Debola Oni’s new book, titled Overcoming painful emotions, thrives on the assumption that the average African woman is still, more or less, a slave to public opinion – even in the 21st Century – and so, needs to be guided by common sense rather than her heart.
Since such a woman is clearly a victim of what the author describes as a ‘highly judgmental’ society, this 209-page book comes handy as a protective cover against painful emotions and their often appalling consequences.
Considering the many institutionally imposed and psychological barriers that stand in the way of the African woman’s emotional stability, Overcoming painful emotions serves as a guide to her spiritual growth and fulfilment. It is a pill to be swallowed by all means – as the author herself rightly notes – if only to clear the thick fog in her eyes, give her a clear sense of self-identity and help to restore her self-confidence.
Oni also submits that low self-esteem is at the root of most women’s social and cultural behaviour, especially in Africa where she is expected to submit to every whim of the society and to conform to rules specifically designed to keep her under emotional and spiritual subjugation.
The writer’s mission, clearly stated in the preface to the book, is primarily to save and arm the women folk against persistent societal prejudices that date back to the time of creation.
Reading through the book, one is compelled by Oni’s deep concern for the emotional cleansing of members of her sex to conclude that Overcoming painful emotions is a well-aimed and perhaps, well-timed campaign against gender inequality, violence against women, sexual abuse and more, among other afflictions endured by women since the creation of Eve.
Explaining why she has focused only on the women folk, using the Christian faith as a perspective, the author replies in an interview with our correspondent, “It was the inspiration I got before setting out to write this book.”
She notes that the book derives from many true stories shared between other people she had met and herself.
Most of the stories, Oni adds, were told by fellow women who had difficulty pulling through painful experiences on their own.
“Even men, who have to deal with similar emotional problems, will benefit from the messages in the book. Although the book is written by a woman and the content touches on feminine issues, it does not mean that men will not find it useful because they also have problems with anger, depression and other emotions,” she says.
Oni’s guiding principle is her belief in the virtues and natural abilities of the African woman, not the feminist ideal – which she hardly understands in the first place – as some people had erroneously imagined.
“Just like the men, every woman has potential. It depends on what God has called them to do. But they need to maximise such natural gifts in whatever area. To do this, they need to be free from emotional pressure. They need to be free from bitterness.
“No matter the role that a woman plays in the society or the cap she wears at any point in time, she will not be able to maximise her potential if she continues to struggle with painful emotions. This is my message in the book,” she explains.
She notes that although most people experience painful emotions – described as existing in the forms of fear, anger, guilt, shame or depression – their effects on the human mind could prevent the spiritual development of the afflicted.
Overcoming painful emotions, which is her first published work, is expected to fulfil the author’s task of relieving millions of women of this burden that they have to bear at the expense of their emotional well-being and spiritual growth.
Unlike most other new books published in this part of the world, this one is well-edited. The credit goes to Oni’s painstaking attention to detail and her determination to ensure that the message in the book is not marred by poor proof-reading and editing.
“At a stage, I kept rewriting and reading the text all over because I was afraid of being labelled a sloppy writer,” she says, recalling the rigour she had to endure in the process of producing the book.
Oni appropriates the elements of poetry and draws from the Christian scriptures – purely for illustrative purposes – to drive home her message in the book.