November is “Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month”.
***Disclaimer: At Heal Recover Be Free, every month is ‘mental health awareness’ month; especially for Black Men.
What is a “Safe Space”: A place where you can be vulnerable and speak about your honest feelings without worrying about being shamed or made fun of.
Download Heal Recover Be Free’s Safe Space Guide here AGuide for Creating Safe Spaces-2
One thing that I notice about the black (especially black male) community, is that there isn’t a high level of emotional intelligence amongst black men, which is understandable. From the moment black males start walking and talking, they are taught that they need to abandon the parts of themselves that were deemed as “soft” or “acting like a girl” when in actuality, emotional expression is a part of everyone’s humanity.
Emotional intelligence: the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/emotional-intelligence-in-leadership
Male babies are born with tear ducts just like female babies are. Male babies express their needs through tears (as a means of communication) just like female babies do.
So why is that around about the age of 2 (maybe even earlier), it somehow becomes a thing that we need to remove tears (which are perceived as weakness), from the male child’s way of being?
To some degree I get it, if the male is supposed be perceived as tough, as the stronger sex, then he cannot be crying every time that he is hurt or slighted.
But the issue with this method of teaching is that it is almost always incomplete. We teach our male children to stop crying and be a man, but we don’t teach them what to do instead of crying. We don’t teach our male children how to use their words or how to process, feel, and regulate their own emotions.
We teach our black male children that “manning up” means shutting up and not allowing one tear to fall for anyone else to see. What happens then is all of their unacknowledged and unexpressed feelings get trapped and have nowhere to go. When these feelings finally reach a tipping point, when the male child (man) can no longer hold it in, that energy becomes combustible and manifests itself as misdirected rage. Because for some reason; anger, rage, and indifference are the only acceptable emotions for men to express outwardly.
[Black] Men need the space to be able to accept and express their full range of humanity (which includes expressing their emotions). Men need to be able to say when they are scared, when they are lonely, when they need a hug, when they feel sad, why they feel sad. They need to be able to talk about sadness that has lingered a little too long (depression).
Without a means of proper expression people resort to suppression. Sometimes that suppression results in depression and this is something that needs to be addressed.
Black men need to know that their feelings matter. Black men need to be able to believe that their feelings matter.
As a black man, when you are around other black men, you should feel safe enough to express yourself to these other black men. Especially if they are men that you spend a large portion of time around.
It may not be comfortable at first. Men weren’t necessarily taught how to create “brother circles” the way women have created sister circles. Everyone is not comfortable expressing emotions. There may be some who try to clown you for having and even sharing your feelings. Don’t let that person discourage you from getting your needs met. Also, try really hard not to be ‘that’ person (the person who clowns others). It’s easy to mock what you don’t understand. To some degree it may even feel safe; as our community tends to find safety in humor and find humor in making jokes at the expense of other people’s feelings. But that doesn’t mean that with time you cannot learn how to be safe and be in safe spaces with yourself and your closest male friends.
Doing the work.
Here are some Affirmations (mantras) to repeat to yourself daily
Repeat after me:
- My Feelings Matter.
- What I have to say matters.
- Expressing myself matters.
- I Matter to myself even if or when I feel like I don’t matter to others.
- I am my first priority.
- I must take care of myself [first] in order to be truly effective for my loved ones
- I deserve to be and accept myself fully which includes my right to express and feel the full range of my emotions
Write these down. Put them on a Postit. Put them up on a wall so that it is something that you see and recite every day until it becomes a part of yourself, your thinking, and the way you feel about yourself.
- What would change in my life if I believed my feelings mattered?
- What can I bring or add to my circle of friends to facilitate and create a safe space to have the kinds of conversations that we should be able to have with each other?
- How do I usually show up for myself (care for myself, my feelings, etc.)?
- In what ways can I start to show up for myself?
- Who do I have in my circle, that I already trust, that is a safe person to start doing the work with?
- If you have a car, try sitting alone in silence (no phone or radio) before leaving work or before going in the house. Listen to what is coming up for you in that silence. *This can also be done on public transportation.
- Pay attention to how your body feels before approaching certain places. How do you feel when you are about to reach work versus how do you feel when you are about to approach your home?
- Identify the places in your body that feel tense and the places that feel relaxed and also when and where you feel each of these sensations.
- Give yourself some outside time (time in nature). Not everyone is an outdoors person ( I get it) but nature has the remedy for everything if we’re truly paying attention. If you aren’t naturally a nature person, start by being intentional with the time you do spend outdoors. When leaving your house and before getting in to your car, take a moment to pause.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a couple of deep breaths in and allow yourself to release any heaviness that is attempting to travel with you.
- Then express gratitude for the life that you have in your body and anything else that comes to mind. Do this every time before traveling.
- Be intentional with your use of water for its spiritual, nourishing, cleansing, and healing benefits. Use your shower time to be alone with yourself and to process your thoughts and feelings. Drink more water if you aren’t drinking enough. As you drink, think about how it is cleansing and nourishing your body. Give thanks for all the qualities that water possesses. Drive to the nearest body of water where you live. Sit by it. Take in the air around the water. Allow yourself to experience the calmness and soothing that water has to offer. In moments of stress, take some water and cup it in your hands and splash your face in it.
Note: This is very important. Listen to water when it is calling out to you. You ever have a deep urge to take a shower right now, even though you don’t feel like it? You ever have the deep urge to wash your hair or immerse your full body in water? That is water calling out to you. Don’t ignore the call. Remember, nature has the remedy for everything.
I hope this helps!
Please like, share, and comment in the post and on social media! We really want to hear your thoughts and feelings.
Happy healing! — Kendra
The #DoingThe work portion is available for download here. Doing the work: Do black men have safe spaces