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Araminta’s Place: Calling Forth All of the Good!

Updated: May 9, 2022

One of my former students suggested I post for the FB family a description of my research and work as a producer of psychological knowledge in Africana/Black Studies. I often make reference to it, so the suggestion made sense to me. Here is a brief summary of what others have said about some of my work.

Almost forty years ago in her first book, Linda James Myers (1988, 1992) put forward the theory of Optimal Psychology, also known as Optimal Conceptual Theory (OCT). The first culturally syntonic theory of human development to not only advance our understanding of white supremacy in order to move beyond a reactive posture, but also other societal isms such as sexism, classism, ageism, and so on. Further, OCT and its corollary psycho-educational/therapeutic approach provides an antidote to the deleterious effects of living in societies whose institutions render racism (and other isms) systemic, often internalized or injected in their targets and confused with personal attitudes and relationships.

OCT is the first theory in contemporary times to be grounded in the wisdom tradition of African deep thought, Dr. James Myers originally developed the theory with the intention of answering two questions critical to the survival of humankind. First, what could be the thinking of people who would kidnap, capture, and enslave other human beings as chattel to build their material wealth, how could they be constructing reality to believe and behave as if their horrific behavior was okay, not for several years or a few decades, but put systems and institutions in place to perpetuate it for almost four centuries in the Americas. Similarly, that same mindset constructed reality in such a way that ‘rationalized’ the takeover of the lands of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Secondly, how did people acknowledging African ancestry in the Americas survive centuries of the most viscous, brutal, dehumanizing system of enslavement as chattel ever practiced in the history of humankind, maintain any modicum of sanity generation after generation, much less endure and demonstrate the strength and resilience to become the moral and spiritual leaders of the movement for civil rights for all almost three centuries later.

Seeing these non-immigrant Africans in the Americas (NIAAs) as the miracle of modern times, Dr. James Myers built her theory of Optimal Psychology around research, historical, and experiential knowledge of their ancestral cultural heritage. Not being a homogenous group, her focus has been on those of African ancestry whose cultural world view and consciousness expands our understanding of the nature of human nature to inclusive of the human capacity for individual and collective health and sustainable well being. These folk connected with the rich heritage of a longstanding tradition of wisdom and deep thought traceable to classical African civilization which embraces realization of Oneness with Supreme Being, the Divine, Infinite Energy of Creative Life Source.

Providing an analysis of the importance of cultural world view, key concepts in Myers’ (1992, 1988, 1987, 1985, 2003, 2015) contribution to an African centered psychology are the roles of optimal and suboptimal conceptual systems in human experience. Her thrust is to define and implement, as a critical framework for understanding and achieving maximum mental health, a psycho-social theory of human personality rooted in and reflective of African culture in the wisdom, deep thought tradition. This begins with an articulation of the relationship between the philosophical assumptions and principles, or conceptual systems, undergirding cultural world views and their outcomes. An optimal African centered conceptual system is holistic and integrative, a pathway to unity consciousness. To Myers such a cultural world view is characterized by at least three basic constructs: 1) Oneness, holistic-spiritual/unity; 2) communal complementarity; and 3) proper consciousness. For Myers (1988:12; 2013) this optimal worldview first of all “assumes that reality is spiritual and material as once, as one.” Thus, the first aspect embraces the assumption that all is spirit, energy, consciousness or mind (Myers, 1988:4lff, 2003). This gives rise to the concept of the unity of being through the realization that “all is spirit individually and uniquely expressed” (Myers, 1988:19; 2013). When one adheres to this principle, she states, one “loses the sense of the individualized ego/mind and experiences the harmony of collective identity of being one with the source of all good” (Myers, 1988:12; 2003).

Secondly, this African worldview posits communal complementarity, acknowledging the multi-dimensional, interrelatedness and interdependence of all things. From this emerges the concept of the extended self, and the cyclic nature of life (2003). “Self in this instance is extended to include all the ancestors, the yet unborn, all nature and the entire community” (Myers, 1988:12). Thirdly, Myers argues that proper consciousness or self-knowledge is another aspect of the Afrocentric worldview. She states that “the role of consciousness is primary in this conceptual system; in fact consciousness is identifiably that permeating essence or pervasive energy and spirit.” This centrality is reflected in African concepts of Maat (truth); Mdw Ntr (divine speech) and Nommo (word power).

Myers contrasts the roots of this African worldview to the Eurocentric worldview with the former representing an optimal psychology and the latter a suboptimal psychology. According to Myers, the latter fosters racism, sexism, materialism, other societal isms, and is ultimately unworkable, leading to pollution of the environment, depletion of natural resources, and creation of toxic, destructive social relationships. Its causal fatal flaw in human experience is the socialization of its adherents into a faulty, fragmented, fractured conceptual system leading to materialistic greed, addictions and violence, as the key values in life, i.e. self-worth, peace, happiness, etc. are sought through non-sustaining externals. But the reality is “identity and self-worth are intrinsic” and peace and happiness are generated from within. This in turn requires self-realization of the spirit within.

Secondly, she (1988:14) asserts that “the suboptimal conceptual system oppresses all its adherents. It makes the racist/sexist the oppressor acting out and projecting the negativity and insecurity he/she feels within.” The oppressed however, are “doubly oppressed” when they absorb, “adapt and assimilate the conceptual system of the oppressor.” In the end they suffer from all kinds of mental health and social problems. Myers (1992:6) also defines the suboptimal or Eurocentric worldview in terms of its tendency to fragment and segment not only reality but peoples (racism) and genders (sexism). Although racism is clearly a problem for the African American community, “sexism is a serious problem due to assimilation and acculturation that we have not as a people really addressed or solved” (Myers, 1992:8) It is her contention that “in a suboptimal/fragmented culture like this one, womanhood and motherhood (the central role of woman) are disdained rather than revered. But she (Myers 1992:9) notes “In a patriarchal society, anything feminine is inferior.”

Moreover, “In a sexist environment, women can internalize sexism ,” Myers states that hey tend to “think that men are superior just like many Blacks (in a racist society) tend to think whites are superior.” With the emergence of the Divine Black Mother and the rise of Black women into leadership in this new age, the need to come into an optimal African consciousness “to begin forging a relationship with ourselves so that we can come into right relationship with our counterparts, is well underway. She (1988:15) concludes, arguing that Black intervention in their own liberation from oppression is essential and compelling in the aspiration toward an optimal psychology supporting the creation of a just, sacred, sustainable world. The charge then is to learn more about our choices through increased awareness of the nature of that Divine Spirit Being which is us and then act accordingly.

Look for more recent writings and updates from this work, as it remains as relevant today as it was then.

Be well and kind to one another!

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