Relationship Tape

What a wonderful metaphor I encountered innocently last week!

One of my students claims that she is very clumsy. This I learnt as I observed that her 12 inch (30cm) ruler was broken and repaired with…scotch tape and her spectacles handles were taped to the frame as they had broken off sometime ago.

As we joked about her clumsiness, a thought hit me. Many things can be broken and repaired simply by applying tape or glue. I myself had broken my cell phone once and repaired it with tape. Many torn pages were held precariously together with tape or staples.

If only it were so simple to mend broken relationships!

Image result for relationship tape

However relationships are formed between living, breathing, emotional beings. We grow into relationships, daily doing things to earn trust, to build rapport, to show support and to demonstrate our love for another human being or for that matter an animal, a pet.

The human ego , the psyche, is extremely fragile. Some more than others. It takes time to forge bonds. They are tested time and time again. And sadly in an instant of volatility, one mistake, one harsh word, one misunderstood emotion or one misstep can cause those carefully crafted to bonds to snap!

Perhaps it is a good thing that this type of breakage is difficult to repair. Had it been easier then less effort and time would be spent on trying to build rather than break down bonds.

What if there was some sort of relationship tape or staple or glue that  could be used to mend a broken relationship or heal a hurting heart?

After we laughed about this direction that our conversation had shifted into, it became clear that there is a way.

Of course nothing worthwhile comes without a lot of hard work. So this “relationship tape” comes through the practices of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

Each one of those is a huge mouthful for anyone. In today’s technologically advanced world, people have become worshipers of the Universe. Alternatively they claim to be atheists or highly open minded so that anything goes. Faith though is integral in any undertaking. We do things not knowing the final outcomes and that in itself is faith.

Spiritual faith gives us a freedom and strength to be able to release perceived or real hurts and helps us to see the good in spite of the bad. It provides for us a foundation of integrity, morals and values that is needed for the development of civility and social consciousness.

Humility, gratitude and forgiveness come with faith. That does not mean it comes easily. We are human and hence imperfect beings. No matter what our religious persuasion or faith may be, practicing these big guns of character definitions is difficult. Difficult not impossible.

By adopting a humble approach, we can see things with new lenses. We can learn to put others before self. Not easy by any standard but with daily practice it becomes more integrated into our behaviours.

Gratitude makes us cast a backward glance and recognize the good that others may have done for us, even the ones who are currently doing something to bring pain. It makes us see the small efforts, not just the large gestures.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult practices. But when we incorporate faith, gratitude and humility into our habits, then forgiveness comes much more easily.

Our “relationship tape” then is formed by the melding together of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

The next time you mend a torn page or stick a broken ornament, remember that relationships can be mended too…with the right “tape”.

 

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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.

 

Be Ever Grateful

 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”   

Psalm 100: 1-5

Sing joyful praise to God

Serve Him gladly for He is our Lord.

Let every moment be filled with praise

From now until the end of your days.

In the year 2012, Trinidad’s Keshorn Walcott won a gold medal at the Olympics for throwing the javelin. An admirable feat of itself but he was also the first black person to win the gold in this event.

http://www.sporting-heroes.net/content/thumbnails/00303/30234-zoom.jpg

His country showered him with adulation, praise and rewards. The day he returned home was declared a public holiday. In addition to this there was a welcoming ceremony beyond anything he could have imagined before leaving to participate in the Olympics.

That was not all: he was awarded a large financial reward; a piece of land in his hometown of Toco; a luxurious home in the city of Port of Spain; and the Toco lighthouse and secondary school were given new names after this new hero.

Nadia Sanowar Art - Rushing Waves  by Nadia Sanowar

(This magnificent image of a Toco beach was captured by photographer, Nadia Sanowar and can be viewed at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/rushing-waves-nadia-sanowar.html)

Traversing the island of Trinidad one is sure to encounter a monument or statue or building named in honor of someone who had achieved excellence. These features of our landscape are a reflection of the profound debt of gratitude we have for our achievers:

https://puralasetty3.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/41059050_adelaide300.jpg

  • the Brian Lara Promenade (cricket);

  • statues of Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani (politics), Christopher Columbus in the Columbus Square, Sir Ellis Knights (steel pan – founder of the Siparia Deltones), Lord Kitchener (calypso) and Sir Winston Spree Simon (steelpan);

  • an airplane was named after our first Miss Universe 1977,

    Janelle ‘Penny” Commissiong;

  • and there are numerous streets named after a wide range of personalities.

     

This list is definitely not exhaustive!

Why do we indulge in this practice of praising and rewarding those who have represented us well in their respective field of endeavor? Psychologist Abraham Maslow postulated a theory of psychological health which is still relevant today: the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In his original work, Maslow theorized that there are five stages of need, starting from the lowest level of biological needs such as food and shelter to the highest level of need which involves self – growth and fulfillment. Each level has to be fulfilled starting at the lowest level before an individual is motivated to satisfy the next level.

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Today there are different versions of Maslow’s hierarchy with more levels of needs. It is possible to use this theory to understand what motivates people, individually and collectively. It could help answer the question posed above which seeks to assimilate the need to publicly thank our luminaries.

For example, level three of the hierarchy addresses the need for love and a feeling of belonging, while the need for esteem, status and respect fits into level four. Both these levels of needs are associated with receiving recognition.

By paying such homage to an individual several outcomes or a combination of outcomes may be possible: the individual could become motivated to aspire to greater heights; the individual’s legacy becomes immortalized; or others could be inspired to distinction.

More than sixty years ago an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in the treatment of diseases resulting from glandular malfunctions or hormonal problems), Hans Selye acknowledged that one of the best ways to combat stress is to display gratitude.

Growing in importance today is the field of “positive psychology”. Doctors in this field have correlated a list of core characteristics with a sense of well- being. One of the most important values in this list is gratitude. They assert that having or displaying gratitude has at least seven benefits, including not taking things for granted.

Research has shown that expressing thanks for anything is closely linked to a plethora of physical responses including sleeping better, exercising more, being less prone to depression and experiencing less aches and pain (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain).

These responses were justified by a study which revealed increased activity in the hypothalamus of the brain- the region of the brain which is responsible for many metabolic activities and which influences levels of stress in the body.

Within the last few decades, the word dopamine has become quite familiar, particularly to athletes. Dopamine is referred to as the “feel good” neurotransmitter.

Whatever activity produces dopamine in your body is the activity you want to repeat. Yes, giving thanks and dopamine stimulation are simultaneous actions. Thus being grateful floods us with a need to keep on giving in order to sustain that good feeling. (Although an overproduction of dopamine is also associated with depression as found in studies over the last few years.)

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/scicurious-brain/the-dopamine-sides-of-depression/

These studies provide answers to the question previously put forward: why do we shower accolades on those who have accomplished? We pay great tribute to notable personalities to motivate them or others and to establish their legacy. We recognize their contributions in gratitude because doing so makes us feel good in so many ways.

The hectic pace of life makes it difficult to sustain efforts at gratitude but that is exactly what we need to do in order to synergize efforts to improve our well-being.

Without minimizing the achievements of any of our heroes, we must pause for a moment to reflect on the greatest Hero – our Creator. Without Him we would not even exist. There would be no Keshorn, no Brian Lara and no Lord Kitchener. Nothing any of us achieves can compare to what He has done and continues to do for us. He even gave His Son to set us free from sin! Greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for another.

Psalm 100, the Psalm of thanksgiving, urges us to give thanks to God, joyfully; not with reluctance; not unhappily; but joyfully. We are instructed to serve Him with gladness, not sadness. Why? We ought to serve Him because it is the least we could do for Him. There is nothing that we could give Him that He does not have. All that is ours comes from Him.

When we spend time in worship we must express praise and thanks in song. This Psalm is the only one with the defining title of “Psalm of giving thanks” for a reason: it was intended for use in services, to show our appreciation for our Saviour and God.

This is imperative and desirable because our very existence is dependent on Him. Being grateful to our Creator is obvious but easy to take for granted so we are reminded in this Psalm that we need to sing His praises for He made us in His likeness.

When we become aware of our origin and our Maker, it ought to instill an elevated sense of indebtedness which commands us to bow down in worship and to sing His praises joyfully. The blessings which flow compassionately from Him should be reciprocated by our blessing of His name.

Unlike our earthly heroes, our heavenly Father has not achieved excellence; He defines excellence with such supremacy that we cannot even wrap our finite minds around such a concept. His actions are infinite, constant and everlasting. Generations have experienced the magnitude of His compassion and grace and generations to come will continue to do so, until such time as only He knows.

Scientific research has revealed physical and psychological merits to having an attitude of giving or gratitude. Psalm 100 reveals that the most important merit of gratitude is spiritual. The blessings of God are assured when we humble ourselves with elation as we give thanks to Him for all His love toward us in spite of our imperfections.

If we feel strongly enough to heap adulation on our earthly achievers then our desire to give thanks to God would or should be without limitations. Deeper cogitation on this verse leads us to conclude that we owe Him praise and glory every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day…

The point is that this expression of gratitude to God has to be with exultation and it has to have no time limits: it must not be confined to only when things appear to work in our favor; it must be given freely all the time simply because God is good and unchanging in His truth.

If you are grateful today for anything, please share it. I look forward to hearing what puts you in an attitude of gratitude!