The Four Bodies: A Holistic Toolkit for Coping With Racial Trauma
As a society, we often talk about racism, but rarely ever do we talk about how it affects the health of our people. I call racism “the multifaceted abuser” because it has emotional, physical, mental and spiritual effects on our community. Research shows that racism can lead to anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, chronic stress, chronic fatigue, bodily inflammation, internalized racism and symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder. This is called racial trauma.
In the world of psychology, there is no way to assess, diagnose or treat racial trauma. Definitions of trauma are based on eurocentric experiences, and so it makes sense that racism is not recognized as a form of abuse. Black people have been dehumanized for centuries. When you are able to strip an entire community of it’s human qualities, it becomes that much easier to neglect the fact that the community experiences pain. In truth, our experiences are real, our trauma is real, and the healing we deserve is real.
I often think about what it would look like to create and activate a holistic strategy that enables our people to rest, rehabilitate and rebuild. I believe that one way to realize this strategy is to work with our Four Bodies. Our ancestors knew that our health was more than just about the physical, that our bodies are made up of four distinct parts: the mental body, the emotional body, the physical body and the spiritual body. Trauma can be stored in these different parts of our being, and so by working with our four bodies, we remind ourselves of our full humanity. Below is what a holistic approach to coping with racial trauma can look like:
The Mental Body: Easing Our Minds After a Racially Traumatic Incident
The mental body is where we house our thoughts, beliefs, opinions and our sense of value. After experiencing racial trauma, it is possible to be anxious, stressed, and frantic. In order to create space for healing in the mental body we can:
- Unplug. Take some time away from viral videos and media. Vicarious trauma can create more anxiety and stress.
- Pause: Take time off from work or school if you can. This will help reduce the mental load you have to deal with during the day.