Healing is something that must be done. As Black people, we need to heal. Our community is in pain.
Our pain comes in the form of trauma. The trauma is spiritual, mental and physical. Oftentimes we do not know how to address our pain, especially our emotional pain. As Black people in America, we have been victimized by all groups, including ourselves. When we hurt ourselves, the pain takes a new form.
We have all heard the phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people.” This is true. Hurt people also, often, hurt themselves as well as others. This hurt can be equated to trauma.
As Black people in America, we have been extremely traumatized on many fronts. This is systematic conditioning of our position in America. We often try to cover up our pain with things that give us gratification. In many incidences this gratification is short-term.
When we use short-term gratification, it only soothes the pain temporarily. One form of short-term gratification, which we have used to survive in a society that is everything but pleasant to us, is “minding our own business.” This also correlates with the old saying, “What goes on here stays here.” It is a cultural code of ethics for many groups.
However, for Black folks, this statement takes on new meaning. Oftentimes it means life or death depending on the circumstances.
This cultural code of ethics has been carried on for generations, and for good reason. However, has this code of cultural ethics become a self-defeating behavior? I ask this because many Black people have held on to experiences that have had traumatic influences on their lives. These experiences translate into stress. This stress manifests itself into other emotions and feelings.
We address these feelings and emotions with various ways of coping. This coping often is seen in ways of escape. We use food, sex, movies, drugs, alcohol, television, and social media as ways to escape the emotional pain we have been through in our lives. Some people go on vacations; others become workaholics. Some of us bury our heads in the Bible or Quran. Others turn to Twitter and Facebook. However, the pain remains.
Many times this pain is attributed to experiences we have had in our families. Currently, the new buzz in the social science world is around the “Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study.” This study attributes people’s life outcomes to the experiences they have had during their upbringings.
Many people who have had abuse, neglect and abandonment issues during childhood have ended up being violent, having drug or alcohol issues, or criminal histories. These results should not startle anyone. What should startle you is the fact that many times these individuals’ emotional pain has not been addressed.
One thing that has been a part of Black culture is “What happens in this house stays in this house.” This has been a staple statement in many Black families. Other cultures also apply this same principle, which has historically had a relevant purpose. It has been used to prevent harm from outside forces to be done to the family.
Like many things in the short-term, this method was beneficial. However, in the long-term this can become a dysfunctional behavior. This is what can be called a self-defeating behavior.
This behavior makes it tough for us to deal with some of the traumatic and hurtful things that happen in our families. We then keep the burden of these secrets, and that is painful. That pain remains with many of us. Some of you may be holding on to a painful experience as you read this. That experience needs to be dealt with in a healthy way.
We do not address our emotional pain because oftentimes we do not know how to do so in a healthy way. Addressing our pain takes a lot of work. It takes each and every one of us to be honest with ourselves about our life experiences.
Some of those experiences are things we want to forget. However, we cannot escape them. These experiences move throughout the world with us unconsciously, and often consciously. This affects how and whom we choose to engage with.
Also, addressing our pain in a healthy way forces us to self-analyze our experiences. Author and radio host Shamm Jones often says, “It is time to get out of the window and look into the mirror.” In order to heal, we must start addressing our pain. That starts with being honest and doing a self-assessment.
Then we must have faith and confidence in addressing these issues with others, whether this is a professional counselor, a close friend, or a family member. These issues must get out of the mental arena. Once released and dealt with appropriately, this allows the opportunity for healing to take place.
We need to be able to be healthy individuals to build a healthy community. It’s time to talk.
Brandon Jones, M.A., a BeMore coordinator, welcomes reader responses to bjones@the familypartnership.org.