that the key to facilitating restorative/transformative justice processes is not so much about having the right ideology and systemic analysis, but what we somatic practitioners refer to as ‘titration’.

Titration is a word from chemistry that means to facilitate chemical reactions by only adding small amounts of chemicals to a mixture at a time. In trauma-based somatics, the concept of titration is used to describe the best practice of managing emotional processes in bits small enough that they can be contained by the capacity of our nervous systems. Having emotional experiences that are outside of our body’s manageable range, i.e. Window of Tolerance, can end up re-traumatizing us. Titration is necessary in order for healing processes to happen in an ethical and sustainable way.

I advocate for the principle of titration to be applied to all matters of justice.

This is because cultures have bodies, or what I refer to as cultural somas: emergent collective bodies made up of networks of smaller individual bodies. And just like our fleshy individual somas, cultural somas have delicate nervous systems that emerge from the transmission of information and emotional energy between the smaller beings that comprise them.

The neural activities of cultural somas are easy to see once we become aware of their presence. Every time we talk to someone, share a post on social media, or stand at a protest line, that is also the neurons of the cultural nervous system firing off.

Within this model of cultural somatics, systemic oppressions such as misogyny and white supremacy are understood to be complex trauma patterns that live in cultural somas. The pervasive reactivity and rigidity embodied within our institutions are an expression of this.

Understanding that cultures have bodies and that oppressions are the external manifestations of trauma in these bodies means recognizing that cultural restoration/transformation requires time and space for processing of traumatic material. If the revolution is to be ethical and sustainable, it will need to be titrated.

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Justice without titration leads to cultural re-traumatization. On a grand scale, this looks like a succession pattern of fear-based dictatorial governance. On a smaller scale, within social change communities, this looks like call-out culture.

That said, reforming justice processes to be trauma-based is not an easy task. It requires us to enact justice within the capacity of our nervous system, even when we know the world is on fire. But I do believe that the titration of justice is definitely worth it, given that the alternative, a mixture of ideology, analysis, and uncontained urgency, has hardly worked out for humanity in the long run.

Ultimately, a lack of titration isn’t going to liberate us from what a lack of titration has created.

In light of this, I would like to end this post by sharing a non-exhaustive list of things we can titrate in restorative/transformative processes. I hope it is helpful to you as it has been for me.

  • We can titrate relationships. For example, if we want to talk with others who are less attuned to matters of social justice, we can start off by talking to the people who we have the most well resourced relationships with and are most likely to be able to listen to us. Or even better yet, we can begin by receiving support from mentors and elders and looking at our own patterns. We can expand our work to less resourced relationships as you become more comfortable and grow our skills.

  • We can titrate information. For example, if there is harm we need to name within our community, we can do so in a gradual way that doesn’t give out at all the information at once. Putting everything out there can cause uncontained catharsis for ourselves. This can be re-traumatizing for both you, others, and ultimately the cultural nervous system.
  • We can titrate time. For example, if we notice urgency and activation in our justice activities, we can take time to step back from ongoing projects. A number one tenet of trauma healing is that slow and gentle can often get more down in a safer way than fast and intense. When we do justice work from an activated state we are more likely to make missteps that result in further re-traumatization of the cultural nervous system.
  • We can titrate emotions. Cultural healing requires our individual healing, which means that we will always need space for contained emotional release. Titrating relationships, information, and time, are in the end all about titrating emotions.

Are you a therapist, facilitator, organizer or healer called to a deeper exploration of subjects discussed in this post?

I provide coaching and consulting services for individual practitioners, enterprises, and organizations that are committed to intersectional cultural healing. You can find more information here.