The Visible Man: Transforming From Ejection to Empowerment

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

-Frederick Douglass

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.’”

-Ruby Howell, campground manager pulling gun on black couple having picnic on Memorial Day

“The fact that she used ‘get, get’ like we were a dog. You say ‘get, get’ to a stray dog that’s on your porch.”

-Franklin Richardson, after being threatened by Ruby Howell

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My Dear Readers,

A belated Memorial Day greeting and a heartfelt thank you to those in our military that gave their lives for our nation.  Once again, I leave my self-imposed retreat to communicate to my beloved readership.

In this writing, I direct my focus to an incident that speaks to how important it is that all Americans, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, understand the psychological wounding created and supported in environments immersed in  hostility and hate.

African Americans have an extensive history of psychological rejection by whites and physical ejection from places where whites feel that African Americans do not “belong.”  Historically, whites have utilized laws and “black codes” to restrict and control the movements of African Americans.

In modern times, while the hostility and hate continue to flourish, the methods of restriction and control have transformed.  Today, whites call the police on African Americans who are #WalkingWhileBlack, #SleepingWhileBlack, and #SellingWaterWhileBlack, among others, leading to what I call a Starbucks Moment.  Named for the 2016 story where two African-American males were arrested for sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia, a Starbucks Moment: 

“…occurs when a white person, due to irrational emotional reactions from shock, fear, terror or feeling threatened, deceives or manipulates the police to seek the investigation, removal, and/or arrest of a black person for a minor reason or infraction in a space that the black person would otherwise have every right to occupy.”

-M. Kane, (2016)

White people continue to employ this strategy to this day. Some take matters into their own hands by violence.  In 2018, a white retired firefighter was convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm for shooting a 12-gauge shotgun at a black adolescent that was lost and knocked on the firefighter’s door seeking directions to his school.   The firefighter’s spouse testified:

“He didn’t look like a child.  He was a rather big man standing there, and also if he was going to school, we have no schools in our area.”

Most recently, an African-American couple searching for a space to celebrate Memorial Day with a picnic, unwittingly wandered onto a private campground.  The campground manager, an older white woman, immediately confronted them with a firearm, saying:

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.”

While capturing the incident on video, the black couple departed without further comment. Franklin Richardson, a non-commissioned officer in the US National Guard, having recently returned from a nine-month tour in the Middle East, commented:

“You go over there, and you don’t have a gun pointed at you,” he said of his time serving overseas. And you come home, and the first thing that happens is that you have a gun pointed at you.  It’s kind of crazy to think about.”

The video of the incident has gone viral on social media, sparking discussion within the wider African American community, leading some of my readers to reach out to me.

Below are their stories….

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a black veteran who has served several tours in Iraq.  I have been wounded, diagnosed with PTSD and I was medically discharged from military service.  I have two teenage sons.  I am living in hell.  I am so afraid that when they go out with their friends that some crazy white person or the police are going to kill them.   I can’t sleep.  What can I do?

-Shaking in Seattle

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I served overseas in Iraq and recently came home.  I served my country only to see the fear in their eyes when white people look at me.  I am afraid that what happened to that Mississippi couple on Memorial Day could happen to me.  My family and I were planning to go camping next weekend—now we have canceled our plans.  My wife is scared.  I don’t like living this way. I am thinking about getting a concealed weapon permit.  What are your thoughts?

-Staying Alive, Tacoma, WA.

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Dear Dr. Kane:

That woman deserved to be fired. In fact, she deserves to be thrown in prison.  She had no reason to bring a gun.  She could have communicated to that couple without being intimidating.  When are white people going to accept us?  We are just like them.  I pay taxes, obey the law, go to church and work a job.  What the hell is wrong with these people?

-Disgusted in Shoreline, WA

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Observations-Dr. Kane  

There are common themes in the words of these individuals.  They are male, African American, and veterans of our armed forces. They are responding to ejection and rejection during times of hostility and hate, and this psychologically impacts them.

While these men are unable to control the negativity being directed towards them, they can mitigate the impact of their psychological distress by working to transform the following behaviors and/or actions:

  • Living in Fear to Living with Fear
  • Letting Go the Illusion of Power
  • Cease Seeking Acceptance from Others

 

Living in Fear to Living with Fear

Historically, white people, as the dominant group of people in this country, have used fear as a method of controlling the lives of African Americans.  This fear has been implemented in courts, in laws, in law enforcement, and enforced through discrimination and domestic terror, such as lynching.  Between the ending of the Reconstruction era in 1870 and the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968, 4,000 African-Americans were murdered via the rope and lynch mobs. There are numerous documented incidents of police involvement in these events or awareness of them.

African Americans, despite this pressure, continue to show the capacity to improve their social economic status, even though the remain psychologically impacted due to racial, historical and inter-generational traumas, among many other kinds of trauma.  In some cases, such as the one shown in the letter from Shaking in Seattle, African Americans live in daily fear for the safety of their children.

It is also likely that he is directly communicating his fear to the psychological core of his sons, even as he seeks to protect them from a hostile external environment. Shaking in Seattle can improve his situation and provide a protection strategy for his teenage sons by understanding and showing them that fear is simply an emotion being felt.

He can choose to embrace his fear, normalizing his feelings and by doing so, model this method of addressing these events for his teenage sons. In transforming the way he views his fear, Shaking in Seattle can teach his sons self-preservation strategies and how to respond when interacting with law enforcement and individuals such as the campground manager when they display threatening or intimidating behaviors.

 

Letting Go of the Illusion of Power

Staying Alive in Tacoma is also living in fear.  However, unlike Shaking in Seattle, due to the campground firearm incident, Staying Alive in Tacoma has canceled outdoor activities that bring joy to him and his family.  Furthermore, Staying Alive in Tacoma is considering obtaining a concealed weapon permit, which may make things worse.

It would be a mistake for Staying Alive in Tacoma to obtain a concealed weapon permit.  By doing this, he places the responsibility for his protection on an external source: a concealed weapon.  In doing so, he gives away his personal empowerment from his internal source: his ability to effectively communicate.

A clear example of empowerment comes from the very incident that produced this reaction. When the campground manager pulled her weapon, the African-American couple utilized communication to defuse the situation, exited the area and prevented the possibility of deadly harm.

It is a foregone conclusion that based on the stereotypical beliefs and fears held by the dominant society as well as their ability to manipulate law enforcement, Staying Alive in Tacoma will have intermediate, unannounced, and ongoing contact with law enforcement.

It would be wise for African American males to use self-empowerment strategies and treat both law enforcement and individuals who display threatening or intimidating behavior  the way that Forrest Gump treated a box of chocolates: like you don’t know what you are going to get.  

 

Cease Seeking Acceptance from Others

Disgusted in Shoreline simply expects fairness.  He views himself as having achieved the successes that the dominant group requires African Americans to be in order to be worthy of living: class status, home ownership, and being upstanding taxpaying and law-abiding citizens.

In his frustration of being denied acceptance by the dominant majority, he fails to see that the rejection he places on himself as he seeks this acceptance is a moving target.  Despite his remarkable social and economic achievements, Disgusted in Shoreline may suffer from Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and as a result, lacks “psychological wholeness.”

The solution for Disgusted in Shoreline may be to stop seeking acceptance from others.  Since that desired acceptance is racially motivated, therapy can help with balancing the desire to be accepted by white people. However, the question that remains is whether he can begin the Journey of Self Discovery and in doing so, learn to want, love, and value the psychological self.

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 Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

 Casual racism is a term used to refer to society’s or a particular individual’s lack of regard for the impact of their racist actions upon another person.  Casual racism has become more insidious as it has become expressed through white comfort and discomfort.”  -M. Kane

Disgusted in Shoreline leaves us with an interesting question: “What the hell is wrong with these [white] people?”

What is wrong with these people?  White people are unable to talk about racial issues related to African Americans.  They are aware that despite the illusion of American self-sufficiency, this nation is built on the blood, sweat and tears of slavery.

Many may believe that the campground manager deserves to be fired, or thrown in prison, as Disgusted in Shoreline wrote. However, this emotional response only serves to deflect and identify the problem as belonging to an isolated individual, instead of something the dominant society views as a collective responsibility.

This denial of collective responsibility places White America in a “psychological prison” in which they go about their daily lives ignoring the culture of hostility and hate they live within, and then when confronted with it, expecting redemption and atonement from people of color.

Like African Americans, white people in this country are psychological traumatized.  Although they are in denial, they too are impacted by historical and intergenerational traumas. White people in these situations do not know how to obtain relief.  Therefore, they also suffer in silence.  They are impacted by Complex Moral Injury Syndrome and White Supremacy Trauma.

In this land, true healing will only occur from empowering the psychological self and arising above hostility and hate.

There are many who share the sentiments of Ruby Howell, the campground manager:

“Get, get, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.”

African-Americans have fought, spilling blood and dying so people like Ruby Howell can live free.  This is our home as well.  We are not going anywhere.

We are staying right here.

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

Until We Speak Again…I am…The Visible Man.

NOTE: Please join Dr. Kane for:

Black and Thriving: African/American Perspectives on Mental Illness

A Juneteenth Panel Discussion

June 17, 2019, 2pm-4pm

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

The Visible Man: Complex Trauma, Invisibility, and Obsolescence

“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested.   Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”

-United Nations Human Rights Committee report (2017)

“I don’t know that nigger.  But I know he is a nigger. And that’s all I need to know.”

-Retired Confederate General Sandy Smithers, The Hateful Eight (2015)

My Dear Readers,

Are black males becoming obsolete in this country?  Black males are no longer being sought for manual labor. They are in fierce competition with whites for blue-collar jobs, that continue to be sent overseas.  They aren’t being trained or prepared for work within the IT industry, either.

Black males are perceived as being of limited use, constantly in survival mode, and cornered off in decaying urban environments.   There is the supposition that black males, like any other endangered species, may soon vanish from the American landscape.

There are several reasons for this perception:

  • Incarceration: One in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every 17 white males.
  • Education: The estimated national 2012 high school graduation rate for Black males was 59%.
  • Homicides: Black victims of homicides were most likely to be male (85%) and between the ages 17 and 29 (51%)

Except for political and clergy leadership, only muted responses have come from the African American community, if there is a response at all to the statistics coming from recent incidents involving police violence.  The reason for this is Complex Trauma.

Complex trauma is a form of psychological trauma.  It is more than simple post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It usually means that a person has suffered several traumatic events often beginning in childhood and continuing through adulthood.

Below is one young’s man story…

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Dear Visible Man,

I am a 24 year old African-American man seeking your help.  I am scared and confused.

Recently I had a police officer pull his weapon on me during a traffic stop.  He stopped me because one of the bulbs in my brake light was out.  He recognized me as one of his classmates in high school and even for a moment, reminisced on playing high school football, put away the weapon, and then told me to get the brake light fixed and “have a good day.”

How could I have a nice day after that? I am a college graduate, and I have a great job working for a tech firm here in Seattle, but I live in fear of being harassed by the police.  I have been stopped numerous times, either walking or driving, and all those stops were suspicious. All I want is to be free.  I simply want to be left alone and work hard to succeed in the goals that I have chosen.

Throughout my life, I have dealt with harassment and threats from within my community. I have dealt with racism from whites and threats of violence and acts of intimidation.  I grew up in survival mode without a father figure and struggling with a drug-addicted mother.  Both of my brothers are in the prison system.  I am alone, having nightmares and at times, just holding on to my life.

I am very angry about what I have seen and what I have experienced.  It’s like I am reliving my childhood and adolescence.  I try talking to other black males, but they are too busy hating on me while numbing their own pain by getting high off of marijuana or drinking alcohol.

People talk about role models for black men, but I don’t need another man to tell me how to get a job.  I need to know that I have value, that I am worth something. The older black men I know are either locked up in prison, addicted to drugs or just trying to make it on survival mode. I just want another black man to talk to.

I can’t remember the last time a black man told me that I matter.  But I can remember the last time a black man threatened me.  I feel caught in the middle– threatened by those who hate me for my success and harassed by those who are view my skin itself as a threat.

At work, and at home, I look around and don’t see anyone like me.  My white coworkers tell me that I am being paranoid, and they might be right– I feel like I am going crazy.  Am I becoming obsolete? What can I do?

-Feeling Shaky, Seattle,WA

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My Dear Young Man,

You have been through a lot in your 24 years of life. You are correct; you are not crazy. Paranoia is a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification, and that is not what I see here.

Given your history and the numerous incidents of micro- and macro-aggression you have experienced, your hyper-vigilance and stress is to be expected. The fear of physical violence from the police and other members of your community and their repetitive nature can adversely impact a person’s mental, physical, and emotional states.  It can often be very difficult to function at work and it 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 periods in a child’s development. Psychologically, the African-American community is drowning in complex trauma and has retreated into survival mode.  We have lost a generation of black men in prison.  Approximately half of males will not graduate from high school, which impacts employment, marriages, and the growth of families.

Complex trauma can have long-term impact on an individual’s mental health.  That impact can be further complicated when it is simultaneously activated and reinforced by the use of drugs and participation in violent acts. In doing so, both the trauma itself and the method of soothing or numbing the pain arising from that trauma are both normalized for the individual, who then loses the ability to conceive of other ways of living.

Research suggests that the impact and effect of complex trauma is directly related to age of onset, type of violence, relationship to the perpetrator, impact on the environment, the degree of isolation and the amount of support received and the amount of support received following the traumatic experience.

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Concluding Words

My Dear Young Man,

To respond to an earlier question about becoming obsolete, the fact that you continue to strive for success in your objectives as you face overwhelming pressures from both within your community and interactions with police is an affirmation that black males are not becoming obsolete.  In reality, you are responding to ongoing challenges that are not of your making.

This is the time to achieve ABC: advocacy, balance and calmness.

  • Advocacy: Empower yourself by becoming an advocate for the psychological self. Seek to achieve mental health wellness.
  • Balance: Compare the internalized value and assets of the life you want to live to the life you have already experienced. Come to terms with your own stress and anxiety.
  • Calmness: Avoid self-medicating to soothe emotional pain. Instead, be open and available to your internal questions and concerns.  Use your balance and inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world.

Be open to seeking mental health treatment.  We are losing a generation to incarceration, violence and drug/alcohol abuse.  We continue to cripple our lives by refusing to seek mental health assistance.  In doing so, we only weaken our resolve, add more obstacles to the journey of self-discovery and hamper the experience that we call LIFE.

My dear young man, there are role models. LOOK IN THE MIRROR. In your quest to strive and not just survive, YOU have become a role model for those seeking to do the same.  Go out and find individuals and allies regardless of color, race and ethnicity, who think and live life like you.

Best wishes to you on your journey of self-discovery.

Regards,

Dr. Kane, Psy.D

Clinical Traumatologist

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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 it finds an open door.  It flashes.  It 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. 

-Micheal Kane

 

Until we speak again….The Visible Man

For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit www.lovingmemore.com.

Embracing My Shame and Seeking the Journey of Life

Dear Visible Man,

I am writing because I am ashamed. I am ashamed of myself because I have not been willing to stand up to my mother. I am 31 years old, and have always considered myself to be a strong black woman, but I continue to allow my mother to control and be abusive towards me.

I was raised in the church, where I learned to “honor my parents.”  However, I feel that my mother used scripture to manipulate and control me.  If I made a mistake, she used scripture to hold that mistake over my head.  To this day, she still demands that I continue to obey her and if I fail to do so, it’s another mistake that she needs to correct through scripture.

I feel that my mother seeks to live her life through me. Even though I now live on my own and have a job that pays me well, she tells me that unless I do things her way, I will be a failure.

I have completed law school at Howard University, and I recently became involved with a person that I hope to eventually marry. Due to her history of bad relationships and mistrust of men, she has been abusive to my male friends in the past, and she has already indicated that she doesn’t think that my boyfriend is good enough for me. However, she still wants to meet him. I’m hesitant to let that happen, though– I fear that my mother will destroy this relationship.

How can I live my life without the ongoing interference by my mother?

Seeking My Way, Portland, OR

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Dear Young Woman,

I would like to congratulate you on your willingness to write about an issue that is clearly painful for you.  Having said that, I believe that we should focus on reinforcing your empowerment instead of devaluing your psychological self.  Therefore I will ask that you refrain from the internal assaults and further wounding you are delivering to the psychological self .  Work with me to reduce the pain that is there, instead of adding to it. Let’s work towards healing the emotional wounds that you have endured for so long.

It is evident that you are responding to feelings associated with shame.  The feeling of shame can be defined as:

  • A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.
  • An act that brings dishonor, disgrace or public condemnation.
  • An object of great disappointment.

The basic nature of excessive shame is that the person enduring shame feels unworthy, defective and empty.   Shame can be debilitating, toxic and extremely destructive, and it separates the individual from the psychological self.  Shame creates an internal crisis that attacks the inner self through triggering a spiral of negative self-talk.

Shame can occur in different and distinctive subtypes: social, competence, toxic and existential (being).  For the purpose of this writing, I will focus on the competence and existential being subtypes. These are defined as the following:

  • Competence Shame targets five core-internalized beliefs of the individual:

“I am not good enough.”

“I don’t belong.”

“I am unlovable.”

“I should not be….”

       This form of shame can be cancerous in that it thrives in and increases the perceived gap between what individuals can do and what they think or feel they should do.  The outcome is that the individual feels like a fraud or failure.  Individuals with competence shame feel weak, inadequate, or ineffective.  The appearance of competence shame reinforces the belief that the person who suffers from it is defective.

  • Existential (Being) Shame is the most difficult of the subtypes because it consciously attacks the individual’s right to This is done via the internalization and repetition of the following core messages:

“My life is meaningless.”

“I am worthless.”

“I have nothing to live for.”

Where the other forms of shame may just increase perceived gaps, existential shame removes hope and meaning completely from one’s life.  Of the different subtypes, this form is the one that is most predictive of suicide.

YOUNG WOMAN, these subtypes have been laid out with the hope that you will see that you may be responding to intense emotions that are by their nature, slicing away at the core of your psychological self.  Shame differs from humiliation in that humiliation requires the actions of others to induce those feelings of inadequacy.  Shame in and of itself is self-reinforcing as well as self-inducing.  It does not require external energy.  It rests and rebuilds from within you.

However, healing from your shame is also within you.  There is a two-phase approach you may take to begin and reinforce the healing process.  This is called understanding and action.

During the phase of understanding, you must want to:

  • Be patient with the wounded psychological self as it moves towards healing.
  • Be curious about finding the personal answers to the questions and doubts that cause your shame.
  • Accept the self and your reality.

From there, you must want to affirm the following within your psychological self:

  • Personal Responsibility– assuming responsibility for your shame and not blaming others is key to change.
  • Planning- is essential to healing shame. It is essential to develop a workable plan that addresses the shame that occurs in your daily life.
  • Perseverance-shame will continue to resurface as one continues to work towards healing. It is important to internalize this concept when times become more difficult.

It is in the “understanding phase” that you want to question the church and home-instilled foundation that holds your value of honoring your parents and balance this with the manipulative behaviors and actions of your mother.

There is no writing in the scriptures that sanctions the manipulative and abusive behaviors of your mother.  Your own inaction in resolving your internalized conflicts maintains the hold your mother has on you.

Your behavior and lack of movement may be an indication of “living in fear” and unwilling to work towards “living with fear.”  If so ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I in fear of?
  • Why am I holding myself to the same path I’ve already walked on?
  • Why am I fearful of walking a different path?
  • What will change for me if I transformed myself to living with fear?”

Within the understanding phase, seek to answer the following questions:

  • Do I love myself? If so, how do I show that I love me… and love me more?
  • What do I want? What am I willing to do in order to get what I want?
  • Am I willing to let go of my past and in doing so, let go of my mother? Am I willing to grasp the future that is unknown to me?

Take the walk to the new path—that is, acceptance of reality.  Come to understand the possibility of the following realities:

  • My mother’s distrust of men has destroyed her attempts of happiness in her life.
  • My mother’s need to live her life through me may ultimately result in my life mirroring hers and being just as empty and distrustful.
  • My mother does love me and yet her love is contributing towards my life lacking in happiness and fulfillment.

YOUNG WOMAN, as you move into the next phase i.e. action, please consider the following:

  • I, not my mother, am responsible for my feelings. I can heal the wounded self.
  • I love my mother, as shown in my actions. However, as much as I love my mother, I want to love me more.
  • My mother contributed to my foundation of “being” and becoming a woman. It is for me to take direction of my life from this point on.  I can and will do this.

Create structure and boundaries for self.  Inform your mother of the following:

  • Specific behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Your no tolerance policy of abuse towards self or disrespect towards your male friends.
  • The willingness to “let her go” should she continue to hold to her current actions and behaviors.

YOUNG WOMAN, in closing, I leave you at the crossroads.  I have listened to your pain and suffering.  As you have been “living in fear,” you have allowed the psychological self to suffer under the weight of your mother’s lost and unfulfilled past.  It is for you to embrace your shame.

Your wounds are the results of being in conflict of serving two masters, one loving yet cruel, the other begging, pleading for freedom from the self-imposed yoke.  As you stand at the crossroads, understand that only you can free the psychological self and attain the life you seek. However, in order to do so, you must want to “live with fear.”

Yes, it is a possibility that the price for freedom may result in loss of connection or reduction of interaction with your mother.  However, remember that you, in partnership with the psychological self (and not your mother), have achieved the fulfillment of your educational and professional goals.

Will you trust the self to attain the fulfillment of personal happiness in the form of a intimate relationship?

Will you have BELIEF, FAITH & TRUST in the journey that lies ahead?

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Loving the Self

 

As much as I love you,

I love myself more.

 

Loving me more, does not mean

I love you less.

 

It only means

I love me more.

 

More…

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The Visible Man

Self-Acceptance: Looking for Love and Finding More Pain  

 My Dear Readers,

      There are those times when we grant too much power to others.  In seeking to be accepted, we deny the true value of ourselves and seek validation from others– validation that can only come from within.

     It is human nature to create super heroes.  It can also be disastrous to learn that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren’t real and that unconditional love, in reality, comes with “expectations.”

       However, one can uncover, discover and recover the empowerment that lies within the psychological self by learning what is true and what is not.

Below is such a story.

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Dear Visible Man,

I hope you can help me.  I am an African-American gay male, and I live in a conservative community. I am completely out—my family and my church know that I am gay.

Growing up, I remember being bullied and called offensive names. I never developed any close friendships. When I was 15 years old, I told my mother about my sexual identity. She responded by calling me a “faggot.” She apologized later, and I accepted it.  She said that although it is difficult for her to understand, she accepts my “choice” to be gay and will always love me. We have moved on to where we have a positive relationship.

I am now 29 years old. After high school, I went to college, got my degree, and I now have a good job. I have finally found a man that loves me. I know that I am loved, but I still don’t feel accepted.  I have a ton of anger going on within me.

I now realize that deep inside, I have always felt angry, sad and betrayed by what my mother said to me, and that anger and hurt is not going away. I thought that by finding my true love I would be happy, but I realize now that I am not. I do not feel accepted by my mother.  If a mother would betray her son, what stops my true love from doing the same to me?

I have spoken to my pastor, and he told me to pray for forgiveness. Forgiveness? What have I done wrong? I feel like I am at my wit’s end. What can I do?

Searching For Answers, Tacoma, WA

Dear Young Man,

Your pain comes through loud and clear.  I caution you to listen and work towards feeling the words I want to share with you.  In my 25 years of practice, I have lost two patients due to suicide.  The common threads that they share were they were gay, were ethnic minorities, and have given up hope.

Stay in the room with me.  Allow me to provide more information for consideration as you now stand at the crossroads.

First, let us engage in a calming down period.  Your safety is paramount.  Begin by following the Five Rs of Relief.

  • Respite– Be willing to take a moment before you address the situation. Breathe deeply.  Allow yourself to step away from the situation for a moment.
  • Reaction– Own your reactions. No one but you can fully understand how you feel at this time of your life.
  • Reflection—Balance your thoughts with your feelings. Let go of the desire to control what you think and feel.
  • Response– Combine your balanced thoughts and feelings and prepare to speak to the external world.
  • Reevaluate– Take another look at the choices before you, decisions you have made, and the actions you have taken. Have the willingness to review, revise and reframe.

