Friday, April 13, 2012

It's Time to Grow Up...Mentally

So, the other day, I let my 5-year-old drive my car. She crashed, hurt many people in her path...and I let her drive it again. Crazy right? Or is it? Not really, for many of us do it everyday without even knowing it.

I realized this watching a recent episode of "Basketball Wives" when Tami Roman, one of the series' most infamous characters known for her "take-no-bullsh*t" attitude, sat down with her mother and confessed that she had been violated twice as a child. She also shared that she realized that's why she's always so angry and even distrusting of men, and how this has impaired her relationship with her mother and is now impairing her relationship with her own daughters. She also admitted she discovered all of this during therapy.

Oooh. Cringe. The dreaded "T" word that so many in our community need yet avoid. And it doesn't help that in many black churches the necessity of it is often overshadowed--if not overlooked altogether--by applying the "power of prayer" instead. Now don't get me wrong: I absolutely respect AND rely on the power of prayer greatly. However, there are some things we can do along with prayer to make the impact that's needed to heal our lives greater. I heard it said best this way: "Saying prayer changes things is not as close to the truth as saying prayer changes me and then I change things." I.e., we still have much work to do after we get off of our knees.

There are so many experiences that shape who become. Some good; some not so good. But both very critical to how we "show up" in our lives as adults. And, unfortunately, the "not-so-good shapings" are the most influential and can run the gamut: abuse, molestation, divorce, illness, abandonment, substance abuse, bullying, and the list goes on, whether we experienced them as victims or silent witnesses.

Far too often, we pat ourselves on the backs for surviving these situations, but as often seen, we've only survived them physically; mentally, the impact of those situations are still playing themselves out in our lives and manifests itself daily in how we communicate (or not communicate) with others, seek (or avoid) love, navigate relationships, raise our children, deal with grief, problem solve, and, most importantly, love ourselves. Our hurt, five-year-old selves are now carrying our adult weight. So answer this: If you'd physically run to help a wounded child in need--maybe one you don't even know--why then do we let our own inner five-year-old selves remain wounded?

In many ways, mental health is just as--if not more--important than physical health. Just as we take pills for our high blood pressure, exercise to control our diabetes, or even less concerning, keep our weekly hair appointments to look our best, why are we not as diligent in making sure our "insides" are as healthy as our "outsides"? The minute we can all ask ourselves that question, then make a commitment to do something about it, our lives will change, our relationships will change, our families will change, and our communities will change.

I think author Stephen Levine says it best both poetically and plainly: “Simply touching a difficult memory with some slight willingness to heal begins to soften the holding and tension around it...[for] those who insist they've got their 'sh*t together' are usually standing in it at the time."

Seeing Tami's breakthrough was inspiring and, hopefully, life changing. Oddly, many of us indulge in reality TV because watching the antics of others allows us an opportunity to retreat from our own drama. But just as we cringe watching their behavior, many around us cringe while watching ours, and we're not even aware. The time is now for all of us to begin striving to be better people inside and out, whether that starts with a therapist, life coach, counselor, support group, or good self-help book that opens the journey of healing, releases the guilt, and sets free all shame. In the end, everyone in our lives will benefit from it and, most importantly, our five, ten- or, even, 15-year-old selves will thank us...and, prayerfully, release us.