Asha Tarry (Interview)

Illustration by Sam Liacos.

Life Coach and Mental Health Therapist on vulnerability and how the Black community can process repetitive trauma.

What are some issues in regards to love that you’ve seen come up? 
I have often seen people love with conditions, loving people up to the time that they’re angry and then using hurtful language to control them or defeat them. Love, which is part of attachment, is what begets our earliest childhood experiences, and from there we exhibit love from a place of looking for it to come a certain way. However, everyone comes to love with their own experiences and ideas about it also. Love is created and grows with help from others.

How can we take better care of our emotional wellness during these times? 
I believe we should think of these times as a start to examining what worked and didn’t work before this time. We don’t necessarily need to give up everything we once knew because some of those things we once did may have already worked. I believe that we could look at what we are able to feel appreciative of now that we want to continue. That helps us manage our stress better–living present to what is happening during this time. Maybe that’s sleeping more, resting more, laughing more, turning off the news more. Maybe that’s adapting to being home and learning to enjoy our place of rest if we’re fortunate enough to have that. Social-emotional health is also something we could get closer to, such as learning how to feel through the changes we may experience without using an escape like work or work and errands to avoid. This is probably the first time in history that mental health care is available to more people than ever. Maybe this would be a great time to work on one’s emotional wellbeing.       

How do you advise specifically Black people to cope and process–especially during a time of quarantine? 
If Black people continue to examine their trauma by doing things like slowing down, spending less time having to be in hostile places, such as some work spaces and other places where we don’t feel welcome, than maybe we can begin to notice how traumatized we’ve been, as well as how long we’ve been tolerating things that hurt us. These current protests are a result of centuries of repressed pain coming out; not every Black person may need to be actively involved on the streets, but possibly could write about it or journal about it as a way of recording history later.

Black people can also learn more ways to dismantle certain things we’ve learned in school and begin doing more self-work and self-learning about history especially as we have more time to pace ourselves. When people remain steadfast in self-discovery, they tend to have higher self-esteem and more regard for people like them. Black people have and still do invest in businesses and entities that benefit us and support our economic sustainability, but we need much more of that, more consistently as we had during the Harlem Renaissance and Black Wall St. times.          

How can Black people deal with reliving repetitive trauma? 
Black people can continue to study and use language that relates to our pain so we know what to call it when we see microagression, bigotry, classism, and sexism as well as patriarchy and racism. We must continue to validate one another’s experiences that are devastating and continue to advocate for our basic human rights. Black people have to also tell their white friends to do the work of being anti-racist, but without guiding white people to it. We have to quit cross-saviorism.

How do you remain vulnerable during such uncertain times? 
Vulnerability is difficult when things are uncertain. People tend to need to feel safe, and vulnerability is very unsafe for many people, especially when people are sick, unemployed, underemployed and scared, or worse, dying. I suggest people be right where they are mentally and emotionally, but not in a way that’s debilitating. Instead, be in the present moment with how they feel, then move into what they can become more active in to feel consolidated if they feel lost or disconnected from themselves.

I think a lot of us during isolation have gained new perspectives, which has led us to consider letting go or distancing ourselves from others. How do you know when it’s time to let go of someone? What are the steps you recommend if doing so?
I am not sure we can use one litmus test for all. This time is precarious. For some, yes, maybe there are people, places, and things to give up that we are coming to realize and/or accept. But, I would inquire from within oneself first to ask how long have they felt whatever unpleasant feelings they may have had and in what ways have they addressed those feelings before? I’m basing this on the premise that this excludes harmful or what we often call toxic people from our lives.

On the alternate side, if we are using these times to determine how much people care about us then we may need to re-evaluate that when we come out of this, just to know whether this is coming from a place of dysregulated feelings and inconsistent thoughts or something else. We need to give it time in certain cases.

How do you find a balance between “when are we going back to normal” to “what’s the new normal?” 
Well, maybe we can remember what we liked or preferred about the past for a little while, but I wouldn’t get stuck there. Most of what we’re calling normal are the ways and places we worked to how close we interacted, but sadly people have and will die, that’s a part of life, even when it’s tragic. People may still have work and relationships that they want to maintain, so possibly we can see the good things about these times. This is the first time in most people’s lives that they’ve ever been home this long or with their loved ones this much. Is that something we can be grateful for or something then we can change, which points back to your earlier question.

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