Psychological science professionals discussed the emotional and mental impacts of microaggressions Friday in a discussion called “Mindfulness and the Psychology of Microaggressions.” The event, sponsored by the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, examined microaggressions through a psychological lens and included a community dialogue with attendees.
Raina LaGrand, a therapist at the Arbor Wellness Center, discussed the importance of mindfulness while processing microaggressions.
“I think mindfulness is a really beautiful tool of cultivating a greater self,” LaGrand said. “(Mindfulness leads to) a greater awareness of our emotions, how our emotions come up and how we respond outwardly.”
LaGrand discussed three steps to breaking down microaggressions. She suggested identifying the feeling, locating where one feels it in the body and calculating the feeling’s intensity. She also emphasized the importance of vocabulary in emotion identification.
“Having a greater vocabulary around our emotions can help us develop a nuanced understanding of what will happen,” she said.
LaGrand said most victims of microaggressions work to forgive others because victims think they must be strong. But LaGrand suggested forgiving oneself instead.
“I actually think it’s more important to forgive ourselves,” LaGrand said. “To forgive whatever immediate reaction we have, maybe its judgment of ourselves, maybe its judgment of others. I think forgiving ourselves is forgiving whatever emotion we have that doesn’t align with us.”
Denise Sekaquaptewa, professor and associate chair of psychology, talked about her work with the psychological effects of microaggressions. She has determined microaggressions are manifestations of the implicit and explicit biases.
“When I think about microaggressions, I think of them as the behavioral manifestations of (implicit and explicit biases); the things we say and the things we do,” Sekaquaptewa said.
Sekaquaptewa researches intergroup relations and biases with Engineering students. Her study identified the differences in motivation and passion between Engineering men and women as a result of working on specific tasks. From this, she concluded microaggressions can impact the victim and bystanders.
Nadia Bazzy, a limited licensed marriage and family therapist and director of MESA, discussed the effects of intersectionality and the University’s work to combat microaggressions and biases.
“We do hear this narrative of people challenging the validity of microaggressions by saying things like, ‘You are being too sensitive,’ which in itself is a microaggression,” Bazzy said.
Bazzy discussed the thought process that goes into understanding the motives behind and the effects of microaggressions.
“I find myself in a place of often times wondering when I do hear something, what part of me sparked that comment in somebody else,” Bazzy said. “I find myself often times on that journey of trying to understand the other person.”
Bazzy said the University should thinking more about follow-up care.
“I think as an institution we do a good job or raising awareness of what microaggressions are,” Bazzy said. (But) how do you take care of yourself through all of this? I think that’s a space that could use more attention.”
Raivynn Smith, the program specialist for events and partnerships at the Spectrum Center, said they found the dialogue informative and helpful. They plan on using the tools panelists mentioned in their daily life.
“I think I just got a greater sense of how to really approach my own reaction to the feeling of microaggressions and I can really make myself more aware of them,” Smith said. “I gained some skills of how to interrupt those and how to identify emotions, locating emotions and calculating them and being reflective of what is happening.”