By Kevin Daniels
Special to AFRO

Around this time in 1971, James Brown masterfully penned a song entitled “Soul Power,” which highlighted the cultural need for people to reach beyond mere external vices of the times to take a deep dive into the “soul.” The song mimicked what mental health workers and professionals describe to populations as getting pass the “Dark Night of the Soul,” referring to having a hard time, a phase of pessimism, a loss, sadness, and a challenge so deep-seated that the “soul,”  mentally and emotionally, is flung into a dark period as it searches for greater depths of meaning.

1981: This photo shows the grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren who are the third, fourth and one fifth generation descendants of John Henry Murphy Sr., founder of the AFRO American Newspaper, gathered together for a holiday family reunion. (AFRO Archives Photo)

Even though the holiday season is typically filled with family, friends, and fun, it’s also filled with “doing” and “saying” the right things, being full of “cheer,” and for many, it is a tough time to navigate. Occasionally, home is not where the “help” is but where the “hurt” is, and for those without close family ties, loneliness may set in, and the spirit of the holidays is lost in histories of “trauma.” Research shows that during this time over 53 percent of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue. Coupled with cumulative rise of multiple inequities, gun violence, human sex trafficking, lack of leadership, and constant crisis in the country, this can be overwhelming. According to the Diagnostical Statistical Manual (DSM V) V-code 62.89, many navigate a moral and spiritual crisis of purpose, meaning, and a lack of destiny direction. As James Brown put it, “We need soul power – the soul needs to be cared for.” 

Consequently, “soul power” is closely connected to “self -care,” which is the intentional and deliberate action or activity to preserve or improve one’s own mental, emotional, and physical health, particularly during periods of stress. Self-care is not a selfish act in that as we take care of ourselves, we in turn, help to take care of all of those around us because consistent with African philosophy, “I am because we are.” Self-care focuses on six categories of care: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relationships, and workplace or professional.

The physical focuses on activities that help you to stay fit and generate enough energy to get through commitments, aim for healthy diet and proper sleep routine; psychological focuses on activities that help you feel clear-headed and able to engage life commitments with a sense of focus; the emotional focuses on allowing yourself to safely experience your full range of emotions without judgment; the spiritual involves having a sense of perspective beyond the day-to-day of life and allow for reflective practices that cause you to reach into other possibilities and potentialities; relationships focus on maintaining healthy, supportive relationships, but also the relationships that don’t allow you to compromise your values; and, workplace or professional environment that allows for a safe vocational space to reach your “call” in life.

As our sacred book, the Bible, declares as the greatest commandment for the soul, which is “To love God with all thy soul and mind, but also to love thy neighbor as thyself.” Even though the emphasis is on loving God, but it is also difficult to love others without having a strong love for “yourself first.” 

Dr. Kevin Daniels is an Associate Professor at the Morgan State School of Social Work, Chair, Civic Actions Committee (Minister’s Conference of Baltimore & Vicinity).

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