Module Two: The Deep Operating System

Welcome to Module Two: The Deep Operating System

This page represents module two of my free course, “Understanding the Essential Nature of Systems of Oppression.” If you’ve landed on this page without having checked out the course introduction or module one, you may want to go back and check those out first.

In module one, I made the case that addiction and oppression are highly related. I even believe that they are both driven by the same underlying psychological phenomenon. In module two, I want to unpack that phenomenon, which I refer to as the deep operating system. I hope this module creates an opening to ask even deeper questions about the nature of oppression, and specifically systems of oppression:

  • Where does this phenomenon come from?

  • Why does it exist?

  • How does it operationalize itself in our social structures and systems?

Please Note

This module may not be the best place to start if you’re only beginning to learn about systems of oppression. I assume that my audience has a background in understanding at least some of the ways specific systems of oppression work. Furthermore, this module is by no means a comprehensive survey of systems of oppression. If it resonates with you, please use it only as one part of your ongoing praxis toward liberating us all.


  • What’s this module about?

  • Metaphors that can help us think about the Deep Operating System


  • How my study of racism led me to developing the Deep Operating System framework

  • Why the framework is important to have in addition to our understanding of specific systems of oppression

What’s It Look Like?

The Deep Operating System is at the Core of All Systems of Oppression

In the video above, I show one way of understanding how the various systems of oppression intertwine with one another. I also talk about how I think people who attempt to understand any given system deeply will eventually run into the core logic of the deep operating system.

One person who helped me see this is Miki Kashtan. I once heard her say in a presentation, “Patrtiarchy manifests in gender but isn’t about gender. Gender emerges from it.”

I think you could say something similar about any system of oppression - e.g. “Racism manifests in race but isn’t about race. Race emerges from it.”

It may take some time in your own study of systems of oppression before this idea makes sense. But once it does, I think it leads us to a deeper question: Just what are these things about?

My short answer: they are a trauma response’s way of maintaining itself.

What is the Deep Operating System?

  • Deep beliefs that undergird the deep operating system

  • Patterns of thinking, feeling, and relating that arise out of those beliefs

  • The connection to trauma

  • The tools that the deep operating system utilizes to maintain itself

A System of Extraction

  • The deep operating system as a system of extraction

  • The connection between the deep operating system and addiction

  • Trauma hacking as a tool of capture and replication

  • The connection between the deep operating system and complexity

A Framework for Change

  • A way of imagining how human change happens

  • Understanding the difference between power and Power

  • Growing our capacity for Love

Personal Practice

  • A personal practice that can help you navigate moments when the deep operating system is attempting to capture you in heated conflict

  • Use this practice at your own discretion. It will not be appropriate for everyone.


Below you’ll find a list of resources I’ve relied on as I developed this content:

Allen, T. (2012). The Invention of the White Race, Volume 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control. Verso.

Brown, A. M. (2017). Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. AK Press.

Eisler, R. (1988). The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. HarperOne.

Hübl, T. (2020). Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds. Sounds True.

Levy, P. (2023). Undreaming Wetiko: Breaking the Spell of the Nightmare Mind-Virus. Inner Traditions.

Mindell, A. (2014). Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity. Deep Democracy Exchange.

Nahko and Medicine for the People <- Virtually all of the music from this group

Nieto, L. (2010). Beyond Inclusion; Beyond Empowerment: A Developmental Strategy to Liberate Everyone. Cuetzpalin Publishing.

Rosenburg, M. (2015). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. PuddleDancer Press.

Ryan, C. (2019). Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress. Avid Reader Press.

Schulman, S. (2016). Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair. Arsenal Pulp Press.

Taylor, K.Y. (Ed.) (2017). How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books.

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