Posted in Blog, Mental Health

David Lammy’s Article, Gangs, & A Scathing Review of My Childhood…

Reading David Lammy’s article in the Guardian today really hit home, not only drawing attention to how politically and culturally isolated Black youths are today because of our Government’s continued cognitive dissonance, but it also reminded me that this has been going on for years and years and years and no Government has every improved the situation for young people.

This excerpt especially resonated with me:

The first thing Lammy wants us to understand is the blameless ease with which a child who goes home to an empty council estate flat because his mum can’t afford childcare while she’s at work, can become a gang member. All it takes is a gift of new trainers, he says, for which in return the child is soon asked to carry a little package round the corner, and before long, the 12-year-old is earning more in one week than his parents make in a year.

I didn’t grow up on a council estate, however I did grow up in a single parent family and was responsible for looking after my sister while my mum had to work in full-time employment. Luckily for my mum I was a geek, but unfortunately my sister got mixed up with some bad people and did some bad things and I had to save her. We used to call them “pikeys” in my days. When she told me that she had a boyfriend, my antenna went up, but when her friends told me that he was in a gang of white pikeys, I went round to his house and told him to stay the fuck away from my sister. For some reason he listened. People just did in those days. I don’t think my sister has every appreciated the fact that she could’ve been dead if it wasn’t for me. And she soon admitted to me that he didn’t treat her well either. My mum still knows nothing of this… until now.

Parentification is an unfortunate generation cycle in Black culture, and I’ve spoken about this before on my blog which you can read here. Children are forced into adult roles within their families, mostly because one parent has walked out, forcing the older child to take on that parental role. This has a detrimental effect upon mental health, during adolescence and especially in adulthood. The worse thing is, as Black people we are never offered therapy (I will provide you with examples below). Usually the child is at shown some gratitude in older years from their parent or siblings, however I’ve never been shown any. I didn’t rebel until I was 17 – I snuck out a couple of times with some friends while my mum worked the night shift – my sister would have friends round so she wasn’t home alone, but other than that, I made sure I looked after my sister. I did most of the chores at home, because my mum made me, which I had to balance with homework, unlike my sister who wasn’t doing any chores or any homework because she wasn’t interested in pursuing further education like me and therefore didn’t see the point in home studying. I also had to balance this with Church, which we went to at least three times a week. All while hiding my father’s abuse. As a teenager, I had a lot on my plate.

Everybody on the outside of our family saw us as this tight, united trio of a mother and two daughters, but we were far from it. I had nobody to talk to and felt extremely isolated. It only got worse when I went to University.

At 24 when I went travelling and came to the Australia part of my trip, I suffered from aggressive, verbal racism from the locals. They would say stuff to my face and then laugh, as if I was supposed to be in on the joke. The next leg of my trip I planned to be New Zealand, but I just couldn’t face it, but I couldn’t afford to come home early. My only option was to call home and ask my mum for a loan to change my ticket so that I could come home early. I cried down the phone, begging for the loan, but I didn’t tell her about the racism, because I couldn’t. When I got home, she would retell the story about the phone call and laugh about how I cried, which I found an incredibly insensitive thing to do.

I sunk into a deep depression, fell in love with a drummer who used me for sex, became further depressed and so went to see the GP, who instead of referring me for counselling “told me to get over it” and then prescribed me anti-depressants. By now, I was drinking heavily so I just carried on to the point to excess, which the GP knew.

I got a job at a GP surgery, where at the Christmas party, the Practice Manager tried to sexually assault me, because I was off my face on drugs and alcohol and could take advantage and I had to call my sister and her boyfriend to come and pick me up. I think this is finally when the GP referred me for counselling. However, my sister was angry at me. She knew that I had been battling with the GP to receive proper help about my mental health, but not once had she offered to come and visit the GP with me, she just blamed me instead.

And the lack of care from the GP, this is because I’m Black. If I’d been a white girl with Blonde hair, screaming in agony, you bet your arse I would’ve been referred to see a Therapist at my very first GP appointment.

This happens to thousands of young Black girls and women today.

