Common is dropping some serious wisdom on healing, self-love and therapy. And everyone should pay attention.
The Emmy, Grammy and Academy Award-winning rapper, actor and author appeared on a panel in Washington, D.C., this week to share his latest book, “Let Love Have The Last Word.” The memoir includes stories about his youth, his relationship with his family, his career and, most importantly, his healing process to overcome childhood (and adulthood) trauma.
“Times are really messed up. We’re losing touch with our beauty and humanity and all the beautiful things that exist and we’re not even focusing on working on ourselves. So what are we going to do to change it? That was really the heart and soul of why I wrote the book,” Common said during the panel discussion. “I want people’s lives to be better. I want to help people in any way that I can. If this book can help then I put myself out there.”
The rapper discussed sexual molestation in his childhood, his sometimes strained relationship with his daughter (who recently graduated from Howard University) and how hip-hop and Black culture have influenced, hindered and encouraged his growth. He also talked about how therapy and a closer relationship with God has helped him.
His insight was refreshing, given how rare it is for celebrities to be vulnerable about their pain, trauma and growth ― especially Black celebrities and rappers who may feel added societal pressure and stigma.
“Growing up, for a lot of us that was looked at as something that was a weakness, talking about ‘I need help.’ We were getting that old way of thinking like, ‘you got to be strong!’” Common told HuffPost about some of the barriers Black men face when being vulnerable. But it was through being brave and open about his trauma that Common was able to find his inner strength and his will to help others.
The artist sat down HuffPost and a few other outlets to share some words of wisdom on healing, self-love and seeking professional help. Below, check out some of his advice for fans and the lessons he’s learned about self-care over the years:
On therapy (and choosing the right therapist)
“I started going to therapy and using therapy as a tool for me to walk through life in a better way. One of the things that I first experienced with therapy was a safe place to talk about things that I couldn’t talk about,” Common said. “They definitely wouldn’t judge me; their information isn’t based on what they know of me from the past.”
Through therapy sessions, Common learned to release some of the emotional and mental weight he’d been carrying throughout his life. “Sometimes you’d call with all this anxiety and trouble and man, by the time you’re done with that call you’re like wow! It feels like it’s off you and you get back into the situation and you can assess it more, you feel more yourself, you feel stronger, you feel taken care of and you’re able to communicate things.”
The rapper stressed the importance of finding the right therapist and keeping up with appointments, as well. “Someone broke it down to me like man, you go get your hair cut every week ... but do you work on yourself as a daily practice? Therapy is part of that work on the self,” he said.
“It’s a place where I’ve learned wounds that I’ve had that I’ve carried with me through life and identify those things so I don’t have to carry them,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged if you go to somebody that’s not right; there are still people out there who can serve you well. It’s like going to the right hairdresser, finding the right church. I think that’s part of the process.”
“Someone broke it down to me like man, you go get your hair cut every week ... but do you work on yourself as a daily practice? Therapy is part of that work on the self.”
Telling intimate, private details about your life and loved ones is a daunting task for most people; it can be even harder when you’re in the public eye. But Common felt it was time to lift the veil.
“I feel like I’ve worked on myself enough to be OK with being this vulnerable,” he said. “It’s a freedom in walking around like this is who I am, this is another part of me. Artists, we can have a tendency to want to show our best sides and all the good things happening. But I think it’s courageous and better for humanity to also show the vulnerability, show the failures, show the fears, show the wounds. Because then, everybody knows we’re all just human beings.”
During the panel, Common spoke about a phone call he had with his daughter, Omoye, about how she felt he let her down as a father.
“The conversation I had with my daughter, it kind of sparked the whole thought behind the book,” Common said. “When she was talking about how she felt about me as a father and initially I was being defensive and really [wanting to] get my side of the story. I learned to really love her was to listen first. That was her perspective. I’m working to apply that in everything that I do, to listen to people. And have the conversation without someone trying to tell me how they’re feeling and I’m talking over them. I’m working on that.”
On healthy rituals
Self-care has become a buzzword that usually evokes images of face masks and bath bombs. But Common stressed that every self-care routine is sacred, specific to the self and should provide tools to start living.
“I start my day with prayer and reading scripture,” Common said. “I take my prayer time at the beginning of the day, I set my intention for the day. I know going through the day there’s going to be a lot of hectic stuff going on, but if I continue to keep remembering mantras, taking that prayer time, it starts to seep into my system and I start living it more. I have my little rituals and time when I meditate, get my chakras spinning. I know I want to be an activist and I want to do this work, but I can’t be an activist without self-activism. Those tools really help me throughout the day.”
“After I’ve worked on that self-love, how do I apply that love to others?”
On learning to heal from trauma
Practicing self-love and compassion, Common explained, can sometimes be a lonely practice, leaving one exposed and possibly risking being misunderstood. But all of this is necessary for the healing process.
“[Telling] those stories, even though it was painful, was part of my healing process. You don’t know how your people going to react, you don’t know how men [are] going to react, but you can’t really worry about that. ...You can’t really be thinking about how the homies going to look at me now, how’s hip-hop culture going to look at me now, you’ve got to just look at yourself,” Common said. “Some of the hardest work we do is the work on self.”
“One of the things I have learned through high-profile relationships is get it tight at home first because you know once you start moving out in the world you’re subjecting yourself to things that may not be sending you the right energy in a relationship, and it can shake you if you don’t build a strong foundation. I’m in the middle of intimacy growing, building a strong foundation,” Common said.
On using love in your everyday life
The title of Common’s new memoir, “Let Love Have The Last Word,” is a directive to himself and to readers to lead with love, kindness and humility. In troubling political and personal times, this may be more easily said than done. But Common said it’s vital to use love we have for ourselves to show love to others.
“When I say let love have the last word, it’s really me saying how can I practice in love in every situation,” Common said. “It’s basically saying how can we apply love to overcome these times, overcome the wounds that we have in our own personal lives, in society, how do we love in a better way? And that means love for God, love for myself, love for my community...after I’ve worked on that self-love, how do I apply that love to others? When I say let love have the last word, it’s like let’s operate with love at the front of our minds and the back of our minds.”