Unfortunately this is not a new topic but a new way of looking at coping with it for some. People all over the world who experience microaggressions for various reasons and in multiple situations throughout the course of their life might not even notice. In many ways we have normalized comments and approaches as just part of life and that has it’s good and bad side effects. Before we discuss how to cope, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with what a micro aversion looks like.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a microaggression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” The Oxford English Dictionary goes a step further, defining the term as “A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination or prejudice against members of a marginalized group such as a racial minority…” and traces the origin of the term back to 1970.
For example, if someone said to a boy “You throw like a girl” because the boy did not throw well, this would imply in a micro way that girls are not athletic in a very blanket statement. If a girl was standing nearby and heard this comment this might affect her self-esteem and perception of what a girl is supposed to be able to do. Another example might be assuming someone doesn’t speak your native language based on their appearance. In this example, you can imagine an American born minority being impacted by losing out on various opportunities because of this assumption which may not just be a physical assumption but may be attached to the way they spell their name. If these are resonating with you, then you are probably thinking of a few personal examples as well. However, let’s shift our focus less on what we can’t change and more on what we can. One option, for those who are open to it, might be meditation.
It may seem like an oversimplified solution to suggest mediation when talking about the topic of feeling marginalized or insulted, but meditation is an ageless practice that helps in so many ways to soothe the mental stresses of everyday living. However, meditation does not replace therapy if there is deeper mental trauma caused by microaggressions. Rather than pick one source of help, remember you are a whole person that may benefit from more than one source of self-care.
Meditation has been proven to reduce the effects of such trauma on the mind and body. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health focused on the effect of mediation on those experiencing PTSD from their individual experiences in natural disasters, exposure to combat and terrorism, interpersonal violence, or incarceration. In each of these studies there was a documented improvement upon the physical and/or mental state of the participants involved. Meditation is a tool in the fight against microaggressions.
Here are three ways mediation can be a healthy response to microaggressions:
- Meditation puts you back in the seat of control. Microaggressions can feel like something that happens to you and makes you a victim of circumstances. The practice of mediation is inherently one of inward focus. Depending on the kind of mediation you choose to practice, you can take your consciousness away from the stress and trauma of a microaggressive episode and focus instead on your breathing or your space in the universe.
- Meditation regulates your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Everyone knows that awful fight or flight, jittery, angry physical response to being unfairly treated. That feeling is intensified when microaggressions go unchecked. Mediation helps to regulate the body’s natural physiological rhythms, effectively soothing the physical effects of anger and trauma.
- Meditation promotes inner peace. Ultimately, being secure in ourselves is one of the best defences against microaggressions. Until society can evolve to a place of greater compassion and empathy, microaggressions will continue to exist. Meditation is a gateway to finding contentment and happiness within oneself, allowing the ignorant comments and actions of others to have less of an effect on our state of mind.
A little self-care can go a long way.