Kenya Crawford (Interview)

Art by Sam Liacos.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor on friendship breakups, emotional wellness, and vulnerability.


Let’s first talk about topics explored on HBO’s Insecure…What makes friendship breakups harder than romantic relationships? Why do you think friendship breakups are not explored or discussed as much as the other breakup?
Many people struggle with friendship breakups because they are infrequently explored in the media. This leads to people being unsure how to process the break up. Yet, when it comes to romantic relationships you see break ups portrayed by the media so much that people have a better understanding of what to do to process their emotions. 

When we look like all relationships from a developmental lens, friendships are the relationships that people tend to have the most experience with. You may have made your first friend as early as kindergarten. When it comes to romantic relationships, these are typically relationships that form in young adulthood so there’s less experience. 

When are you willing to let go of a love that was not serving you?

Kenya Crawford

When do you know it’s time to let go of someone you love?
Whew. This is a difficult question because when it comes to love and regulating that emotion there is not a fail safe equation. Instead I like to ask my question, when are you willing to let go of a love that was not serving you?

The change in Issa and Molly’s friend dynamic is interesting. They’re both bringing up the other’s old self, which in turn makes them not even want to share. They’re judging based off who they used to be or don’t want to be. What’s your take on people judging you based on who you used to be?
This dynamic between Molly and Issa is not new by any means. What they are portraying is what can happen when both or one person is on their journey of healing which frequently includes change. Many friendships tend to struggle during this change phase, especially if there hasn’t been an established value around growth and change within the friendship. Molly and Issa are both struggling to see past who they used to be and accept who they are today. 

When is it healthy to let an ex back on your life?
Whenever clients ask me this question my first question is exploring the intention around bringing the ex back in their life. Very frequently it’s out of co-dependence or unresolved feelings. During breakups, you may experience the most amount of emotional pain you have ever felt in your life. Sometimes my clients get to a point where they are willing to do anything to stop this pain and that includes trying to bring their ex back into your life. 

Now I’m not saying that exes cannot and can never be friends. What I am saying is that it’s imperative to be honest with yourself about your intention prior to doing so. 

As far as emotional wellness, how can we take better care of ourselves during these times?
Emotional wellness during this quarantine and in response [to] the ruthless killings of Black people may feel unattainable right now. What I continuously share with my clients is that emotional wellness does not mean you aren’t emotionally impacted by what’s going on in the world. Emotional wellness is using the tools to manage your emotions as they come up. For example, I have challenged many of my clients to limit their social media intake and replace social media with something that brings you joy or something that affirms your Blackness. 

There’s been recent, back-to-back devastating, publicized incidents of Black lives being taken and threatened. How do you advise specifically Black people to cope and process, especially during a time of isolation?
This is exactly why I am delayed in these responses. Yesterday all of my clients were processing racial trauma and as a Black woman I needed to take a moment to take some of my own advice and rest. So first and foremost, I challenge them to rest because the exhaustion that percolates after countless deaths of Black bodies can be debilitating. 

When it comes to processing racial trauma I tend to validate the feelings of helpless, exhaustion, sadness, and of course their anger. Giving my clients this space to share these feelings decreases the likelihood of them internalizing the messages spewed by white supremacy. 

Fulfilling relationships with depth need vulnerability to sustain. 

Kenya Crawford

How do you remain vulnerable during such uncertain times?
Vulnerability is one of the biggest challenges that I see within my clients. Yet this is coupled with a desire and sometimes even a desperation for connection. What we know is that fulfilling relationships with depth need vulnerability to sustain. So instead of pressuring my clients to be vulnerable I ask them what they are willing to do to meet their goals of creating connections. If they aren’t in the space to be vulnerable, the work now becomes finding spaces whether it’s friendships or communities that they could feel safe enough to be vulnerable. 

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