Complex Trauma And Black Femininity: The Double Whammy

“Women are discriminated against as a group, regardless of race and ethnic roots. African Africans are discriminated against as a group, regardless of gender.  Since we are both Black and women, that how we get the ‘double whammy.’

-Terrie M. Williams, Author

“I love my man better than I love myself.”

-Bessie Smith, Any Woman’s Blues

My Dear Readers,

Last week’s entry created a variety of responses.  In the writing, I responded to the concerns of a young woman who appeared willing to endure psychological trauma in the form of emotional and physical abuse in order to save her marriage.   In doing this, she shared her concern that divorce would adversely impact her image and the image of her family within her sorority and church communities.

Four African-American women of different ages, backgrounds, and marital statuses responded to this article, and I will respond to them this week.  As I read their words, I noticed another common theme, the difficulty of life as a black woman.  Terrie Williams calls this “the double whammy.”

Below are their stories…

Dear Dr. Kane,

Your blog made me think of the many things I have seen black women go through during my 50+ years.  There are so few men for African-American women.  African-American men often don’t want them. Men of other races are not interested in them.

Many women hang on because they don’t see another option and feel that a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all.  I have known women who felt there was no hope in future relationships if they left the relationship they were in.  This took their choices away from them.

Making It Work, Tacoma, WA

Dear Dr. Kane,

I am 28 years old, college educated and single. My most recent attempt to get to know a black man ended when the fool told me he had two kids from two women with a third on the way. What kind of man goes out cheating while his woman is about to have his child?

Some of my friends believe that “black men ain’t shit,” but I know that isn’t true. My father was an excellent model for me.   He was a loving husband and good father.  He passed away last year, but throughout my life, he gave me the foundation and values that I expect from a man to consider him to be a good potential partner in a relationship.

My question is this: where are the black men who had the strength and wisdom like my father?  I want to develop a relationship with a real man and not a half grown man who lacks maturity.  You’re the expert—please point me in the direction of a few good (grown up, black,) men.

Little Boys Need Not Apply, Renton, WA

Dear Dr. Kane,

It’s hard for black folks out here.  Most black folks are struggling to keep their families together.  Shouldn’t you be giving us words of encouragement? It seems like you are encouraging people to leave their families!

Sometimes, hitting happens in a relationship.  I’m not saying that it’s right, but that woman you wrote about needs to work things out with her husband.  I disagree with you and I would tell my daughters and sons to stick it out. Not everyone can be blessed with the perfect relationship like you have.

Holding Up Families, Seattle, WA

Dear Dr. Kane,

I need your help.  I don’t know what else to do.  My best friend is involved in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage.  She has taken the baby and left her husband before, but now she’s returned to him.  This has happened several times.

My girlfriends and I have done an intervention, provided her with resources and escorted her to a lawyer’s office for a consultation. However, she just told me that she is going to stay with him so that she can work on her marriage.

This sickens me.  I can’t stand by and listen to how he is abusing her and the baby.   I am losing sleep, I can’t focus on my own work, and I am reliving the abuse that occurred in my own parents’ marriage.  What can I do to save both my friend and myself?

Scared & Tired, Kent, WA

My Dear Women,

Thank you for sharing your words and experiences with me.  In reviewing your concerns, I have four points that I want to address in my response:

  • African-American men do not value or want African-American women.
  • If you are an African-American woman in a relationship with an African-American man, it is better to stay in that relationship, regardless of how bad it is, than to leave that relationship and risk never being in another relationship. Most young African-American men are lacking in maturity and aren’t able to fill the shoes of men of earlier generations.
  • African-American families must stay together, regardless of the costs. Domestic violence is not acceptable, but it is reasonable to expect that domestic violence may occur occasionally within the relationship, and the relationship still be worth staying in.
  • I want to stand by my best friend. I want to save her from an abusive relationship, and in doing so, I also want to save myself from reliving the abuse I witnessed in my own life.

Point 1

African-American men do not value or want African-American women. 

Without a doubt, there are African-American men who, for a variety of poorly conceived reasons, either do not value or do not want to be involved in intimate relationships with African-American women.  This may be one of many reasons to explain the lacking in availability of suitable men.

