education, gun violence, motivational, peace

Violence… a learned behaviour

aggressive-violent-behavior-nature-or-nurture

The response of violence to conflict is, to some extent, a learned behaviour. This statement includes gun violence.

It comes from a place of fear of being a target, fear of living daily with the threat of gun violence and fear of not conforming. That is a lot of fear.

Even before a crime takes place, guns, and the accompanying violence, play a significant part in the lives of those in communities with a reputation of violence.

The outcome of such fear and learned violent behaviour is a lack of respect for the value of life, individual, community and national life.

Those who suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of gun violence all reach to the same place emotionally and mentally.

This congruence of feeling and thought creates a hopeful opportunity. It ought to become the catalyst that gives us the will and courage to address the gun violence that is becoming a part of our daily life.

Religious leaders are casting blame on the lack of coherence of family units for the increasing violence in society.

Alternatively a family may be unified but their environment and learned responses of violence precludes the teaching of respect for anything including life.

One leader has included the availability of drugs and weapons as well as the existence of gangs as factors contributing to the rising violence and incidences of gun related crimes.

All of these are true. The reasons are valid and relevant.

However my aim (no pun intended) is not to cast blame or vent anger or frustration against the system or the perpetrators of violence.

Instead my aim is to amplify the message of the sanctity of life and the kind of respect each one of us needs to have for the life of another.

With every pull of a gun trigger, there emerges a bullet that may hit a living target.

That bullet may penetrate through tissue, tendons, nerves, muscles and bones causing physical damage in the immediate area.

figure8

The kinetic energy of that compact piece of lead disseminates to surrounding organic matter causing further damage not immediately visible.

Similarly, that same bullet penetrates the psyche of the victim and his or her family, friends and associates, tearing their lives apart emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and in other ways.

The ripple effect of that nucleus of destruction is far reaching and has no time limits.

The learned behaviour of violence in response to conflict can be unlearnt. New, more peaceful responses can be learnt which lead to greater respect and harmony.

Your response?

bounce back better, gun violence, motivational, peace, resilience, self help, Uncategorized

R.A.R.E.

Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. R.A.R.E. GuV

Paving the way toward peace.  

The two statements above are representative of the work I am about to undertake. The actual title and tagline are still being worked on but soon enough I will get there.

This work ties in with the availability of my third published book, Bounce Back Better, 10(+1) Key Steps for building Resilience. The idea for working to combat the forces that drive violent actions was born at a Global Leadership Summit I attended in Trinidad during October 2016.

I had plans to raise awareness of the plight of victims of gun violence prior to that, through the book, and I had a vague concept of what was needed to be done but, attending that summit brought a degree of clarity that was missing.

In this post, on this new page, I give you the rationale for such action and the nature of my stance i.e. a position of action not reaction, not blame. So here goes.

Sunday January 29th, 2017 will mark the fourth anniversary of the day that gun violence made its indelible mark on my life and the lives of many within my inner circles.

There are those who would trivialize such an incident by remarking, “It has been four years after all, move on, forget about it.”

Sadly, though it may be easy to utter such words, anyone with a social conscience will know that path of simply forgetting and moving on is obvious only for the unenlightened. For those who have been through the fires of such an adverse situation, the path forward requires more than physical and emotional healing. Recovery is an ongoing process that demands giving of self to elevate society.

As such I have come to that point in my personal journey where I may now serve by sharing from my experience. The prevalence of gun violence in my beautiful twin island home of Trinidad and Tobago is increasing. It has now become almost the norm to hear reports of yet another fatality or injury through gun violence. In fact the current statistic available at the time of writing this piece, taken  from the Trinidad and Tobago 2016 Crime & Safety Report , reveals that 81% of murders in 2015 were committed by the use of a firearm (https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=19522). No figures were available for 2016.

Being a former victim positions me to speak out in favour of peaceful resolutions instead of violent persuasion. The burden of responsibility for raising awareness about the ripple effect of gun violence is squarely cast upon my shoulders.

The position I have chosen to adopt  is not to cast blame or seek to point fingers at anyone. It is not intended to vent anger or frustration against those who choose the use of guns. Instead the purpose is to raise awareness of the ripple negative impact of the use of guns. Through that awareness, the mission is to generate peaceful resolutions and attitudes. The ultimate purpose of R.A.R.E of gun violence is to bring to the forefront the sanctity and value of life and the respect we need to have for individual lives.

