In Our Corner: New Pain From Old Wounds

“This too shall pass.”

-Idiom

“Failure is not an option.”

-Gene Kranz, NASA flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

“Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.”

-Proverbs 11:21-25

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My Dear Readers,

Recently, it was reported that a 15-year old boy, living in a state supervised residential facility for troubled youth was sexually assaulted by four of his fellow residents, with a staff member looking on, and beyond belief, laughing and even shaking hands with one of the attackers. It is also alleged that the following the incident, the victim confronted the adult and was in turn physically assaulted by the adult.

The excitement created by the media coverage is over. The perpetrators of the assault will be punished. Racist and stereotypical beliefs will be reinforced. Both the black minority and white majority communities will remain silent and life will continue in its drudgery as both victim and perpetrators slip quietly into oblivion. That is, until the next time.

Evil people will surely be punished… children of the godly will go free.

In all actuality, they will simply be forgotten.

Yes, we can be assured that legal accountability is be initiated and severe consequences will no doubt be assigned to the perpetrators of these criminal acts. Felony convictions, incarceration within adult institutions, and lifetime registration as sexual offenders, are certainly possible in this situation, and Florida’ s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) stated:

“DJJ does not tolerate this type of behavior rand the contracted staff person involved in the incident has been terminated. Their actions are inexcusable, and it is our expectation that they be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Still, it remains too easy to treat this as an isolated incident. Research shows that 20% of men behind bars have been forced into sex. However, the unreported estimate is 50 to 80%. These statistics are not unknown. Instead it has been the norm to ignore the atrocities that happen within juvenile residential and adult correctional facilities until something shocking as what occurred in this Florida residential facility becomes public.

This Too Shall Pass… No, It Won’t

This is complex trauma, and without therapeutic intervention, these children, both the perpetrators and the victim, will continue to experience repercussions from this incident and the conditions that led to it. These young men will soon become adults, seeking employment, creating intimate relationships, and starting families, and they will bring the memories and unresolved suffering with them, potentially adversely impacting their partners and their children.

Failure is not an option.

Yes… it is. Failure is an option. In many cases, it is an expectation, especially when we, without hesitation, continue to travel the same roads and expect to arrive at a different destination. In essence, we fail by asking the wrong questions:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why did the system fail?
  • Why would four juveniles rape a fellow human being?
  • Why would an adult stand idly by, laughing and observing the sexual assault?

Why” questions invite answers that circle back on themselves and as a result, they do not lead us to a full understanding of the foundation of the issue. A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead. Specifically,

  • What experiences are rooted within the adult and juveniles’ actions and behaviors?
  • What specific roles or models have the adult and juveniles observed and integrated within their developmental core?
  • What family resources and community systems do these individuals currently have? What family resources and community systems will be available to them as adults when they return from an institutionalized and repressive penal system?

Anger: The Common Thread in Pain

The four assailants and victim are in the midst of adolescent development. One can only imagine the sadness that each of the five juveniles must have felt being removed from their own families and communities and placed together in a residential facility.

Typically, when male children become sad, they act out in anger, not sadness. As explained by the rapper 50 Cent, this is not abnormal:

“Everyone has feelings, but there are some people who have trained themselves over time not to be out crying and doing all kinds of shit. When someone else would cry, we replace those feelings of anxiety and get angry instead.”

There are five reasons young men allow themselves to get angry rather than feel the pain:

  • Lack of understanding of how to deal with feelings; so when all else fails, anger works.
  • The feeling of sadness reinforces the state of weakness, and anger can restore feelings of strength.
  • Anger is a more comfortable emotion for young men than sadness.
  • Sadness is a form of weakness. Anger is more aggressive and masculine and places the individual in a state of feeling “in control.”
  • Anger is strong and feared by others; sadness is weakness and manipulated by others.

What is Complex Trauma?

Complex trauma is a form of psychological stress. It is more than simple PTSD. It usually means that a person has suffered several traumatic events, often beginning in childhood and continues through adulthood.

The repetitive nature of the traumatic events often means that a person’s mental, physical and emotional states are all affected. It is often very difficult to function at work, school or in the community. It impedes and/or hinders involvement in interpersonal relationships.

Complex Trauma is the exposure to adverse experiences such as violence, abuse, neglect and separation from a caregiver repeatedly over time and during critical period of a child or adolescent’s development.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature.

In additional to psychological damage, it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, increases in alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, as well as inflammatory responses and syndromic symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and irritable bowel.

Complex PTSD results from events and experiences that are:

  • Repetitive, prolonged or cumulative
  • Most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploration, and mistreatment, including neglect/abandonment/ abuse by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults;
  • Occur most often at developmental vulnerable times in the victim’s life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability, disempowerment, dependency, age and/or infirmity.

Research shows that complex trauma is related to the following factors:

  • Age of onset
  • Type of violence
  • Relationship to the perpetrator
  • Impact on the environment
  • Degree of isolation and
  • Amount of support received following the traumatic experience.

These factors exacerbate the victim’s sense of:

  • Degree of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Stigmatization (not being good enough)
  • Betrayal
  • Sexualization (primarily for childhood sexual abuse cases)

Living With Complex Trauma

Just like any major illness, complex trauma can be intense, painful and scary. It is treatable, but only with the willingness of the impacted individuals to view it as a typical outcome when one is forced to endure traumatic experiences, and not as a character failing or an indicator of weakness.

Individuals who suffer from complex trauma are often vulnerable to emotional and psychological struggles. These individuals are encouraged to seek treatment. The individual must define what a normal life is for themselves, and then pursue that life through processing their trauma in therapy.

Society, however, must be willing to understand what ails those suffering from complex trauma, acknowledge the pain, and work to end the suffering. In doing so, the traumatized will be empowered to balance the weight of their past experiences with their current realities and truly live the lives they seek.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.” -Author unknown

My Dear Brothers,

I write for the general readership, but in my In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

The residential home in which these juveniles lived was one without love, where traumatic memories are now a permanent etching on the psychological self. It is now a place where those who lived together inflicted violence and terror on one another.

We may never know what male role models these juveniles had prior to coming to the residential facility. However, we do know what male role modeling they had while living within the residential facility. They were under the supervision of an adult who was no different from themselves.

Rather than provide guidance, mentoring, supervision and most important protection, this individual chose to add to their suffering by allowing, encouraging and ultimately reinforcing an environment that created a permanent wound on the psychological self on five youths. These wounds will never be forgotten and will be carried for the duration of their lives.

The actions and behaviors of one black adult male do not speak for the actions and behaviors of black men as group. To hold all black men accountable for the sordid actions of these individuals would play directly into the misguided and misinformed trappings of racism, stereotyping and prejudices.

However, as black men, we must want assume the collective responsibility of questioning the environment that would lead to this adult participating in the psychological wounding of those juveniles who were placed in his care.

Without having any information regarding the background or history of this adult, the indifference in his actions suggests that he too may have suffered from complex trauma in the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence. If so, what we see here are the consequences of what occurs when psychological wounding and pain goes untreated.

What would be a positive outcome in assuming collective responsibility? Well, we can be honest in our self-reflection that many of us have endured complex trauma and could benefit from the process of healing the psychological wound.

Psychological wounding and pain seek, no…demand relief. Relief will be achieved via self-medication with drugs, sex or violence. Or, relief can be achieved through psychotherapy, positive role modeling etc. You must choose. One way, or another, human beings will find relief.

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Complex trauma does not go away by

Simply pushing it to the back of your mind.

It is a thief that lurks around until finds an open door. It flashes. If screams as it leaps into my soul.

It is a thief that steals in the day or in the night.

Enough is never enough.

It steals and steals and steals.

It plucks and sucks the life, slowly from me.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

Until the next time, Remaining…In Our Corner.

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In Our Corner: Living The Dream, or Existing In The Illusion?

“Flattery will get you nowhere.  Flattery does not work.”  -Idiom

“One thing is certain in life… we will all die one day.  Thus, the focus must be on those we touch, how we live, and what we experience.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

“There is no growth without discomfort.  Being honest can be uncomfortable. It is freedom that comes from being honest.”

-Delbert Richardson, Ethno-Museologist,                                                                           American History Traveling Museum, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Readers,

In the last blog, I asked for “white people of good conscience to work within their communities as we black folk continue to work within our own.”

As I expected, I received strong responses from readers,  one in particular that was strongly critical of my direct focus on men’s issues within the African-American community at the expense of a focus on black women, or reflection about the role that I play regarding sexism within my community.

This writer, an outspoken black woman, has a good point.  She points out that having traditionally focused on white privilege and its impact on the African-American community while ignoring privilege within the community, key members continue to suffer in silence.

The writer is correct when she refers to misogynistic behavior within the African American community. It is hypocritical for a community to be united in its commitment against racism, but then remain silent regarding male privilege and misogynistic behavior.

Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women and girls.  It can appear in numerous ways, including social exclusion, hostility, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women and sexual objectification.

What lies at the root of misogyny is the conscious or unconscious habit of placing a masculine point of view at the center of one’s worldview, thereby systematically marginalizing the feminine point of view.

Without question, rampant misogyny is an issue within the African-American community, and yet it is not one that we are willing to engage with.  We speak in one voice to the role of the black woman in the family, the church and community, but we encourage silence instead of dialog when we deny actions that denigrate the women in our community.  We say we want to hear what women in our community have to say, but when the words are not flattering, the woman speaking becomes a “man-hater” and “usurper of the black man’s role in the community.”

In the blog “Showing Up As Real MEN and Leaving As Little Boys,” I shared one woman’s regarding her interactions with black men and got the following response from a reader:

“[I was]Using a Black woman (?) to spew vitriol and hatefulness, giving her a sanctimonious platform to castigate Black males. She sounded as though she had multiple issues needing immediate attention.”

The reader may have been correct that the woman had “issues” needing “immediate attention.” In my therapeutic work I have listened to numerous black women express similar feelings, sharing the impact of psychological wounds received from sexism and misogyny within our community.

In this case, however, the reader is not genuinely concerned about the woman’s health; this is an attempt to derail the conversation and distract from the role that black men can play and have played in creating these “multiple issues needing attention.”   The women who exposed their feelings may be utilizing this platform posting as a means of empowerment— something that I strongly support and encourage them to continue to do.

And, I strongly encourage black men to not just hear what is being said…  but to listen.

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Dear Visible Man,

I am writing to share my concerns regarding the sexism and misogyny that is occurring within the African-American community. I have two real examples: my lazy-ass brother and my dependent, can’t-seem-to-take-care-of-himself-uncle.

You write often about white privilege and I acknowledge and agree with you that white privilege is a major concern for black people.  However, you clearly choose to remain silent about black male privilege that is also a daily reality in the black community.

It burns me up to watch these two worthless fools come over for Sunday dinner and be waited on hand and foot by my mother and grandmother.   When I complain, these misfits shut me down, calling me a hater.

Both are living in their dreams.  My brother spends his time smoking weed and still trying to play pro basketball, which he aged out of long ago.  His backup plan is to be a rapper. Imagine how likely that is.

My uncle, on the other hand, not only drinks and smokes weed, but he spends his social security money on the lottery, hoping for that one big win.  I have a son and I don’t want my son to hang around them and pick up their shameful behaviors.

I am sick of enduring this bullshit at home and then having to deal with sexism and the racist bullshit that occurs within my workplace.

So, Dr. Kane, instead of talking about white privilege, maybe you should trying focusing on saving these privileged black men who are living off the sweat of others in their own community.

-Pissed Off Sister Who Has Seen Enough, Seattle, WA

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My Dear Woman,

I want to thank you for your remarks.  Your words are direct and speak to your experiences as a woman and mother within the African-American community. I acknowledge that for empowerment and growth to occur within our community, there must be voices raised, avenues provided, and foundations developed so that we encourage meaningful dialogue as we seek to engage on this topic.

There are some things that you described that I want to directly respond to:

  • The behaviors of your uncle and brother
  • The concern regarding your son mimicking or modeling his male relatives’ behavior

First things first: my goal in this work is not to “save” anyone, and I apologize if anything I have written implies that.  As a clinical traumatologist, I serve as a companion and guide walking with those who are seeking the journey of “self-discovery.”   Rather than to save, my role is to assist those who want to empower themselves.

I agree that a sense of privilege is deeply implanted within the African-American community.  However, the actions and behaviors of your male relative you have identified are not examples of that privilege.  Those are  the actions and behaviors of people who are existing and surviving.

The difference is this: within the Journey of Self Discovery, there are The Five Levels: existing, surviving, driving, striving and thriving.

  • Existing-The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even experienced.  Nothing is produced or gained by the individual at this level.
  • Surviving-The focus of the journey is to remain alive and breathing. The individual attaches minimally to life, lives in fear, and is in a constant state of desperation.  There is little gain, but not that much for the individual at this level.
  • Driving-At this level, the search for empowerment begins. The individual wanders, seeking direction, and in doing so, learns balance and reinforces the psychological self.  At this level the individual learns the importance of empowerment.
  • Striving– At this level, the individual has a solid hold on their life and is fully experiencing their psychological self. The individual lives with their fears, and is successfully implementing empowerment strategies in their lives.
  • Thriving- The individual has attained full realization of the psychological self and completed the Journey of Self Discovery. The individual has mastered their self-empowerment strategies, and can use this knowledge to support others and as a foundation for future journeys.

It appears that your uncle is simply existing, where your brother is surviving.  I understand your frustration and concern for the welfare of your male relatives, but these are your frustrations and concerns, not theirs.

Your uncle and brother are not living their dreams at all.  Dreams are workable hopes and desires that can be made true.  Instead, your brother and uncle are just two of the many African-American men who are, by their inaction and destructive behavior, “living in their own illusions.” Furthermore, their behavior may be a way of medicating psychological wounds through the utilization of alcohol and drugs.

This isn’t to say that you should just accept their behavior, especially when it is truly unacceptable and impacts your household.  And yes, in recent history, black women have been taught to give men benefits of the doubt that many do not deserve.  However, this appears, from my experience, to be something quite different.

The questions to be placed before your uncle and brother are the following:

  • What do you want for the psychological self?
  • What are you willing to do in order to achieve what you want?
  • What is your motivation? What are your ultimate goals before you close your eyes forever?

I would recommend that you allow your uncle and brother to serve as role models for your developing son.  The definition of a role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by young people.

However, role models can also examples of failures to be observed, learned from and not to be emulated by young people.

  • Interact with males who behaviors you want your son to model. Consider conducting comparison and contrast situations with male relatives (or non-relatives) whose behavior you deem appropriate for your son.
  • Consider the psychological and emotional damage you can inflict on your son by shielding him from this and not being there to help him understand the difference between “dreams” and “illusions.”
  • Create a space where your son can be open and vulnerable with you so that he can openly discuss feelings associated with his observations.

One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is to prepare the child for their entry into the adult world.  Under your close guidance, there are lessons and experiences that your son and others can gain, and in doing so, add to their developing foundation and psychological self.

As for your uncle and brother, it is never too late to learn new skills or transform their behavior.  However, to do so is based on their desire to do so, and not your concerns or your needs.  Staying within an illusion is a choice; one you may not agree to and yet one you must want to respect.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” 

-Edwin Louis Cole

 

My Dear Brothers,

I have no flattering remarks for you.

I write for the general readership, but in my In Our Corner blogs, I want to direct my concluding remarks specifically to black men as we walk the journey of self-discovery.

Regardless of our social status, education and achievements, black males for the majority are not valued by white society.  However, this is neither an excuse nor an explanation for the psychological wounds we inflict on the members of our own community, specifically black women.

There will be those among us who, due to their own psychological wounds and lack of self-concept, will be unable to look within themselves, and would rather focus on questioning my personal motives. This is expected, but not productive.

Transformation can only begin with embracing acceptance and letting go of denial. There are those who are not ready to transform themselves, so their journey of self-discovery will not be complete until they accept themselves, the roles they have played, the mistakes they have made, and the impact those things have had on others.  For some, that journey is a short one.  For others, it never began.

If you are angry after reading this, I invite you to be with that anger.  Feel it out and inquire of yourself why you feel that way. Accept that anger as a natural part of you but get curious about what you have experienced that has triggered that in you.  Transformation and self-discovery can only occur by exploring the depth of your feelings and finding the root cause of it, instead of mindlessly finding a way to just dull the symptoms of it. Be willing to walk the journey of self-discovery with yourself, warts and all.

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Searching for meaning is like drawing

Etching for life.

Asking for direction can bring

Breath for tomorrow

Risk taking has its challenges

Earning another opportunity to

Endure which bring wisdom.

Zest is what it’s about

Experience the Journey of Self-Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Until the next time,

RemainingIn Our Corner.