The Five Principles of care
Interdependence - This principle recognizes the interconnectivity of all life--human and non-human--and our interdependence with each other and the Earth. Interdependence promotes mutual aid and emphasizes the importance of community connectedness. Within the context of relationships, interdependence recgonizes the needs of all people in the care relationship and strives to harmonize these needs. Care workers operate in ways that promote and affirm our interdependence. In practice, that looks like building networks of care workers in a climate of non-competition and common vision for the community; departing from harmful systems as solutions for our communities' needs; redistributing skills, time, energy, attention, and other forms of intangible or immaterial privileges; challenging toxic relational patterns in intimacy and offering care relationships grounded in mutual respect, tenderness, and courageous compassion.
Vulnerability - Describes individual qualities of openness, candidacy, and tenderness; the experience of emotional, spiritual, and/or physical intimacy with self and others; the giving and receiving tender loving care of the bodymindspirit. In practice, vulnerability may look like co-regulation exercises (e.g.: breathing, acupressure, visualization); practicing deep listening and holding without judgement; bravely and courageously affirming individual well-being; guiding and supporting people as they seek to build or repair their relationships with self, others, and the Earth. These practices are gleaned from the individuals' own needs and melded with the skills and capacity of the care worker. Together, they explore the needs and how to meet them in an open and transparent manner.
Creativity - The principle of creativity is rooted in marginalized people's creativity energy wrought by necessity and survival. People have diverse needs and creative strategies are often needed to help meet our needs when dominant systems are set up with the intention to do harm or fail us. Care workers actively strive to build more healing, restorative, and sustainable lifeways. Creativity allows us to envision more socially just futures that diverge from harmful patterns and try approaches that acknowledge our complexity and humanity. In the creative spirit, we can surrender judgements about ourselves and sit in the joy of creation and expression. In practice, creativity might look like using artistic practice to feel grounded during times of emotional intensity or practicing mindfulness in a particular art genre (e.g.: the feel of finger panting to bring us to the present moment). Outside of individual practice, we can think creatively about relationship structures and building community as a way to meet our need for care. It encourages us to ask what we might need from our primary relationships and exploring what lies beyond our current definitions of friendship or partnership. Together, we can tap into that creative spark and start envisioning what we need to feel whole.
Boundaries - Boundaries can be described at the space where one individual ends and another begins. In marking this space, boundaries honor the self and promote balance between individual needs and the needs of the larger collective. Honoring, recognizing, and identifying our boundaries help us understand our limits as well as be receptive to the limits of others. Boundaries work in tandem with other care work principles to avoid the lure of oppressive and extractice patterns (e.g.: white savior complex, enmeshment, exploitation) that contribute to the devaluation of care and disposability of care workers. Historically, care consisted of often unseen, undervalued labor often associated with marginalized people--particularly women of color. Naming "care" as a form of work elevates the appreciation and value of this essential, life-giving labor and encourages others to recognize the value of care in their own lives. Thus, I name "care work" as a form of labor in order to challenge racism, sexism, classism and other forms of oppression that actively devalue "care work." In tandem with interdependence, boundaries safeguard care workers livelihood while recognizing that "care" is essential to our collective well-being.
Integrity - Care work is vulnerable work and therefore, must be executed with deep integrity and ethical practice. Integrity asserts that care work must navigate using a strong moral compass, squarely positioned in anti-oppressionist ethics. Integrity also asserts that care work must actively seeks to prevent harm to self and others. In collaboration with strong boundaries, integrity encourages care workers to respect individual capacity, define mutual understandings of the work, and offer avenues for mutual and collective accountability if harm occurs. Thus, care work always happens in the context of community and accountability is a commual and individual practice. The network of care workers developed through the practice of interdependence can assist with accountability, resolving conflict, and restorative and healing practices moving forward.