Through the pines and Douglas firs, from where I sit atop a sun-dappled log, a cinnamon colored black bear ambles in the clearing, taking his time, unaware of my eyes watching. On a Montana June day, I sit here, meditating with trees and bear, while three thoughts emerge regarding this study, now 23 years after completing my Masters Thesis.
The first thought, significant in this 2017 timeframe, is remembering that our differences--individual experience, history, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race--do not have to divide us. We can choose to be open, to understand, to learn from stories different than our own without feeling threatened. It is perhaps those of us who feel threatened and frightened by differences who could use a bit more internal reflection about where the fear comes from--both internally and externally. After all, this is one of the most significant human lessons in Selfhood, to face our fears and to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. In the end, I hope people will feel quite cautious about the motivations for categorizing a group of people as 'other.' The tendency can subtly distance us from our compassion. When someone is placed outside our sphere of relatedness, we can more easily forget that we all are human, complex beings, and deserving of honor and respect. The contents of this study suggest that communion and better understanding occur through openness, humility, and a willingness to listen. Therefore, therapeutic relational approaches described in the study are not only important tools in cross-cultural therapy sessions, but reflect our humanity and how we choose to 'show-up' in all areas of our lives, and collectively as communities, nations, and human beings.
The second thought that came to me, out here in the company of the trees and a cinnamon bear, was the description of balance, and the awareness of potential biases in research. The Literature Review section discusses the Hare-Mustin (1989) terminology of Alpha and Beta biases, where Alpha bias "exaggerates differences between groups," and he Beta bias "ignores differences between groups when they do exist." Pat Parker, renowned poet, speaks to the matter of prejudice and/or bias using a more human lens. She wrote in a poem, "For the White person who wants to be my friend. The First thing you do is to forget that I'm black. Second, you must never forget that I'm black" (Parker, P., 1989). These words capture the sensitivity and openness to a groups' or individual person's unique experience while relating to them as 'fellow human,' not 'other.'
Third, when we explore differences with curiosity and respect, we learn to expand our own worldviews and paradigms. This study and others like it can better prepare people of the dominant culture to help administer to or counsel others, but it can also encourage us to expand and understand ourselves in new ways. Carl G. Jung once said, "The meaning of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed" (Jacobi, J., 1973). Let us be open to our own expansion and transformation as we learn from people and cultures, and let us discard the narrow and the small within us.
Finally, I hope further respectful research will be conducted within Native American cultures and tribes and other minority groups and cultures. It would be interesting to further explore the concept of 'self-in relation' among Native American cultures, and also how it may connect to matrilineal cultures. Self-in-relation was seen in the study findings as the experience of one's honoring of and interrelatedness with extended family, tribe, the natural environment, and spiritual realms.
Meditating on this study's content again, after all these years, in the Montana mountain scape, in the company of trees and a bear, has enriched me again, and I am grateful to all the people in the study who opened up their hearts and minds to me, and shared their stories. I learned so much. Thank you, also, to my editor, Abiir Paraouty, and Lambert Academic Publishing for presenting the study's content to a broader population.
I hope you will enjoy and gain insights from the reading of this study, "Communication Styles and Therapy with Wind River Native American Clients."
by Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Bozeman, Montana, USA
June 26, 2017