You ARE Wakanda: On Self-Healing and Responsibility
By Dr. Rebecca Hubbard
Imhotep (why do I say this? ). ***There are some spoilers in this post. Please be aware of that if you have not seen the movie, Black Panther***.
All of the analyses of Black Panther and how to create Wakanda in real life have been really inspiring and necessary. It’s a good way to talk about change for people of the African Diaspora and the film is revitalizing important conversations in communities. It has sparked people to learn more about African history and the Black Panther party just to name some examples. However, there is one analytical approach that I have not seen. As a psychologist, I have a habit of thinking of people’s (and my own) internal worlds. In addition to the social and political ways to understand this film, there is utility in thinking about Wakanda as our own internal world of peace, strength, justice, and abundance that we are all trying to create. Several elements in the film Black Panther provide useful metaphors for internal processes that are psychologically healthy and necessary and align with Kemetic yoga and philosophy. The following four elements of the the film highlight aspects of internal worlds to create psychological health for optimal living, not just survival.
Harnessing and controlling the power of vabranium: Vibranium is a valuable substance that powers Wakanda as a place and it’s people. It is so powerful that it is also dangerous, so it must be harnessed in order to be useful for good outcomes. In your internal Wakanda, you can cultivate this life force energy that exists by first becoming aware of the energy that moves within you. If you are a spiritual person, this can be the power of the Creator. If spiritual reasoning does not resonate with you, the energy in you consists the physical forces (electric charges) that govern your physiological and biological processes. If you’re a Kemetic yogi, it’s probably both (😉). Our breath and meditation give us access to this life force and give us opportunities to direct it towards positive outcomes. Deep breathing and meditation have the potential to reduce stress hormones and direct physical and mental energy towards endeavors that match our values (like our families, work, our communities, and self-healing). It may be difficult to imagine a vibranium we cannot see, but keep in mind that our physical body is only capable of “seeing” certain waves of light.
Strong and disciplined warrior strength: General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and her warriors the Dora Milaje are the epitome of the disciplined warrior spirit, represented by Heru in Kemetic philosophy. They are precise, poised, strong, disciplined, and in touch with their inner world (meditation) and values. They fiercely defend Wakanda without exeption. For many of us, the fight for mental, physical, and spiritual health of your internal world requires this strength. But note, it is not needlessly aggressive. It is a controlled, thoughtfully chosen and strategized force that is applied when necessary. Fighting for yourself requires strategy, and the focus of a Hawk (Heru) that can swoop down from the sky to catch its prey. It requires precision and patience. Clarify your goals for your healthy internal Wakanda and be precise. If you do not know what you are aiming for, you are bound to miss your target.
Honoring masculine and feminine aspects (and all nuances in between): Balancing masculine and feminine energy is not just a statement about gender equality in a social sense. As individuals, we can take on the task of balance yielding, creative, nurturing, flow-like, intuitive, and accepting energy (yin/“feminine”) with action-oriented, active, and protective energy (yang/“masculine”). One is not more advantageous than the other and people of all gender identities can benefit from balancing these energies within themselves. The film shows Wakanda as respectful of and adherent to feminine power as we observe women in leadership positions (Queen Ramonda, Princess Shuri, General Okoye, Merchant Tribe Elder, and the Mining Tribe Elder). Note that respect and honoring feminine leaders in no way degrades the power of the masculine. Wakanda’s technology and fashion (❤️) are an even more powerful, but less obvious statement to the honor of feminine energy. These elements are evidence of free flowing and open creativity within Wakanda’s society. It is important that we make space for creative energy in our lives as this is one of the ways to honor feminine energy.
Peace: Wakanda prides itself on only using force when absolutely necessary. People in the nation live peacefully. This is mostly achieved by strong boundaries from the colonizer. We need strong boundaries from people who drain our emotional, financial, and intellectual resources. It is important to decide where to put your energy and what people to engage with. These boundaries are healthiest when they are flexible in a sense that you do not exclude people in a rigid fashion (e.g. “I don’t deal with people at work, period.”). Refine your process of deciding which people have access to you and who does not. What criteria you use may change over time and depend on your situation, but should always serve the greater good of your internal Wakanda.
A drive to help others create internal Wakanda: Cultivating internal Wakanda causes tension between us and people who have not created Wakanda for themselves. In the film, this tension is personified by N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan). Most analyses (and the IMDb profile) refer to him by the colonizers’ nickname, “Killmonger. ” Referring to him by this nickname in our analyses is problematic in my opinion, as it alienates him. He tries to advocate for his membership in Wakanda's family when he first encounters them (“That’s not my name, princess,” he says to princess Shuri, when she addresses him as Killmonger). N’Jadaka is Wakandan family and a very necessary voice in our internal world. He is our conscience and it seems that his role could represent our knowledge that we are wired to help others, and not to ignore or neglect anyone in the African Diaspora. The reason he is so destructive is that he was abandoned by Wakanda for his entire life and ignored. Nakia (Lupita Nyong) actually delivers the same message of healing and helping people outside of Wakanda, but is in much more control of her emotions and has not been abandoned by her people (although her suggestions of helping people outside of Wakanda are also not taken seriously at first). When we abandon the voice that asks us to help others, it revolts. It fights to be heard and in our internal world this feels like guilt. Guilt has the power to destroy us if we do not address it. Many psychological symptoms such as depressed mood, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite can arise form unprocessed guilt.
We must find a balance between being healthy within ourselves and helping others to be healthy. Self-healing naturally leads to a sense of responsibility to help create better lives for others. Most of us have an innate pull to help others or make a contribution to the world that genuinely benefits other people. We are most effective in these endeavors when we are proficient in establishing and continuously re-establishing internal Wakanda. You are not required to give up your internal peace for someone else. You can decide to help for some time and pull back to strengthen your Wakanda. Positive social change and liberation from oppression in all forms can happen and be sustainable only when the people making the change are internally healthy. #Wakandaforever. Hotep.
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