April 2021 begins with markers of spring and climate-change induced weather calamities. It is a month filled with diverse reminders of death and new life, hope and horror, darkness and light.
North America is facing the reckoning of the murder trial in the killing of George Floyd, the impacts of mass murders in Atlanta and Boulder, and violence in quiet communities in Canada; humanitarian crises and atrocities unfold in Ethiopia, Myanmar faces death and destruction, and the list goes on and on.
Our world, like the EFT community is diverse, spanning many continents, with many racial, ethnic and cultural differences. Humanity has many different practices and rituals to mark the human search for meaning, safe connection and hope in a chaotic world. Passover has begun, Good Friday and Easter occur as April opens and later in the month Ramaden begins.
As a white-skinned, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class woman, I have many elements of “unearned privilege.” I live on land stolen from indigenous tribes in the white man’s attempt to obliterate indigenous peoples. I benefit in countless ways – many which I have yet to discover – from the labor of slaves: inventions, infastructure, arts, poetry, black teachings on love and equality and more. I am slowly beginning to learn of the horrific and degrading experiences of hatred and racism that many North American Asians face and have lived with for generations.
“Unearned privilege” is a powerfully sobering and potentially shameful phrase.
While I have spent most of my life rather oblivious to my privilege, I am becoming increasingly aware and increasingly compelled to action.
The automatic action impulse of shame is to hide – recognizing the experience of shame, as a sign of guilt or responsibility, can awaken us and move us out of obliviousness and complacency into discovering new engagement and culturally sensitive actions. Specifically, as an EFT therapist, supervisor and trainer I am also compelled to discover how the EFT model expands as we more specifically embrace racial, ethnic and cultural varied expressions and lived experiences of our universal need for safe and secure connection.
To acknowledge my unearned privilege is to recognize that I am implicitly safer out in the community and more likely to be accepted or trusted in the dominant cultures of whiteness and heteronormativity, than my Black, brown, Asian brothers and sisters and my LGBTQ, gender-nonconforming friends and colleagues. I am also implicitly safe and more likely to be accepted than my neuro-diverse brothers and sisters.
I shrink and swell with the paradox of shame and gratitude for the unearned privileges I experience. I feel pulled to move out and take responsibility where I can. I am compelled to find ways to respond actively to the yet-unclear recognition of the responsibility that I carry for the mistreatment, marginalization, oppression and deaths of my brothers and sisters.
I ask myself:
- How can I be more curious and respectful?
- How can I take initiative to get to know and learn from others who appear different from me?
- What unconscious biases may I be carrying?
- In what inadvertent ways I may be dismissing another?
- Do I fully listen and attune to stories of difference?
- Can I be humble enough to never assume I understand any race, ethnicity or culture as a monolith?
- Can I humbly recognize that inspite of our universal needs for connection, love and acceptance, I cannot understand another’s experience without total attunement and openness to hearing how I may be missing the mark?
Acknowledging my own lived experience of discrimination or marginalization strengthens my awareness that we are all part of the same soup of humanity, needing each other, dependent upon each other. My lived experiences of marginalization include my rural, farming community roots. Growing up on a Canadian dairy farm I felt “less than.” As a first-generation university educated person with a masters-level degree, I feel dwarfed in the academic world. As a woman and short in stature, I have felt literally and intellectually small in a male-dominated world. Additionally, I grew up with the stigma and outsider feeling of having a younger severely disabled brother. Our family didn’t fit into normative social circles and my parents felt misunderstood. My parenting a son on the Autistic Spectrum and a daughter who struggles with ADHD contributed to experiences of feeling marginalized, unsupported, and inadequate as a parent.
The antidote to the anxiety, exposure, and embarrassment I feel in sharing my lived experiences of privilege and marginalization is the warm, gracious, unexpected responses I have received. Unexpectedly, I have received the most wanted gift of all – acceptance and connection – from my Black and Asian brothers and sisters.
While leading a 2019 Carolina Center EFT Externship, I was told over lunch by several black colleagues that I was “invited to the cookout” – which I was told conveyed that they experience me and the training climate to be safe. Years later I am still moved to tears at the embrace of their acceptance of me and my attempts to create a welcoming and safe training climate for differences of race and cultures! The acceptance from my colleague and friend of my risk to ask her not to code switch with me opened another doorway into deeper connection.
Recently my Asian colleague’s beautiful response to me assured me it is worth taking risks to reach out with genuineness and care. His reply to my attempt at acknowledging my unearned privilege and shame in the face of his lived experiences of hatred and violence against Asian Americans, were these beautiful words:
“Thank you for creating corrective emotional experiences that slowly reshape the sense of others as safe and trustworthy.”
EFT therapists worldwide seek to make differences in the lives of hurting, struggling people. We strive to create emotional balance and to shape secure working models of self as loveable and worthy and of others as safe and responsive. We seek to be honest and humble in recognizing our own complicity in the oppression and deaths of our brothers and sisters worldwide and in our backyards.
We need each other to repair the damage of privilege and marginalization. We can and must learn from each other – with humility, respect, kindness and love. I’d love to hear your experiences of unearned privilege and marginalization – and about the paths you are traveling in response.
Join my mailing list and the carolinaeft.com mailing list for upcoming therapist training opportunities and check out the therapy training videos, also embracing racial and cultural differences at https://steppingintoeft.com/.