The Nature of Nurturing in service of Wholeness

Nurturing is a radical act of defiance in a system designed to separate: amongst other things brainwashing us into believing fierce independence to be a virtue, branding vulnerability a weakness, rendering us incapable of emotional intimacy. As such, nurturing is often unconsciously mistaken for caretaking.

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Emily Johnsson
Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

To take care of something – to be a steward of something, whatever it is – is something we want to celebrate. The very notion is inherently life-giving.

Caretaking, on the other hand, is a terminology used to describe co-dependent relating, where we in fact, enable degenerative behaviours, through self-abandonment.

This topic is at the heart of my life’s work and the book I am writing this year.

Not many people know that caretaking is an addiction.


I am proudly in my 13th year of dedicated healing, and along the way of seeing ever more clearly and becoming ever more sober to the reality that is available to us once we shift into autonomous, interdependent ways of being doing life together on this planet – I have become fascinated, bordering on obsessed – with how caretaking shows up in those of us who might describe ourselves as change makers.

A thing I keep repeating is this: we can’t give what we don’t have ourselves, so if we want to become nurturers – of families, organisations, communities, neighbourhoods, municipalities, schools, hospitals, businesses – one of the most important things we must do is to understand the difference between nurturing and caretaking and how it shows up in ourselves. In our ancestral family history, and in the wider web of our human family.

Caretaking shows up in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Ways that hinder our ability to actually walk our talk.
Ways that hinder our ability to enjoy and celebrate our lives.
Ways that hinder regenerative pathways to truly forge.
Ways that ultimately keep us stuck in the status quo.

Curiously, when we are enmeshed in co-dependent ways to relating, we will more often than not perceive nurturing to be:

  • ‘Less than’ providing logic and information
  • Fluffy and ethereal
  • An energy/service to give us what we need, when we need it (instant gratification), or
  • Mostly unnecessary, maybe a nice-to-have

But the truth is, nurturing is none of these things.

And when we relate to the nurturing in this way, chances are we carry a Mother wound, a wound most of us immersed in a society separated from the Earth, at birth, do.

This wound also makes us crave nurturing deep down, even though we are terrified of the emotional closeness it requires of us as the receiver.

At the heart of nurturing is the ability to nurture ourselves and to nurture another’s ability to nurture themselves. Not to become either greedy, needy or fiercely independent, but to lead themselves well, and build inner capacity for interdependent relating.

Which means that there will not be any true nurturing unless it includes courageously mirroring back when we are not showing up in right relationship. This is often an uncomfortable process that can trigger both guilt and shame, even though nurturing is never shaming by its very nature.

Nurturing is showing up with a beautiful blend of unconditional love and steadfast, breathable boundaries.

Nurturing is about being embodied and enabling embodiment in others – the old system survives to large extent because we are disembodied – always going somewhere, never fully here because we run from the past and think future success will cure our feeling of never being or doing enough.

Nurturing is gentle and soft, fierce and fiery, loud and calm, grounded and spicy, fragrant and still, all at the same time. It’s neither a distinctly feminine or masculine quality.

Each of us have a unique flavour.

And each of us and all of us – if we are serious about nurturing- are called to become curious about that unique flavour, as well as the deeper levels of our root system. A willingness to reveal deeper levels of truth about how we walk this Earth. Or not.

Because with a severed root system, we cannot nurture anything into wholeness.We simply take care of enabling the status quo.

A root system that is not yet consciously nurtured into greater wholeness is typically a perfect blend of our ancestors trauma and those we experienced ourselves. A trauma can be the life-experience of not experiencing something too, such as emotionally available parents, a safe learning environment, unconditional belonging to our family of origin.

Our root system is also our connection – or not – to our values and sense of purpose. And to what extent those roots are able to provide enough nourishment for the values to be lived in action, even when the going gets tough, and we risk rejection for living and speaking our truth.

Our root system is all the different parts that provide the basis for who we be in the world, our most well hidden fears, pains and grief, our most well protected longings, dreams and talents. It is our foundation for a life and service well lived, and without being curious about it and becoming intentional about nurturing it, not only do we perpetuate the old degenerative patterns we claim to want to change, we also render our own and collective liberation, peace, freedom and joy impossible.

A nurtured world begins with a Nurtured root system, in each of us and in all of us.

One that enables us to become stewards of life. Stewards of wholeness.

Roots 4 Change Wholeness Immersion begins 26th February. Learn more here.

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About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

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