By Lyla Harman, BSW, MSW, RSW
I hope to share my personal, professional and healing journey in being fully human. To do this, I intend to start from the beginning sharing significant moments which shaped my development, then explore my intrinsic beliefs and values and end with how we can be fully human using Viriginia Satir’s teachings.
Now to begin… I was born on my grandfather’s birthday March 22, 1974 in Kamloops BC, to Karen Gonzales, who had me at 15 years old after leaving the Kamloops Indian Residential School and Brock Brown my rough tough cowboy dad. My roots stem from Squamish, Shuswap, Cowichan, Scottish, and English with a Ukranian influence. Childhood memories include growing up on the farm, living off the land, swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, singing and connecting in nature. Refer to Figure 1. My healing journey began at 10 years old. Today’s decision making – is continually influenced by past imprinted memories.
Figure 1 Connecting in Nature
My graduating year at Maple Ridge Secondary ended with discovering that my dad was not my birth father. I am ever grateful for my life-long friendships who steered me away from a dark self-destructive path. My healing journey and personal counselling experience was inspired by six courageous women in our group work healing from childhood sexual abuse. I realized I was not alone and had so much to learn and share in gaining my voice and self-confidence back. My post-secondary training began at Douglas College where I immersed myself in First Nations culture and rediscovering my roots. I realized the colonizing history of First Nations was a shame of Canada and not to be carried on the shoulders of my family. I continued to cope with pain by being an over achiever. I completed my undergraduate experience at UBC included life-guarding and aqua-fit instructor.
May of 1998 marked the completion of my Bachelor of Social Work degree with a grand family celebration! Upon graduating I backpacked for 6 months in the Austrialian Alps, Great Barrier Reef and bicycled New Zealand’s islands. My self-esteem and independence grew more during these six months than my whole life.
My return home included working for the Squamish Nation Child and Family Services until my maternity leave were my life focus changed direction to own and operate a licensed family daycare on reserve. With the intent to be home with my son Tyee as much as possible I simultaneously started a First Nations Consulting service. In 2006, I graduated from the UBC Masters of Social Work program with honours and completed my research on Coast Salish Healing Ways. My research allowed me to develop my own eclectic theory and counselling practice by exploring how Coast Salish culture and tradition can be a part of the healing process. It was in the Masters’ program that I was introduced to Virginia Satir and thought her core values: growth model, strengths based approach and the interconnectedness of the family system ultimately corresponded with my values as a First Nations woman.
I now live and work within the Cowichan Tribes community as a clinical counsellor and supervisor continuing to learn, grow, heal and live a “Satir” way of being personally and professionally. My family says that I have “come home” since my Grandmother – late Madeline Canute is from Cowichan Tribes. My husband Craig, son Tyee and daughter Kaylela and I live on 38 acres of selected old growth and a beautiful creek. It is amazing how life can bring you full circle for I currently live on a farm, live off the land, swim, canoe, and connect to my “Self” in nature.
The significant events I mentioned above, whether formal or informal directly influence my values, assumptions and attitudes that guide me as a person and my view on how to be fully human. The images I have chosen to represent my values and beliefs which guide me include the Cowichan Teachings, refer to Figure 2 and the Satir Iceberg metaphor Figure 3. Growing up in a working-class family having a hard work ethic was apparent from both my parents. All of the Cowichan Teachings fit in to my family of origin, however one that stands out from me is “do the best you can do, be the best you can be.” My work as a counsellor and clinical supervisor at the Cowichan Tribes and the teachings in Figure 2 guide the work I do on a daily basis as well as the way I hope to live my life. It is in the simplicity and complexity of the Cowichan teachings where I find balance. This year I joined the Satir Insititute of the Pacific board of directors. My hope and vision in how to be a human being is inspired by Virginia Satir, a pioneer family therapist.
So now that I have a clear understanding of significant life journey and my beliefs and values – how can I be more fully human? How can Satir be more than a Model? Well, to put it simply – you choose to. I believe life learning needs conscious reflection and to challenge ourselves experientially for transformational change. By experiential my hope is that the teacher/learner, which I see as a simultaneous role is tapping into the whole experience of the individual. Satir used the iceberg model as a visual to describe her view of how a human being interacts in their environment. For example, our behaviours are above the waterline this is what people see and hear. However the internal process and place of transformational change occurs beneath the waterline tapping into ones internal experience, coping, feeling, what feeling our feelings brought up, expectations, perceptions, yearnings and connecting to our true sense of self. I am influenced by the humanist Virginia Satir and believe – who I am and what I learn is guided by internal yearnings and life energy. Satir shared that life energy challenges us towards growth, evolution, universal wisdom and infinite possibilities. Life Energy speaks to us through our yearnings which are universal human states e.g. peace, joy, love, belonging, and connectedness.
I see being fully human as entering a collaborative life energy with the purpose to challenge ourselves, broaden knowledge, tap into wisdom, inspire our intuition, develop skills, heal, grow, inspire, and connect meaning and purpose to who we are and why we are here. I believe my ability to learn is lifelong and challenged by my own passion and hunger for learning.
As I conclude, its through a depth of reflection which words cannot capture, that I deeply comprehend the following: the significant events in my life inform my values and my values inform how to be fully human. This is huge for me because it allows me to see through a contextual lens the true complexity of being human and giving space to the “Self”. To conclude, how I see myself is captured by Marianne Williamson, refer to figure 4.
I am continually inspired by Williamson in that as we are liberated by our fear our presences automatically liberates others. I believe Virginia Satir would agree that as I continue to grow, learn, heal and be my true self – I inspire others to be themselves. Today’s decision making – is continually influenced by past imprinted memories and this is not a passive automatic experience. For me, being fully human comes from conscious reflection which includes challenging myself personally, professionally and experientially. It is with humble gratitude I raise my hands in thanks to Virginia Satir for her courage, vision, intuition and sharing. I am inspire