I recently had a phenomenal opportunity to record a tapping meditation for the Tapping Solution app for Racial Anxiety (you can find that HERE). As I continue to receive feedback and questions from so many not only within the states, but internationally, I’m realizing just how triggering and traumatizing the images on TV and social media that we have been seeing are.
Don’t get me wrong. People have been extremely grateful for this tapping meditation.
And what I’m sensing is that you want…no…you NEED more.
You’re tired. You’re fed up and exhausted. You’re angry and full of rage. Or you feel helpless for yourself, your friends, your loved ones. Perhaps you are a white ally trying to figure out how to help your friend or loved one.
Either way, the point is there is a lack of information out there. As we know, where there’s a lack, there’s an opportunity.
This is the opportunity to address what might be coming up for so many persons of color across the globe these days.
Whether you are feeling fear, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness and despair…know that whatever it is you are feeling, it’s ok. Not only that, it’s completely justified. It’s understandable. I get it because I too have been feeling all of these things, and more.
When the images that we’re flooded with continue to come at us at such a rapid pace, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel tiresome. Not to mention traumatizing. Just when we finish processing, let alone mourning the death of one black person, we are inundated with the new of 1, 2, 5 more. It truly is exhausting.
It’s like having multiple family members die in rapid succession, one right after another. You don’t even have a chance to pay honor and respect to one family member before giving that same energy to another family member. Perhaps you get to a point where you feel numb. Almost as though you don’t even have the energy to mourn the loss of the second, fourth, or tenth family member. Or you have so much energy of anger, rage, pain in your body, it has to come out somehow, someway. And all of that makes complete sense.
Your mind is still on the first, or an earlier loss. It’s still trying to make sense of that person no longer physically being here, even if you just spoke with them earlier that day or the night before. Your brain is doing what it needs to do in order for you to survive. Some would call it dissociation, but the truth of the matter is that this is your brain trying to protect you from further hurt.
It’s like when you stub your toe really hard against something. You know it hurts, or is going to eventually, but for a split second, there’s a moment where there is no pain. It’s like your brain takes a minute to register what just happened. But when it finally does, when that signal finally gets up to the brain and back down to your toe, that’s when the pain truly starts.
Now imagine doing this multiple times in a row. There might be a prolonged period of numbness, followed by a whole bunch of pain. Pain that may seem unbearable. Excruciating. You just want it to go away.
There might even be a part of you that wishes your foot was no longer there if that meant you no longer had to feel that level of pain.
And no, it’s not that you don’t appreciate your foot and all that it has done and been for you. It’s just that when your rational brain turns off, you’re not thinking of the long-term impacts. You just want the pain to stop. But it doesn’t. It keeps coming.
This is where we are now. It’s hard to not focus on that pain. And we just want it all to go away. We might even find ourselves interested in how to heal this pain even though this was not even a thought on our radar before. All things we were interested in before become null and void. We lose interest in them because, well, it’s hard to focus on anything besides this pain.
It’s not to say what we were interested in before isn’t important. It just means there’s a bigger incentive to focus on the immediate issue at hand because you may get some relief in the near future.
In the long-term, your interest may return to what you were focused on, what you enjoyed when you were pain free. And that’s very normal.
But for now, you simply want to ease that pain no matter what it takes, at all costs and by any means necessary.
In these moments, we may tend to do one of three things according to our primitive brains. Note, I said primitive and NOT our logical, rational, thinking brains. After all, that part is only a small part of our overall functioning.
So that lizard brain either wants to run or fight. I’ll get to the third option momentarily.
As I stated before, the brain is designed and wired to keep us going as a species, and to keep us (and/or our loved ones) safe. So perhaps it goes into fight mode. It is ready for whatever comes its way, ready to battle, ready to defend. We see that with a lot of the protestors. They are willing to fight for what is a human right of dignity, respect, and the right to live. Fight as hard for us as some may do for that fetus that’s unborn.
Now, some of us may tend to flee, or retreat into our own shells. That might look like reading more, studying, researching, or turning everything off. Shutting down. Retreating from life as we know it, because sometimes, ignorance is truly bliss. Or at least it’s numbing when it comes to the pain. Which is why you may also see a lot of people turn to drugs or alcohol, because that is a way to numb the pain. And that feels better…at least for the time being, for the short-term relief.
The third option as I alluded to is more about freezing. This is the third (based on the polyvagal theory by Steven Porges) option – not requiring thought – where our bodies simply go limp and numb. We play dead. You’ve seen an animal or bug do this many times. Just when you think it has seen its last breath, it jumps up when it thinks it’s safe to do so, and scurries off to hopefully some safety. Maybe for you it looks like an inability to get out of bed, no energy to engage anyone or anything. A complete shut off and shut down of all major systems, because, what’s the point.
So whatever it is you might be feeling right now, I assure you that a) it’s ok; b) it’s normal; and c) it’s part of our natural and evolutionary response to any threats in our environments. And as we see, there are a lot. First it was COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus. Then it was the resurgence of, or recognition that, racism is still very much alive and well, and appears to be thriving. So take your time in processing and trying to make sense of this all.
That might mean talking to other people who get it, who understand exactly what it means to be black in this society, in your particular society and culture. This provides a safe space so needed during these times. Then from these conversations perhaps you can start to create something that didn’t exist before. Something that is protective, helpful, innovative, loving and compassionate for black people and black voices.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Turn off your devices. Truly retreat, if you can. Read a book that has nothing to do with racism and the effects of it. Go for a walk, exercise, go on a quick day trip if you can. Dance, listen to music, write and journal your thoughts and feelings.
And finally, get your mind right. Meditate. Pray if you do that. Do yoga. Engage in tapping (EFT, aka Emotional Freedom Techniques) if you need. And the truth of the matter is, we all need it. Talk to a professional if need be. That’s what we as clinicians have been trained for. To help people with their stuff. So don’t hesitate to do any and all of the above. We are all needed in this fight, and it’s only right we do it by taking much needed breaks. We can’t do this alone, and can’t run on fumes. We have to refuel and re-energize as needed.
Last but not least, know that you are loved. You are appreciated. You are revered. You are honored. You are acknowledged. You are validated. You are special. And you more than just matter – you are here to shine and change the world. So let’s do exactly that.
Peace, love and light,