The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
Whew! This has been a week. There is lots to unpack following last week’s Presidential election so I invited two of my friends and colleagues to join me for the discussion. This week I am joined by Dr. Joy D. Beckwith and Dr. Ayanna Abrams, both Psychologists in Atlanta, GA. We chatted about how we’re feeling post-election, how many of the feelings we’re experiencing are the result of the trauma we’ve endured at the hands of our government, these ideas around Black women saving the world, and we discussed the power of representation and what it means to have VP-Elect Kamala Harris preparing to take office.
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Session 181: Post-Election Reflections
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 181 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. It's been a week, hasn't it? Going into last week, I thought I had a pretty good plan of how I was going to support myself through Election Day but I hadn't really thought too much about what to do in the days following. I would imagine that lots of you have pretty complicated feelings these days as well, so I wanted two of my friends and colleagues to join me this week to do a little reflecting on what many of us might be feeling right now.
For this conversation, I'm joined by Dr. Joy Beckwith and Dr. Ayanna Abrams, who joined us in Session 36 of the podcast to chat about couples counseling. Dr. Beckwith is a clinical psychologist, resident radio expert and college professor. She's a graduate of Spelman College, Rollins School of Public Health and Emory University where she served as the chief clinician. Dr. Joy can be heard weekly in 30 states on the nationally-syndicated radio show, The Nightly Spirit, where listeners get their weekly dose of encouragement and callers can ask for on-air advice regarding their most pressing dilemmas. Additionally, she developed seminars and workshops for organizations and corporations nationwide, and is the co-founder of the Carrefour Psychological Health Institute in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Abrams is a licensed clinical psychologist also in Georgia, and the CEO and founder of Ascension Behavioral Health. She's also the co-founder of NotSoStrong, an initiative to improve the mental health and relationship functioning of black women through the use of vulnerable storytelling. Her specialties include racism-based trauma, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, entrepreneurial mental health, and relationship and marital counseling. She has extensive clinical experience working with people of color, specifically black women, black men, and black couples.
During our chat, we discussed how we're feeling post-election, how many of the feelings we're experiencing are the result of the trauma we've endured at the hands of our government, these ideas about black women saving the world, and we discussed the power of representation and what it means to have Vice President-elect Kamala Harris preparing to take office. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please be sure to share with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: I am so excited that y'all were able to join me. I appreciate my sister psychologists. I just jumped into the group chat like, “Hey, y'all free to chat this week?” Because I definitely felt like we needed to do a whole debriefing session of post-election. I want to just hear, maybe you can start us Dr. A, what have you been feeling kind of in the immediate aftermath, post-election?
Dr. Abrams: Good question. My best way to describe it is I’m mixy. I'm feeling mixy, which is for me a mix of feeling relieved, a little bit of hope has come back, but I’ve got my eye on things. I haven't kind of deeply, deeply gone into a space of relief just yet. I'm still kind of holding out for some things but my body does feel a little bit looser and lighter, I will definitely say, than where it was last week.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm, what about you, Dr. Joy?
Dr. Beckwith: Probably somewhat similar. I think I feel, for the lack of a better word, tender. I think because I'm in this space where I think it can go in any direction. I've cried a whole lot recently and I think it just feels like, okay, should I exhale a little bit or wait a second? I just feel tender so I'm not quite ready to be on any side, yet I'm still cautiously optimistic is kind of what I'm feeling. It’s like, okay, well, you know, we can feel joy; okay, well, not too much joy. It's like, okay, it's a little tender spot. I feel very, very tender and that's how I present myself. I don't have this overwhelming sense of joy but I do feel joy. And I don't have this overwhelming sense of relief, but I do feel relief. It's just a really, really mixed tender spot that I'm in. Very tender.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, I appreciate those reflections. You know, I also feel like I have been really shocked by my reaction because I don't know that I consciously knew how much I was holding in. So kind of immediately after the race was called for Biden, I just broke into tears and spent much of Saturday crying. A mix of like joy, like you're mentioning Dr. Joy, of kind of seeing people in the street celebrating and kind of also relieved, but also just, oh my gosh, like this was really bad. And so not even recognizing that I was holding on to so much stress related to the fact that we have been under such a cruel, cruel reign in a lot of ways, for the past four years.
Dr. Abrams: That speaks to me. That part about realizing, in some ways like knowing it was bad but not being able to kind of fully encompass how bad it was, and I think that's part of where I was on Saturday. Because it's like it's been this bad, there's a part of me that still hasn't let go of that just yet, so I think that's part of my mixy as well. Like, don't just jump into relief too soon. Like, it's been so bad for so long that there's a part of it that my body just hasn't really been able to shake just yet. There hasn't been enough time; it's only been 48 hours for me to kind of move through some of those emotions, so I'm still in the parts of it. And also because we're not fully right out of it. I have not been able to take the full leap into hope, into the future, just yet.