Young Man,

Instead of viewing this as being “at my wit’s end”, I ask that you view this as standing at the crossroads.  In doing so, please be willing to take in as much information as you can to decide the direction of your next journey.

The Community

To be clear, your sexuality is not the issue at hand.  The issues instead lay in the reactions of your conservative community.

Remember, ignorance is defined as the lack of knowledge.  Let’s say that knowledge is food sitting on the table. There will always be those who choose not to nourish themselves, even when food is plentiful.  Some people would prefer to stare, starve and hold to the darkness of their beliefs.

As my grandmother would say: “an old dog won’t run… it will just limp along until its time comes.”   Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you seek acceptance from those who have chosen darkness?
  • Are you choosing to limp along in darkness instead of grasping for the light in front of you?
  • In your desire to be accepted, are you granting them power over your happiness? Do they deserve more where you deserve less?

As you search for the answers consider the following:

  • If you look within and accept the self as the person that you are, you will have your value and validation.
  • If they do not see you, it is because they have chosen to do so. Nothing you do, including full capitulation, will change how they feel or view you.
  • You can lessen their power over you by “loving the self” and in doing so… loving me more.

Your Mother

As children, we create super heroes and heroines out of our parents.  They become our solid rocks.  We give unconditional love and expect to receive the same from them.   They can do no wrong.

Until that one day when we are forced to grasp what is really before us.  We learn that instead of super heroes and heroines, our parents are merely mortal human beings.  Instead of rock, we understand that our parents are just like us; humans made of blood, flesh and bone.

With this cruel awakening comes the knowledge that unconditional love comes with “expectations.”   Strong African-American families do not birth weak gay sons and daughters.  It is expected that they will go on and bring forth more children.

After all, the Bible speaks of Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve, right?  So if my child is gay, it must be because he chose this lifestyle.  He came from my body!  I am not a lesbian; his father certainty wasn’t gay.  It must be a choice.  Right?

Young Man,

Regarding acceptance, have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you accept that your mother is simply a human being who has chosen to live within the boundaries of her faith and her belief that your actions are by choice of lifestyle and not of identity at birth?
  • Understanding that in her esteem you may have “fallen,” can you let go of her expectations and begin to create—and more importantly, accept—your own?
  • Can you cease proving yourself to others and just simply walk your journey… being you?

As you search for the answers, consider the following:

  • You will have the desire to distract yourself from or ignore what has now been revealed to you about your parent. Struggle to stay with this moment.
  • As you realize your mother’s failings, you have earned the pain that comes from the revelation. This isn’t a bad thing.
  • You have the opportunity to view your mother as different and more human as you strip away the untruths that you have created in her image.
  • You can accept your inner self and in doing so, choose to model the behavior and actions which you seek.

The Wounds of Betrayal

In my research, I have identified eight distinctive categories of trauma.  Of the eight categories, betrayal is the most impactful and psychologically wounding on the human experience.

It is common for the wounded individual to take such deeply wounded feelings into future relationships. Because of its insidious nature, betrayal trauma requires an intense program of recovery.

Young Man,

I want to be clear—I am not trying to ignore your pain.  However, as hurtful as your mother’s actions have been, this was not a betrayal.

The act of betrayal requires a “thread of actions”.  For the betrayal to be initiated and completed, five stages must occur: premeditation, planning, process, performance and “the punch”

The actions of your mother do not meet the standards of betrayal that I laid out above.  The act of betrayal cannot occur by accident—nor can it result from an impulse or mistake.  There must be a specific intent to carry out the act of betrayal.

Young Man,

Be willing to ask yourself the following questions:

  • As there is no intent, why then do I feel betrayed?
  • Why do I suspect that my true love may do the same to me?
  • Do I want to continue with the journey feeling the way that I do?

As you search for the answers, consider the following:

  • Consider the possibility that the betrayal that you feel is actually the fall from the pedestal upon which you placed your mother.
  • Consider that you can avoid the same error by not placing your true love on a similar pedestal.
  • Allow your true love to be what he truly is: In doing so, insist on the same status for yourself.

Concluding Words

In speaking to your pastor, the response you received was to seek forgiveness.   In the framework as it is presented, it remains unclear as to exactly what reason or who you are to direct forgiveness towards.

Please consider this: In the work of Self Discovery, not only is forgiveness is a gift that one can receive from another it is also a gift that you can provide to yourself.

Have the willingness to seek forgiveness from the psychological self for the many years of pain and suffering it has carried for you.   Have the willingness to let go of this pain and suffering.

As you stand at the crossroads, have the willingness to reach out, seek therapeutic assistance, and commit to do the work that will assist you during this difficult time.

As you indicated the following: “I feel like I am at my wit’s end. What can I do?”  Please contact the crisis hotline within your local community.  The National Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is also available 24 hours a day.

Grasp onto life… Walk the Journey of Self Discovery.

The Visible Man

To Me & From Me: The Gifts of Apology & Forgiveness

My Dear Readers,

Now and then, I receive correspondence which challenges me to integrate my personal experiences and beliefs with my professional insight.  Often, these are times in which I may be asked to step outside of my professional training.

Occasionally, people feel tormented regarding decisions they have made and must now contend with.  They often feel regret, fear, loss, and a sense of abandonment.  However, finding balance in these situations is not about debating what is right or what is wrong.   It is about the feelings that are associated.

Below is such a story…..

————————————————————————-

 

Dear Visible Man,

I need some advice.  I am an African-American female in her mid-30s who was raised in the church.  My husband and I are college educated and have been married for 14 years.  We are a deeply religious couple.  We have been blessed with two children and have been looking forward to having more children.

Recently, my husband and I were laid off within months of each other.  Afterwards, I found out that I was pregnant.  Due to our fear that we would not be able to financially support another child, we made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

I am now experiencing intense anxiety, feelings of loss, and guilt regarding the decision to terminate the pregnancy.   As I stated earlier, my spouse and I are a deeply religious family.  I consider myself to be pro-life.  I feel that that I abandoned my faith and sought the termination out of fear, and now, I feel guilty.

I have not been able to reconcile my actions and my faith.  I have ceased attending church or participating in church related activities.  The pastor and members of the congregation are inquiring about my absence.  I don’t know what to tell them.  I am so ashamed.

I have questioned whether God would abandon me for my actions.  Although I know that I did the right thing, I seek forgiveness.  After wanting another child all these years, I feel terrible having made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

My husband and I want to have another child in order to get back to where we were.  I am in good physical health.  I pray that God will bless us again.  Do you have any advice for me?

Feeling Lost, Federal Way, WA

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Dear Young Woman,

In all honesty, I have the desire to pass up this question and leave it to the members of the clergy to answer.  However, to do so would be a disservice to you as well as a missed opportunity for me as we continue down our individual Journeys of Self Discovery.

The questions that you pose are challenging ones, and to answer them, I will empower myself to share my personal beliefs as well as professional insights.

You have unresolved guilt due to your decision to terminate the pregnancy.

Young Woman,

In seeking God’s forgiveness, you fail to seek forgiveness from self.   By holding on to your guilt, you berate yourself for making that decision now, when you are no longer pressured by the fears that drove your decision to terminate the pregnancy. Times have changed, and hindsight is 20/20.

Given this, have the willingness to return to where you were when this decision was made.  Empower yourself.  Please do the following:

  • Have the willingness to recall and review those dark and difficult days.
  • Have the willingness to acknowledge the difficulty of your joint decision.
  • Have the willingness to have empathy and compassion for yourself and the pain you carry.

You are experiencing intense fear and anxiety.

Young Woman,

In your haste to bear the burden of fear and anxiety that God will punish you, you are minimizing your blessings.

  • Be reflective: you are not alone.  Your spouse of 14 years has been with you through the darkest times.
  • Be reflective: you have the blessings of two beautiful children.
  • Be reflective: you have good physical health and hopefully are capable of conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to full term.

You are unable to reconcile your actions with your spiritual journey.

Young Woman,

The gulf that has developed between you and your church congregation may be a result of your shame, which comes from your belief that you have strayed from your spiritual walk.  Empower the self to explore your feelings associated with shame.

  • Be vulnerable to self.  Be willing to sit with your feelings of shame behavior.
  • Be exposed to your shame.  Be willing to embrace your shame.  It is yours and yours alone.  Cease avoidant and distracting behaviors.
  • Be open to trusting your journey.  It is your journey.  It is for you to trust the experience that is to be gained from this journey.

You are worried that God has abandoned you.  

Young Woman,

If we know that God is Love and about Love, why would God abandon you in this most difficult time? Reexamine your spiritual walk.

  • Embrace your belief within yourself.
  • Be willing to explore and revise your faith as you learn through your spiritual walk.
  • Empower the self to honestly walk your Journey of Self Discovery. 

You desire to have another child in order to get back to the state of life prior to the termination of the pregnancy.

Young Woman,

There is no going back.  In your memories you can return to what happened, but you will NEVER be able to go back to the state of life you had.  You are a different person now, and you must want to embrace that.  There is no going back.

So, what now?

1)            Extend the gift of apology to the self for the pain and suffering it has endured during these many years.

2)            Be willing to accept the gift of the apology and work towards letting go of the pain and suffering by providing forgiveness to the self.

3)            Embrace the self.  Extend love to the self and in doing so, “love me more.”  More.

 

Concluding Words

Young Woman,

We share a common background. I was also “raised up” in the church.  As a child, I was taught to read the scriptures and through those heavy, intense messages from the pulpit, to love God and fear his wrath, but I was also taught that when I did wrong, I was to get on my knees and cry out to God for forgiveness.

It was in my adulthood and during the Journey of Self Discovery that I arrived at the crossroads and sought a different path.   Too often, we seek out God for forgiveness and if those prayers are not answered, we assume that God has forsaken us.

I would hope that throughout the world, what we all share about God is that God is about everlasting love, mercy, and most importantly, forgiveness.  The one thing that we know for sure is that God will not abandon us. So, it’s not God that you seek forgiveness from—he has already forgiven you.  What is true for you is true for me and for everyone else in the world: forgiveness must come from within the self.

As you indicated earlier, you were raised in the church.  As you are now an adult, it is your right and responsibility, as you stand at the crossroads to view the journey of life as that adult.

You are the captain of your ship and the master of your destiny.   It is for you (and your spouse) to set the direction for the journey or journeys you are about to travel.

 

Letting Go, Moving On

 

The past is gone yet not forgotten,

Today is fading yet not gone.

Tomorrow has not yet be written or determined.

Let go of the past.

Experience the today.

Prepare for the tomorrow.

Let us not forget.

Let us have the willingness to forgive The Self and Accept the apology.

Let us honor the past, today and tomorrow.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

 

I wish you and your family the best and safe travels in your upcoming journeys.

The Visible Man

Hotter Than Fish Grease! (Reaction, or Response?)

Dear Readers:

Below is the response (or reaction) from one of our readers to last week’s posting of “No Longer a Child: Booting Daddy To the End of the Line.”

For those unfamiliar with the southern saying, “hotter than fish grease” it can loosely translate as an individual being extremely angry. 

There may be times where, even when you are the object of another’s person anger, you can benefit from the message they are bringing you.  You can choose to respond to their points rather than internalizing their reaction and making it yours.

 If you do the latter, you deny yourself the process of reflection before sharing the response with the external world.  This may result in the message being unclear.  Emotions aside, the writer of this correspondence has raised issues of substance and that are worthy of consideration.

Dr. Kane

——————————————————————-

Dear Visible Man,

I am not one to criticize the feelings of another, but since you put yourself out there, I feel the need to speak up for the parents you trampled on when you gave your “clinical insight” regarding the daughter who DID DISRESPECT her father when she chose to “boot him to the end of the line.”

In fact, after all he had done for her, providing guidance and direction in her life, her choosing to contact her girlfriends first was more of “a slap in the face.”  This is the problem with young people today.  A parent sacrifices all and what does he or she get in return? Booted to the end of the line!  Kicked to the curb!  For what?  Her girlfriends?!

These girlfriends are only going to do so much for her.  They only have a “snippet” of information, whereas the involved parent was there from birth to adulthood.  As a parent, I was there to wipe my daughter’s behind when needed.  I was there to wipe the tears when she had a bad day or relationship breakup.

I agree with the father.  The daughter intentionally disrespected him.  She was wrong for not informing him first, especially since he remains actively involved in her life.

You should be ashamed of yourself.  Since you put it out there, I am going to put it out there.

You, being an African-American parent, should know about the struggles of our children as they attempt to navigate a world that is hostile to them.  Your writings indicate that you don’t.  You may want to question as to whether your comments are dividing families and creating tension among parents and siblings.

I am unclear as to what this “larger group” nonsense is that you are always writing about.  What does the larger group have to do with me as an individual, as a parent supporting my daughter?

I do know that I don’t like the use of all these clinical references.  It seems that you have spent too much time reading those books and not living a “real life.”

If there is anyone that needs to be lying down on a couch and having his head examined….it should be you!

Hotter Than Fish Grease, Seattle, WA

P.S. Bet you won’t print this!

Dear Madam,

It is clear that I have several choices here.  In my younger and more radical days, I would probably say a few choice words that I couldn’t print.  Today, being older, wiser and grayer, I choose to do something different.  My choices are simple:

  • Hit the delete button
  • React to the challenge
  • Respond by sharing & educating.

What shall it be?  Hmm…Let’s go with sharing & educating.

In response to the issues/ concerns being addressed:

  • From the information being presented, there is no evidence that the daughter intentionally sought to disrespect her father. Did the father feel disrespected? Yes! Is he entitled to his feelings? Yes!  Is this about being who is right and who is wrong?

Answer: It depends on the observer.  My hope is that the father will have the willingness to look at the situation from another viewpoint.  In doing so, his feelings may change.

 

My goal is that he develops a sense of understanding regarding his daughter’s choice to reach out to her friends for emotional support.  He can still maintain an active role in her life without the expectation that she will come to him to either inform him of every occurrence in her life or seek to resolve problems that she is now equipped to respond to.

Regarding the concept of “parental sacrifice” and what that parent “gets in return”, my views professionally and personally are the following:

  • Those who make the decision to become parents are blessed to have children in our lives.
  • Children DO NOT ask to be born. They come into this world out of circumstance or as a result of the choices and decisions that are made by others.
  • Children DO NOT owe parents anything. There is no debt or obligation placed upon a child for being born.
  • Parenting is a responsibility and NOT an obligation. It is something that one does out of love, commitment and the desire to parent.

Differentiating between the limits of friendship and the parental relationship:

  • To clarify, the relationships between the daughter and the young women are not fleeting. Their quickness to respond and depth of concern are clear indications that these relationships have strong foundations and are deeply rooted.

 

  • In reviewing the clearly identified relationship, it is my intent to point out that the friendships work in support of and not in competition with the parental relationship.

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture, many parents may be over their heads as they themselves struggle to adjust in a fast moving, technologically focused world.  In doing so, the parent may be working with a skill or knowledge base that is not quite equipped for teaching problem solving skills for this modern age. These friendships can make up for what parents may lack in the guidance they provide to their children.

Regarding the “larger group”–from a clinical viewpoint, the “larger group” consists of the integration and dependency of three sub units working in collaboration.  These three sub units are society (at larger), community (church, school, and other defined institutions) and family (loosely defined).

The most important piece, which impacts the sub units separately and as a whole, is the individual member, who in some way or function belongs to each one of the sub units as well as the larger group.

The strength of the larger group is the interworking among the three sub units.  The weakness of the larger group is its dependency upon the individual to survive.  The group does not teach the individual to strive or thrive.  Its hold on the individual is one of existence or survival (of the group).

The focus of the larger group is “the destination” i.e. middle class standing, buying a new car, promotion at work.

However, for the parent, adult, adolescent or child to be successful, seeking self-discovery and empowerment when responding to obstacles and challenges are essential for development and growth.

Concluding Remarks

Madam,

I think that like most of us, you are living in fear.

You are correct.  Our children are struggling to navigate a world that may be hostile to them.  If we were to be honest with ourselves we would be willing to admit that as parents, many of us (regardless of race) are struggling with helping our children thrive.

In moving forward it was my intent to provide for the father (and you) an alternative way in perceiving the actions taken by his daughter.

We, as parents, must want to consider the following as our children attain adulthood:

  • Transforming from the role of parent to that of Dad & Mom.
  • Changing our status to advocates, seeking balance and providing consultation when requested.
  • Empower ourselves to let go, move forth and grasp the full meaning of our lives.

Yesterday is GONE

Today is FADING

Tomorrow is NOT PROMISED

LIVE IN THIS MOMENT

THE VISIBLE MAN

Role Modeling & The Emotional Wound: Learning to Love the Self and (then) Loving Me More

 Dear Visible Man,

     In reading your writings, I’ve been reflecting on my childhood, having a mother who struggled as a single parent while raising me. I turned out okay—I didn’t get pregnant or get involved in drugs. I did go to college and I have been successful in my work in the healthcare industry. I remember the pride my mother had as I received my graduate degree.

     My mother has recently passed away and although I am grateful for all she did for me, I continue to harbor feelings of intense anger at her regarding the way she raised me.

     My mother was devoutly religious. She strongly believed in Proverbs 13:24:

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

      My mother followed this proverb to the extreme.  I remember her whipping me and telling me to stop crying.  When I wouldn’t, she would say, “I’ll give you something to cry about.”  I would suck in air trying to stop.  My lower lip would tremble and I would stop sobbing while the tears rolled down my face.

      I would try to please my mother and stay out of trouble, but it always seemed that regardless of what I did or how well I excelled in school, it was never enough. I know she loved me. I never shared with her my feelings of anger. Like others, I was raised to obey my mother without question. Now, she is gone. It is too late and I am left feeling empty, but still full of anger.

     What do I do now?

Feeling Stuck, age 25, Seattle, WA

Dear Young Woman,

     First, I want to express my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved. Second, in responding to your question, “What do I do now?” my suggestion is that you continue to empower the psychological self, which maybe conflicted between the grief you feel and the anger you hold regarding the way you were raised.

     Let’s clarify the issues of concern:  It is perceivable that understanding the experiences noted, you may be responding to the following issues:

  • Unresolved grief regarding the recent loss of your mother
  • Unresolved feelings associated with the discipline, lack of nurturing, or warmth by your mother
  • Internalized conflict associated with the trauma that has been experienced within the psychological self.
  • Questioning regarding conceptualization of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.

Your words about your mother indicate that she was a person who loved you very much, but was unable to express her love in the way you would have benefited the most– a warm, nurturing and comfortable relationship.  There may be a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • In her own history, it is possible she may not have been exposed to such a relationship and therefore was unable to model that kind of relationship for you.
  • During her child and adolescent development, she may have endured specific types of abuse or traumatic experiences that continue to be unresolved.
  • Her current life as a single parent was difficult, so she may have been living in fear that you would have the same or similar life experiences.

Now that your mother has passed on, we will never know the reasoning for her actions.  One fact remains that although she has gone to be with her ancestors, you remained here, shouldering intense psychological pain from an open emotional wound.  In reality, the wound has been there for many years.

It is possible that you may have found ways to suppress or contain the pain associated with the wound.  However, now that your mother has passed on,  the internalized conscious and unconscious defenses you have used to defend, obstruct, or redirect the emotional pain are no longer available to you.

There are now “cracks” within the wall, and the emotional pain being held within the dam is slowly weakening the structure.  Unless something constructive is done, that dam will come crashing down and the torrents of emotional distress will overcome the psychological self.

It may be that the means or strategies that you used prior to your mother’s passing were unconstructive and therefore, it is essential to identify strategies that will assist you in not only becoming “unstuck”, but will also work towards empowerment of the psychological self.

A strategy that I would suggest is a framework I have designed known as the “Five Stages Of Recovery.”  It consists of the components Revelation, Acceptance, The Gift of Apology & Forgiveness, Letting Go, and Moving On.

  • Revelation:  It is here that you acknowledge the existence and impact of the emotional wound. It is here that you become aware of the trauma and damage that was done to the psychological self.
  • Acceptance:  It is here that you gain understanding of the impact of the emotional wound.  In doing so, you begin the process of healing the wound.
  • Gift Of Apology & Forgiveness:  It is here that you begin to look within the psychological self, acknowledging remorse and regret.  It is here that you come to terms regarding past behaviors of yielding/giving in to the pressures being exerted by your mother to ignore the developing emotional wound.  It is here that you seek to extend the “gift of apology” to the psychological self and in return, receive the gift of forgiveness from within.
  • Letting Go:  It is here that you free the psychological self from the pain associated with the emotional wound.  This is done through seeking to balance the dissipation of pain and suffering with gains of inner peace and freedom; this is achieved from the atonement of past behaviors.
  • Moving On:  Here, you have reached the plateau in which you have accepted the past and you are able to live with those experiences.  You are able to balance living in the present as well as creating a vision and hope for the future.

Concluding Remarks

First, whether or not you want to believe that given your mother’s circumstances, she did the best that she could,  the reality is that she is no longer among the living.  Second, whether you want to forgive her or not is not the focus of this writing.

The focus is on you and what you want for your life.  You can continue to hold on to the anger and maintain those internal conflicts, or you can choose to live.  If you choose to live, have the willingness to explore your conflicting feelings.  If indeed we only have one life to live, then make this life about you. Find acceptance.  Extend the apology and seek forgiveness.  Have the willingness to let go and move on with your life.   Create the determination to rise above and live the life you want, seeking the warm, nurturing relationships that you desire.

“Role models are not only examples of behavior we want to emulate.  Role models are also examples of what we ‘want not to be.’  We can focus on loving the self.  After achieving this stage, we can then reinforce the self by loving ourselves more.”

The Visible Man

A Victim No Longer: Foolish Behavior or Empowering the Self?

Readers,

Sometimes, we may engage in behaviors that others consider questionable.  However, deep within the psychological self, why this happens can be found.

Below is such a story.

Dear Visible Man,

I am writing to seek advice regarding something that happened many years ago.  I have tried to forget about it, but the issue continues to return and is now impacting the way I feel about men.

A little about myself:  I am a 40-year-old African-American female. I am single, and I work in a corporate setting.  Ten years ago, while traveling across the United States to meet someone I considered dating, I found myself isolated and alone with him, and I submitted to having sex with him.

Given the circumstances—it happened in darkness and in an area unknown to me– I felt I didn’t have a choice.  I admit that I didn’t clearly indicate to him no out of fear that I would be harmed, but I did on several occasions physically push him away.

At some point, I relented and I had sex with him.  However, my body kept saying no and wanted this ordeal to stop.  In the morning, I was able to obtain help and get away.  I never filed a criminal complaint because I believed I consented.  I never went through counseling because I felt that I created the situation that lead to my experience. I felt that I acted stupidly and as a result, was responsible for what happened.  When telling the story, I have always minimized what happened, often laughing it off.

Recently, I’ve been talking on the phone with someone I met online.  We both feel it’s time for us to meet face to face, but he resides in another state.  For safety reasons, I haven’t let him know where I live or other personal information, just in case things don’t work out. I told him that I would travel to the city in which he resides.

When the time came for me to go, I had a lot of anxiety, and flashes of my previous experience.  It’s disrupted my sleep and my ability to focus on my work.  I find myself having ongoing thoughts about the “what ifs” as well as imagining that this trip will be just like my previous experience.

My family and friends are very much against the idea of me traveling to meet him. But, I really want to go because I do not want to continue to chat online.  I want to know whether we can begin to have something more.  What are your thoughts? How do I overcome these feelings?

Searching For Answers, Seattle, WA

 

Dear Searching,

It is interesting that as you ended your writing, you asked, “What are your thoughts?”  You did not request suggestions or recommendations.  Therefore, I will assume that you remain determined to visit this man, despite the advice of your family and friends.

Before I answer your question, I want you to know that I used the same model that I’m going to share with you.  I hope that in reading this response, you will take the opportunity to follow this model as well.

This model is the “Five Rs of Relief.”

First, after reading your story, I stepped to the side, taking a timeout (RESPITE).

I then focused on “owning my emotions” (REACTION).

From there, I began to process what I was feeling and thinking (REFLECTION).

I am now preparing to share what I am feeling and thinking (RESPONSE).

After writing this and receiving feedback from you and others, I will review what has occurred, what I learned and how I would handle this or a similar situation next time (RE-EVALUATION).

As there are a lot of moving parts to your story, it is essential to clarify the issues, and separate what happened 10 years ago from what is happening today.

  • What is the meaning of the physical and psychological reactions that are occurring?

  • Why are you in denial of the traumatic experience that you endured ten years ago?

  • Why do you ignore the victimization that was a consequence of this horrific experience?

It is my deeply held belief that the psychological self will continue to advocate, seeking balance, and calmness; remembering the traumas, abuses, and the violence that the physical body fights to withstand and the intellectual mind struggles to forget.

Given this, you must have the willingness to review and reconsider the following statement,

       “At some point, I relented and I had sex with       him.”

This was not sex. This was a violation.  This was clearly an act of sexual assault.

Be willing to ask, given the following wording, where is there an indication of consent?

  • “At some point, I relented….”

  • “..I felt I did not have a choice.”

  • “I did on several occasions physically push him away.”

Clearly, there was no consent given for what happened to you.

Whether or not a criminal charge can be substantiated does not remove the reality that a sexual assault occurred.  Poor judgment or poor decision-making does not make you guilty for the horrific actions of someone else.

Were you victimized?  Consider the following statements:

  • “.. my body kept saying no.. “

  • “.. wanted this ordeal to stop.”

  • I never went through counseling because in what I allowed myself to happen.

  • I was stupid and therefore must assume responsibility.

  • When telling the story, I have always minimized what happened as well as laughing it off.

Yes, there was victimization.  In addition there is denial and avoidance.

  • Why deny something that is so obvious?

  • Why deny counseling?

  • Why avoid the opportunity to heal from such a traumatic experience?

Answer:  No one wants to view themselves as a “victim.”   Being a victim comes with the idea that you are weak, disempowered, or otherwise lacking. When someone is a victim, that individual suffers a loss of esteem, and a wound to how they see themselves.

To make up for this, you may seek to accept “responsibility” for the outcome of the grievous act. This is evident in your denial, avoidance, and minimization of the event, seeking to make it something it is not.

It may be relatively easy to fool others in minimizing the emotional consequences of a traumatic incident.  However, the psychological self continues to replay the trauma, forcing the physical body to deal with what the mind is attempting to forget.

Concluding Words

So, how do you overcome these feelings?  Focus on the following:

  • Advocacy: Make it a priority to speak up for the self—YOUR self.

  • Balance: Balance the experience of the sexual assault with your ongoing life journey. Work towards “letting go” of the incident, instead of forcing the psychological self to forget the traumatic event it survived.

  • Calmness: Bring calmness and continuity to your life.  Do not limit yourself to the label of “survivor of sexual assault.”  Instead, have the willingness to become a driver (empowerment), striver (pace setter) and thriver (achievement) and in doing so walk the journey of self-discovery.

Stop working overtime to overcome the feelings.  These actions are merely forcing the physical body to react and struggle in its response.  Instead, consider the following:

  • Seek mental health counseling

  • Acknowledge the victimization

  • Extend to the psychological self the gift of an apology for the actions of denial and avoidance of the suffering as well

  • Be willing to accept from the psychological self the gift of forgiveness for acceptance of responsibility for an action that was not for you to accept.

If you decide to travel to see this person, take heed to the lessons you learned from the prior incident:

  • Develop a safety plan.  Find a public place to meet, and make sure that you are able to leave anytime you wish.

  • Document significant information regarding this individual i.e. physical address, telephone number, email address etc

  • Provide your own lodging/accommodations, food etc

  • Limit your consumption of alcohol, and remember that if your drink is out of your personal sight, it is no longer your drink. Get another one.

  • Only meet with the individual in public settings.  Never accept an invitation to visit him at his residence.

  • Identify emergency resources in the local area i.e. police, fire etc

  • Provide a daily itinerary to family, friends and the management of the hotel that you are staying.

  • Be in daily contact with friends and family.

  • Create a password in communicating with your family and friends designating that you are either safe or in danger

Empower the self.  Being victimized does not mean that you cannot empower yourself to achieve a safe outcome.   It is clear that others may not understand your reasoning, but what’s essential is that YOU understand why you are initiating this journey. In doing that, make sure that you affirm to the psychological self that you have gained wisdom and learned from the past mistakes.  

“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.”

       -Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life 

The Visible Man

Being True To Yourself While Balancing Feelings Of Loss During The Holiday Season

Dear Visible Man,
I recently lost a loved one.  This is my first holiday season without my beloved.  I am not feeling the holiday cheer. I feel like I have to fake the “spirit” i.e. jolliness and laughter.  I don’t want to be a downer and rain on others.  Got any suggestions on getting through this?

Lacking The Spirit,  Seattle, WA

Dear Fellow Traveler,
     This portion of the year is heavy on those of us who have loved ones who are no longer physically among us.  As we enjoy time with the living, we can hold tight to our memories of the deceased. There is plenty of understanding to be had in your journey. But first:
  •  Be kind to the self.
  • Instead of attempting to get “through this,” seek balance in your journey.
  •  Embrace your feelings instead of distancing yourself from your emotions.

      As the holiday season and celebrations approach, you may be consciously or unconsciously preparing the psychological self to react to the grief associated with your loss.  There is the tendency to believe that you are alone, even when you are with others.  Rest assured that many are having the same experiences, but like you, may have chosen not to communicate or share what they are feeling. 

      Grief can be viewed as the deep sorrow that is caused by the loss of a loved one.  In anticipating the grief that is coming, the individual can chose to either react or respond.
     When one reacts, there may be a sense of lack of control.  But, should the individual choose to respond instead, he or she may place the psychological self in a position in which he or she is strategizing and thus able to be empowered.
      So how does one respond to anticipatory grief?
Stay in balance (and in tune) with your emotions.
  • Don’t focus on controlling your emotions or how you feel.  If tears are building within, have the willingness to express them.
  •  Don’t “man up”!  Allow yourself to focus on your human qualities.  Understand there may be feelings of disappointment, frustrations and delays.
  •  Be willing to share feelings of sadness with others.  Instead of seeking ways of distracting yourself from the pain, acknowledge and process it. In sharing with others, you are working to let go of or balance the feelings that are there.
  • Give yourself permission to take a “time out” interacting with or entertaining others.  Be willing to give yourself permission to spend time alone with your thoughts and feelings.

Take care of your (physical) self.

  • Avoid overeating & drinking alcohol as coping mechanisms.
  • Eat and enjoy regular balanced meals.
  • Eat something nutritious before attending a social party.
  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.  Be aware that alcohol, even combined with  snacks, can still be dangerous.
  • Focus on rest (naps) and maintaining regular sleeping patterns.
  • Create a reasonable exercise program.
  • If feeling rushed, stop and breathe deeply and slowly.  Take the breath from down in the diaphragm.  This will allow immediate feelings of relaxation.
 Take care of your (psychological) self. 
  • Pay attention to the psychological self.
  • Spend time alone.  Take time for meditation, massage or relaxation.
  • Spend time with friends in normal settings.
  • If feelings of depression or anxiety are overwhelming, schedule time for counseling and reflection with a counselor or mental health professional.
       In responding, be sure to reflect not only on what was lost, but also the joy that you had from the loving relationship. Please keep in mind the following:

“When you react, the situation has a hold on you.  When you respond, you have empowered yourself to be reflective and seek balance in the situation.”

 We focus on the journey and not the destination.

The Visible Man

There Is No Going Back. We Can Go Forward, But We Do Not Go Back.

Dear Visible Man:

     I am a 19-year-old African-American sophomore working toward becoming a chemical engineer.  I live in a residence hall on the school campus. I am really getting fed up with the ridiculous remarks that come from the people around me.
     One of my roommates believes that slavery was a good thing (“they had someone to take care of them.”)  Recently, one of my roommates greeted me (in a room FULL of other students) with a “what’s up my niggaz.”  I felt so humiliated.  When I protested, he stated “if your people can say it, why can’t I?”  I have filed a complaint with the campus residence staff and so far nothing has happened.
     After a year of putting up with this crap, I am sick of it and want to knock his teeth out. I know that I will probably wind up in jail.  I have talked to my parents; they are no help. My father wants me to “man up” and stick it out. He tells me that if other black men can stick it out do it, so can I. My mother wants me to come home.  Coming back home would feel like failure.
     I’ve started to drink alcohol, smoke weed, and skip classes.  As one can guess, my grades are dropping.  I will probably end up on academic probation.
     When I left home, I didn’t think it would be this bad.  I feel like a failure.  I want to go back home to my community.  What should I do?

Man Down, Seattle, WA

Dear Young Man,

      I have several things to say to you.  First, I want to extend to you my sincere congratulations on your decision to attend college and pursue your goal of becoming a chemical engineer.  Your decision to do so shows that you have chosen a path that may lead to a bright and successful future.

     Second, take time out for reflection. I call this stopping point the “way station.”  The way station is a place within the psychological self where you can go and give yourself the opportunity to reflect upon the actions you are taking and the experiences that are occurring.

     Third, and most important, do not fall for the trap of “man up.”  The psychological self is talking to you. Please listen to the pain and the wounds that have been impacted upon the self.  To “man up” is a trap that seeks to separate you from the psychological self and serves to either ignore or minimize the reality of both the pain and the emotional wound that you are now responding to.

Having said all of the above, let’s clearly identify the issues that you are responding to:

·      As one of the few African-Americans within the campus residence system, you are feeling extreme isolation and lacking a clear sense of community.

·      You are being impacted psychologically by comments and remarks that are racist and lacking in sensitivity.

·      You are conflicted with your desires to leave the current environment and your desires to fulfill your father’s demand by remaining in school.

·      You want to go back to the life you previously had.  However you feel that to do so will mean that you are a “failure.”

Now, let’s identify the ways you are currently responding to those issues.

·      You want to physically assault the person who is creating this emotional wound.

·      You are using alcohol and marijuana to ease, minimize or ignore the emotional pain you are experiencing.

·      You are skipping your classes, therefore creating the likelihood of being ejected from school due to inability to maintain the required grade point average.

     YOUNG MAN, life is not a rose garden.  Nor is life promised to you.  If you want it, then you must experience the good, the bad and the ugly.

     However, life can be what you want and work for it to be.  As you take your respite at the “way station,” view this as an opportunity to accept ownership of your feelings and in doing so, reinforce acceptance of your direction.  Empower the self to explore the following:

·      Isolation- Identify activities on campus or within the local area that can assist in developing and reinforcing a sense of community.

·      Anger- the emotional feeling of anger is an appropriate response given the “micro-aggression” you have experienced.  Micro-aggression can be defined as constant repetitive assaults that have the potential to lead to a sense of “hyper-alertness” and stress in those individuals being targeted by the offending behavior.

·      Conflict-there may be a state of “open warfare” going on within as you attempt to resolve the disharmony between two incompatible interests, that being fight (man up!) or flight (go back home).

   YOUNG MAN, learn and accept that there is no such thing as “going back.” 

     You can “return” home to visit; however you can “never, ever go back.”  The life you left, the safety and comforts that live in your memory no longer exist.  The person who left home to “explore the world and beyond” has now changed into the person of today. There is no “stepping back into the past.”   However, the “changing person” can continue to transform and in doing so, “journey into the tomorrow,” and experience new comfort and ways to feel safe there.

Framework for Failure (Living in Fear)

·      Drugs & Alcohol are tools to salve the psychological wound and medicate the pain.  The after effect of the intoxication or drug-induced feelings will not resolve the problems that currently exist.

·      Skipping classes will ultimately serve as disempowering—it will hamper your efforts to achieve academic, professional and personal success.

·      Physical Violence may lead to short term satisfaction, but long term regrets. Such actions may lead to academic suspension/expulsion, arrest, and incarceration and serve as a dark cloud as you continue the journey that we know as “LIFE.”  This one action can impact one’s ability to gain employment, obtain credit, buy a home and provide for one’s family.

     YOUNG MAN, The conflict that lies within you is in reality “FEAR.”

     This fear comes from the disconnect between standing up for yourself and your culture through violence and yet knowing that if you do so, you risk making things worse for yourself in the long run. It is the difference between letting this person disrespect you momentarily, and the stark reality that if you react violently, you can adversely impact your own life, which is, in effect, you disrespecting yourself.

     Resolve the conflict by having the willingness to “live with your fear rather than living inyour fear.”  Fear, like other emotions such as joy, happiness, sorrow and laughter, are simply feelings.  It is for the individual to take ownership and learn to “balance” (i.e. live with such feelings.

Framework for Success: (Living with Fear)

·      Communication- In sharing “space” i.e. school/residence/work, you must acknowledge your own vulnerability and exposure to comments that can be on the face based on ignorance (lack of knowledge) or hurtful (with purposeful intent). Show the willingness to “educate” those lacking in knowledge and distance & protect the self from those who seek to inflict hurt and injury.

·      Explore & process your internal conflicts.  Explore the incompatibility that exists. Work towards bringing peace to your internal self.  Contact your local student health services.  Inquire into mental health counseling for support and a safe place to express your feelings.

·      Process your feelings of anger.  Make decisions that will increase your options of success.  Let go of your desire of physical altercation. 

·      Follow up with your grievance to the school officials.  Document your concerns. 

     YOUNG MAN, Process your desire to “man up” or use physical violence. Understand that such desires are traps, and are manifestations of “living in fear” in that it maintains separation from the psychological self, which has been wounded and is experiencing pain.   Such desires reinforce the fear of exploring other ways to resolve conflicts and disagreements.

     Regarding the individual who made the racist remark and afterwards questioned why he and others can’t have the freedom of using such racist language– rather than resort to living in fear, ask yourself what this person seeking from you.

·      Is he really just seeking permission from you to use the racist terms without dealing with the consequences of using the word?

    Rather than accept those feelings of humiliation (reinforced living in fear), engage the individual in a discussion within the same group.  Help him understand that he is free to use any racist terms that are available, but will be held accountable for those terms, and will have to bear those consequences.  Such consequences could include the following:

  •  Loss of relationships with black people
  • The risk of being assaulted by angry individuals who may not choose to partake in intellectual discussion regarding the usage of racist terms
  • Being shunned by other white people who are more culturally sensitive and do not want to associate with a person who they perceive as a racist

     Furthermore, affirm for you and specifically you (as you do not speak for all black people,) that the term is offensive. If he chooses to use racist language, then some people (including you) would consider him to be an offensive person. That’s just reality. He’s now shown himself to be that kind of person, and it is his problem to deal with, not yours.    

     Do not allow this individual to become a victim of physical assault by your hand.  Do not allow yourself to become victimized in a system in which 1 in every 3 African-American males born today can be expected to go prison at some point in their life. 

     Learn from this encounter.  Understand that ignorance (that being, the lack of knowledge) looms along the journey and there will be many more such opportunities for more such experiences to come.

     Have the willingness to transform the view of being a “man down” to being a young man seeking his way, creating his path in the journey we call LIFE.

     YOUNG MAN, in closing, let me share a story.

     In a time long ago, there was a young man, who almost was expelled from graduate school due to almost becoming embroiled in a physical altercation at the internship.  This person was given a second chance to seek a new path.  He took it, and he went on to have a successful academic & professional career as well as a healthy family and marital relationship.  That person was me.

     I am no longer the man I was.  I have become the man I am. There is no going back. However, one can always go forward.  To do so one must be willing to “live with fear” and in doing so let go of the old ways of “living in fear.”  As you sit at the “way station,” you also stand at the “crossroads” where the new path is available to you.

     The “new path” leads to the return to the classroom.  In doing so, you can continue to advance your very promising future.  Or you can continue on the “old road,” isolating, drinking alcohol and getting high and thus continue to living in fear.  The choice is yours. 

What will you do?  Continue what you have started.  Walk your journey and finish the race. 

Living life can be likened to a marathon. Finish the race; don’t worry about coming in first place. Cross the finish line. Just finish the race. Finish what you start.

Ten Flashes of Light For The Journey of Life

The Visible Man