Participating in therapy requires us to be still within ourselves. For black and brown men, stillness within ourselves can be a foreign experience and it has very little to do with us. Stillness “allows” our mind to take a break or as I’ve experienced (as have my patients) time away from being distracted from how we feel. Depression, in particular, the suppression of sadness, is better able to rise out of ourselves and breathe if you will.
The goal is to not suppress our feelings during our waking hours, during the time we usually are distracted with DOING.
Whatever we are validly sad about, as children but for whatever reason haven’t had permission to express; OR we’ve expressed it to ourselves while alone without it being validated by someone we trust; OR we’ve expressed it to emotionally-limited people who usually make it themselves or minimize it — stays away from our consciousness. And with each disappointment, or loss as we get older, these feelings continue to be unconsciously suppressed, Depression is manifested and our elastic brain keeps us in that track.
If this happens long enough without treatment, i.e. retraining the brain, medication intervention is often the only way to help the brain “retrack” as best as possible or people can die. And, as most everyone here knows, even medication doesn’t always help for a variety of very real and very frustrating reasons.
Another way the mind tries to get fixed, or "retrack and heal, is to move into a “more manageable” place. The other side of this powerful coin is anxiety. Our minds shift from depression into anxiety so it’s “easier” to manage. Problem is, as children who are mostly surrounded by adults who mostly wouldn’t, couldn’t, and therefore don’t know how to help kids manage their anxiety, they/we come up with coping skills of their own.
By the time puberty hits, the most accessible way to manage is drugs, alcohol, sex, computers, food, picking at themselves, cutting, risk-taking behaviors, etc. — the list goes on.
Our world now has a myopic focus on treating people, if we’re lucky enough, to have THOSE behaviors or coping mechanisms (Ritalin, diets, rehab) help them forget all about the underlying reason(s) we use those ways to cope in the first place!
The remedy? Proven time and time again, the answer is to heal the original problem. EXPRESS THE SADNESS! Let someone know how sad you’ve been about your childhood. Allow someone to validate what it must have been like for you as a child who had no intellectual understanding of why it was so sad, but who still FELT the loss.
However, before that can happen, we have to express and process (therapy plug) all of the loss and disappointment we’ve had SINCE our sad childhoods. And that takes time.
Anyone can see that it’s faster to take more pills and/or deny how deeply sad we really have been because, if you’re at all like I was at age 40, feeling like it’s just too many years of too many disappointments and losses, to consider taking even more time to try and heal.
And when that happens, it takes only three ways to force us to consider addressing our original childhood loss:
1) We never address it, it never heals and we “live” unhappily; or
2) We learn only through a crisis, and even then some of us “get it” or understand it, but never FEEL it enough for the crisis to stop trying to wake us up to this; and
Why therapy? Because the ache for home lives in all of us, especially men of color, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Take good self-care,
Timothy Rogers, MA, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist