Breaking the Culture of Silence
Updated: May 16, 2021
Dear Africana Woman,
I did not realise this but we have a Culture of Silence. It is so normal in our day to day lives you may not believe me. I had prepared a totally different post but this thought slapped me in the face and I had to address it. I know you are thinking, "I speak up at work. I have no problems telling my kids to get in line. In fact, I command an army called domestic and professional staff. I am never silent. What are you talking about?"
My question to you is this: Are you able to freely talk about your inner most heart's desires and your emotions?
The reason why I noticed this Culture of Silence is because I recently did a talk called the Power of African Women. I was expecting majority of the audience to be African Women and in my mind I fantasized about the lively conversation we would have. Some African Women attended, not as many as I thought would. I spoke passionately and gave a call to action. Then we opened up for a discussion and it was like crickets from my peoples. Eh!
On another occasion, I created a support group for 2020 brides. This has been such a challenging period for many brides; there is uncertainty and grief for the loss of their dreams. So I made this a safe space and vetted all the members. What happened was the women wanted to consume but not contribute. That is not how community works.
I am not bashing anyone, because even I am not immune to this. I am quite vocal in professional settings. I actually go into meetings and tell myself to keep quiet, but it's like I have an internal itching that I just have to let out. I have been trained academically to be vocal and have had plenty of experience. But in my personal life, if someone hurts me or over stepped boundaries, I am not able to say out loud how that made me feel. It feels like the words are stuck in my throat and there is a knot in my chest. Then I tell myself, I will let this one slide. Truth is I have amassed a lifetime of slides, and what I am actually doing is teaching people how to continuously treat me badly.
African homes have a tendency to focus on academic intelligence over emotional intelligence. Children are seen but not heard. Our up bringing seemed to indicate you had no right to your emotions. Most homes are run as a dictatorship where major decisions are made by the head of the house with no discussions around the decisions. Take for example, there is a family whose father has suddenly been retrenched from the mines, and the family has to lower their standard of living. This could be moving to a new neighbourhood, only buying essentials and certain food stuffs become luxuries, change of schools for the kids etc. In an African home would you see this scenario being discussed as a family. Probably not. Truth is Dad is probably embarrassed and ashamed that he can no longer provide for the family. Mum knows this and has to be strong for the family. The children also have feelings about this. They are grieving the loss of neighbourhood friends, they may be embarrassed about their new home, they are frustrated that their school snack is not yoghurt and a fruit, instead it has become samp. But they are not given the opportunity to express these emotions. By default they are taught to bottle it up. From there stems the Culture of Silence. We either do not know we can share our emotions, we do not know how to share our emotions or we do not know who to trust with these emotions. Let's not forget, the flip side could be that we do not know how to receive and process emotional information.
I know someone is still resisting and thinking that it cannot be helped that the family status changed. Everybody in that family just has to suck it up and deal with it. Think of it this way, yes the facts are indisputable but the emotions are also real and valid. If you are given the opportunity to be able to verbalise your emotions, it reduces stress, it provides a sense of relief and it is an opportunity for the parent to help their child change the narrative in their mind. The alternative is a manifestation of a wide range of strongholds which could be resentment, anger, depression and the extreme being suicide. I just cannot run away from the fact that we have a Culture of Silence. Our hearts resonate with information on an emotional level but we do not have the vocabulary to express our emotions nor have we been trained to contribute or speak about our feelings.
If you recognise this silence in your life and want to do something about it, here are a couple of tips to get you started:
First step is acknowledgment of your participation in the Culture of Silence. This does not make you a bad person. I say this all the time you know what you know. And you can only change when your consciousness of your current state meets your desire to be in a better place.
Build your vocabulary of emotions. It is scientifically proven that when you have a bigger emotional vocabulary you are better able to regulate your emotions and know yourself better.
Thereafter, practice. You may not get it right the first time, it may take you days to drum up the courage to say the words out loud. but I promise you the more you do it the easier it becomes.
Find someone you can trust. Not only are you not alone but you do not have to do it alone. You can find a confidant in a family member, a friend, a church member or even a work mate. When something comes up, practice with your trusted friend how to express your emotions. Just remember this is a reciprocal relationship. Not a one way commentary of negativity.
Journal. Use whatever way works for you to transfer those emotions that are inside of you to the outside. Writing in a journal is a great way to express yourself. Thereafter, reading your journal you are able to visualise and reflect on your current emotions and more importantly figure out what you need to do to feel better.
Alright Hun, I gotta run. Please comment below and tell me what you think. I would love to hear from you and continue the conversation. Share the blog with a friend, let's get the message out, that there is a safe Africana sisterhood here. Remember my desire is that you fall in love with yourself and attract the life you deserve. Peace and blessings.