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I approach therapy with a simple question: 

"What do you want out of life, and what is holding you back from that?" 

This question, and your answers, is where we begin the journey. I look forward to hearing from you.

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I Belong to Myself

I used to side-step precious parts of myself in order to be accepted by family, God, and my church community. My adult life has been a journey back to myself.

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This blog is written as a living resource to help you on your journey.

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At the root of American values is white supremacy. That needs to change.

What is white supremacy? 

White supremacy encompasses the values of white culture that elevate the white ideal or norm.

These values are what one is supposed to aspire to and live up to. If you do, you get lauded, included, and praised. You are considered successful and are admired. If you meet these values, you are more likely to be rewarded materially and socially. This is what people refer to as "white privilege." *

If you don't meet these standards, you are belittled or marginalized. Think about all the harmful ways "non-white" things are classified: non-white neighborhoods are "sketchy." Non-white people are assumed to be less educated or more scary. If you don't meet the "white ideal," your needs are not considered as important, or sometimes even valid. You are not seen accurately for who you are, but are seen through the lens of your "othered" identity. You are constantly asked questions about this "othered" identity, which deepens your experience of being othered, less than, and like something to be observed in the zoo rather than someone treated with dignity and respect. It has real impact materially and socially. It also leads to daily increased stress. It is a lot harder to get the medical care you need, move up the ladder in jobs (or get them in the first place), have your abilities/talents noticed and encouraged, buy a house where you want, be socially accepted, safely interact with law enforcement, etc.

Both those who are able to meet these "white ideal" standards, and those who aren't, are implicitly taught to measure their self-worth by their ability to meet these standards. Who needs that? Our self-worth is derived from being a human being, and in that worthy of respect and dignity. This is a lot of the work I do in therapy - helping people realize that these arbitrary standards are just that, arbitrary. They are not there to benefit you. They are there to measure you and judge you. To keep you in line. AND they say absolutely NOTHING about your worth as a person. You are already good. You are already worthy. You don't have to prove it. You just have to recognize it and live out of it. AND work to change the system that bases everything on the "white ideal."

Here is a list of white supremacy values.

It's shockingly long, even though it's not comprehensive. I've tried to divide them into sections, even though some overlap.

Values around work:
  • perfectionism
  • individualism
  • you’re not trying hard enough
  • it’s all your job to figure it out and succeed, you will be blamed if you don’t
  • productivity
  • sense of urgency
  • Protestant work ethic
  • Rest is suspect - you don't want to be called lazy
  • pull yourself up by the boot straps
  • live to work, produce, make money, and buy more things

Values about feelings & image:
  • toughness
  • stoicism
  • toxic masculinity
  • toxic positivity
  • Southern politeness (which can be laced with contempt)
  • avoid conflict, be polite
  • don’t talk about money, politics, sex, or race
  • constant comparison (you constantly feel better than or less than)

Values about ways of knowing:
  • rationalism - rational thought and logic are the only ways to know things
  • judgment/evaluation of everything in relation to an idealized norm (of the white, rich, thin, male)
  • focus on productivity, development, and progress
  • solution oriented
  • linear thinking
  • enlightenment thinking

Values about money:
  • materialism
  • more is better
  • middle-class is the ideal (not too wealthy or too poor)
  • colonization and slavery were condoned for the sake of making money
  • extraction of resources from other countries
  • unfair use of resources
  • business is valued and has more power than people and the earth

Values around sexuality/embodiment/identity:
  • thinness is next to godliness
  • being thin, fit, and sexually attractive to men is the ideal
  • heterosexuality and cis-gendered is the norm
  • homophobia, transphobia
  • able-bodied is the norm
  • maleness is best
  • female fragility is preferred (need men to rescue them)
  • females as object of beauty and temptress but not primary actor
  • women need to be self-sacrificing

Values around authority/power:
  • conquest
  • entitlement
  • domination
  • white men know best, are seen as the authority
  • respect for authority (white male authority)
  • people (e.g. white men) have the right to use the earth (and others) for personal gain

Values around morals/religion:
  • meeting these criteria is a moral issue
  • Protestant Christian is ideal
  • Christian nationalism
  • Judeo-Christian values
  • Eurocentric values

Next Steps:

How are you feeling? This is a lot. I would love to help you unpack this. Send me an email or schedule a session with me:

Resources: I have a group program specifically for doing anti-oppression work around religion. I have a lot more resources to explore if you're ready to dig deeper: for personal healing, start with Burnout. For understanding systemic racism, start with the movie 13th and the book White Fragility.