However, this reasoning is simply an excuse to accept things as they are and to not continue to seek out a healthy relationship.  This is a false illusion. To remain in an abusive relationship is to commit to the complex trauma that maintains it.

There is no difference between the impact of psychological trauma on African-American women and on African-American men.  In all cases, trauma reinforces the structure of fear, incapacitating the individual so that they develop a level of comfort within the traumatic environment, which helps them to continue to live in their fear.  Instead, the individual woman seeking a positive relationship must want to embrace her fear, remove herself from a dysfunctional relationship and maintain hope that she will find a positive relationship with another individual.

Point 2

Therefore, if you are an African-American woman in a relationship with an African-American man, it is better to stay in that relationship, regardless of how bad it is, than to leave that relationship and risk never being in another relationship. Most young African-American men are lacking in maturity and aren’t able to fill the shoes of men of earlier generations.

There is a widely held assumption and belief that African-American men of the previous generation were better equipped, stronger and more capable than the inferior and weak men of today.  These are false generalizations and illusionary beliefs.  I am aware of no clinical research that would sustain this false concept.

Although the technology has changed, the closed system that existed within African-Americans 25-50 years ago remains with African-Americans today.  The major difference is that the men of earlier times lived more closely together in a predominantly African-American physical and geographically centralized community, which gave off the image of strength, while forcing the individuals within that community who did not conform to its norms to suffer in silence.

The concept of the “man-child’ has always existed among African-Americans.  It is evident in situations where modeling of African-American male adulthood is scarce and mentoring in what it means to be a black male is even more lacking. As a result, black males of similar ages learn from, support, and mentor each other, which often leads them down a different path.  In these cases, some learn from the burns they suffer, and others never learn.

Point 3

African-American families must stay together, regardless of the costs. Domestic violence is not acceptable, but it is reasonable to expect that domestic violence may occur occasionally within the relationship, and the relationship still be worth staying in.

 This theme embodies one of the major issues in African-American geographical and societal communities.  Staying in an abusive relationship only serves the societal agenda of maintaining the image of a well-functioning family, regardless of the hidden reality of the emotional trauma and psychological injury suffered by those involved and as a result, that trauma and injury is passed on to the next generation.

The theme is well conceived, but it is destructive to the individual, as it only minimizes the suffering of the individual and sacrifices them for the image of the intact family.

Point 4

I want to stand by my best friend.  I want to save her from an abusive relationship, and in doing so, I also want to save myself from reliving the abuse I witnessed in my own life.

 The best friend has made her choice. She is choosing to remain in a dysfunctional and failing relationship.  In seeking to save her marriage, she is sacrificing not only herself, but the welfare of her infant who remains vulnerable and exposed to abuse within the family relationship.

Witnessing this situation has triggered the recollection of the writer’s own complex trauma from her parents’ relationship.  She now has the difficult choice to either empower herself by letting go of her friend,  or focus on saving a person who says she wants solutions to these problems, but is still  unwilling to leave the dysfunctional relationship.

Concluding Words

“We’ve incorporated it in our own mentality today that, no matter how much pain I’m in, I will keep moving, keep performing, keep working.”

-Dr. Brenda Wade Clinical Psychologist, Author

African-Americans in today’s world continue to respond to complex traumatic injury and psychological wounding.  The legacy of slavery has created a tradition of complex trauma passed down from generation to generation that serves only to further isolate and maintain suffering in silence among African Americans.   We can move towards openness by individually assuming the responsibility to heal from our own complex trauma.  Specifically, individuals must want to:

  • Cease depending on our societies, communities, and even our families to acknowledge our psychological injury or emotional pain. They can provide support, but they cannot provide the validation that we can only get from ourselves.
  • Understand and prioritize our emotional well-being.
  • Understand the difference between saving and empowering. Saving firmly holds us to the past and present, but empowerment propels us into the future.
  • Take the plunge; explore the possibility of living with fear and letting go of living in

Fear is here. Forever.  We either live in or with.  You must choose.

 The Visible Man…Dr. Kane 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

From Princess to Powerful Woman

“A monster. You and your friends, all of you. Pretty monsters. It’s a stage all girls go through. If you’re lucky you get through it without doing any permanent damage to yourself or anyone else.”

Kelly Link

“Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.”~Virginia Satir

 

My Dear Readers,

The above quotes represent two different mental approaches when it comes to parenting adolescents.  Adolescence is the stage in which the child no longer views him or herself as a child. In their still-developing minds, the wisdom of the parent is now meaningless in comparison with their friends.

Adolescence may be a time for teenagerst o  to separate from their parents and find their individual selves, but for the parent, it may be a time of trauma and drama.  For parents, this is the recognition that a stranger, in the form of their child, has come into their household.

To all parents regarding all of the above: This too shall pass.  You will survive.

Below is such a story……..

——————————————————————–

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a single African-American woman with two children, one 8 years old, and my 15-year old daughter.  Simply put, the 15-year old is lazy.   I simply can’t get her to do anything.

We’ve just moved into a new house. Before the move, we lived in a small apartment for 18 months, and she had to sleep in a space the size of a closet.  Now she has a huge spacious room with her own bathroom. You would think that she would be grateful for that to at least move her own stuff into it, but here we are, my boyfriend and I, huffing, puffing and sweating while we move boxes, and what is she doing?  Sitting comfortably on the couch talking to her girlfriends on her cellphone!

What the hell is wrong with young people today?  She sees us working hard, so why do I have to tell her to help us move her stuff?  I don’t have to inform her when it is time to get her hair done every two weeks, or to remind her that it’s time for soccer practice. So, when these things happen, I become the female version of the Hulk, yelling, screaming etc.  Oh yeah, I got her attention.  And she has the #@#*@ nerve to have an attitude?

So, as punishment I tell her that she has to catch the bus this year, and that there will be no school shopping for clothes.  The tears began to flow, she starts pleading and promising to be more attentive.  I eventually gave in, took her to soccer practice, and afterwards, we went school shopping.

My boyfriend and my friends get on me for either always letting her off the hook or changing on the punishment.  I know I shouldn’t do that, but I feel so guilty.   I want her to have the life that my mother, who was also a single parent, was unable to provide for me.

My daughter does well in school and outside of being lazy and selfish, she is a good girl.  However, I am worried about helping my daughter to become an independent, capable, self-secure, and functioning black woman and a contributing member of society.  I feel guilty that her father is not involved.  To make up for this loss, I have attempted to become friends with my daughter and give her breaks.  Have I created a spoiled brat? I know that my strategy is not working.  Do you have any advice for me?

Frazzled in Seattle

——————————————————————————-

My Dear Woman,

First I want to congratulate you on your journey.  It is clear that you have worked hard to create a good life for your family. I see the conflict that you are dealing with.   

Believe it or not, the conflict I see has nothing to do with the interaction between you and your daughter.  I am referring to the internal conflict that lies within you as a person, not you as a parent.

Psychologically speaking, conflict can be defined as a condition where a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs.  It is clear that the wishes you may have regarding making sure that your daughter has the lifestyle you didn’t is in direct opposition with your need to prepare your daughter to enter the world as a capable, functioning black woman, and that is what is leaving you “frazzled.”

To assist you in this endeavor, I would suggest a model I have created for influencing adolescent development on the way to early adulthood. The model, R.A.C.E. (responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment) are responses to the various “jump off points” from adolescence to adulthood.

The breakdown of the model is as follows:

  • Responsibility– to obtain reasonable steps of freedom and independence, the adolescent must want to accept the burden of being responsible for one’s behaviors and actions.
  • Accountability-the adolescent, and no one else, will be held to account for their behaviors and actions.
  • Consequences are responses to, not punishments for, the actions/behaviors taken or in other situations, not taken.
  • Empowerment-comes from within the individual. It is up to the individual to set one’s direction and work towards reaching their goals.

However, this model and these strategies are meaningless if the parental figure is not willing to show their adolescent the  commitment, consistency, communications and community necessary to prepare them for adulthood and becoming a contributing member of society.  Specifically, the parental figure must show:

  • Commitment to the identified strategies
  • Consistency during times of parental duress
  • Communications as to the openness in words and actions taken
  • Community of fellowship as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

It is a reality that parents want their adolescents to consciously show positive behavior.  However, it is also a reality that adolescents consciously and unconsciously model the behaviors of their parental figures. Are you, as a parent, willing to accept the fact that your own actions and behaviors are a factor in your daughter’s unacceptable behaviors?

  • What is your daughter learning when you don’t follow through with appropriate discipline?
    • Response-She learns she can manipulate through whining and complaining.
  • What does your daughter learn when you don’t follow through with agreements you have made?
    • Response-She learns that keeping her word and commitments mean nothing.  Furthermore, she will stop trusting you and terminate honest communication, which is an important part of staying involved in your adolescent’s life.
  • What does your daughter learn when she is rewarded fancy clothes, social activities and financial resources when she has not contributed to the well-being of herself or of her family?
    • Response-She learns to become a dependent, incapable, nonfunctioning, insecure black woman who is unable to become a contributing member of society.

——————————————————————

Concluding Words

My Dear Woman,

I want to conclude with responding to your question, i.e. “Have I created a spoiled brat?”  A brat is usually defined as a humorous term for a child, typically a badly behaved one.

Given this definition, no, you have not created a spoiled brat.  Your daughter is past the developmental stage of child where such behavior is either laughed at or tolerated. As parents, it is not our role to becomes friends with our adolescents.  It is our responsibility to set standards, provide structure; guidance and a foundation from which they can be catapulted into adulthood. The parental role is similar to that of a therapist in that we seek to create a safe place for others to explore, find themselves and achieve self-discovery.  We can be friendly, and yet, we must not be friends.

Once parents and therapists cross that boundary line, they lose perspective on the objective, which is to assist our children in becoming functioning members of the society and world that they are about to inherit.   Our young people need the opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes.  This is the essence of adolescence.

It is unfortunate that her father has decided to not be a part of your daughter’s life. There is a saying in the African-American community,

“It is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t.” 

What this means is you “is” her mother and you “ain’t” her father.  Understanding this, you cannot replace him, nor can you ease the pain she feels.  As her parent, however (and not her friend), you can be supportive by honestly answering her questions about her father to the best of your ability and in being there to assist her to process the pain she will no doubt have.

In approximately 4-5 years, your daughter will leave home, hopefully attend college, and in doing so, enter the adult world.  You are now on the clock and time waits for no one. Please take the opportunity to consider the questions and utilize the model that has been provided.  You can achieve your objective of assisting your daughter to be to an independent, capable, functioning secured black woman and a contributing member of society. However, the time to parent is now.

“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”

– Ten Flashes of Light on the Journey of Life

I wish you well.

Dr. Kane… The Visible Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacrificing Our Daughters: Male Privilege in the African-American Family

My Dear Readers,

The majority of children, regardless of culture or ethnicity, are taught and reinforced several classic rules that move with us from generation to generation.  These include:

  • Honor thy father and mother (obedience)
  • Family always comes first (survival)
  • Do for others before you do for self (selflessness)

As children grow and develop, these “rules” are reinforced within the structure of larger groups, such as family, community and society.  Children are given positive reinforcement and rewards when they follow these rules.  They are also given negative messages when they do not.

These rules have a common theme: that doing for others is valued whereas doing for one’s self is not.  There are times in which the individual, in the course of pursuing their own objectives, comes into conflict with these rules.  In reality, however, the individual is actually in conflict with the “psychological self,” an entity that exists within each of us as individuals.

Below is such a story……

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Dear Visible Man,

I am the oldest of three children.  I am an African-American woman and have recently completed graduate school while working a fulltime job. I live on my own, where my two brothers, grown ass adults in their early thirties, continue to reside with my parents.

One of my brothers is a college graduate who has never held a real job or been involved in a meaningful relationship and has resided with our parents for his entire life.  My youngest brother never finished high school, has been in and out of jail for selling drugs and has lived on and off between girlfriends and our parents.

Unlike his elder sibling, my youngest brother has no problem starting relationships; he is just unable to maintain them.  He is lazy, spoiled and once his girlfriends realize he isn’t about anything and the relationship is purely sexual for him, they toss him out and as usual, he returns home until he can find someone else who is willing to put up with him.

My parents are getting older and both have retired from their jobs working for the local school district where she taught and he was a supervisor.  As they were both vested in the school retirement system, they have good pensions and stable income.

However, even though I don’t live at home, my parents depend upon me to do their errands, take them to their medical appointments and prepare their meals.  My siblings don’t do anything but live off them and drain their financial resources.

Needless to say, I am exhausted.  I don’t have much of a social life and I am unable to find the time to seek a meaningful relationship.  I am in my late 30’s and would like to have a family, but given what is going on, I don’t see that as a possibility.

I have spoken to my parents about developing strategies to encourage and assist my siblings to move out and be self-sufficient. My parents say that they are afraid that my brothers won’t be able to survive on their own.  However they are tired of my brothers doing nothing with their lives and want them to be responsible, get married and start having grandchildren.

My parents are from the South (Georgia). They refuse to talk about their past.  All I know is that that they are fearful of the police, particularly since both of my brothers were constantly stopped and questioned in our neighborhood when we lived there. My parents relocated to the Pacific Northwest in order to protect us from what was going on at that time, to keep the family together, and to get a fresh start, and they don’t want to make my brothers vulnerable by kicking them out.

I feel that my parents are stuck in the past, and since they are stuck, so am I.  I was raised in the church and taught to honor and obey my parents, but I’m really unhappy.  What do I do?

Stuck & With No Life, Seattle, WA

—————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Young Woman,

I would like to congratulate you on completing graduate school.  Doing so while working fulltime is indeed a great accomplishment.  Your actions speak loudly and say a lot about your character.

The actions of your siblings and parents speak loudly as well.  What is unclear is whether you are listening to what they are saying.  I was also raised in the South.  My mother used to say “a show horse may look good, but if he ain’t willing to plow, what good is he?’

I would like to focus on the choices your parents have made and how you allow those actions and choices to impact you.  It would be a distraction to focus too much on your brothers as their behaviors and actions appear to be a result of the choices your parents have made.

As the oldest child and only female, you too play a significant role in the dysfunctional behavior within the family unit.

Your parents may not push your brothers out for many reasons, but one that stands out from your letter is the possibility that your parents fear that your brothers (especially the one with the criminal record) may be injured or killed by the police if they do force them out.

Another issue may be perception—your parents may be living with embarrassment or shame that their youngest son is involved in drug sales.  In addition to the fear of the police, they may also be responding to anticipated guilt, grief and loss should the worst outcome become real.

As retirees from the school system, your parents have strong work ethics, but the fear of loss in this case is in conflict with these values.  As they now live in fear, they have surrendered their power to empower and motivate their sons to transform their behaviors.

There is a saying within the African-American community that goes:

We love our sons and raise our daughters.” 

This is clearly indicated in the actions being observed within your family.  As the daughter, your parents have taught you the concepts of responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment.

These teachings have resulted in your ability to maintain employment while obtaining a graduate level education.   Furthermore, you are independent, able to live on your own, and you are capable of entering a marital relationship, raising children and preparing them to enter the adult world.

The same cannot be said of your brothers. Your siblings were not “raised,” instead they were pampered.  Consequently, they have not matured, and are incapable of handling the reins of adulthood.

Specifically, regarding the brother who has a college education, instead of moving into gaining more life and work experiences following graduation, he returns to his parents’ home.  As long as they continue to make the home welcoming to him, and they continue to meet his basic needs, there will be no reason for him to seek adult experiences such as working in the professional world or creating intimate relationships.

Your youngest brother has the least to offer.  He has no education, no viable work experience and is a manipulator of women, using them for his sexual pleasure and giving nothing in return.  His behavior is that of a spoiled adolescent, content to roam the streets at will, seeking others to play with and enjoy sexual pleasure.

Your parents hold a major portion of responsibility for what is lacking in their sons.  As they grow older, their fear will intensify.  Your siblings clearly lack the ability to care for themselves, and therefore would be ineffective in providing care for their parents or handling their legal and/or financial affairs.

So who is left to pick up the pieces? Prepare meals?  Take parents to their medical appointment?  Handle their legal and financial affairs?  Hmm.  Let me see…. You.

Be aware, there is a trap a is being prepared for you, “the trapdoor of responsibility.” Following the trap there is the “bottomless pit”.   It may be that since you were born, your parents have been planning and preparing for the day you take over the reins of their physical care and their other affairs.

This is typical regardless of race; major responsibility is often on the oldest child as the de facto leader when the parent(s) are either unavailable to the family or incapable of caring for themselves.  It is also typical that females will take the lead in household chores whereas males may play more of a supportive role.

This behavior is clearly an example of “male privilege” Male privilege can be defined as a set of privileges that are to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.  While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being male benefits from male privilege.

One way that male privilege presents itself in the African-American community is communal protectiveness of black men.  As a result, black women are not only expected to protect males, but to not expose the community to shame, disrepute, embarrassment or humiliation by speaking out against them.

The African-American community is a “strong spiritual and faith based communal unit. In cases such as this, the community utilizes religion to pressure women to obey men; thereby reinforcing male privilege.

The issue of obedience is a key factor in your frustration—the conflict between the selflessness that you have been trained for in the church, versus the self-love and care that you need to continue to function.

The intensity of your feelings may be an indicator of how religion is used as a tool within the African-American family to reinforce male privilege and pressure daughters to submit and provide the level of care desired whereas such is not expected of sons.

Concluding Words

Your parents are no doubt warm and loving, but the reality is that they continue to live in fear and are unable to provide direction to your siblings. The bottomless pit comes into focus when upon their deaths, you become the caretaker of your siblings, who are becoming more dependent as time moves on.  The pit is bottomless, as like your parents, your siblings will drain you of your energy and resources.

It is up to you to decide whether to remain in this situation or seek a way in which you can live your life.  Taking on the additional task of providing care of your siblings will not only alleviate your parents of the mess they created, it will also alleviate the responsibility of your siblings to provide care for themselves.

It is one thing to want to figure out a way to enjoy life and at the same time provide a quality of life for your parents.  Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prepared to take on the task of raising my grown siblings?
  • Am I willing to provide for them at the expense of my own happiness?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my desires of marriage and having children?
  • Can I rely upon and trust my siblings to look after me should I need care or assistance?

Remember, “a show horse may look good, but if he ain’t willing to plow, what good is he?”

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

-Ten Flashes of the Journey of Life

The Visible Man

The Price Of Enjoying Male Privilege

My Dear Readers,

I am grateful to return to writing for Loving Me More.  During my time away, I traveled to the Justice Institute of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where I completed a year-long trauma certificate program in Aboriginal Focus-Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma.

The program was excellent.  As I sought to improve my skills as a Clinical Traumatologist, I learned more about myself as I continue my own journey of self-discovery.  I greatly benefited from the experience and the relationships I formed, and was honored by my peers with a new name: Gentle Bear Who Walks Softly.

In this week’s writing, I speak to the tragedy of “male privilege,” which has wounded women, children, and men as well, and resulted in historical as well as intergenerational trauma within the African-American community.

Below is such a story……..

———————————————————————————————————

Dear Visible Man,

I am so overwhelmed, and I have to tell my story.  I am an African-American woman mother of three children, and I am recently divorced from my husband in a marriage of 20 years.

I finally had enough after coming home exhausted from my second job and having him ask me if I could work overtime so we can get some bills paid.  I just told him he had to leave.  I did love him, but I wanted him to go out and hope that he would become the man that I knew he could be, because he wasn’t reaching that potential with me. I was finally able to accept that my ex-husband was never going to be the provider my family needed and would always continue to expect me to be the wage earner while he sat at home unemployed.

Three months later, he comes by and gives me $450.00 to buy clothing and food for the children. He was proud as he gave me the money, and I was shocked, but happy. I felt that he was finally living up to his potential.

Later on, I learned that he was working as a “life coach” to a woman who was 27 years his senior.  This made me suspicious, since I knew that he wasn’t trained to be a life coach.  As if that wasn’t enough, he was actually living with this woman and she had given him a cell phone for which she was paying the monthly bill.  She had put him in her will so he would receive the house and car, and I later learned that the money he said he earned actually came from her!

Needless to say, I was stunned.  I have been crying for three days.  My ex-husband is a nothing more than a gigolo.  He is selling his body to a woman who is older than his mother.  He actually wants our children to meet her.  I told him absolutely not.

Lately, he hasn’t been available for the children.  They are always asking me why he doesn’t call or respond to their voicemails.  What do I tell them?  What do I tell our family and friends? He is not being truthful to anyone.  People are starting to question me after talking to him.

