Feminism, Humanistic Psychology, Uncategorized, Violence, Women

I Walk

I walk with you because I am that woman who felt the burning pain of a slap, the punch of oppression, and the embarrassment of being pushed while others laughed, or looked away nervously because” I had it coming” for daring to question the unfairness of patriarchy.

I walk with you because I am that woman who had a gun held to her because I dared to stand up against a controlling man that should have never been allowed to possess a firearm.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like for others to discount your pain, blame you, and make excuses for a man’s violence.

I walk with you because I am that woman who held my silence of unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, and sexually being groped because I did not want to be the “bitch that brought it upon “herself”.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like not to have health insurance and wondering whether to buy food or go to the doctor.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like to be a young divorced mother raising a child financially and emotionally on her own.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like to have love for another that is not seen as acceptable by the masses.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows the beauty and love of others that may not look or believe like me.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has been called a “ crazy bitch” for being strong and motivated.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has been paid less than my male counterparts although they had less education and less experience than me.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has dared to empower her daughters to have an opinion, to have a dream, and to not let their gender determine their outcomes in life.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes that it is better to build other sisters up worldwide than tear them down and scoff at them for breaking socially gendered boundaries.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes that patriarchy is not only detrimental to women, but it hurts men as well.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes women should have the choice to make their way through the world with their hair covered or uncovered and not fear for their safety.

I walk with you because I am that woman who supports other women who forge careers into unchartered territories, but also supports the women and men who decide to stay at home with their children.

I walk with you because I am that women who has seen the results of bringing children into the world that were not wanted.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes in a higher power, but also know I was giving the ability to think, reason, and communicate that serves a purpose beyond myself.

I walk with you because I am that woman who does not see a world that is black and white, right and wrong, but a spectrum in between that tells the story of each individual.

I walk with you because I am that woman who know others may not support my beliefs, but they do not have the right to dictate my choices. My choices are between God and myself.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows each of us has our personal path, but we can support each other in the walk.

I walk.

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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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conformity, Humanistic Psychology

When Conformity is Mass Insanity

Sometimes breaking the rules of conformity is an act of compassion, kindness, empathy, and respect for the living.

Sometimes breaking the rules of conformity is an act of compassion, kindness, empathy, and respect for the living.

Conformity is the act of adjusting our behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs to match those of others around us.  Conformity is often viewed by some as the pinnacle of raising a child as a responsible citizen.  I challenge that idea, in that conformity promotes blind obedience to any figure that is seen as having influence, control, or power.  It diminishes an individual’s ability rationally to examine his or her own behaviors and actions in believing that somebody with power, control, or influence must “know best”.

Cross culturally as a collective species, we have socialized our most vulnerable to behave in accordance with their parents.  The old cliché, “mother knows best”, starts this indoctrination into blindly following an authority figure, without questioning, constructively analyzing, or using some type of reality testing of whether “Mommy really does know best”.  This practice might serve a positive form of socialization, but one crucial component is often forgotten in that most of us as parents, as humans, are flawed in different aspects of our behaviors, actions, and thoughts, myself included. We carry this idea of obedience and conformity to other to include other adults, teachers, peers, and different leaders, as well as it models these figures’ own biases of who is NOT worthy of respect.

Taking a stroll through our history, as well as current social crisis is a historical and living representation in how many of the most shameful, heinous, and disgusting behaviors and attitudes are based on conformity to some figure that has power, control, or authority.  The attributes of power, control, and authority can be real, or perceived through charismatic actions.  From governments and other groups that have waged war on others, often disguised as a moral crusades to induce mass conformity.  To the sexual predator that victimizes the innocent based on their knowledge that conformity of the larger group will double victimize the victim in keeping their silence.  To the bullies of the world, that often ridicule their victims, with the help of their “own personal gang”, in which if they did not have the support of the bigger group would become a coward.  All of these situations were created by conformity, and all of these situations can only be remedied with conformity to peace, respect, compassion, and integrity for all.  The parent that emphasizes and models a genuine respect of all peoples, while teaching empathy, compassion, and models of decision making, instead of conformity and obedience has instilled within their child not only values for life, but also skills to keep them from blindly obliging those who may lead them to stray from these virtues.

Being the mother of four children ranging from 23 years to 6 years old, the one hope that I have of my children is be selective of when you choose to conform.  Conform when it respects the rights of ALL others.  Conform when it shows empathy for another’s situation.  Conform when it allows peace to flourish.  I hope you decide to practice a LACK of conformity when it benefits you in terms of social acceptance, or some other type of gain, but degrades or hurts another.  Above all, do not conform to my expectations because God knows I know I am not worthy of emulating, as well as having my own faults and behaviors that you should avoid.  I hope you have respect for me because I am your mother, but I hope also you feel free to question my judgments, and make decisions that are aligned with aspirations of living a life of integrity, compassion, and kindness.

Not conforming in the face of social pressure will not make you a hero, win you endearment, or further your own position.  In reality, it is often a harder, but a higher road in terms of the humanistic values of respect, authenticity, kindness, caring, empathy, and compassion.  I never took it as an insult being called crazy or a lunatic by those that conform to others around them.  In fact, it only provided confirmation that I had not lost my individual mind or soul.

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Aggression, Humanistic Psychology, Palestine / Israeli Conflict, prejudice

Palestinian/ Israeli Conflict: What Would You Do?

As spectators, outside of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, some question the continued bloodshed that has occurred on both sides of the human constructed boundaries that divide the land and people.  Others take on the cause of one side of the people living in the region calling for continued death and destruction to the opposing side, often based on religious or ethnic affiliations.  Glancing at social media, I was hit with a barrage of gruesome images of decapitated children, mutilated bodies, and typically biased opinions of the situation.  I signed off my social media accounts, with the hopes that I would be able to close my eyes without the garish images haunting my dreams of the death and destruction that has ruled the region for almost 80 years.  Fighting that has left generations scarred with pain, hate, helplessness, and hopelessness.  Those living amidst the destruction do not have the luxury of closing their eyes to their immediate surroundings.

My own mixed cultural experiences have shown me that it is personally hard to hate another human being once you have had meaningful contact and developed an understanding of their worldview.  I reiterate with this statement that I am referring to people, and not an entity such as a government.  My experiences have also taught me that evilness does not lie in individuals based on their religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or some other human constructed social group; evilness lies in greed and the need for power and control.  Our everyday contacts with the world, as well as the pictures that are prepared and fed to us by media shape our views of how the world works.

My daughter came home the other day with her nose swollen and told me how she had been hit in the nose by another child.  The other child through the years has inflicted physical pain on my child, but it is a situation in which I have been told, “They are just children”.  In this situation, I am unable to respond, and yes, there are situations in which this can occur, because of the repercussion that can occur.  We all catch ourselves in these situations where the cost of responding to an unjust and unfair situation only makes the situation spiral out of the context far from the original conflict.  Out of frustration, I told my daughter “The next time she hits you…take her down and beat the hell out of her until she cries, she will think twice next time she decides to hurt you!”.   Moments after these words flew out of my mouth in a state of frustration because of my inability to protect my child from pain, I felt I had betrayed my own ideals and values.  I have always taught my children to play nicely, fairly, and take the pacifists route of peace, and yet I had just encouraged, and yes, instructed my 11-year-old to “beat the hell” out of another human being.

While the dilemma of my child does not have an ounce of the gravity and seriousness of the Palestinian / Israeli conflict, and by no means do I mean to equate it with childhood squabbles, it does illustrate some of the basic dynamics that have fueled the continuation of this gruesome, unjust, and humanitarian crisis.  In the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, more powerful international players have remained in silence, or justified the continued aggression and expansion of Israel against the Palestinian people.  Their silence and support has fueled the situation not only by neglecting to deal with their own actions of the past, but also the material benefits that are reaped by keeping the region destabilized.  The old cliché “Divide and then conquer” has much relevance to this situation.  The Holocaust indeed is a black period in the history of humans as millions of innocent people lost their lives under the fanatical thinking and actions of a lunatic.  Just as a child that has experienced a traumatic event should not be given free rein to hurt others because of their history, neither should a government be allowed continuously to act out aggressively to a group of people.  Making excuses and keeping silent does not fix an issue, but only escalates a situation in which the root of a problem will never be addressed.

