What Happens Behind Closed Doors: 3 Overlooked Sources of Trauma in the Black Community
Trauma is something that many discuss but few understand. When most folks discuss trauma they speak from very a specific but limited understanding. Like most things, trauma is often discussed in part but not in whole. One of the biggest myths about trauma is that it comes from a single event that is either very violent or very tumultuous. In my work as a trauma therapist, I have found this to only be partly true.
Single events that are violent or tumultuous may indeed have a lasting traumatic impact but this is not the only source. Many people understand that single events like a car accident, physical assault, or sexual assault are traumatic. As a trauma therapist, I understand this as well and know this to be true. What folks don’t discuss enough is the other sources of trauma. In my work with Black women, I have found that single events are often not the primary sources of long-lasting traumatic impact. Many Black women and Black folk are deeply impacted by recurring or ongoing events. But, the thing is, these are things that many Black folks are told are normal; therefore, we rarely analyze their impact within the Black community.
3 Sources of Long-Lasting Trauma in the Black Community
The lack of praise.
These are households in which accomplishments are not recognized or celebrated. Within these households, folks never or rarely hear things such as, I am proud of you or you did great. Instead, they are often told to keep working harder. Sometimes, folks are told nothing at all thus receiving silence when sharing good news. Lastly, folks may also find that while their accomplishments are ignored their mistakes are highlighted. This is hurtful.
The lack of visible love.
Many Black families create households where children are told that they should be grateful to have a roof over their heads or clothes on their backs. But, that same child cannot recall hearing their parents, siblings, kinfolk or partners say: I love you or I believe in you. To make matters worse, when these folks advocate for themselves by asking for love or attention they are told to “let it go”, “stop all that whining”, “you’re overreacting”, or “to stop being soft”. This is isolating.
The presence of inappropriate humor.
In the Black community, it is not uncommon to hear family members or friends teasing each other by making jokes. These jokes range from topics like “talking white”, yo’ mama jokes or comparing a natural hairstyle to Celie from The Color Purple. The jokes imply that parts of us are not loveable. They also imply that these parts must be changed in order to be loved or accepted. This is shaming.
The Hard Truth
Now, what I am not implying is that Black folks do not have love in our households or our communities. Instead what I offer is the encouragement to critically analyze how we define love and how we display our love. Not doing so continues to perpetuate traumatic shame. Shame is a tool of manipulation that has been a long-used tactic of our oppressors. One that continues to bring harm to Black communities as we continue to ignore its internalization and manifestation in our own homes.
Emotional Neglect vs. Emotional Abuse
To refuse to give praise, unconditional love, or affection is emotional neglect. To use humor to mock aspects of culture, personality, appearance, and identity is emotional abuse. Both create deep psychological, emotional, and spiritual wounds.
You are not crazy, you are not soft, you are not weak and you are not unloveable. In fact, you have been traumatized. You see, these recurring events impact how we as Black women feel and think about ourselves. They impact our self-esteem, our confidence, and our capabilities. It creates hyper-independence, hopelessness, and loneliness while promoting insanity and causing intergenerational trauma. It is time we, as a community, own this truth because we see it, feel it, and live it daily.
Begin Healing with Trauma Therapy in Baltimore, MD
You’ve done the best you can with the tools you have. Now you can choose to learn new tools. With these tools, you can transform into a new version of yourself. A version that is open, understanding, and healing. Over the years, I have had the honor of helping resilient women find compassion for themselves and heal from trauma. I’m ready to help you on this journey and you’re reading to begin journeying. Follow the steps below to contact my therapy practice to begin trauma therapy.