Helping young men see and practice different forms of strength can provide a critical support to their healing process.
It takes a great deal of strength to address the trauma survivors live with every day. When working with young men of color, practitioners must not only address their wounds; they must also acknowledge the strengths they exhibit and bring to bear in the healing process. Reaffirming people’s coping strategies instead of solely recognizing areas of struggle can have a profound effect.
While some negative behaviors, particularly self-destructive ones, cannot be encouraged or ignored, we must recognize that these actions can be a person’s way of fighting back, surviving, and overcoming the harm. If the root cause of the behavior—the trauma—is acknowledged and properly addressed, the strength of that behavior can then be recognized, harnessed, and redirected into more productive avenues.
In a culture in which men are supposed to be “strong,” using strength-based language can be particularly important. For example, it can make a real difference to refer to people as survivors rather than victims. A comprehensive strength-based approach must also include helping young men redefine their ideas of masculinity to include emotions, expressiveness, and vulnerability. Helping young men see and practice different forms of strength (including effective self-protection and the ability to face and talk about hurt head on) can provide a critical support to their healing process.