As humans, we have both the gift and curse of memories that leave a lasting imprint in how we view our world, others, and ourselves around us.  How we interpret and remember our memories is not only a product of the event itself, but also the feelings we associate with those memories.  I recount my own reaction to my daughter’s event, of encouraging her to hurt another human being; my response was not fueled by this event alone, but a history of feeling that I had been marginalized, taken advantage of, boundaries crossed, and silenced.  The human species has the unique ability to communicate, where not only our own unique experiences become a part of our memories, but also the memories of others as they are recounted become part of our collective self.  The histories of both those that identify themselves as Muslim Arab Palestinians and Israeli Jews have experienced atrocities throughout history and into the present.  Although currently, the number of Palestinians suffering death, loss of property, freedom, and destruction in their homeland is considerably higher than that experienced by Israelis.  Although both sides, the number of Palestinians, who are mostly the innocent and vulnerable to the situation such as children, continues to mount on a daily basis.

I have heard such rhetoric as “the Palestinians lost their own land and need to deal with it”,  or “Arabs have fought with each other for thousands of years and just cannot get along with others”, or “Arabs are terrorists”, or “When Palestinians care more for their children and quit making them terrorists peace will happen”.   These superficial statements give no weight to the experiences of the people.  In the past 80 years, Palestinians have lost their lives, home, property, and ability to move freely in a land that they have inhabited for thousands of years.  It is an innate response to defend those aspects of our lives in which we are able to obtain sustenance to survive.  For example, if China decided to move into the United States and take over the homes and natural resources, limit the movement of United States citizens, and bomb the civilians, would we call the people that retaliated back with aggression “terrorists”?  No most likely they would be labeled as heroes, fighters or truth and justice, protectors, or defenders.    Who is labeled a terrorist is dependent upon the worldview of who is viewed as superior in a situation, and who should have rights and access to material goods.  Moreover, the people of Palestine, both Jews and Muslims existed peacefully until other world powers sanctioned the creation of “Israel”, disturbing the natural peaceful co-existence of the people of the region.

I admit that I am neither intelligent enough, nor arrogant enough to propose a solution to this gruesome conflict that has raged for years, but I do know that no people as a group are collectively or inherently evil by their religion, nationality, or ethnicity.  My heart aches for the people of Palestine, but it also aches for the parents of Israelis who have lost loved ones in this conflict as well.  On both sides of the boundaries, the average person, family, and community is trying to live, thrive, and love regardless of their beliefs or ethnicity.  For most humans, our motivations and behaviors are driven by the need to connect to others and have affiliation with others in which we feel accepted, loved, and nurtured.  On the darker side of human nature, we also have those that are driven by greed, power, and the need to control.  As governments and popular media outlets (which are often controlled by those who have their own agenda) leak a story to the general public, listening closely to what they report, the words they use to report, and the images that are shown generally can illustrate their self-claimed “unbiased reporting”.  Their reporting arouses feelings of hatred and anger among individuals that are typically compassionate human beings, but again, when an individual feel that they are in danger, they will collectively organize among socially constructed groups, spewing hate and violence of the “other”.

On a more positive note, I do see a glimmer of hope as individuals from both sides of the conflict have crossed over to foster human connections and support for their neighbors.  The continued marginalization, murder, and imprisonment of the people of Palestine serves no other purpose than to continue profiting those that have benefitted from the situation in terms of economics, power, and control.  These same individuals have manipulated the public through fear to resort to violence and hatred against others, using either religion or ethnicity as a base of whom “they should hate”.  While I do not condone violence, I also understand the behaviors of Palestinians who send small rockets and shells into Israel, in which they generally pay a thousand times over from the strong military force of the Israeli government.  When an individual feels threatened, manipulated, disrespected, imprisoned, and has watched as not only their history and continued existence threatened, striking back with violence is a reaction that most of us would make as well. Peace to all and may we learn to exist with our neighbors and respect our diversity, without the darker forces of human nature interfering with each individual human’s right of safety, love, and peace.

