Last year was a difficult one for this country. From mass shootings, fires, homelessness, and being publicly attacked by POTUS himself, this was a rough year.
Through my work as a school psychologist and as a mental health therapist, it has become more and more apparent that the Bay Area at large is suffering from hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, withdrawal and loss of focus.
These are symptoms of depression and anxiety that haves led to an overall decline in moral and social functioning in our region. These issues are not new to places like Oakland, Richmond, the Tenderloin, and Hayward.
But places like Concord, Castro Valley and El Sobrante also show signs of mental health issues, homelessness and drug addiction. In many of my sessions this past year, I could feel the despair of the community at large. Those suffering from the most symptoms also appeared to be spiritually lost or even at odds with their higher power, sometimes questioning the purpose of their existence.
Many people are experiencing mental and spiritual warfare within their own minds and belief systems, which have diminished the outlook on their quality of life. Mental and sSpiritual harmony is the key to moving past these psychological barriers. The problem is that there is a major disconnect with spirituality and mental health. People are miserable with no hope in sight.
This is why we turn toward Black Psychology principles like Sankofa and the metaphor being expressed by the Great Sphinx of Giza statue in Egypt to resolve these modern issues.
Dr. Na’im Akbar, a past president of the ABPsi, noted that the Sphinx, the head of a man carved onto the body of a lion, represented the psychic journey of rising above the lower, animalistic tendencies to be ruled by the higher principles of the mind, allowing a clearer human mind to guide decisions and thoughts.
Sankofa is a term that roughly translates to ‘going back to get it.’ Another Black psychologist, Dr. Wade Nobles, co-founder and past president of the ABPsi, notes more fully that Sankofa means to “go back and fetch the essence of being in order to go forward” and intentionally create (retrieve) a plan and purpose for success.
The “it” is the knowledge that was already given through psychological and spiritual systems developed sometimes thousands of years ago.
In modern times, most of us are caught up in the rat race for basic survival (lower nature) and have limited capacity to connect with others or those who are suffering in order to produce a healing community (higher nature). This internal conflict is a spiritual one because of the resistance to acknowledge that there is a higher consciousness to evolve to. This higher consciousness leads to healthier thinking and decision-making, which improves mood and outlook on life.
Growing up in the Bay Area, I remember San Francisco was imaged as being a place of peace and love; Berkeley was home base for political activism; and Oakland wasbeing a place of Black Power and cultural and spiritual expression. These have been traditional cornerstones of the identity of the Bay Area.
As the cost of living skyrocketed this past decade, I think the focus on making ends meet has led to higher levels of stress and a less personal way of being. It is not a surprise then that, as a community, the Bay Area seems morally off balance.
It does not help that many churches, temples, and mosques have closed or have become dying, members’s-only social clubs.
To further complicate the matter, there is still a stigma for many of the diverse populations in Bay Area regarding accessing mental health services. Nevertheless, people are getting guidance from somewhere but it may not always be psychologically or spiritually sound.
I am challenging people to be intentional about making decisions related to day-to-day and long-term goals that are true to one’s core values and produces the least internal strife. Too many of us are living with regrets because we are making unhealthy choices in already bad circumstances. We have to dig deeper than our current situation to find solutions to issues that sit right in our soul.
This is what it means to do Sankofa and to reflect the law of the Sphinx. This alignment of mind, body, and spirit will allow for clearer vision for 2020 and beyond. As a proud Bay Area native, I believe we can access the rich characteristics that once made our region the most technologically modern and socially aware place in the world.
It’s time to rebuild communities by forging new relationships. This can only happen when we share solutions to our problems. It starts by knowing yourself and tapping into what gives you spiritual peace. Then remember the ways of your elders and ancestors that helped people deal with the day- to- day issues of society. Then we will overcome our lower nature functions and truly allow our human consciousness to elevate. As each one elevates, so does the community.
The Association of Black Psychologists, Bay Area Chapter (ABPsi-Bay Area) is committed to providing the Post Newspaper readership with monthly discussions about critical issues in Black Mental Health. The ABPsi-Bay Area is a healing resource. We can be contacted at (email@example.com) and readers are welcome to join with us at our monthly chapter meeting, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.