Adjustment of `attitude'

Relationships: Audrey B. Chapman uses women's mistakes to teach and to empower.

October 10, 2002|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"What makes sisters want to shout?" asks relationship therapist Audrey B. Chapman in her latest book, Seven Attitude Adjustments for Finding a Loving Man.

Chapman, who has been on numerous national television shows as a relationship expert, including Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20 and Good Morning America, writes in the book that she wants it to reach single African-American women who long to be in relationships but feel "a deep sense of hopelessness, frustration and depression that's so often masked by the ... facade of an angry attitude."

"We have become the walking wounded," she writes. "Traumatized by the war between the sexes, we are locked into a state of mind that could be described as post-traumatic love stress syndrome. All an attitude is is a defense."

When she says "attitude," read roll your eyes, purse your lips, in-your-face, whining, mothering, smothering, desperate, woe-is-me behavior.

"I think I could be very mothering," said Lisa Leak, an African-American woman four years out of college who attended a Chapman lecture sponsored by Howard County Central Library last month. "Sometimes, I guess, in college, I would see [men] - they might have a flaw that was very evident on the outside - and I'd say, `Aw, come, come, come,' and I think I wanted to make myself feel needed."

The attitudes are personified in such statements as "All men are sorry," or "Without a man, I'm nothing," which represent two of Chapman's seven "deadly" attitude problems, cynicism and shame.

In her lectures, books and a weekly radio talk show on WHUR (96.3 FM) in Washington, she uses women's mistakes and heartaches to teach lessons and empower women.

"These are real stories," she says of Adjustments. "This is not a fiction book."

Chapman is a little mysterious about how she came to be a relationship guru. "Things just kind of added up for me ... and I just happened to be at the right time at the right place in the right way," she said. "I'm very much rewarded that way."

Her work includes statistics and studies. Seven Attitude Adjustments offers figures from the Morehouse Research Institute, U.S. Census Bureau and others which Chapman uses to address "What makes sisters want to shout?"

Among findings mentioned in the book are that "two out of every three black marriages end in divorce, compared to one in every two white marriages," and "almost 50 percent more black women experience depression than do women of other races."

Findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are noted in stating that "black women are the least happy people in America."

Chapman says she uses such statistics to empower African-American women, not to scare them.

"Sometimes women think, `I'm the only person on the face of the planet all alone.' I did feel, oh, kind of a sense of relief [after hearing Chapman]," Leak said.

"It opened my eyes to other black women's perspectives, things that they do wrong, and things that I should avoid."

Are the women Chapman focuses on willing to change? Leak said, "All the men that I kind of approached mothering, nothing ever worked there, so most definitely" she is open to change.

That's good news, Chapman says. "This is all learned behavior. And that's the wonderful thing about it," she said last week on her talk show. "At any point, we can all choose to change anything that we want to change."

Chapman lists her recipe for change in the last chapter of Seven Attitude Adjustments. Included are: "Stop running from your feelings," "Face your fears" and "Keep the Faith."

"I come from a therapy training orientation that says that any amount of change that you make within you will automatically have an impact on the other person," Chapman said on her show. " I mean, I've seen it. I know that it can happen."

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