When there is psychological trouble, look for the healers.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
A question. Who is a:
“Boss, Stylist, Confidant,
Healer, Influencer, Cutaholic,
Artisan, Creator, Diplomat,
Fademaster, Strategist, Mentor,
Motivator, Groomer, Sheer Master,
Activist, Gatekeeper, Platform Artist,
Protector, Education Director, Servant,
Artistic Director, Comedian, Storyteller, Investor,
Philanthropist, Wise Warrior, Entrepreneur”?
It is the Black barber of the barbershops! Now, I have been in most Black institutions: jazz clubs, Churches, clothes stores, houses, and the like, but never in a Black barbershop.
I was reminded and enlightened about that when my wife and I had the opportunity to see the new opera titled “The Factotum” in Chicago as part of the Lyric Opera series. Not only was it the rare creatively and productively Black-based opera, but the audience was also a rare mix of Black and white, young and old. The quoted description of the Black barber was projected on the wall of the lobby. Although the rest of the run is sold out, it is worth googling whatever you can find about it, and seeing it if it comes to play near where you live.
Factotum comes from the Latin (fac: to do, to make, and totum: everything). It is a story—like a folk opera or fable per my wife—of a Cain and Abel tale of 2 different brothers in conflict, one who wants to continue the father’s tradition of a hard-working and honest trade, while the other makes money more quickly with a risky after-hours numbers game. Also attached is a style shop for Black women. There is a happy ending thanks to an individual and her therapeutic intervention, as well as the support of the barbershop community. This opera has the very development and depiction of increased resilience.
Sure, the grooming and the sense of looking better helps, especially when the broader society had other grooming ideals, but there has been so much more to the benefits. The Black barbershop historically has been a relatively psychologically and physically safe place where most everything important in life for the men is discussed. That gives it an important place in Black History Month.
Though the opera started to develop in 2018, it is as if it was yesterday in terms of police brutality. There is a victim, a young Black woman ready to go to college with the support of the gambling brother who, like Maya Angelou in her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, goes from traumatic muteness to words of healing.
We in psychiatry must be supplemented in society by such natural healers as barbers. My wife is one, an individual who has the ability to bring psychological sunshine to others. Such natural therapists can also be found in places where women get their hair and nails done. A certain ambience and relaxation seems to help, though such natural therapists can be found to some extent in most any social organization.
As the saying goes, when there is psychological trouble, look for the healers.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.