Reflections on Racism, Trauma and Collective Responsibility for Healing: An invitation for conversation

Candles

(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

energypsych.org

Reference

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

Comments

  1. Peter Sternberg says:

    Bob, thank you for providing us with a “good start” to considering deeply vexing issues. You have identified a number of places for us to examine ourselves and a number of places for us consider shifting our behavior. As we all know from working with energy; it is now not quite the same as it was before… Peter

  2. Jim Klopman says:

    Does he have mycotoxin mold poisoning? Does he have brain trauma that effects his judgment? Or does he have a growth or cyst putting pressure on part of his brain causing the judgment part of his brain to not function properly?
    How is it that this profession and the country as a whole forgets about the University of Texas Tower shooter? Right away, we label this kid a racist or has PTSD. How about we examine his brain first and go with our society global issues as a next step. Educate yourselves and stop supposing until the organ, his brain is know to not be damaged.

    http://brainmind.com/Case5.html

    https://www.bulletproofexec.com/dr-daniel-amen-alzheimers-brain-food-spect-scans-227/

  3. Yea, Bob!!! Thank you for broaching the topic of EFT for racism! As a Korean American who has been trained for over fifteen years in Re-evaluation Counselling (a technique that focuses on feeling our feelings, similar to EFT, and how the suppression of feelings is the manner through which human beings are inculcated with oppressive views and behaviors in our families and in society) I am wholly on board with using EFT to address topics we are not able to talk due to the fact that we aren’t able to process our feelings in most situations. Racial discussions are hugely contentious and need safe facilitation. EFT in groups provides a uniquely effective tool to do that! I am looking forward to this discussion!

  4. Great article Bob! I’d love to know what kind of psych drugs the Charleston shooter was on. Below is a link to an article that lists the psych drugs that mass shooters have been on, including school shooters. It’s a LONG list. Other people who have committed suicide or homicide while on psych drugs come to mind… Robin Williams, former Army Sgt. Robert Boles, (killed 17 Afghan civilians) the American Sniper shooter, the Aurora Colorado movie shooter….I had a (thankfully) brief personal experience with suicidal ideation caused by Zoloft in about 1997, prior to my introduction to EP. I was upset about a pending divorce, a normal, low level non-psychiatric reaction, but instead of finding a counselor for support, I went to my MD and she put me on Zoloft. I don’t remember the dosage, but within about a week, I was having suicidal thoughts to the point that I rather mechanically and unemotionally called a girlfriend and informed her that she needed to come and take a handgun out of my house. On a hunch and without asking the doc, I stopped the drug and within a few days the ideation went away, never to return.

    So we in the alt/comp community have a duty to put the facts in front of our colleagues and clients about the dangers of psych drugs so they can make fully informed decisions instead of swallowing the propaganda by mainstream psychiatry, many therapists and everyone else influenced by the onslaught of Big Pharma advertising. I routinely inform all clients about books like Medication Madness by psychiatrist Peter Breggin, and forward links to articles like this one: http://www.ammoland.com/2013/04/every-mass-shooting-in-the-last-20-years-shares-psychotropic-drugs/#axzz3eMmeHl58.
    I don’t see any professional liability to making publicly available information available to vulnerable clients. Indeed, we have a duty to protect them from dangerous mind-altering drugs and drug pushing doctors.

  5. I wanted to reply to Sue and Jim. Thanks for taking the time to write. The point of this particular blog was not so much to focus on the specifics of the shooter who may or may not have some specific thing going on that influenced his judgement or impulse control. I was reflecting on the legacy of oppression and cultural violence both for the oppressed as well as the oppressors. I don’t think psychotropic drugs or mycotoxin mold poisoning can account for the endless violence of one group against another through the ages. And I agree that we should not simply single out and scapegoat the few individuals who do these kinds of things – that is far too easy. It helps us all relax if we simply say the shooter was “nuts” or “whatever”. It helps us not look at our part in it as a culture. And I am not saying we (The United States) are the only culture with such problems. Again, I really do not have an answer. The only thing I do know is that the answer is not in the direction of making “the other” the bad guy.

  6. First off I want to say wonderful blog!
    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if
    you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yoursslf and clear your thouhts before writing.

    I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in geting my
    thoughts out. I do tke pleasure in writing however iit just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes are wasted simply just trying to figure out
    how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thank you!

    • Hi Kathie,
      Many times I spend 10-15 minutes or even longer figuring out how to begin. That is simply part of the process and I have come to accept that. You need to stop considering that a waste of time. There are several other things I can tell you. 1) The great thing about a blog is that, I am not writing the the Iliad. It is what I am thinking at the moment. It does not have to be perfect. I write whatever I think I want to say and then I go back and edit. I often have one of the staff edit my edit.

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