The effect of gun violence has already impacted many of our citizens in the past. Perhaps even as you read this, someone else may be affected. It may have indirectly affected you. Who knows what the future holds? Let us not keep assuming it is going to be someone else and their family. Let us strive to add our one drop to the ocean to make a difference. Let us embrace peace and work toward developing our moral, mental and spiritual consciousness as we systematically reinforce our strengths to defeat the kind of environment that breeds violence.

Let us pave the forward peacefully.

book launch, bounce back better, Health and lifestyle, inspirational, motivational, self help

Bounce Back Better

My third book is now available online. I have included a link below. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Bounce Back Better

Bounce Back Better

For those of you who are interested in self-publishing or independent publishing, look out for some posts soon.

Those who are looking for different ways to launch a new book, I will keep you updated.

Thank you for your support.

Let me know, in the comments below, what particular questions are troubling you about the publishing process or about a launch. That way I can tailor my post to your needs.

Leaving you with my special brand of sunshine for now.

bounce back better, Health and lifestyle, mental health, motivational

Today is World Mental Day, 2016 and there has been a host of information coming at me from the newspaper, Facebook posts and a Radio programme.

For the first time I delved into the pages of activists for mental health. I am amazed and impressed by the few I have had time to look at for today only.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2013. I accessed excellent psychological, medical and social support, through the public system, friends and family.

Truth be told though, upon careful examination of my life, I think I may have been experiencing bouts of depression for a much longer time than I can recall.

Over the years I can recount many, many occasions when my thinking was fuzzy and there was mental fog.

I would be hard on myself, always believing that I was just anti-social. Anti-social, because I would avoid going out, refuse to answer telephone calls and generally withdraw from many activities.

Activist/comedian based in the United Kingdom, Ruby Wax, likes to quote that  1 in 4 persons are suffering with some form of mental illness and, in the same breath, suggest that the figure is really 4 in 4. In other words, almost all, if not all, of us have some degree of mental problem.

Image result for mental health

If those figures are to be believed, then there are several implications with which we need to deal. I will focus on just one for today’s post.

If so many of us are ailing in this aspect of our lives, then we should be more compassionate toward each other. All of us are hurting, why do we need to add to that hurt by placing negative labels?

The stigma of a diagnosis associated with mental health is real. It is so real, that many are unwilling to admit it even to themselves. It is so real that it is a flowing source for comedic relief.

We do not hear of jokes about heart health, kidney health or other physical illnesses. In fact to laugh at any of these physical problems would be highly insensitive.

Yet…we continue to cajole or even badger those who are experiencing mental challenges to shrug it off, get going, stop being lazy and just get over it. We get impatient and intolerant when they begin sharing their situation with us.

Sadly instead of being supportive, what is needed, we become less available and less encouraging to those who have real mental challenges.

A mental health diagnosis is not necessarily a sign of being totally out of control of your thinking, beliefs and actions. Dr. Hanif E. A. Benjamin expressed it so well this morning on a local radio programme.

He said that mental health illness can be considered as falling along a continuous spectrum. There is a wide range of problems, from minor to severe. Some problems allow a person to function at a high level in society while other problems reduce that level so  that a person is unable to function according to societal norms.

The statistics are real and are a reflection of the times in which we live as well as only accounting for those who actually seek help. This means that the figures are probably much higher in reality.

There is help. We all can help. Ignorance and lack of compassion are unacceptable in these so-called enlightened times.

Let us all join in  fanning the flames of passion lit by the activists for and professionals in mental health. Let us start developing our compassion, humanity and respect for all life. Let us nullify the stigma as we stand in solidarity with each other for mental health issues.

Are you on board? Are you willing to help educate and support in the field of mental health? Are you already doing your part? Please leave a comment and let me know.

 

Uncategorized

Of Strength and Courage

The following post was written as one of the daily devotions in my second manuscript. Many of you may already know the story of that defining moment in my life. Do not let that deter you from reading on, to be inspired by God’s Word as interpreted in this post. Read and Be Blessed.

 

 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 1: 9

The Quiet Strength of a Wolf by MiniMoo64

On the twenty ninth January, 2013, I received gunshot wounds to my face, chest and shoulder. The wounds were life-threatening.

My face had been shattered. Blood gushed from my chin, warm, fresh and cloying. The tranquility of the night exploded into panic, chaos and turbulence. Glass fragments were scattered everywhere; some were embedded along my upper left arm and my face.

