Remain conscious of your BUT

I vividly recall my session. It was day 3 after I found my new counselor. The person I had looked for when I began calling a list of individual & family therapists who would meet my standards was exciting, overwhelming, scary, promising, yet fearful.

Fear_Male
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She knew I’d be a handful when I initially called her, outlining exactly what I needed for my emotional-mental therapy! “Are you African American; are you older than 50 and are you credentialed in family therapy?” were the questions asked of her. “Yes, I am, but why?” I continued to explain that my personal issues directly stem from systemic patterns in the black community that negatively impacts relationships I have with loved ones, inadvertently affecting friendships.

I had reached a point of lethargy! The intersection of what to do + where to go was too confusing for me to navigate. After all these years I had finally run out of tools and resources on this solo ride to self-healing. A plateau. I needed professional, clinical intervention but not at the hands of a novice.

Mental Health Therapy
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She needed to know the depth of my hurt and wounds without being coached. I had to have someone who could not only relate, but look me eye-to-eye and break through my guarded heart and passive-agressive assertions to see my bullshit. This professional had to also be a ‘she’ because I know that effective empathy + combined wit + careful delivery would give me a safe space to talk. This was vitally important because I am particularly known to shut off emotions and recoil when I feel attacked – a place where only my dad understands.

“At the time, it seemed clear to me that any between-sex differences in thinking abilities were due to socialization practices, artifacts and mistakes in the research, and bias and prejudice. … After reviewing a pile of journal articles that stood several feet high and numerous books and book chapters that dwarfed the stack of journal articles … I changed my mind.”   Diane Halpern, PhD

Dr. King is and has been my safe haven. Her teachings, techniques, discernment, communication style, presence, aura, spirit, strategies, methodology and various specialities have traveled a 35+ year journey from the academia, turned clinical sector with awe-inspiring accolades. When she told me that I needed to hear the BUT behind every explanation I knew there was an incredible breakthrough on my end. Not only did I hear her explain the importance of why, I also understand how effective communication is discounted when we are unable to remove our BUT from conversations!

Think outside box
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About a month ago Dr. King said to me, and I paraphrase: “Felita, listening to the BUT when a person is explaining themselves will allow you to visualize, listen, have access to, witness and perceive their mindset about a subject issue, which will give you both an opportunity to clear up and potentially resolve any misunderstandings you would never know otherwise.”  This was the best advice I had received in a while, as it reminds me of instruction I received years ago about my writing, which is ‘the best way to notice your errors in writing is to read your sentences backwards because the pace is slower in the backwards direction.’

Today, removing the BUT allows me to sit in the present; to hear and stand witness to a person’s heart amidst their explanation of what they believe they’ve heard about our conversation that may be confusing to them. I remember removing my teenager’s rights to use her bathroom until she was tidy enough to maintain her own, and while she began to explain her point of view – I interrupted her at “BUT, mommy” — I later learned that she needed to know more about the why. We concluded that our definitions of tidy differed, and my inferences were confusing instead of helpful.

Thank you Dr. King for inspiring and teaching me to become a better me! The words that follow ‘BUT’ will be heard before I speak further; I will also commit with a thoughtful mindset. I promise to remain conscious of my ‘BUT’ so that others may also heal because words unheard are feelings unexplained. The takeaway – communication should be fluid, unambiguous, simple, sincere, gentle, kind and delivered with empathy. I get it — we all fall short, however, speaking in our present state will allow us to exercise care and attention for a created platform that is safe for all to share a seat at the table.

 

 

 

 

Masquerading Around

A lot happens behind the scenes and we can grow dangerously comfortable in these areas where masquerades are consistently worn.

My surprising week began on Saturday, 9/23/2017, instead of Sunday this time because it was the morning we picked her up from the train station when she finally visited for the first time in nearly two years. I remember saying to my daughter “I’d be surprise if grandma comes but I don’t believe she will,” when soon after she called and told us about her train reservation. I remember hanging up from the conversation, thinking about how the text I sent her on 9/15/2017 at 06:24 that read “Good morning. You should visit us this weekend” must have touched her the same way I felt when I sent it – sorry, wishing we could make forward steps to heal our hurt. 

It was awkward, I was nervous and my daughter sensed every emotion. I remember Butterfly saying something that insinuated my acting like a little girl who was happy to see her mom. Bingo! That was the exact feeling I had: happy like a little girl who would finally have a chance to ask questions about us and get clarity but also apologize for anything I did or have caused. When we finally had a chance to talk we were like foreigners in unguarded territory, hoping that certain questions weren’t asked because we did not want to hear the answers because dealing with what we heard would require us to do things we don’t normally do, such as show emotions. The feelings we conjured up were so unusual – at least for me – because a part of me wanted to let my guard down, but my cautious side knew that relaxing too much and exercising true candor was too risky too soon in our process of making amends after years of breached trust.

Moreover, most of our conversations resembled interactions you may see between strangers who would use their eyes to communicate because it was the only common, understood language, e.g. body language. However, unlike strangers, we had a common language but were afraid to speak it because it was the voice of pain, hurt, humiliation, turmoil, ugliness, immaturity, suffering, and deep wounds that, if exposed, would not survive the environment without professional intervention, which we did not have. So instead of daring to dive in, sort of speak, we talked using cues and at the surface of our pain insomuch that we each spoke our apologies, but only long enough to not feel the sincere result because we both wanted to keep a cordial atmosphere for my daughter’s sake, who was in listening distance and could sense if things were going sour. Yet, there were a few occasions when I would look a certain way and feel differently when responses were shared because the lag of time between each past incident left us both unsure of certain facts that needed proper addressing.

So, the remaining time spent together included bouncing around my small, intimate apartment, tip-toeing from room to room with hopes of not getting too uptight and in our feelings because we each knew that should things get out of hand, my daughter would be left to witness the very ugliness I have been trying to avoid, i.e. disruptive relations between females in the family. And although my attempts to make a positive difference was slightly successful, the result was expected: elevated voices, speaking over one another and wearing the mask that kept us safe for all these years – the facade that tricks one into believing that the image and scenery given to the public is just the opposite. Nonetheless, not all was lost because efforts were made and attempts were illustrated and the result left us both feeling a little better about what we dared to resolve on our own, which is our differences, misunderstandings and hurt. But at least we scratched the surface of what has changed the way we see, speak and perceive each other and I remain optimistic that our next visit will be sooner rather than later to gradually peel away our masks.