A "Black Swan Event" is when the unexpected occurs, causing a huge mindshift and change in how the world works. People never imagined that Black Swans existed, until the discovery of the first Black Swan... (as per book "The Black Swan", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007, that sold over 3 million copies)

Is a perception change the next Black Swan Event? Consider that by changing perception we might change the world. Look at everyday things from different angles. Find beauty in the unexpected...
Change our thinking, change our actions, change our world!

See that all people are part of God's puzzle and have something to give. Black swans do exist. The ugly duckling was actually a swan who needed to discover himself and where he fitted and be who he was meant to be. To the last, the lost and the least, you are beautiful as you are.
May all who visit this page feel God's touch and experience His blessing...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dropping Emotional Baggage

Many people carry emotional wounds from past experiences. This may be due to a once-off event, or ongoing trauma. I also have experiences that I used to carry around with me and wherever I went, these happenings were somewhere in the background of my mind, an integral part of me. The experiences affected who I now am - etched into history, never to be forgotten - but the hold they had over me has lost its power. Only recently did I say to myself, yes, those events happened to me, but they are past and they don't define me.

Think of it this way perhaps: As a child you attended school and learnt much and now, as an adult, you look back on your school years and remember past teachers and friends, but you know it's all past. Assuming you had a good school life, you probably don't pay much mind to how each teacher affected your ongoing development and you are able to separate your childhood from where you are now. This in effect is leaving the past behind. Some people though lived through trauma, be this in a childhood family home, or in a classroom, or elsewhere, and the trauma marks their identity with an indelible, subconscious cloud of secrecy and shame. Traumatic events that happened to a person need to be separated out and they mustn't form part of the person's identity.

Leaving emotional wounds behind is a process that may take a long time and I leaned on God who helped me to do this - I don't know how I would have otherwise. People and the world may hurt us, even people we thought we could trust with our lives, and the only one we can trust implicitly is God.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The One Who Speaks First, Seems to be the One Who is Most Believed

Someone once said to me, I've heard that you <insert assertion>. I felt a twinge of guilt as the accusation hit home, but then I mulled the incident over, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that she was wrong, though it carried a vague thread of truth - I'd never done what she accused me of doing, or, I should say, what she said she'd heard about me. If I'd denied the assertion, would she have believed me or believed the other person? I suspect she would have believed what she'd heard about me, even without proof. And why was she so willing to believe someone else's assertion, without checking with me first?

I told someone else that I'd been accused of <insert assertion> and I thought she would feel compassion that I'd been being accused unjustly, but, instead, she looked at me, shocked, and I realised that she hadn't asked me if the assertion was true or not, she'd automatically assumed that it was.

This has application in law as well as in cases of bullying: If someone steps forward and makes an accusation about someone else, generally the accusation is seen as true. If someone is the first person to step forward to speak about a situation, generally that viewpoint is believed, because he or she was first to speak. Perhaps people should verify the authenticity of the accuser as well as the accused in all criminal cases, though of course, making an untrue accusation carries a huge risk of being found out and it's therefore bound to only happen infrequently.


The words we speak about others are powerful. Gossip is damaging. We may say we won't be influenced by gossip, but is that true? If I hear that someone is a backstabber, especially before I've met the person, will I be friendly towards such a person, or will I avoid getting close to the person? Of course I will most likely avoid the person. What do you think the person's reaction towards me will be should this happen? The person is likely to begin to act coldly towards me, because he or she will sense my reticence, and so gossip may become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Question what you are told about others. Maybe what you have heard isn't at all true.

Link to related blog post:



The Gossip Trap

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Giving to Charity

There are countless causes in the world today and there's bound to be at least one supporting charity. Charities save lives and help people: feeding famine starved people, getting homeless people off the streets, saving animals. I've been sure that the organisations I donate to will use my money wisely and send aid to where it's needed most. But after spending some time getting to know the ins and outs of a charity, I realised that some charities may not be providing benefits as I'd hoped, as per the following:
  • People who work at charities may forget the reason they work there. For example, workers may complain about the starving, homeless person who hangs about at the door during lunch time when the office is closed and the workers are on their lunch break, yet the homeless person is the very reason the workers have a job.
  • Some non-profit organisations have large structures to support. They may own offices and employ a number of people. Money donated goes towards paying for the infrastructure of the charity first, before it gets given to the cause. This is necessary so that charities are able to provide advocacy and counselling and other services, but sometimes it means that the organisation could make a huge difference, but provides assistance selectively, due to budget constraints. 
  • Large organisations may have the resources to help, but may use the resources sparingly and randomly. For example, I have heard of homeless people being placed into motels and given the food they need by a charity, but a homeless person I asked the organisation to help was given pamphlets only - I realised I could help the person more than the organisation was prepared to.
  • I've seen homeless people being used in fundraising campaigns to fight homelessness. One particular person has been homeless most of his life, yet has been in contact with a charity for years. He said, at least the charity is there to listen to him or he would have no-one. Why hasn't he been helped? He may prefer being homeless, but it sounded as if he wanted to turn his life around.
  • Choose carefully which charity to give towards. Do you see visible results in the community? A large charity may provide more influence and resources than a lone spokesperson charity, but the smaller one may give more money directly to where it's needed.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Reactions May Vary Widely Due to Outward Expressions of Anger or Anguish

Why do some people receive empathy for emotional anguish, whilst other people are ostracised? Recently I heard a psychologist say in a radio interview that it may be because some people show anger, which turns people away, whereas other people openly express sadness and pain and people have an innate drive to help those in obvious distress. Think of two dogs, both enormous. One dog bristles menacingly towards you when you reach out your outstretched hand, her snout drawn back as she growls softly. The only thing stopping her from biting you is a thick chain drawn taut. The other dog shivers as you approach her. She seems to wilt as you reach out and she yelps when you touch her. Your heart bleeds for this dog and you wish you could undo the abuse she must have suffered to so obviously lack trust. You stay as far as you can away from the first dog. You don't know that both dogs are pets who were mistreated in the same abusive background.


