In Canada, as in any country, we live in a layered and complex society, in which groups and classes who hold power also tend to hold the “mainstream” or dominant values. These values become the lens through which our collective experiences tend to be interpreted. This means everyone I work with is touched in some way by traditional or mainstream norms.
Whoever sits with me in counselling, please know that I see you both as an individual as well as in your context, your history, the values and traditions that have shaped your life and the cultural, economic, class, racial, ethnic, hetero-normative, gender-normative forces that have shaped you. No person’s life is lived in isolation or separate from the societal and historical forces that surround our lives and affect who we are.
When certain groups hold much of the power and influence, those who are outside those groups or don’t have access to them are more easily objectified and experience discrimination. To put it another way, those with less privilege easily become the “Other.” Some examples of people who are viewed as “Other” in Canada include women, First Nations, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, people of colour, people of non-European descent, people with physical or mental challenges, people from non-Christian religious backgrounds and people who are economically less well off. The list is never finished, especially because the dominant group shifts the focus on who to demonize, according to the agenda of those in power. Whether a group is currently targeted more or less than another group will shift as external factors in the whole of society shift and change. We saw such shifts taking place at the height of Covid-19 when Asian people became more targeted than previously. From the point of view of some, the dominant group can also become “the other” too.
Whether you view your identity as a problem or an asset, whether you are ashamed, neutral or proud of who you are and where you come from, the values and beliefs that have surrounded you in your childhood, your young adulthood and throughout your adult life, these influences have played some part in who you are now––whether you accepted them, rejected them or found some other way to deal with them.
So, context and history are important factors in how we move forward in the counselling experience together.