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Relational Poverty: Where Vulnerability and Intimacy are Lacking

When we hear poverty, we often only connect it to the significant lack of financial resources. Relational poverty is the lack of relational resources: lack of knowledge, awareness, capacity, endurance, and/or skills necessary to manage relationships in healthy, effective ways.

A significant part of the makeup of slavery, oppressed systems, poverty, and trauma-ridden communities is to break the family down to where the main focus is not on family, but on survival. Survival shifts the focus to money (or "at least enough to pay the bills") and basic self-preservation (or simply just existing); in totality the concept of “still making ends meet.” In the contexts of survival, there isn’t much time to address emotions or be in tune to family or what was really going on to the children in the family.

“Be seen and not heard” is a colloquialism in the Black community that partially developed from time and emotion not being a resource that the adults in the family had much access to or control over. So we relate by co-existing physically, but not by being present emotionally and mentally. Access to emotions and underlying thoughts was deemed a luxury that not everybody could afford. From parentified children (or children/adolescents given adult responsibilities) to single parents, there were other things to get done and balance. Pausing and accessing emotions was not a part of the daily routine. Society's work culture hasn't changed much and the same toxic beliefs have permeated the sports world. The mentality of #nodaysoff is embedded in conditioning, training, watching film, rehabbing, and in-season travel, games, and competitions. We're constantly rushing to the next thing...the next game...the next season.

Imagine your emotions being behind a locked door in your house that you couldn’t find the key to...and you had somewhere to be soon...but your emotions are significant, valuable, and necessary for where you are headed. You would either have to take extra time that you already didn’t have to break down the door or to find another key. That key, the key, to accessing your emotions in healthy ways is also the key to having intimate relationships with yourself and others. We tell ourselves we're busy or lack the time, but in actuality we have to acknowledge that being intentional about taking the time is a norm we have to learn to create. We can’t do intimacy without connecting to the parts of us that we haven’t been taught to have access to. The power of vulnerability has been weakened and watered down, because it is so foreign in a world of survival. Therapy is an avenue to accessing the room of emotions, vulnerability, and healthy intimacy to securely deepen your relationships with self and others. Therapy also helps us to clarify what is on the generational plate or what was passed around or down between generations or family.

If accessing emotions, vulnerability, and intimacy in relationships is not on the generational plate that was passed down. The generational plate is instead piled up with unresolved trauma, substance use and other forms of escape (even healthy outlets like sports), financial poverty, survival at best, shame, parent or people-pleasing, yelling, and "bad" attitudes. We have a lot of room to make on the plate for addressing emotions, leaning into vulnerability, and experiencing intimacy. Part of making room requires throwing away some of it or unlearning, sorting it, or addressing/consuming it. It’s not impossible.

I know throwing things uneaten away is a waste and playing with stuff on my plate is a no-no, but I’d rather make room for what my soul needs to absorb.

I can only feed the next generation what’s in me.

I’m healing to win beyond relational poverty. What about you?

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