It is quite understandable that one would stay widely away from the first dog for fear of being bitten. This dog may be put down as a dangerous dog, yet perhaps she might become a family pet given enough time and love, but her behaviour may mean she is never given this chance. The second dog is obviously not a threat and is likely to find someone who is willing to devote energy to help her to recover. She may always remain reticent, but her obvious trauma ensures she will be treated with understanding and placed in a gentle home where her nature will be catered to. The exterior we show is what people see and they may react accordingly.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron (Proverbs 27:17) - hindsight, patterns, and being shaped by others

In writing and looking back, I've noticed a series of patterns in my life. It's akin to being in that oft spoken of forest, where one rushes into and then past towering tree trunks and where feet sink into hidden mud and then one is on solid ground across from heavy streams and only once one has climbed the mountain side can one see the path taken. In the midst of living, the patterns hid themselves, and only became obvious with distance and in retrospection. Part of the journey is bumping into people who may shape one along the way. The person who seems irritating to you now, may be someone who, over time, will help you to develop patience. Someone who seems unlovable when you first meet, may help you to change your world view. Perhaps the person who seems to run away from you without warning, is someone who will develop your ability to allow people to leave you, whereas before you have always clung on. Or maybe the person who seems to cling to you, is someone who will help you develop more healthy boundaries. God knows whom we need in our lives, and sometimes the people who seem to frustrate us the most, are the ones who will develop our characters most. What patterns may you see, if you step away from your circumstances and look back?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Your Past Doesn't Matter

I have heard quite a few church sermons recently that say a bad past doesn't matter if one changes for the good, for example, God used Moses even though Moses committed murder, and He did the same with Paul; Paul murdered Christians before his conversion, yet Paul went on to become one of the biggest evangelists for Christianity.The Bible tells of the bad pasts of many people, as historical fact, though this doesn't condone the behaviour, yet people move on from their pasts and many transform their lives. There are many successful people in the world today who openly tell of traumatic pasts, and some use this as the basis of their ministry.

Does this mean you should openly expose a past you may always have felt ashamed or guilty of? It is important to work through your past so that you overcome emotional trauma, for example, by working with a counsellor or talking to a close friend or by journalling, but no, you don't need to tell anyone about anything that may have happened to you. I read a story once of someone who went to therapy for years, but yet steered clear of discussing certain details of her past, yet she made progress and healed and often a positive relationship is the key to healing, not the details discussed. You may choose to disclose your past to people around you, but it isn't something you have to do, especially something that happened years ago, be it childhood abuse, a sexual assault, recovery from drugs or alcohol abuse, or anything else you may have done or experienced. That said, you probably will need to tell employers about acts that will have a material impact on your employment. But in general, people around you don't need to know, unless you feel telling is part of your journey and telling may be an integral part of your journey, due to the silence involved in many crimes of trauma.

What may happen if you begin to disclose your past to others? It largely depends whom you tell and who finds out. If you know people whom you trust and who trust you in turn, then they may be very supportive. But you may find that many people don't understand and may begin to hold your past against you and label you according to stereotypes, even if what happened to you was none of your fault. It is your decision whether you tell and whom you tell.

What if someone finds out about your past and holds it against you in any way? It hurts, especially when trusted people treat you differently due to facts you can't control. It may hurt even more if people spread rumours and malign you based on suspicion and stereotypes. You cannot control the opinions of other people, but you can decide what you think of yourself, and your past doesn't have to be part of your identity. Bad things may have happened to you, but you can separate those parts out and throw them away. And Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when others hurt us. There have been occasions when I discovered by accident that someone I trusted gossiped about me, but I took it as a lesson learnt and I was grateful, because I now knew what the person really felt about me, so I could untangle myself from unmerited emotional ties.

The past is past. It may have shaped you, but it doesn't need to define you. You are more than your past. Your past doesn't matter. Once you are able to be who you are, without thought of your past as a millstone you carry, you may truly be.

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Traumatic Past and Ongoing Bad Behaviour

A traumatic past may have a profound effect on someone's psyche, especially if trauma occurs during childhood. Children who have experienced abuse may hit out at people or may have trouble regulating their emotions and these patterns may solidify as time goes on, yet when the child reaches adulthood, he or she is expected to follow accepted social norms of behaviour; the time to help a child can therefore never come too soon. I know of a person who assaulted someone soon after her alleged abuser was acquitted in court; her behaviour may seem understandable knowing that she expected her perpetrator to face justice, but venting frustration through physical means is a wholly unacceptable outcome to injustice, and she now finds herself in jail. I used to feel that a traumatic past history excused much behaviour, but I've come to realise that, while it may explain behaviour, it cannot be used to justify ongoing bad behaviour, especially where this impacts other people.

Perhaps a few more examples would be useful: I know someone who blackmailed her abuser to get money from him, yet blackmail is an act of wielding power over another and could also be seen as a form of abuse and is a criminal act. The same person threatens people physically to get her way and others are afraid that she may become violent and hurt other people, though she never has. These are examples of behaviour that cannot be excused. She also flees soon after reaching safety, a pattern directly attributable to the trauma she experienced, and the act of fleeing means she often becomes homeless. She needs to change this behaviour to resolve her homelessness, but the behaviour is so much a part of her that she probably doesn't see it. She needs to recognise that the pattern exists and realise that it's self-limiting and want to change it. Unlike the first examples I gave, she doesn't personally gain from the behaviour, besides relieving her angst, and she may need an enormous amount of therapy to obtain insight and change. Another way to put this is that a therapist would wholly understand her behaviour and where it originates from, and the therapist would partner with her to make the changes she needs, but society won't absolve her from the behaviour, no matter her past.

A similar example to ongoing limiting patterns of behaviour is if a target reacts angrily when bullied. Bullying may sometimes be subtle, for example, a comment made by someone who knows that the words will push the victim's hot buttons, but as soon as the victim reacts vehemently to bullying, the bully has succeeded in bringing the victim down. A mentor once said to me that an adverse reaction by a victim merely gives the bully ammunition to use against the target, and the best thing for the victim to do is to remain calm, because eventually the bully will be caught out.

What are your thoughts on this topic? I am still formulating my thoughts on this matter and I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Showing Love to a Person Who Has Complex Behavioural Problems

What does it mean to love someone? I don't mean, to love a spouse or a child or a friend; I mean to have love for people we sometimes find hard to love. I am sure we all have examples of people whom we find it difficult to love: a person we know who may be regularly homeless, a friend who always needs a shoulder to cry on, a family member who has a problem with addiction. Perhaps this is because we fear being overwhelmed with requests, whether this be for money or time. Sometimes it may be because the person's behaviour seems out of the norm, and we fear the person's next action.

I feel that love means unconditional acceptance; that one is willing to acknowledge and respect another person. I used to think love was equated with money and giving of things; that if I gave material objects, I thought I was showing love, but I have changed my views. As examples, there is no point giving money when the first thing the person purchases is drugs or alcohol; there is no point paying for a place for someone to stay if the person keeps moving by choice week after week, year after year. In such cases, the behaviour keeps the person in bondage and the person needs to make a decision to change before other people will be able to help.

Love may be shown in a variety of ways, but I believe the best way to show love is to accept and acknowledge another person. Sometimes all another person wants is for someone to listen; to be heard; to be understood. I feel that love means treating another person with dignity. Love means acknowledging a person's existence. Love means compassion for the well-being of fellow human beings. In love you can be who you are and I can be who I am, and we can still respect one another. Loving someone doesn't mean one becomes overwhelmingly enmeshed in another person's problems and needs. One should set boundaries of acceptable behaviour, so that one can be available to someone else, but not controlled or overwhelmed. Everyone should have a safe roof and adequate food to eat and there are organisations that one can point a person to for help, if one can't meet another person's material and psychological needs, but one can still make oneself available to listen.

I hope these thoughts have helped someone and I'd like to hear thoughts in response.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Abusers and Bullies Lack Empathy For Their Targets

I once heard a Year One teacher accuse a child in her class of  making mistakes on purpose, however, I would be astonished if a six or seven year old child would ever deliberately cause mischief such as this, because a child at this level hasn't learnt the intricacies of such social dynamics. What would it profit a child to act stupid? The teacher didn't understand that the child was struggling to understand and needed help.

I have heard of paedophiles who say in their defense that the child agreed with their requests for sexual favours. The abuser seems to feel that the child understood what was being requested, as if the abusive adult is thus absolved from guilt because the child was a willing partner. Yet a child doesn't understand norms of behaviour as a grown woman does, and a child may agree because the child doesn't even know what he or she is agreeing to, or may not want to offend an adult, or may agree because the child has previously learnt to agree. Some grown woman may even have difficulty turning down persistent requests for sexual favours from an ardent follower, so how much more difficult would this be for a child to ward off?

A child has a mind very different from an adult and cannot be seen as a miniature adult, who knows intricate social dynamics. Yet many abusers seem to treat children as if they were adults, and children are often treated as far older than their years by many abusers.

Similar principles may apply to those who bully other adults too, because such bullies may lack compassion for their victims, or may assume a malevolent intention from another person when none was ever intended. Someone once told me that instead of being angry with someone who was bullying me, that I should have compassion for the bully instead. I never understood what he meant at the time, but I am beginning to understand that perhaps many bullies are the way they are because they have been hurt and somehow there is a breakdown in how they see the world.

I wonder, is it possible to reform many abusers, especially of children, and teach them what it means to see the world as a child does? If you are a parent, please try to teach your children the value of boundaries, to respect others' wishes, and to have empathy for others so that abuse will become less and less.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Many Accuse Victims of Being at Fault

I've noticed that people seem to have a tendency to blame victims for their situation. Is this because it's easier for us to come to terms with deviant behaviour when we think a victim deserved what happened, as if we can't fathom that bad things sometimes happen? I may have read that theory somewhere before.

I read an article today about a 14 year old child who was raped, but the judge said she wasn't such a victim because she was promiscuous. Her attacker agreed in a confession that he raped her and he even said he couldn't believe what he had done and that he was sorry. He was sentenced to 5 years probation, which included only 45 days in jail, and the victim wondered why she even came forward and laid a rape charge--very sad. One thing in the rapist's favour is that he seems sorry for what he did, but still, I can't fathom that the victim was blamed in this case, because the confession clearly says that she said no many times and asked him to stop and her past should have no bearing on the case.

I have read of cases of child sexual abuse where a similar thing was said. Offenders will say the child came on to them or that the child agreed to the abuse. A child is a child and an adult should always know better than the child. If a child comes onto an adult, the adult should say no. When people say the child agreed to the abuse, the request was given by the adult first. How can it ever be okay for an adult to ask a 10 year old, or any child, if he or she wants to try out a sexual behaviour? A 10 year old child usually doesn't know anything about what the adult means the first time this happens, and will often say yes if the child hasn't been taught to be careful of such a situation and to say no. Later on the child will continue to say yes, even when the child realises the behaviour is wrong, because the norm has been set up and the child may now feel complicit in the cycle of shame and guilt and also is trapped in a learnt cycle.

As in the above cases, I have seen where victims are blamed for bullying that happens. Bullies are often very personable people and other people may like them, and sometimes victims aren't always seen as that nice. Bullies may bully their victims on the quiet and the victim may then react badly towards the bully in public, reinforcing the perception that the bully is in fact the victim, but things aren't always what they seem. A good piece of advice I was given was to always ensure I behaved calmly and well towards a bully in public, otherwise people would believe the bad things the bully said about me in private. Unfortunately people don't normally want to get involved when they hear about bullying, and they will sometimes blame the victim, and may even ask the victim to leave an organisation thinking this will keep the peace, but the bully will probably just find a new target later.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Breaking Patterns of Behaviour

I've been mulling over patterns of behaviour and how these originate and also how to break them. Even harder than breaking a pattern of behaviour, I feel, is recognising the pattern in the first instance. When something is so much a part of us, it's difficult to isolate. We see our actions as natural, something we do, and often aren't aware there is anything amiss. It is hard to see ourselves as other people see us, especially if there is lack of feedback.

An example might be someone who gets into trouble, or who is avoided, because of misplaced humour and making hurtful fun of others. There are some people where this is their normal style of communication and such a person will consider joking as natural as breathing, but for someone else who isn't used to joking as a means of expression, hearing this on an ongoing basis will seem uncomfortable. A person who finds fun in every situation may not even realise this isn't the norm for everyone. And if the person does realise that the humour is causing a problem for other people, the person may still fall back on the humour, even knowing this might land him or her in trouble. Sometimes people like to push other people's buttons. But yet, the humour may cause a real problem for such a person during everyday interactions, especially towards strangers, and it would be best to drop the pattern, but, it is exceedingly difficult to break a habit. Even when one knows the habit should be changed, actually doing so may take every ounce of self control.

Often we first need to understand why we need to change before we actually change our patterns of behaviour. This realisation may take a long time in coming. Sometimes it's only when our selves are threatened that we find the incentive to change. The person who jokes may only stop wisecracks if, for example, the person is told he or she may be fired from a job if the behaviour continues. Hopefully the person will experience a personal insight into the harm done by constantly poking fun at others and will drop the behaviour before this is necessary.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Jesus Asked His Followers to Help Others

The Sheep and the Goats

"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?' "The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' "Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?' "Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matthew 25: 31-46 WEB)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Land Invasions Since the Time of Moses

The blog article that I wrote yesterday called Are You a Victim of Shame and Guilt? led me to the topic of invasion. Throughout history people have been invading and colonising different parts of the world. This is also recorded in the Bible when, thousands of years ago, Jewish people moved into the Promised Land and God said not to make treaties with anyone who lived there and not to intermarry because it would cause problems for them (Deuteronomy 7:2). Romans invaded large scale areas starting 200 years before Christ was born and this continued for hundreds of years afterwards and Saxons and other nations invaded England starting in the 400s, when the Roman Empire disintegrated. Genghis Khan united Mongol tribes in the 1100s and then began large scale invasions and massacres of China and Asia. Muslim conquests occurred in India between the 1200s and 1600s and Wikipedia says even earlier invasions occurred during the 8th century in Afghanistan and Pakistan. African tribes moved down from Northern Africa and colonised Southern Africa as early as 2000 years ago and Shaka Zulu is an example of a more recent military ruler who arose and united his people and ousted many other African tribes. Then British and Dutch settlers moved to South Africa and elsewhere between 400 and 200 years ago and this gave rise to colonialism. Isn't it fascinating how cycles repeat, sometimes under the disguise of new terms? The pattern I see is that groups of people may repeat cycles of hurt when given the opportunity, yet feel aggrieved when they are unseated in turn, though may also do the same if a future opportunity presents.

I lived much of my life feeling guilty because I was white and a colonialist, but firstly, I never asked to be born where I did, and secondly, I was never responsible for colonialism myself, because this happened hundreds of years before. This was truly a breakthrough for me when I realised I was allowing myself to be shamed into feeling guilty by what people around me said about me purely because of what I looked like, based only on a stereotype.

Are boundaries settled around the world or will another invasion occur sometime? Large scale movement of people still happens under the banner of legal and illegal migration and movement of asylum seekers, but in these cases it is normally an assimilation of people into an existing nation, instead of a separate invasion. Hopefully we can work out how to live together. Perhaps the more that people feel part of their nation, the more we become at one with one another.


Jesus said, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5 KJV)


Jesus  also said,  "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5: 38-39 KJV)

Are You a Victim of Shame and Guilt?

Shame and guilt are powerful emotions that may cripple. They may also be used as weapons that enslave.

Consider the following examples:
  • A child is abused and harbours guilt at compliance with the abuser's demands and also feels immense shame at what happened. As an adult, the person is still in the grip of these emotions.
  • A child grew up alongside a more accomplished sibling and can't shake off a deep feeling of inferiority, and perhaps guilt that he or she could have tried harder.
  • A person is accused of a crime because of a stereotype, for example, you invaded our country, yet the person wasn't even born when the invasion occurred. The invasion happened and was wrong, but an individual born years later cannot be held accountable for the crime, for to do so would be to make an individual liable based purely on ethnicity. As an example, white South Africans are often blamed as a group for historical invasion, and people the world over echo the sentiment that they must go home, yet individuals alive today are descendants only of Dutch and British migrants, and Britain and other countries were in turn invaded by Romans and Saxons and other people, starting hundreds of years ago. History cannot be changed, we can only change the present and the future.

What labels do you wear that aren't your fault, yet you may carry? Identify these oppressive emotions and shrug them off. They don't belong to you.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Leadership / Life Skills: Conflict Management: The Relationship and The Issue

I've previously briefly mentioned how conflict management may be handled in diverse ways depending on one's culture and you can read the blog post here: Do You Know People You Run From? Is Change Possible? A Few Thoughts.... Conflict management skills are vital to ongoing relationships.

When I attended a training course on conflict management, I learnt there are two key aspects to conflict: the relationship and the issue. If conflict arises with a stranger whom you may never see again, it is much easier to say exactly what you feel for you know you may never see the person again. Or you may hope you never do. For example, if you buy an item of clothing and need to return it, you may become quite abrasive if a store person refuses to return your money. Your goal is to obtain what you paid for the item, and the relationship may be negligible because you see this as a once-off transaction. You may react in a hard and fast way if you experience resistance and you may demand your money back or you will take the matter further. Of course, mutual respect should always be a part of any relationship transaction, even if you don't have an ongoing relationship with someone. However, if conflict arises in your marriage, you are invested in the relationship and need to tread more carefully. The issue may take second place in preference to ensuring your relationship remains intact, depending how much the issue means to you. But sometimes the issue is of such great importance that this takes precedence. There are some hard conversations that need to take place, for example, if you feel your spouse is abusive, you may decide to push the issue even if it means a relationship breakdown.

I believe it is best to get conflict into the open, especially if you will have an ongoing relationship with someone, or it may fester. Sometimes one may be unaware there is unresolved conflict with another person, and if you suspect something seems to be bothering someone else, then ask, but if they say everything's okay, then leave it at that. You can only work on what you know about and you have asked so your conscience is clear.

To aid in conflict management, I see assertiveness as going hand in hand. Assertiveness is a healthy means of communicating and you can read a blog post I wrote on assertiveness here: Leadership / Life Skills: Assertiveness

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Half-Brother? No, He's Your Brother

I've been wondering about the terms half-brother and half-sister I've often heard used. I've used these terms myself too with my own family. Why do we do this? In the Bible, Joseph refers to his eleven other brothers, though only Benjamin was a full brother with the same mother as Joseph. All of these twelve brothers had the same father.

From a legal point of view it seems to me that halves have just as much rights as full, which can seen in migration when they have as much right to migrate by virtue of family line. They are brothers and sisters in the eyes of the law.

I suppose people like to categorise differences explicitly. Some people may even use different parentage as an excuse to say, that person isn't really my brother or sister, but they are.

I realise I use this terminology in my fiction book and I need to change it now. I use the term step-brother, when this person is actually my protagonist's brother by virtue of adoption, and I must change all references to half-brother, to merely say brother.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Only You Can Say Who You Are: Which Culture Do You Identify As?

Many groups and people are trying to save tribal rights of Bushmen in the Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, which I wholly support. Recently I discovered that some of the people asking to be allowed to live in the Kalahari Game Reserve seem at a glance to be culturally and even ethnically different from people I think of as Bushmen, because these people, who I thought were pastoralists, own livestock and ride horses and look very different to Bushmen. Bushmen are traditionally known as a people of very short stature, with an almost yellow skin that is very wrinkled, mongoloid eyes, and very curly black hair that is sparse. But I was told it doesn't matter if these people are originally Bushmen or not, they identify as Bushmen.

What a person looks like seems to be giving way in favour of culture, probably because, in this changed global world, people can belong to the same country and therefore the same culture irrespective of looks. In Australia, where I now live, it is disconcerting for me to hear some people use the term African only for certain darker coloured people, even if they are Australian citizens. Yet I assume that all people who come to Australia will embrace Australia's culture, even if this is done at the level of the next generation, or why else come to Australia. There is a song sung here at citizenship ceremonies called, "We Are One, But We Are Many", and personal culture differences are allowed, but there is one overriding Australian culture too that people embrace. African isn't a term used much in South Africa because there are so many different types of South Africans, though some people claim it. I am South African, but I am white. I am a citizen of Africa and therefore I am an African. I am an Australian too.

In Australia many documents and forms ask whether or not one identifies with particular groups of people. To adopt these cultures, the decision must be driven from the heart of a person who wants to embrace a wholly new culture and way of life. From what I have gleaned, it seems that people who have never traditionally been hunter/gatherer Bushmen are doing just this: they identify as Bushmen and in so doing they live with the Bushmen and obtain rights to use the land that's earmarked for the Bushmen, as well as rights to hunt for wild game. Essentially they have decided to embrace the Bushmen's culture. I found this a fascinating insight. Some other cultures have a slightly different protocol: to become Jewish, for example, one undergoes a strict conversion process in synagogue, though still, the conversion decision comes from the heart of the person who wants to identify as Jewish and to truly belong to the new community.

It seems to me, the decision to adopt a new culture, regardless of previous background, rests largely with an individual. Is my assumption correct? I would love to hear other people's thoughts.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Some People Sink and Some People Swim: Same Circumstances, Different Outcomes

Have you ever wondered, how do some people seem to have everything together, in spite of all they have been through? This is a topic on my heart, and can be seen as the main theme of my unpublished fiction book, about two sisters who both experience trauma, yet who follow widely divergent paths in their onward journeys through life. I've described is as: when you are thrown into a swirling sea, you either sink or you swim.

When trouble is experienced on an ongoing basis, for example as in the case of trauma, there are often general behavioural coping strategies survivors can be expected to take. But of course, these are expected patterns only, not definitive patterns. So, the same situation can affect two people quite differently and one person may experience a psychic collapse while another may be able to overcome the trauma and function quite well. One therefore cannot say one must expect a certain outcome after certain situations. If one person can successfully overcome a troubled past, so can another. And just because most people who have experienced a particular type of troubled life have difficulty functioning, doesn't mean you must too if you have experienced the same dynamics.

Joyce Meyer has openly spoken about her traumatic childhood, yet she is now very successful and uses her past pain in many of her sermons to show people she has overcome with God's help. Oprah Winfrey is another celebrity who has overcome a difficult life. If some people can shrug off a troubled past, so can you, if you have experienced past pain. I believe the real key to doing this is to think and write about your journey, and also to tell your story to people you trust well. Sometimes past pain is as a vast non-verbal vagueness, difficult to even quantify, let alone talk about, but when it's spoken of, the story becomes clearer, even understandable in time, and one may then be able to step back from the pain and see it for what it was. The past may have affected you, but doesn't have to affect your future.

Link to related blog article: Your Past Doesn't Define You

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Problem With Some Memories

A few studies done in the 1990s (Wikipedia article on memory implantation) demonstrate that it is possible to manufacture memories. People were shown fake photos of themselves as children riding in a hot air balloon or being lost in a mall, and they remembered the experience...
...but these were faked photos and the experiences never happened.

That said, I attended a workshop recently where a few people spoke of recovered memories. I do believe that flashbacks may be real and that memory may be suppressed and recovered, especially traumatic memories. At the same time, I am cognisant of how easy it is to falsify memories.

For your own safety, be aware if you are on the receiving end of well meaning, but misdirected, suggestive questioning about your past. And from the other point of view, in dealing with anyone, be they child or adult, make sure they are the ones doing the recovering of memories, and avoid helping them along, for example, "could this have happened to you...?" Don't show children photos to jog memories along, or suggest something with the use of aids, because you might be implanting memories instead of recovering memories.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Are You Able To Say "No" to Manipulation?

I read an article yesterday called, Parents, It's Time to Let Your Daughter Say "No". In summary, a little girl is afraid to go on rides at a showground and her dad tries his best to entice her to go, but the mom pulls the dad aside and reminds him that, later on in life, their daughter will need to say "no" to other men who might want to date her, and she needs to be able to say "no" then. Powerful point.

Something similar I learnt as a child is how vital it is to say "no" to the approach of an abuser. Most often, an abuser will target a child who will easily comply with his or her requests. If I had complied with the approach of one particular teacher, who wanted me to leave a door open to him one night on a school tour, I can only imagine what might have happened. If a child firmly says "no" when approached as a target, the child will more than likely be protected--not always, but most often. Teach your child the importance of being able to say "no", especially if it's to what seems like gentle, friendly manipulation from an adult, commonly called grooming.

The best way to thwart any abuse is to ensure you don't allow it, and this applies as an adult too.

The Good That May Come From Tragedy: Flight MH370

Flight MH370 is missing. Grieving family members are in the spotlight. The world holds her breath and watches for news. One by one, nations from around the world step forward to provide sensitive satellite data to help find the missing plane. People from varied cultures wait for news and band together to search through satellite images. Malaysia provides the assistance she can, and then Thailand, America, Australia, China, New Zealand, and others provide their information and many send ships and airforce planes to scour the search zone. Where there is collaboration, competition flees.

I pray the missing flight is found and, at the same time, I am awed at how this tragedy has brought the world together. I see God's Hand at work in this sad situation, so that good may come from evil and tragedy. Evil may happen in this world, but God can turn any situation around so that His kingdom will emerge victorious.

Link to related article:
Collaboration Wins Over Competition

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Peeling Away Layers of Pain

A matroyshka doll is a series of wooden dolls that each hold a smaller doll within. This is a good analogy for healing the layers of pain that may surround people. Someone may desire to work on an obvious limiting pattern, for example, a reluctance to form attachments with others. Once this has been quantified and dealt with, a deeper pain may be exposed, and so on, sometimes all the way down to an inner originating trauma. It is only when one layer of defenses has been removed that the next more hidden layer can be healed. People may function quite well for much of their lives with a topmost mask in place, akin to a matroyshka doll, but when the mask is lifted, which may be purely by accident, deeper pain may surface. True healing comes when the originating cause is brought to light and healed. But it may be a difficult process that can take years. Do you have matroyshka dolls within yourself?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Your Past Doesn't Define You

I recently wrote a blog post that I called, I Didn't Act Like a Victim: Key to Overcoming the Past. Following on from that, have you ever done or experienced something in the past that hurt you or that you are ashamed of or you feel guilty of? I am sure many of us have things we wish we could forget, but that may haunt us still. Some things are small, and we can brush these off, but there are some things that may be bigger, for example, if you were bullied in school, or even if you were the one doing the bullying. Perhaps these things feel like a huge part of you, as if you are carrying them around within your very being wherever you go. But, these things can be thrown off, as the unnecessary baggage that they are. I heard an excellent sermon in church on this subject recently too, that your past doesn't define your future. Declare to yourself that the things that still dog you are in the past. You can learn from the past, but your past isn't you and isn't your future. Forgive where necessary and move on, for your own peace of mind. There are many successful people who have left behind traumatic experiences, for example, Oprah. She knows the past happened and she has spoken about her past, but she doesn't let the past drag her down. She knows that her past doesn't define her future. Joyce Meyer is another example of someone who lived through an abusive childhood, yet she is now very successful and she uses the messages from her past to help others. The Bible tells us in many ways that the past is the past. Paul murdered many Christians, yet He transformed after an encounter with Jesus and he became one of the biggest evangelists for Christ. Stories such as this show that transformation is possible. Are you allowing your past to keep you from experiencing a better present and a better future?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

I Didn't Act Like a Victim: Key to Overcoming the Past

I heard an excellent sermon in church yesterday. The Pastor showed us scenes of the January 2011 floods in Brisbane and how his house had been affected, and then he said something like, "People were surprised at how well I coped, because I didn't act like a flood victim." That statement stayed with me. What a powerful message. It resounded more so with me because earlier in the day someone invited me to join a support group because of a traumatic experience earlier in my life. But I'm over that, I thought. Well, in truth I may not be totally over the experience and I may have some work to do still, but I don't feel support is currently applicable for me. Maybe it's also because I have never been one for group work. This all might change of course if I ever dig deeper into my past and uncover anything that still requires work and I may need support then. There is a time and a place for support groups, but the time for support was when I first began to feel aftereffects of the experience, and I have moved on. I feel as if I am now in overcomer mode.

The point I'm trying to make is, the more I mull over the problems of my past, the more the past has a hold on me. I need to move on so that the past doesn't affect my future. The more I say to myself, I have overcome and moved on, the more I feel I have. And I also have God to lean on now, and He helps me immensely.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Seeing the End Result

I love to watch the Olympic Games, both Summer and Winter. Ice skaters swirl about on ice and leap effortlessly into the air. Athletes race against each other and the clock. From my couch chair, I might wonder when someone makes a silly mistake, for example, dives with too big a splash into the pool as these athletes make what they do look so easy. But yet what I don't see are the hours and hours of training that these athletes put into honing their craft. They all have immense natural talent. To get to the Olympic Games one needs innate talent. But they have also worked incredibly hard to get to where they are now. I wonder, do all of these athletes have passion for what they do? To keep persevering, one must have passion for one's craft to keep on and on going, working away at something. Sadly though, I imagine that there may be a few athletes who have trained since childhood to be where they are now and their path in life was never their choice to make, though this is perhaps the only life they now know--spare a thought for these people. Hopefully they may feel joy at competing and realise the wonderful innate talent they have.

How does one keep persevering before one has reached the destination? And perseverance may be a skill in its own right, though also a trait one can decide to adopt and slowly work at. I love to write and I especially love to write when an idea strikes as writing then comes effortlessly, but there are many times when I have an idea but the expression comes with difficulty. Vision helps one to persevere: Vision to see the end result before it has been achieved. Vision that one can create something from nothing. Vision that one can hone a skill enough to be a competitive athlete.

There are people who set out to compete at the Olympics and who never make it, sometimes even ending up in a different career choice, and they may have all the necessary ingredients in talent and passion and perseverance and vision, so what is also needed is a measure of good fortune, perhaps to be in the right place at the right time.

But if one stops before one has even tried, one has already failed. Keep persevering, and sometimes the impossible may just become possible.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

When We Don't Realise the Facts are Wrong

I previously wrote about the Bushmen in Ode to the San: I wrote of a Bushmen hunter who brought down an antelope with a poisoned arrow and I assumed the poison worked quickly. I discovered today that the poison may work very slowly, and a Bushmen hunter may need to track a prey for hours, even days, until the poison takes effect. Firstly I have a quandary whether or not to change my book to show this new fact, and secondly, I have learnt much more about the Bushmen.

What really gripped me was the tracking capability of a Bushman hunter. The craft is learnt over hours and days of tracking animals and is an integral part of Bushman culture. It struck me too that an animal might not associate a Bushmen hunter with death, because the wound inflicted from an arrow is slight and the poison is what really does the work and the animal does not die immediately it is hit. Poison used may be varied, from that of shrubs or of snakes or the larvae of insects. It can be a lot of hard work to gather and prepare the poison, for example, larvae that are used for poison are dug up from the ground, so one needs to locate the specific beetle larvae first.

When I wrote about the Bushmen, I did so assuming I knew my facts and I didn't realise a salient piece of information was incorrect. I may never have discovered that this fact was wrong, but thankfully I did from additional research I did. I wonder, what else may I be oblivious to, in day to day life, in a word spoken to someone in passing, or in an assumption I make about what I have read? What may you be missing?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

When What Seems Wrong is Actually Right: Kalahari Bushmen and Waterholes

I was previously upset when I read that the Botswana government closed waterholes of the Kalahari that were used by Bushmen (San / Basarwa), but since then I have discovered that waterholes were never needed by Kalahari Bushmen, as they used to be a people who survived without surface water (as per this National Geographic article about Bushmen). Then I discovered that the creation of waterholes for use by people has been the source of problems for the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for thousands of years, living off the land without need for anything else. Pastoralists moved in to the area only in the last hundred years and they created waterholes, and by doing so, they invaded the Bushmen's traditional lands and in some cases even laid claim to the Bushmen's identity. In fact, from a bit of research I've done, it sounds as if in many cases Bushmen are seen as servants, almost slaves, of the Pastoralists and there has been some intermarriage. I fear for the original Bushmen. Sometimes the ones who need help the most are forgotten with the louder voices that step forward. Africa is complex and there are so many different tribes of people, but I doubt they would lay claim to being tribal people in the strictest sense of the word, living off the land only in a hunter-gatherer type existence. I would suggest that Bushmen determine which people can say they are Bushmen, just as Jewish people accept new converts to Judaism via a strict conversion process to become Jewish. Often the people who should be helped the most, in this case the Bushmen, are lost in the cause, as other people step in and lay claim to their heritage, because of what is on offer in land and food and wealth.

I now suggest that Bushmen be allowed within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve only if they follow a strictly hunter-gatherer lifestyle, without any livestock and without waterholes. Game Reserves are needed in Africa, and sometimes people do need to make way to enable conservation and this has been done in many countries, but hunter-gatherer Bushmen who practice an age old culture are also a national treasure and this way of life should be cherished too. Where Bushmen are unable to survive in this harsh environment, either because they have lost this knowledge or else because they have decided to change and embrace a different way of life, I suggest that they be provided with an area where they can live in peace and flourish and practice their own unique cultural heritage, perhaps in an area adjoining the game reserve, where they may be able to be themselves.

I believe Bushmen would probably make wonderful nature conservationists as many of these people often have a wonderful love of nature and animals and understand conservation dynamics. Imagine perhaps a conservation model where Bushmen live on the outside of the reserve but take part in managing the reserve and the wildlife and conservation and work to restore land areas and also act as tourist guides.

I hope that Bushmen are able to rediscover their identity and culture once again, and be a people proud of their heritage. I realise that many of the Bushmen may no longer be able to throw off the trappings of a modern day world and be totally at one with the environment again, but I also believe their hearts beat for wide open spaces and freedom. Perhaps education is the answer for the Bushmen, to learn the skills needed to take their place in their new world, and also so the elders may continue to teach their children what they know, handed down from generation to generation, especially their unique melodic click language and tracking skills.

Link to related blog article: Ode to the San

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Different Generations, Different Influences

Shirley Temple died on Monday at the age of 85. She was a child star of the 1930s. She retired from Hollywood in her early twenties, while she was still famous. Shirley Temple was the youngest person ever to receive an academy award at the age of six years old. I've previously looked up a few video clips of her singing and dancing, because my dad named me after her. It's one of the few facts I know about him because my mother never spoke of him; she was too heartbroken at his early death from meningitis, which happened when I was six months old.

I saw the news of Shirley Temple's death and I did more research into her life and I discovered a few things I didn't know about her, for example, that she later went into politics. I am struck by how different the influences from generation to generation can be. My grandparents knew of Shirley Temple, and her fame carried through to my father and my mother, yet I wouldn't have known about her if I hadn't known I was called Shirley because of her. When I was a child, I watched E.T., a movie that was gripping and sad, and Jaws, which terrified me. I remember Back to the Future, Star Wars, McGyver, Maya the Bee, V and the X Files. At school I watched Justin Morgan Had a Horse, a wonderful movie with an amazing message, yet children of today won't see it, unless, as I've now done for my children, their parents buy it and show it to them.

How amazing the different influences each generation experiences, which moulds some of our outlook on life into our later years.

Link to an article about the life of Shirley Temple: What Modern Day Child Stars Could Learn From Shirley Temple

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Danger of Taking Sides Based on Feelings Instead of Facts

Yesterday I wrote about different points of view, where the same situation may be experienced and viewed very differently by the people who are involved. I mentioned the example of a friend who is fired by an organisation.

Imagine you were to take your friend's side in this matter; perhaps you feel so strongly that she was wronged that you begin to air your grievances about the company involved to others. However, maybe a few people who know of the situation are staunch supporters of the organisation involved and they side with the company. You may stick up for your friend in spite of evidence you hear to the contrary and the same applies for the people who side with the organisation. People may take sides based purely on a feeling of allegiance, instead of based on facts.

But, what if you are wrong? What if your friend was fired for a legitimate reason? The same applies to the people on the other side, as perhaps the company they support so loyally may be the one in the wrong. Often we will take sides and cheer our side on as the winner and we are convinced that we are right because it feels right. But maybe we are wrong. It is dangerous to take sides based on feelings of allegiance alone.

Different Points of View

There's a song that goes something like, "there's two sides, to every situation, yes there's two sides, two interpretations, a laugh is a cry, hello means goodbye..." For example, maybe your friend tells you that she has been fired from a long time job and when you hear her story you fume at the unfair treatment she received. Yet, if you were to ask the other person or people involved why your friend was fired, you most surely would get a totally different point of view. Yes, it is okay to give your friend a shoulder to cry on, but what if her version of events isn't the whole truth and you blindly support her? Gossip and hearsay are very dangerous, both to the people who believe it blindly and to the people involved in the story being repeated. There are normally always at least two sides to every situation and often these viewpoints are a dichotomy with the real truth somewhere in the middle. You therefore trust what someone says about another person or situation at your own risk.


People are fallible and people make mistakes and sometimes people aren't even aware of what they themselves might have missed. We all have blind spots. Is it possible your friend sees the world from a skewed lens of perception, through past pains and hurts that have nothing to do with the current situation? I've taken other peoples' sides before, "gone to war" to defend someone as it were, only to find out that the person was keeping key facts from me, sometime intentionally, sometimes unawares. So try to be aware that the first version of an event that you hear might not be the whole truth, but often it is the one we tend to trust, especially when it comes from someone whom we know and we like.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Inspiring Life of King David

The life of King David of the Old Testament has been the focus of a few church sermons I've heard recently. I've since reread parts of the Bible and am astounded at David's life story and the lessons to be learnt from this. I have summarised his story below, but there are many more details I have left out.

David was the youngest of Jesse's eight sons, a shepherd, yet he was chosen over his brothers and God commanded Samuel to anoint him. David then found his way into King Saul's castle, after Saul requested a musician to calm him when he was troubled and David played the harp to him and became his armour bearer. Later, David was the one who stepped forward to kill Goliath, of the Philistines. Saul gave David his armour with which to fight, but David threw it off as it was too bulky for him, and instead he stepped forward armed only with a sling and five stones. Thus was the mighty Goliath felled by a tiny stone flung by a mere boy. Saul then placed David in charge of his army, and people soon began to sing David's praises, 1 Samuel 18:7 (KJV) "And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Even Saul's own son, Jonathan, who was the heir to the throne, recognised David as Saul's successor, the future King. David at this point was on King Saul's side and he brought glory to Saul's kingdom, yet Saul became jealous of David and he was overtaken by an evil spirit. Instead of welcoming David's successes, Saul tried to get rid of him and so Saul offered his daughter's hand in marriage to David, initially his first daughter, but this offer fell through, and then his second daughter, Michal, fell in love with David, and David agreed. David was asked to bring 100 Philistine foreskins to King Saul for Michal's hand in marriage, and by doing so King Saul secretly hoped that David would fall at the hands of the Philistines, yet instead David triumphed and brought back 200 foreskins. Jonathan later warned David that King Saul, his father, planned to kill David and David fled, leaving behind his wife. Sometime after this, David spared King Saul's life twice when he came upon him, though he had King Saul easily within reach and even though he knew King Saul desired to kill him. David then found abode in Ziklag, ironically, a Philistine town. How sad that a mighty champion of Saul's people fled into the wilderness, right into the camp of the enemy, to find safety for a time and to rebuild his life. Sometime during this period, David almost joined together with the Philistine army to fight with them, but one of the Philistine leaders asked that David be sent away. Meanwhile, Saul consulted a medium, even though doing so was against God's commandments, and Saul was told that David would be King someday and that Saul and his sons would die at the hand of the Philistines. When David arrived back home in Ziklag, he found Ziklag ransacked and burnt down by Amalekites, who had carried away all David owned, including his two wives and all of the town's inhabitants. David's men turned on David in their anguish, but the first thing David did was to consult God to ask what he must do, and then he pursued the raiders with 600 men, 200 of whom couldn't complete the entire journey, and David regained his entire household and all of his belongings and more. He shared what he obtained with the surrounding Israelites, even with the 200 men who couldn't complete the journey with him, and his former fame was rekindled. King Saul was killed in the battle David was turned away from, and Saul fell on his own sword, surrounded by Philistines, and Jonathan and another two of King Saul's sons succumbed at this battle too. I wonder, if David had been part of King Saul's kingdom, would King Saul still have died in this way? Many years later, the Israelites approached David, who was anointed and then appointed as King Of Israel. It seems to me that David was always destined to be King, with or without Saul, and I wonder if Saul's outcome might have been different if Saul had accepted David instead of rejecting him, consequently fighting against God who was with David?

David was far from perfect and later he committed adultery with Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David attempted to conceal the resultant pregnancy by bringing Uriah back from battle so he could sleep with his pregnant wife, but Uriah refused and David then commanded that Uriah be killed. God however punished David for these incorrect choices. What set David's life apart was that he worshiped God through all, even when his son died he accepted God's decision, and David also refused to harm any of God's anointed even were this to be to his favour, Saul being the best example.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Jahi McMath's Story and Life Blood

Jahi McMath went into hospital on the 9th December last year, for a tonsillectomy and other throat surgery. She began to bleed after surgery and bled for hours until she went into cardiac arrest and then had emergency surgery and was hooked up to life support. Three days later her parents were asked to switch off life support, because Jahi was declared brain dead by the hospital. Jahi's mother said Jahi was moving and didn't want to switch off the ventilator, but the hospital insisted. Jahi's mom then went to court to extend Jahi's life support and this led to a bit more than three weeks of extra support. During Jahi's extended life support, the hospital didn't feed her, at all, for 26 days. Her mom took her out of the hospital into outside care a couple of days before the 7 January deadline to switch off the ventilator--at this point the coroner gave Jahi a death certificate backdated to the 12th December. Jahi is now said to be improving, though many people still want to turn off her life support because they say she is "dead" and that a "corpse" shouldn't be treated. Jahi has quickly improved since being fed and being treated with antibiotics and apparently she even moves her head and neck now. I wonder if she still meets the criteria for brain death and I hope she will be legally reassessed. Is it possible that we are wrong about what brain death really means, at least in some cases? Or were doctors horribly mistaken in their diagnosis? I prefer to ignore the possibility that Jahi's medical records were intentionally falsified. Worrying for me is why Jahi's family had to go to court to keep her on life support, as I truly hope that the decision to turn off life support will always rest with the loved one's family.

Whatever one believes, this case gives one much to think about regarding brain death and the resultant complexity of organ donation. Brain death is a somewhat recent criteria to diagnose death, defined during the 1960s, and is a way to harvest hearts that are still beating for organ donation. Some people say donors experience pain on the operating table, because their blood pressure and heart rates soar, and if they aren't given paralysing drugs, then many move. I wonder if the only true criteria for death is when the heart stops beating and therefore when life blood stops circulating. At the very least, organ donors should understand exactly what happens during organ donation, so it's informed consent. The Bible says, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11 KJV)

If Jahi recovers, then God has performed a wondrous miracle. I do see God's mighty hand working in Jahi's situation. As someone said, maybe this was allowed to happen so that Jahi's organs weren't used for donation, as per the family's personal and religious beliefs, and that her case causes people to question where the criteria for brain death is leading the world, whatever Jahi's outcome may be. Thank you God.

(Note: I may have a few dates slightly wrong, especially due to world time zone differences)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Our Cat and Problem Eating: the Self Regulation Trap

We used to have a skinny cat. We left dry food out for her all day, so she could help herself to what she needed. Then she began to put on weight. We noticed she was snacking every so often, sometimes 15 minutes after she had just eaten a huge meal, adding up to way more than she should eat. She seemed to be snacking when she was bored, wandering aimlessly around the house, spending less time outside. Then I took the constant food supply away and in the beginning she complained loudly when she wanted food, now she can wait a bit longer before I give in. She looks a bit thinner already, but it's going to take time. Self regulation can be a huge problem. And to think, this happens with people too. We are expected to regulate our meals, but often there's a constant supply of choice. Lots to learn from a cat and her eating.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Assertiveness: The Ability to Say "No"

Do you struggle to say "No"? I thought I was okay with turning requests down, until I volunteered to help out with an event. Well, actually what happened is that I went to an information desk to find out if I needed to book to attend a free music concert. The person thought I was there to find out about volunteering for the event, because people were told to go to the desk to put their names down, and she began rummaging around looking for a piece of paper so I could give her my details. So there I was, only thoughts of attending on my mind and then I ending up feeling obliged to put my name down as a volunteer. What would the woman in front of me think if I said "No, I only want to attend"? I thought. Would this seem extremely selfish of me? I had come to the information desk's attention and I was no longer just one of the crowd of event goers, I was a potential helper. So I smiled nervously and gave her my details. I said I'd be an usher. I hoped they had ushering available. I was sure this would be an easy task to do, because I really wanted to see the event too. Then someone phoned me and said would I stay to clean up afterwards, and I said, "No", quite legitimately, because I said I had children I would need to get home to. "Oh, would you help out with the kid's program on the night?" she asked. "Would I still see the concert?", I said. "No, only the kid's concert", she replied. Well, I do have children, I thought--though I had been thinking of leaving them at home on the night--and I could then bring them with me and watch over them. "Okay" I said. I put the phone down.

How did I go from merely wanting to find out if I needed to book a ticket to a free music event to missing the concert totally? I felt manipulated by the phone calls and the outcome, but I did it all to myself! I phoned back and said, "I don't want to miss the main concert". The person was quite understanding and took my name off the kid's concert roster and said she'd get someone to phone me back with something else to do so I wouldn't miss seeing the concert. Now I'm not sure what I will be given to do. When someone phones me back, if they do, I have resolved to say, "I have changed my mind. I don't want to be a volunteer." I hope no-one phones me.

How much easier things would have been if I had just said, "No", when I was first misunderstood.

Link to related blog article

Leadership / Life Skills Series: Assertiveness

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Father Christmases in Your Life

"Ho, ho, ho" the man in the huge red suit says loudly, his face aglow under his red cap. His white wihskers twitch as he chuckles. Your child stares in amazement at the large brown sack draped at the man's feet and at the golden statues of reindeers strung across the floor. A huge Christmas tree stretches loftily behind the man and the branches are decorated in a sparkling adornment of tinsel and ornaments. This is the epitome of the year for your son or your daughter. All year your child has been told to be good and promises await in an abundance of presents under the tree this year.

Have you ever wondered at the above scenario? No, not because of Santa, who is a figment of imagination. Because of the importance we place on Santa and how important such an event becomes to us and our children. Huge promise is wrapped up in his arrival, yet he is a fleeting once a year event.

Do you have other Santas in your life? Maybe it's a dear uncle or a wonderful friend you see occasionally and you love seeing these people so much that you base your whole life around the when moment--when you next see them. Maybe your children do this too, in a friend who visits every three months for a barbeque and brings them gifts and plays with them all day. They are hyped up when they hear of the friend's arrival. But it's fleeting contact. Or maybe you live all year for your once a year holiday that is a brief couple of week's long and then gone.

Perhaps you could try the following exercise, which I did myself once at a personal development training course: Draw a circle to represent yourself on paper and then draw circles to represent each of your key relationships. If they are close relationships, then draw the circles close to you, even interlinked. Make the bubbles bigger or smaller to depict the importance of the relationship to you. This exercise may be easy for some of you to do and others of you may struggle. Take a step back and have a look at what you see. Do you agree with the picture? Are there people who are emotionally distant you would like to see closer? Or are some of the people who are close, perhaps even enmeshed with you, too close? It is a personal exercise and only you know if you obtain any insights from doing this. It was helpful to me when I did it. I have never taken a step further and asked, are some of these people Father Christmases in my life. Something to ponder on perhaps. Perhaps there are some everyday people we could appreciate more and maybe others we could give more time to but currently all but ignore.