#FreshPrinceReunion teaches valuable lesson

When people don’t cater to our emotional needs, we are taught to see them as an enemy – especially if those needs weren’t met during childhood.

I am so proud of #WillSmith and #JanetHubert

The revelation that #HurtPeopleHurt is everything – although I’m not buying that 21 year-old newly-minted celebrity #WillSmith was single-handedly responsible for destroying #JanetHubert ‘s career. Will Smith – brave for seeking professional mental health assistance AND for sitting through what he knew would be a difficult confrontation – brilliantly concluded that his dislike of Hubert was due to her refusal to approve of his onset antics and need for constant attention. Smith talked about how intimidated he was of this serious older woman – possibly a mother figure – who did not meet his expectations concerning validation. With the help of Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Smith connects this need for validation and approval to childhood trauma.

The idea of punishing someone for not meeting a dysfunctional and selfish expectation – although I disagree that Smith was responsible for the destruction of Hubert’s career – is a lesson that I hope Blacks (people of African descent: includes Continental Africans, North American Blacks/”African-Americans” and Caribbeans), especially, embrace. Our ability to communicate with each other is often diminished by our willingness to explore each other’s differences. Hubert was different: She is a Julliard trained actress whose expectations concerning professionalism were different than others on the #FreshPrince set, which may have been intimidating for others, who were willing to placate the start actor’s need for constant attention. A simple conversation and the benefit of the doubt, would have likely changed the outcome. But our ability to communicate and appreciate each other’s differences was abolished during #Slavery; we seem to only know how to judge and hurt each other when expectations – unrealistic or not – aren’t met.

How many times have Black females labeled another as “rude,” “bourgeois” (or “boujee”) or “crazy” for not “speaking” (simply saying “Hi” upon entering a room – even though the same ones complaining about this usually are simply waiting for the other person to “speak” first)? How many times have we labeled another as being “arrogant” or “thinking they’re better” for simply being excellent, keeping to themselves or simply not being willing to share personal information about themselves?

One key word from Smith’s conversation with Dr. Ramani during their Red Table Talk show was the word “intimidation.” We are taught to be intimidated by people and situations we cannot control. Smith was intimidated by Hubert because he could not control her with his humor – a defense mechanism he used to control his father’s behavior towards his mother – subsequently keeping himself safe during childhood. We like knowing what to expect; we like being able to read people. This is why some people get mad when they don’t get a greeting, or when others don’t smile at them, or when they make a joke and don’t get a laugh. When people don’t cater to our emotional needs, we are taught to see them as an enemy – especially if those needs weren’t met during childhood. People who have unrealistic expectations of others that involve them getting constant attention usually were deprived of same during childhood.

I have this theory: Stages 1 through 3 are the most important part of a person’s social and emotional development. Ideally, between the ages of zero and five, we learn that even though we are a pain in the ass (literally), people love us and want us here; love is freely given even though we are unable to reciprocate. The amount of unconditional love we experience during this time provides us with a sense of security we later use to maintain our self esteem. People who experience a disruption during their early childhood years grow up feeling incomplete and cheated, and go through the rest of their lives trying to cure the deprivation they experienced at this time, which often manifests as unrealistic expectations of others. They seek to have this void filled through validation from others because they do not know how to self soothe. This is the expectation it seems Smith tried to force onto Hubert. This is the expectation a lot of Black females place onto other Black females. This is often the root of pettiness, jealousy and competition. People feel better when they can control you – or information about you, because these situations yield themselves to control and predictability. We punish people for not living up or down to our expectations.

And we often don’t have “permission” to confront the real culprits – our caregivers, for their lack of emotional support – so we choose the next best – and most available – target. In this case, it’s Smith. I have a hard time believing that a 21 year-old newly-minted Black celebrity had the power to single-handedly “ruin” a seasoned actress’ career – even if she was new to television. But Smith – not network executives – and not his fans who inappropriately handled their feelings about the situation – is the easier target. And shutting down and refusing to speak with other actors on the Show is not Hubert’s shining moment. I understand how Hubert would have felt isolated with everyone else kowtowing to the star actor’s antics, but a seasoned, professional actress, more than 10 years Will’s senior, could have handled things differently. So, Smith, at the very least, is not the only one to “blame” if it is necessary to even do so.

The Lesson: Heal yourself so that your childhood trauma does not manifest as unrealistic (and unfair) expectations of others.