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

Expression of Love from a Special Child

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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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Adlerian Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Personal Growth, Psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

What is the Perfect Life?

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Some of our biggest fears come from some idealized view that we have developed through our vicarious experiences of living of what our idealized life should look like. Alfred Adler, referred to this as our “final fictionalism”, in which we hold an idealized view of when our life would be “perfect” (Corey, 2009). This final fictionalism is often composed of the messages we have received through society such as culture, the media, and our families of what “the perfect life” looks like. With the invent of technology and mass media, the messages we have all received of what the perfect life looks like has become enmeshed into a superficial horror movie of the battles of materialism, with our looks and possessions being a measure of our success as a human being. Our behaviors and how we conduct ourselves in daily life our often dictated by trying to meet our final fictionalism. We often question where has humanity gone in the world in our governments, but perhaps we should question where has the humanity gone in each human.

We all have a “final fictionalism”, but sometimes we need to scrutinize the content of what a perfect life will look like. A perfect life that is built on material pursuits and power often engages a person to pursue a path that is deviant in the forms of using manipulation, coercion, and lies to engage themselves into a world where the sense of self is built on a shallow base. We all know these people, the narcissist person that often gets their feelings of being grandiose by their conquest over others, their possessions, and their perceived power over others. They tend to be selfish, self-absorbed, and often lack respect of others feelings (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). However, what happens when that shallow based is shaken, cracked, or threatened? If the perfect life is built on just an image, or possessions, what happens to the human aspect of the person? They tend to externalize blaming and shaming others in their environment.

Developing a final fictionalism that is built on the concepts of the humanistic needs of having our basic needs mets, safety and security, as well as authentic love and support from those close to us gives us the ability to grow as a human in a positive direction (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Maslow (1943) developed the classic “Hierarchy of Needs” to describe the base of human growth and development and the conditions needed for a person to reach a level of self-actualization. Self-actualization is the process of a person realizing both their strengths and limitations, but at the same time striving to move forward in positive pursuits for not only themselves, but also the rest of humanity. When we look at many of the leaders or role models throughout the world, how many of those figures actually meet these criteria?

I can say I am not self-actualized, although I am struggling towards working towards a better human version of me. One of the pivotal questions I have asked myself lately, combines the concepts of Adler’s “final fictionalism”, while incorporating the humanistic principles of becoming a self-actualized being. My materialistic pursuits of my younger years have seemed to lose their shiny attraction, and I am searching for meaning through authenticity. I can say that there was a time when the “car”, “the big house”, “the designer labels”, and “jewelry” provided some type of shallow sense of self-accomplishment, but what I have learned that there is far greater joy in someone saying “thank you for supporting me or being there for me, or being authentically honest in who we are. I think there are a couple of questions we can all honestly ask ourselves at the end of the day to let us know where we all fall on the continuum of being an authentic human versus edging into the endless competition of the narcissist: If I could ask for two wishes what would they be? If I could only keep two things about my life what would they be? If we find ourselves answering these questions with objects or status, perhaps we need to start questioning our level of being an authentic human. Love, connections, and helping others leaves far more wealth in our world than any objects, possession, or position ever will.

References
Corey, G. ( 2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.

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