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“That’s what anxiety does; scares the living shit out of us for no reason at all”

Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me is Charlamagne Tha God’s second book. I will say that it is somewhat a follow up to his debut book and New York Times bestseller, Black Privilege. He shares a lot with readers about his life both professionally and personally that you may not quite understand if you are not a fan of his or his work, and haven’t read his first book. However, pretty much anyone who has struggled with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can find some anecdotes to relate to in Shook One.

Although there are lessons in this book that will connect with anyone, no matter what race, gender, or nationality you are, I think that the demographic that will get the most from this book are young black, brown, or white men from low and disenfranchised communities.


He talks a lot about the anxieties that come along with just coming from an impoverished background and the stress of constantly worrying about security and safety. The anxiety that goes along with trying to present yourself as a tough and strong, and the toxic practice of trying to “keep it real”. He writes:


“One of the absolute worst things black men are taught growing up is that we’ve got to keep it real. And most of the time ‘keeping it real’ involves some type of criminal activity. It’s a lie told by people who are jealous of your potential. People who are envious we might actually make it our of our current situation they hate and can’t get themselves out of….I have to keep it real with myself first and foremost.”


One of my favorite chapters in the book is “Losing My Roots”. It’s all about the stress and anxieties that a lot of people have when they leave their hometowns and families to better themselves while other people in their families or friend groups are still struggling whether that be by fate or choice, and the “survivors guilt” that comes along with that. He talks about how being in touch with where you grew up defines who you are but you don’t have to stay there either mentally or physically because you feel bad or guilty for those who did not make it out. This specific type of anxiety hit home with me because it is one that I struggle with.


Sometimes I do feel guilty for leaving home and pursuing my own dreams and interests while my sister stays back and helps my parents and vice versa. I’m very close with my family, so just naturally being away from them gives me anxiety. I want to better myself so that one day I can give back to them in a more significant way. In the book, he discusses how he dealt with the same issues in a very relate-able way.


Another major theme is this book is the idea of inherited trauma. Generational Trauma, also referred to as inter-generational trauma, is the trauma and anxieties that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and subsequently to further generations via complex post traumatic stress disorder mechanisms. Charlamagne goes very in depth about this in the “blackanoid” chapter. He discusses some of the shared experiences among black people who are descendants of slaves, as well as some of the PTSD symptoms of segregation. One thing he discusses is how seeing videos of unarmed black men dying at the hands of police in the United States can cause people to have PTSD and show symptoms when they are in similar situations with police. That’s one of the reasons I do not watch those videos when they begin to trend on social media. They cause me extreme anxiety when I see them because I picture that person being my dad, brother, nephew, or even my own child.


After reading this book what I found is that the overall theme is about how to deal with natural anxiety that can come along with growth and evolution as a human being. It is about not feeling bad or guilty or ashamed about receiving help and seeking therapy. To me, this book is about highlight the need to “do the work” to manage your mental health. While he doesn’t share with us if he has ever taken medication for his anxiety, he encourages readers to pursue that avenue IF that is what their Psychiatrist recommends.


Charlamagne does a really good job in breaking this down to specific stages of life and particular instances in his life where anxieties are generalized. He also talks about the anxieties that come along with individual successes and the impact that having a fear of failure can have you; both good and bad.


Another good takeaway from this book is just how much of our anxiety today has roots in social media. He discusses FOMO and how that is all rooted in anxiety, envy, and fear.


Charlamagne includes a quote from megachurch pastor Steven Furtick,


One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.”


I would recommend that anyone struggling with anxiety and just wants to read something that they can relate to and feel as if someone else gets it, check out Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me. While reading it I found that I actually had less anxiety and would pick it up and read anytime I felt stressed. Anything that helps me feel centered and anxiety-free is something that I want to share with everyone else. This book has inspired me to seek out more literature about understanding anxiety. This book hit home with me and left me with some advice that I will also leave for you:


“There’s no use in working myself up over unlikely scenarios, because they are out of my control anyway.”
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