We as South African’s have a long-winded relationship with Psychology and Mental Health. When looking at the most psychologically influential movements of our time, it is noteworthy to know that Mr Hendrik Verwoerd – The very architect of the Apartheid System – was not only a Psychology and Philosophy graduate, having attained a doctorate in Philosophy, he also returned to his home country (Amsterdam) in 1928 to lecture at his old university, where he was appointed as the chair of Applied Psychology and six years later also became Professor of Sociology and Social Work. So essentially we’re speaking about someone who was highly educated on human behaviour, who figured out a way to rewire the minds of the masses to serve his racist agenda.
26 Years after the official end of Apartheid, we see its psychological effects still manifest. For many, the field of Psychology is shrouded in mysticism and fear. Some people think Psychologists “read minds”. Others think Psychologists “hypnotise people”. While the former can be referred to as telepathy and the later can be taken in a course study, you’ll be happy to know that that is not what psychologists do. Psychology is simply the study of the Human Psyche. What is the Psyche you may ask?
“In psychology, the psyche /’saiki/ is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Carl Jung also included in this definition the overlap and tension between the personal and the collective elements in man. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche.” (Wikipedia)
Due to Dr Verwoerd and his colleague’s extensive knowledge of the human mind and how it works, these people through cruel intentions took this knowledge and used it for bad. Through negative programming and conditioning, the Apartheid system succeeded in re-shaping the minds of the majority of people of colour to be limited, based on a false notion of inferiority and incapability. Even going as far as paying scientists to create pseudo-theories in support their damaging notions. While many have and are waking up, it is unfortunate that many still live out much of the Apartheid government’s plan without even knowing it.
For those who have read the award-winning novel Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, you will understand that in order to break a person’s sense of self, there is a process of devaluation the person must be exposed to, including an attack on their ways of life and beliefs. Currently we are experiences a surge in people returning to many “old” beliefs and ways of life. We see an increase in people wanting to eat organic, now learning the damaging effects of foods with GMO’s, preservatives and sugar; We see a return to the use of herbal medicine, learning about the unsafe long term effects of certain bio-medical drugs and lastly we see an increase in more and more young educated people moving out of the cities back to the countryside or rural land, as we discover the illness inducing effects of so much of our urban societal norms – which fail to serve the wellness and growth needs required by individuals and families alike.
In order to address the healing process, we need to understand that most of the symptoms of illness we see today such as Gender Based Violence (GBV), Violence in Society, Theft, Drug Abuse and other Crimes are linked to a lack of strong supportive family structure and conscious forms of parenting. It is vital that we are aware that it was the Apartheid System’s plan to destroy the Black family and thus the individual’s sense of self. Through Migrant labour systems and rapid urbanization following the formation of cities, homes were broken and the value system moved from cattle and land to money. A commodity mainly attainable in cities. In addition to this, the former system also succeeded in creating a high sense of suspicion and fear amongst people of colour, often leading to what is termed “Black on Black Violence”. Which psychologically speaking, is an outward manifestation of self-hate.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa and as we have more time to reflect and pause during lockdown, I would like to raise these points with you, in hope that you begin to go within and address that which needs healing. Because we all, in some way or the other have trauma to address and heal from. At this point, the mere mention of “needing help” usually emits the most resistance from males whose internal voice would say “I don’t need anyone’s help”. Due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, it is our male children of yesteryear who face the most symptoms of repression (Please see the bottom of this article for definitions of common Psychological terms), and who do not know how to speak the language of emotion, as their parents, without knowing better often called men who were in touch with their emotions “gay” or “weak”. Sadly, this sort of conditioning has left men without ever learning how to express their emotions in a healthy way, and thus we see more men turn toward violence, as a toxic outlet for expression.
As I bring this article to a close, I would like to suggest the following practices as a means to self-healing:
1. Be kind to yourself. Remove the negative programming of those whose unconscious words left you damaged. Delete phrases like “you’re stupid” or “you’re not good enough” from your psyche and replace them with positive, re-affirming affirmations like “I am worthy”, “I am enough” and “I am capable”
2. Understand that your value as a human being is not attached to any material object or acquisition. Material wealth is simply an outward manifestation of the wealth within you. It is dangerous to place your sense of worth in the esteem of objects, as these are temporary and can be taken/replaced/broken, while your sense of self and Ubuntu is ingrained
3. Practice kindness. Remember, we cannot expect to receive what we do not give. Neither to ourselves nor others
4. Be genuine and honest. Remember expressing your feelings honestly is not for the benefit of others primarily, but for the peace of mind that comes with living and expressing your truth
5. Be patient with yourself. As we begin to reprogram toward self-empowerment and value, this will take time
6. Learn to take accountability for your own actions and do not blame others for the outcomes of your actions or lack of action
7. Practice quietening the mind. An undisciplined mind can wreak havoc. Overthinking causes stress and anxiety. So practice silencing the mind of any unnecessary chatter and ‘noise’ through mediation or quiet time
8. Develop exercise routines to improve your mental health. It is proven that exercise increases your happy hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, which assist is fighting illness and depression
9. Keep a journal to write your feelings down, if you don’t have someone to confide in
10. Remember the people we attract in our lives are mirrors for us to see the very things that we need to deal and heal from within ourselves
5 Common Psychological Terms
1. Repression – the hiding of emotions from your conscious mind as a defence mechanism (a way of coping)
2. PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. The effects of a stressful or traumatic event that you have not dealt with and healed, playing itself out in your behaviour
3. Escapism – Usually this is done through substance abuse, as a way to not face and deal with the issue in need of healing
4. False Beliefs – beliefs that have been interpreted as ‘true’ (although they are false) through the act of repeated incorrect interpretation/perception
5. Reprogramming – the act of consciously and actively changing your beliefs and thoughts from those of destructive to productive. From negative to positive
For Mental Health Emergencies contact
-Cipla 24 Hour Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789. WhatsApp: 076 88 22 77 5
-Dr Reddy’s Help Line 0800 21 22 23
-Pharmadynamics Police &Trauma Line 0800 20 50 26
-Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline 0800 12 13 14 SMS 32312
-Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567
Thank you for taking your time to read this. And remember, your mental health and wellness is your responsibility. May you be well.
Written by Ash-Leigh “Lex” LaFoy (BSocSci Psych. Phil)