The science of psychology has hundreds of specialty areas which can help with any problem in race relations, if politics are removed from the equation with inherent win-lose goals. In the previous article I highlighted the importance of research on prejudice, listening with empathy, boundaries, forgiveness, leadership, and cognitive therapy. In this article, I would like to make note of some other specialty areas of study which can be helpful. As with all science, these complement the Word of God, when interpreted properly, and are designed by God to be a blessing to us.
Reflect on: Psalm 133:1; Proverbs 2:1-15
Science of Religious Experience. Since William James wrote his famous book, Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902, research has taken place showing the value of balanced religious faith and spirituality. Dr. David Larson, Dr. Harold Koenig, Dr. Siang-Yan Tan, and Dr. Everett Worthington are only a few authors who have written extensively on research in this area, proving the unifying and health-giving dimensions of positive spiritual and religious experience. Core values related to unity, love, equality, meaning and purpose in life, as well as an empowerment to live out those values, can be found here. Race relations can be well served by the leadership of religious communities who can have a powerful moral and spiritual influence on this dialogue.
Reflect on: Proverbs 3:1-8; I Corinthians 2:12-3:11
Group Processes. Yalom’s curative factors in group therapy included instillation of hope, universality (people face similar problems), learning information, altruism (desire to help others), working through dysfunctional family dynamics in a healthier way, improved socialization, modeling and imitation of healthy relationships, group cohesiveness, and catharsis. Each of these has relevance when working together to resolve race relations.
How can we facilitate committed mixed race community groups who are willing to address race relations to see the curative impact of getting to know one another in this way?
Reflect on: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; I Thessalonians 5:12-22
Positive Psychology. Research in this area addresses character strengths and virtues, and is a balance to the negative focus on pathology which can reinforce a victim mentality. We can learn much from this area of study to build wellness and resilience. Building on wisdom and knowledge, finding courage and love, developing hope and humor, pursuing gratitude and humility, seeking freedom and happiness, and many other positive areas of study can help each of us find valued direction in our pursuit of healthy race relations and fulfillment for all.
Reflect on: II Corinthians 3:17-18; Philippians 4:4-13
Neuroscience. In books by The Institute for Brain Potential, we see outlines for addressing deep seated, unhealthy patterns of behavior, including thoughts. Other resources such as the writings of Dr. Dan Amen, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and Dr. Tim Jennings, give us insight into neuroscience for the layman. Research on neuroplasticity and our ability to modify even the chemical connections in our brain can help us understand how prejudices and even racist attitudes can be addressed when an individual chooses to train their mind to think in ways that value human relations with people of all races and people groups. The human heart, mind, will, and emotions, can be transformed, which should give us all hope for improved race relations, if we choose to accept responsibility for our part in this complex equation.
Reflect on: Romans 12:1-2; Psalm 1:1-6
Cognitive Psychology. Racism is irrational. How do we first discern irrational beliefs, and then how do we challenge them? Racism disconnects from the larger group of humanity in favor of a smaller sub-group which wants to stay united in their use of power. Spirit-led, self-administered psychosurgery is needed, but can only be performed by each of us on ourselves with God’s help through the Word of God. Eliminate global generalizations, exaggerations, mind-reading tendencies, unfair comparisons, and all or nothing thinking.
Reflect on: II Corinthians 10:3-5; Romans 12:1-2
Love is what unites people. Fear, hurt and anger can lead to defensive reactions that hurt others, creating fractures in relationships. Repairing those relationships becomes necessary for there to be peace among all people groups. Let us pursue it.
Reflect on: Galatians 5:13-16; Romans 12:9-18
Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who also does tele-therapy. His website, www.drronnewman.com has a blog designed to provide practical tips for managing a wide range of life problems. He also can be reached at 609-567-9022.
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