Dr. Beckwith: Dr. A, that’s it. I think that's the part where it's tender. It's just like, okay, do I dance a little bit or do I hold off? Because it's like, well, there is some relief and there is some joy but we're still in it. And so it's like what do you feel when it's not completely over, you're not completely out of it yet? When I was sharing with my family, I said I realized, much like you Dr. Joy, that I had been holding my breath and I did not know that I'd been holding my breath. And I think how to describe that is I think often, maybe this is just for me, I think to get by on low supply, like low oxygen, isn't foreign to me. I think we often just get by, we often keep going, we often push through.
And much like you, Dr. Joy, I didn't realize how much my low supply was going, that I had been holding my breath, until that shower where I cried. And it was just like [...] you know, that type of crying. It's like okay, girl, what is that and where did that come from? But really digging that deep and crying that deeply, realizing like, wow, you have been holding some stuff for quite some time. But then even catching yourself, like okay, well wait a minute, what does this cry symbolize? Because you're still kind of in it. And I think for me, like once you've been traumatized and you feel like you've been traumatized for so long, there's this hesitation to like, okay, well, what's next? What will come next? Should you be celebrating and are you celebrating too soon?
Dr. Joy: I'm glad you brought up that word, Dr. Joy. Traumatized. Because I really feel that that is what most of us are experiencing and didn't even necessarily know to call it that. And so I think we are all psychologists and so we know what it means to kind of work with someone who has been traumatized. I think it's important to also think about what this might feel like if you do already have a history of trauma.
I think I had been spending a lot of time leading up to Election Day thinking about the fact that how traumatized I felt waking up four years ago and finding out that Hillary had not won the election. And so in some ways, I had been kind of bracing myself for revisiting the scene, so to speak, so I thought I would have had more of a reaction on Tuesday. But it wasn't actually until after the race was called that I had the reaction. I wonder if you all can maybe speak to that, like this whole new experience of trauma that we've all had from the government for four years, in light of anybody who's had a past history of trauma.
Dr. Abrams: I think that that activation, as we've seen, is showing up very different for people. There are some people who have talked about being more desensitized and numbed out. They’ve barely even turned on... for the past few years, they haven't even turned on press conferences anymore. They've just kind of shut it off, they don't look at the tweet, they don't do any of that anymore and I think that's one way in which people respond to trauma.
Another way that people respond to trauma is they're activated by it. They’re looking at all the stuff, they're looking at all the news, they're sharing all the awful things that we've kind of seen and heard over and over and over and over. All of that makes sense in terms of the differences or the different ways in how people process or manifest their trauma. They're either talking about it a lot or you see people who’re just like, no, I can't. I can't even go there. I can't even take any more of this stuff in. That has its own implications; if you are more numbed out, it means you can't feel other things, but we've been seeing that for the last few years, just depending on where you are in terms of how you process and how you cope. I don't tend to hold things as actively, emotion. I'm probably more one of the numbing withdrawers. It doesn't mean I'm not impacted by it but I think I've been so impacted that now my body's like [...] we can't take no more of this, so I'm not watching, I'm not reading stuff, I'm not retweeting stuff, any of that.
Dr. Beckwith: I think for me it was very, very similar, but like realizing this influx of emotions and then being able to label them like, okay, this feels like trauma to me. Going through where I'm feeling this strong sense of sadness, this strong sense of anxiety, to really feeling exhausted. Kind of describing like a dissociation from this stuff, it's just like, man, what is going on? Feeling like this is the Twilight Zone to a certain extent.
And even having, like not being able to rest, not being able to disconnect, the hyper vigilance of it all. Feeling like I need to protect myself, like what's going on? I need to watch the news, I need to read what's happening here, I need to be on this side. Like, what are they saying? What are the possibilities? Really finding myself on several ends of it. Sometimes really, really being overly engrossed in it and then realizing, well, okay, well, I thought I was doing that to protect myself, to better inform myself, but as a result, I am more anxious. So pulling away from it, and then the depression and what comes along with that. The sadness of being out of the know or the sadness of like, I don't know what's going to happen, or feeling as if things are out of your control or that something horrible can happen to you at any moment.
I went through, I guess, a spectrum of all of those emotions and really trying to figure out, okay, girl, so what's the balance? Because too little is not good for you and you're not like natural feeling, but also too much is too much and you're not good for yourself nor anyone else. So avoidance wasn't the answer nor kind of hitting it head on either. It’s a lot, but once I experienced all of those emotions...
Dr. Abrams: I was going to say, as I was listening to myself talk and also listening to what Dr. Joy was saying, I think I and a lot of my clients and a lot of particularly other black women who I've talked to, I think a lot of us have also transferred or kind of transformed a lot of that traumatic energy into over-functioning in other areas of our lives. I have worked so much, I have seen so many clients, I have done like so much work, and I have really honed in on my focus of like, “Listen: we all we die, so I'm gonna do whatever I can for the black people.” My clients, my couples, my groups, my companies. So I do think that I have transferred a lot of that energy into work without having enough of a cap on it in terms of that balance, because there was just so much energy there.
And I've talked to my clients a lot about that over the years, even if we didn't explicitly kind of plug it into the regime and kind of the trauma of our leadership and government, but I wouldn't be surprised if people can look at the last four years and notice some remarkable difference or a marked difference in how they were functioning.
Dr. Joy: Hmm. I would love to hear both of you really talk about how people might be able to kind of pick that apart for themselves. Now that we are... it feels like we can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, how they can begin to kind of make sense and even kind of explore some of all of what they might be feeling. What suggestions would you have?
Dr. Beckwith: You know, I think our tendency, Dr. A, is to control the controllables. And we start to feel, whenever we feel like things are out of control, we really go into like, okay, this is the response. We want to control the controllables and so we put that energy towards what we feel like is able to be controlled, but now that we're able to breathe a little bit, now that we’re able to exhale a little bit, for me to take a step back and to say, okay, so what is? What is existing? Because what we do know is that there are some of the things that happened or some of the ways that we responded that aren't necessarily a bad way, a bad response to the trauma.
For those of us who decided to lean in a little bit more with our family members, to lean in a little bit more on our girl group, our circles, for those of us who started journaling, so engaging in other ways of self-care, meditation... There's some of those things that, hey, they could benefit from staying with. Let me not throw that away, but then to look at the parts that Dr. A said: where did I overextend myself, overexert myself? What is? Just because I know I can work 60 hours a week and just because I know, hey, I'm keyed up basically, that doesn't really work for me in terms of sustaining myself. I believe in looking at what is now.
Now that I'm breathing, now that my vision is not as cloudy, now that I'm able to get a good night's sleep or a better night's sleep, to really look at what is and to take evaluation of what are the things that need to stay and what are the things that need to go? And then kind of getting some things in place to know that it doesn't have to happen all at once. There is some self-compassion, to look to say I now know or I can connect with why I did that, why I engaged in that behavior, and how that suited me then but may not be best for me now. And to start getting rid of some of those things, dividing up some of those tasks, and really figuring out how can we keep that.
Because as the world reopens and as life kind of gets back to this new sense of normalness, what needs to stay? And how can I keep those things? And don't go back to that, the person that I once was that, hey, she wasn't as happy either. Yeah, so self-evaluation, I think. Inventory is going to be so, so important. How did I respond to this? What did I start? Or what do I need to start now that I'm out of that? I've been in survival mode so long, maybe now do I need to go to therapy or start some therapy so that I can kind of work on some of the stuff that has come up for me during that time period? During the last couple of years or even with this pandemic the last couple of months. Like what am I recognizing, now that I cannot run from it? The fact that now that I *[inaudible 0:17:46] these things in terms of escaping some of these things.
Dr. Abrams: I wouldn't add too much more after that in terms of that inventory of what's been working, what's not been working, what has been the implications of any coping skills you've been engaging in or kind of who you've been connecting to. And as you see yourself now, and as we're kind of moving into a new, not only year, but new presidency, new kind of leadership in this way, are there ways in which we have been connected and involved in that I felt really healthy? That I know what has increased for a lot of people is a sense of advocacy, some boundary-setting around who they are engaging with. Whether it be workspaces, family, peers, community, like neighborhood stuff, as well as getting more connected in campaigns and just kind of knowing what's going on in, not only their immediate community then the nation, but also in the world. People finding ways to be more informed of things.
So being able to kind of create what you want, particularly at least the top of next year, to look like in terms of how connected you have been. And only you will know if you have been kind of hyper or kind of over connected, versus kind of feeling a little bit more balanced in that, but that inventory is really important. And not a one-time thing; you also get to take inventory at the top of next year and you can take inventory a few months later, just to see where any of what is going on that we can't foresee right now is landing for you.
I think the other piece I've been thinking about a little bit more with that is what I'm hearing some people talk about and some people being able to speak to is, while there is some sense of relief that we are moving into this new leadership and can feel hopeful and joyful and encouraged, for some people, it doesn't feel too far from what we've been in because of who the president. The president is still a white man, the president still is in a position of privilege and power that historically has not been that safe for us. So I also recognize some of the skepticism around like, yeah, I don't want to remove it too far and give him too much credit for this, particularly when it's been black women who are still doing a lot of the work and a lot of the heavy-lifting. So for some of us, nothing's changing.
For some of us, it's just like, yeah, we keep on trucking like we've been trucking. We keep on taking care of ourselves the way we have been taking care of ourselves, because we've never really trusted government. To also recognize that those feelings of relief might not be as present for some people because this doesn't feel too different, in terms of the larger social justice structure of our government.
Dr. Joy: Very good points, Dr. A.
Dr. Beckwith: Dr. A, it’s so funny, I was reading something very recently that spoke to just that. It said, how do you survive as a black woman in a society that worships whiteness and particularly the white male? And so as we have this new president, those things still remain. And so where people are hesitant to move forward, hesitant to feel this huge sense of hope, I think what these last couple of years have reminded us of what we already know is that we are survivors, we will survive. And to not put our trust and our faith and our hope in that person, but to bring it back to us. It's like my trust, my faith, is in my ability to survive.
But also, what the pandemic taught us or what the last couple of years have taught me, is just the power of my village, the power of the collective, the power of all of us to come together and what we can do and what happens when that does happen. It doesn't matter who is there. Those things, you’re right, they have been the same. We heard Biden say we have had his back and he hopes to have ours; well, you know what, we've heard stories like that before, too. And so how much of that do we totally say, “okay, yay,” and put our faith in.
We don't have faith necessarily, in our government. It hasn't been on our side, so what do we put our faith in, what do we put our hope in and what is it that we can trust? And one thing for sure, what the world has found out is that you can trust the black woman but I think that's something that we know, too. To be able to trust each other, to see how much we have supported each other, how much we have held each other down and this country, frankly. Going back to that, like what feels solid to us? Returning to that.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. I want to stay with this idea for a little bit because, of course, over the past week, there have been all of these celebrations and explanations about how black women have saved democracy. Like you said, Dr. Joy, we know that black women show up and show out. That is kind of who we are in a lot of ways. But it also feels like we have to pay attention to what Dr. A has also mentioned, that it feels like a for a lot of us, our kind of primary coping mechanism is to over function.
And so it kind of feels like I have complicated feelings around black women being celebrated for service. I mean, of course, we want to be of service, I think that that is something that a lot of us value, but I struggle with this idea that it feels like there is just this effusive praise for black women when it feels like they are in service and they're saving other people. That then makes it really hard for us not to feed into this strong black woman narrative, right? If we know we get all this praise for doing the things we have always done, how are we making sure to kind of check that and make sure that we're also saving some for ourselves?
Dr. Abrams: Yeah. And I think complicated is really the best way to describe that kind of paradox, right? Because in us continuing to show up for ourselves, other people also get to benefit off of this, but it creates this complacency there where we kind of get this praise. And I remember I just made a post saying you can you can praise us and do all of this, but how are you actually treating us? The love of the black woman's vote, but like do you love black women? What does that look like in your life? Do you pay us? Do you respect us? How does that actually show up day to day versus you love that we can contribute so that you have to do less work?
And that is a paradox that we have not been able to move out of. We will only actually be able to shift out of that kind of paradigm when white people begin to do more work, particularly white women begin to do some more of their own work, but I think we're still right in. Right in the middle of that phase of how that still shows up. I don't think we would have done anything differently because it all trickles down to us in some way and we will always bear the worst brunt of it also. I don't think we will show up any less, but it means that we still have to deal with what it means that other people feel so relieved that we've done the work for them again.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm.
Dr. Beckwith: Dr. A, complex is the only word to describe that. It is very tender and it's very heartbreaking in a sense where to think of black women is synonymous with strength, synonymous with being strong. It does not mean that it is not heavy and I think that's the part that they don't see because we carry it so well. It is heavy! And it is heartbreaking because we look at everything that we have to carry in the sense of just dealing with violence. Violence within our families in terms of our black men, in terms of economic inequalities or economic instabilities, like all of those things. We think about how hard we have to work in order to obtain attain, maintain, all of that. It just becomes so much and so I think it is a process.
You're right; I think others have to do the work too, Dr. A. And us making sure that as strong as we are, that we are also being that for ourselves, too. Like what does that look like when I use this strength to take care of myself? We are carrying the burden of democracy for an entire country that routinely and systematically oppresses us and so I am mindful of what has happened here. We are showing up and I think the reason that we're showing up, Dr. A, you hinted at it, it's mainly because I think the only thing or one of the only tools that we feel that we have that gives us hope for equality, is our democracy. That’s what it is. It’s like we know what happens if we don't show up. We know what happens if we don't advocate like this, if we don't show up and show out.
I mean, you know the number, so what if we had sat down on this? What would have happened and to whom it would have happened to. It goes back to us in terms of our economic instability, in terms of our job insecurity, in terms of the violence that is happening. It comes back to us so we have no choice at the end of the day but to show up the way that we show up. And so I think it is basically using some of that strength to require others to do their work, too. That's the thing. It's like, you can't sit back and require us... We already know how strong we are, we know how powerful we are, we know what exists. We don't have to pull the blinders off of your eyes; it's like you need to open your eyes so that you can see, too. And so it's a whole complicated mess, but we understand why we showed up the way we had to show up. We frankly did not have another choice.
Dr. Abrams: Yeah, as we were talking about this as an abusive relationship, that's the murkiness of codependent relationships, right? That we learn that if I don't do it, it won't be done and then I will bear the brunt of all the negative consequences if you do not do this thing. It's really hard to get out of, it's really hard to separate yourself from when this has been our life. This hasn't been a one-year or a two-year or a six-month thing that maybe we have seen ourselves in other ways. This is how a lot of black women know themselves so it can be really easy to say like, no, just do it differently. Just don't do this or don't do this. But complicated and complex is the word, right? This is an abusive codependent relationship with the government.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and that's the part that I’ve really struggled with because it's like we keep showing up. Like when is there ever time for us to be taken care of?
Dr. Beckwith: And just like any abusive relationship, what happens? It’s like, you know, they give us stimulus checks and little small gifts, things here to make the pain not be so bad. It's like, hey, this is supposed to hold you over or here are the flowers to kind of make up for the pain and the abuse that I've caused you. And it's just like, no. And so if this cycle, this thing that keeps continuing, this codependent relationship is like, “Well, you know, I do need to do this,” or you hang it over our heads... It's like, well, once you vote for me or once this happens, then I will release perhaps maybe your second stimulus check. And so how do we get ourselves in this situation where it is very, very mimicking of an abusive relationship? And then when do we get out and how do we get out of it? We go back to what Dr. Joy was saying, like, when is enough, enough?
Dr. Joy: Right.
Dr. Abrams: And I see that as an opening for... I've appreciated some people also being able to speak to this, like, hey, I can hold my joy, attend to it, I can hold feeling relief and encouragement. But there's still accountability there. We can still kind of use this experience to say, hey, we have heard this before. Hey, you are calling on us in this way of whether you are thanking us and you are praising us, but this is what we're still asking for. So not letting up and that kind of accountability and those kinds of demands that say, hey, this is how you actually take care of us. Not just in words, not just in praise in the first 48 hours, but this is what we are looking for. I think that is also something that can allow us to feel a little bit more empowered, and the transition of this process.
Dr. Beckwith: We may have to remind some of our people of our famous little statement that “support is a verb.” You say you are an ally, it's like there are multiple ways to show it and so how do you show up? Yeah, how do you show us that you support us? It's more than just what you say, but it is in what and how and what you do. So holding them accountable. But I think for us too to be aware of what is it that we want. What are some of the things that they can do? When they do want to put some action behind it, what does that look like for us? And holding people accountable. He didn't say anything in the meeting, huh?
Dr. Joy: Yeah, they love to come to your office after the meeting is over, right? And say that’s a good point.
Dr. Beckwith: Mm hmm. It's like really? You enjoyed it? Wouldn’t have known! And us being able to stand in the back...
Dr. Abrams: Back channels. They use the back channel and the email like, “Really, really great thing you said. I wish I had those words for that. You were just... that was so spot on.” But you didn't cc everybody on that! You said that to just me.
Dr. Beckwith: And I think that's part of it. We’re tired. We're tired of the back door, the back channeling of like, oh, really great point. And we're tired of you stopping by the offices at the very end to say, “You know what? Great job today.” And really being able to stand into that like, “It would have been really great to hear you say that in the meeting today.” And that's it. And leaving it there and you need to sit in that discomfort knowing that you could have shown me that in a number of other ways. This little stop by my office is not one of them.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. The other thing that I think has been really complicated for people is the idea that... And I don't know that a lot of us, but I think some of us thought that the election would not have been as close as it has been. So we are also left dealing with the idea that over 70 million people saw everything that this administration has done, saw how many people have died, saw no real leadership, and said “Yes, sign me up for another four years of this.” And so I find myself feeling then really anxious about who to trust. Like how do I know where you fall on this side of things? I'm wondering if you all can maybe speak to that, just the idea that so many people still decided to vote for this administration?
