By: Mike McGee, Family Program Manager
The term “decolonization” is controversial. It forces us to critically examine the western approaches to nearly all intellectual pursuits from politics to science to religion and social interactions. The opinion is held by many that decolonization requires radical action while others propose further education to create a fully imagined multicultural society. It can also imply that the status quo is flawed. Yet there are aspects of decolonization that can enrich each and everyone of our lives. These indigenous methodologies make up the worldview of intact or native cultures and can allow individuals to find deeper connection and meaning in this world. At Pacific Quest, we strive to utilize these concepts without appropriating native cultures and encourage our clients and families to find their own unique expression.
When I began to study indigenous methodologies and approaches, I found more commonalities than I expected. I began to find the connections in science (Quantum Mechanics), sociology (Sociocultural perspective), gardening (Biointensive methods of farming), education (narrative education), and numerous therapeutic approaches (Neurosequential Model, Narrative Therapy, and Family System Models). We may fail to see these approaches as uniquely indigenous methodologies.
Here are 5 simple ways (that we use at Pacific Quest) to begin the process of what I’m calling micro-decolonization:
- Life is Cyclical
The environmental approach seen in social and family systems work, sociology, and therapy highlight something that intact cultures have always known: that life is cyclical rather than linear. When we narrowly focus on end goals, we often fail to see the beauty in detours. We fail to see the richness of each experience. We fail to see that the seed is just as important as the sprout, the fruit, or the compost. Whatever goodness has happened in the past will return, as will periods of struggle.
- Value all perspectives in life development
Our society sees adolescence as a time of recklessness, upheaval, and boundary pushing. This view is echoed in our advertising, entertainment, and beauty standards. We look at adults as providers and martyrs. We see children as naive and ignorant. We tend to see the elderly as disabled or old-fashioned. Yet each perspective brings a unique lens and strength to our society. The joy of childhood, the passion of adolescence, the steadiness of adulthood, and the wisdom of elder-hood all are valued in communities that thrive.
- Accept differing perspectives as truth
We live in a world where we often are only able to accept one truth. This is taught to us from an early age. This color is orange and this one is blue. But those colors are also various shades of gray to someone with color blindness. They may be considered apricot or teal to someone else. The truth is contextual to each individual. It is their truth and how the world appears to them. Adopting the viewpoint that more than one ‘truth’ may coexist in a situation allows for freedom of expression and can lead to mutual understanding.
- Give gifts that mean something
It feels good to give. And it also feels good to receive. It’s validating to friends and family when the gift exchange represents more than just the dollars spent, and is infused with creativity or thoughtfulness by the giver, fostering more meaning for the receiver. Ask just about any parent what their most precious possession is and there is a good chance that it is something that their child made or gave them. As we age, our creative expressions can be tainted by criticisms or comparisons, lessening our desire to exercise our creative side. When gift exchange with meaning occurs, the cultural value of gift giving and the ceremony of that act deepens the connections to those around us.
- Have a connection to the source of your food
One of the main things that separates intact societies from colonized and western cultures is a deep connection to their food source. We have lost much of the knowledge of where our food comes from and how to cultivate it. To deepen personal connection to food, get to know the farmers in your area, shop at the farmer’s market, and grow your own herbs, edible plants and vegetables. There is no better way to find meaning and connection to nature than working in tandem with nature to provide yourself and your loved one’s nutrition.