I am so embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated.  I just can’t stop crying.  I need to stop crying.  I wish he would just man up and stop being a ho.

Hurting & In the Dark (Seattle WA)

————————————————————————————————

My Dear Woman,

I feel the pain and suffering as I listen to your words.  I only ask that as your tears flow, please allow the body to continue letting go, releasing the pain, allowing the tears to flow.

In reading your letter, I am reminded of the fable “The Scorpion and the Tortoise.”  In it, a tortoise who gives a scorpion a ride across a raging river on his back is stunned when the scorpion stings him halfway across, ensuring the demise of both animals.  As they go down beneath the waves, the tortoise asks the scorpion why he stung him, to which the scorpion replies: “You knew who I was when you met me.  I am a scorpion. I was only doing what comes natural for me.”

THE MARRIAGE

My Dear Woman, let be honest, for twenty years you were married to this person.  For twenty years, he never provided for you or the children.  During the entire marriage, while you held two jobs, he held none. What does this say for his commitment to supporting you and your partnership?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I terminate the marriage?
  • If he had been consistently a non-provider for twenty years, why would he change at this time?

THE CHILDREN

My Dear Woman, as a responsible parent, it is clear that you are seeking to protect your children.  However ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I protecting them from?
  • Why is it in their best interests to hide the truths of their father’s behavior?
  • How will the children respond to me should they find out that I lied or covered up information regarding their father’s behavior?

FAMILY & FRIENDS

My Dear Woman, please remember that if we see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, it is not because one is blind, mute or deaf.  Rather it is because we have chosen silence.  Have the willingness to ask yourself the following:

  • Why has your ex-husband chosen not to be truthful to family and friends?
  • After talking to him, why are the same people coming to you for answers?

THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE

My Dear Woman, your ex-husband may want to live in a made up world, but you must decide whether you and your children are going to join him.  Assuming that you left your former spouse for the right reasons, why would you think he would transform into the “person you feel he could be?”

In twenty years of marriage, he showed you the reality of his inner self. Since you saw no hope for or intention to change, you left the relationship.  Now, you are seeing behavior from him that validates your decision to terminate that relationship.

As parents, we must never lie to our children.  However, it is crucial for the parent to decide how to tell the story and at what age the story should be told.  To willingly lie to protect him may reinforce the pain you are seeking to prevent as well as create a troubled relationship between you and your children.

EMBARASSMENT, SHAME & HUMILIATION

My Dear Woman, You are feeling embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated. Why do you carry this burden? What specifically did you do? Working 1-2 jobs, providing for your family?

It appears that you have unwittingly fallen into “the trap” created by the “larger group,” that is, society, community and family.  As individuals, all of us spend our lives in service to this “larger group.”   These entities seek to control the individual by exerting social pressure or as in this situation, your embarrassment, shame & humiliation.

Having done nothing wrong, it is up to YOU and not the “larger group” to define you and dictate your direction.  You are empowered, however only if you allow yourself to be.

CONCLUDING WORDS

My Dear Woman, language may change with the sands of time, but some behaviors and actions do not.  In my day, there were men known as gigolos who preyed upon vulnerable women.  This was a result of male privilege that reinforced the suffering of not only women and also the children who witnessed their sordid behavior and actions.

Your comments about his “failure to man-up” are incorrect. He is not a failure as a man.  He has failed due to his unwillingness to live with fear and instead has chosen to continue with long experienced behaviors of using women and thus living in fear.

It is clear that he is able to seek employment, but that he has instead chosen to sell himself sexually under the guise of “life coach” to a vulnerable woman.

Allow your children to see the consequences of poor self-esteem, self-worth and the lack of self-validation. Allow them to see with their own eyes the traumatic wounds that it creates not only on others, but also on the individual who allows himself to be used in such a manner.

Let them stand at the crossroads…and hopefully they will choose to do what their father is unwilling to do. Love the self …and in doing so …learn to love the self MORE.

The Visible Man

No Sacrifice Too Great For The Princess….

Dear Readers,

  1. Those of us from earlier generations have learned this concept well. So, it’s not surprising that we respond in disbelief when we feel that our children do not appreciate the things we do for them and the lives they are blessed to live. As we seek to empower our children as they take their places in this world, we too must assume the responsibility of modeling self-care in a fast moving, ever-changing world.

 

Dear Visible Man,

I am frustrated and in disbelief at the behavior of my teenage daughter.

I am a black female single parent who is well educated and employed as a teacher in the one of the local school districts in Washington State’s Puget Sound region.

We reside in a modest middle class single-family residence. Although I am struggling to provide for my family, it was important to me that my daughter attend a private school.

I drive her back and forth to her school activities during the week, and on the weekends, I host sleepovers for her and her friends, take the shopping at the malls and give her spending money for other activities.  And, I provide the coverage for her cell phone plan as well as other items she may want.

So, what does she do in return?  Nothing.  She refuses to do household tasks, keep her room clean or look after her younger sister so I can run a few short errands.

Although I am frustrated, I am determined to help her become a strong, independent African-American woman. My mother was a good role model for me.  I want to do the same for my daughter, but I’m afraid that she’s spoiled. Have I created a monster?

Seeking Answers, Seattle WA

Dear Seeking,

Have you created a monster? Let’s take a look.

It sounds like your daughter has a wonderful life.  The problem I see here is that the foundation for that life has been built on your blood, sweat and tears.  Consider the following realities:

  • Your daughter is clueless and unprepared for the world that as an adult she is about to enter.
  • Your daughter has been shielded and pampered, causing her to achieve only the minimum that is expected of her.
  • You have assumed the responsibility for her failures and successes at the expense of your own life. (After all, your mother did the same for you, right?)

Welcome to the grand illusion of parenting.   It is not unusual for parents, regardless of ethnicity, race or culture, to fall into the following traps:

  • The desire to provide opportunities for your child that you didn’t have when you were a child.
  • The desire to have your child advance further than you have in your life.
  • The determination to endure any and all sacrifices to obtain that advancement, regardless of the financial or emotional costs to yourself.

All of the above are noble concepts. However,  as your children move into pre adolescence, adolescence, and early adulthood, remember that:

  • Your child is a member of two environments: within the home and outside of the home. Consequently, she is not only being influenced by the parents at home, but they are also impacted by peers and communities outside of the home.
  • Your child is reacting and responding to internal conflicts, demands & stimuli as she seeks to find herself and her status in her family, community and society.
  • Your child is transitioning in a fast moving, technological world. The model that you as a parent may be utilizing (i.e. your parent as a model) may be outdated and therefore useless as you and your child seek to move forward.

The major focus lies not only on parental expectations, but also on assisting your daughter as she moves towards young adulthood.  Helping her to resolve internal conflicts, demands and fears associated with emerging into the society as a young adult will prepare her to handle situations as they occur.

A model that may be of assistance to you is “The ABC’s of Parenting From Adolescence to Adulthood.”  Briefly, the components of the model include the following:

  • Advocacy- the parent “transforms” to become a “parental advocate.” The focus is on providing encouragement and a supportive foundation for the adolescent’s movement into adulthood.
  • Balance- the parent “accepts” the role of an “observer.” Here the parent comes to terms his/her own stress and anxiety.   The parent struggles with balancing and observing the adolescent as he/she works through the internal conflicts of making mistakes and wrestling with choices and decisions.
  • Consultation-the parent transitions to the role of a consultant, instead of the leader. The parent shows the willingness to provide consultation upon request, and in doing so, the value is reinforced when information is requested from and not demanded by the parent.

Closing Remarks

There is an internalized benefit in the use of the ABC model.  It allows the  “all giving & all sacrificing” parent an opportunity to focus on self-care.  I would recommend that such individuals take a moment for reflection.

In doing so, with the understanding that you love and are committed to your daughter, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What about me?
  • What do I want for my life?
  • Where or when does my life begin?

As parents, we must want to acknowledge that our lives do not stand still while we wait for our children to leave home.  With the economic difficulties impacting our young adults today, the concept of becoming “empty nesters” is beginning to become a relic of the past.

As we seek to empower our children, we must be willing to model the behavior and in doing so, seek to live the fullness of our own lives. The error made by this parent may be that she is focused on changing the way the adolescent is behaving, instead of focusing on change and transformation within her psychological self.

“Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’

John F. Kennedy

The Visible Man