BROTHAS, Y'ALL ALRIGHT?! by Anthony M. Wiley, Jr.
Eventually you’ll get tired of healing from the same shit.
For most of my life, holding on to things was the only way I knew to function.
It didn't matter that I was in pain, I had become skilled at ignoring my feelings. Taught through various rituals of patriarchy, I learned very early that being a man often meant denying myself the opportunity to explore the full range of my emotions. I had become comfortable with channeling my feelings of sadness, disappointment, and hurt into the one "permissible” emotion of manhood; anger.
In many of my talks, I find myself reminding brothers that anger is a healthy emotion. In fact, I affirm that all feelings are okay to have, but some reactions are okay and others are not. Anger is an emotion that demands our attention, calls for reflection, and can motivate us to perform life changing work (e.g. setting boundaries, walking away, healing). However, when anger—or any other difficult emotion and feeling—is not properly managed it can manifest itself in a myriad of destructive behaviors.
Mismanagement of emotions and a resistance to explore feelings often aid in the disability to practice true intimacy. It will keep you emotionally unintelligent and incapable of developing your spiritual nature.
Men who act in rage when met with difficult emotions or look to sex as a means of attaining emotional satisfaction are functioning on the lowest level of consciousness and are usually experiencing an imbalance in one, or all, of the first three chakras (root, sacral, solar plexus). On the flip side, men who function on this “dead-level” are in the best place to begin the process of raising their consciousness and transforming their being.
Ask men struggling on this level of being how they feel and you'll most likely hear one of these automatic responses:
"I'm aight… “
“I’m good bruh…”
And the truth is, they ain’t aight, good, or present.
Those answers, along with the masks we wear to hide the truth of our being, are passed down to us through harmful rituals of toxic masculinity. In The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love author and social activist bell hooks maintains that to indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings. Patriarchy perpetuates and normalizes trauma. It is a peculiar violence that operates under the radar and it establishes itself through self-mutilating practices.
Terrence Real in How Can I Get Through to You?: Closing the Gap Between Men and Women speaks to this normalization:
“When I first began looking at gender issues, I believed that violence was a by-product of boyhood socialization. But after listening more closely to men and their families, I have come to believe that violence is boyhood socialization. The way we “turn boys into men” is through injury: We sever them from their mothers, research tells us, far too early. We pull them away from their own expressiveness, from their feelings, from sensitivity to others. The very phrase “Be a man” means suck it up and keep going. Disconnection is not fallout from traditional masculinity. Disconnection is masculinity.”
Patriarchal traumatization and toxic masculinity instill in us the flawed principle of never quitting—because it prohibits us from fostering a deeply intimate relationship with ourselves. Society teaches us that the best approach to life is to never give up. And while perseverance and “grit” are essential to success, so is knowing when to call it quits, let go, and walk away. It goes without saying that when you begin a journey your intention should be to see it through to the end despite the challenges, discomfort, and frustrations; after all, that’s when we tend to grow the most. However, without proper guidance, as boys grow older this flawed principle manifests itself in bonds that demand unified, integrated, and emotionally present men.
R E A L I T Y C H E C K
Be honest. How many negative experiences and unhealthy relationships would you have evaded had you just let go and walked away?
I get it. Change can be scary. Letting go can be scary. Especially, when you frame it as if you are losing or missing out on something instead of looking at it as a step towards healing. But, this is what the ego does. It resists change and creates false narratives around it because it views it as an attack on the image of ourselves we have created—its nature is to project illusions. Consider the various reactions a child would have when a parent doesn’t allow them to do something that could potentially cause them harm—something as simple as taking away their Halloween candy so they don’t eat it in one sitting. When a situation is viewed from a limited perspective, the ego exaggerates it and creates a buffet of non-truths:
"You're mean, Mommy."
"You never let me do what I want."
"You hate me and don't want me to eat MY candy."
"You don't trust me, Daddy."
In many cases we’re just like children. Perceiving life through the ego, there is no real sense of self-preservation, and ten times out of nine we’re likely to choose what will harm us the most. God tries to align us with our highest good and we resist the alignment; causing suffering, and prolonging the peace that could emerge if only we’d let go and allow things to unfold. The truth is, sometimes we don’t know what’s best for us and even when we do, we choose otherwise. Our intellect, though capable of connecting us with the divine has its limits. It’s best not to lean on our own understanding—even though we exercise it all day, compared to God’s it’s weak af.
One night, I dreamt I was an eagle flying beyond the sun.
With no warning, I was on the ground unable to take flight no matter how hard I tried. I had become captive.
Overcome with desperation, I panicked. I worked tirelessly to become free; trying with all my might to fly away—flapping and flapping—squawking and squawking—using what seemed to be the sum of my strength, but to no avail.
I couldn’t see my captor, all I could see was their shadow.
Having complete awareness of my dream, I noticed a small string attached to my leg. At that moment, defeat engulfed my spirit and I settled into the harsh reality of my new condition; grieving because I may never fly again.
After draining my spirit, Ego came through to give it a go:
Sooooo, you just gon' stand there and watch me struggle? I thought. Oh aight! I guess my squawks ain't loud enough to implore your assistance? H E L P M E ! ! ! Once I'm free, I'm clawing your eyes out! #GangGang
My captor didn't speak much, but spent most of his time observing. Then, in a quiet, deep tone my captor spoke, "Look."
I didn't want to look.
Nope, not looking.
L O O K.
At wit's end, I surrendered and looked. To my surprise, the string was never attached—I had grabbed ahold of it in a panic when he caught me to mend an injured wing. Ego and trauma limit our perception and keep us from seeing the complete picture.
When I finally looked to see my captor's face—it was me.
With compassion and conviction Self said, "Stop holding on to things that have already let you go."
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