June and July 2022, some of the hottest summer months on record in North America, brought massive wild fires! Formerly celebratory holidays at the beginning of July in both Canada and the USA became days of mourning and cultural reckoning. Outside and inside, fire and dry tears burn with growing anguish and recognition of the residuals of colonialism and slavery and how I as a white person am part of this oppressive system!
Given that I am white, hetero, cis female and that EFT was traditionally developed by white clinicians with white clients in a dominantly heterosexual context, I realize that my best efforts at times are hurtful. The past few months have held some trial-by-fire moments for me as I have stumbled forward in my efforts as a therapy educator to more explicitly integrate diversity of race and culture in my training events.
As I seek to increasingly “take the race risk“ (Hardy), my ongoing task is to continue opening my heart and mind with curiosity to vociferous, courageous, raw voices! I need to hear voices expressing ways they feel dismissed and wounded by my words. I know they owe me no politeness or care. I want to soothe my own aching body or cry out somehow, but I hope that listening to the consequences of my words or actions without defense or explanation is my best offering. I want to offer regret and apology but I hear, “It is not personal” and I sense that my attempts at apology are too little and that the best I can offer is my listening heart and my recognition of having injured. I listen with respect and grief to another’s rage and heartbreak. I listen to learn…to understand better…to change.
August is a month I have set aside for a little family time – a camping weekend in the bush by the waterfalls, and early morning family walks on the forest trail — but each day will be devoted to beginning the revision of Stepping into Emotionally Focused Therapy (2018) and its accompanying workbook. One significant revision I have committed to the publisher and to my reviewers is to wrestle with the question of how the EFT model can expand to explicitly include race and diversity. EFT as an integrative model must undeniably include the sociocultural context more overtly than in the first edition of my book.
There are cultural manifestations of attachment theory that go beyond the western-informed perspective. In the attachment literature, “the avenues of potential cultural enrichment have been trodden too narrowly,” writes Mesman (2021). Attending to various cultural differences (regarding race, culture, gender, sexual and affectional orientations) broadens the paths. When I consider communal child rearing practices, multiple caregiving systems, and personal networks of attachments, I can see I have been treading the avenues for cultural enrichment too narrowly. How do I foster what the Maori in New Zealand call whakapapa (that is, all things are connected to each other in a web of relationships)?
James Baldwin writes in Notes of a Native Son, “It is really impossible to be affirmative about something which one refuses to question.” Can EFT and attachment security be made relevant for people of color living in a social context of threat simply because of the color of their skin? Can EFT fit for clients experiencing the traumas of sociocultural oppression?
Noah Romero on what he calls “Postcolonial Healing through Unschooling” accentuates priorities in the indigenous Philippine tradition – peacemaking, reciprocity, consensus-building, cohesion, and kapwa – the notion that one’s identity is shared with all other beings or self-in-the-other. I can no longer comfortably settle in with what I have known. I need to be open to revising how I move through the world, how I teach, how I do therapy, and how I write.
Two messages challenge me and give me courage and determination to expand the cultural avenues of EFT:
- Dr. Ken Hardy emphasizes using white privilege responsibly to shape a practice informed by racial sensitivity and multicultural concerns. For me this means digging deeply into the roots of collaborative, humble, non-expert, empathic listening. As a writer and as an educator I want to be in conversation with many EFT therapists across cultures. I want to listen and learn from you – all whose voices have been silenced!
- Osheta Moore in Dear white peacemakers (2021): “Be willing to let people of color lead and teach you from our experiences” (p. 182). “What if you accepted that you’ll make mistakes, and that’s okay? Yes, the stakes are high. Yes, you need to fight for change….You were never meant to be perfect. Just present.” (p. 191).
When I misstep I want to repair. I must begin by listening, and then listening some more, and then begin to shift how I move.