Dr. Abrams: You know, I think that speaks to a lot of newer... I don't think new to us, but newer conversations, particularly since the murder of George Floyd where there are more non-black communities talking about the difference between being a passive non-racist and an active anti-racist. And those are ways in which I had already kind of been engaged in. Like, hey, if I don't hear anything actively from you, then I don't put nothing past you. If I can't see it, then I can't really vouch for you or vouch for how you feel about me or my family or my loved ones or my culture or any of those things, until I see some willingness to get uncomfortable. Until I see some willingness to be inconvenienced, until I see some openness to whatever losses might come with you speaking up in these ways.
I'd already kind of moved to a bit of a position in that way so this didn't surprise me. In as much it was uncomfortable, it's like, dang. Okay, y’all had a chance. Oh, here we are, right? Not only that y'all had a chance; more of y'all voted than four years ago. The percentages went up. I don’t feel myself too deflated or defeated, but it really hasn’t changed what I look for and I don’t call them allies. They tend to call themselves allies but I don't look for that anymore.
What I will pay attention to is if you are actively anti-racist but other than that, I'm not giving praise, I'm not doing all this, I'm not doing this public appreciation of particularly non-black people who will speak out against things. Might be a little bit of a like but I'm not going to do all this work to give you a whole bunch of praise, in terms of that what I find as kind of basic social justice, kind of human rights work. But I've always had my eye on how actively someone is willing to engage in that work.
The too closeness has been uncomfortable but not too surprising for me. Like it was just confirming what I was already thinking in terms of like how performative was six months ago? How performative was June and July? This is only a few months ago and look. We’re not even so far from all the black squares and all the money donated and all the DMs that we've had and all the podcast requests that we've had and all the company talks we've been doing. We’re not even far removed and y'all are already over it? Oh, okay.
Dr. Beckwith: Absolutely. I'm with you, Dr. A. I wasn't surprised but still somewhat like hoping for something better. It's like you see it and you're just like, dang, I was really hoping that we would have turned the corner. But yes, it's more of an active anti-racist. Because I too, I saw like, oh, we’ve gone past the black squares now. There's nothing else after the black square (which did not include a caption, by the way.) After the black square, there is nothing else, so I'm really looking at how do you show up? It goes back to what our parents taught us a long time ago. Actions speak louder than words. And so you know what? You're saying this, you put up your little black square, you sent them DMs, you liked some stuff and you posted up pictures with you and your black friends or your black colleagues? That's not enough for me.
And why were you crying? I don't even know why you’re crying. Because just like the black squares, it did not come with any type of caption so you could have been crying for a number of other reasons. I'm not sure. This has resulted in me having trust issues. I got trust issues and so that's it. It’s like you built it, it’s like I trust you because of what I've seen over the last couple of months or whatever; it works in the opposite direction. I have trust issues because of what I have not seen. You have not actively been an anti-racist and so, you know, what? Okay, the jury’s still out and I’m operating in that.
Dr. Abrams: And they’ve been crying this week, too. They was crying last week, they was crying this weekend, they’ve been crying for the last five months, and I just...
Dr. Beckwith: But we still don’t know why.
Dr. Joy: We don't know what the tears are about.
Dr. Beckwith: We don't know why, though, that’s the thing. What’s the motive behind it? We don’t know. So it's more so being active. I got to see it. I got to see it.
Dr. Joy: We also know, and I am not at all shocked by the behavior that the president is having related to the election, right? We knew he was not gonna be a gracious loser, but I also–this is another part of my anxiety–am concerned about what the next 70-plus days looks like. Because we do know that there's something going on there and so I don't know that we were able to accurately gauge just how ridiculous he might become within the next couple of days. Can you both speak to your thoughts about that? We've been using the kind of language of an abusive relationship which is the format that really fits; I'm wondering, related to that kind of a framework, what are your thoughts about what the next couple of months might be like?
Dr. Abrams: I find myself, not super actively, but just preparing for a series of tantrums, preparing for a series of powerplays, things that we're not unfamiliar with over the past few years. But they'll look a little bit different at this point. This is the grasp when someone is losing power. It's becoming as real as maybe the presidency or the White House will be able to let in. I don't think it'll go too deeply, but we're going to see a whole bunch of grabs at anything. And with those grabs, not only comes a... It’s a grief response–the denial of what is happening and that it's real–but then you move into anger phases.
What that anger will look like is anything that mischaracterizes the “opposing side” or mischaracterizes the people. But I think it'll just be a mix of all of those things. I don't think there's going to be a moving through all the stages of grief in the next 70-something days. I think we're going to be bouncing back and forth between denial and anger, denial-anger, denial-anger, and that's going to take us through until January 20, whatever day it is in January. Yeah, and maybe we'll get into a little bit of the bargaining stage but I don't think we go into deep past any of that.
Dr. Beckwith: I don't know if we'll ever see acceptance.
Dr. Abrams: I agree.
Dr. Beckwith: You know, as we go through those stages... I think the things that you mentioned are exactly right. We're talking about tantrums, we're talking about outbursts and power plays. Yes, I think whenever we see a person who feels like they have lost control, when they feel a sense of shame or humiliation, all of those things kind of raise this flag for us that says we have to be prepared for some type of bullying behaviors, some type of rage, some type of outbursts, some type of aggression.
And so it's one of those things where if you know that cows moo, it's being aware that cows moo, so when they start to moo, like, “Oh, dang, there's that sound.” We expected it, we knew that it would come and I think that's what we're all saying. We see the perceived loss of power or loss of control, we see what could be interpreted shame or humiliation and so when these denials start to kind of come out or when this anger starts to come out, it's like, okay, here it is, we knew it was coming. And we can only hope and pray that there's a limit to it.
Dr. Joy: You know, the other thing that is really confusing, I think, but not so confusing, is just the fact that there are so many other people who are buying into this with him. It is like there is a circle of advisers and his people who are all kind of feeding into this. So it's like, is there no one who will kind of step aside and say, “Hey, okay, we really need to make a plan to kind of lose this graciously,” or “In the benefit of the democracy, this is our plan for kind of transitioning.” Like, I think that that's the part that makes it really difficult as well.
Dr. Abrams: Yes, I agree. I am actually seeing at least some more mumblings of some people in his camp, at least being able to say like, “Hey, let's call it. Let's do this. Let's not go against the democratic process.” But you know, as I think about this all in the frame or context of power and privilege, I also recognize that people are still attached to that level of power that they had and if I do too much now, what does that mean from what I might lose in the future? It's all the proximity to power that's still really at play. There's a part of me that I do feel disappointed and still confused by it (but) when I'm able to root it in that power structure, it makes a lot of sense. They want to still be in proximity to the access of whatever power, whatever social capital they get from it now, because he represents a loss of that.
And in some ways, I also still see that I think he's also traumatized people who are around him, so I wouldn't be surprised that people also feel scared. There's been a move of the needle internally. I don't think that everyone around it feels safe enough to say it outside, to say it kind of out loud to him, and that's an impact of that kind of manipulation. He has silenced people. I'm interested to kind of see what happens over the next few weeks and kind of in the spring because I think we're also going to hear a lot of stories about what the last four years have been like for people. I think a lot of that stuff is going to come out over the next few years.
But again, it also just mimics the silencing that can happen in a really, really toxic relationship. “I do not feel safe enough to say any of this stuff right now because I need a job. I needed this. This is where I live,” like whatever the factors might be at play. I'm hoping that even that some of those people can also feel safe enough, at least after a few weeks from now, to find safety and then to begin kind of narrating their own story. I think some people are still too close to it now. The other people, I hope there's consequences for a number of things that have happened. I do have some faith that there are some people in there who are just really conflicted because of those same reasons.
Dr. Beckwith: I totally agree, Dr. A, I think that's the saving grace. I feel like just like with all toxic relationships, it's like things don't really start to come out and people don't normally start to really talk about what it's been like until they are out, until they know that they are safe or have a sense of feeling safe again, that their livelihood is not being threatened. But you're also right; there is something to be said about wanting to hold on to power and privilege and everything that comes along with that.
And so it's funny because when I was thinking about this, too, like, hey, there's no one around him who's being able to say, “okay, for the sake of our country...” But then I thought about it, I think that perhaps (I don't know of all of them) but perhaps some of those people, they were released a long time ago. You do remember when we were doing the shuffling of the board, it's like we have a whole *[inaudible 0:42:23] people. And so the ones that we have who are remaining, it’s like they're in and they're deep in this toxic relationship and so it's not easy to really say, “Hey, let's back off of this.” It’s like no, a lot of things are tied to this power and privilege.
If you go back to even the terror management theory when it talks about the existential crisis in terms of maintaining or holding on to these parts that exist because you're wondering, “What happens to me if this crumbles?” So if, in fact, this power goes away, or if in fact this privilege goes away, or if in fact all of this stuff starts to crumble, then what happens to me? So then it's like, well, what's driving you? What's making you? “I’m holding on to this.” It may look like to us that you are a part of that or you agree fully with that, where then in fact there's something else that is driving and it's like you're really afraid of what is at stake for you.