In my late twenties, I was finally diagnosed with Unstable Emotional Personality Disorder (formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) and the psychologist explained that all of the impulsive behaviour I had displayed in early twenties – the high and the low moods, the excessive drinking, the impulsive spending, the impulsive sex – was all because of this disorder. And now that I’m studying an MSc in Mental Health and Psychology, I’m finally able to research more about this condition because even though I’ve been diagnosed, I’m still not being treated. The NHS are still failing me as a Black woman today; I was recently rejected from the Personality Assessment Services for being too high-functioning, even though I struggle every day and I’m having to medicate myself.

And as for my family: after I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 2014, my sister rejected me for being too much of a burden and still refuses to speak to me now. My cousin Dee recently said to me that she wishes that she’d had me as an older sister growing up and those words meant the world to me, and I do see her as a younger sister, even though we’ve only recently gotten back in touch. No request is too much.

My mother, who I recently got back in touch with, I’m not quite sure knows how to be a mother. She’s shown me no gratitude for the years of love I’ve shown. On Mother’s Day this year, she was supposed to call me and didn’t and offered no explanation for this. Her excuses for her constant failings are that nobody showed her how to be a mother, yet you’re doing a great job to your other daughter, just consistently failing me, so there must be a reason why?

She still hasn’t called and it’s because she expects me to be the parent, when I’m the child. And this is why I’m so thankful for the other adults in my life at the moment who allow me to be the child I finally deserve to be, because my childhood was stolen from me. My family are the dark clouds over my sunshine, they don’t build build me up like others around me do, they knock me down and it took me years of searching to realise that.

Furthermore, nobody showed me how to be a daughter, yet I’m doing it. My door is always open for my mum, when she decides that she wants to be one.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Introduction to Personality Theory (Being Black is AWESOME)

personalities

(Image source)

Since starting my MSc, I’ve been thinking A LOT about labels and diagnoses, particularly when you’re Black.

When I was 28 I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (formally known as Borderline Personality Disorder). However, this diagnosis was based upon my past behaviour where I had no sense of self; I was unstable, impulsive, my moods would go from high to low and I could be extremely unsociable one day to belle of the ball to the next.  However, as a young, Black woman growing up in the UK amongst mostly white girls of course I was confused about my identity and therefore, had no sense of self. But now that I’m “woke” and I’ve finally found a sense of “Blackness”, does that mean that I no longer have mental health issues? Of course it doesn’t. But because I finally do have a sense of self, I was rejected from the NHS Mental Health services assessment team for being too “high functioning” and even though I’ve complained, it’s made no difference. I may get a meeting with a psychologist regarding a further explanation on my diagnosis as per my request, but that’s it, so I’ll have to continue to pay for private therapy. To be fair, my Therapist is awesome, she’s a beautiful Black woman, so woke, and she’s highly intelligent.

My current module is on Individual Differences, Personality and Intelligence. I’m only a week in and so far, it’s proving incredibly insightful: psychologists like to throw around the words “normal” and “abnormal” quite a lot, which doesn’t surprise me, therefore when they’re creating a hypothesis for behaviour, you can imagine why they look at a Black person and find our behaviour “abnormal” when their theories are based upon “normal [white] populations”. It also makes sense as to why they’re so frequently diagnosing Black women with Personality disorders and Black men with Schizophrenia. Go figure.

A term I’ve discovered is: Unconditional positive regard, which is where an individual becomes less reliant upon the opinions of others and becomes more confident in their own opinion of themselves, therefore having a more positive opinion of oneself. This is a construct which I feel that my generation of Black people are lovingly embracing and something older generations were never taught – in fact, they were taught to hate themselves. Black people were never taught about the concept of self, not in this way, in fact I know in Caribbean culture it was very selfish to be introspective. However, what the older generation didn’t realise was that not allowing themselves to be free of white opinions was a mental shackle.

