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Community Transformation and Collective Healing

The 2016 Presidential Election recently elevated concerns of xenophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, classism, and lack of education related to civic engagement. In the wake of this tumultuous and emotionally-charged campaign period, we as a nation have witnessed many individuals and groups responding via increased volunteerism and social action. Such response demonstrates a resistance to the -isms and phobias listed above; further, this resistance demonstrates values held by many in contemporary society. Whether social action manifest along the lines of Standing with Standing Rock, supporting women’s rights organizations, volunteering with refugee assistance programs, or other myriad form, these individual responses have collectively demonstrated a stance of solidarity with marginalized communities. Reflection on this zeitgeist inspires ISP International’s blog post this week.

How do we resist? How do we act as change agents in an effective and sustainable way? How do we hold awareness of our own world view in a manner that recognizes and galvanizes the strength and ways of knowing of the populations we are hoping to assist?

As cited in our article on community transformation and collective healing, Jones and colleagues state that transformative change in communities entails a “far-reaching social justice-oriented reconfiguration of traditional power hierarchies” and “will come from the historical margins, driven by traditional subjugated knowledges…” Central to our findings across efforts for community transformation in international contexts was the theme that community transformation and healing must necessarily consider macrosystemic interventions that shift the social landscape in which any community mental health would take place. This means that we acknowledge the relationship between oppression and social conditions. It is only in redressing the social conditions that gave birth to- and maintain marginalization that we truly engage in transformative healing.

As individuals, groups, and communities continue to process their feelings related to the election and discern how they may choose to respond in a manner in accordance with their values, we at ISP urge consideration of macro systemic themes that maintain our current socio-political landscape. To read more about pathways to community transformation and collective healing. See the peer-reviewed article by Deloach and Swaroop (2014) at http://www.gjcpp.org/pdfs/2014-SI05-20140528.pdf

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About ISP, Uncategorized

United or Divided: Making meaning of the election. Part II

“Peace, justice, love, and freedom are not private realities; they are not only internal attitudes.  They are social realities, implying a historical liberation”

(Gutierrez, 1988, p. 167)

Continuing our personal and professional reflections on the election.ISP INTERNATIONAL_Final_300

Dr. Uma P. Dorn ~ [Asian Indian American]

Exactly two weeks ago, as I watched the election results unfold, all I could do was turn it off and go to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night, anxiety ridden and fought to hide in the solace of sleep. I woke the next morning to my 9-year-old daughter’s messages:

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“No, no, no…” she says…as my sadness and hopelessness deepened, I spent my day grieving. Grief for women, people of color, the LGBT community, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and other minortized communities…grief for my biracial daughters and sons.

I tried to hide in the grief for the first few days and felt immoblized as the partners at ISP reflected on our stance and worked to understand how we wanted to find our voice amidst the grief. I realized soon, that we have to do something and that it required more engagement from us not less. We did not want to be silenced, but emboldened.

As I began to process and understand this new reality, I was reminded of my trauma work with clients, that we have to make meaning of the trauma, we have to understand the purpose before we can thrive. I am working hard to understand the meaning in this election…one thing that is clear is that I am not alone. There are others fighting for the human rights of others! We have to fight to have a girl president one day for my daughters (and sons)!

As I have reflected on all that has happened in the past couple of weeks, I have had to reconnect and make new meaning of who I am as an Asian Indian American, as an immigrant, as a woman, as a person of color, as mother of biracial (brown) children, a partner to a white man…sometimes from a place of fear and anger, sometimes from knowing that I am supported, and finally from a place of connection…knowing that this is what must bring my personal and professional work together.

This nation, even prior to the election results speaks to systemic issues and we need to come together in solidarity for systemic change. As time passes post-election, I know the meaning…the purpose…will become ever clear and we as America united for ALL of our people will thrive!

As Indira Gandhi (the first female prime minister of India) stated:

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~Uma

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Uncategorized

United or Divided: Making Meaning of the Election, Part I

“Peace, justice, love, and freedom are not private realities; they are not only internal attitudes.  They are social realities, implying a historical liberation” 

(Gutierrez, 1988, p. 167)

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INNOVATIVE. SYSTEMIC. PARTNERSHIPS

We are an international firm of psychologists and consultants who partner with human service organizations to bridge the health and wellness of individuals and systems. We balance system needs while valuing cultural uniqueness to make a tangible difference on client outcomes. 

Today and every day we all need to remind ourselves of who we are. Our organizational identity is rooted in cultural uniqueness.  ISP International is a unique company in that our organizational identity was formed out of privileging our personal cultural uniqueness. For us, we cannot separate the two. We are culturally unique in our DNA-professionally and biologically. We are women.  We are people of color.  We are so much more than labels placed upon us.  It is from this place that we can not remain silent as our country and the rest of the world grapple with healing from a divisive political season in the United States. Of course, historically politics can be divisive. However, in 2016 in America the divisiveness was fueled by oppression.  That is a sad reality.

The Partners at ISP are dedicated more than ever to use our platform, education, and privilege to promote healing, transcendence from hate, and peace. In the next few blogs you will hear from Drs. Marissa, Uma, and Sujata as we reflect on the value of unity and creating a world in which hate looses power.

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Dr. Marissa N. Coleman ~  Jamaican, Norwegian, and Danish

This week I am processing my role as a professional to hold space for those hurting from this election- on both sides of the aisle. I am also struggling to find time and energy to process how this election season as impacted me personally. I hope to share a little of both parts of my process in this journal entry.

Professional Process:

Last month I wrote briefly why I believe we need a psychology that breaks our hearts. Liberation psychologists, Drs. Mary Watkins and Helen Shulman, inspired the backdrop of my doctoral dissertation in 2009 and they continue to inspire my professional vision and identity.  Below is an excerpt from their powerful book Toward Psychologies of Liberation.

We need a psychology that breaks our hearts, because only that kind of psychology could awaken us to our entanglements in strategies of dissociation, to the despairs of trauma, to grief from mourning, and to potential joy in restoration and healing. Only such a psychology could move us from a fatalism that unconsciously yields to the status quo, to tentative hope for gradual transformation of ourselves and for the communities where we are standing and placing our advocacies (p. 31).  

This election season has, at times, enraged me, hurt me, and saddened me but it will not silence me. I believe in the narrative of our country- that out of historical trauma and terror, unity and healing is possible. My heart goes out to each one of us that felt scared on the morning of 11/9.  My heart also goes out to those of us that felt pleased with the election results.  There was fear on both sides of the aisle leading into Super Tuesday. Our country’s heart was already broken. My dedication to a psychology of liberation continues because I believe there is joy in restoration and healing.

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Personal Process:

My personal connection to this election is deeply rooted to my relationships.  I’ve been intentionally building a diverse and multicultural community for myself and my family most of my life.  Below you will get a glimpse of how the process of authentic community building has changed my life.  I encourage everyone to build authentic connections with people outside of your natural community.  If there is a community that scares you or intrigues you, step outside of your comfort zone and build a bridge.

*Names changed to enhance privacy*

Campus housing, the most important of college lotteries, placed together five women from drastically different walks of life.  An outspoken, “music head” from the west side of Chicago, a quiet mathematician with a verbose vocabulary, a naïve, Bharatnatyam dancer from the North Shore, an opinionated and devote Muslim, and me—a sheltered athlete from the Minnesotan suburbs.  The product was less than average quiz scores for some and a crash course in cultural dynamics for all.  As I turned the door knob of my sophomore year apartment the smell of Indian curry and the sound of old school R&B overwhelmed me; immediately making me anxious, as I passed the threshold of what would become the most life changing year of my young adult life. 

 I began my sophomore year at DePaul University hoping to simply “get by” with my new roommates but instead I gained companionship that shattered my personal biases.  Late night conversations revolved around anything from the similarities between Christianity and Islam to everyone’s favorite dance move.  I acquired a tuition free education of religion, race, family and culture.  We shared each other’s secrets, family recipes, cultural histories, religious questions and professional dreams. 

The spirit within our small home was one of curiosity, acceptance and growth.  For example, my personal faith was deepened as a result of critical conversations that I had with, Naureen, a Sunni Muslim who was a first generation college student in her family.  During Ramadan I joined Naureen for Iftar and it was while viewing her fervently pray did my spiritual identity revitalize.  Difficult discussions about my biracial heritage with, Anika, forced me to realize that she had no context in which to understand me.  There simply were not people in her community that looked and sounded like me.  Her challenging questions about my biracial identity “confusion” forced us both to expand our worldviews and recognize the roles our sheltered communities played in our cultural ignorance.  These experiences, among others, afforded me insight into other individuals’ assumptions about me and how they make meaning of my life experiences.  

 My perspectives of race, culture and community were transformed and strengthened.  I learned to become comfortable with discomfort.  It is the uncomfortable situations throughout my development, such as this one, that have been my most challenging yet rewarding experiences.  It is during the times that my identity was stretched did I truly appreciate and understand the significance of raw human connection. 

I now look beyond the unfamiliar and connect with the soul of individuals foreign to myself.  Whereas many people may feel most secure in familiar environments, I thrive off of the adventure of exploring new cultures and connecting with new friends.  The ease at which I can navigate unfamiliar clinical situations and connect with individuals different than myself is one of my greatest personal and professional assets.  I am confident in my belief that humanity is far more similar than we are different—in fact it is a fine line that separates us all. 

~Marissa

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Cultural Spotlight, Uncategorized

Cultural Spotlight: Pasaquan

ISP International is dedicated to global healing and many of our experiences take place outside of the United States.  However, we recognize that there is an abundance of cultural environments within the U.S. that are accessible and worthy of the spotlight.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a South Georgian cultural oasis with my family and it was magical for the adults and children. The grounds are very vibrant! More information about Pasaquan can be found on the Columbus State website.

Pasaquan is an internationally recognized visionary art environment located in Buena Vista, Georgia. Today, Pasaquan is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered among the most important visionary art environments in the United States.  CNN dubbed Pasaquan one of “16 Intriguing Things to See and Do in the U.S. in 2016.”

Eddie Owens Martin, a self-taught Southern artist, drew inspiration from many colorful cultures to develop the 7-acre, internationally recognized visionary art environment known as Pasaquan.

Martin also changed his name to St. EOM (pronounced Ohm) and became the first Pasaquoyan. He continued to work on the art environment for 30 years, creating six major structures, mandala murals and more than 900 feet of elaborately painted masonry walls.

Pasaquan lavishly fuses African, pre-Columbian Mexico and Native American cultural and religious symbols and designs, along with motifs inspired by Edward Churchward’s books about “The Lost Continent of MU.”

“I built this place to have something to identify with. Here I can be in my own world, with my temples and designs and the spirit of God. I can have my own spirits and my own thoughts.” ~St. EOM

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I highly recommend visiting Pasaquan if you have the opportunity!

Leave a comment and let us know your favorite cultural environments near your communities.

~Marissa

 

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Uncategorized

Decolonizing Partnerships

As an extension of last week’s entry on Borders and Boundaries, the focus of this post is to generate dialogue on ways systemic partnerships and international work may be decolonizing in nature– that is, that engagement in this type of work may honor differences among cultures, including drawing upon the strengths and resilience inherent in different ways of being and ways of knowing.

From 2010-2012, I was engaged in research and program development for building trauma intervention for displacement camps in Pakistan to provide for women and children displaced by war and/or flooding. Quickly, it became apparent that despite a national history significant for trauma, little empirical literature existed describing Pakistani-specific approaches to trauma healing. Consequently, it was unclear to Western mental health professionals what aspects of traditional healing practices this population finds most effective. Notably, current research and trauma recovery work with refugee and immigrant populations primarily utilizes Western paradigms. Given Pakistan’s history of colonization however, applying Western models of psychology to this national population without awareness or respect for traditional healing methods may be perceived as an extension of ethnocidal policies and practices experienced during the British Raj. Further, we noted that Western methods for trauma intervention may not be appropriate or culturally relevant for Pakistani populations; for example, Western conceptualizations tend to be individually and symptomatically focused. This perspective negates probable intergenerational transmission of resilience modeled by one displaced generation for the next.

