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This is the place where we know that the more we fight the worry the more worried we become.
What if you could allow yourself to be a woman worrier and woman warrior?
Someone who is strong, capable and resilient, come what may.
It’s time to stop battling against yourself and start using your power to meet the challenges of everyday with energy purpose, and bravery.

Aug 24, 2020

How does cultural experience affect mental health? In this episode of Woman Worriers host Elizabeth Cush interviews Dr. Nilaja Green about how the Strong Black Woman identity can be both protective and problematic.


“Part of what the stripping away of freedom meant was also the loss of control over the very basic aspects of life that most of us take for granted.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“If I am in a position where I have to show up and do things whether I feel like it or not, and my emotions can actually be used against me, what is my choice?
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“Sometimes the needs of other people are more immediate than your own needs, but what begins to happen is that the more that message is reinforced, the more it becomes unacceptable for you to have needs.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“There’s only so long you can function not paying attention to your own needs and be in any way effective for yourself or anyone else.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“This characteristic that is not functional in some places is actually very functional in other places.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“How will I know when it’s time to reach out?”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“If I’m so used to being empty all the time, that might become my way of living and I may not know there is another way to be in the world.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“Emotions are communicators.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

“All I see is that you have survived and continue to survive. I don’t also see what it has cost you.”
— B. Nilaja Green, PhD

Show Notes:

Sometimes strength is not an advantage. The qualities we develop to protect ourselves can sometimes cause us problems. In this episode of the Woman Worriers podcast, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md., welcomes B. Nilaja Green, PhD, an Atlanta-based psychologist who provides specialized trauma treatment to vulnerable populations including people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. They talk about the paradigm of the Strong Black Woman as a coping mechanism—how it arose and why it’s necessary, why it’s effective and how elements of it can negatively affect mental health, sometimes leading to depression and suicidality. They also discuss the issues that can block some Black women from getting into therapy and finding the support that could help them find relief from distress and how to access resources that feel right.

Listen and learn:

  • How the idea of Strong Black Woman developed over generations, from West Africa to the so-called New World
  • The core characteristics of the Strong Black Woman paradigm
  • The impact of the loss of control that Black women experienced as a result of the Maafa, or Middle Passage
  • How independence turns to self-reliance and how that self-reliance can stand in the way of getting relief
  • The connection between communal responsibility and caretaking and how enslavement twisted the role
  • How caretaking became traumatic for some Black women
  • Why Black women had to learn to hide their feelings—and the fallout that some experience from that today
  • The role of pride, how it can get in the way of getting the help
  • How the Strong Black Women sometimes shows up in therapy—and why therapists need to be aware of it
  • How looking through a lens of trauma might help therapists who work with women of color and other oppressed groups
  • Why many Black women may be reluctant to turn to therapists for help
  • The one factor that seems to have the strongest relationship with depression and suicidality
  • When looking fabulous isn’t a good sign
  • Where Black women can access resources for therapy and how they can find a therapist who might be a good fit
  • How women of color—and anyone else—can get the most out of therapy

Learn More

> Standpoint Therapy website

> Dr. B. Nilaja Green on Instagram

> “Strong Like My Mama: The Legacy of ‘Strength,’ Depression, and Suicidality in African American Women” by B. Nilaja Green, PhD, in Women & Therapy

> Request Dr. Nilaja Green’s “Strong Black Women” packet

> Therapy for Black Girls