When Being “One Of The Good Ones” Doesn’t Save You

But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain.  In fact, I worked harder that all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God in me.

1 Corinthians 15:10

 

 There but for the grace of God go I.

John Bradford,  (1510-1555) Evangelical preacher and martyr

My Dear Readers,

Next Monday is the first Monday of the month, so we will, as usual, post the next episode of Bobbi’s Saga, the story of a woman’s recovery from repeated sexual abuse as a child and the trauma she continues to suffer from it.  As a result, today’s blog, will be the last new posting for 2015.  These final weeks mark the third year since we started this blog, and I want to thank you, my dear readers, and my hardworking staff for all of the support and encouragement that you have shown me this year.

As I prepare for my annual hiatus from writing this blog, I want to return to a discussion about racial stereotypes that started with last week’s blog.  In that blog, Fear and Stereotypes: It’s Not (Really) About You (11.23.15), I wrote about a middle aged black attorney who, due to others’ internalized stereotypes about the sexual inclinations of black males, was forced to resign from his law firm.   I wondered how other black males reacted when they read the article.  Did they see themselves being victimized in the same manner?

I wondered whether other black men were saying to themselves “That could have been me.  How many of them thanked God that it didn’t happen to them? How many of us black males really realize how we walk on eggshells every day, while we work our jobs along with the dominant majority?

This is not an unfamiliar story regarding Black males who have the potential to be successful or influential. But, is it worth it?  How do you respond to the stress of going into work day after day with the potential to lose your job due to misconduct that exists only in the mind of your accusers?

The attorney’s career was destroyed due to gossip and the rumor that he was a physical threat to women in the workplace.  Even if he hadn’t actually done anything, those rumors suggested, the simple reality of his presence around women may trigger urges that he could not control.  Either way, for the safety of the workplace, he had to be removed from the organization.

How do people come to these decisions?  If you take the premise that simply because of this particular race and this particular gender, urges to attack women are present, then the decision makes perfect sense.  However, believing that premise means that you have to believe quite a lot of things about what it means to be black.  Other than a specific color, it is connoted in negative terms.  The word black is often used in situations that are tragic and disastrous; to describe the state of mind of a depressed person, full of gloom and misery; to describe emotional feelings such as anger and hatred; or the state of being evil or wicked.

The disdain attributed to the word black is evident in the manner with which white Americans, and American society in general interacts with black people.  There are a few exceptions where black refers to something positive, such as “being in the black” and “Black Friday,” the beginning of the holiday shopping season, but in general, the more prevalent use of the word describes negative things.

When applied to black people, such harsh views have led to the conceptualization of black males in terms of antiquated and just plain made-up stereotypes and generalizations about African Americans and African American culture.  In the early 19th century, black people were portrayed as being joyous, naïve, superstitious and musically inclined, which played to the advantage of white slaveholders, who could justify slavery by saying that the slaves were “happy” with their lot in life.  In 1844, the US Secretary of State and slaveholder John C. Calhoun argued that there was scientific proof of the necessity of slavery:

“The African is incapable of self-care and sinks into lunacy under the burden of freedom.  It is a mercy to give him the guardianship and protection (slavery) from mental death.”

Stereotypes of black people changed immensely following the end of the American Civil War in 1865. African American slaves as a whole, now free, were seen in terms of violence; that they would jump at any chance to murder and mistreat white people in general and in particular, sexually abuse white women, and they could do so because they possessed superhuman strength and sexual virility.  It was these stereotypes that so inflamed the fears of whites that they created “citizen protection groups” such as the Ku Klux Klan, formed in 1865, and continued to fuel fear and hate for the next 125 years, giving birth later to the era of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.

Although the influence of the KKK has diminished in modern times, and racial segregation has “legally” ended, many of those same stereotypes continue to play a role in modern society.  Today’s media has played a key role in not only reinforcing these stereotypes, but also enhancing the fear that comes with it.

In film, black males are overwhelmingly shown in a stereotypical manner that promotes notions of moral inferiority.  In a study conducted in 2001, that identified male roles and actors characterized by race, it was found that when it comes to:

  • Using vulgar profanity: black males 89% white males 17%.
  • Being physically violent: black males 56%, white males 11%
  • Lacking self-control: black males 55%, white males 6%.

The news media is guilty of this as well.  Black males are more likely to be appear as perpetrators in drug and violent crime stores on network news.  It was in the 1980s the news media regrouped its stereotypes of black males shifting into primary images of drug lords, crack users, the underclass, the homeless and subway muggers.  It’s only been in the last ten years that the news media has begun to show a spectrum of good black men along with evil black men.

Stereotyping not only impacts black males; it also creates stress, panic and anxious feeling for their families.  Consider the fear that lies in the hearts of black mothers and fathers about their sons either driving, walking or simply “chillin’” on the streets now at risk of being swept up and stopped, detained or arrested simply for being black and male and fitting the white mental stereotype of what a gang member looks like.

In stereotyping there is the assumption that “white” is good and successful, where black is not good and leading to failure.  There is also the assumption that if one is good, then good things will happen.  If one is bad, then bad things will happen.  The problem with this belief is that it also assumes that the reverse is true: that if bad things happen to you, then there must have been something bad about you that brought it about.  The trouble is that that reasoning is leveled at black people more than it is leveled at white people.  Given this, it is easy to see why your average black male questions why they should even attempt to succeed when regardless of their success, they can expect to be always greeted with questions, doubts or suspicion.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a well-known African American professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, returned to his home in Cambridge on July 16, 2009 after a trip to China.  After locking himself out of his home and finding another way to enter it, Gates was arrested by police in his home, after a neighbor called 911.  Why were the police called?  From the description of the person who made the call, the perpetrator wasn’t Henry Louis Gates, Jr., or a Harvard professor, or a world-renowned author, but simply a “black male” who was out of place in the neighborhood.  The only reason the caller could fathom for this to happen was that this black male had to be burglarizing the residence.

The assumption that led to the arrest of Dr. Gates is reinforced with the conceptualization of white privilege.  While the term privilege typically connotes the enjoyment of enhanced or additional advantages that others do not have, the privilege that is referred to here is subtractive: whites do not have to deal with the systemic disadvantages that blacks and other ethnic minorities experience, such as higher unemployment rates, and closer scrutiny and violence from police.  The term privilege, in this context, describes the freedoms that white people may not recognize they have, such as the presumption of innocence, the ability to speak freely without threat of violence, and the affirmation of their own worth, simply because they are human.

Where white males have “unlimited privilege,” there are times when “limited privilege” is granted to a small group of black males.  These males, often successful and wealthy African American people, receive a message from the dominant majority that even though he is still prone to the “characteristics” (read: stereotypes) of his race, his training, education and accomplishments have made him “acceptable” to the dominant majority, and thus, worthy of this limited privilege. However, there are four unwritten yet very important caveats to this gift:

  • You must never, ever forget your place, which is always at the bottom of the pecking order. You will be reminded.
  • Although you are accepted as a member of the group, your membership can and will be challenged and possibly revoked at any time by those holding unlimited privilege.
  • Once revoked, it can be earned again, but you will remain under intense scrutiny by members holding unlimited privilege with the expectation that you are repentant and or/silent about what has happened to you and whether it was just or not.

In essence, this is what occurred to Dr. Gates at the time of his arrest.  It was reported that Dr. Gates reacted angrily towards the police officer upon answering his door and after being directed to produce identification to prove he was the owner of the spacious residence.  Based on Dr. Gates’ irritated tone and arrogant refusal to produce the demanded identification, the police officer arrested him, charging him with “obstruction of justice.” During the arrest, this proud, educated, well trained black man was treated just like any street thug who got mouthy with the police.

 

What are the psychological consequences that Dr. Gates faced after his arrest?

  1. He may have felt humiliated due to the media circus that broadcasted this incident around the world for his students, friends, family, and colleagues to see.
  1. Even through the charges were dropped, the arrest, fingerprints and mug shots will be maintained in the federal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, and will remain there even past his death.
  1. Each time he leaves or enters the country, or is stopped and questioned by the police, the information regarding the police explanation, not the overall context, of the arrest will be made available through the computerized records of the NCIC.
  1. Gates will continue to relive the traumatic memory of being arrested for the rest of his life. Among the memories of his impressive achievements, he will also keep this in his memory and will take it to his grave.

Although he was likely aware of this already, Dr. Gates simply received a reminder that regardless of his status or his achievements, he is still a black man, and will be judged by the beliefs and stereotypes of black men, whether they are true or not. His limited privilege was revoked. He may have had the ability to believe that he had the ability to be given the benefit of the doubt, or to be allowed to be human and emotional, but at the end of the day, that is not something that is available for a black man.

 

Concluding Words – Dr. Kane

There are lessons here regarding racial stereotyping, gossip and rumors that we as black men can benefit from.

  • To be successful with school and workplace politics: decide after careful consideration who to trust. Then trust with caution and consistently verify.
  • Respect all, love all, yet remember that trust is earned, not given away to the undeserving.
  • Once burned, we learn. If we do not learn we only assure ourselves that we will be burned again and again and again until …we learn.
  • Betrayal is based on intent. A true friend will never betray you; a betrayer can never be a true friend.
  • To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.

 

 IN THE END, LET YOUR GOOD WORKS AND ACTIONS SPEAK FOR YOU.

 MY BEST TO YOU ALL.

I will see you at the crossroads… as our journey continues.

 

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Fear and Stereotypes: It’s Not (Really) About You

 

I was drunk. Stoned, too, and feeling sorry for myself.  I wanted to die.  So I set my black ass on fire.

-Richard Pryor, Comedian

 

It’s like a dark cloud moving in, and it’s not something you can say “Snap out of it” to.

-Beverly Johnson, Model & Actress

My Dear Readers,

As I was leaving my local post office the other day, I noticed four white males, approximately in their 40s and 50s.  As I drove by them, I eyed them with suspicion, believing that they were up to something.  They seemed out of place in this part of town, and I’d never seen them before. For a moment or two, I wondered if I should contact the police and inform them of my concerns.

The police would probably ask what the suspicious behavior was, and I would simply say that they just looked suspicious.  I wondered, given the number of them and how dangerous they looked, whether the police would send several patrol cars and be ready for any trouble.  Not sure of what to do, I drove away…. cautiously.

Sounds silly, right?  Not only is it not silly, it can be very dangerous and traumatizing when three police cars rush up to you and your friends while you are just walking in the neighborhood.  Such an incident occurred when four of us, black men in our 40s and 50s, were walking recently.   Someone driving by evidently did not recognize my friend (he and his family had recently moved into the neighborhood) and called the police to notify them that “suspicious characters” as we were called, “were roaming the neighborhood looking for homes to burglarize.”

Following a few tense minutes, we showed our identification, which brought a look of embarrassment to the officers’ faces and after that, they quickly left. One of the four of us was a trial court commissioner.  The other two were a dentist and university professor, and of course, I am a psychologist.  On our way home in silence, one of my friends commented that perhaps the next time we go walking, we should wear signs saying “WE ARE THE GOOD ONES” and go door to door introducing ourselves.  This was followed by laughter and a few choice words that I dare not repeat here.

My point is that simply by being black men, we are held to deep-rooted stereotypes.  This experience further shows us that all black males, regardless of age, clothing, income and social status, are at risk at being stopped and questioned simply because of the way that they look. The passersby would see the white males holding a group discussion as “white males holding a group discussion,” instead of attributing any motive to them. What separates us from them is they have the privilege of not being assumed to have ill will, and when it comes to us, it just depends on how whites view you.  Are you a good one or bad one?

And then there are the stereotypes or beliefs that can destroy a person’s career, hopes and ambitions or simply drive a person to sit at a bar and down shot after shot of alcohol.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I am frustrated.  After numerous attempts to stop a false allegation against me, I feel like I’ve been hit by a brick.  I am now sitting here wishing I was drunk and trying to figure out what I am going to do.  My wife called me from her bed at the hospital and suggested I take some time away from drinking, collect my thoughts and write you this letter.

I am 42 years old, African-American, and an attorney, originally from a small town in the southern United States, now living in a city in the Pacific Northwest.  My father brought the family to the Pacific Northwest to escape the overt racism and the segregation (which still goes on to this day) in the area in which we lived.  When we were kids, our father used to force us to watch movies like Roots and Mandingo.  There would always be the stern warning to “stay out of white folks’ mess” and to steer clear of white women.   We were young and really didn’t understand what he meant, and he never explained it. We were just to obey him and never question him.

I graduated from college, got accepted to law school, where I was selected for law review, and I graduated at the top of my class.  I became the first African-American male to join my law firm, and I excelled. My senior partners often hinted that I had a place permanently within the firm if I wanted it. I had been there for ten years. I really thought that I’d “made it.”

Then one day, the senior partners asked me to join them in the main conference room.  They had a serious look on their faces.  I thought I had messed up on a case and was about to be chewed out.  Instead, in very serious tones, they said that they’d been hearing comments from the other associates that I was sexually harassing the female staff members.

I was shocked.  I thought it was a misunderstanding then I realized that depth of trouble I was in.  When I asked who I had allegedly harassed and about the associates making these false statements, I was told that the information was confidential.  They refused to disclose any of the details of my transgression to me, saying that they had to protect the identities of the victims and informants.

I vehemently denied the allegations, reminding them that I was happily married for eight years and had two young children, but it was clear by the looks on their faces that they either did not believe me or didn’t care about what I had to say for myself.  One of the senior partners stated that the firm had already went through a costly lawsuit over sexual harassment and therefore did not want to be associated with another.  Another partner indicated that although no formal complaint was being made against me, the people who brought this situation to their attention wanted to give them and me a “heads up”.

It was suggested that I leave the firm with the understanding that I would be provided a reference.  Faced with no support from the senior partners and now clearly being given the message that becoming a junior partner was out of the question, I quietly resigned.  I have been seeking positions with other law firms in the area and so far, no one is returning my calls or answering my emails.

Not knowing what else to do, I emailed the managing partner of my previous firm requesting a written statement affirming no support for the allegation against me.  I was stunned when he replied that as agreed upon I had been provided a reference and the firm considered the matter closed.  Closed? What the hell is he talking about? Closed?  This is about my livelihood, my career, and my ability to provide for my family.  And he considers the matter closed?

Now I am sitting in a bar with my laptop writing to you. I never saw this coming.  All I have done is excel.  Is that wrong?  I am not a criminal.  And yet, I feel as if I am being treated like one. It is hopeless.  There is nothing I can do.  The only thing I have faith now in are my friends, Johnnie Walker and Jim Beam.  At least they don’t doubt me.

Stepped On, Can’t Man Up, Oregon

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My Dear Man,

Please humor me and affirm that the buddies you are referring to are not Johnnie Walker Scotch or Jim Beam whiskey.   Your wife is in the hospital recovering. Who is looking after your children while you are at a bar getting drunk?

In my clinical practice, I have a firm rule about not interacting with or responding to those who come to the therapeutic session either drunk or high on drugs.  However, for the sake of your wife and children, I am going to make an exception.

I have several questions that I would like you to consider:

  • If the situation is so hopeless, why are you writing me?
  • What are you going to accomplish by downing shot after shot of Scotch?
  • Your spouse is in the hospital recovering. She’s in this mess with you.  Do you realize the steps of abandonment, neglect and abuse, which you are beginning to take?
  • What about your children? Need I say more?

My Dear Man, I am not going to provide a pep talk or suggest that you “man up.” Yes, you have been stepped on.  The question is, are you willing to empower yourself to remove that foot from your back? If you are willing to do so, then say farewell to your so-called friends.  Consuming alcohol while you are in despair is really a simple way to medicate the emotional pain that actually wreaks more havoc in your body and the psychological self.

There are times where unintended words or actions can lead to misinterpretation. Sometimes this results in the allegation of improper behavior.  Should this happen, it should be immediately clarified so that such action does not occur again.

There are several questions that can be generated from your writing:

  • Why did this happen to me? What did I do? I am not a criminal
  • Why won’t the former organization assist me in proving my innocence and clearing my name?
  • What can I do to stop these allegations which have now turned into gossip and rumors?
  • Should I relocate to another city, county or state?

(1) Why did this happen to me?  What did I do? I am not a criminal. All I did was to excel at my work.

First, three things your detractors are going to say to justify their behavior and relieve themselves of their guilt are:

  • “This isn’t personal
  • “It simply wasn’t a good fit
  • “It was done for the good of the organization”

They are lying to themselves and anyone who is listening.  The brick that hit you did not just fall out of the sky.  It was intentionally tossed by your haters. They struck you while your spouse was in the hospital, knowing that your attention would be focused on her and your children during her absence.

It’s also true that it wasn’t a good fit…. for your detractors.  It may have frightened them that you were getting too close to the senior partners.  The law firm reached out to you, the first African-American associate to be hired.  It was done for the good of the organization, which was doing just fine without adding “diversity”.  Clearly they were not interested in leading the singing for Michael Jackson’s “We Are The World.”

Why did this happen to me?  What did I do? I am not a criminal? 

This is happening simply because in your ability to succeed, you became a threat to the status quo.  This is not about what you did.  It is about what you failed to do; you failed to maintain your place in the pecking order (e.g., them first, you last).  As for not being a criminal, you are the next best thing:  a living, breathing, black, male = FEAR.

Racial codes have been an integral part of maintaining order in the United States.  As racism grew in the 19th Century it was accompanied by racial stereotypes and myths.  Among such stereotypes were the following:

  • Black men are well endowed
  • Black men are extremely sexually virile
  • Black men have lustful desires for white women
  • Black men love rough sex/thug passion
  • Black men are players and have lots of women

Among the most pervasive and strongly believed stereotypes is the black man as a rapist of white women.  Historically, black men are given the death penalty more than white men.  Regardless of the law, a black man could be arrested at any time and lynched without trial simply on the word given by a white man.   Such allegations were often used against troublesome blacks or blacks who were in position of leadership.

The allegation of rape against a white woman was also a means to steal a black’s man property.  Once the allegation was made, the accused was either given time to “disappear” or left to waiting for the lynching.  Very little has changed today when the allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior has been made against a black man.

Today’s “disappearance” occurs in a form of a quiet resignation from the organization.  One day the person is at work, and at a moment’s notice, without any reason provided to his or her co-workers, the offending person is gone or has disappeared.  Lynching today has been replaced by gossip and rumors, which serve to either prevent any possibility of resuming one’s career in another organization, or a swift termination and disappearance.

In this situation, your detractors succeeded in two ways: forcing you out the organization quietly, and killing your career so that you can no longer be a threat.

Why won’t the former organization assist me in proving my innocence and clearing my name?

The answer can start off by the following question “why should the organization assist you?”  Should they assist because you’re innocent?  Or because it’s the right thing to do?

The key and unmistakable word is former.   As far the organization is concerned, they have kept their word by providing a reference and not “formally” disparaging you as you seek employment.  Therefore, having done their due diligence, they simply want you to go away.

Simply put, the organization is a business that must go forward.  The senior partners may acknowledge privately that forcing your exit was wrong, but they will never publically acknowledge this.

What can I do to stop these allegations, which have now turned into gossip and rumors? 

Nothing.   Gossip and rumors serve other purposes besides ruining your professional and personal reputation. There is a need to keep the remaining workers in the organization in fear of losing their jobs.  The message is clear: get out of line, and you too can one day disappear. The fact that you are married, have two children, have high ethical standards and most importantly, never had a history of such inappropriate sexual behaviors means nothing when it comes up against deeply held beliefs, myths and stereotypes about black men.  Besides, they believe that even if you didn’t do it, you were probably having fantasies about doing it.  So at the least, getting rid of you was a “preventive measure” to protect the organization.

Should I relocate to another city, county or state? 

Why bother to relocate?  If the gossip and rumors aren’t waiting to greet you at your new destination the allegations will not be far behind.

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Concluding Words- Dr. Kane

Instead of focusing on the organization to assist you, focus on your own empowerment.  Be willing to advocate for yourself, find balance within the psychological self, and seek calmness in your external world.   Sitting at the bar downing shots of alcohol will only serve to further disempower you as well as move you away from the goals of maintaining a meaningful marriage, providing for your children and moving upward in your legal career.

Seek empowerment through following the clinical model of the Five R’s of RELIEF below. In following the model, seek to do the following:

  • Respite (time out): Find an environment in which you can rest as you endure the trauma that is before you. Breath so you can relax, relaxes so you can think and think so you can take action.
  • Reaction (own your feelings): These are your feelings. No one knows the fear you are experiencing like you do.
  • Reflection (process feelings and thoughts): Embrace your fear. Become aware of its discomfort.  Discuss your situation with supporters and consider the options before you.
  • Response (actions taken) Hold your reactions within while you share your actions with the external world.
  • Reevaluate (evaluate) Take time to review the actions you took. Identify what you learned and what you would do differently if you were faced with this situation again.

 Learn from your previous actions

Only you can decide your next move.  It is for you and no one else to choose which path to take.  The signpost on one path refers to the same old thing: drowning yourself in misery with your friends Johnny Walker and Jim Beam.  The other path indicates something new and different. You already know what alcohol has to offer.

Alcohol and other drugs may make you feel good or relieve the pain momentarily, but these are nothing more than poisons that you are putting into your body.  As you continue this behavior, you give up your power to be that successful black man that you have the capacity and the desire to be.

Remember that you are not the first black man to be falsely accused of wrongdoing by those who conspire against you.    Rather than focus on attempts to refute the allegation, identify worthwhile strategies to empower yourself so that you can make the best choices for your mental, emotional, and psychological health, and that of your family.  Define the goals, to be achieved. Identify the objectives (means, methods) to be utilized in achieving your intended goal.

There will always be haters placing obstacles and barriers in front of you as you seek to fulfill your goals along the journey.  Each time you succeed by moving past the object of contempt, you add strength and empowerment to your foundation.  The truth is that they cannot stop you or deny your success.  The haters cannot take your empowerment away; you can only give it away by surrendering yourself to drugs and alcohol and not accomplishing your goals. 

Be committed to doing “good works” and let these actions speak for you. 

 

“To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

 

 Dr. Micheal Kane….The Visible Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening For Truth, Or Hearing What We Want?

Listening is active. At its most basic level, it’s about focus, paying attention.

Simon Sinek

The best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them.

Dean Rusk

My Dear Readers,

Often, when I answer a question, the person I’m talking to replies, “I hear you.”   Really?  Does he really hear me?  Is he listening to what I am saying?

Listening can be the greatest of all methods of learning about other ideas, dreams, cultures, and other things. However, one of our greatest failings may be that we hear rather than listen. You may think you’re listening, but in reality, it’s going in one ear and out the other.

When we hear something, it’s not necessarily reaching our inner core; there is often a hidden agenda in the conversation, and we are often just listening for a pause in the conversation so that we can advance our own objectives at the expense of others. When we fail to listen to our counterparts, we fail to understand them, and as a result, we lose the opportunity to learn from them.

In fact, when we hear others without really listening to them, we fail to achieve our greatest potential: the ability to understand who we are and what we mean to each other.

Below is such a story…..

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You can’t fake listening. It shows.

Raquel Welch

Dear Dr. Kane,

I could sure use your help.  I recently proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes.   We plan to be married in early January 2016.  We are both African-Americans and in the mid stage of life, with myself recently retiring from the US Marine Corps one year ago.  We both feel that we have found true love, as this is the third time for both of us tying the knot.  We intend for this to be the last time.

She feels that I am the right one for her and I feel the same way.  She is perfect for me.  However, there is one issue that keeps popping up: the difference in our religious beliefs.   I am a Christian and strongly tied to my faith.  My fiancée is Catholic.

I attend church services every Sunday and bible studies during the week.  I am also an elder in my church. I believe in the family unit attending church services together.  Since I am not married, I have been attending church services alone, but once we are married, I want my spouse to attend church services with me just like the other families.

Therein lies the problem.  My fiancée is opposed to attending my church.  She says that since her early childhood, she was raised Catholic, having attended mass regularly in Catholic primary and secondary schools.  She says that her Catholic faith feels natural to her and figures prominently in her family lineage.   She has no desire to convert to my denomination or to attend my church.

I am not asking her to convert.  I am even willing to compromise by switching weekly attendance with both faiths. However, during the six months we have been together, I have never seen her attend mass or any other Catholic services.

She knows nothing about the Bible.  If she attended my church, I know that she could learn the Bible and I could help her change.  I am frustrated. She is adamant and refuses to compromise.  She has dug in her heels when all I am asking is that she be open to learning about my faith.

In order to move forward with our relationship, we agreed that we would practice our faiths separately and she would not have to attend my church services. One Sunday service when I attended alone, I sat there observing the other couples.  I suddenly realized that I was not comfortable with the agreement and later that day, I told her I changed my mind.

I want to be honest with myself as well as to her.  I want to practice my faith and in doing so, I want my spouse sitting next to me, supporting me in church.  I know that if I did otherwise, I would not be true to my faith or myself. I saw red flags in my prior two marriages, and I ignored them, thinking that I could still make those marriages work. I am beginning to see red flags now, and I don’t want to make those same mistakes again.

She is not open to meeting with my pastor to receive either the Word or Christian-based counseling.  I hear what she wants, but she’s is not listening to what I want.  Do you think I should call off the wedding? I’m thinking that getting married now is not a good thing to do.  I’m open to your ideas.  Thanks.

Devout Christian, Tacoma, WA

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My Dear Man,

I appreciate the opportunity to respond your concerns.  It has been my practice to not comment on faith-based issues, as I believe that it is the right of all to practice the faith of their choice in the manner in which they see fit.  However, it appears that there is more to this story, and I suspect that what is being left out is being concealed beneath the concept of “spiritual faith.”

Language and its use can mean different things to different people.  For example, the word “hear” could mean that in hearing, one perceives a noise or sound by someone or something.    In contrast, to “listen,” one gives attention to a sound takes notice of what is being said, and acts on what they heard.

In your writing you stated,

“I hear what she wants, but she is not listening to what I want.”

In doing so, the words hear and listening appear to be used interchangeably, but both words may have different meanings to both of you.

I have developed a therapeutic model for reinforcing the art of listening in a marital relationship.  Utilizing this model, let’s explore the depth of your ability to “listen” to your fiancée’s concerns about maintaining her religious faith while you seek to maintain yours as well.

The model, “Listening: The I FACTOR,” is composed of the following segments: information, involvement, integration, implementation and finally, impact.

  • Information- facts provided or learned about something or someone. This refers to the items conveyed or represented by your counterpart.
  • Involvement– the processing of such information in a format that is understood by the individual receiving the information.
  • Integration-the acceptance and internalization of the information within the listener’s core being.
  • Implementation-the process of transforming the information into a decision or action plan. It is the movement of the information into the external environment.
  • Impact- the information’s ability to affect or influence a person, thing, or impose action on another.

In applying the model to what was said to you by your fiancée said to you:

Information (what was told to you)

  • She was raised as since childhood in the Catholic faith. She attended mass regularly in primary and secondary Catholic schools. The Catholic faith is nature to her and in her family lineage.  She has no desire to convert or attend your church.

Involvement (what was processed by you)

  • Although she claims to be Catholic, during the six months we have been together, I have never seen her attend mass or any other Catholic services. Therefore, she is not a true believer in the Catholic faith.  Besides, she doesn’t even know the Bible.

Integration (what was accepted and internalized into your core being)

  • I am not asking her to convert. Besides if she attends my church she could learn the Bible and I could help change her mind. I will present a compromise to her suggesting that we alternate weekly attendance with both faiths.

Implementation (transforming the information into an action plan)

  • In order to move forward, I committed to an agreement that she and I would practice our faiths separately and she would not have to attend my church services. Later, I changed my mind because I felt uncomfortable with the agreement.

Impact (the effect or influence upon the other person.)

  • I am frustrated. She is adamant and refuses to compromise. I ignored the red flags in my previous marriages and I don’t want to make the same mistakes again. 

Lesson Learned (or Not)

Earlier you wrote, “I hear what she wants, but she is not listening to what I want.”

In reality, however, you were not listening to what she wanted. Instead, you heard what you wanted to hear, and then went on to execute a plan based on your desire to fulfill your needs, despite knowing her beliefs about her faith.

You assumed that since she did not attend her faith’s services as regularly as you attend yours, she was not a true believer in her faith.  As a result, while your plan looked like it was a compromise, it was really a strategy to obtain what you wanted regardless of your fiancée’s feelings. In the end, when it became clear that you would get the results you desired, you sought to blame your fiancée for her failure to go along or more specifically, to fall into the trap you designed.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

All of the above could have been avoided if you had simply listened to what she had to say instead of hearing what you wanted to hear.  The plan failed because you wanted to advance your own desires at the expense of your fiancée’s desires.

It is clear that having your spouse accompany you to church services is an essential factor for you in this relationship.  However, it seems that seeing the other couples attending church services together is the basis for that desire, meaning that being viewed in a positive light by other church members is actually more important to you than a desire to be true to yourself.  And, as a result, you chose to break the agreement to respect the right of your fiancée to worship within her own faith and beliefs.

What is really concerning to me is that you would consider calling off the wedding because of this. It indicates a true lack of certainty about your commitment to the martial relationship.  I would recommend premarital counseling by a non-pastoral or non-Christian-focused counselor.  The reason I suggest this is so that you explore your readiness to maintain the commitments of a marriage outside of those issues associated with your spiritual beliefs.  If you are unable to maintain important agreements before walking down the aisle, how can she expect you to maintain such agreements after the wedding?

By breaking your agreement, you may have inadvertently provided her with a “gift,” that is, the gift of knowing that you may not keep your agreements when they no longer serve your desires.  She may, as is customary when someone receives a gift, simply say “thank you,” and walk away.

When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.”

Ten Flashes of Light For the Journey of Life

Dr. Micheal Kane …The Visible Man

 

 

 

Insecurity & Instability: How We Destroy Our Marriages

 What ruins relationships and causes most fights is insecurity.

-Olivia Wilde

Love shouldn’t be about jealousy or anything like that.  It should be about commitment and being able to trust that person.  If you can’t have that from the get-go, there’s a problem.

-Aaron Carter

My Dear Readers,

Married couples raising kids face a number of everyday stresses, including work, family, school, extracurricular activities, paying bills and saving funds for college.  It is common for married couples to sacrifice time with each other to focus on family or work related activities.

However, at some point, the children grow up, graduate and move on to their own lives.  What happens to the parents now?  Having finally raised their children and not dealing with the stresses they once had, they may find themselves dealing with a different kind of stress: learning to reestablish and reinforce the marriage that took a backseat to the needs of the family.

Age and doubt can bring be a breeding ground for insecurity.  The kids are gone.  Old Blue, the family dog, just died of old age.  Where do we go from here?

Below is such a story….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I hope that you may be able to help us with our marriage.  My husband and I are both African-American but we are from two different parts of the United States.  My husband was born and raised in Washington State, and I am a southern woman born in a small town in Mississippi.  Needless to say, we were raised differently; I was raised to speak my mind when I am concerned about an issue.  My husband was raised not to confront issues, rather to “go along to get along.”

We have been married 27 years; have raised five children, all who are now grown, and living in different parts of the country. Our youngest just got admitted into law school in one a different part of the country.  When the kids were young, we were very involved in activities centered on the family, school and sports activities.  One could say that we ran our own taxi service as we struggled to keep up with the kids, their interests and activities.

We would often give up our time with each other, figuring we could catch up later, but “later” never seemed to come. There were always vacations with the children and other activities with them, but we never set time aside for our marriage and each other.  Now that the kids are grown, successful, accomplished and on their own, we figured that our time has arrived, but we always seem to be in conflict.

The last major blow up occurred a week ago as we were leaving church following worship services.   During the mingling at the end of services, I observed a much younger woman talking to my husband.  She appeared to be too involved in the discussion, hanging on every word he said and smiling at him broadly.  I watched as during one of her giggling moments, she touched his arm.   I was incensed that she was touching my husband and just like most men, he seemed oblivious—he just stood there laughing.  I was so embarrassed.  I felt like a fool and that other women were looking.  I felt I had to do something.

Later on, when we were in the restroom together, I pulled this lady to the side, informing her that I did not appreciate the attention she was giving my husband or the fact that she had touched his arm.  She responded as if she was surprised, stating that she and my husband were in similar professions and that her relationship with my husband was purely professional.  She then went on to apologize for creating the impression that their relationship was anything different from that.  I told her that I would be keeping my eye on her, and then I smiled and walked away.

Later that evening, my husband told me that the young woman told him about the conversation in the restroom.  He was very angry at me—simply for doing what I had to do to protect my marriage.  In turn, I was extremely angry with her for having informed my husband about our private conversation.  This is not the way that mature black women act.  That conversation was between us as women.  If she had a problem with anything I said to her, then as a woman, she should not have acted like a little bitch and told on me by informing my husband.

To be clear, I am going to protect what I have.  I am going to protect my marriage.  If that means chasing off women who I feel are scheming to get my man, then that is what I am going to do.  I have talked to my girlfriends, and they agree with me that a woman has to stand and protect what she has or be ready to lose it.

So now, what advice can you give me so I can pass it on to my husband?  He won’t listen to me.  Since you are a man, and an educated one, he ‘ll be more open to hearing from you.   Now, don’t disappoint me!

Protecting my marriage and guarding my turf,

The Guardian, Seattle WA

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My Dear Woman,

I have the distinct feeling that you are trying to play me.  The marching orders at the end of your letter are to “provide advice to give to your husband because he will listen to me because I am a man.”  Madam, you are not seeking assistance from me.   Instead, you are intentionally placing me in a position where I either lecture him on the fact that you are right, or I will be a disappointment to you.

I apologize in advance for the major disappointment I’m about to serve up.  In your letter, you essentially treat your husband as if he is weak, unwise, and susceptible to young women.  You have positioned yourself as being the one to “protect your turf.”  Who are you protecting your turf from?

This may be difficult for you, but you must be willing to examine the basis of your own feelings and behavior.  There is no evidence that this woman engaged in inappropriate behavior by touching the arm of your spouse. Therefore, I would ask you to consider why you reacted the way in which you did.

  • Why were you embarrassed by what you observed?
  • Why would you assume that eyes of the other women were on you? If there were eyes on you, why didn’t you simply ignore them? Or shrug off the “looks?”
  • What was your reaction to what you saw?
  • Why was it necessary to say that you were “keeping your eye on” the young woman? What were you communicating to her when you smiled and walked away?

The major issue here, whether you want to consider it or not, is your emotional security.  Emotional security can be defined as the stability of an individual’s emotional state of being.  The flipside of this measure is emotional insecurity.  Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity is a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving of oneself to be vulnerable or inferior in some way, or a sense of vulnerability or instability which threatens one’s self-image or ego.

Based on your behavior, you seem to be emotionally insecure.  Be willing to be honest with yourself and explore what may be the true basis of these uncomfortable feelings.  The young woman, the supposedly inappropriate touching and the perceived looks by others are a smokescreen, a distraction.  If you have the courage to look within, what you find may be exactly what is lacking in your marriage.

This will require courage because as much as the truth can set you free, it can also be truly painful, because in examining the truth and its nakedness, there is no place to hide. As you stand at the crossroads, you must decide what direction you want to travel.  What is the truth here?

  • The portrayal of window dressing and the emptiness of the marital relationship.
  • The lack of belief, faith and trust, in both your husband as an individual, and the marital relationship.
  • The power and control aspects of your interactions with others and the need to dominate.
  • The need to guard your marriage and protect your “turf.”

 The portrayal of window dressing and the emptiness of the marital relationship.

 Earlier you indicated that you have been married 27 years and have successfully raised five children.  However, what you have defined as “marriage” is in reality “family.”

There is nothing in your writing that truly defines your marriage.   You may be proud of the children’s successes and accomplishments, but in centering your focus  on your children, the two of you have sacrificed the marital relationship to a point where your satisfaction comes from the image projected, rather than the substance that creates the foundation of a marriage.

The lack of belief, faith and trust (BFT), in both your husband as an individual, and the marital relationship.

 The foundation of intimacy between two individuals is belief, faith and trust (BFT).  It is on that foundation that the two individuals share their vulnerability, allow exposure of the psychological selves and master cementing trust. In doing this, they create and sustain the marital relationship.

Had there been belief, faith and trust in your relationship, confronting the young woman in the restroom would not have been necessary.   Instead, a dialogue with your husband could had been opened at another time rather than have him be subjected to possible humiliation as a result of your emotional insecurity.

The power and control aspects of your interactions with others and the need to dominate. 

You say that the children were the focus of your life, but from the way you sought to control the young woman’s interaction with your husband (“I told her that I would be keeping my eye on her, watching her movements and interactions”),  the truth may be somewhat different, that instead, you made yourself the focus and power player in your children’s lives.

As much as you were able to control the lives of your children, you were powerless in controlling the young woman as she, a “mature black woman,” informed your husband about your inappropriate behaviors and comments.  It must have angered you to no end knowing that this young woman may be sharing with others the story of your insanely jealous behavior.

The need to guard your marriage and protect your “turf.”

After reading your letter, one could be left with the perception that you are a jealous woman guarding your marriage and protecting your turf.   Perhaps this is what you intended.  However, the basis of these actions are more indicative of emotional insecurity, which adds to your instability and fearfulness, causing you to react to imagined intrusions.  As one would suspect, such a realization would no doubt impact the image in which you are seeking to project …and protect.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Woman,

Take this as opportunity to let go of the defensive posturing and gamesmanship.  Utilizing the Five R’s of RELIEF:

  • Respite-step away, take a deep breath, inhale (exhale), calm yourself
  • Reaction-own your feelings (insecurity), because these are your feelings. Understand that no one else is feeling what you are currently reacting to.
  • Reflective-in taking a moment, process your feelings and thoughts
  • Response-in a calm and collective manner, share what you have processed with others within your external environment
  • Reevaluate-examine your actions. Question what has been learned and what would be done differently should there be a reoccurrence of the same situation.

Be willing to understand that it is not the younger women who are a threat to your marriage.  The common mistake that many spouses make is as they focus on the family, they unconsciously sacrificed the marital relationship. As a result, the family and marital unit becomes integrated as one.  The solution is to work towards the following:

  • Separate the marital relationship from the family unit.
  • Cease sacrificing the marital unit in favor of family activities. Instead, balance family activities with time set aside for spousal interaction (e.g., date night)
  • Focus on the love, energy and commitment that was the basis of the marital relationship in the first place.
  • Build a stronger foundation based on belief, faith and trust, which strengthen the bonds of the marital relationship.

Release your need to control all aspects of your spouse’s interactions with others.  Hold to the tenets of the marital relationship.

Be more discreet in what you share with your girlfriends.  This group can mean well in wanting to support you and see it as their objective to join with you to protect your martial relationship, but keep in mind that this is your marital relationship and not theirs.  They may mean well, but your friends can actually do harm.

For example: Some years ago, having returned home from work, my wife Linda jokingly commented on a luncheon that I had with a female colleague that day.  It surprised me that she knew, since the lunch was spontaneous, and I didn’t have a chance to tell her.   My dear Linda described for me the entire menu, down to the dessert.  She also described the female colleague and what clothing she was wearing.  Shocked, I asked her how she knew all of this.  She chuckled, telling me that a group of her girlfriends came to the house to inform her that I was having an affair and of my “secret luncheon rendezvous.”  She added that they offered to drive her back to the restaurant so that she could see for herself.  She declined to do so, knowing that I was probably having lunch with a colleague.  She said that they looked at her in disbelief that she could be so trusting.

Although these girlfriends intended to support a friend who had a cheating spouse, it was the belief, faith and trust that my Linda had in both me and our marital relationship that prevented the division and conflict that could have occurred due to their actions.

My Dear Woman, now that your children have moved on and the nest is empty, this is a period of transition for you and your spouse.  As strange as it may seem now that the house is quiet, and the focus is different, this is now your time.  Utilize it wisely.  Reinforce your marital relationship.  Cease living in fear, for the fear you have chosen to live in may be the unforeseen future.   Instead, live with fear as you and your spouse together continue on your journey.   Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but the uncomfortable can be transformed into the comfortable—and the two of you can do it together.

Change is always tough.  Even for those who see themselves as agents of change, the process of starting something new can cause times of disorientation, uncertainty, and insecurity.

-Joyce Meyer

Dr. Micheal Kane… The Visible Man

Bobbi’s Saga: Reclaiming Your Body and Honoring The Therapeutic Work

“There are tons of kids out there who endure chronic abuse and suffer in silence.  They can’t trust anyone, they can’t tell anyone, and they have no idea how to get away from it”

-C. Kennedy, Omorphi

” I think scars are like battle wounds –beautiful, in a way.  They show what you’ve been through and how strong you are for coming out of it.”

-Demi Lovato

My Dear Readers,

For those of you who are joining us for the first time, Bobbi’s Saga is the story of a woman recovering from childhood physical and sexual abuse.

Since aging out of the foster care system at 18 years old, Bobbi has “survived” her childhood sexual abuse.  For forty years she has lived in fear: fearful of what people, especially in the African-American community would think and say about her if they knew her secrets.  For forty years Bobbi held on the memories of childhood sexual abuse, suffering in silence.  Finally, no longer able to tolerate the emotional pain, she decided it was time to end her life and bring the suffering to an end.

Instead, Bobbi made one last attempt to reach out, this time to seek psychotherapy to relieve her suffering.  Historically, psychotherapy in the African-American community has been taboo.  Strength, not the weakness associated with seeking therapy, is what is valued and respected in the African-American community.

My name is Dr. Micheal Kane; I am a clinical traumatologist, which basically means I specialize in treating individuals suffering from psychological trauma.  I view my role as a guide and companion to those lost in emotional darkness and psychological suffering, and my goal is to assist my patients in finding the light of day.  The work I do is known as The Journey of Self Discovery.

As a result of hundreds of years of racism, oppression and discrimination, African-Americans are often psychologically disempowered and strongly impacted by shame and humiliation.  The basic nature of chronic or excessive shame is that the person enduring shame feels unworthy, defective and empty. Humiliation is the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the victim with a deep wound within the psychological self 

Those who have been victimized by the actions of others have the right to live their lives without silence and suffering.  This is the basis of my commitment to this valued and difficult work.

Bobbi no longer suffers in silence.  She is no long a survivor of sexual assault.  She is now an individual who was victimized during countless sexual assaults. Rather to be labeled as a survivor for the rest of her life, Bobbi prefers to be identified as a “striver” as she continues to move along her Journey of Self Discovery.

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The Emotional Pain in Reclaiming One’s Body and Honoring the Therapeutic Work

I just came back from a session with Dr. Kane.  We discussed my journaling, my mother and my body reactions as an 8- and 9-year-old.  In therapy, I admitted how ashamed I have been for 40 plus years as my body reacted to the rubbing of my chest by my stepfather and me not fighting enough.

I was more ashamed of that than being sodomized by him.  I always felt that my body should not have reacted to his rubbing of my chest.  He told me to rub my chest every night to make my breast grow. I had no breasts then.  When my breasts grew large, I believed it was because of the abuse.  I hated my breasts.  In fact, I still don’t like them.  I hated my breasts because they reminded me of my abuse. For 50 years, I believed my breast size was because of my abuse.  I am employed in the healthcare profession and I never stopped believing my breast size was due to my abuse. It was not until Dr. Kane told me that rubbing my breasts would not make them grow.  Yet, I still was not sure.  I asked my primary care physician as well.   She seemed disturbed by the question, but agreed that manipulation of the chest will not make breasts grow or influence their size.

Dr. Kane said something today that I will never forget.  It was one of those moments where something just clicks.  He said that my chest being rubbed is just like my primary care physician checking my reflexes by tapping my knee- what I experienced was an automatic reaction. Dr. Kane let me know that just like I could not stop my knee from jerking in response to the tap, there was nothing I could have done to prevent my chest from reacting to the rubbing.

Dr. Kane also stated that no matter how much I fought, it was not enough to withstand the assault.  He wants me to focus on the fact that I survived the abuse.  Him saying that is so important to me.  I have felt guilty because I didn’t fight.  I also felt guilty and ashamed because the rubbing he did made my young body react to it.

I don’t remember it feeling good, but I do remember it feeling different from anything I had felt before.  Fifty years of shame I am now able to let go of.  I feel so proud and good about achieving that.

Dr. Kane has a way of making things that are so painful to say make sense.  His explanations reduce the shame and guilt.  His explanations make it possible to see what is most painful in a totally different way.

I left today’s session feeling good. I left with the understanding I no longer need to carry that part that I was most ashamed of.

I can let it go!

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she acknowledges a major achievement.  Notice the term being utilized is “achievement” and not utilizing terms which symbolizing “overcoming” or “breakthrough.”

In the process of in-depth trauma therapy, the focus is on balancing the traumatic events as the individual continues as a traveler in the journey known as life.  It is essential for anyone impacted by a traumatic psychological wound to understand that the traumatic wound remains as a permanent entity within the psychological self.  To be clear, the traumatic wound can heal; it will never ever go away. It will remain with the individual until death. Understanding this, Bobbi is learning to balance the traumatic wounds associated with her sexual abuse, abandonment and parental betrayal within her psychological self.  In doing so, she is able to find new meaning and value.  Furthermore, validation comes from within and as a result, Bobbi becomes less vulnerable to the shame and humiliation aspects of her disempowered community.

It is important to understand the power that shame and humiliation can have over those impacted by trauma.  Bobbi held to the belief that she, and not her rapist, was responsible for her abuse.  Specifically, Bobbi held to the belief that since she was unable to stop him, she was responsible for size of her breasts. This trauma can be so debilitating and thorough that despite Bobbi’s training and employment as a healthcare professional for 30 years, she held on to those beliefs. This insures the maintenance of her shame and guilt as well as the belief that she is “a bad person.”

In-depth trauma therapy is also essential to respond to Bobbi’s feeling that  “I did not fight enough.”  Bobbi used this for 40 years to justify blaming herself for the abuse that she endured.  Role-playing in the therapy session allowed Bobbi to finally let go of this premise.  Notice that I used the term “let go,” instead of “surrender”.  Surrendering is forced; letting go is voluntary, and therefore empowering to the psychological self.

The scenario we used was that of a 9-year-old rape victim sitting in the office waiting room, with the therapist directing Bobbi to bring the child into the therapy room and tell her directly that she, the child, was responsible for her sexual assault.  Specifically, it was to be Bobbi’s responsibility to affirm to the 9-year-old that she was responsible because she either failed to fight or did not fight enough to keep herself from being raped by a 250-pound adult.  It was only after presenting this scenario that Bobbi was able to clearly put her traumatic experience into perspective.

Bobbi’s achievement in reclaiming partnership with her body is critical to within her healing and her journey of self-discovery.   However, of major concern within the therapeutic work is her willingness to “hand over” credit for her achievements to the therapist, instead of reinforcing the foundation of her work—her own willingness to do the work.

When the therapist commits to the journey, he/she provides an environment where difficult and often horrendous issues can be explored.   When the time comes for the therapist (as the guide) and the patient to go their separate ways, it is essential that the patient leaves with a solid personal and emotional foundation, the sense of resolution from the work, and a desire to continue on their own journey.

The way to respond to the patient’s desire to acknowledge the involvement of the therapist is to encourage the patient to honor the work that was achieved in the therapy.  In honoring the work, the patient also honors the therapist.

To clarify, the role of the therapist is that of guide and companion.  Nothing more.  To honor the work in therapy is to honor the therapist. C. Kennedy suggests the following:

Abuse does not define you.”

I disagree.  Abuse will define you if your community is allowed to write the words that define you. Validation must come from within the psychological self, and it will always be imprisoned as long as another person, group, or community holds the key to his/her freedom.

Join us here next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist