Living as a minority person has greatly affected the way in which I see and react to my environment. Growing up as an African immigrant in a predominately-white Midwestern community has been difficult at times. There have been moments of frustration due to cultural differences and moments of pain because of prejudgments and racism.
Often after these painful events would occur, I chose to close myself off to others as a temporary remedy for the pain. This continued for a while until I spoke more in-depth about my pain to my grandfather. I explained to him that the world I live in is a complicated one, and that it often leaves me feeling angry and depressed about my circumstances. When my grandfather asked how I dealt with these frustrations, I replied, “I just accept it because I’m a man, and men have to learn to deal with difficult situations on their own.” My grandfather smiled and replied that he had thought the same way at my age, but realized as he got older that there were other ways to deal with life’s difficulties.
My grandfather asked me, “What would you do if you accidentally hit your thumb while using a hammer?” I replied, “Well I would grab and cover my thumb with my other hand.” My grandfather exclaimed, “Exactly!” He said that when we hit our thumbs or any part of our body by accident, our first reaction is to try to cover and comfort that part of our body. People work the same way when it comes to emotional hurts. When we find ourselves dealing with pain and frustration that is overwhelming us, we find comfort and relief by allowing ourselves to be covered and supported by others and the ones we love.
That first time I heard my grandfather’s profound lesson I was stunned. Could some relief from pain and frustration truly be found in such a simple solution? As time has passed, I’ve found myself using my grandfather’s lesson in those times in my own life. His wisdom has also helped my clients. So often people come to therapy because they are engulfed in a frustrating and painful situation. In those moments, I have found that remembering my grandfather’s lesson, and simply being a comforting and supportive person is often all they need in that moment. My hope is by modeling his wisdom for them, they will be able to do the same for themselves and others.