Racial trauma is a real thing. The world is catching up to the idea now.
Yet, when you endure it, again and again, you might think “traumatized” is just how things are.
When you and your grandmother tell frighteningly similar stories of your childhood fears and abuses, it probably seems that way. And when you know with a sad certainty that your own children will have to be told, warned, and weighed down by “race matters”, well then, you have to wonder why it took the turmoil of 2020 to start publicly acknowledging that people of color are psychologically wounded.
Perhaps the psychological world is ready now because we are all slowed down by the restrictions of the pandemic, an exhausting political climate, and the tragedy of George Floyd. We’re simply tuned in now to the unflinching video of it all.
Perhaps the world is less apt to dismiss racial wounds and worries the way it did last year or the decades before. Let’s hope so. People of color just aren’t built for such unrelenting abuse. No one is.
Cumulative trauma is a racial truth.
Black people, in particular, know the risks of police interaction, unwelcoming towns, “white flight,” and overblown reaction to their own pride, protests, and pressure for inclusion. We know it, but no one deserves to continually confront systemic gaslighting, shaming, and rejection in a country that demands patriotism. Even though we keep on keeping on, no one should expect to withstand repeated condescension, discrimination, and cruelty without help. But we do.
Yet, slowly, we are starting to realize that such a state is literally toxic to us. To go on “keeping our business to ourselves” or claiming to be too strong for professional guidance is unproductive and damaging.
In fact, without attention, the trauma layers can stack up indefinitely. The damage often distorts us personally and divides us communally. The fallout harms us relationally and generationally if we don’t find support and share our burdens and release the pain.
What about you specifically?
- Do you try to pursue happiness while shouldering direct, indirect, and systemic racism?
- Do you worry that all your effort might be snuffed out at someone’s racist whim?
- Are you frustrated by perceptions and policies that discount your humanity and contributions?
You aren’t alone. Managing such burdens often feels like too much for many Black people, regardless of class or education. Psychological research indicates that these traumatic experiences can lead to a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) sort of experience. Discomfort may include
- nightmares and insomnia
- hyperventilation, and cardiac palpitation
- disordered eating, weight fluctuation
- short-tempered or controlling behavior
Yet, the inescapable reality must be acknowledged: simple skin color, unlike a single event or time period, is a pathway to some form of life-long trauma for too many Americans. Simply being darker skinned can keep you in a perpetually triggered, hurting place.
This demands, then, that racial trauma be treated specifically and meaningfully. But, if you don’t know where to find help, or even realize that help exists, you might think racial pain “is what it is.”
Fortunately, the narrative of our mental and emotional health is shifting. Now we know that therapy matters.
To “overcome” is not necessarily to win or obliterate, or completely destroy a thing. Though, in the case of racial trauma, that would be a beautiful thing.
Like many people of color, you may think that the things you’ve witnessed, endured, or fear are just part of the price you pay to be here. You may have resisted “dwelling” on the past or simply feel trapped by it.
Yet, looking back purposefully with a therapist may be key to coping well.
The goal is not to retraumatize you, but to help you recognize, accept, and integrate your racial pain helpfully. Then, you can clearly process the memories and begin releasing the past’s negative, snowballing strain on your body and mind.
And what about right now? If, right now, you feel an ever-present sense of fury when you see a police officer you aren’t alone. Or if you sink into a state of sad resignation when you watch the news, many share your sadness. These feelings might even seem normal as so many of your neighbors and loved ones live with the same anxiety, anger, and depression.
Please know that exploring your emotions with a counselor is vital and valuable for relief. You don’t have to suffer, you deserve more.
Noticing your racial trauma, facing it, and honoring your own feelings is key to building stability and rock-solid self-love.
For the sake of your health, happiness, and relationships, making space and time to safely reframe and restore your life is crucial.
Finally, you can benefit from therapy that supports insight and growth when it comes to your racial experience. After sharing with a qualified counselor, you may find that you just feel freer. Not because you unloaded all of your “private business.” But because sharing permits you to unload the challenges of skin color productively. Long before they become a mental crisis or stumbling blocks to your future.
A truer, renewed sense of yourself is possible via validating, creative counseling.
Isn’t that the best outcome? To live confidently empowered from the inside out?
To that end, we are here for you. We can help you process the past fully. We’re invested in promoting healthy life skills today. You can count on us to reliably assist you as you stand up to future racial challenges.