People often ask me why I choose to serve black women. I think the better question is, why not? When does anyone ever do something special and beautiful just for us, that is not merely about profiting from us as a group? We must do it for ourselves. We cannot wait for the world to understand us, to respect us, to give us what we need. We need healing. We do it ourselves, for ourselves and for each other. I choose to work with black women as my contribution to our collective healing as a people. And every day I am inspired and strengthened by other women doing the same, each in their own way.
One of the problems with the modern black experience (although that is quickly changing) is that, because our pre-slavery and pre-colonial history was purposely, systematically and almost successfully erased, there is a largely missing piece in our identity on a conscious level. At the moment we have mainly in our collective memory, the atrocities, loss, and humiliations of the last 500 years or so. Before that, most of us are hanging by a thread for references. Where do we come from? Who were we before ‘they’ came? These are important psychological questions for the individual as well as the collective (who knows where they are going when they don’t know where they came from?) How many of us get a chance to safely explore these questions in therapy? That is what I offer to the black women in my practice and it has proven to be profoundly healing both for them and for me.
There is, however, a continuity that lives in us, which we are not aware of externally because we don’t have the facts or images. This missing piece, our familial and societal pre-colonial history, is imprinted in our DNA and is presently being retrieved. We are finding the pieces that complete the picture of who we are. This is collective healing at work.
Does healing the collective begin with the personal, or is it the collective healing that inspires us to tend to our personal wounds? I don’t know, but either way, they are mutually reinforcing. We do the personal work to heal our personal wounds. Therapy, journaling, meditation, breathwork, learning our history, telling our stories in any form, and making art are a few of the ways that we can do it. And it feeds into the healing of the collective. The collective healing, in turn, is personally healing to us. It is a mutually reinforcing loop that elevates us and lifts the burdens of lifetimes off of our beings, releasing us to be our full, present selves; our cohesive, creative collective.
Healing – personal or collective – is a spontaneous process. We stop it with our (primal) minds (read brains) that keep us stuck in the past, paralyzed by an intense fear of that which has already come to pass. But the process of collective healing is well in place. And every day more and more of us are answering the call to heal ourselves.