emotions, Humanistic Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Socialization, Special Needs

Expression of Love from a Special Child

heart

The innocent and intuition of the young in being able to understand and respond to the needs of their fellow humans has always amazed me.  The young have not yet had their acts of compassion, kindness, and empathy socialized out of their repertoire of how to be human.  They see, they feel, they react, they express.  It is only the world around them that with time teaches them to develop restraint, to numb, to detach, and to become blind to those around them.   Learning to control and restrain our interactions is often described in terms of our emotional development, a process of maturation, cognitive development, or learning to become adults.  I question if we have developed an effective world in socializing out this innate human aspect of a child…the ability to feel and react to another a human being.

I found myself this evening precariously sitting on a small shelf at the check –outs of Hyper Panda Supermarket waiting for the last and longest prayer of the day to end in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, in which all stores close during the five prayer times of the day.  It is not uncommon for me to often find myself unsuccessfully trying to organize my shopping expeditions timed in such a way to “miss the prayers”, which I typically fail miserably at timing appropriately.

As I sat on my make-shift chair, trying to focus my attention away from the fact that my back and feet were aching from walking through the grocery store, that had only been exasperated by the fact that I am 43 years old and 7 months pregnant.  I silently cursed myself for not opting for my hated tennis shoes, instead of trying still to maintain some sense of femininity by wearing my black ballet flats that apparently are devoid of any arch support.  That train of thought led me to thinking of my beautiful high heels at home, that just 7 months ago without little thought I would slip on for my outings without giving a second thought.  Somehow, this train of thought led me down the path of questioning my very existence and what I was going to do with myself personally, professionally, and thinking how pathetic I must be sitting in a grocery store lacking any direction or purpose.

My three children kept interrupting my own internal stream of thoughts related to my personal mid-life crisis, which has only been exasperated by pregnancy hormones that had manifested into a full-blown pity party dancing in my head.  “Mommy, can I get a new Pez dispenser?  Mommy, I want gum!  Mommy, Jasmine is getting two candy…it is not fair”.  I found myself saying “No”, “No”, “No”, and finally reverting to “Whatever”.  My last response sent me into initiating an internal dialogue of berating myself on my parenting abilities.  I pulled out my phone in my attempts to drown out their whining, engage in a mindless game of Candy Crush, and escape reality.

Crouching on the little shelf, that was more suitable for a small child than a 43-year-old pregnant woman, I found a small smiling boy running towards me that I thought must be directed towards all the colorful packages of candy that I partially had blocked.  I panicked and thought to myself “How am I going to gracefully stand up from my crouched sitting position, in which I am elevated less than 6 inches above the ground?”

Just as I began my struggle in my fumbling attempts at maintaining some level of grace while standing to let the child reach the candy which I had blocked, I felt his little arms go around my neck and wet little kisses being planted on my cheeks.  The little boy , of about three or four years old, and who was speaking to me excitedly continued to chatter and hug me, while his mother tried to pull him back.  When I looked closely at his little face, I realized that he was a child with special needs, most likely a child that had mosaic Down syndrome.  He continued to hug me and jabbered away in broken Arabic that I struggled to understand, not only because of my own poor Arabic skills, but also because of the effects of his disability.  I looked into his eyes and told him “Shukrin habibi”, which in English roughly translates into “Thank you dear one”.  He grabbed my face and then planted a big kiss on my forehead, which is a sign of respect and love in the Arabic culture.

His mother looked embarrassed and smiled while telling me “Malash” which translated into English is a way of expressing sorry.  I looked at her and in my broken Arabic told her “No need to say sorry, he has a beautiful white heart.”  As she led him away to take their turn in another checkout lane in the growing sea of inpatient customers waiting for the prayer to end, I smiled and the boy and I both waved to each other.  I felt a genuine smile spread across my face, and no not the fake smile that I have meticulously perfected in my years of socialization.  This authentic smile was a spontaneous reaction of being the receiver of an expression of human caring that was not planned, not manipulated, and had no ulterior motive.

My own little girls walked over to me and asked me “Mommy who was that little boy?  Why did he hug you and kiss you?”

Still smiling, I told them “I don’t know, maybe he knew mommy just needed a hug.”

Lulu, my 11-year old, and the most introspective and observant of my 4 daughters, quietly replied with a gentle smile “Maybe so mommy, he picked you of all of the people here.”

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Aggression, Culture, death, Fear, Judgement, Terrorism, Violence, Worldview Differences

Good vs. Evil in War, Violence, and Terrorism: An Ambiguous Perception from the Fishbowl

Humans do not come into the world with a predetermined fixed worldview, but instead their worldview is shaped by their personal experiences, culture, natural environment, and social environment, which constructs their perception of the world (Burr, 2004).  While perhaps many believe that the construction of what constitutes “good vs. evil” is universal, in reality the construction of good versus evil is created through the interaction of the individual with their social environment, cultural indoctrination, as well as individual experiences through time.  In many ways, we are like fish trapped in a fishbowl that have a limited view of what we see, often encapsulated by glass barriers that expose us to a narrow current of the vast resources of water.  In addition, the inner environment of our fishbowl  affects our formation of the world from the amount of space we are allowed freely to explore our own internal world and environment, to the availability of nutrients, clean water,  oxygen, and our  fellow fish determines our level of aggressiveness and perceptions of the world.

As the world continues to struggle with acts of aggression, war, and violence on a collective group scale, the world also continues to struggle how to define legitimate aggression in defending  our own collective group vs. terrorism (Bongar, 2007; & Nacos, 2012).   Acts of aggression and violence in the human species has plagued our entire existence, with the perceptions of who is “good” or “evil” a subjective reality that is often colored by the glass of our own fishbowl existence.   One human’s view of an act of aggression or violence carried out defending a group’s worldview is pious and good, but is viewed by another collective group as pure evil.  This view of “good vs. evil” of the collective group is dependent upon the group’s values, beliefs, and collective group interests regarding resources, safety, and security for themselves and their allies.  Just as many fish species travel together in “schools of fish”, we as human often organize ourselves into little swimming schools that are often determined by social groups as religion, nationality, ethnicity, race, or other ideologies.  We have created a world of competing “schools of fish”, where survival of the fittest is propagated in terms of an “us” vs. “them” paradigm.

Globalization in the last century has created a new type of environment, in which as a species we have failed to master creating waters that  support diversity in terms of acceptance of different worldviews .  Until the last century, humans had limited cultural contact, but with the advent of more efficient and mass modes of transportation, as well as advanced technology such as the internet, our small-contained fishbowls have turned into gigantic aquariums.  We have now been dumped into this giant aquarium where different cultures, societal beliefs, values, and religions have been immersed together,  while trying to establish a food chain of who “eats” who.   While the big fish are trying to establish their power hierarchy, it is often the “shrimps” or innocent civilians, trying to carve out existences that become consumed in the whole process.   Consumed in either fear of others in the world, or consumed as they become the civilian casualties of others jockeying for their own supremacy.

Often in the media and in social conversations, acts of terrorism are often considered to be carried out by “crazed lunatics” that are perpetrated by evil villains (Norris, Kern, & Just, 2003).  Personally, it is often easier to provide explanations in which mental pathology provides some type of explanation for behavior that seeks to annihilate, hurt, or kill another human being.  Focusing on the pathology of the individual is an easy way to rid the collective responsibility of social conditions that foster an environment where acts of violence are fostered.  Research examining individuals who have carried out acts of terrorism suggests that in reality the majority of these individuals do not meet the criteria that has been suggested to indicate psychopathology or a history of being evil in other facets of their lives (Borum, 2004; Cottee & Hayward, 2011; & Kruglanski, & Fishman, 2009).  Research has suggested the life experiences, social influence, cultural influence, and historical context where shame and humiliation have been major themes serve as a catalyst for a “good” individual to go down a path of carrying out acts of evil (Borum, 2004; Waller, 2005; & Zimbardo, 2004).  In understanding the evolution of a path functioning as a “good” person to an “evil” person, the individual’s experiences, societal, and cultural factors must be all examined not in isolation, but as a cumulative experiences, that facilitates a path of violence (Kruglanski & Fishman, 2009).

One explanation of how individuals are influenced from a societal level is Hofstede’s (1984) concept of collective versus individual societies has often been used as a classification system to explain cultural worldviews and the social norms, values, and expected behaviors.  Individualist cultures are described in terms of valuing self-independence, concerns for the individual and their immediate family, as well as having loose social structures in the community.  In contrast, a collectivist society values social connectedness, extended family and communal relations, and an emphasis on the group needs versus the individual needs.  Although nations and cultures have typically been classified as more individualist or collective in nature.  Oyserman, Coon, & Kennelmeier (2002) have proposed that both elements and cultural values run concurrently in a society, but depending on the situation, one cultural orientation may be more prominent, as well as there are individual differences among individuals.  Collective identities of belonging to a group can be fostered in a group by the creation of an external threat.    Kruglanski & Fishman (2006) asserted that collective societies are more likely to use terrorist acts as a form of aggression to initiate social changes that in their perceptions benefit the group.   Both terrorist groups, and recognized governments have monopolized on the collective identities of the masses, rallying individuals using fear to engage in acts of violence, that under normal circumstances these individuals would not most likely engage in.

Just as individual factors alone cannot account for the creation of terrorist, societal and cultural factors cannot fully account for an individual going “good” to “evil”.  If the environment alone accounted for acts of evil, large groups of people would engage in terrorism, and dissenting voices condemning acts of  terrorism, both from within and outside a group of people, would not occur.  Just as different cultural and social factors may spawn an environment that is conducive to the creation of terrorist, individual experiences, individual differences in cognition, perception, and levels of tolerance exist within individuals providing both vulnerabilities and protective factors of who goes down the slippery slope of engaging in terrorism.  The concepts of “good” and “evil” are ambiguous constructs, which are influenced by both societal, cultural, and individual lenses.  Who is the feared shark and those different lenses of subjectivity shape who is perceived as the  shark hunter.

References

Bongar, B. (2007).  The psychology of terrorism:  Defining the need and describing the goals. .  In B.  Bongar, L.  Brown, L Beutler, J. Breckendridge, & P.  Zimbardo (Eds.)  Psychology of terrorism.  New York, NY:  Oxford Press.

Borum, R. (2004). Psychology of terrorism. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.

Burr, V. (2004). Constructivism. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 186-187). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n165

Cottee, S., & Hayward, K. (2011). Terrorist (e)motives: The existential attractions of terrorism.  Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34(12), 963–986.   Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Hofstede, G. (1984). The cultural relativity of the quality of life concept. The Academy Of Management Review, 9(3), 389-398. doi:10.2307/258280

Kruglanski, A. W., & Fishman, S. (2006). The psychology of terrorism:“Syndrome” versus “tool” perspectives. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18(2), 193-215.

Kruglanski, A. W, & Fishman, S. (2009).  Psychological factors in terrorism and counterterrorism: Individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis.  Social Issues and Policy Review, 3(1), 1–44.

Matsumoto, D.  & Juang, L.  (2008). Culture and psychology (4th ed.).  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Nacos, B.  (2012).  Terrorism and counterrorsim (4th ed.).  New York, NY:  Pearson Education.

Norris, P., Kern, M., & Just, M. R. (Eds.). (2003). Framing terrorism: The news media, the government, and the public. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128(1), 3-72. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.1.3

Waller J. E. (2005).  Becoming evil: The making of terrorists. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, 42(2), 167–188. Retrieved from https://www.whitworth.edu/Administration/InstitutionalAdvancement/UniversityCommunications/WhitworthToday/2007_Spring/PDF/BecomingEvil.pdf

Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators. In A. G. Miller (Ed.), The social psychology of good and evil: Understanding our capacity for kindness and cruelty (pp. 21–50). New York, NY: Guilford.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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