by Shane Perrault, Ph.D.,
Founder of AfricanAmericanMarriageCounseling.com
I. In my last Blog post, I talked about the Civil War between Black males and females. I must admit your responses were overwhelming passionate, insightful, clever and thoughtful. I thank all of you who read, tweeted, commented and otherwise joined in.
With few exceptions, Black males and females alike felt “United We Stand; Divided We Fall.” In addition, there was a groundswell of concern about what specifically we can do to get past the pain. I agree we need specifics and not more rhetoric.
(Before we go any further, in the picture above who did you assume hurt who? Did he hurt her or vice-versa? Your response may have more to do with your gender and the collective pain you have toward the opposite sex, than the picture itself. It was selected because it is neutral, and could be interpreted in countless ways. For example, did he just tell her he has another woman pregnant, or was on the “down-low”; or did he just bust her out for cheating; or find out he failed the paternity test.
Your initial interpretation may unwittingly reveal just how alive your pain is, and how it colors your experiences with the opposite sex. This picture is kind of like a “projective” inkblot test psychology has made famous. They teach us that feedback tells us more about the observer than what is actually observed. Try and be mindful of what your initial conclusion tells you about yourself, and how that might be impacting your relationships with the opposite sex.)
II. This blog post will talk about some specific things you can do to start the process of dousing the pain that fuels the fire destroying black male-female relationships. You are also called to get involved, as your responses to the last blog post and to the picture above clearly demonstrate it is going to take a Village to save Black Relationships.
Before we introduce specific steps, I challenge us all to really look in the mirror.
Is there anyone out there that hasn’t hurt someone else? God knows, a bolt of lightening would come through the ceiling if I tried to say I never hurt anyone. I have lied, cheated, manipulated; and have definitely passed over a good-one to get to a bad-one cause her skirt was tighter. (And those are the things I can say in public. Believe me, I’m not proud of any of this; just being real about it.)
Am I alone here?
Doubt it! So let’s move on. Working at a Methadone clinic for heroine addicts, I came to realize that there are few pure victims in the world — or perpetrators for that matter. Victims are blameless; Perpetrators are solely to blame. I went into the clinic thinking these addicts were perpetrators ““ and frequently they were; after hearing their stories I discovered they had frequently been victims, too. In reality, they were both, or what I refer as “survivors”: that is, they have been hurt, and have hurt others.
The term “survivor” represents the notion that most people are both victims and perpetrators. To promote long term healing and healthier relationships it is crucial that we shift to the “survivor” paradigm.
You might be wondering aloud but what does being a “survivor” have to do with him/her doing me wrong? Directly, very little! However, when it comes to how we view each other in a collective fashion, it makes a huge difference. (Consider how you viewed the picture above.) Thinking of ourselves as both survivors shifts us from the reactive, blaming mode, to a proactive, accountability taking mode. This paradigm shift represents a process that will ultimately empower us to move forward.
It is much easier to forgive a “survivor” than a perpetrator.
Shifting to the “survivor” paradigm represents a revolution in thinking, and this revolution is a prerequisite for sustainable change. It’s hard to start casting stones at the entire opposite gender, if you truly take responsibility for having done wrong yourself. This change also positions us to truly start to forgive each other and ourselves.
I am confident that if you reflect on personal experiences, that you will recognize it necessary to forgive a real or perceived transgressor to respect and love them. No the first step is not easy. In contrast, being a psychologist has taught me it is doggone impossible to do. However, to start the healing process for black relationships, we must make this paradigm shift.
As you become more comfortable with this concept, I challenge you to start promoting it in your conversations.
III. Here are some specific steps for you to take to help end the Civil War between Black Males-Female Relationships:
- Seek a Higher power. Pray that you can forgive and be forgiven. I also recommend the CD, “101 Ways to Transform Your Life,” by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
- Start taking responsibility, become a survivor. If you need too see a therapist, then get one. You will have to get past the stigma that talking to a psychologist like myself is somehow reserved for crazy people. Crazy people are inpatients on psychiatric wards, and don’t come and see psychologists, therapists or counselors.
- Start educating and, yes, correcting each other. If you see your boy/girl about to choose the cruddiest partner ever check them.
- Fathers, and, yes, mothers if you haven’t seen your kid, go see them. They don’t care if you’re broke, down or up, or whatever, they just need to see you care. Mothers, if you child’s father wants to see his child and he’s not abusive, a stalker or otherwise certifiable let him. (I know this last comment will strike a nerve, as we do have some trifling brothers out there, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve seen some good, stand-up brothers come out on the short end of the stick in the system.)
- Start holding viewing parties of “Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage.” Get the DVD, and start some dialogue. We hold parties for every other reason under the sun. Hill Harper’s book, “The Conversation” is also a good read, and would be nice for any book club.
- Lastly, I challenge you to get involved. I am having a contest to discover more ways we can promote the “survivor” paradigm shift. The top five ideas will be included in the next Blog post. Keep in mind this site currently has thousands of fans, so you can really help a whole lot of folk ““ and be seen too. It’s going to take a Village to Make Black Relationships work, and your help is appreciated.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading the comments you post on this blog.
Founder of AfricanAmericanMarriageCounseling.com
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