Dr. Joy: The point that has been most joyful for me has been Kamala Harris, of course, being our first female, first woman of Indian descent, Vice President-elect. And so, you know, I know we are all very excited about that. Dr. Joy and I are both members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha so she's a sorority sister. There's just a lot of pride and a lot of excitement about what she represents. We said this before on the podcast: of course, representation is not enough but it is something and I don't think that we can take away what this means to a lot of people. I'd love to hear both of you talk about like the importance of her representation.
Dr. Abrams: I think that's very important. She’s also Caribbean, don't forget. Listen now, listen now.
Dr. Joy: My apologies, you’re right!
Dr. Beckwith: All of that. I love it, Dr. A. Yes.
Dr. Abrams: I mean, representation is important. When I was just looking at posts, not only of adult women and what this means for us, but all the posts about the little girls. All the posts when you saw the little girls up at the screens and the little girl saying–whether that be little black girls or Southeast Asian girls–just being able to kind of say like, oh, okay. This isn't as far-fetched anymore. I have loved to see that kind of joy and that kind of encouragement and that kind of empowerment, in terms of the imagery there.
What I've also loved is that she has been willing and open to speak directly to it. It’s not just about her showing up in these ways and then the government gets to kind of use her as that, but she has named black women in this. She is talking about her Southeast Asian path, she is talking about her mother, she is talking about her family lineage. That's what feels really, really important, that there is a narrative that we can't make up and put on her because she's not speaking about it. That's what I even think is even more powerful than the imagery. That she is calling this out and that will be something that sounds like it will be spoken by both of them, her and President-elect, actively. And that's what I'm looking forward to seeing: “I'm not just here as a presence and you get to project all this stuff onto me. These are my words about who I am.”
Dr. Beckwith: Dr. A, I think, oh my gosh, so the same thing for me. Just the joy that I feel when I see little girls. When I saw the little girls looking at the television screen or seeing these little girls on her lap and just like touching her. To be able to see yourself and it's like, man, she looks like me, she talks like me, she smiles like me, she smells like me. All of that good stuff. And so I think exactly what you said, Dr. A, unlike the black squares–what about the caption? We're not just seeing this and having to make our own story or our own narrative about it. Not only do we see it, but she's speaking about it.
And so we talk about representation, I think about her of course as a woman of color, as a black woman. I think about her as a woman who her mom (Shyamala) being a single parent and raising her, so also what does that represent? And so little girls seeing that although it may be me and my three sisters, it’s like look at what she was able to do. Or those whose fathers were not as present perhaps in their lives. And so it's just representation on all different parts. And so finding a little piece of yourself saying, oh, wow, look at that. Oh, that's like my family. Wow, look at that and look at where she is right now. And so the joy that it brings me.
But also, from this side of us knowing how hard and how difficult it is for us to get to certain places. How many barriers were in the way, how we can't just be enough or good enough, and we have to really, really over-excel. To see her carry all of that, carry it so well and to be where she is and the joy? The joy, the joy. Yeah.
I think I was speaking about that, and this is not directly correlated but somewhat correlated. I think early on, there are these roles about what women... the occupations we’re supposed to have. Even if it's like in churches perhaps, can a woman be a pastor? And just so much, like what's a woman's job and what’s a man's job? Here you are looking at one of the most powerful positions in the country and seeing her a representation of us in that position? Yeah, it is freeing in so many ways. In so many ways.
Dr. Joy: I completely agree with everything. Yes, joy is the perfect word to really kind of capture that feeling. I really appreciate you both for sharing so openly all of your feelings and thoughts about all of this. Please let people know where we can find you, Dr. Joy. Go ahead and tell us your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share.
Dr. Beckwith: Absolutely. I'm all over social media @AskDrJoy. That’s also my email address and my website, that’s www.DrJoyBeckwith.com.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. Dr. A?
Dr. Abrams: The name of my practice is Ascension Behavioral Health, so my website is AscensionBehavioralHealth.com. I do most of the running of my mouth on Instagram which is @Dr_Ayanna_A. That can be found on Facebook @AscensionBehavioralHealth.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. Well, thank you both. Again, like I said, we will be including all of that information in the show notes and thank you again for visiting with us.
Dr. Beckwith & Dr. Abrams: Thank you for having us.
Dr. Joy: I'm so glad that Dr. Beckwith and Dr. Abrams were able to join us today. To learn more about them and their work, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session181. And don't forget to text two sisters right now and tell them about this episode.
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