These standards are societal burdens that we don't have to accept or keep in our lives. Which ones do you want to let go of? Which ones are you ready to fight against? Which ones hit you really hard?  Which ones did I leave out that have been a huge part of your life? 

Email me and let me know:

*Note: Some people don't like the term white privilege because privilege is equated with upper middle class material success. White privilege means that you are treated like a full human being with dignity and respect. And that shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a given for everyone.

American (White Supremacy) Values

White supremacy encompasses the values of white culture that elevate the white ideal or norm.

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We need a new dream.

Our democracy is crumbling

It feels like our democracy is crumbling around us. What we see instead is militant white supremacy and attempts at dictatorial rule. This may seem shocking and surprising to white Americans who grew up hearing about the American Dream of democracy and freedom. And grew up learning about the heroes of this American Dream who made it happen. But what we didn't learn in our white-washed version of America was that it was always built on white supremacy values. It was built on conquest, a Doctrine of Discovery, and blatant genocide and assimilation. It was never an American Dream for all, never a true democracy except for white men. Should it surprise us that white men are trying to reclaim that?

This is a pivotal moment in our country's history. The crumbling of democratic values can be our country's undoing - or it can be an opportunity to let white supremacy laced "democracy" crumble, and in its place create a new democracy, that is actually for all people.

A New American Dream

The current American Dream is a mirage of white supremacy values. We need a new dream, a new vision for our country. One inspired by and informed by people of color. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke specifically to this in his "I Have a Dream" speech so many years ago. First Nations peoples have richer, kinder, more generous ways of being that also need to be a part of our new dream. And all the voices that have been marginalized, left out, and pushed to the curb need to be the ones to lead it. It is their chance to have a dream, and to create a world that is not based on the values of conquering white men.

What is white supremacy?

White supremacy is all the limiting, toxic, marginalizing values we are all swimming in. Perfectionism, toxic masculinity, sense of urgency, bigger is better, fear of open conflict, etc. The only way to do life successfully is to live up to these standards. Even those who have the right skin color and economic status to do so can feel buried under the weight of these standards. They lead to isolation and burnout. Fear of not being enough. The need to maintain a certain image and reputation.

Even people who have succeeded by white supremacy values/standards are feeling the weight of the burden of upholding their position. The perfectionism, toxic masculinity, sense of urgency leads to burnout, numbness, and anxiety.  It is not good for the disenfranchised and it is not good for those who have it all. If white people need a reason to abandon white supremacy culture, this is it. It is not good for you either.

If it feels this bad to all the white people reading this, imagine how it feels to those marginalized and vilified by those standards: exhaustion, never being seen for who they are past their token representations, being constantly othered, being expected to live up to standards that the system won’t let them have, not being given adequate medical treatment, being excluded and then blamed for it, have a greater likelihood of poverty and marginalization, valid fears of being targeted and unfairly treated by law enforcement, and the list goes on.

This is not good for anyone!  Mainstream white people, it’s time to abandon these toxic, rigid values.  It’s also time to de-center white voices and values and re-center marginalized voices and values. I’ve been learning about Blackfoot Siksika values and it boggles my mind that these were called savage and uncivilized, when they appear to me to be our only hope for a sustainable future. Watch a short synopsis about it here: Rethinking Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or read in-depth about it here: Could the Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow Guide Us Now? | Medium.

We need a values shift, a worldview shift, and a perspective shift, from top-down structures built on domination, individualism, exclusivism, and extraction to ones that are built on collectivism, generosity, and inclusivism.   It is time for truth-telling, reconciliation, honoring the voices that have been silenced, and new leadership.  Not token leaders of color, but system-wide reform led by people of color.  The voices that we have killed and silenced, demonized and criminalized are our hope in finding a new way.  We need to step aside and let them lead us.  We need to listen, listen, and listen some more.  They know the way.

p.s. to read more about White Supremacy, start here:

To read more about changing the American Dream, read How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong

I have many more resources on my resources page for a deeper dive.

The American Dream is a Mirage

The American Dream is a mirage of white supremacy values. We need a new dream, a new vision for our country. One inspired by and informed by voices of color.

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What happens when there's a war inside?




We are inundated with mixed messages, and even the good ones can be in conflict. How are we to make sense of these polarized messages?

A framework for understanding

According to the IFS (Internal Family Systems) framework, we all have different parts of us inside, holding different perspectives, roles, and agendas. They all want something good for us, but they often have competing ways of trying to achieve that.

*Managers try to stabilize and improve our lives. They are also focused on preventing pain. They are proactive, always planning for the future.

*Distractors and Defenders (known in IFS as Firefighters) are the parts focused on pleasure, calming, and soothing, as well as standing up for you and your needs. At their best, they help us rest and find pleasure in our lives. They also help us realize our needs and stand up for ourselves. They help us be assertive. At most extreme, they are reactive. They will escape pain any way they can, or they will become rageful. They want to make you feel better in the moment at all costs.

*Tender Parts: Managers and Distractors/Defenders both want to protect the more vulnerable parts of us, which I call Tender Parts, and IFS refers to as exiles. These parts at their most free are full of wonder, awe, and playfulness. When burdened or hurt, they can be full of pain and shame. We hide them away (exile them) with the goal of not feeling the pain anymore. However, the pain doesn't go away until we heal our burdened, exhausted, pain-weary parts.

The conflict

When a manager becomes more extreme to prevent pain, a distractor/defender becomes more extreme to balance things out. This results in an internal tug of war, conflict, confusion, or all-out battle. These parts mobilize and polarize. They try to pull you one way and then the other. You don't know which one to pick and are frozen - or you bounce back and forth between the two and feel stuck in an awful pattern. And who gets hurt? Not the fighting parts, but the tender, vulnerable parts of us. Ironically, the parts the fighting parts are trying to protect from pain are the ones who get all the pain dumped on them. I mapped this out for you below.

The solution

There are many ways that we support, heal, and unburden parts. One solution for polarized, fighting parts is to sit down at the (metaphorical) table together. The Core Self, the highest, wisest part of us is the new leader. This is how we were made to be - in relationship with our Core Self, which can heal, unite, and mediate with all the parts of us without judgment. Glennon Doyle calls this part of us our Inner Knowing. It contains the qualities of Curiosity, Compassion, Calm, Creativity, Courage, Connection, Confidence, Clarity, and Choice.

Once parts trust the Core Self, managers and distractors can become advisors and valuable members of the team, rather than vying to take over. They can all work together to come up with a decision or solution.

1. Recognize the conflict. When things feel black and white, you are stuck in an internal fight.

2. Find some space for curiosity, calm and compassion about the different desires and needs inside of you.

3. Hear out all the needs and desires. Trust that they all want something good for you.

4. Find a creative solution together.

This can be hard to do on your own at first, especially with really volatile parts. If you want some support, talk to a trusted friend or a therapist. Be kind to yourself. Use this meditation as a grounding point: Both by Dora Kamau.

Making Sense out of Polarization

We are inundated with mixed messages, and even the good ones can be in conflict. How are we to make sense of these polarized messages?

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We all need rest.

We are all exhausted and depleted after a hard year.  As this year comes to a close, I started reflecting on what has depleted me and what can fill me up.  I realized that last year about this time I was also reflecting about sources of exhaustion and what to do about it.  This year I have another layer to add.  I came across a list of “specific rest needs” identified by Sandra Dalton-Smith, MD, an internal medicine doctor and author of Sacred Rest.  I have adapted that list to share with you.

Types of Rest

  • Creative – space for creativity, feeling inspired and motivated
  • Mental – quieting your mind, clarifying what is really important
  • Physical – physical rest is what helps your body feel rested, strong, and healthy. This can include both physical rest as well as exercise/movement that energizes you.
  • Social – time or connection with people who enhance your life
  • Emotional – being able to express who you are and what you are feeling
  • Sensory – rest from background noise, clutter, negative self-talk, and technology
  • Spiritual – feeling like you are a part of something larger than yourself, belonging, being centered and in touch with yourself

What came up for you when you read this list?  Sadness at how many types of rest have been missing this year?  Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that so many types of rest may be difficult to get as much of as you need, or in the same way you usually get them?  Relief to be able to identify where you are depleted, so you can find a way to get the specific types of rest you need?

Go through each type of rest and reflect on it.  How do you normally get this type of rest?  What are ways you’ve been able to get some of this rest in surprising ways this year?  I like to call these the silver linings of a very hard year.  Which of these types of rest are most crucial for you to having a sense of well-being?

For me, I have a 6-week old and an almost-3-year-old, so my current exhaustion is largely physical from round-the-clock infant care on top of running around after a toddler.  However, I feel more rested and renewed than I have all year because I have more space during maternity leave for mental rest (at least when daycare is available).  I also miss many of the in-person connections I had pre-COVID, but I also have the silver lining of being able to attend my sister’s yoga classes across the country because they are on-line.

My husband laughs at me because it’s hard to get me to “rest,” which means it’s hard to get me to nap.  But that is because other forms of rest are a bigger priority for me – taking a walk every day and having mental space come first, then if there is time for a nap, I’ll take care of that rest need.  How can you prioritize your rest needs, so you can refuel in the ways you most need?

We’ve been through a hard year.  Give yourself a hug and a pat on the back that you’ve made it through.  In what areas are you in desperate need of increasing rest?  Are there any ways you can rest that are more available to you now than they were before?  Can you give yourself space to grieve the ways you are not able to meet your rest needs at this time?

If you’d like a space to process this and get support, please contact me.  I’ll be back from maternity leave on January 4 and available for sessions at that time.

How to get the rest you desperately need

We are all exhausted and depleted. We’ve been through a hard year. Give yourself a hug and a pat on the back that you’ve made it through.

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Calm and comfort.

We’re living in turbulent times. How can we experience some calm and comfort in the midst of the uncertainty and chaos?

I recently read this story about rescuing sheep that I found illustrative:

Sometimes a sheep accidentally takes a plunge into the water. Its wool soaks up the water and gets so heavy it’s almost impossible for a person to drag the sheep out. A farmer shared how he responds: “People always want to rush things. They want to solve all problems, and they need to solve them NOW. What I do is the opposite. I do practically nothing. I get into the water and let the animal lean on me. I can sense when it gets calmer. When that happens, the sheep takes a leap and scrambles ashore all by itself. I only give it the tiniest push.”

Let’s apply this story to ourselves

This year has been hard.  We probably all feel like that sheep, weighed down by the weight of our personal struggles, the chaos of our nation, and the world pandemic.  There is much to feel and so much to do.  Maybe the best action to take is to hold and calm yourself and those around you. Out of that, you will have the strength and clarity to take the action that is needed.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be your best ally.  Take care of yourself.

I am about to go on maternity leave so it will be a few months before I write again.  As I leave, I want you to remember to check in with yourself:

1. What am I feeling?
2. What do I need?
3. Then, what is mine to do?

Shepherd story: Debbie Mirza: The Safest Place Possible
Phedra Smith: first two questions – What am I feeling and what do I need?
Suzanne Stabile: What is mine to do?

Calm and Comfort in Turbulent Times

This year has been hard. We have all been weighed down by the weight of our personal struggles, the chaos of our nation, and the world pandemic.

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