"Good Afternoon, everyone, my name is Mrs. Brown, and I will be your group facilitator for this session." Mrs. Brown was a chocolate woman like myself, but she was a straight up plain Jane. She had her hair neatly pulled back in a tight bun. From the way it looked, she had in one of those synthetic buns you find in the beauty supply store that be in the glass case, or hanging up on the wall next to the drawstring ponytails. She had on small pearl earrings with no makeup, a black business pants suit with a tan blouse and flat black dress shoes. It looked like she was headed straight to or from an interview maybe even a funeral home. She had a pretty smile and a friendly face, and I was surprised to see a wedding ring on her hand. As average as she looked, it was there.
"Today I would like for us to have a group discussion on cognitive therapy; negative thinking vs. positive thinking, and the effects it can have on our lives and those around us. To begin, can someone explain to me what negative thinking is in your own words?" New York raised his hand to gain Mrs. Brown attention. "Go ahead, Mike."
“Real talk, negative thinking is when you have nothing good to say. It’s always I can’t do this, or you can’t do that. You settle for less in fear of failure. Some don’t try at all which is straight dumb in my opinion. You can’t seem to see the possibility of something good coming out of it, only the worst. Na'mean?” Mrs. Brown then gave a big smile and said, good Mike! Thank you for explaining this to us. “Does someone want to explain Positive Thinking to us?” Mrs. Brown looked around the room, and no one raised their hand or looked like they wanted even to participate. Mostly everyone was doped up on medication. Some were even stretched out along the couches drooling all over them. Mrs. Brown eyes then stopped on Lil Red who was sitting next to me curled up in a blanket. "Excuse me, ma'am; you must be new here, I haven't seen you before. May I have your name please?" Mrs. Brown asked. Lil Red then shyly looked at me, and I could clearly read her mind, "Why is this woman calling on me? Save me, Queen!" I knew Lil Red was shy and soft-spoken, but there was no way I could bail her out of this one. I then smiled and nodded my head at Lil Red for her to go ahead and say something.
Lil Red then looked up at Mrs. Brown and softly said, "my name is Renee Black." "Miss. Black, would you kindly explain what positive thinking means to you?" Lil Red looked down at the floor and said softly, "Positive thinking is when you are optimistic about things. You look at the bright side of situations and hope for a good outcome." Lil Red then slowly lifted her eyes from the floor and directed them towards me. Her eyes were wide, and I could tell she didn't want to be put on the spot anymore. "Very good Miss. Black. Thank you for giving us your explanation of what positive thinking is" Mrs. Brown said. Mrs. Brown began to walk slowly back and forth in front of the room where she was standing. "Negative thinking and positive thinking play a critical role when it comes to how we feel about ourselves, and it can even have an impact on how we can make others feel. A lot of the issues that we are dealing with in this room are a result of negative thinking. Depression, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, and so forth can stem all the way back to a negative thought, that created another negative thought, into another. Negative thinking is not self-taught. Negativity starts externally, and it can become internal if our own thinking feeds the negative thought. Thoughts feed off of thoughts. Thoughts can start as tiny as a seed, but it can develop into a full forest if you allow it to run wild. Some of you suffer from depression. Depression is not something that can go away overnight for most people. Our mind is a powerful tool, and if we allow it to entertain negative thoughts, it will keep us in depression or put us back into depression. Negative thinking can lead to drug addiction and also alcoholism. For example, say for instance you are a perfectionist! Everything you do has to be perfect. You live in fear of failure, and you are afraid to allow other people to see you fail. So you overwork yourself and cause yourself to eventually become overwhelmed leading to stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. You try to numb yourself with a drug or alcohol to help aid the stress and pressure you feel, but that makes matters worse causing you to go into a further downward spiral. This thinking, you had to be perfect, possibly resulted from being told you might not ever be anything in life. Maybe you felt you were treated less than your siblings, so you had to work harder to be treated fairly by your parents. These issues we face are a result as to what goes on between these two ears of ours. Your thoughts can lead you to life, and they can lead you to death. Suicides can occur because of negative thinking. Something triggered the mind to go with a negative thinking perspective instead of a positive thinking perspective. It is so critical to protect your mind when situations and obstacles occur in your life that can cause us to back into our dark place. I like to call it the black hole. Does anyone know why I call it a Black Hole?" Mrs. Brown asked the room. I looked around, and most of everyone was half sleeping or daydreaming. I figured I participate because I knew she was going to call on me eventually since I was one of the few that wasn't comatose.
I raised my index finger so I could answer Mrs. Browns question. "Yes Queen, go ahead please," Mrs. Brown said with relief.
"The Blackhole is described as a region of space having such a strong gravitational field so intense that no matter, radiation, not even light can escape it. Everything goes in, but nothing usually comes out unless it is some sort of cosmic jet or something. Anyways, I can kind of relate to being in a black hole myself because when I'm in my depressive state, I shut off from everybody. I isolate myself in my dark room. With depression, it tries to destroy anything with positivity or anything that brings light to a negative situation. It destroys happiness, love joy, peace. Just like a black hole, you can be surrounded by light, but that light will have no impact on the black hole. It obliterates life. It's nothing but darkness, pain, sadness, rejection, and the feeling of being alone."
I looked down at my journal in my hand, and I realized that my journal tells stories of me being in a black hole looking for a way out, but I couldn't seem to find one. I was lost in this darkness with no escape. Lost in my fears, negative thinking of self, and negative thinking of all of the men in my life who have hurt me and abused me.
"Queen, that was spot on! Excellent I must say!" Mrs. Brown stated. I then looked up snatched away from my thoughts and said, "thank you." Mrs. Brown was still smiling at me as if she saw something that amazed her. It made me feel weird or put on the spot so I just looked back down at my journal in my hand. She suddenly drew her attention back to the group.
"As Queen so eloquently stated, being in those black hole moments of your life sucks out all of the joy and happiness life can bring you. You miss out on what good things life can offer you because you are focused on the negative things. So your life slips away, and before you know it, you have wasted years on something that happened so long ago that caused you to stay in this negative dark place. Going into these black holes can start at a very early age, sometimes as early as elementary school. For some of us, our parents might not have been perfect parents. They may have talked down to us in a negative way, belittled us, and maybe even rejected us. This is a painful experience that a child at such a young age should not have to face. A child should grow up in love and with a nurturing supportive environment, but that is not always the case. This can have an impact on how this child grows up into an adult and affect their relationships with their children and also spouses."
An older gentleman in the room who was in a wheelchair raised his hand to speak. He was an African American dark-skinned male in his late 60s with salt and pepper grey hair. He weighed possibly about 350 pounds and was well over 6 feet tall. He still had on the hospital gown that they must have given him before they brought him to this facility. "Yes, Mr. Stevens, go ahead," Mrs. Brown said.
"I can relate to what you just said. My parents treated me totally different from my other brothers and sisters.”
Mr. Stevens had a deep voice like Barry White. I enjoyed hearing him talk, but most of the time he was complaining about how the government doesn’t care about his black ass, and they have done nothing to help him when it comes to his health or income. I remember him stating he was in the military, but regret ever going because he was treated like he was nothing. He fussed about him having nothing to show for himself, and they're giving him the run around when it comes to his benefits. Everything he said about the government was negative. He stated they put billions of dollars into the military, but the veterans are treated like garbage. They use them, and they throw them away when they can no longer be of any use.
I felt terrible for him because it seems as if he was depressed and miserable. Either he was downing the government, or he was downing his kids because they only call him when they need money. No one has even come to visit him or answer his calls since he has been here.
Mr. Stevens continued talking to Mrs. Brown. “As you can see I'm a big black man. I've always been big my entire life ever since I was in diapers! I came out 10 lbs and nearly took my momma out of here I was told. My older brother is smaller than me, and my parents treated him better. All because he was thinner. I couldn't wear children's or junior’s clothing, so my dad had to take me to the big and tall store where it was more money. I would never forget the time my dad said: "if I stop eating so damn much he wouldn't have to come out of pocket to buy clothes to fit my big ass." He said if I get any bigger he just going cut holes in a king size sheet for me to wear, and call it a day. My dad is tall and black like me, but he was slim. He had been thin all his life like my older brother. My dad would sometimes look at me in disgust every time I would sit at the dinner table to eat. My mom would sometimes help me with my eating portions by taking two out of the three dinner rolls off my plate. Sometimes she would take the plate altogether and give me just a salad, while everyone else had roast beef and potatoes. I knew my mom loved me, but this didn't make me feel any better because it embarrassed me in front of my siblings and made me feel like I was a disgrace to them.
My mother was light skin and very beautiful. She had long jet-black hair that came down her back with emerald green eyes. I didn’t get any of my mother’s looks, just my dads. My older brother was the one to get her looks. I began to hate myself because I was black and also big. I couldn’t understand why my older brother could eat twice as much as I did and not gain any weight. He played basketball here and there but not as much that would cause him to be athletic or muscular. My brother would get all the girls, and I would get rejected because no one was attracted to me. So I just did what I do best, eat and watch TV. My dad got tired of seeing me sit on the couch not doing anything but getting bigger, so he called in a favor to get me into the military. I never wanted to go into the military, and I wasn’t in shape to go, but somehow he was able to get me in there since he retired from it. I was able to lose some weight in the military, but when I was able to get out, I just put it right back on. My father passed about ten years ago, and I didn’t even go to the funeral. I hated my dad because of how he treated me and how he made me feel. I didn’t see the point of going to a funeral of someone I hated and despised. I did go into the hospice where he was located because my mother begged me to come to see him and say my final goodbyes. When I went into the room, the first thing he said was, “I see you’re still fat aye?” How can a man on his deathbed be so cruel to his son I would never understand. So when you say being rejected and belittled is something that no child has to face I agree with you.
Sorry, I spoke so much, but I just had to share that in agreement with you.”
“No need to apologize, Mr. Stevens,” Mrs. Brown said, as she looked very concerned about the story he just shared with the group. I am sure many of us here today can relate to your story in one way or another. I am glad you can identify where the negativity began in your life. I want you to consider this if I may provide some advice to you. I know that you are here today because of depression and also struggling with alcohol, as you have shared in previous group sessions that we have had together. I want you to think about how the negativity you have endured as a child and even as an adult from your dad has played an impact on your present situation today. I believe that if we can deal with your past and provide ways on how to overcome it, it can have an impact and change your future for the better. If we never deal with the past, it will continue to haunt us and show up in our lives and those who are close to us. Even though your father has passed, the hurt he has caused has lingered on to you till this very day. There comes a time in our life where we have to forgive even when we don’t get an apology. This is one of the hardest things we have to do because most times all we want is an apology and to be accepted. We don’t know what history your father had because he is no longer here. He may have endured rejection from his father, which then passed down to you. So it may have started a generational cycle which I believe can stop with you if you allow it to. You have the power not to allow your father to have so much power over your life from here on out. You have to take back that power, and give the love to your children that you were not able to get from your dad. This way they can pass that love down to your grandchildren. This generational cycle of pain and rejection can be broken if you make the necessary changes in your thinking to allow it. Does that make sense?”
"Yes, it does. I know I still have not forgiven my father, and I know that is going to take some time to do. I don’t want to allow him to have the upper hand in my life because it should be God having power over my own life. I’m in my upper 60’s, and I have held on to this for so long. Before I leave here, I want to make things right with my self. When you talk about having a generational cycle and me needing to break that cycle, I’m not sure how to do that with my daughters. I have two daughters. One has a light skin mother, and the other has a dark-skinned mother. I typically don’t date dark skin women because they are crazy and it is something wrong with them. I ended up with my dark-skinned child from a one night stand I had with her mother. Don’t get me wrong I take care of all my children, but I can’t stand her mother nor any other dark skin woman I ever dealt with. I like lighter skin women because they give me less of a headache and I am more attracted to them. One day my dark-skinned daughter was walking home from school with her sister and some guy approach her sister and tried to talk with her and exchange numbers and so forth. The guy didn’t show any interest in my dark-skinned daughter, only the light one. My daughter came home and told me what happened and asked how come guys only approach her sister, and not her. They don’t find me pretty like my sister. I told her well some guys like light skinned women, just like some guys like dark skin women. You just haven’t met the right guy yet. She then said that this happens all the time when she is with her sister, and she wished she was light skinned like her. I tried to explain to her that men have different taste in women, but I am not sure how to handle this with my daughter. I don’t treat her poorly like my father did me, but I know where she is coming from because I was in the same situation. I don’t know how to break that cycle that my daughter is in because the truth is most black men are choosing lighter skin woman these days. You can look on TV with most black celebrity famous men. Basketball players, Football players, Actors, Music Artists you name it. Look at the women they marry. 90% of them are light skin or white. Even dark-skinned women or even brown skin women in the entertainment industry are bleaching their skin or using filters. The photographers use brighter lights in photos to show the models skin is lighter. I don’t want to lie to my daughter and say dark skin women are in nowadays and taking over when the truth is men of her same complexion are not choosing them overall. They may fuck them, excuse my language, but they are not trying to marry them or be committed to them. Men want a pretty light skin woman to show off on their arm nowadays. In my eyes, my dark-skinned daughter is pretty and love her just as much as I love my other daughter. I don’t want her to feel this way about herself, but I can’t change men from choosing my light skin daughter over her. They like what they like. I’m not sure what to do about this."
At this point, you could feel the tension in the room and the patients looking at each other like did this man say this? Does he believe this? The Roseanne looking lady was the first to speak out against what Mr. Stevens had to say.
“Are you serious? How can you as a father believe all dark-skinned women are crazy? So you are saying because your daughter is dark skin she is going to be crazy? It’s just the women you dealt with were possibly crazy, but it has nothing to do with the color of their skin. That is just ignorant.”
New York then said, “Yo, I don’t get you, son. What you just said got me mad tight. I like all women. Black, White, Brown, Asian, Latin. It doesn’t matter to me. I like dark women because when the sun hits their skin, it looks sexy as fuck. Especially their Asses! No disrespect to the women in here. I’m just saying; Real talk, I have met crazy women from each race, so what you saying is the furthest from the truth. How can your daughter look up to you as a father if you don’t like women who look like her? "
Mr. Stevens then said, "First of I'm not your son. I'm old enough to be your Pops boy. It's your preference if you like all women. I don’t! My daughter can certainly look up to me as a father. I feed her, clothe her, give her money, keep a roof over her head, take her shopping. I am even putting her through college. So she knows what a provider looks like because I have been taking care of her since she was a baby. Whatever she needs I get her! So fuck what you were talking about, how she can’t look up to me. It’s plenty of men out here not taking care of their kids, but I am. Not one of them wants for nothing. Me not dating dark-skinned women has nothing to do with my child not looking up to me and seeing me as a provider. At least she will know what to look for in a husband should she ever get married, and not pick no bum as nigga who ain't going to do shit for her but use her for what she got."
“Whatever nigga, you ignorant as fuck. That’s all I got to say. You sound just like your father. He didn’t like fat people, and you don’t like dark-skinned women. Same dumb ass ignorance!”
"Fuck you, I ain’t nothing like my father! What the fuck you know about me? You don’t know shit about me”, Mr. Stevens yelled towards New York. “You ain't nothing but a young punk ass nigga from New York who thinks he knows everything. Cocky son of a bitch! Think you cute, nigga you ain't cute El Debarge looking mutherfucker. If you think you got all the answers why the fuck you in here huh, tell me that!”
"Your old ass doesn’t need to worry about why the fuck I’m here; dead-ass you need to be worried about your daughter not becoming a hoeing ass nigga like your self! How bout that? You better shut the fuck up before I spaz out on your crippled ass. You must be buggin if you are thinking about stepping to me." New York started to sing a melody to Mr. Stevens, "All these hands are waiting for youuuuu, my nigga, my nigga.” The room then started to laugh.
Mrs. Brown finally stepped in said, “calm down everyone." Where the hell she been I thought to myself. Mrs. Brown continued trying to get control of the room; "I understand everyone has their own point of views and perspectives, but I still want each of us to show respect to one another. It is okay to express your opinion, but we are not going to continue this group discussion if we do not keep positivity and peace in this room. I will end it right here, and no one will receive credit for this group session. Speak your opinion and provide encouragement or advice, but do not disrespect each other. Do we understand?” The room agreed and remained silent.
As I sat there underneath all this tension in the room, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship I had with my father. I could relate to the rejection because I was dark skinned and also fat. I could relate to Mr. Stevens and the pain he went through with his father, but as a daughter, the words spoke about dark-skinned women being crazy, hurt me to the core. This was not true, but how can I say this is not true when I am currently in this nut house with a bunch of people who are deranged. Wasn’t it my craziness that got me here in the first place? I was constantly texting Richard, emailing him, looking at his Facebook and Instagram every day. Looking at his tour dates wondering when is the next time he is coming in town or performing nearby so I can go and see him. I was literally chasing this man and becoming captivated with his every move. Beyonce said it best; I was crazy in love with him. Do me being in love with someone make me crazy, or is it the negative actions a woman does to a man make her mad? Could it be both? I am confused about this at this point, but I knew I had to say something to Mr. Stevens for the sake of his daughter. I knew how his daughter felt about being rejected by men, and I wanted to provide some help for Mr. Stevens.
I looked at Mrs. Brown and raised my hand to grasp her attention from the heated room. Mrs. Brown then looked at me and said, “yes Queen?” I tried to brace myself and gain enough confidence for the words I was about to not only share with Mr. Stevens, but also the group as a whole.
I took a deep breath and said, “Mr. Stevens said he was not sure what to do about the situation with his daughter, and I wanted to know if I could shed some light and provide possibly some advice to him?” Mrs. Brown looked at Mr. Stevens and asked, “Will it be okay if Queen speaks to you about the situation with your daughter?” Mr. Stevens sat up and leaned forward and said sure, “I do not mind at all.” Mr. Stevens turn his head towards me waiting for me to speak. I scooted toward the edge of my seat and turned towards him and looked him in his dark brown and smoky grey eyes and spoke with sincerity.
"Mr. Stevens, you shared a lot on today, and I believe you did this because you truly want help for not only yourself but also your children. Earlier in your conversation, you stated, you hated yourself because you were black and also fat. I honestly believe this is the reason why you choose only to date light-skinned women. I believe you see what you hate the most about yourself on dark-skinned women, which is them being black. You are not attracted to how you look, so this will make you not attracted to those who look like you. I could probably guess all the light-skinned women you have dated are skinny, or slender as well. So you being with another fat person would be out of the question for you, because you hate that about yourself. You developed this hatred about yourself because of the negative thoughts your father put in your mind about being black and fat. So this hatred has passed down to you, and you are putting this hatred towards dark-skinned women. I don’t believe you hate dark-skinned women because they are crazy, I believe you hate them because they remind you of how you look, and that is something you do not want to see or accept about yourself. Craziness is a mental state; it has nothing to do with the pigment of one’s skin color. I don’t know if you will ever be able to change your thinking about how you look, but I pray you to do. It is a tough feeling to look in the mirror and not love what you see and who is looking back at you. I use to hate what I saw in the mirror as well just like you. As a dark-skinned woman sitting here while you are calling dark-skinned women crazy, I find offensive. Yes, I am dark-skinned, and I also still have fat on me even after losing close to 100 pounds. I still have a hard time loving what I see in the mirror believe it or not. I can imagine I remind you of your daughter sitting here. I want you to know Mr. Stevens that if you do not give the validation that your daughter needs and is reaching out for, your daughter may be sitting in the same seat I am in right now in the future.
My father was not in my life in those critical years when I was growing from a young girl to a teenager, to a young lady. That was a time in my life where I needed to hear I was beautiful, I was precious, I was his princess, I deserve the best, and not to settle for anything less than what I deserve. I needed to be held in my father’s arms and hear those words “I love you.” I needed my father to bring me flowers just because he wanted to show he loves me. I needed my father to take me on dates and treat me like I was the prettiest girl in the room, and no one else could compare to the beauty he saw in me. My dad was not there to see me off for my junior prom, and he was not there to see me off for my high school prom. I went to prom alone, and not feeling confident in myself because my father was not there to boost my self-esteem and tell me I can still be secure with myself without a man on my arm. My father was not there for father-daughter dances. He wasn’t there when the first boy I liked broke my heart, and I was in my room with my face buried in the pillow screaming and crying. He wasn’t there to tell me about sex and dating men. He wasn’t there to tell me to make sure he puts on a condom. He wasn’t there to tell me to wait on having sex because my virginity is precious and should be given to someone deserving.
Mr. Stevens, I didn’t know my value or worth, and I possibly don’t know it now because I am here because man after man has broken my heart. You don’t want your daughter in my shoes sitting here in a psychiatric ward I am sure. As you stated you are putting her through college, so I am sure you want the best for her. I know you are a provider for her, but your daughter doesn’t just need you to provide, she also needs you to show compassion and give her the attention she needs. She needs to hear from you that she is beautiful. She needs to know she is the jewel of your eye, the reason why you worked so hard to provide for her. She needs you to hold her in your arms tell her she is the prettiest girl in the world. She needs you to uplift her and tell her she is a princess and deserves to be treated like royalty. Give her compliments, take her on dates, hold her hand as you walk down the street in public. Make sure that she walks on the right side of you when you walk down the sidewalk away from cars. When she is disappointed, and feeling rejected that is the time to uplift her and not provide an excuse as to why a man is mistreating her or not seeing her as beautiful. You tell her if they can’t see that you are beautiful then the hell with them! They don’t deserve you anyway, and Gods got someone better for you! You tell her God makes no mistakes, and she certainly is not a mistake. She should feel good about herself, and the most important person to ensure she does that is you as her father. You are the first man that she has encountered in her life, and your actions and ways towards her could dictate to how she accepts being treated, and whom she decides to become involved with. Yes, I have a better relationship with my father now, but I am in my thirties, so a lot of damage has already been done that could have been avoided had he been there. You are still able to be there for your daughter. Use this time to bond with her so that she may have respect for herself, and able to be confident in who she is as a beautiful black Queen."
I scooted back in my chair looked at Mrs. Brown and said: "thank you, I'm done." Mrs. Brown said, "no thank you, Queen. I couldn’t have said it better myself." “Mr. Stevens, does that answer your question,” Mrs. Brown asked?
"Yes, it does, and thank you, Queen. As soon as I get out of here, I will do that. Thank you, and you are a beautiful black Queen if I do say so myself."
I blushed and looked backed down at my journal with my pen in my hand, as Mrs. Brown began to wrap up our group session, so we can get ready to have recreational time. Whatever that was.