In my last post we discussed the difference between conscience and subconscious racism. Then at the end of the article we scratched the surface on the ways to heal from a life of racism, conscience or subconscious. This topic is far too vast to cover in the closing paragraph so I wanted to dive deeper into this topic.
Many of you may be asking yourself, why should I listen to you Chris? What are your qualifications? For starters, I’ve overcome multiple addictions in my life. Dysfunctional living is a bad friend I am very grateful to have kicked out of my life. In addition, I spent many years as an adult child of an alcoholic, so I’m familiar with feeling imprisoned by dysfunction. If I had weeded this dysfunction out of my life sooner, Spirit Consulting could have been founded a decade earlier. But that is another story for another post.
The First Step Toward Healing
Similar to “The Program”-Alcoholics Anonymous-my hope was to get our audience to come to the first step of the AA program: to admit they have a problem. This can often be the most difficult phase of progress. People often encounter guilt and shame in admitting that, yes, they do indeed have a problem. This fear gets in the way of growth, and people remain crippled by their addictions rather than acknowledging (and therefore changing) the problem. The same can be said of racism, either explicit or subconscious.
Many alcoholics, in realizing that drinking has ruined their life, decide that they are going to “white knuckle” their sobriety. These alcoholics are called “dry drunks.” While they no longer drink, they still have many dysfunctional tendencies like shaming, lying, isolating, etc.
If you don’t seek recovery from a racist background, this is what you will be like. You may not be consciously racist, but there will be prejudice festering inside. The symptoms might be hidden, but the root of the problem remains. Perhaps you recognize some subconscious racist tendencies, and you might even desire to stop. Until you put in the work to heal, your life will not change. The root of the racism will remain. Eventually, somehow, what you believe inside will show itself on the outside.
How I Found Healing
Dr. Bob Schuchts, a renowned psychologist, wrote a beautiful book entitled, “Be Healed.” It was the catalyst for my freedom from a dysfunctional past. In it, Dr. Bob draws up the analogy of overcoming dysfunction like a tree. Typically, Catholics go to the confessional to confess the branches of their dysfunction, like lying, stealing, cheating, etc. Humans in general have a tendency towards this approach of purely focusing on the outer branches. True healing is possible only by peeling away the layers of dysfunction and going to the very root.
Signs of Bias
In the case of racism, those branches may look like subconsciously not hiring blacks or minorities on your team, locking the doors when a black person walks past your car, or accidentally confusing a customer or home owner for a worker due to their skin color. If you are guilty of any of these, then I urge you to seek healing, not hiding. Find the root of your racism and the branches will die with it.
Rewiring Our Brains to Heal
To find the root cause of your hurts, journaling can be a crucial tool. Then, once you identify those moments in your life, the very important next step is to rewire your neural pathways that led to discrimination. I recently spent time with author Fr. Matthew Linn. Matthew shared insights and statistics from his work with veterans helping them to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He stated that when clinicians tried to heal veterans’ PTSD with drugs, they were only treating the symptoms, and veterans wouldn’t heal. It was only when Linn helped the veterans to blaze new neural pathways that the veterans would heal 60-80% of the time! While many of us have not encountered war, we have faced the violence of racism and dysfunction. Thus, Matthew’s approach can help us too.
Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash
Matthew’s process of forging new neural pathways is not overly complex. He would have the veterans meditate on a memory of being loved or giving love before going to sleep and upon waking. In this manner, their brains were spending the entire sleep pattern changing their patterns and reconnecting with the human experience. Matthew also advised veterans to do the same exercise when outbursts of war memories would flood their minds. To quote Matthew, “by holding these moments in our hearts for even as little as ten seconds helps our heart rate to become more coherent, which in turn causes a whole cascade of positive physiological and emotional changes and enables us to face painful memories with hope and courage.” When encountering trauma, including racism, it’s not the hurt alone that causes damage. Feeling unloved can be the most damaging part. This can be overcome by rewiring your head and heart.
Accountability – Another Path of Healing
The next step is to get in a relationship with an accountability partner who will lovingly hold you accountable for walking out this dysfunction. For those of you in large organizations, typically your HR team has an IO Psychologist who is trained in helping individuals get free from discriminatory chains. We too at Spirit Consulting have a member on staff – Daphne Smith PhD – that would love to help you with this. If you don’t feel comfortable with these routes, most therapists also serve as accountability partners. Lastly, for a free resource, most churches have accountability groups. Not only is this free, but this environment provides a diverse group of demographics so you can lean on the wisdom they have gained in the school of life.
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Into the Light
Rats love dark places, but whenever light is shone on a rat, they always scamper away. Likewise, dysfunctions are just like dirty rats lurking in the garbage can of your heart and they thrive where we refuse to investigate. By shining love and communication upon these dysfunctions, however, the dysfunctions lose their power.
Once you publicly communicate your dysfunctions and bring them to the light, two things will happen. First, you will realize that most people are struggling or have struggled with them in the past. Secondly, the more you share, the less these dysfunctions hold power over you. To loosely quote Mr. Rogers, if it is human, then it is mentionable, and if it is mentionable then it is manageable. Do not let the dysfunctions fester in the dark, but bring them to the light and you will find that you are not alone and expand the healing journey.
In discussing this topic with the leaders in my network, we sense that due to the racist roots of this country, racism isn’t going anywhere fast. While we can not change our past, we can change what goes into our minds. By feeding our minds with healthy inputs—such as loving memories, support groups, and talking through our pains and victories—only then will we finally be able to get free from this curse of discrimination.
ABOUT SPIRIT CONSULTING
Spirit Consulting is a boutique management consulting firm with clients across multiple industries and regions of the United States. We offer expert consulting in Executive Search, Business Strategy, and Work Psychology. Rooted in our relational, client-tailored approach, these service lines work synergistically to maximize your organization’s potential. Call (630) 621-3411 or email [email protected] for more information on how Spirit Consulting can help create the best version of your business. If you are interested in applying to jobs we are retained on, please visit www.spiritmco.com.
Feature photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash