Lemon-Aid? How Beyonce helped us heal with positive psychology

Photo Credit: Beyonce/Vogue

Photo Credit: Beyonce/Vogue

When I created kamariafleary.com it was because I wanted to encourage safe spaces to promote personal growth and wellbeing within a framework of psychological principles. I have been navigating the world as a 20 something year old Black girl for the past 5 years and between the ebony skin I live in and the head that houses my intellectual grey matter, I have often found myself positioned somewhere between Russell Group Universities aka Really Geared for the Upperclass institutions and the ethnic enclaves of the National Health Service (NHS).

Nevertheless in the crux of these two diverging environments; or rather the toilets, car parks and elevators (cue Solange) lies the emotions, the whispers, the conversations and the nasty hidden truths of "making our black more palatable" (to quote Jamelia) to survive the experience of being a professional Black Woman in the day an age where yet the First Lady of the United States is the only First Lady in history to have graduated with two Ivy League Degrees. So what exactly is the problem? We are educated, we are beautiful and to quote Rihanna "we just rock on a whole 'nother level." But despite the number of "blackisbeautiful" "blackgirlsrock" and "blackgirlmagic" hastags that inundate social media; drawing upon the 1962 speech by Malcolm X, Beyonce draws attention to the fact that the black woman is still the most disrespected, unprotected, and neglected person - but yet the most resilient.

What exactly makes us so strong? How exactly do we continue to thrive, to dominate in tennis (Serena I love you!), score more number one records than Michael Jackson (Rihanna you are working it!), become the greatest and most legendary female entertainer of ALL time (Beyonce, I honour you!) or just be that woman that gets up every morning and continues building her dreams (every other Black woman - I just love us all!); in a world where your feminity is questioned instead of your athleticism being celebrated, where your accent is ridiculed instead of your record breaking music being commemorated, where you are boycotted for embracing your blackness and where the only place it is comfortable to be authentically you is in a space prefixed with the word "safe."

"Psychology is not just the study of weaknesses and damage but it is also the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken, it is nurturing what is best within ourselves." - Martin Seligman

Lemonade is not only just a masterpiece album but a mastered recipe for the healing of the Black woman. Research on resilience in psychology has often hinted at cultural factors having protective value against both general life stressors and culturally related ones; but also as a positive contributor to self esteem and even academic achievement (See my previous article - Because loving yourself is wrong? What Beyonce taught us about self-love - for more details). As women, our coping skills and resilience factors often entail sharing our experiences and gaining social support from our in-groups, family, friends and loved ones; and this is exactly what Beyonce achieves through her use of visuals that entail a proliferation of the non-monolithic Black woman in all their hues, hair types, heritages and hierarchies; gathering into formation to unite in shared experiences and the accompanying emotions of intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope and redemption.

For exactly 1hour, 5 minutes and 50 seconds (or if you are like me and have exhausted your Tidal subscription all week - make that around 168 hours); we heal in the belief that WE ARE ALL BEYONCE, rather than Beyonce being like us. That is what is magical about this masterpiece, it levitates it's listeners and catapults them to new heights where we feel compelled to take control of our problems. Rather than wrecking us with unconvincing ramblings about how real, righteous and round-the-way an artist still claims to be (cue Jenny from the Block Lyrics); lemonade is the first real catalogue of music in the last decade that embodies the empowerment of women, rather than degrades and disempowers us.

The mental health system mainly categorizes healing down to two main routes - medication or meditation. As a training psychologist, I believe talking therapies can be meditations of a medicinal value. Black women are natural born storytellers and reciters; whether we practice it as a profession - be it a professor or journalist, whether we sing it out in the shower or on the stage - be it a singer or a politician, whether we act it out through ballet dancing, through television shows or theatre; or whether we cook it up in the kitchen as chefs, as family women as grandmothers handing down an age old recipe; our stories always colour our present and future selves - sometimes as the strong foundation to our success and other times as the sour taste in our mouths - the lemons, rather than the lemonade.

Drawn from all our "grandmommas and them's" book of old wives tales, fables and wise words the album title name stems from the saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." In other words, heal instead of being hung up and we achieve that by being ourselves in all our glory - in our "baby hairs and afros"

  • in embracing aspects of our authentic selves - the mix of "negro with that creole"

  •  in realizing our worth "till I realised, I'm just too much for you"

  • in distinguishing whether the self-hate emotions actually belong to us or to those others "when you diss me, you diss yourself"

  • in being unapologetic "I ain't sorry...suck on my balls, I had enough"

  • in holding onto integrity "she got them commas and them decimals, she don't gotta give it up, she professional"

  • in acknowledging our insecurities " would you still feel me on my worst day? Am I not thirsty enough?" as well as our strengths - "winners never quit on themselves"

  • by loving, forgiving and rebuilding trust "kiss up and rub up and feel up on you, give you some time to prove that I can trust you again"

  • and by owning our opinions without a hesitation to throw the dusty truth after the Becky's (sorry I meant) cultural appropriators that lack the authenticity to ever emulate the Beyonces of the world.

Beyonce, I thank you for always being beyond the boundaries enslaved on the Black woman.

Example HTML page