Thursday, January 8, 2009

Practices of Self and Self-Care

In reflecting on the present state of our economic condition (personal and national), as well as the increasing rate of crime and other societal ills, it has grown tempting to focus on all that is wrong with us (personally, socially, nationally, and politically). Focusing on what is wrong, and what we do not have can place us in an emotional, psychological, and physical “rut” if we are not very careful.

I am reminded of Edward P. Wimberly’s book, African American Pastoral Care and Counseling: The Politics of Oppression and Empowerment (2006). Wimberly discusses “practices of self”, which he defines as altering oppressive and self destructive identities and thoughts. I applied this principle to my life by focusing on what I do have as opposed to what I do not have. What I do have is what I need as opposed to all the things I want. I do have the ability to make my modest house a home by the way I treat myself and my housemates. I may not be able to afford all of the luxuries I would like, but I do have the ability to share love, understanding, concern, and time.

Wimberly mentions the need to reshape our lives, and to create new opportunities. Each individual has to apply this principle in a manner that complements their environment. For the person who values individualism, this may be simple. For those like me, who value collectivism, it is imperative that we keep balance on our scales. As we give to others in our environment, we must take as well. And, those who value a linear-hierarchical sub culture must embrace their role within the society (if one decides not to change the environment), and not assume unnecessary responsibilities.

In order to realize these opportunities, we might consider adopting Wimberly’s concept of self-care. That means that we should seek out emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe environments where we can be nurtured. We should avoid negative environments that remind us of what we lack, and replace those negative individuals and situations with others that edify us and challenge us to better ourselves, our families, and our communities.

It is always easier said than done. However, we are more likely to take better care or ourselves and one another if we take a little time to center ourselves and incorporate principles such as self-practices and self-care into our daily lives.

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