Fear produced an acrid taste in my mouth. Resounding gunshots resonated loudly in the stillness of the night, rivalled only by the screeching of the car tyres as the driver of my car made a getaway.

We sped off along the familiar streets, which somehow appeared eerie on that night. My friend, the driver, asked in horrified disbelief, if I was sure I had been shot. I do not remember how I was able to speak. I do remember telling him to look at the blood pouring forth from my chin, in a never-ending flow. He started to scream out.

Strangely I remained quiet. Many thoughts filled my mind. I was aware of being scared to touch my face and scared to move my mouth. For a moment I thought about the destruction of my face and if I would be able to deal with it.

Just as quickly as all fears and doubts clouded my conscious mind, so too they were removed and my mind was refocused on remaining calm. I knew that too much movement would precipitate too much blood loss.

I knew my life depended on staying as still as possible. I also knew that in that stillness I had to turn to God.

As I have repeatedly mentioned in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, my comfort and strength came from the scripture, John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

How do you think you would have coped in the face of such calamity?

Many persons have since commented on my strength and courage. I accept the compliment at the same time reminding them that my strength and courage were never inherently mine: they were granted to me by the grace of God.

What do we mean when we refer to strength and courage? What situations require extraordinary strength and courage and what can we do to develop such qualities?

Strength is regarded as the ability to stand firmly either physically, mentally or morally. It could also be linked to emotional staying power and stability. It is considered to be an inherent quality of a person.

Someone is either strong or weak by other’s perceptions in relation to themselves. If someone loudly and openly makes their opinion on a topic known, they are regarded as strong.

On the other hand, someone may quietly state their position and remain fixed on that idea. Such a person may still be strong. Quiet but strong. Alternatively, someone who is secure in their value and worth, may listen to other ideas, and issue a new opinion as a result. This is not a weak person but a mentally strong individual.

The manifestation of strength by someone in the face of fear or a dire situation requires courage. Courage and strength are interchangeable, used as synonyms of each other.

However, being able to lift a heavy object may require physical strength but it does not require courage if the object is safely located in your home or a church for example.

If the object is in a room of a house which has been caught on fire, then attempting to lift it from that room requires both strength and courage. Some may argue that it requires only physical and mental strength; others may deem the person crazy to attempt to run into a blazing building!

So strength may encompass courage but courage does not necessarily mean strength. Different situations require us to display strength and/or courage.

As just discussed, sometimes all that is needed is the muscular strength. This strength is needed in physical situations which pose no threat; when a threat is involved, then physical strength and courage are needed.

Perspicacious activity requires mental strength and perseverance. For example pursuing a medical or engineering degree requires and develops mental strength; perseverance when a loved one has just passed away or become seriously ill will call for both strength and courage to face each day.

Such situations also highlight emotional and spiritual strength. In crisis times sadness and grief could become overwhelming and threaten to engulf your being. Keeping your focus on daily activities and responsibilities during such times calls for emotional strength: harnessing negative emotions using positivity.

The underpinning force behind strength and courage in seemingly impossible situations is spirituality.

The highway of life is interspersed with smooth road and bumpy areas. Coasting along the smooth roads makes it easy to slip into indifference about accountability to a Higher Authority.

It takes spiritual strength to maintain values and virtues and to acknowledge that there is more to life than having a good time.

Having to slow down for road bumps, potholes and obstacles, in times of abject fear, wanton destruction, and life-threatening conditions, causes some persons to lose hope and submit to defeat; other persons stoically persevere holding onto something which grants hope and optimism. That “something” is spiritual courage.

In Joshua 1:6-9, the words “be strong and of good courage” are repeated three times. There are numerous other references in Deuteronomy and the Psalms as well as others.

How do we develop the strength and courage that was given as a mandate to Joshua? Fortunately God provides the tools necessary for all His directives. In Joshua 1 He furnishes guidelines by which we can develop those qualities needed to persevere and to withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

When Joshua was called by God to complete the journey to the promised land that was started by Moses, God first gave him this reassurance found in Joshua 1:5: “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

God told Joshua that no man would be able to oppose them successfully. We also have that reassurance. Whatever may be your predicament, you can have the comfort to face it confidently knowing that God will always be with you.

Your obligation is to follow His commands and always keep praying and giving thanks.

Against the backdrop of God’s promise to never leave, Joshua was directed to keep focused, never turning from God’s laws, neither to the left nor to the right.

Another guideline to developing strength and courage for all of us is to resist the temptation of people, situations or things which could result in straying from God’s laws. Instead we are to follow His commands like a beacon guiding us to eternity with Him.

We can only follow His laws if we know what they are. We can only know His laws if we do as He directed Joshua to do in the book of Joshua 1:8. In this verse Joshua is directed to meditate day and night on the word of God. In so doing Joshua will be able to internalize scripture which would reveal God’s precepts.

Developing strength and courage to face whatever obstacles may arise in our lives requires that we read and study scripture at every opportunity so as to store His word deep within our hearts.

Finally Joshua was told that if he follows what God instructs him to do, he will be rewarded with the inheritance of the Promised Land to divide amongst the people. This is encouragement for us to stay the course, stand on His word and submit to God’s will: fulfilling His requirements has an eternal reward. Attaining that divine goal requires staying power or strength and courage which can only come by following His guidelines.

Life is full of temptations. Carnal thoughts, deeds, things and people abound; it is easy to choose the carnal over the spiritual. God has provided for the insufficiency of human strength through guidelines. Following these guidelines makes us strong and of a good courage to be victorious in any situation.

Be strong and of a good courage,
when temptation and strife flourish.
Recall God’s faithfulness to Joshua,
And know that He will be with you forever.

 

I can tell you that today as I write this conclusion I am outraged. The murder statistics in my tiny “paradise” island of Trinidad are rising alarmingly. Cowards are toting weapons in every area of my country.

Strength and courage to me is not some muscular (or not) felon carrying a massive tool of destruction, believing that the bigger it is, the braver he or she is.

True strength is being able to control negative feelings of hatred, anger, malice, envy, avarice and intolerance of any kind.

True strength and courage to me is epitomized in someone who can face the depths of despair and hold on, in desperation, to respect for life, the values of forgiveness, humility, compassion, love for others and peace.

True strength and courage is an autistic young lady who inspired all around her by her apparent joie de vivre, who always had a smile to share despite her situation…

Tell me please, what does strength and courage mean to you?

bounce back better, inspirational, motivational, resilience, Uncategorized

The Leaning Tower of… You!

Here is another offering from my new book, sent for publishing and soon to be launched.

“…making incremental changes, particularly during times of trauma or crisis, may be easier to do than making radical changes. Additionally, a shift in behaviour could translate into significant emotional and intellectual alterations.

 

Consider the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Tower now leans at an angle that has been adjusted over the years since its construction. The top of the Tower is about 4.5 metres displaced from the vertical. What this means is that there is a slight displacement at the base of the Tower that manifests into an amazing tourist attraction at the top and a phenomenon of physics. Regardless of the reasons behind the leaning of the Tower, the result is indisputable. A slight shift is sufficient to create a wonder!”

Have you ever noticed any significant change in your life resulting from a minor alteration in your belief, attitude or behaviour? Leave a comment below to let me know please.

bounce back better, inspirational, motivational, resilience, Uncategorized

Locked in defeat’s dentate grip?

dentate

A little bit of sharing today – a quote from my soon to be published book, “Bounce Back Better”.

One of the things I do when one of life’s troughs dips into my life is that I get extremely quiet. It helps me to calm my mind and emotions and to come to terms with what is happening.

Leave a comment below to share with us one little thing that you do to help you cope with big or small challenges.

bounce back better, grief, inspirational, motivational, resilience, stress, stress management

When you crash into a rock…

 

The storms of life may become so intense, so severe that the figurative electromagnetic glow from your big dream becomes difficult to see. Perhaps you have lost a loved one or had a bad medical diagnosis. Maybe you lost a job or are in danger of doing so. There may be trouble in a romantic relationship or a pending poor examination result. There is a wide range of turbulence in this short life.

What may seem minor to you could prove overwhelming to another. We all have different coping mechanisms. Some of us are more emotionally vulnerable than others. That is a biological fact. Some persons are sensitive enough to detect very slight emotional changes that others may not notice. These people often also experience more intense emotions. Such individuals are susceptible to more frequent, unpredictable, extreme and long-lasting emotional attacks.

This emotional response is compounded by another biological response: impulsivity. There are a lot of people who have great difficulty regulating their responses to a variety a stimuli. Their actions tend to get them into trouble. They act responsively, later realizing that they ought not to have reacted as they did, to the extent they did. These persons act out in ways that are determined by how they feel. This type of action gets in the way of being able to achieve set goals. For impulsive people keeping their emotions and actions compartmentalized is a real challenge and as such they are unable to achieve effectiveness in their daily lives.

The social environment strongly influences emotions and actions. A supportive environment promotes more effective coping mechanisms for an emotionally vulnerable, impulsive person. I will talk about this in a subsequent post. For now I want to focus on how anyone of us could cope during a stormy life episode.

In the last post, which you may read about here, I wrote about the importance of having a detailed, passion-filled dream. When your ship of life crashes into a rock and thrusts you into  great physical, emotional and mental trauma is it possible to hold on to that dream? I want to suggest that you should hold on to the dream but… temporarily defer acting on that dream until such time as you need to feel, grieve and come to acceptance.

Research in psychology has shown that there Is a higher level of functionality after a critical incidence by individuals who were able and willing to embrace their pain. The idea is that experiencing pain to its fullest is a great form of therapy. It brings you to the point of being able to move toward healing. If you have to then cry, reflect, feel the hurt and pain and anger. Go inwardly to your lowest depths and feel. The emphasis at this point is to feel not to act. Do not act in haste. It may be best to defer making difficult decisions at this time. You want to act later rather than sooner to avoid impulsivity.

Not being able to feel and to grieve for what has happened leaves you imprisoned by the bondage of a lack of forgiveness, thoughts of revenge and your eventual anchoring in the past. To move on from a difficult situation means leaving behind the source of your pain after feeling it, grieving the resultant loss and coming to acceptance of your new situation.

Your circumstances are different after any trial but thankfully different may be better. Your trials are transient. Your challenges will bring change and creativity. Seeing it through those difficult times in your life promises that you will be able to recalibrate and begin to bounce back better.

bounce back better, inspirational, motivational, resilience, stress management, Uncategorized

The Lighthouse

 

Picture this: You are stranded at sea in a boat with a small crew and it is a stormy night. The waves are crashing all around and the night is outstandingly dark. The boat bobs unsteadily along as water sprays and hits you with unbelievable force. Navigation becomes difficult, almost impossible. Then… a brilliant, steady and reassuring light, gradually growing brighter, appears in the distance.

The captain steers in the direction of that lifeline, that glow of safety and comfort. The boat draws closer and closer to the shore. There is a huge crashing wave which almost sweeps the boat under. Almost. The boat is temporarily thrown off course but the captain soon recalculates and gets the boat back on track, a little closer to his destination. This happens over and over until finally he is able to cast anchor. Thank goodness for that beacon guiding him towards the harbor.

Your life’s big dream or goal is like that beacon from the lighthouse. It should remain shining brightly in the distance guiding you closer to its final accomplishment. No matter what life throws your way, no matter what obstacles you have to overcome, you keep your focus on that goal.

Having your life goal clearly defined and written or drawn to concretize it, ensures that it saturates your thoughts. It then directly influences all your actions and decisions. It impacts on your education, your choice of spouse, your house, your children…

The best dreams are infused with passion based on your innate gifts, your talents, your skills, your knowledge and your preferences. My own dream has always been to be a philanthropist. I started taking action many years ago; I started in a small way, working on my own. As time progressed I worked with some enthusiastic persons in a group we formed just for that purpose.

When my life was thrown into turmoil and my circumstances changed, I had to take some time to re- calculate my personal GPS. Having done that, I have readjusted my sight on the guiding light of my dream and am still slowly taking steps to achieve that goal.

All of us need to have a clearly outlined, detailed life plan or big dream as I like to call it. That dream ought to be guided by our unique gifts.  Having such a dream written or drawn so that each day you can look at it, means that even in turbulent times, you will be able to recover and take positive action steps to bring you back onto the course of your dream.

Do you have a tangible life plan or big dream? Are you working toward it consciously or not?

grief, inspirational, Uncategorized

Ode to True Love

My grief and gratitude are best expressed in the following:

Tall, black and beautiful,

Hair resplendent in the sun

Piercing eyes, frisky gait,

I can’t believe that it is now too late.

Once a roaring lion,

Fighting to protect your dominion

Yet with a heart full of love and devotion

I am filled with deepest emotions.

Even in your darkest hours

Moving to ease my insignificant burdens.

Love so unconditional, so true

I wonder how many have had a love like you.

Good bye my dear and trusted friend

You have served and served so well.

As the pain and suffering are put to rest

I rank you among the best.

Love comes not only in human form

But more genuine love comes from a dog.

My four legged beauty, my Girlie oh

I bid you now the final adieu!

girlie