Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bend over backwards

When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don’t, others will abandon us. We’ve been raised to question what we know, to discount and discredit the authority of our gut. -  Terry Tempest Williams in ‘When women were birds’

The other night a friend of mine compared women to the silver metal wire that seals champagne bottles. He held the silver wire in his hand, bent it and said that women in relationships are like that, they bend and bend until they take on a totally different form, but they don’t break. It is so true. Women are so quick to abandon who they are in favour of a relationship. I have done it, and I have seen it across the board by different type of women. A few years back I wrote a blog entry titled Women = Chameleons in relationships, where I argued that women change significantly in relationships. Now many years later, I am still not sure why we do it.

I think Terry’s quote has some truth in it. We are afraid of being abandoned. I don’t think it is only about the physical abandonment of the other person. It is also about the abandoning our own belief in love. We are convinced that our love is meant to nurture, save and protect and we have to do everything possible to ensure that we don’t abandon these principals. Our strength to bend to the most extreme hurts us, it leaves scars and deforms our souls. Yet, we chose to bend. The bending happens subtly and slowly. We are often not aware as it is a fluid process. Most times, our partners do not expect or want us to bend. It is us who bend and adjust. We are the ones that shape and form, we make things fit, we make ourselves fit. In the process of bending and moulding, women lose sight of who they are and become a deformed individual. One day we wake up and realise that we have become someone else, someone we don’t know and we don’t like. And that is then often also the person that the partner does not like anymore.

We often realise the deformation very late and when we notice we either fall into denial, get angry or sad. The angry part can be really ugly because we start lashing out and blame the world around us for the status quo. Denial, of course, is even worse because it ensures that we remain in this deformed position for a while longer. Luckily women are quite resilient creatures. We can recover and find our form again. And we do. However, my goal – stop bending over backwards but rather nurture and encourage your original shape and trust that it is beautiful enough to be loved as it is. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” Ana├»s Nin

As human beings, our decisions and perspectives of the world are informed by our experiences. Often, we make statements about things and events not realising that it is all about our perceptions. A colleague of mine hosted a seminar on perceptions and shared his experience as a conflict resolution practitioner about the role and influence of perceptions. He took us on a fascinating journey showing that in almost every instant of life we look at something and agree on what it is through our own filters – it is our perception. If we do not have the opportunity to gather further information, we will store it as our perception. The whole advertising industry is built on this notion of perception. If we see a certain colour and packaging, our minds associate a product with it, a perception that it is either a brand of quality or an item that offers attributes of quality.

So perceptions help us to filter the huge amount of information we are exposed to and to package it into smaller bite size pieces. The challenge though is, if we leave it at the stage of perceptions and do not seek more clarity, we create assumptions in our minds, which can ultimately result in stereotypes. This is, of course, most important when it comes to interpersonal relations. Getting clarity on the ‘she didn’t greet me this morning, so there is something wrong’ or ‘the tone of the email suggest that….’ So without the clarifying our perceptions we leave a lot of room to wonder. We will store the perception as a fact. Next time when we see the person or a similar situation arises, we already ‘know’ what it is all about. We start predicting behaviour and making assumptions. This is typical for very close relationships like marriage or partnerships ‘I know already what she is going to say…’ or ‘I know exactly what he is thinking and not saying….’ but also for work relationships.

The reverse would mean to seek clarity; to interrogate. This, of course, is hard work and as human beings we rather gravitate towards the easier option, to build upon what we already know. The challenge, if we don’t seek clarity, is, these perceptions stay real. Perceptions are real for the holder of the thought and so if we do not clarify, the perception remains. This laziness of mind, however, allows us to build an environment of false certainty around us. It is a ‘world’ that is fully confirmed in our minds. It is safe, limited and we know what it is all about. This false certainty is the biggest hindrance to progress and growth. One will not grow beyond the own perceptions, not open up to new options and possibilities.

There were many more points my colleague mentioned about type of perceptions and origin of perceptions. I would not do him justice to repeat it in a blog entry. However, the point of limiting one’s own growth by living in a world full of self-confirmed perceptions really fascinated me. How often have I limited myself to something new because I ‘already knew’? How many times did I preempt the behaviour of another person?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Freedom of speech – anything goes

Social media and the internet have become the platforms for engagement and exchange about every moment of our lives. We share on these platforms especially moments linked to our emotions - joy, happiness, sadness, rage, anger. Social media and chat programmes like Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook are the main communication channels. It is quick and easy. If we do not communicate, we can just ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or use any emoticons to comment on the original post.
I am not judging any of it and I see a lot of beauty and positive in the growing online communities around the world. However, I disagree with the fact that we leave our humanity behind when we go online and just say whatever comes to mind. Do we actually think before we press ‘send’, ‘tweet’, ‘post’ if we would say the same thing to a person’s face? Do we have the same amount of courage to speak up facing the person we are talking about? It is an everything ‘goes’ mentality which takes on scary forms at times. There are no rules and in most cases, rude, harsh, racist, sexist posts will get some form of attention - a ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ , a 'retweet' or a comment. Especially when comments are made about others or groups of people we often take our freedom of speech to another level. When we make comments we do not speak about one particular person but rather ‘those people’ and ‘them’, which seem to make it even more ok to ‘dehumanise’ them (and you can exchange the word ‘them’ with any group that comes to mind – foreigners, black or white people, women, natives, men really any group you can think of). So we don’t really care about the ‘other’ that we might harm or mention in our post. We are making a general comment. It is actually more about us then the other person.
It is an interesting fact that real connections with others takes place through authentic communication. Studies show more than 85% of our communication to connect with others is based on nonverbal body language. Are we loosing the ability to empathise with each other and to actually think about what our comments might trigger in the other person?
I also wonder if it has not a lot to with the fact that whatever is said has a sizeable audience. Most of the times you will get a reaction of some sort. Our audience on these platforms is on average much bigger than your average circle of friends around a dinner table.
Do not get me wrong, I am of course a strong believer in freedom of speech and the right to express ones opinions and thoughts. I am questioning, if it is ok that it is done in any way and any tone that we think at that particular moment is right. I am also interrogating the fact that much of ‘freedom of speech’ is done through anonymous online channels without direct interface and interaction. It is so much easier to type an opinion and press ‘send’ than to actually articulate your thoughts while looking someone else in the eye. It is so much easier to talk about the other than to actually talk to the other.
Hope this will be some food for thought…

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