I vividly recall my session. It was day 3 after I found my new counselor. The person I had looked for when I began calling a list of individual & family therapists who would meet my standards was exciting, overwhelming, scary, promising, yet fearful.
She knew I’d be a handful when I initially called her, outlining exactly what I needed for my emotional-mental therapy! “Are you African American; are you older than 50 and are you credentialed in family therapy?” were the questions asked of her. “Yes, I am, but why?” I continued to explain that my personal issues directly stem from systemic patterns in the black community that negatively impacts relationships I have with loved ones, inadvertently affecting friendships.
I had reached a point of lethargy! The intersection of what to do + where to go was too confusing for me to navigate. After all these years I had finally run out of tools and resources on this solo ride to self-healing. A plateau. I needed professional, clinical intervention but not at the hands of a novice.
She needed to know the depth of my hurt and wounds without being coached. I had to have someone who could not only relate, but look me eye-to-eye and break through my guarded heart and passive-agressive assertions to see my bullshit. This professional had to also be a ‘she’ because I know that effective empathy + combined wit + careful delivery would give me a safe space to talk. This was vitally important because I am particularly known to shut off emotions and recoil when I feel attacked – a place where only my dad understands.
“At the time, it seemed clear to me that any between-sex differences in thinking abilities were due to socialization practices, artifacts and mistakes in the research, and bias and prejudice. … After reviewing a pile of journal articles that stood several feet high and numerous books and book chapters that dwarfed the stack of journal articles … I changed my mind.” – Diane Halpern, PhD
Dr. King is and has been my safe haven. Her teachings, techniques, discernment, communication style, presence, aura, spirit, strategies, methodology and various specialities have traveled a 35+ year journey from the academia, turned clinical sector with awe-inspiring accolades. When she told me that I needed to hear the BUT behind every explanation I knew there was an incredible breakthrough on my end. Not only did I hear her explain the importance of why, I also understand how effective communication is discounted when we are unable to remove our BUT from conversations!
About a month ago Dr. King said to me, and I paraphrase: “Felita, listening to the BUT when a person is explaining themselves will allow you to visualize, listen, have access to, witness and perceive their mindset about a subject issue, which will give you both an opportunity to clear up and potentially resolve any misunderstandings you would never know otherwise.” This was the best advice I had received in a while, as it reminds me of instruction I received years ago about my writing, which is ‘the best way to notice your errors in writing is to read your sentences backwards because the pace is slower in the backwards direction.’
Today, removing the BUT allows me to sit in the present; to hear and stand witness to a person’s heart amidst their explanation of what they believe they’ve heard about our conversation that may be confusing to them. I remember removing my teenager’s rights to use her bathroom until she was tidy enough to maintain her own, and while she began to explain her point of view – I interrupted her at “BUT, mommy” — I later learned that she needed to know more about the why. We concluded that our definitions of tidy differed, and my inferences were confusing instead of helpful.
Thank you Dr. King for inspiring and teaching me to become a better me! The words that follow ‘BUT’ will be heard before I speak further; I will also commit with a thoughtful mindset. I promise to remain conscious of my ‘BUT’ so that others may also heal because words unheard are feelings unexplained. The takeaway – communication should be fluid, unambiguous, simple, sincere, gentle, kind and delivered with empathy. I get it — we all fall short, however, speaking in our present state will allow us to exercise care and attention for a created platform that is safe for all to share a seat at the table.