“You don’t have to apologize for being human, brother.”
Robert Warmack, a Detroit-based counselor at L.E.C. Counseling (Love, Empathy & Compassion), said those words to a fellow brother – one of his patients who broke down crying due to some pains he had worked through during a recent therapy session.
“He was crying based off some personal things he had been dealing with,” Warmack told The Michigan Chronicle.
Warmack said that as a Black man and a counselor, he sees often how the lack of emotion from some Black men is impacting them and their families.
“The lack of emotion creates a non-caring, disconnected effect toward your family,” he said, adding that men’s significant others tend to not feel “safe enough” to share and communicate their own emotions. “As that continues to take place your significant other begins to seek safety and refuge outside of the home.”
Warmack said that he does therapy with couples who face this very issue and he sees the negative impact that lack of emotions from Black men can create on the nuclear level that reverberates into Black communities.
He quoted Aryah Baker, author of article “Unharm Our Sons: Black Father, Masculinity, and Mental Health,” who wrote:
“Historically, Black men have opted into toxic masculinity to preserve their sanity and to protect and provide for their families. Beginning with slavery, America’s sociopolitical structures and institutions have upheld a racially stratified, patriarchal class system that, to varying degrees, has oppressed everyone except wealthy white men. This reality, coupled with a desperation to escape racialized poverty, left Black men with no other choice but to attempt assimilating into the dominant culture.”
Warmack said that historically, Black men (even pre-slavery) knew their roles, as did women.
Men hunted, women gathered and men were looked upon to be the ones who cared for the family and were required to “show strength.”
“We associate that with … not showing emotions or, unfortunately, not showing weakness,” he said, adding that as slavery and racism came into the picture, again, Black men were looked upon as not showing emotions, lest they be considered aggressive or “over the top”.
Those perceived negative emotions of the Black man could trigger “negative responses” from the dominant culture, Warmack said, adding that this has been the case generationally. “We began to allow that to seep into how we carry ourselves as men.”
He added that crying is proven to be healthy and beneficial as it helps people sleep, fight bacteria, improve vision and more.
“It is okay for you to cry,” he said, adding that crying every day might be indicative of other problems, but now and then it is therapeutic.
Warmack added that since the pandemic he’s gained a lot of Black male clients looking for answers.
“I have received more calls and inquiries from Black men,” he said adding that the pandemic caused everyone to slow down and look at themselves and confront issues head-on. “Now I’m in the home and have to spend more time with my wife and children — girlfriend, fiancé. And then there is a mirror I am able to see daily [about] … the lack thereof of my emotional connectivity with my loved ones.”
Marie Ganaway, life and spiritual coach at Detroit-based Autumn Experience Life & Spiritual Coaching, said that she counsels a lot of Black men, and she has found that a lot of them seem to need “validation outside of themselves” instead of being validated by God and themselves alone.
“That is where the problem lies — the feeling of needing to be accepted. That is where this masculinity comes in and the ego is created allowing them not to get in touch with their feminine side,” she said, adding that people have two sides. “I teach them in our sessions you have to balance the emotions and understand what you are feeling and express it.”
Ganaway added that not expressing oneself properly shows up and can reflect negatively in their work and productivity, relationships and more.
She said the key is to become “unbothered” and focus on yourself and move past “low vibrational” people who try to bring others down.
Ganaway said that this lack of emotion at times from Black men can stem from their inner child carrying unhealed wounds from their past.
“Any insecurities — anything that made you feel scared or any situation that made you feel like something bad happened, you carry it with you,” she said, adding that it is about forgiving yourself for holding on to these wounds for so long. “And release yourself from this person [who inflicted harm].”
She added that people can find out what their purpose is once they learn to love themselves.
“You will bring in this abundance,” she said. “This does not have to do necessarily with monetary gain but your peace.”
She added that one thing she tells her clients is to have a journal and write down whatever comes to mind.
“Once you start to express that you will open yourself up,” she said, reiterating validation comes from God and within. “When you allow yourself to be validated by somebody outside of you, you are giving them the power over you.”
Baron Warren, a national speaker, life coach and author, is also a mentor helping males become men.
Warren said that these unexpressed emotions can prove to be dangerous when encountering police and life in general. Often, he said, children leave the home unprepared, now having the proper life skills that will allow you to be successful in society.
He added that when it comes to exhibiting unhealthy forms of expression many young people he has worked with have shared stories on experiencing violence in their community.
“Too many more negative things to [count],” he said of drugs, gangs and the like. “It has become clear to me that young people need to have an outlet. A way to escape life’s problems.”
Warren said that he is on a mission to remind every young man to “tap into his potential” and his emotions to succeed.
“[And] be a pillar to his society; when a dangerous situation arises, use sound judgment and wisdom,” he said. “To make it home safely and always strive for excellence every day.”