My final thought is something I read which proves something I’ve thought for awhile: some people create a self-construct (image) as a crutch, which is not actually a true representation of themselves or the way they can behave all the time, so when a distortion takes place, they become aggressive because they’re suddenly unsure of how to behave. I’ve found this in situations when [white] people are pretending that they are intelligent in conversations, but I show them up (not on purpose), so they become aggressive towards me. When these situations initially used to happen, I would become upset because in my mind I’m thinking all we’re doing is having a conversation, and now you’re shouting at me and calling me stupid wtf! when actually I’m saying something intelligent and you’re the stupid one, however now I’m confident enough to know that they are the insecure one and they are the one who is lashing out because of their insecurities. Their behaviour is a reflection of their own insecurities and a denial of any incongruence between their self-image and own behaviour.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

My Mother & I (Parentification)

My mind is spinning, and I’ve tried to do some mindfulness; I’ve tried listening to music. I cannot even contemplate reading. I have so many questions that my inner- child needs answering; that only my mother can answer, so I’m waiting for her to call (I’ve sent her a message, I’m not just idly sitting by the phone).

Black women are forced into adulthood so rapidly, that we leave childhood behind without a chance to say goodbye. It’s all the more brutal when there is abusive involved. We are forced into an adult role before our time, while still within our childhood years, in order to help out a parent. Psychology calls this “Parentification”. Therefore, although I’ve now had many years to find an adult identity, my inner-child is still screaming for answers:

Why did my parents have me? Neither of them were psychologically capable of parenthood; So why?

 

Why didn’t my mother deal with her trauma, in order to allow us to then deal with mine together? 

 

Why does my mother deny my abuse? My pain? She confirms my anger, yet constantly denies my own trauma. 

 

My mother has never shown me any gratitude for being the adult she needed. Her response has always been:

“Well I never asked you to”. 

She’s never shown me any appreciation for my sacrifices. When I use the word “appreciation“, I do not mean being thankful or regarding me as her saviour; I mean showing a true understanding of the situation we were in: that I was a child who was being abused by her father, yet I heard my mother being abused simultaneously, therefore, I would sit up each night listening to make sure my mother was still alive. Then when my father walked out, I was forced to step up and never got to have a life of my own. I never got to deal with my own trauma, or my own struggles either (don’t forget that I was living in a religious home at the time, privately struggling with my feelings of queerness).

Speaking to a close mutual friend a couple of days ago, it’s pretty clear that my mother may not only ever accept the parentification I was subjected to, she may also ever appreciate the sacrifices of my inner-child. During our last conversation, she blamed previous generations for mistakes made and the impact this has had upon us on a family, because there is clearly a pattern of the same mistakes of abuse, being made over-and-over-and-over again, to which I replied:

“well then you lot shouldn’t have had children”.

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She couldn’t argue with me then.

One final point I need to make: this close mutual friend mentioned that my mother rarely speaks about my father, or the abuse she suffered from him. This is one of my mother’s best friends. I call this woman Aunty – in fact, she’s like a mother to me. I go to her for guidance and advice as well as laughter and appraisal. She also constantly tells me off for swearing on social media!

My mother has known this lady for almost two decades.

My mother has been using it as an abusive weapon against me that I do no talk to her, when all this time hasn’t even been talking to her best friend. I knew that she did not talk to me (she became more restrained as I grew older), however I thought that it was for a number of reasons (e.g.manipulation), however I am surprised.

Yesterday, I went to an event on Self-Care for Black Women – which I will do a separate post on – and as Black women, we do carry a lot of pain because we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel it. Pain is so normal for us, we’ve actually forgotten to recognise its symptoms. We also do not talk to our own peers enough. My mother was subjected to abuse by her family as well as her husband, but she was coming to me for a listening-ear instead of people her own age.

blackpain_woman470x270

Image source

Do not stop talking Black women, as long as you are talking to the right people. 

XOXO

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Violence and Aggression against African American Women and Children, by Cece Alexandra Noel (2017)

DV (Image source)

Violence and Aggression against African American Women and Children

by Cece Alexandra Noel (2017)

I believe the theory of evolutionary aggression and violence can be seen in the homes of African American families. People require more than food and shelter to survive, so this aggression is also societal.

Social learning theory (Anderson & Bushman, 2002) caused by institutional racism – either directly experienced or observed – conceptualises the anger, hatred and frustrations of African American men, which are then being displaced onto their partners, lovers and children.

Anderson & Bushman’s General aggression model (GAM), a holistic framework then looks at the multiple theories of aggression, however scholarship has emphasised the male experience as opposed to the female.

Hill Collins categorises violence into three dimensions – the second of which concerns the relationship between actions and speech. We can hypothesise that this quantifies as aggression and violence, designed to belittle, humiliate, and strip victims of their sense of worth, while the powerful individual inflicting the violence has no idea that they – in fact – are reproducing the subverted climate of fear seen outside of their homes. To return to the theory of evolutionary aggression – which would typically come from perpetrators of racism and therefore is designed to belittle and humiliate the minorities, Hill Collins’ theory correctly establishes the ethnography of abuse for African-American women and children: silence will yield better treatment; victims know that their homes will provide better refuge in a world that preys upon the weak (Hill Collins, p.925).

Unfortunately, the man knows his power over his household, as do his victims, therefore he must be playing a role of self-efficacy (Anderson & Bushman, 2002, p.36), for his specific aggressive acts have been chosen with the belief that those he has victimised will remain in fear, just like the generations of Black people before him. Anderson and Bushman also suggest that the anger-aggression linkage is one that humans are evolutionarily prepared to learn, particularly in relationships.

My next hypothesis therefore, considers environmental factors, which have stripped these men of their self-esteem, but which Anderson and Bushman’s GAM does fail to consider. Their frustration stems from relative depravation (Myers, 2013), because the American Dream has failed them, and they are taking their learnt aggression out on their families, which they perceive to be the only property of worth to them. With low levels of serotonin and high levels of testosterone, it is generally accepted that the expression of aggression is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors (Laureate, 2017).

Anderson and Bushman suggest Multisystemic therapy, which is not only family focused intervention; it is also a biosocial intervention framework, built around the individual, as well as the family, to understand the cues of aggression and violence, with the goal of reducing it.

But what if you can’t escape the aggression cues such as racism, racial inequalities or societal humiliation? How much will the person really change?

A study on Domestic Violence in the African American Community by Hampton, Oliver and Magarian (2003) found that not only providing employment for Black men was the solution to, but simultaneously re-educating them on their perceptions of Black women, by confronting sexist stereotypes and enhanced male-female relationships, was a solution to helping to reduce violence within families. This was also intrinsic to reforming the Black community.

However, social psychology contributes to the problem because these methodologies do not protect women and children. I challenge psychologists to create interventions with an emphasis on building a biosocial intervention frameworks for women and children within the African American community, to feel safe enough to come forward and break the pattern of evolutionary violence within families.

The repetitive vicious cycle of violence is also a major issue within the African American ethnographic; children are either forced to resolve conflicts or become imitators. The biopsychosocial model explains how children who directly experience violence or observe others’ aggressive behaviour, then replicate the same negative responses outside.

R.E. Davis (1997) raised the key point that providers do not offer intervention to allow this ethnographic the space to elicit information about early traumatic life events (Hampton, Magarian & Oliver, 2003), therefore the psychosocial needs for children are not being met, allowing the cycle to continue into the next generation.

Black women are perceived to be the property of their partners – particularly if they are unemployed, and even if they contribute to the community, because in the eyes of the perpetrator this is not a contribution to the household. The feminist activities during the Black Panther Movement, were and still are significant downplayed and women were appallingly treated by their male counterparts. This was also all witnessed by their children.

Naples’ Activist Mothering, is just one example of how African American women in modern memory, continue community work, which not only involves nurturing work for those outside one’s kinship group, but also encompasses a broad definition of actual “mothering practices” (Naples, p.448). As well as adapting their environment, women also opened their homes to young women with children, challenged “traditional notions of gender and mothering” (Naples, p.454) and bequeathed a new legacy to their children.

However, there were consequences such as overlapping demands. Within the community itself this was taken care of with “othermothers” (Troester, 1984) to assist with childcare, but some of the women reported problems within their personal relationships, which I hypothesise is causal to an escalation of domestic violence due to emasculation and jealousy. Some of the women also chose to obtain professional credentials (three African-Americans and seven Latinos), which may further cause provocation of violence at home. Other than the “othermothers”, no other intervention was provided for these women and their children to safeguard them.

