As a client, I've been protective of certain parts of my life.
I was nervous about exposing aspects of my family, my relationships, my culture, and my community.
I was afraid that to talk about all of it would mean the dysfunction embedded within them would be exposed, and that exposure would cause a rupture in relationships that I couldn't come back from.
As a therapist, I admire my clients courage to expose different parts of who they are, to be vulnerable, and to be wiling to take risks and reveal aspects of their lives that they would otherwise keep hidden to survive.
In therapy, we develop new levels of safety in reaching new levels of vulnerability when we push beyond our comfort zones and what we deemed as safe.
In therapy, we evaluate the gaps between how you think and perceive and how different it can be from the family, community, and people you were conditioned to be loyal to, to need, and to gravitate to for support. In that gap, there is potential for growth and also the blessing and challenge of disconnecting from what you were taught. There is a natural separation when we are talking about growth.
Being separated, not fitting in, or being different have not been used to define family or community or team.
Through growth, I'm learning that differences are actually what make up the uniqueness of family, of community, and of team.
The similarities initiate the connection while the differences can maintain the connection.
Similarities help us find each other;
Differences help us grow.
Similarities attach us to the cycle;
Differences helps us evaluate the cycle;
Differences help us change the cycle.
Similarities give us the bonds we need to learn the story;
Differences help us to create new stories;
Differences help us to treat our old stories differently;
Differences help us to value the parts of our story that were under-appreciated;
Differences help us to value the parts of our story that were overlooked.
May therapy reveal the differences that you have ran from, or for whatever reasons have not fully acknowledged or accepted about yourself or the people you are in relationship with.
When you join with therapy, you can stop seeing it as an opponent that you have to devalue or under-appreciate. Therapy is meant to help you pull out the better version of you and influence the better versions of others to come out as well.
What's worth more 'You vs. Therapy' or 'You and Therapy'?
I question how much you have been conditioned to equate being loved with being criticized. I challenge the people around you to not say they love you as a Black Man, while casually tearing you down. I challenge them to stop generalizing you all as Black Men and holding you all responsible for pain their past caused them. I challenge them to stop supporting each other in carrying and nurturing unhealthy narratives about Black Men.
Statements that are often mentioned in conversation and songs, like "All n-words ain’t ish," is evidence of unhealed pain. I have been around that and more wording that reinforced hatred and destruction of Black Men. I experienced the projection of that hurt through bullying and trauma within my interactions with males, but healing taught me to breakdown the issues I’ve placed before men.
Healing helped me to see my contribution to the pain I was experiencing. Lowering my defenses and resigning from hatred towards men taught me to have a level of compassion that allowed me to see men and myself in a different, new, and refreshing light. When I stopped blaming men, I saw them for them..not the representative, not the facade, not the ego, but them. I started seeing the males in my present and past for for the little boys that had unmet needs and for the pain they hadn't had the awareness to meet yet.
Black Male Athletes, I learned how to speak to you differently. I learned to stop fighting against, but to start fighting for and with.
Not to excuse and see you as victim;
Not to blame and see you as a criminal of heartbreak and pain...
I learned your deficits, your weaknesses, and your raw emotions that are protected by toxic masculinity and a performative version of strength. I learned to speak to you in such a way that you didn’t feel the need to keep hiding behind walls that women’s unresolved pain and society’s narrative of you collaboratively built with you.
How can we honor your humanness and create opportunities for you to evolve and not be limited?
I value your time and attention to your struggles. I value your honesty when you’re hurting. I value your authenticity and vulnerability when you’re uncomfortable. I value learning how to listen before I speak and intentionally and maturely respond.
I get why you gravitate to applause and audiences that put you on pedestals that magnify the strengths society tries to devalue.
Something I’m really grateful for and that I don’t take lightly is my gift in listening to and talking to you all as Black Men. Family is at the heart of my practice and I come from a male dominated family (hence, who did the talking lol), but to listen deeply and actively beyond the words and the defense mechanisms is what reminds me constantly, I’m walking in purpose. I love doing couples and relational therapy work and bridging the gap, even in individual sessions, across genders. We all need at least one person to hear and see us differently. Oftentimes, we mislabel people and things that we don’t understand. Giving you permission to explore parts of you (ie. emotional parts of you) that you were denied access to before is an honor.
This is not a call to reinforce the unhealthiness of seeing you as a victim. This is not a call to excuse or glorify poor behavior. This is to evoke a healthy level of compassion from others and to evoke a healthy level of self-compassion. This is to lower blame into manageable levels of accountability. I can hold you responsible with love better than I can blame you with hatred. You as Black Men can learn to hate your own selves and still call it tough love.
In honor of the Black men I love,
In honor of favoring the healing of your unresolved pain,
In honor of spotlighting the part of you that gets neglected,
In honor of advocating for your wellness and not destruction,
In honor of genuineness and authenticity that is needed to cultivate progress,
In honor of challenging society’s version of who you are,
In honor of the little girl in me who had to heal to fully understand,
In honor of expecting and becoming better,
In honor of adding fuel to your soul versus adding challenge to the fight you already have,
Black Male Athletes...this is for you.