Monday, August 5, 2013

Different But Still The Same

I am an African American male. I was raised by an African American parent and one who was bi-racial, but who identified with the African American culture. I attend a predominately African American church and live in a neighborhood where people, for the most part look like me. I am firmly ensconced in the Afro American culture.

As a ScreamFree Fellow I have the opportunity to travel the world teaching this wonderful message of calm connection. I count it as a blessing from God. Although I have a chance to speak to people that come from different cultures, domestic or abroad, I am always particularly interested when there are African Americans in the audience because, based on past experiences, I think I know what some are thinking. Some have even spoken their thoughts out loud.

“The ScreamFree philosophy would never work on black people.” Depending upon the audience, you could substitute the word black for any other culture—Latin, Italian, Irish, etc. This is what I call, “the cultural excuse for screaming.” I’ve heard a great deal of them. My personal favorite though is, “Hey, I’m from Brooklyn. This is what we do!”

An excuse, by definition is when one seeks to defend or justify a particular behavior or action. When we allow ourselves to buy in to the cultural excuse for screaming, we remove the control that we have over our own functioning. If we were to buy in to the ScreamFree philosophy, I believe we can take that control back.

We All Scream...

ScreamFree is all about managing one’s emotional reactivity. We all get reactive—white, black, Latin and Italian. In other words, we all scream. The screaming disconnects us from those that we love the most. Yes, we may be different, but we are all the same. We all love our families and we want to be better connected to them. ScreamFree teaches individuals how to be better connected by focusing on the one person in their household they can control—themselves.

In my case, there is only one black person that the philosophy needs to work onme. To say that I can’t manage my own emotional reactivity because I am black is an excuse that those who have lived before me would not accept. I shouldn’t accept the excuse either.

If we journey back to the 1960s, we can see African Americans that were oppressed and depressed, until a few people decided to do something different. They decided to manage themselves in order to bring about worldwide transformation. To do this would require a ScreamFree approach to change. They would be threatened, beaten and imprisoned, but they kept their cool. They had to handle violence with non violence and to be responsive, but non reactive.

This approach to change has not been limited to those of the African American culture. We’ve seen it with Gandhi (Indian), Cesar Chavez (Latin American) and the Velvet Revolution (Czechoslovakian). It can be said that it was best seen in the Hebrew culture through a certain carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus.

We can’t escape our culture. Hopefully, we don’t want to. We can and should embrace all that our respective cultures offer. Our cultures may shape us, but they don’t exclusively define us in such a way that they dictate that we must be emotionally reactive screamers!

Along with all of the cultural benefits that our families can experience, we can also give them something else. We can give them someone that is working on creating the peace that will allow any relationship to thrive.

We are all different, but we are very much the same. We love our families. We embrace our heritage. We can manage ourselves. We all can be ScreamFree.