Some Thoughts on Decolonization:
I recognize the implicit biases that I have grown up in. I was born to a middle class family in the 80s in Arizona. I was raised in Chicago suburbs and attended private schools at a lower-SES than my peers. I was raised on happy meals and Catholic Church. In the 90s we ate ground beef with taco seasoning and Kraft cheese. I wouldn’t say my parents were well-traveled. I have realized that although my child self felt poor and not enough, I recognize now that she was also experiencing the shadow of her culture at that time. My family line was laden with eating disorders, addiction, divorce, personality disorders, abuse, trauma and grief, and a strong tendency to communicate passive aggressively, play victim, and not take accountability for their actions. I have since learned that contextually my family lacked resources and also carried stigmatized beliefs around mental health. The gold I found from all of this includes my own journey in becoming a depth psychotherapist. I started studying psychology to understand my family dynamics and the culture I was participating in. This awareness was foundational to my own healing. Healing is an ongoing process that involves traversing the depths to recover wounded parts, help them grieve, and then come to find a new home in the present where they can be safe to express themselves. Part of my own healing has involved forming new relationships with many people outside my family system for support, and realizing how important it is to open myself up to differences and the other. A big part of my approach is understanding messages we received about ourselves from our family and from our culture. These messages constellate into the consciousness we perceive reality through. I realize that aspects of my identity have allowed me many privileges in my life. I strive to grow by owning my personal and collective shadow as a white, middle-class, cisgender woman who was raised Christian in the midwest suburbs of Chicago. I have been in a self-examination process for the past several years regarding appropriation, white fragility, and guilt and shame from the trauma my ancestors induced as slave owners on indigenous land.
Unfortunately in my life I have witnessed much racism, fatism, ablism, xenophobia, transphobia, religious oppression, and the complications that occur from the complex trauma induced by these systems. Mental health has always carried a social justice component for me, and I think it’s very important to identify systemic oppression, systems of power, and how we can uplift underprivileged populations. In my past I have worked with homeless teenage mothers, adults with schizophrenia experiencing homelessness, and Latino adolescents vulnerable to gang participation. I also have done a lot of work with eating disorders and have found that the more common depiction is a normal or larger-bodied person, rather than the glamorized waif-like appearance. Often times larger-bodied individuals with restrictive or anorexia behaviors are validated for their weight loss, thereby validating their eating disorder. My approach centers greatly around Anti-diet and health at every size philosophies which turn self-directed anger back towards diet-culture, and the drive for weight loss is turned into a drive for self-compassion. I also support the decolonization of therapy, which aims to decenter white approaches to healing, and invites clients to integrate the wisdom of their unique identity and culture, while also identifying and taking ownership where appropriation, white fragility, and participation in systems of oppression might be occurring. This is really hard work to do and I am honored to be the witness for anyone, BIPOC included, in their radical acceptance of self.
Luckily in 2023, we live in a time where mental health is now mainstream and there are so many ways to work on healing emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The issues I identified in my family line are struggles we are all facing. The times were have been living in, particularly post-COVID, have been very difficult on us all for our mental health, our social lives, and our sense of community. The eclectic approach I use for therapy is due to all of my clients having unique needs. Some ask for mostly inner parts work. Others want to be heard and process trauma. We might use art. We might not. I will always encourage coping tools and self care, determined by you identifying your own needs. I like to help guide you to really identify what is true for you and hold space for that challenging and uncomfortable process of growth to occur. Sometimes we might try several ways of working on your concerns until our way of being really clicks. Sometimes a higher level of care might be needed if substance use, mood, or eating disorder symptoms are not manageable at an outpatient level.
I use astrology to add elements of time and collective patterns to help increase self-compassion, meaning, a sense of purpose (determined by you), and connection to wisdom through seeing a bigger picture. When I work archetypally with clients, we look at our personal shadow as well as the collective shadow. It is important to connect to latent images repressed in the collective shadow, for they may carry immense meaning and power. The western colonizer consciousness carries a shadow of displacement, loneliness, and lack of belonging. I like to explore the impact of the western shadow and how we can alchemize it to supports your personal individuation, which informs the healing of the collective. With my approach as a Jungian psychotherapist, I also recognize the white patriarchal and supremicist background of depth psychology and academia. At times if we work archetypally, we might explore your associations to certain planetary archetypes and the god or goddess images that are part of your culture that relate to that style of consciousness. It might mean challenging spiritual appropriation if it participates in religious oppression. The decolonized approach might also mean looking at the shadow of what culture you come from to see what has been oppressed: such as paganism or images of the Devil in Christian traditions, or a pantheon of deities from your lineage. The integration of split off energies that archetypally underlie mental health conditions can become an immense source of personal meaning, identity, direction, and empowerment. The imagination and ritual are tools I encourage you to use through creative modalities, art therapy, journaling and your self-care.
And with all that being said I will say I also have personal practice of and interest in magic, alchemy, theurgy, Hermeticism, and Christian and Judaic mysticism. I love yoga, snorkeling, walking my mini weenie-doodle Merlin, and traveling with my fiancé Mark. I keep record of my dreams, work with the planetary energies, perform daily spiritual rituals as self-care, and make time for inner reflection without screens in the morning and at night. I love living on the Big Island of Hawaii and I have been thoroughly examining my presence as a white woman with colonizer lineage on indigenous land. I am actively engaged in a lifestyle of reconciling with the ways I still support systems of oppression and working on finding ways to connect to the community to uplift people of color and underprivileged populations.