Black women are angry, but no one ever takes the time to ask “Why?” Instead, “Why are Black women so angry?” has become a blanket statement for society, including some Black men, as a way to diminish the Black woman’s pain. But Iyanla Vanzant set out to change that with this season of Iyanla Vanzant: Fix My Life. The spiritual healer (and resident auntie in our heads) dedicated this season of her show on OWN to debunking the myth she says is inaccurate, untrue, and dangerous.
Lira Galore (Rick Ross’ former fiancée), Chrystale Wilson (The Player’s Club), a single mom, several victims of child abuse, and a set of twins — one of whom suffered domestic violence — round out the eight women in Iyanla’s “healing house.” Under Iyanla’s guidance, they undergo therapeutic exercises that transforms their lives.
We caught up with Iyanla, who shared though-provoking insight on the angry Black woman myth and how we can change the narrative while changing ourselves.
HelloBeautiful: Do you ever find yourself surprised by some of the things you see?
Iyanla Vanzant: Healing is a process. If you have a tumor, they have to cut you open. You have to bleed. They have to pull the tumor out. They have to sew it back together. You’re going to be in pain and that’s what healing looks like. Healing is a process. I don’t expect the women to come in acting and knowing what was really going on.
HB: How does one go about breaking bad habits?
Iyanla: A habit and a behavior are two different things. Habits are unconscious. Behavior, more often than not, is a conscious choice, unless it is motivated by an unconscious habit. The first thing, is you have to become aware of what is it you do. What do you do? Then you have to make the choice to change it. Once you make the choice to change it, you have to commit to remaining aware of what you do and make a choice on how you do it. Choose, commit, change.
HB: How do you begin to forgive yourself for certain behaviors or wrongdoings?
Iyanla: First of all, you have to see that they’re not wrong. We do what we do based on who we are and the information we have at the time. So it’s not wrong. When you get new information then you get to make another choice. If you have the information and choose not to change, then you have to ask yourself, “Why?” Everything that we do serves a purpose. It can be a positive purpose or a negative purpose. If you’re doing something, no matter what it is, it’s serving a purpose. That purpose may be conscious or unconscious, positive or not positive, but if you’re doing it, it serves a purpose and you have to understand what the purpose is. And I think the main purpose for a Black woman’s inappropriate behavior, that what we call anger, is to protect herself. Some women feel alone, diminished, and demeaned. So many of us feel, this is said in episode one, nobody’s ever been there to defend me. But her behavior, which we call angry, is really about her defensiveness caused by the hurt that comes with the abandonment. We call it anger but there’s other stuff going on. Imagine being 46 years old and feeling like no one has ever protected and defended you. Anger is not the emotion that comes out, it’s the one you act out.
HB: How do you change the way you react?
Iyanla: You’re not reacting with anger. That is the myth. Anger is what we experience in our minds as a result of an experience. The behavior is a defense mechanism, a protective device, a reaction, a defiance. The inappropriate behavior is not motivated by anger. It’s motivated by what’s under the anger. But, see, we can control the anger. If you know I’m going to cuss you out no matter what you say to me, then you aren’t going to say anything. I’m not angry, I’m protecting myself from you. So how do you change? You have to become aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You have to figure out what you’re getting out of it and choose to change. But you’re not going to choose to change until you become aware.
HB: Where do you go to for motivation when you feel all is gone?
Iyanla: I don’t need to be motivated, I need to be prayed up. I’m motivated to get me an ice cream cone. That’s motivation. But when it comes to dealing with life, I have to be prayed up and spiritually grounded. That’s just me.
HB: Why was sex an important act to ban in the house rules?
Iyanla: Sex is an escape mechanism, more times than not. It’s a way we dull our senses. I didn’t want the women to think this was just a hangout house, the same way they found the liquor in the bar that I didn’t even know was there, see a guy at the supermarket and bring him home. When we’re in fear, terror or in the healing process, we find ways to distract ourselves. So that is why I said no sex with each other, anybody else, or yourself. This isn’t the time for that, this is a time to open your heart.
HB: What did you find was behind the Black men not wanting to date Black woman anymore?
Iyanla: Because they said they were angry. The entire intention of the show is to dismantle the myth of the angry Black woman. So I had to give them the opportunity for them to see that you’re making a judgement and advancing a stereotype so they had the opportunity to see they were mistaken. They judged the women based on behavior without understanding what was motivating the behavior, which is the same thing the world does — and exactly what we do when we take on the anger as one of the million emotions you can have. The women didn’t understand that anger is based in fear. Anger grows from fear.
HB: How can other women get your help?
Iyanla: For the past 24 years, I do two women workshops a year: Wonder Woman weekend. The next one is in October. It’s open to every woman: Black, White, Native. All you have to do is be living. I have an institute where I train people. I have a two-year personal development course. We gon’ alter your entire ecology. Iyanla.com will tell you everything you need to know.
“The House of Healing: The Myth of the Angry Black Woman” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube