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General

Dear Reader

Who am I?

Please afford me a moment to introduce myself. My name is Lizette Dohmen. I have a husband and two young children (one girl and one boy) and two adopted fur babies (one German Shepherd and one Rhodesian Ridgeback). I have a degree in Social informatics. The study of how people pursue, navigate, consume, consolidate, assimilate and convey information. I also have a Master’s degree in Psychology. Specifically early childhood development with a focus on Positive Psychology and emotional resilience.

Naturally, none of this tells you who I am. Why do we insist on giving out this kind of information as an introduction? What have I told you about myself as an individual? It is all general and impersonal. Skillfully worded, using familiar terms such as family, dogs, studies, so that you think you know me. I have not shared anything of myself with you – I have not made myself vulnerable to you. I risk nothing and, in turn, I hope that you will read my blog and share your thoughts. Does this seem fair?

Who am I really?

What if I changed my opening paragraph to include the following information? I married my high school sweetheart. We were only married a year when he had two massive heart attacks. Love of my life, and I was almost widowed at the age of 23. Should I tell you that for years I required treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from the shock and trauma of that day.

What if I told you that my focus on Positive Psychology and early childhood development came from being a trauma counselor for a non-profit organisation? My choice to work with children was because I was told that I would never be able to have children. Seven years and multiple miscarriages later, I have two beautiful healthy babies. What if I tell you that every time I have to take my German Shepherd to the vet I feel like my ribs are bursting with pain. I worry that this time they won’t be able to treat him and the fear of losing him paralyses me? Do you see me differently now?

Who am I as a person?

Would it be different, if instead of telling you about my family, I told you about my habits and quirks? For example, I truly believe black cats are a bad omen. I hate it that my parents never gave me a second name because I always feel my ID document looks so empty. Some days, I am convinced that duck-egg blue is my favourite colour. On other days it positively must be ballet-slipper-pink.

I love chocolate bars, but cannot stand chocolate flavoured anything. Similarly, I hate bananas but love banana bread and any banana flavoured treats. I always joke that there is not enough alcohol in the world to make a conversation about golf more interesting, but one glass of wine and I am on my ear. I can watch violent movies, but if an animal or a child get hurt I cry for days. What if I tell you that I am still afraid of the dark and I still secretly sleep with a Winnie the pooh teddy bear that is exactly as old as I am and barely still holding it together? Does this make you see me differently?

Why is all of this important?

Yes, I have a degree in positive psychology but I have fears. I have hang-ups and I have had to overcome pain just like you. Some days I succeed. Other days I fail. Some days I am a great and enthusiastic mother; other days I accidentally put my underwear in the freezer (true story) and I hide in the shower just to get away from the children and the dogs.

Just like you, the real me is a complicated amalgamation of ideas, beliefs, values and perspectives that have been shaped by my life experiences and choices. I am like you. I am constantly evolving as I am confronted by new experiences, new information or conflicting information. Like you, I like to believe that all of this accumulates to consistent personal growth. I am also pretty sure that on some days that personal growth comes into question when I just do not feel like adulting.

What is my blog about?

By now I hope that you understand that this blog is not about preaching or teaching. It is not about me seeking a platform to show you how clever I think I am. Instead, my blog is here to share with you some of the theories I have learned and researched about positive psychology.

I hope that it may be useful to yourself and your family during this time of uncertainty and worldwide pandemonium. I hope that together we can share practical ideas on how to implement these theories and together we can pull each other through this crisis in a positive way. Using the tools provided by Positive Psychology can be mutually beneficial to us and those around us. Remember one thing, just like a virus, enthusiasm and a positive outlook can be equally contagious. Go out (figuratively) and infect each other with that!

Tomorrow I will start by explaining the virtue of Justice and focus specifically on the strength of citizenship. Trust me, it is not as political as it sounds, but more about this tomorrow.

In the words of Disney’s Tigger, “TTFN”. Tata for now.

Categories
The virtue of Temperance

SELF-REGULATION

Not to have control over the senses is like sailing in a rudderless ship, bound to break to pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock.

Mahatma Gandhi

First strength out of the virtue of temperance gate is self-regulation. Yes, this comes as a big surprise after my last post, or as I like to call it, the introduction to balance. I feel as if now would be a good time to admit that this is not one of my favourite strengths. As I have already explained, I S.U.C.K. at it.

HOW LITTLE SELF-REGULATION?

There is an advertisement that states “nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Well, I have news for them. Nothing sucks like Liz trying to exercise self-control when there is a bar of mint chocolate within a 5km radius. I have often wonder whether I would not have greater success at jogging if I tied a Mint Crisp to a stick and attached it to a treadmill.  Then I come to the sad realisation that the Mint Crisp will never make it onto the stick if I am the one doing the tying. I think you get the point of what self-regulation is not. Let me explain, what self- regulation is.

THE DEFINITION

Self-regulation is the ability to exert control over our reactions or desires in order to achieve goals that are established by a certain benchmark. This benchmark could be influenced by ideological or spiritual beliefs, moral standards, or self-defined expectations. Or so I have been told. What does this mean in normal English? I have no clue. Just joking. It would be incredibly awkward if that was true.

OKAY, THE REAL DEFINITION

What it means is that indulging in your vices is not forbidden.  Go ahead and read that Celebrity Gossip Magazine, or play golf with your friends. It is not okay to play golf when you should be going to church with your family, or attending an important meeting at work. It is not okay to read about the Duchess-of-Wherever’s latest faux pas when you have set aside that time to do arts and crafts with your nephew or while you have a huge marketing presentation to prepare for. Self-regulation is about working towards your goals in a controlled manner without becoming entirely sidetracked by distractions or temptations.

IF THEY CAN- WE CAN

All work and no play makes everyone extremely dull, not only Johnny. All play and no work… well that just makes you a br@t. Rebel Wilson’s, highly publicised journey to health is a good example of self-regulation. Yes, apparently celebrity gossip is another one of my vices. Please do not tell anyone. However, weight loss is only one of a million different types of goals that require self-regulation. I really do want to make that distinction very clear.

The singer, Seal, has been quoted as saying that he admires athletes because they require an immense amount of self-regulation to achieve their goals. This realisation is true but it can be said of anyone who is successful at any goal. Goals do not always have to be lofty. I will dedicate a post on what efficient goal setting looks like another time, but for now, let me give you the cheat sheet version.  A true goal, by definition, must be attainable. You might want to be a mermaid, but it is not going to happen. Not in life under the ocean with other mer-creatures kind of way.

I AM NOT KIDDING. IT IS IMPORTANT

Perhaps it is time to move onto the point of why self-regulation is important? Lack of self-regulation leads to negative consequences. Here I like to draw on an example from my trusty side-kicks From the Hundred Acre Wood. I could give you an instance from my own life but I feel like I have made enough embarrassing confessions for one day. After all, my mother is one of my blog subscribers.

AVOIDING THE PITFALLS (HOLES)

So, what happened to our poor animal friends? The story goes like this. Winnie the Pooh was on his way to visit his best friend Piglet when he became distracted by a hole. Self-regulation error number one. Now as any bear who loves honey knows, a hole indicates that Rabbit is about and Rabbit is always well stocked with honey.

Rabbit tried to pretend that he was not home, because he was anxious about all the things he had to do that day. When he realised the unexpected guest was Pooh Bear, he eagerly let his friend in. Self-regulation error number two.

Pooh and Rabbit had a lovely time enjoying more honey and condensed milk than Pooh should have. Self-regulation error number three. When it was time to leave, Pooh had gained too much weight and got stuck in Rabbit’s doorway.

A LESSON LEARNT

Here we come to the consequence of not practising self-regulation. Not only could Pooh not fit through the hole, which was painful and humiliating, he also could not visit Piglet. Rabbit’s consequence was that he could not leave his house to attend to all those things he had set out to do that day. Thus, neither of them could achieve their earlier goals. It took a week of practising self-control before Pooh had lost enough ‘stuff and fluff’ to be pulled out of the hole.

GO FOR IT!

That is that my dear readers. Do not get stuck in holes. Obviously, I do mean this metaphorically. Having said that, it would probably be counter-intuitive to get stuck in actual holes, but that is your business, not mine. My job is to encourage you, and myself (sigh) to start setting those goals and working towards them in an enthusiastic and constructive way. Not in a draconian take all the fun out life kind of way.

Have fun with those goals!

TTFN.

Categories
The virtue of Temperance

The virtue of Temperance: balance

Hi Readers

I know I do not generally dedicate an entire post to the introduction of the coming strengths, but I feel under the circumstances, this virtue is more applicable than ever and therefore deserves a little more attention and care. Since the outbreak of this pandemic, the world has focused on the extremes. Virtues such as moderation and balance went out of the proverbial window.

ZERO BALANCE

During this time of lockdown, and especially in South Africa, we have been living under very strict regulations. Not to mention some very frustrating and confusing restrictions. I think the world of memes has illustrated it best with pictures of the virus waiting exactly 5km from your house. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that our daily lives and routines have been disrupted. Many of us have even developed a few bad habits during this time. Day time drinking to survive home-schooling. My sister in Australia says, “it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a vineyard to home-school one.”

WHAT IS THIS SELF CONTROL YOU SPEAK OF?

Speaking for myself, I have found that I have been snacking more. No that is not true. I have been snacking more than I have ever done in my entire life during this period of house arrest. Just to be clear, carrots and celery were not my go-to snack. Add to that the numerous deaths our family has had to deal with, there has been more cases of “eating my feelings” than I would like to admit to. This being said, the bathroom scale, however, has been a real snitch. All my indiscretions are revealed daily by that smug, flat so-and-so. My husband is threatening to hide the scale, or put it into witness protection as he calls it. My dad rather kindly recommended the armed response. I said it is not necessary. I just use the children’s bathroom so I can pretend we dot have a scale.

FINDING OUR WAY BACK TO NORMAL

The virtue of Temperance is mainly about living a healthy and balanced life. Whilst all the other virtues were mostly psychological in nature, this one has a lot of physical features.

This virtue is about bringing much-needed balance back into our lives.

Looking forward to this one.

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Wisdom

Creativity

“Creativity takes courage. ”


Henri Matisse

I love the strength of creativity for many reasons. One of my favourite reasons is how some people react to the mere mention of the word. ”Oh, no! Do not look at me. I am not creative.”

THE CREATIVITY TEST YOU FAILED.

It always makes me wonder, at which point did we all stand in the creative queue and get our results? “Billy step forward. Yes, you are creative carry on. Next! Refilwe, also creative, go join Billy. Next! Ah, Susan. Not a creative bone in your body, go stand in that corner we will deal with you later. Xolisa come forward. I am sorry to say, you also have zero creativity. Join Susan, please. Next…”

NO!!!!!!!! That did not happen.

THE TRUTH

What probably did happen is somewhere in the school system you found you were not good at painting or did not have much interest in the history of art and BOOM, subconsciously you got the “I am not creative stamp” on your psyche. If you are the type to say, “I am not creative, but my spouse and my children are”, then I am glad you are reading my blog. I am here to set you free from your uncreative stigma.

THE REAL SECRET

Come closer, let we whisper this revolutionary secret into your ear. Being artistic and being creative is not the same thing. Mind blown. I know. I know. Actually, the definition of ‘artistic’ is also a little dubious but that is for another post another time. We are talking about creativity here and they are two separate subjects. I repeat, completely S.E.P.A.R.A.T.E. There you go, you have no more excuses. Done. Dusted. Have a nice day.

THE FORMAL STUFF

Alright, I think I have made my point. So, let us get down to business. What is creativity really? For something to be creative it needs to fulfil two prerequisites. First, it must be novel. In other words, it must be an original thought. So yes, that friend you admire, who steals everything off Pintrest, is not as creative as you thought. Talented maybe, but she is not fulfilling the first prerequisite. Secondly, the original thought must provide a positive purpose to the individual. In other words it must be useful in some way. Notice, how artistic attributes do not even feature?

FOR THE CREATIVE TYPES

That time you colour coded your desk to make finding documents easier, you were being creative. The time you turned an old picnic blanket into a second layer on your dog’s bed to help with his sore hips you were being creative. Any mom who has ever turned a random kitchen appliance into a game to entertain a toddler while she tries to rush through dinner preparations was being creative. In your life, I am sure you can find one instance of when you came up with a creative solution to a problem. Hence, you are creative.

Creativity is a strength which means everyone is capable of being creative. You just need to flex those creative muscles from time to time to remind yourself that you can. Like anything in life that is worthwhile, practice makes perfect.

REAL LIFE PRACTICE

I find that as South Africans, we often face exciting infrastructure challenges such as unexpected load shedding, water restrictions, and unplanned prohibition. We are all finding our own creative ways to overcome these obstacles. In a way, our government is promoting our creative potential. Too soon?

WINNIE THE POOH AND FRIENDS

Okay, let me divert your attention to a new location. The Hundred Acre Wood. Those naïve little toys each have an opportunity to teach you about creativity. After all my research I believe the reason for this is that the writer, Milne, wanted to inspire post-war adults not to despair in their times of struggle. He wanted to promote the notion of creativity so that they may carry that approach into their own lives when they return from the woods. My favourite example of this is when Pooh and Christopher Robin use an umbrella to rescue Piglet from a flood (Milne, 2007). Christopher Robin names the boat The Brain of Pooh.  Pooh is exceptionally proud that his idea not only works but also garners such respect. It is a humorous situation but it does illustrate that definition of a strength which I keep harping on. The act of observing such a strength in action is uplifting and inspiring.

THINK ON THIS FOR A BIT

My parting words to you is to embrace the new knowledge that you are creative. Use this time of isolation and restrictions to find creative ways to survive. Take it obstacle for obstacle and celebrate the small victories, because they are the most important kind.

I abhor quoting politicians, especially presidents, but I think in this case former President Barack Obama was right; “YES WE CAN!” More importantly, “Yes, YOU can”!

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Wisdom

Curiosity

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

Ever heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat”? Now if you have seen the shenanigans that cats get up to, this expression does not surprise me. The good news, however, is that they have nine lives so we do not need to spend too much time worrying about this. The great news is that if you are reading my blog, you are probably not a cat, so we are all good to go. Ah, in my previous post we learnt that you are also not a dog. See, we are already exploring new information and learning as we go.

What is all the hype?

Why is curiosity a strength? Any mother will tell you that curiosity is one of the main ways that young children learn. Like cats, it is also the thing that often gets them into trouble. Perhaps there is a cautionary tale in there somewhere, but I digress. Curiosity is a wonderful advocate for learning and expanding our minds. In the digital age that we live in, with Google on our phones, we have easy access to any questions we may be curious about. Sadly, many of us do not follow curiosity to its full potential.

Hello reality, Goodbye Curiosity

Albert Einstein once said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”. Sadly, in my experience as a counsellor, I have found this notion to be true. Many traditional forms of education, with their draconian approach to teaching, kills a child’s natural instincts for curiosity. Then the high-pressure expectations and overwhelming responsibilities of adult life put the nail in curiosity’s coffin.

Save the CURIOSITY!!

How do we combat this onslaught? How do we jump-start curiosity again? After all, the virtue we are breaking down is wisdom and wisdom cannot be achieved without knowledge. Knowledge can not be obtained and nurtured without curiosity. It simply cannot. If you restrict your learning to that of school or that of university or college, you have a limited knowledge base to draw on. How does the information you use for work stimulate your imagination or drive your passions? Hence why hobbies are so beneficial because they broaden your interest scope. Hang on there, you do not have to take pottery classes just yet. Curiosity is another way to achieve the same intrinsic rewards and can be considerably more cost-effective.

So I have been tooting the laurels of curiosity, but what is it really? I am tempted to say, it is whatever you want it to be and then wish you happy trails. That would be seriously lazy writing, so let me try to explain curiosity without killing its magic myself. Ah the pressure. Here we go…

Seriously, what is it?

The official definition is the emotional excitement of exploring which is crucial to human survival and ultimately leads to wellbeing and intellectual solutions. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Liz, you said this was not going to get boring. Hold your horses, that is just the official definition. What curiosity really is, is exploring the unknown with enthusiasm. It is about getting lost and being happy about it. Unlike the love of learning, where you take a topic you are already interested in and deepening your understanding, curiosity is about the new and unknown.

Make the New your favourite thing

In Winnie the Pooh, Tigger is the best example of curiosity. If you know anything about Tigger, I am sure you have a hyperactive, care-free character in mind. This is true, but his carefree approach to life makes him more flexible and excitable about new things. In fact, in the face of new things, his response is always, “That is what Tiggers like best” (Milne, 2007). Alas, not everything turns out well for him in the end. That is curiosity for you. Not everything you try is going to be great, but it is going to be a learning experience. Also, failed experiments make for the best stories.

Failure to stop the launch

My husband and I were curious about the urban legend involving Mentos and coke. We were bored okay. There may or may not have been alcohol involved in this decision. Anyway, since we did not have coke, we thought Coke Zero is close enough. We dropped the first mentos in and nothing happened. So in our ‘wisdom’, we tossed in the whole tube.

It is impossible to explain the full extent of the explosion that occurred. We were drenched, but what is more, it took days to fully clean the kitchen. It took weeks to get rid of the ants that followed. Occasionally, you would find a random sticky section. Even in the lounge and hallway, your foot would just suddenly stick to the floor. Then you would remember, “ah, the coke experiment”.  

The ceiling was particularly challenging to clean. In the end, we had to repaint it … twice. First coat the paintbrush would stick to the roof. It is funny now because we moved out of that house and sticky floors are now the new owner’s problem – just kidding. We still laugh about it today, and will definitely not be repeating that experiment inside the house EVER again.

Go explore

COVID restrictions make exploring difficult, but not impossible. I urge you to take the road not travelled. Explore new foods, or try new hobbies if you want or even explore the internet – safely. Do not wait for new things to drop into your lap. Actively go out in search of the unknown. You never know what you might discover. You might even stumble onto the North Pole by accident as Winnie the Pooh did during one of his famous ‘expotitions’.

Have fun and Good-luck.

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Wisdom

Love of Learning

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

Leonardo da Vinci

In today’s world, most of us love using the initialism LOL. For the small minority of you who still think it stands for lots of love, let me correct you. It does not. It never means lots of love. It means Laugh out Loud. That is the only way it is read these days. Full stop. So when you text: “Your dog was just run over. LOL. Mom.” No matter how you try to explain it, you are being a real ###. You have been warned. Ironically, or at least in my experience, no one who uses LOL in a text is actually laughing out loud. Just putting that titbit out there into the blog-universe in the spirit of learning.

My kind of LOL

Now a Love of Learning is a LOL I can embrace. There is nothing more empowering and uplifting than learning something new. My husband Nicholas is an information sponge. This means he is always a fun source of trivial facts, which he enjoys emitting at the most arbitrary of times. Just the other day we were taking the children for a bike ride when he suddenly blurted out, “Did you know that a cat reaches terminal velocity at 100km/h?” Just to be clear, my husband is a huge animal lover and has never tossed a cat off a seven-storey building. It is just a fact he read somewhere. Not the most useful information I grant you, but it was certainly a conversation starter.

LOCK DOWN Antics

In this time of lockdown isolation and social distancing, we have all been learning new things, mostly unintentionally. For example, cabin fever hits roughly around day fifteen of seclusion. Delirium sets in about two weeks later. That is how we now have an endless source of bizarre TikTok videos. This is not the type of learning I am talking about.

learning 101

I mean learning real new skills or challenging our minds to further study fascinating topics. My husband used this time to learn how to make croissants from scratch. I must interrupt myself here to say, that they are the most delicious croissants you will ever have. Unfortunately, his new hobby resulted in me learning that there is truth to the cliché; a moment on the lips a lifetime of the hips. Still, it was soooooo worth it.

Now to have a love of learning in the sense that it is a strength, there are a few prerequisites that have to be met. The first and most obvious is that you must get a feeling of pleasure or a sense of accomplishment from learning new things or building on existing knowledge. There is an entire cohort of matriculates learning right now, but only a small percentage of them are relishing it.

Secondly, you must actively seek out or participate in this learning. Accidental learning through consequence does not count. For example, having to Google “How to remove permanent marker off freshly painted walls” does not qualify as a love of learning. The answer is hairspray by the way for those moms reading.

Finally, the topic does need to challenge your abilities. Puzzle building is a great source of learning visual-spatial awareness and problem-solving skills, but not when you are 38 and building a 48-piece puzzle. 

What kind of brain do you have?

When I think of a love of learning I always think of the endearing quote from Winnie the Pooh. ‘…And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something trees … thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things’ (Milne, 2007, p. 172).

What have you been learning? Have you taken some of the incredible virtual tours available on the internet to learn more about the fascinating museums and temples the world has to offer? Are you learning a new language? In South Africa, we have no shortage of official languages to choose from. Perhaps you are learning to play an instrument or experimenting in the kitchen.  Whatever tickles your fancy, I hope you have been using this precious time to train your brain and expand your intellectual horizons.

Last thought

Remember you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but since you are not a dog, you have no excuse. The actor, Morgan Freeman got his pilot’s license at 65.

Happy learning!!

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Wisdom

Open-Mindedness

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa

Dear Reader

Please forgive my long absence. As you know, I have been struggling with the loss of my younger sister. Grief is a strange thing. It is slipping in the rain. You blunder, you waver and just when you think you are in command you fall flat on your face. There is a moment before you land that you accept the inevitability of the catastrophe. It is a moment of fear and then comes the searing pain. Grief is the same. Only, the moments are slower and longer. It has taken me weeks to get off from the proverbial floor. I am not ashamed to say it took professional help and much love from my family.

Why the explanation?

I am sharing all of this with you because my experience is deeply rooted in our next topic, open-mindedness.

As we discussed before, we all have a belief system that governs our perspective. The question, however, is what happens when we are confronted by information that threatens those beliefs? What do we do then? For me, I lost my identity when I lost my sister. Who am I if I am not Marisa’s sister? Well, I am still a wife and a mother and a daughter and a blogger, but somehow the roles altered after my sister’s death. Why? The shock, the trauma, and the loss; it has changed me. My outlook on life, death, belonging and time has evolved. I had to open my mind to a new future and a new self that does not include my sister.

New World Views

COVID Lockdown transformed all of us. No one will come out of this experience unscathed. We all had to re-evaluate our belief systems. There has been a difference of opinions about every element. The transference of the virus, the lockdown procedures and all its rules and restrictions. I would imagine that along the journey you changed your mind about the crisis in one form or another.

Two scenarios make it easier to be open-minded. The first is when new information confirms your underlying convictions. For example, if you believe a stringent lockdown procedure is essential you will be more willing to accept other measures such as curfews. The second scenario is when new information is not critical. For example, you enjoy traditional malva pudding but you are willing to try chocolate malva. Unless Malva pudding is where you draw the line. Then this is a bad example. They can take your alcohol and cigarettes, but they can never take your Malva.

A true test of mind over matter

Therefore, the true test of open-mindedness is when fundamental beliefs or values are challenged. This usually takes place in chaotic circumstances. Events outside of your control. This is when open-mindedness has a chance to shine as a strength.

Peterson and Seligman (2004) suggest that to be open-minded one needs to be able to observe situations from all stances and think carefully before drawing conclusions. As you have experienced, this is particularly difficult during a time like this Pandemic. You would have noticed; prejudiced people are unable to perform this strength. What is worse, their bias becomes more apparent during stressful times. Even those of us who are striving to live positive and tolerant lives must consistently monitor ourselves to prevent bias from inadvertently rearing its ugly head.

My mistake

I had to temper my intolerance towards people with hysterical reactions. I had to remind myself that from their perspective their fears and actions were justified. I should rather focus on my own behaviour and reactions because positive resilient living is contagious. You change yourself. That is how you make a difference in the world. As your influence grows, changes will occur around you spontaneously.

Be open not gullible

Now let me point out that there is an important distinction between open-mindedness and blind acceptance. It requires strength to be open-minded. It takes courage to access new information and adjust your value system accordingly, or not, depending on how you accessed the data. The importance lies in the willingness to review the information.

 To use my favourite example of Winnie the Pooh, Kanga is the character with the greatest control over this strength. When Rabbit kidnaps (Joey-naps) her baby, she is quick to see the situation for what it is. A prank! By playing along with the ‘joke’, she wins over all the animals in the forest and gets her baby back. Her ability to perform this strength is what makes the other characters admire her so much. Her influence affects all her neighbours. This is the consequence of strengths in general.

Are you trying?

The real question is how often are you truly open-minded? Do you review several sources of information or are you prone to being influenced by mass opinion, or worse, so steadfast in your ideas you do not even consider conflicting information? Do you quote the media, or do you do your own research? The reverse is equally dangerous – disagreeing just so that you do not appear mainstream. Yes, unfortunately, this adolescent logic is upheld by adults too. Whoopsie, is that my bias coming through? Again, we always need to be cognisant.

Therefore, this is my challenge to you. Pick three things you believe about the Corona Virus or Lockdown and actively search for articles or publications that argue against your beliefs. Read them with an open mind. I am not saying change your beliefs. I am just asking that you review conflicting information in a value-adding way. In other words, be open to the idea that it may alter or adjust your belief system. I would love to hear how you experience this experiment.

My lesson

I was convinced that lockdown was a terrible idea because it put the most vulnerable at more risk as they would be the ones forced to go into work. They are the front-line health care workers and the people at the grocery tills. I now see that lockdown did slow down the disease but at a great economic cost. I have not changed my opinion entirely, but I do see now that I was wrong about being dead-set against the lockdown. 

t is not the worst idea to debate with yourself from time to time. Please take the time to read these short poems by New York poet, Ronell Warren Alman.

 TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Wisdom

Perspective

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde

I have been preparing myself to tackle this new virtue; the virtue of wisdom. I think this is the most difficult virtue to discuss without sounding self-congratulatory. Yet, how can I pretend to understand something without at least trying to apply it to my life? So please, allow me a moment, to be frank. I am wiser than you would expect but not as wise as I would like. It is a bit of that, knowing a tomato is a fruit but being wise enough not to put it in a fruit salad scenario. Now that we have cleared that up, let me tell you about perspective.

What is it?

Your perception guides your worldview. That is your perspective. It is how you make sense of the things around you and how you interpret certain situations. Your perspective is cultivated by your upbringing, your life experience, and your general personality. A simple example would be that an optimist will make riskier investments than someone who is more pragmatic.

A real life example

Another famous example comes from the internet. Stories from mother’s with autistic children being verbally abused by ignorant strangers. The public’s lack of understanding or awareness of the condition and how it manifests means they interpret the child’s behaviour as naughty. Therefore, in the minds of some, the mother must be reprimanded for her failure to parent. Psychologists suggest that through public education, and altering of perceptions, they can minimise interactions of this type. Do you agree? I wonder if it is as simple as that.

Fact is stranger than fiction

The issue is that we are ill-informed of our natural underlying bias. We would hate to think of ourselves as racist or sexist. It is our perspectives that give away our genuine natures. NO, I am not calling you or myself a hypocrite, but I am cautioning you, that your perspective/perception might be innocuously tainted. I can prove it to you right now.

Read with caution

Sarah is a recovering heroin addict who is HIV positive. As a teenager, Sarah was an atheist who was disowned by her Christian family. To support herself, she turned to prostitution where she was introduced to drugs. After spending time in a rehabilitation centre, Sarah was inspired to become a healthcare worker and turned her life around. She met her husband and had a content family life until she was attacked by a patient one evening at the clinic. It was during this attack that she contracted the disease. Three months later, Sarah killed herself. During the autopsy, they discovered that she was pregnant.

What is your perspective

Now depending on your perspective, whether you like it or not, your opinion of Sarah changed as you were reading. It may even have changed multiple times. Now, your first question is whether the story is true. Why do you want to know? Ask yourself what part of your perspective needs to know whether Sarah was an actual person? Yes, every word was true. Are you aware of what you are feeling now? Are you aware of how your perspective is altering? Yes, every word is true for someone out there. I do not know her name and I do not know the details of her story. These horrors are realities for some people. I just gave an example. Has your perspective changed again? Has it changed of me?

understanding the narrative

I am sorry for dragging you down such a deep dark path, but it is the best way to show you how your perception colours information for you. It does it on a subconscious level. It is the reason why movies of beloved books are always disappointing. The writers, the director, the producers, the actors, they are all retelling the story from their perspectives, which cannot possibly be the same as yours. That is how truth becomes so subjective. It is because humans cannot deal with facts without perspective unintentionally influencing the data. We are not emotionless machines. It is a magnificent thing. It means even terrible life stories can be rewritten; we only have to change our perspective. There is an entire field of psychology dedicated to this type of healing. It is called narrative therapy, and it is effective.

Time for a little perspective on perception

It is so important to be aware of the existence of perspective, even if you find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what yours is. If you can acknowledge that there is such a thing as perspective, it will give you the space to allow for the perspectives of others. Imagine how this could benefit decision making or resolving conflict. Do you see how perspective is both a strength and a coping mechanism? It is not about making excuses for someone. Let us be clear. It is about stepping back to get some perspective. Speaking to another person to hear their perspective. As parents, we should always consider that our child’s perspective differs from ours. Also, their perspective is not wrong.

When Pooh is ambushed by the wrong bush

I think it is time to lighten the mood a bit with an extract from Winnie the Pooh. I believe this extract illustrates the concept of perception humorously by making the difference outrageous. Milne is using a play on words to illustrate the different yet similar perspectives of an ambush between Pooh and Owl.

‘An Ambush’, said Owl, ‘is a sort of Surprise.’ ‘So is a gorse-bush sometimes,’ said Pooh. ‘If people jump out at you suddenly, that’s an Ambush,’ said Owl. Pooh, who now knew what an Ambush was, said that a gorse-bush had sprung at him suddenly one day when he fell off a tree, and he had taken six days to get all the prickles out of himself. ‘We are not talking about gorse-bushes,’ said Owl a little crossly. ‘I am,’ said Pooh.
(Milne, 2006, p. 108)

If you can understand Pooh’s perspective then you fully grasp the notion of perception. At least, that is my perspective [wink].

What narrative are you writing about COVID

As we work our way through COVID 19 and all the lock-down restrictions, take a moment to consider your perspective. What is your perspective? How does it differ from others? Do you even know? You are the narrator of your own experience right now. It is a big responsibility. I hope you take care.

Watch this for ‘a little perspective’. 😉

Next, we will discuss open-mindedness, but until then, try to avoid ambushing gorse-bushes.
 
TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Courage

Integrity

One of your most prized possessions is integrity;  … you should never compromise it. 

Byron Pulsifer

I never hear the word integrity without thinking about the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling. The poem illustrates the enormous responsibility the poor little word must carry. To always be true to oneself and to act in agreement with those beliefs in a way that is authentic and honest. In behaving that way, you must also be willing to face the consequences of this. Seems so simple, and many of us consider ourselves as having integrity, but few can prove it when the time comes.

Stand out from the crowd

As people, we are quick to follow the path of least resistance and to fall for popular opinion. We like to give in to peer pressure as the kids call it. Hashtag slogans that are trending fascinate me. I so often wonder whether the people who use them believe in what they are saying or are they only trying to be relevant. Having a large following is not a prerequisite for integrity; or vice versa, more’s the pity. Imagine if the world’s influencers were all people of integrity? How different the conversation would be?

who are you?

To understand who you are is a complicated question. I would even argue it is an esoteric conundrum. How can you be true to yourself and be congruent in mind and action, yet still allow for growth and open-mindedness? I conclude this makes integrity a strength. To appreciate who you are, but also to recognize what you are not and admit to being wrong. To do that, a person must be able to overcome pride and ego and I realize that is the hardest thing for most people to do. 

philosophical weekend?

That is why I saved this strength for last and left it for a Saturday. I hope that over dinner, or during your conversations this weekend, you will have an honest conversation about integrity and what it means to you. In what ways have you shown integrity? Has your integrity ever been tested? I fear my integrity is often mistaken for humour or quirkiness. Something I am working on as an adult, trying to be more assertive. Then again, perhaps my social awkwardness is as much a part of integrity as is my values. Ah, the mysteries of the human mind. Are we as dark and basic as Freud would have us suppose, or as humanitarian at heart as Carl Rogers would hope? I hope we are not that dull that we fall in either category. 

Be true to yourself, no matter how wobbly

I like the way Milne has Pooh explain integrity. He is honest about who he is and his abilities and he makes no apologies for it.

“ [M]y spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places…” (Milne, 2006, p. 73).

I suspect many mistake integrity for being a good person. Instead, integrity lays the groundwork. Integrity is when people can take you at your word, that you are who you say you are. Also, integrity requires you to fulfil your promises, no matter what difficulties you may encounter. 

seeing with new eyes

I have been watching the media and society during this entire coronavirus epidemic and the one thing I believe it has revealed is that integrity is not something you can fake and it is not fickle. Think about the people surrounding you? Consider their behaviour? How many people have behaved in accordance to what they projected before the crisis? Are you seeing people in a fresh light now? I am, and I am not ashamed to say it. I will also admit that I was wrong about most people. I have learnt so much about humanity during this crisis. I have learnt so much about myself and about those around me. Lockdown has been a gift to those of us who enjoy studying people.

Be childlike, not childish

What I have learnt most, by watching my children and their classmates adapt to this crisis, is that children are probably the people with the most integrity. They are unashamedly who they are. Whether it is the little boy wearing a batman mask with his spiderman costume or the girl in her princess dress trying out her brother’s skateboard, we can all try to be more like our kids. 

The truth about truth is integrity

Do you see now why integrity is so precious to me? It is not about just being true to yourself, but allowing other the space to be true to themselves. Allowing yourself to believe that they are true to themselves. Therefore, without integrity there can be no trust and no tolerance. What is a world without trust and tolerance? What is the world without integrity?

If strengths are the building blocks that make us resilient, then I would argue integrity forms the foundation. 

“If you can keep your head when all about you [a]re losing theirs… [y]ours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”

Integrity or stupidity?

Something else to think about, as we speak of integrity; Rudyard Kipling refused knighthood on two separate occasions during his lifetime. Imagine saying no to the queen when she is about to bestow such an honour upon you? I imagine that would take some integrity and courage. I will let you be the judge.

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Courage

Persistence

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

Persistence is something we all know something about. Lockdown and isolation require all of us to persevere in ways we did not think possible. Last year we would never have believed that we could make the sacrifices we have been making. How interesting is that? We do not know how resilient we are until we are tested.

Much ado about something

The time we spend on an activity alone does not factor in perseverance. Spending hours reading your favourite book or binge-watching a popular series is not perseverance. Why? You are doing this for enjoyment. The defining factor for perseverance is continual goal-directed behaviour despite hindrances, complications and dissuasion. It is just a boring academic way of saying that if you keep trying at something, even when you freaking hate it; you are persevering. Much like you and your family are doing right now with this lockdown and all its rules.

We can

It is funny, I would like to say ironic, that I am struggling to persevere through this article. It is one of those strengths which is better experienced than explained. I am finding it difficult to write anything that may inspire you. I feel in my heart that at this moment you are already using this strength to its maximum. We all are. This experience is unique for everyone, but it requires sacrifice and persistence. However, after lockdown is over, the world is still changed forever. Our need for persistence is far from over, so it is lucky that we all are proving ourselves rather adept at this strength.

out of the mouths of babes

I would like to share my favourite story of my baby girl Sofia. It is a story I often reflect on when I am facing my own arduous task and wish to give up. It always gives me the courage to carry on. Sofia suffers from birth, with chronic constipation that causes her tummy an impressive deal of pain. The details are not important, but what is relevant is that this condition often causes her tummy to balloon, making climbing or sliding like a normal little girl difficult.

On one bad day, Sofia was trying to climb up on a plastic slide her father bought her for her second birthday. As these toddler toys are, the steps were not very steep or far apart which makes it difficult for her to climb up with her tummy. Two steps up, then she would fall off, but she kept on trying. She knew the power of persistence. It broke my heart to see her try so hard for so long to do something that other children do not find difficult at all. Eventually, she managed all the way to the top and with a glee reserved only for toddlers, she screeched, “Yay! I win!”.

celebrate small victories

I remember knowing then and I still do, “yes you win my baby. You won when others would have given up. Good for you, Sofia, for celebrating yourself and your perseverance”. I hope this is something you will do too when you face your next obstacle. Try and try again. Try unorthodox methods or try new advice, but when you succeed, and you will, even in the slightest, I hope you will yell, “Yay I win!”.

a tale of pooh

In the tales of Winnie the Pooh, Pooh has a similar test of perseverance when he has to climb several branches only to fall all the way to the bottom and land in a gorse bush. He next tries a balloon which pops and then another balloon. It does not deter Pooh, which is a credit to his perseverance.  So what tree are you climbing?

I wish you luck. 

TTFN  

Categories
The virtue of Courage

Vitality

“Wildflower; pick up your pretty little head,
It will get easier, your dreams are not dead.”

Nikki Rowe

Vitality has two levels and both are equally important for a person to live life according to the strength of vitality. The first is physical vitality. This is when a person is physically well, therefore, displays energy.  The second level is when a person emotionally engages activities with positive energy.

First Level

The first level is traditionally up to you and your doctor. Do not settle for just a diagnosis, strive for a solution, whatever it means. Modern medicine can only do so much. If you have a chronic condition like I have Fibromyalgia, one must find new definitions of well-being. You need to be the best well you can be within your physical limitations. Being sick does not mean you can never be well.

If an illness can be cured that is one thing, but if it cannot, there are levels of wellbeing that you can strive for. This usually requires research, learning as you go, and joining support groups. I recommend The Mighty. Please note that alternate levels of wellbeing are outside the purview of the average doctor. It is up to you and how much energy you are willing to put in. HOBOLIZ will discuss this level during another post another time.

Second Level

The second level of vitality is the one I want to discuss today. Doing activities with enthusiastic energy. Tall ask for some activities I know. Therefore, energy conservation is so important and hence a balance between responsibilities and recreation is crucial. If you spend all your energy on what needs to be done, you are left with no energy for the things you want to do and your life becomes unrewarding. If you spend all your energy on doing the things you want and none of what needs to be done, well then, the consequences may vary depending on how far you take it. I imagine though it will leave you somewhere between broke, unemployed, divorced, or imprisoned, regardless, the result is not good.

Vitality is not the same as passion

If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. This cliché is true, but I always feel it could also be the intro to a cautionary tale. This is because again, it leaves no room for balance. There is a reason it is a popular slogan for pyramid schemes and cults. No, vitality is a strength because it encourages you to put positive energy into everything you do, assuming that you are careful in balancing your activities wisely. Thus, that which must be done and that which wants to be done gets done with the same level of enthusiasm. This strength makes life rewarding and uplifting. When others see you do hard work with enthusiasm it is inspiring and makes vitality contagious.

What does Vitality look like?

 ‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’ ‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’ ‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting to-day?’ said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.

(Milne, 2006, p. 147).

My almost-two-year-old son is the perfect example of vitality. He eats his breakfast, brushes his teeth, unpacks his toybox, or destroys our garden with the same high intensity of excitement. My daughter, who is six already moans about certain activities, but not my son. Everything he does, he does with joy and this includes his chores such as feeding the dogs. You can argue that he is too young to distinguish between the things he must and the things he wants to do. I would rephrase that argument. I propose that he is not yet cynical about the things that must be done. It is fun for him because he makes it fun. My job as a parent is to encourage him to keep seeing it that way. We could experience that level of pleasure too if we made that choice for ourselves.

in reality vitality is a little different

Cleaning house is a chore I hate. I am not going to tell you porky pies. I am not going to pretend that my house is sparkling clean, because, like Mary Poppins, I am singing and cleaning my way through every room. NOT happening! I could if I wanted, but honestly, then I would not have the energy to do anything else. That is the truth. In the priorities of my life, as it stands right now, facing COVID, a clean house is not important. Since my sister’s death, writing for this blog is not an everyday priority. If a company were paying me to write, things would be different. Or at least my choices would be different.

What does it look like for me?

My goal at this very moment in my life is very selfish. On a bad day, my goal is just to ensure that I, as a person can function. In other words, get out of bed and be alive with as much vitality as I can muster. Honestly, some days that does not even get me as far as getting out of my pyjamas. On better days it is about being there for my family with as much vitality as I can muster. Again, those days do not always look as peachy as I would like. On my best days, I muster enough vitality for myself, my family, and my writing. Those are my favourite days. Admittedly those days require a lot of help from my moms because small children and writing are NOT COMPATIBLE.  I forgive myself for my bad days so that I can have the energy to achieve my good days.

What about you?

I hope that you, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever your choices, that you can do the same. Prioritise your survival first. Find ways to make everything you need to do enjoyable and approach all your activities with excitement. Drop the energy-sapping stuff that are not important. They will get done when they need to. Perhaps the answer lies in the family cleaning together. Maybe the answer lies in starting small fun projects that finally lead to bigger more rewarding projects. Only you know what needs to be done and what you like to enjoy. I hope you are making enough time for both. I also hope that you are making the not so fun stuff as fun as possible. Use music, singing, bribery, or imagination in any way you want. I hope you will share your winning strategies with us.

superpower vitality

My sister, Cherine, finds that she can better face stressful tasks after she has organised something. I think that might be her superpower – wish I was more like that. That is why, with her permission, her neat cupboard is my chosen image for this strength.

What is your super power?

Till we chat again TTFN…