Before we could begin program development, we therefore needed to develop an understanding of local experiences of displacement-related traumas and traditional Pakistani trauma healing. Therefore we engaged in an empirical study that sought to learn from internally displaced ethnic Pakistanis about their displacement-related experience(s) and discover what health and healing processes may look like for Pakistani populations.

In alignment with decolonizing research, our study utilized phenomenological theory and qualitative methodology to conduct extensive interviews aimed at increasing understanding on what healing and health ultimately means to ethnically Pakistani survivors of trauma as a result of living in an area affected by conflict or natural disaster, as well as how these survivors understand the process of getting better/healing to be. The theory of phenomenology places emphasis on the individual’s subjective experience, or how the world appears to each individual.

In order to better identify and understand environmental and systemic influences affecting IDP Pakistani women, participatory methods were also incorporated into the study’s research design, including consistent consultation with Pakistani mental health professionals and with staff at a Pakistani disaster management organization. We sought to access local wisdom and knowledge when contributing information on Pakistani health and healing to the field of psychology.

Participants in this study opened their lives to share their displacement-related experiences and perspectives on health and healing. Participants described experiences, expressions and understandings of distress and healing influenced by familial, community, cultural, and spiritual ways of being or knowing.  This knowledge led to the development of culturally-informed and locally sustainable trauma recovery programming for Pakistani disaster management organizations. Rather than exporting and applying Western frameworks to a non-Western population, we underscore how imperative it is that local narratives on resistance to traumatization and movements towards health and healing be explored and heard. We must ask more. We must hear more, and we must collaboratively and respectfully respond.

More on decolonizing methodologies and the process and results of this work can be found within the published manuscript Voices of Trauma and Resilience: Cultural and Gender Distinctive Responses to War and Displacement in Pakistan

 

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Uncategorized

Borders and Boundaries: My Path to this Work

As this is my first blog post as a Managing Partner for ISP (or ever), it feels appropriate to share of my self-identity and familial history, with a focus on how these narratives inform my approach to psychological and systemic frameworks.  In her book Borderlands: La Frontera, The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua refers to the US-Mexican border as una herida abierta- an open wound where two worlds merge to form a third state, a border culture.  This border culture is marked by vagueness; it is an undetermined place, instantiated by the emotional residue of arbitrary and unnatural boundaries.  This concept of borderlands and border culture resonates for me as I myself am a child of borders.

My maternal great grandparents were born in Mexico’s Puerto de Luna.  Due to la Sale de la Mesilla, or the Gadsden Purchase, my great grandparents became foreigners overnight.  As my mother tells the history, my family awoke one morning to be told, “This is your flag,” and “You will speak English.” My grandfather enrolled in the local school as Desidario “Yeyo” Chavez, but was informed by his teachers that his name would now be David.  This loss of name, language, and national identity marked the beginning of my family’s experience of historical loss—a loss of land, culture, way of being, and way of knowing.

lamesilla*

My father was born in present-day Pakistan, what was then British India.  When the colony attained independence, new national boundaries were delineated by colonial entities based on religious majority areas; this was the Butwara or Partition.  Thousands of families, including that of my father, were forced to migrate as their communities were no longer considered safe. While texts on the Butwara tell of mass displacement, murder, looting, arson, rape, and honor killings, the private stories told and retold among surviving South Asians illuminate the divisions and contradictions that continue to exist in everyday life.

partition_of_punjab_india_1947partition-cartoon-copy*

The roots of my identity are firmly anchored in my family’s legacies.  From their narratives of resilience, I extend my own branches.  As a multiracial female psychologist, I have wrestled with my own notion of identity, of being culturally other, and how this impacts my engagement with the world around me.  Such exploration led me to recognize and draw strength from my family’s ability to resist the identities placed on us from our historical and regional contexts.   Processes of introspection and questioning have empowered me to reconnect with the ways of being and ways of knowing from my family’s heritage, facilitating a continual integration of this cosmology with my own identity as a Westerner.  I have come to learn that those that live and breathe border culture must live sin fronteras, sarhado ke bina, without borders.  While this leaves me at a perpetual cross roads, it also necessitates that I look inside myself to find my psychological sense of home. This home is secured in family histories and continues to grow while merging with my own lived experiences, relationships, and aspirations. It is perhaps my greatest attribute, and one that translates into my clinical work as the base from which I can provide clients with warmth and gentle strength as they explore their own narratives and sense-of-self.  To understand more about how my familial history and personal identity have shaped my approach to systemic partnerships and international work, return to our blog next week.

*Photo Credits:
1. Mesillas Mexico. Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/search?q=sale+de+la+mesilla&espv=2&biw=1191&bih=530&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi_rcPJmfzPAhUI5oMKHSt2BfkQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=q90u-JICbOF6xM%3A
2. Religious Violence in India. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_violence_in_India
3. The Partition of India Cartoon. Retrieved from: https://sites.google.com/site/globalstudiesindiaunit/home/4-1-      independence-and-partition
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Guatemala, International psychology, Thought Leadership

Charla with parents in Guatemala

panajachelAs I approached my final week of Spanish lessons with Maria, throughout our month together we had been engaging in ongoing conversations about the systemic challenges some people of Guatemala face. We would talk about the positives including the deep sense of community and family, the rich religious traditions as well as the areas of struggles including being a sexual minority and what that means, child labor, and the lack of comprehensive mental health systems…I listened intently and felt more connected to this community as Maria shared parts of her country with me (of course all in Spanish so I could continue to learn). Very early into our lessons, I shared with her my desire to give back to the community and to use my skills as a psychologist, but wanting to do this in a way that didn’t impose a western perspective.iglesia

She suggested that as my final exam for Spanish that I offer a talk or “charla” on parenting for a small group. This was simultaneously exciting and immensely anxiety inducing. Besides the idea of presenting the western concept of discipline to a small community of parents from San Juan La Laguna who primarily spoke Tz’utujil, I was being asked to do this in Spanish. I spent the week writing and re-writing what I wanted to share and then having Maria edit it for accuracy. We planned to have my talk on the porch of Maria’s home. She shared that they posted flyers and she was unsure how many people would be there. Of the many presentations I have given, I remember feeling that my knowledge and training in parenting didn’t really help me. Instead in some ways it felt limiting and limited…

The porch began to fill up mostly of women and one man who were eager to hear me talk. I knew immediately then I wanted this community to understand who was the expert in the area of parenting as they patiently waited for me to speak…they were the experts. As they introduced themselves, how many children they had and their ages…it was clear that collectively they had more experience raising children than I have had in all my training and education. As far as my Spanish final exam not sure I passed, most of my talk was given in Spanish (that was written out) which Maria translated into Tz’utujil and somewhere in between my English would creep in, which she would help me translate back into Spanish and then back to Tz,utujil – Maria was truly amazing!image

As I shared the meaning of discipline from a western perspective (there was no word for discipline in Tz’utujil), they presented their ideas of what it meant to them. I got a sense of what “it takes a village” meant in this community. The parents shared how the expectation for correcting and changing behavior of children is a responsibility that is placed on everyone in the community especially teachers in the schools. These lessons were further reiterated in the homes and religious spaces.  Although nothing new, this blending of roles across contexts seems to provide consistency for the children. I ended my charla with having them participate in role plays practicing parenting with and without using positive discipline (in a way that felt meaningful for them)…nothing momentous, just real. This was my grassroots international psychology experience.

Thanks for reading,

~Uma

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