Therapy for white supremacy culture: Quantity over quality

A white person wearing glasses is reviewing productivity numbers, reflecting the quantity over quality characteristic of white supremacy culture.
Click on the image to be taken to the full Instagram post.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about the characteristics of white supremacy culture, as described by Tema Okun, and I have been focusing on how these characteristics cause us harm by distancing us from our values. This week, I will continue with “quantity over quality,”  or “progress equals bigger/more,” and I will speak about how therapy can help us overcome these unhelpful aspects of white supremacy culture.

Tema Okun defines this particular characteristic of white supremacy culture as follows:

“These characteristics explore our cultural assumption that the goal is always to be/do/get more and be/do/get bigger. This leads to an emphasis on what we can “objectively” measure – how well we are doing at being/doing/getting more – as more valuable than the quality of our relationships to all living beings.”

Last week I finished reading the book The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, as part of my efforts to educate myself about the effect that “quantity over quality” thinking has had on my relationship with money. The author gave this example of how “progress equals bigger/more” can be harmful: “A successful business owner is simply one who makes a lot of money. Not factored into that judgment are the quality of the product, the workplace, employee compensation, and management style, or the company’s overall practice of civic partnership and contribution.”

“Quantity over quality” and “progress equals bigger/more” are related to fear, the foundational characteristic of white supremacy culture, through one of fear’s many faces: the lie of scarcity. The lie of scarcity, Twist explains, is based on three myths:

  1. There isn’t enough.
  2. More is better.
  3. That’s just the way it is.

In this way we can see how closely related white supremacy thinking is with consumer capitalism.

So that’s a basic intro to what this way of thinking is. But how does it impact our day to day lives? In order to answer that question, I will share a little bit about how this aspect of white supremacy culture has impacted my own relationship with my top value: love.

Since love is my number one value, I often reflect on how I might be able to grow in my capacity to act from love. And since I was raised and socialized within white supremacy culture and the lie of scarcity, my definition of growth and progress was largely based on numerical growth. Meaning if I’m not actively caring for the needs of more and more people, then I am failing. And ironically, the more I’ve tried to impact a higher quantity of people, the lower quality of caring love and attention I was capable of giving to myself and those in my immediate orbit.

When it comes to romantic love, there was a period of my life when the only way I could believe that I was “growing” was if I was constantly going on more and more dates with more and more new people. You see, it was easy to track the number of people I was meeting, but it wasn’t so easy to track the quality of experience or connection that I was able to have with those people. Focusing on the external number limited my actual growth by drawing my attention away from what was actually limiting my capacity for love: my own sense of unworthiness.

In therapy, we have the opportunity to put conscious attention on our current way of being, including our way of thinking about the world. Acceptance and commitment therapy, a mindfulness-based modality that puts attention on the ways in which unhelpful thought patterns distance us from our values, can be hugely beneficial for anyone looking to untangle themselves from counterproductive modes of thought. If you think you could benefit from a therapist’s assistance in freeing yourself from “quantity over quality” thinking or any of the other characteristics of white supremacy culture (fear, perfectionism, either/or thinking, individualism, defensiveness and denial, avoidance of conflict and discomfort, and sense of urgency), don’t hesitate to schedule a free 20-minute consultation by clicking here.

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Nauser Bear is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California (LMFT#123099; licensed with the BBS as Nicholas Jon Reynolds) and a coach for HELPAs (Healers, Educators, Leaders, Parents, Activists & Artists) wanting to build a life of sustainable selfless service. To work with Nauser, send an email to nauserbeartherapy@gmail.com, call (510) 394-5373, or schedule a free 20-minute consultation by clicking here.

Disclaimer: This blog and comments on it do not constitute medical or mental health advice. If you are in need of support and live in California, contact me to set up a consult to see if working together is a fit. Otherwise, seek mental health support in your area. If you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255.

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