(by Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP)
Since it is still PTSD month, I wanted to write about one aspect of trauma that is not discussed sufficiently – namely racism (and the various other isms where one group is persecuted). The news about the racist motivated shooting in Charleston has certainly brought this forward in my mind. Before proceeding, I need to say that this is not an official ACEP position. These are my thoughts, and frankly they are going to be messy. But given the topic, that seems reasonable to me. Let me say up front that I really don’t have any answers. But at least I want to bear witness to the issues and create some space for discussion. Let me throw a few things into the pot for consideration.
Part of the context for this blog comes from Peter Sternberg’s ACEP blog post in April titled, “Tai Chi at Auschwitz – My Journey to Liberation” as well as some things he has told me that did not make it into that post. If you haven’t yet read it, please do so.
More context: at our annual energy psychology conference I was on a “big question” panel where Dan Benor brought up the idea that humanity is carrying a collective trauma that may kill us all. One of the points of the big question panel was to ask what is the role of energy psychology (if any) in the bigger societal issues that plague us. For example, Michael Reddy has been presenting information on family constellations and how trauma of the past can be invisibly carried forward.
I think it is safe to say that most of us have the notion that slavery and racism are not good things; nor is murder or terrorism. Nevertheless, most of us in the United States have benefited indirectly from these things. From a historical perspective, the economic strength of the United States has been partially derived from slavery and the genocide and horrific things done to Native Americans, who are still paying a huge price for past policies. We pay a price for those things as well, although this price may be more hidden. There are continuing atrocities of violence for many reasons, at all sorts of levels. I have written elsewhere (Schwarz, 1998) that the world can be thought of as having a giant case of dissociative identity disorder, each part not cooperating with the other; each part not realizing that he or she is part of a system. True health and happiness can occur only when the entire system is in balance and either integrated or at least in cooperation. We are collectively responsible for allowing acts of violence and hatred to continue to happen far too frequently with far too little collective response to stop them once and for all.
What are we to do about it? How big or small should our actions be? How are we to know the effects of any of our actions or inactions?
I am sure that the shooter in Charleston did not intend to be a pawn in a step toward reducing racism. It would appear that to some extent he did exactly that. After 50 years, there is now a robust possibility that the stars and bars will be removed from in front of Charleston’s capitol building. Amazon has decided to stop selling the stars and bars and others have followed suit. WOW!
Perhaps this suggests a potential course of action. Perhaps we need to evaluate the extent to which we contribute to the problem and determine if there are actions we can take with integrity, moving toward being part of the solution. Perhaps we can solve these problems by contributing to a “field” that denies energetic nutrients to racism and hatred and instead provides nutrients to equality, love and compassion. The mayor of Charleston, and others in that city, serve as a great example of some positive actions that may be taken.
Where does this leave ACEP or energy psychology? For starters, I am very aware of the challenges we have in terms of diversity. Our membership is not as diverse as we would like. While we do not think we are doing anything specifically to create barriers, we may not be doing enough to create invitations. Consider this an invitation to join this conversation and make your voice heard.
I would like to see more specific energy psychology ideas/protocols regarding the treatment of “PTSD”-like energy that comes from a legacy of racism, anti Semitism, or any other ism of this kind; or the tendency to see people of difference as “Other”.
As I said in the beginning, I really do not have any answers to these issues other than making space for the conversation, and this blog is meant to do that. Please comment, I would love to hear from you.
Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
Author, Tools for Transforming Trauma
ACEP Executive Director
Schwarz, R. 1998, From “Either-or” to “Both-And”: Collaborative Approaches to Treating Dissociative Disorders In Ed. M Hoyt, The Handbook of Constructive Therapies: Innovative Approaches from Leading Practitioners, Jossey Bass