therapy Christopher Jackson

Taking the Mystery & Fear Out of Therapy

What is Therapy?

There’s still a lot of stigma and confusion surrounding mental health care. If you are apprehensive about therapy, you are not alone. Men, particularly men of color and Black men, have traditionally been taught to be strong, or that showing your emotions makes you weak (read more on “Why Emotional Vulnerability is a Sign of Strength”). Or you may be thinking that therapy is about telling you there’s something wrong with you and you need to change. But it’s neither of those things. Therapy is just a conversation.

Why I Believe (and Know) Therapy Works

When I was young, I was angry, impulsive, and aggressive, but I never saw these as problems getting in the way of achieving my relationships and goals. Then someone I knew recommended therapy to me. Honestly, at first I wasn’t sure about it. I didn’t think that therapy would be useful or help me in any way – after all, I wasn’t “crazy”. I was hesitant, didn’t know what to expect, and felt guilt and shame around my behaviors and feelings. It didn’t feel good to have someone recommend therapy for me.

You may be asking yourself, “why should I open up to a complete stranger?” Therapists are there for you. Not for your friends or family. Not for the person who recommended therapy to you. Their sole purpose is to help you feel better and achieve YOUR goals, whatever they may be. My therapist had a way of focusing in so I could learn more about myself, nothing that anyone else could do for me. After starting therapy I found that talking to my therapist was like talking to a friend. He would share his backstory and experiences with me, so I didn’t feel so alone in what I was going through. My anger and behaviors weren’t unusual. Eventually I started to see that therapy was all about making me feel comfortable and safe. I could talk about anything and feel like I was being heard, not being judged, and not alone. I wasn’t made to feel bad or guilty about the way I was feeling or acting. Personally, I never would have stuck with it if therapy didn’t feel like a comfortable conversation with someone I could trust.


Culture Reasons for Shutting Down Emotions

As I became more comfortable with my therapist and therapy in general, I was able to see how my family upbringing and culture led me to feel and act the way I did. I made decisions based on what my family did, but ones that didn’t serve my mental health. Anger, shoving down emotions, and avoidance all helped my dad and grandfather deal with their tough lives. But I learned that their way of dealing with things didn’t help me at all.

My dad was Black and grew up during segregation. He lived through racism and poverty, so to survive he had to be tough, strong, always positive no matter how much emotional pain he was in, and push, push, push just to make a living. He used his anger as an engine to push him and succeed at owning his own business, while also using substance use to cope. His way of living helped him achieve his goals, and without him knowing it he taught me to be the same way through the example he set.

My grandfather was an Armenian who was raised in an orphanage in Cyprus and later lived as an adult in communist Armenia. He worked hard to make a living when he moved to the United States with his family and through it all he had to take his frustration about life and push it deep down just so he could survive and succeed in this country.

Understanding our history – the history of our ancestors – helps us understand a big part of why we are the way we are now. With that understanding we can let go of those things that no longer serve us. Anger, substance abuse, and avoidance helped me cope with high school and my experiences witnessing domestic violence and substance abuse at home. Those things that were passed onto me by my ancestors served me during that time. While in therapy I learned that they caused myself and my relationships more harm in the long run than good.

Therapy helps you to understand how your current way of being may be connected to your past. Our family and culture deeply impacts the way we view the world around us and how we respond to it – it’s difficult to change ourselves so that we don’t repeat what we’ve learned throughout our lives, but it is possible. Realizing that therapy could be beneficial is not an easy thing because we’re so used to doing what we are doing, so if others see that you’re dealing with life in unhealthy ways, listen to them. Ask yourself, “how is this way of being helping me?” If it’s not helping, or if it’s causing you and your relationships harm, it might be time to get professional support. Therapists can help you see inside of yourself so you can figure out what is best for you.


You are Not Alone

If you are a person of color, Black, or biracial – I understand how difficult it is to deal with all of life’s challenges. I understand what it means to be a Black man in America. I understand the cultural and historical trauma that we carry with us in our day to day lives. I understand what it means to not feel accepted when you are biracial – having one foot in each community, but never feeling like you fully belong.

It’s OK to have been angry and aggressive. Give yourself permission to say that “in this moment, I am as I’m supposed to be.” Give yourself permission to say, “what I did in the past is past, and now I can make a decision to do things differently.” No self-judgment. No shame.

My own experiences with therapy helped me to break chains that were connecting me to some of the unhelpful things from my past, while also teaching me new ways of being. When I help you as your therapist, I want you to feel comfortable. You can talk about things with me that you may not feel comfortable talking about with your friends or family. Over time at your pace, I can help you build insight, and when you’re ready to make changes, we can work on that together. I’m here for you to help you figure this all out.

Let’s talk and see if we’re a good fit – contact me online or by calling (310) 853-3747.

Posted by Christopher Jackson