African Americans live a bicultural reality (Collins, 1998), where the social process of violence is “hidden in plain sight” of children (Collins, 1998, p.925); Women are accused of betraying their race, should they report their partners and flee a perpetrator. Religion plays a huge part; Women especially, turn to their faith. Spirituality and the Black Church are anchors within the Black community (Billingsley, 1992). Yet, religious ideology undermines Black women and doctrine sanctions women for breaking marriages, while teaching their children that their fathers are the physical and spiritual author of the household (Bell & Mathis, 2000).

Research suggests that children who live in female-headed households do not do as well on several social indicators; for example, there is a higher school dropout rate among these children, and that daughters are at higher risk of becoming teen parents (Allison & Belgrave, 2006, p.64-65) However, this is not a reason to encourage victims to stay in abusive homes. Breaking the cycle of aggression and violence with divorce / separation has a higher psychosocial impact, than keeping children within the conflict.

What these women and particularly their children need, are early intervention. African American children are forced into an early adulthood: there is less warmth at home (Hofferth, 2003), and they are forced to take on adult roles, but outside are still expected to be children (Allison & Belgrave, 2006). What they need is an outlet and community violence intervention resources, which will prevent them from engaging in violence and early sexual intimacy (Allison & Belgrave, 2006).

 

References

Allison. K.W., & Belgrave. F.Z. (2006). African American Psychology: From Africa to America. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.  Section II, Social Systems & Structures, Chapter Three: Kinship & Family, “Consequences of Family Structure on Children’s Outcomes”, (p.64). Section III, Individual & Developmental Processes, Chapter Ten: “Lifespan Development”, (pp.242-244).

Anderson, C.A., & Bushman, B.J. (2002). Human Aggression, Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1)27-51.

FORA.tv. (n.d.). Genocide to Abu Ghraib: How good people turn evil [Video file]. Retrieved from http://library.fora.tv/2008/01/24/Genocide_to_Abu_Ghraib_How_Good_People_Turn_Evil#Abu_Ghraib_Dark_Side_of_Human_Nature

Hampton, R., Oliver, W., & Magarian, L. (2003). Domestic Violence in the African American Community: An Analysis of Social and Structural Factors, Violence Against Women, Vol. 9 No. 5, 533-557. DOI: 10.1177/1077801201150450.

Hill Collins, P. (1998). The tie that binds: race, gender and US violence, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21(1)5, 917-938, DOI: 10.1080/01498798329720.

Myers, D. G., & Twenge, J. M. (2013). Social psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw–Hill. Chapter 10, “Aggression: Hurting Others” (pp. 352–391).

Naples, N. (1992). Activist Mothering: Cross-Generational Continuity in the Community Work of Women from Low-Income Urban Neighbourhoods, Gender and Society, Vol. 6, No. 3. Race, Class & Gender, pp. 441-463. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org.stable/189996

Laureate Online, (2017) Week 7 Weekly Notes: Aggression and Violence [Social Psychology]. Retrieved from https://elearning.uol.ohecampus.com/bbcswebdav/institution/UKL1/201820OCT/MS_LPSY/LPSY_311/readings/LPSY_311_Week07_weeklyNotes.pdf

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Psychology in the English-Speaking Caribbean, by Tony Ward and Frederick Hickling

Psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean

Tony Ward and Frederick Hickling, (August 2004), Psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean, The Psychologist. Vol 17, No. 8

 

During my research on cultural psychology in my first module of Mental Health Psychology, I stumbled upon the above article, which piqued my interest. As you know, I’ve been looking more and more into my culture – which is unfortunately difficult because St Lucia is a small island. However, this article really struck me, because Jamaica speaks for many in terms of the psychological damage Western imperialism and Colonialism has done to the Caribbean. 

“Surely British society owes a debt to the peoples who were colonised for economic advantage for over 350 years?”

“Sun-drenched beaches fringed by palm trees and turquoise waters, an abundance of rum, a laid-back atmosphere… as the largest of the English- speaking Caribbean islands, Jamaica shapes the view many Europeans have of the region. Few tourists venture far from the resort areas to discover the realities of Caribbean life for the ordinary people. If they did, they would discover a local population struggling to make a living, and areas beset with social problems including drugs and violence. Some 40 years after independence, these societies are still struggling with the legacy of European colonialism. It is within this context that psychology has recently become established, and there is much scope for the discipline to make an impact.

Overcoming the legacy of colonialism
At a time when the British have disowned their empire and schoolchildren are barely aware of this aspect of their country’s history, former colonies are still grappling with the legacy of colonialism. These effects include the virtual annihilation of the indigenous population, the re-population of the region by migration of European settlers, and the forced migration of African slaves. Each European colonial power reshaped the social environment in its own likeness and image, much of which remains in place today. Under British colonialism, the culture of the African majority was suppressed in favour of the minority rulers. The BBC provided the official news, with Sunday worship available at the Church of England in Jamaica. Glissant (1997) wrote passionately about the effect on his home country of Martinique of French cultural dominance, pointing out such anomalies as the local press regularly alerting the population to the first day of spring, in a country where the temperature rarely falls below 30° centigrade. At the end of such domination, populations are left struggling for a sense of identity (see Trimble et al., 2003, for more general discussion of the issue of ethnic and racial identity development).

Coupled to this is the legacy of 300 years of slavery. Whilst modern Europeans may have difficulty seeing why current African Caribbeans should still be affected by the legacy of slavery over 150 years after abolition, it is hard to imagine the effect of constantly knowing that one’s ancestors were forcibly removed from their homeland to work on the plantations of the New World. Most Caribbean people insist that the African retentions of language, religions, and cultural expressions of art drama, dance and music present in everyday life are constant reminders of the major and often traumatic syncretism with European culture.

Most Caribbean people strongly believe that such deep trauma on a people can result in long-lasting psychic upheaval, which must certainly be a question worthy of psychological attention. Such trauma might be evident in the psychological make-up of the individual, for example in feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. More obviously, the total dislocation of slavery and its subsequent impact is likely to have disrupted social and family practices. Such disruptions are quite likely to have permeated across several generations, resulting today in dysfunctional families, poor parenting and difficult relations between sexes. Even if the effect were not as dramatic as some suggest, the ongoing legacy of underdevelopment and economic disadvantage is very real and undeniable.

Furthermore, as people of colour, African Caribbeans have had to endure generations of racial prejudice […] Caribbean psychiatrists from Jamaica and Trinidad respectively, Hickling and Hutchinson (1999, 2000), have suggested that these racial identity conflicts in African Caribbean people – when brought into confrontation with European racism – may be a significant cause of the high rates of psychosis that have been reported in African Caribbean migrants to the UK and Holland.

In our opinion, all of these issues affecting post-colonial societies demand a dynamic response from the psychological profession. There are several other immediate concerns for psychology in the English-speaking Caribbean. Crime and violence is escalating, demanding an input from forensic psychology. The continuation of the plantation economy and old management practices, inherited from the colonial legacy and now perpetuated by the present ruling elite, have contributed to economic stagnation. These factors, and the need to adopt the latest technology, suggest a role for occupational psychology. Troubles in schools, an outdated selection system based upon the old English grammar school hierarchy, and families split by parents having to seek work abroad, all point to the need for educational and developmental specialists. A growing HIV/AIDS problem and mushrooming mental health needs further point to the need for health and clinical psychology.”

“Few tourists venture far from the resort areas to discover the realities of Caribbean life for the ordinary people”.

 

 

WEBLINKS:

Jamaican Psychological Society:

www.jps.org.jm Caribbean norms and test development as well as material on ethno-psychology:

www.neuropsychologica.com

References

Crossman, E., Ward,T., Wright, E., Matthies, B. & Hickling, F. (in press).Validation of the Zung Depression Rating Scale for use in Jamaica. West Indies Medical journal.

Fanon, F. (2000). Black skin, white masks. London:Avalon Travel Publications. (Original work published 1956 as Peau noire, masque blanc)

Glissant, E. ( 1997). The poetics of relation. Ann Arbor, Ml: University of Michigan Press.

Hickling, F.W.& Hutchinson,G. (1999).The roast breadfruit psychosis – Disturbed racial identification in African Caribbeans. Psychiatric Bulletin, 23, I -3.

Hickling, F.W.& Hutchinson,G. (2000).Post-colonialism and mental health: Understanding the roast breadfruit. Psychiatric Bulletin, 24,94-95 .

Hickling, F.W. & Matthies, B. (2004).Training clinical psychologists at the University of the West Indies [Letter to the editor]. West Indies Medical Journal, 52(4), 326.

Trimble, J.E., Helms,J.E.& Root, M.PP. (2003). Social and psychological perspectives on ethnic and racial identity. In Bernai, G..Trimble,J.E., Burlew,A.K. & Leong, F.T.L. (Eds.) Handbook of racial and ethnic minority psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ward.T. (2002, February). Validation and norms of the University of the West Indies cognitive assessment system. Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Neuropsychological Society,Toronto, Canada.

Dr Tony Ward is Head of Psychology at Newman College, Birmingham (previously a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies). E-mail: a.ward@newman.ac. ilk.

Professor Frederick Hickling is Head of the Section of Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Kingston, Jamaica. E-mail: frederick. hickling@im>imona. edu.jm.

 

Posted in Blog

Parental Rejection

http://www.spring.org.uk/2016/10/rejection-parent-personality.php

I came across this article tonight after reading on Twitter that a friend of mine had finally been rejected by her father. I say finally, because it’s been a slow, drawn out process. The rest of her family have turned their backs on her following her transition (she’s transgender) and at first, her father was the bridge of support, claimed to attempt to support, to reach out to the other party, etc., etc. But then she had fears that he was pulling away – we didn’t want to believe it, especially me, having experienced it myself, but he was acting super sketchy and no longer being as supportive as he once was. 

Then tonight, he was no longer taking her calls. He’d cut her off. 

HIS OWN DAUGHTER. 

What kind of parents have children, only to reject them? Let’s forget that we’re adults, we’re still your children. Professor Ronald, co-author of the study in the article, says that it doesn’t matter what culture, race or class you come from (surprisingly, considering we’re talking about Psychology here!) rejection from a parental figure has a significant effect upon the development of your personality. Rejected children tend to be more anxious and insecure; it also makes us aggressive and angry – who do we trust? And why should we trust people? What if you let us down? 

Rohner then goes on to say:

“Unlike physical pain, however, people can psychologically re-live the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years.”

According to the article, empirical research claims that the same parts of the brain activated for physical pain, are also activated for emotional pain. 

There are still days when I can’t breathe because the pain of separation is unbearable. 

I’m also finally coming to terms with being an orphan, because I never thought of my father rejecting me before. I’ve never had to deal with him walking out because I’ve always been so consumed with my mother’s failings, which the article discusses. 

Why do people even bother to have children? 

I’m sorry that this isn’t an uplifting post; I just can’t even…

I spent three days in bed with a post-stictal migraine, feeling like I’d had a stroke and not knowing what was going on, not knowing who I am, barely able to speak and the only thing I was sure of was that my parents didn’t love me. Because I get to relive that over and over again, especially when I’m too sick to escape my insecurities.  

Posted in Blog

Growing Up Black

Black Girl (Image source)

I grew up wondering if we as black loved each other. In fact, I doubted it. I realise now that this was mostly because of how I was raised. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some videos of Michael Jackson talking about the psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, Joseph. In these clips, the example he used was how Joseph used constantly to pick on him for the shape of his nose.

The abuse had such a psychological impact on him, that it led to years of surgery on his nose.

The response to these video clips, were incredibly open, honest and encouraging towards Michael, from hundreds of black people who, as little boys and girls, had grown up being taunted by their parents for their facial features, their weight, even their hair (I was shocked to read of parents referring to own children’s hair as “nappy hair”). I read Nina Simone’s autobiography in July, and her mother was her first bully, who criticised her dark skin and nappy hair. Nina’s mental health issue’s began with her upbringing. Like Michael Jackson, by the time she became a superstar it didn’t matter that the world loved her because the psychological damage was already done. 

My mother was a great encourager of my intelligence. She always used to call me a little professor because of my glasses, and when she found out in primary school that the teachers were refusing to give me harder books to read, she marched to the school and demanded for me to be intellectually challenged, just like she was doing for me at home! She would buy me as many books as she could get her hands on when she could afford it.

However, when it came to beauty, I felt taunted. She would call me fat and tell me to stop eating too much.

Even when I wasn’t eating. 

Everybody would say that my younger sister was the prettier one, so I guess that’s why I became a tomboy – I was rough, clumsy and forgetful. I hated dresses, but actually didn’t mind Barbie dolls, as long as I could cut their hair and give them jobs LOL.

When my parents split up, she would tell me that I looked like my father, which was devastating for me as a teenager, yet everybody I know sees my sister and my mum in my face and I’m now starting to agree.

Every time I got spot she would be the first to tell me.

Every time I put on weight she would be the first to tell me.

I recall the summer during the height of my eating disorder when I was purging and over exercising, at my lowest weight and my mother never said a thing.

She would however constantly compare me to my sister: why can’t you be more girly like her? Why can’t you be slimmer like her? When my sister fell down the same path, she threw compliments down the path like a paparazzi stream, knowing that my sister wasn’t eating properly either.

I don’t really know what to say about my father. His torture took years to recover from, to the point where even up to perhaps last year I was apologising to strangers before I’d even had a chance to disappoint them. And I finally stopped blaming myself for the abuse in my late-twenties, which unfortunately is a common poison in Black culture (victim blaming).

It took for me to read the words of Maya and Assata to learn not to walk with my head down, and to walk tall. Their grandmothers taught them not to be ashamed of who they are, and now from the grave I’m being taught the same. I walk the streets of London, with my hair scraped up and no makeup on my face and my head held high and for the first time in my life I feel beautiful.

I see out of the corner of my eye, people do double takes as I walk past (wooooo).

I don’t pay no mind – I just carry on walking.

I’m so thankful for this new generation of Black People, who love ourselves and love each other. It’s sad that some of us have skipped a generation for our education, but I’m just thankful that it’s THERE. Black love is real love.

When Assata was in her final prison, it was Grandmother who spoke these words to her:

““I love you,” my grandmother said. “We don’t want you to get used to that place, do you hear? Don’t you let yourself get used to it.” “No, grandmommy, I won’t.” Every day out in the street now, i remind myself that Black people in amerika are oppressed. It’s necessary that I do that. People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” – Assata: An Autobiography (2016) by Assata Shakur, Angela Davis

I can’t be angry at my mother – just like Joseph Jackson, as black immigrants they believed in the false narrative that  “being white” equates to success; my mother believed in white supremacist lies that told her that we had to conform to certain labels, and the older I get, the more I realise how many Black People are psychologically oppressed by that system as they forever try to conform. It got me thinking about mental health: black adults have every right to be angry for the persecution they have suffered at the hands of the white man or Black culture and they have a breakdown.

You will know from my previous posts, that Psychology has failed people of colour when it comes to mental health. For whatever reason – whether it be internalised racism, childhood abuse – we suffer a breakdown and go and see a Psychiatrist for help, but instead of being listened to, we get given a label that doesn’t apply to us because these labels don’t understand white supremacy, parental abuse in Black Culture, the Black community in general or even religion. The psychiatrist prescribes the medication anyway, which doesn’t work and as the years go by, the black patient’s condition deteriorates until they become the disregarded “crazy black bitch/dude on the street who’s always outside Sainsbury’s”.

 

Which is why I’ve now decided that I want to work with adults in Mental Health.

 

♥ We shouldn’t have to bring ourselves up – we deserve a proper childhood. 

♥ We deserve proper mental health care and deserve to be listened to. 

♥ We should be able to have access to psychiatrists who understand our culture. 

We need to know how to educate our children

XOXO