I see oppressive systems as being like water pressure in the ocean. The deeper you go in the ocean, the greater the pressure.
People who are very oppressed are at the bottom of the ocean and need a lot of internal pressure to keep from imploding. That internal pressure is things like support from your community, confirmation that Black is Beautiful, Trans is Beautiful, Black Lives Matter, and so on. This is why Black-only spaces, LGBT-only spaces, and women-only spaces are needed, as places where external pressure is less intense, and internal pressure can be topped-up.
Also there are scary things at the bottom of the ocean, like anglerfish.
People with more privilege are nearer to the surface of the ocean and need less internal pressure to survive. The more privilege you have, the closer you are to the surface.
Sometimes, although liberation efforts can relieve the pressure, some people feel like they’re coming up too fast and getting the bends. They can’t deal with the sudden rush of freedom, or the realization that internalized oppression was keeping them down.
I originally heard some of this metaphor from Ted Lumley, but I’ve since added to it. I was reminded of this metaphor by Guilaine Kinouani’s post on internalized oppression.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like my new book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft.