The Unspoken Truth: Are You Living or Just Alive?

“The consequence of ethnic self-hatred for families is often that they become deeply divided on these issues.  Because ethnic identity and pride are developmental and ongoing throughout the life course, some families can become splintered over how ‘ethnic’ each family member is.  Sometimes, accusing a family member of being too ‘White’ is a smoke screen for jealousy or resentment towards a successful person but those accusations also reinforce feelings of invisibility.”

-E. Wyatt, “Beyond invisibility of African American males: The effects on women and families.” Counseling Psychologist 27(6) p.805

“Not all ethnic minorities are confronted on a daily basis with the threats of death or injury to their physical well-being.  In addition, the trauma and emotional abusiveness of racism is as likely to be due to chronic, systemic and invisible assaults on the personhoods of ethnic minorities as a single catastrophic event.”

-V. Sanchez-Hucles, “Racism: Emotional abusiveness and psychological trauma for ethnic minorities.” Journal of Emotional Abuse 1(2) p.72

“The message from the (black) community is simple: We will isolate you, we will shame you and most important, in times of desperation and need, we will abandon you.”

-Micheal Kane, The Unspoken Truth: The Real Black Man Standing Alone. (09.24.18)

“I stand alone.” ABC… Assertive, Boldness & Collective…. Empowered. I stand alone.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

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My Dear Readers,

The African-American diaspora refers to communities of people outside of the United States who are descended from people of African descent who were enslaved in the United States or the prior British colonies along the east coast of North America.

In previous writings, several points of inter-generational trauma experiences have been identified:

  • The tactics of forced aloneness (isolation), shaming, and abandonment are often used by members of the African American community to instill fear and enforce compliance and adherence to group norms.
  • The identified methods are “holdovers” of the tactics and methods used by slave traders and slave owners to terrorize, indoctrinate and traumatize newly captured African male and female slaves.
  • The learned tactics of forced aloneness (isolation), shaming and abandonment has psychologically impacted the way in which members of the community view the psychological self, interpersonal relationships and most importantly, interfamily and spousal relationships.

In the last writing, I spoke of the concept of “the divided world of the black man”.  Specifically:

“Simply put, if we divide the world of black men in half, there are those who are permanently disabled and therefore discarded by a hostile and non-caring society, and there are those who are walking wounded, working through the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity in a hostile and non-caring society. The first group is the walking dead, waiting for the end to appear, whereas the second group seeks to empower themselves and create a psychologically healthy life…but only if they are willing to grasp the opportunity.”

This week, we will further explore the concept of the “walking dead” and the “walking wounded.” We start with a young man’s pain and suffering.

Here is his story……….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

 Your last blog intrigued me.   Given what you said about the “Walking Dead,” I feel that it fits me.

 Like you, I too am a black man.  Unlike you, I do not love myself.  This shows as in being afraid and allowing others to define me rather than seeking to define myself. 

 I am in my late 20’s.  I am single and have a college degree.  My father is not in my life although we both live in the same community.  

 My mother told me that it was his suggestion to abort me.  The excuses I have heard from people around me is that my mother has prevented him from being in my life.  Now that I am an adult, however, he still refuses to interact with me.  I feel betrayed by him.

 People laugh at me for not being in the social norm.  They make me feel unwanted.  Because I am educated, people say that I speak “white” and call me “white boy.”

 When I am doing things that are not the social norms, I hide from others, not wanting them to find out.  I spend a lot of time alone drinking and smoking marijuana.  It’s relaxing, but nothing is changing for me.

 You wrote about black men being the “walking dead” and “walking wounded.” How come you did not include black women?  Don’t they go through the same issues that men do? 

 What do I want?  I want to define myself. I want to stop looking for handouts from others or depending on them to define me.  I want to live.  All I am doing now is hurting myself. 

 I am 29 years old.  My father has other children that he claims, but he does not claim me. I feel like I am dying.  Am I the walking dead?  Is there a way out for me?

 Questioning in Seattle

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My Dear Young Man,

Before I respond to the questions you have asked, I want you to know that your words have touched me.  You are a very special person.

I want to reach out to your psychological self and hope that within the traumatized and painful wounds you carry as a survivor, that you are open to listen; you now have an opportunity to live the life you want and not the life you live.

As I begin, I want to acknowledge and speak to three painful wounds that you carry.  In addition, I will clarify what I meant by the “Walking Dead” and the “Walking Wounded.”  Specifically, I will address:

  • The Wound of Betrayal Trauma
  • Responding to the Pain of Denial & Rejection
  • Appropriate Self Care in response to psychological pain

I want to leave you with words that will assist you as you move forward in the struggle we know as the journey of LIFE.

The Wound of Betrayal Trauma

My Dear Young Man,

I do not perceive your wounds as you have experienced them. I suggest you look at your wounds differently to help encourage healing and to reduce psychological pain.

Betrayal is the violation of implicit and explicit trust.  This can occur in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Gaining trust with the intent to do harm or exposing allies to an enemy through treachery and disloyalty.
  • Being intentionally unfaithful or negligent in a relationship or guarding or maintaining information shared in confidence.
  • Intentionally revealing or disclosing information shared in confidence.

Betrayal trauma is distinct because to be successfully inflicted, an individual must have allowed the betrayer access to the psychological self’s three internal resources: belief, faith and trust.

As you can see, the only criterion for betrayal is “being intentionally unfaithful or negligent in a relationship.”  However, the standard is not met due to your father’s unwillingness to access your psychological self’s three internal resources: belief, faith and trust.

Does this mean that you are wrong in your feelings of pain and suffering?  No, of course not.   The focus here is merely to clarify the specific type of psychological wound.  In doing so, one can understand how best to develop a plan that will start healing.

There are 13 distinct traumas that can impact African-Americans daily.  Betrayal Trauma, due to its ability to access the psychological self’s three internal resources is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult psychological wounds to heal.

So, if it’s not betrayal trauma, what is it?

Responding to the Pain of Denial & Rejection

My Dear Young Man,

Humans, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, arrive into life with the basic desires and demands of acceptance, and validation.  Humans are social animals, so denial and rejection from the social group is even more emotionally painful because we are wired to want that acceptance.  Research shows that denial and rejection trigger the same brain pathways that are activated when humans experience physical pain.

Your story is full of the pain you have experienced by the rejection and denial of your father.  Your suffering continues to this very day as you seek validation and acceptance from your father and community.  As you continue this behavior, the psychological wounds deepen and the pain increases to where you start to seek external, and sometimes harmful, ways to minimize the pain.

Appropriate Self Care in Response to Psychological Pain

  • Advocacy, Balance & Calmness
  • Five Cs of Calmness

Using drugs and alcohol to dull your pain does not serve you. The wound will not heal and as time goes on, more drugs and more alcohol will be required to get the numbness you seek. When you do this, you are only treating the symptom of your wound, not addressing the root cause.  Seek to heal your wounds via utilizing the clinical concept of ABC i.e. advocacy, balance and calmness.  Specifically:

  • Advocacy– Acknowledge the denial and rejection. Seek self-validation, and in doing so, commit to healing the wounds of the psychological self.
  • Balance-Embrace your anger and depression—only you can understand its true meaning. Balance what you are feeling with what you are thinking.
  • Calmness-Understand that denial and rejection are the refusal to accept reality or fact of a painful event. Seek acceptance and in doing so achieve calmness in your internal world and external environment.

As I listen to your story, the error I see is that you continue to reach out to a person you call father, a person who is so trapped in his own denial that he simply refuses to experience it.  Furthermore, you compound your pain by reaching out and seeking acceptance from a community that does not love itself and therefore, is incapable of loving you or accepting your “difference.”

The calmness that you and other young people like you in similar situations require cannot be attained from those whose own  inter-generational trauma keeps them in the same situation you experience.

Standing Alone at the Crossroads

 Crossroads represent opportunities for the individual to create new realities as they move forth in the journey known as life.   During this journey of Self Discovery, the individual seeks self-empowerment and the reinforcing of the psychological self and is likely to do so without the benefit of a larger support group, such as their family, community or society.

The calmness that results from acceptance and validation can only be achieved from within the psychological self.  To assist with achieving calmness there is the clinical   model Five Cs of Calmness.  Specifically:

  • Contentment– An unruffled state under disturbing conditions. Here the individual seeks to bring their internal peace to the confusion and conflict in the external world.
  • Calculation– The individual cannot remain indefinitely at the crossroads. They must want to assess the impact of taking both paths.
  • Clarification-The individual must want to accept their feelings as normal. Free the psychological self from having to conform to what the larger group expects of you.
  • Cohesion-A direction is chosen and the individual finds connection with the psychological self.  The individual transforms the initial fear into an informed response.
  • Collective– The individual empowers the psychological self. Take notice of what has been from the experience at the crossroads.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

My Dear Readers,

In the movie Gladiator, as Maximus prepares to go to battle in the arena, Proximo states:

“We are nothing but dust and shadows.  Dust and shadows.”

Proximo is correct.  As we come into life, we understand that one day we all must die.  However, for those willing to grasp the opportunity, one can choose to “live the life you want and not the life you live.”

The question is: how?

The Walking Wounded & the Walking Dead  

It is important to clarify what the makeup of both groups may look like. For example, although African-American women face similar challenges i.e. types of racism and traumatization as African-American men, there are differences in how this group is perceived externally outside their community and internally within their community.

Despite inter-generational and historical traumatization, African-American women have developed support networks and emotional foundations by networking, sharing resources and communicating intimate and sensitive information to assist through difficult as well as desperate times.  On the other hand, African-African men, due to societal norms associated with masculinity and maleness, have not been able to develop consistency in these areas or pass such norms and resources intergenerationally.

The Walking Wounded & The Sad Sista Club

In the previous blog, in writing about the Walking Wounded, I stated the following:

 “… if we divide the world of black men in half, there are those who are permanently disabled and therefore discarded by a hostile and non-caring society, and there are those who are walking wounded, working through the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity in a hostile and non-caring society.”

The same can be stated regarding black women.  However, the difference is that black men lack the openness of connection that black women have created—a connection that serves as a protective layer for individuals in the ongoing struggle to maintain sanity not only in a hostile and non-caring society, but also in responding to terse interactions with black men.

Whereas such men are designated the “Walking Wounded” as they struggle individually to maintain sanity within a hostile and non-caring society, black women due to their collective sharing, are designated as the “Sad Sista Club”.  The common themes of both genders are the basic forms of existence and survival that only serve to reinforce the lack of empowerment within the psychological self.

In the previous blog, in differing between the Walking Dead and the Walking Wounded, I stated the following:

“The first group are the walking dead, waiting for the end to appear, whereas the second group seeks to empower themselves and create a psychologically healthy life…but only if they are willing to grasp the opportunity.”

One way of seeking psychological wellness to be aware of the possible stages that can impact the journey of life.  I call these the “Five Levels of The Journey of Self Discovery.”

  • Existing– The journey is bleak and lifeless for the individual. Life is barely lived, let alone enjoyed or even really 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 a little gain, but not much for the individual at this level.
  • DrivingAt 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 meaning and 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 fear 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.

Questioning in Seattle is not a member of the Walking Dead—however, he is at the stage of survival, which carries its own risks. Should he continue on the same downside spiral with alcohol and drugs, he is certain to hit bottom, and therefore, become a member of this permanently disabled group.

However, he does have the option to empower himself and create a psychologically healthy life, but only if he is willing to grasp the opportunity to progress through the levels of the Journey of Self-Discovery.

As you began your own Journey of Self-Discovery, consider the following:

  • What am I doing to improve better/improve my life, my community and my surroundings?
  • Am I connected to my psychological self? Do I seek to advocate for self and seek balance within and calmness in my external environment?
  • How am I seeking to motivate, uplift or impact positive outcomes with family, friends and community?

“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

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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

Earnings another opportunity to

Endure which brings wisdom

Zest is what life is about

Explore the Journey of Self-Discovery

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

Standing Alone….. The Unspoken Truth

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