Overcoming the Effects of Bias

Discrimination, as a byproduct of both implicit and overt bias, produces a myriad of unfavorable and difficult results. Race-related stress can cause intense emotional reactions such as: anxiety, frustration, paranoia, resentment, self-doubt, depression and anger.

When searching for ways to cope, people often find themselves utilizing coping mechanisms that are ineffective — avoidance, substance abuse, withdrawal — and emotionally damaging. Continued use of the “just deal with it” method can negatively impact an individual’s physical health as well, and studies have shown a correlation between maladaptive coping skills and occurrences of hypertension and chronic pain.

“As a Victim of Discrimination, How Should I Take Care of Myself?”

1. Affirm yourself: Practice healthy habits, including following a fitness regimen and getting adequate rest. Find an activity, hobby or positive indulgence that you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine. Take a high quality vitamin and go to your annual checkups.

2. Identify with your culture in a positive way: Read books, join online forums, take classes and attend festivals that showcase the interesting, exceptional contributions of your cultural group.

3. Develop a support system, and don’t forget the importance of spirituality: This is a key way to combat feelings of isolation; and participation in prayer and meditation is a proven tool.

4. Empower yourself!: Use whatever mode you are comfortable with, and become involved in social action. This allows you to build a team, including allies, who support your cause. Identify a cause, a goal, and create and implement a doable plan. Start small, stay encouraged and watch your team grow and the problem you are tackling shrink in size.

5. Turn negative situations around: Here is a effective process* for accomplishing this…

  • Name your negative feelings: Don’t let them lurk; call them out. Give them weight.
  • Do a reality check. Look at the situation from your current perspective, then turn it over and challenge it. Is the situation potentially a result of something other than bias?
  • Time for a mulligan with positive spin.: Reframe the situation and verbally state both sides. If you deem that discrimination did occur, place it in a positive context, such as “I can persevere as my ancestors did.”

(*-This is a challenging exercise. A counselor can assist as you navigate through this new way of thinking.)

“I Want to Be an Ally. What Can I Do to Help?”

1. Accept that you are going to make mistakes: Don’t let feelings of inadequacy, misunderstanding or criticism shut down your willingness to help.

2. Increase your understanding: Keep reading, keep educating yourself and keep challenging societal norms.

3. Own your opinions: Speak up, but always frame a response or statement within the context of “This is my understanding … ” or “After research, my belief is … ”. This disarms the other party and allows them to more readily put down their defenses.

4. Inform your associates about implicit bias: Expose them to the online assessments that are quick, easy to use and revealing.

Thriveworks can assist individuals and groups of victims and allies in developing strategic plans to combat discrimination. Click here to work with Stacy Franklin or another counselor at Thriveworks Peachtree City or click here to find the Thriveworks office nearest you.

Can you think of some other ways to cope with the effects of discrimination (or to prevent it)? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!