January 20, 2020 marks the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King was a remarkable leader who took on the weightness of this fight to bring equality to all. It is true that he had moments of weariness, desperation, and defeat along the way. And yet, he remained resilient in his fight for equality. As a continuation of honoring the life and movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I’d like to turn now to explore practical ways to remain hopeful, resilient, and emotionally healthy along the way.
First things first, resiliency
Who do you think of when you hear that they have lived resiliently? My hope is that your answer could be yourself as you pursue justice for the goodness of humanity. As you consider what resilience looks like in your own life, I’d love to give some examples and tips. First things first, here are the components in our lives that enable resilience.
Psychologist Albert Bandura originally defined self-efficacy as a personal judgment of, “how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations.” In more laymen/women’s terms, I see it as one’s level of confidence in your ability to exert control over your motivations, behavior, and environment. As I mentioned during the last post, for those experiencing oppression, this may actually be the first hurdle to cross if you long for justice. You cannot encourage others to offer you shared leadership or power if you yourself do not feel worthy of it or able to wield it successfully.
How do you increase your self-efficacy?
First, discover the beauty of who you are and the community you belong to. Maybe your beauty has come from the hardships and pain of your experiences. Acknowledge that as well! Consider reading books, watching movies, or listening to podcasts that reflect the strength and beauty of your community. Because this post is specifically aimed at celebrating Dr. King, here are a few for the black community that I’d recommend: Harriet (movie), Hidden Figures (movie), Selma (movies), Hair Love (Oscar Nominated Short Film by Matthew A. Cherry) Truth’s Table (podcast), Her (podcast), and Therapy for Black girls (podcast). Here is one book on my bookshelf that I’d recommend: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Sense of humor
Having a sense of humor or remembering to embrace those funny moments also matter. My go-to’s when I’m needing joy is watching the TV show Blackish, anything with Trevor Noah, most movies done by Pixar, IG Professional Black Women (lots of videos of kids dancing, people laughing, and mom and dad’s doing their thang)!
Meaning and Purpose
What motivates you to pursue justice? Is it your faith? Is it values that your family has instilled within you? What is giving you hope in the struggle? For those who may be looking for meaning and purpose, one book on my bookshelf right now is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. His book is a biography of his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He endures this suffering through a psychotherapeutic approach, which involves identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about and, “then immersively imagining that outcome.” (Thanks Wikipedia).
Professor Benjamin Gottleib defines social support as, “your perception of help received from others and is widely studied as a psychological resource used to cope with stress. It can occur naturally and be discovered, or it can be invented in an effort to respond to personal crisis or stressful life events.” Social support can offer emotional and practical help. It can be more informational, where you ask for others’ advice, or, it can be those that you share fun experiences with. Who you perceive as “your people” matters tremendously. To find or create your tribe or collective.
Lastly, I’d love to encourage you to listen to this podcast episode from Therapy for Black Girls. In it, Dr. Candice Nicole Hargins incorporates mindfulness practices for those who have experienced racial trauma.
My hope for you during your remembrance of Dr. King and pursuit of justice is that you would join the voices of many that have come before you with resilience. I leave you with the lyrics of Lift Every Voice and Sing and encourage you to call me if you’d like to have a counselor be a part of your support circle.
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chast’ning rod
Felt in the day that hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place on which our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee
Shadowed beneath the hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Written by therapist Pamela Larkin