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Humanistic Psychology, Midlife, Personal Growth, Women

Mid-Life Reflections

43rd bday pic
I have crawled and walked this earth for 43 years today; the crawling has not only included my time as a small child, but metaphorically crawling during difficult times in my life. Some of those difficulties have been the results of circumstances, different people, and yes, I must admit brought on by myself as well. Perhaps we have to crawl for moments in our life at different times to learn how to walk a new or different path. Today, I am getting off the floor to walk on my own two feet again, but I know to do that I need to strive towards the following:
1. My own self value is not determined by how others view me, act towards me, or value me.
2. If people love me based on conditions, I will still love them unconditionally, but I know
there conditional love is their weakness and not my own. While I will love these people
unconditionally, I will have boundaries in how much energy I invest in maintaining the
relationship.
3. Only consider criticism from others that is given with authentic intentions, only give
criticism that is given with authentic intentions.
4. I will not let fear hold me back in living. Fear is the one emotion that keeps us on our
knees and makes us slaves to others and ourselves.
5. I will only say sorry when I truly mean it. I will not say sorry for being honest and
speaking my truth, or being sorry for who I am.
6. I will no longer keep my silence when it damages others or myself. I have held my tongue far
too long causing myself physical and emotional pain.
7. I will not allow others who are filled with hatred, greed, jealousy, and selfish intents to
bring drama in my life. This is their drama and issues, not my own. If I have done something
wrong, I will admit it and say I am sorry, but I will no longer allow you to bring destruction
and unneeded pain in my life. I cannot force anyone to respect my boundaries, but I do not
have to engage with destructive people and their games regardless of who you are.
8. I will forgive, but I do not forget. Forgetting is not a skill, remembering and learning
from experiences teaches us to avoid mistakes in the future and that is a true measure of an
intelligent skill.
9. I will not take people, blessings, or my world for granted. Showing gratefulness is a
reminder of the beauty in our world that at times can be obscured.
10. I will work towards those parts of me that can improve, while at the same time accepting there
are some aspects of me that are innately me and learn to love those traits.

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Emotional abuse, Humanistic Psychology, parenting, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships

Love: The Difference Between Unconditional Love versus Conditioned Love

Mom and me
I have heard and even used myself the expression “love can heal the world”. Lately I have been questioning the concept of love; we throw the word love around, which in reality has different meanings for different people, as well as the context of how we use the word. For example, I might say, “I love your dress”, “I love you”, “I love my children”, “I loved that movie”, “I love my spouse”, or “I love my parents”. In the context of this article, I am speaking about the love we have for other living and breathing creatures, and more specifically human beings. Even narrowing down the term love and using it in context about people, the way we use the word “love “ and what it means is ambiguous. Love can be defined as an action, expression, or emotion. Love can be expressed as a thing by using it as a noun, or an action by using it as a verb.

Although we may have different ways to use the word love, there are types of “love” that we need to question as to whether or not they actually meet the criteria of love: Unconditional love vs. conditional love. Unconditional love involves both a genuine care and concern about an individual, which involves both recognizing that individual as a unique individual with both strengths and weaknesses. We express our affection for that individual, which does not necessarily mean that we condone or support their negative behavior, but we still have positive regard for them as a person and human being. We set limits of what is acceptable behavior in the relationship that is healthy for both individuals, balanced with respect for both individuals. This type of love is mature, respectful, and may transition through time according to the developmental stages of each person in the relationship, and what constitutes appropriate roles for these individuals. For example, I think of unconditional love I have towards my children. My oldest daughter is almost 23 years old and I have experienced as a mother our relationship from her being an infant to entering the world as a young adult. As an infant, all of her needs were met through me and she needed different levels of guidance through each stages. Through each stage of her development, her independence grew, as she became a unique individual. Both of us through these different stages made mistakes, but my love for her and I believe her love for me is not conditional. I recognize she has both strength and weaknesses, as I am sure she realizes I too as a person have strength and weaknesses. I will love and respect her as a person, regardless of the mistakes she makes, or if she has different ideas and values than my own because she is my child that came from my womb. Although I may not support her behavior through either financial means, as well as I may voice my concerns, at the end of the day, I still love her. I experienced this same type of unconditional love from my parents, who often disagreed with my life choices, but have provided emotional support (and yes even financial support) through different periods in my life. My family of origin is not perfect, and yes, we have dysfunction that flows through our relationships, but conditional love was never a part of those relationships.

Conditional love involves only showing affection for an individual when they behave or act in accordance with one’s wishes, commands, wants, or desires. Conditional love damages an individual in that they only believe that through their appearances, achievements, materialistic offers, and yes even handing over their own control will win them the love of another person. Conditional love is often used as a form of emotional abuse in which one individual places conditions of giving their affection to another person; it is a form of being selfish, narcissistic, shallow, manipulating, and controlling another person. We have all seen this type of love, from the parent that expects their child to follow all of their commands and the parent showing love is conditional upon the child meeting those demands. We have seen this through spouses that expect their mate unquestioningly to obey their authority, and meet all of their needs. We have seen this through friends who stand with us through our bright times, but mysteriously disappear during our down periods in life. Conditional love places restrictions on individuals, and never allows them to develop to their full potential. This is not “love”, and when we come to fully recognize this as a species, we may realize that “unconditional love can heal the world”.

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Humanistic Psychology, materialism, Personal Growth, Psychology, spirituality

Can a Vulture Become a Dove?

birds
It is the simplest of humans that try to mold a version of perfection by their adornments . A human that does not see beyond their socialized version of perfection is but an empty vessel that has failed to find their own worth and tries to adorn themselves with material objects in finding some type of worth to not only themselves, but to others as well. A superficial self that in their lust for finding some type of feeling of worth, becomes engrossed in the art of deception, lies, and valuing the materialistic objects of the world over integrity, respect, honesty, and empathy. I sometimes wish I could escape this world into a utopia where music, arts, knowledge, words, nature, authenticity, honesty, caring, kindness, and love were the prized human values. Where the vulgar behavior of impression management through material objects, power, and control were considered vile, evil, and unsightly.

Lessons in life have taught me that those who are so willing to prostitute their ethics and values in life in able to obtain monetary gain, power, or control are also the very same people who lose their humanity. Their narcissistic needs for power, control, and materialistic desires turn them into vultures circling the skies scouring the landscape of those that they perceive weak or unworthy. These vultures are not hard to identify. They are typically visibly on display if you only take the time to scan their behaviors. These people will yell, degrade, and abuse others that they perceive as less than them because of social status, nationality, race, or appearance. These people will try to charm and dazzle those that they perceive they have something to gain. These people will pursue objects that they see as for the elite, while failing to see the beauty of another person’s essence that they have just disregarded as useless because they do not have the ability to bolster their own self through their connection with that human being.

Am I innocent in this whole charade of materialism? No, I am not. I have bought the designer labels that I knew came through the blood, sweat, and tears of the innocent in sweatshops. I have walked by the homeless person and only gave a swift second look, more scared if that could become my destiny versus the humanity of offering a hand to help or listen. I have been impressed with material objects, titles, power, and superficial prestige. Although I have also learned that some of the richest people, either in character, or in talents, are often those that often go unseen in our materialistic world. I have learned that the vultures of materialistic values will pick the very life out of an individual as long as it serves their own shallow needs, only to discard that individual once they no longer serve a purpose. I have also learned that these vultures often fly in circles together and avoiding their territory serves as a form of both mental and physical preservation of the human spirit. The vultures not only feed off the dead of others, but will feed off each other as well. Being completely honest, I have even found myself flying among the vultures as I struggled to find my own identity. I have left the flock and I am trying to become a dove; representing peace, harmony, respect, and the humanistic vision of extending the olive branch of caring, kindness, and empathy. As I continue my internal transformation, I question can I ever become the dove completely shedding the feathers of the vulture, to fly a path of integrity, respect, honesty, and kindness and obliterate my former conditioning of the vulture?

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