Child death, Culture, death, emotions, grief, parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

The Club I Never Wanted to Join

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There are those clubs in life that we join with enthusiasm, that is within our control and decision, that we decide to engage because it coincides with our interests, our hobbies, passions, joys, and identity.  Although life’s path indoctrinates us into other clubs or groups that we never sought membership for, but we received a lifetime membership that usually involves emotional fees instead of monetary fees.  Almost one  year ago, I received one of those unsolicited lifetime memberships to the Mother of Dead Children when I delivered my full term 38 week old stillborn son, Mr. Baby (aka Mohammad Hatem Mominah).   A membership card I have tried to burn, to throw away, and return to sender, but the damn gold status membership card keeps finding its way back into my hand of cards.  This unsolicited club membership likes me to invest my emotions, my cognitive energy, my time, my sleep, my lack of sleep, and at times, my sanity.   While the members of this club experience some of the same initiations, each club member also gets specialized individualized treatment dependent on their own story, their personal characteristics of the card member, but most of us get to pay the yearly premium of guilt, blame, and sadness.

There are no rules and regulations of expected behavior of carrying this card from the membership itself, but people that have not gained membership to this club have developed stereotypes of how you should “be” and what is acceptable to say to you or not say to you.  I have perfected the art of listening, and composing a smile, or at least a blank expression, but I also have a ticker tape that silently runs through my mind, that if ever was exposed, could unleash a nasty sarcastic spew of my inner coping.  As a member of this club, I have gathered support and understanding from other gold card carrying members, but those outside that club, that have never experienced what it means to lose a child, will offer their own advice of how you can be a gold star performing card carrying member.  While every parent that has lost a child has a different way of coping, my own inner dialogue, which I long ago nicknamed as my “ticker tape” has at times ran rampant in my mind in response to messages  to what others have said to me in the past year.

  1. You should be grateful that you have other children.  Yes I am selfish and ungrateful…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  2. You need to get over it and move on.   I am weak and sorry I have those days that I secretly wish that I could have crawled into the grave with my child….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  3. God never gives you more than you can handle.  Really?  Ummmm….because I am about one second away of letting you see on display what falling apart looks like.….(guilt)What  is wrong with me?
  4. Far worse things have happened to other people, you  should be grateful.  Yes far worse things have happened….I did not gain membership to compare my experience with tragedies of the rest of the world.  Yeah I get that far more horrible things have happened in the world, but thank you  for your insight and wisdom, but it still doesn’t change how I feel….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  5. Say “Thanks God” or “Al Humdallah”. I have never been one to do or say things unless I really feel that way, and  maybe I am an ungrateful,  selfish person, because I am not grateful for carrying a child for 9.5 months to hand that child over to be buried in the desert’s sand.  I am not grateful to get this unsolicited membership card……Sorry if this upsets your world view, and doesn’t coincide with your perceptions….I will not say something that I do not mean, because I do not view this as a will of God…this was because of medical human error,  my own screwed up body, my own inability to deal with stress, and because I was too physically and mentally exhausted to stand up to the voices that said a C-section could wait for a couple more days,  even though I knew it couldn’t.   I am not in the mood to make you feel better…because I feel like shit.   If it makes you feel better, please say it, but do not say it to me, and do not expect me to say it.  Special note to medical professionals….please shut up and do not even have the audacity to mention this to me…. (guilt) What  is wrong with me?
  6. At least you are still alive and here.  Really?  That could be questionable on a moment by moment basis…..(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  7. Maybe it was for the best, maybe there was something wrong with him. A doctor examined him, there was nothing wrong with him visibly, although I would not allow the hospital to dissect his little body.  Even if there was something wrong with him.  I just wanted the chance to look into his eyes…even for just a little bit.  I wanted that baby,  even if there had been issues…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  8. You are not the only person to lose a child.  I know that, and do you think that I don’t’ realize already that I am not handling this with grace …Do you really think that if I could I wouldn’t stand up  and be this fortress of strength? (guilt)  What is wrong with me?
  9. At least you never had the chance to get emotionally attached…it is better that he died before you had the chance to know him. Please fuck off because I did know him.  I carried him for 38 weeks… you have no idea…… (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  10. You gave yourself black eyes/ bad luck because you were so happy to have the baby.  Your statements are more of a reflection of your black  heart and how you view others as well as how you view yourself… Please…could you just please shoot me and get your freaking torture over with.  I was happy to be expecting a child…and you stand before me and say that it is my fault that I made other’s jealous……really….this is just too much….while you may think it, and that is your right….really shut the fuck up.  Trust me….I have enough guilt for not standing up to doctors, changing physicians, or dealing with stress effectively…I don’t need your negative energy to add to my black world right now.  Bad things happen in life, and death is one of the inevitable truths of our existence.   (guilt) What is wrong with me?

The only real benefit that I believe I have gained from my membership, is the right to say “Please consider what you say to someone that has lost their child”.  I know the intentions are there to try to comfort the person, but each person deals with loss and grief in their own way.  I apologize in advance to anyone that I have offended by my honesty and language, that is not my intention, but to provide an insight into the grief of one mother on a year long journey of coming to terms with the death of her child.   Entering the private thoughts of another is one way to understand a situation and have some empathy.  I am sure that in the past that I have unintentionally made statement in regards to someone’s life events that were not helpful.  This experience has taught me that sometimes words unspoken are best.  No one can tell a the person what they should feel, or how they should behave when faced with death.   Sometimes the well intentioned comments only add to feelings of guilt, sadness, selfishness, and unfairness experienced by those grieving.  What you can do…sit quietly, listen, and understand that person will never be the same in some ways.  Yes they will learn to smile again, they will learn how to live again, they will learn to breathe….but it is in their time, and in their way.  Grief is a path that each person travels differently and it is not a path that can be magically fixed.

Happy Birthday Mr. Baby.  You earned  your angel wings  before you ever had to  breathe  in the experiences of the harsh realities of life on earth. One of my favorite messages sent was “The angel opened the book of life, and  said “This one is too perfect for this world…and closed the book”.  For this, I can honestly  say “Alhumdallah” or “Thank God”.  Until we meet again my little baby.

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Bias, Cross Cultural, education, Judgement, Personal Growth, prejudice, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Stereotypes

The Biggest Lie: I Don’t Have Any Biases

my reality
How many times have you heard someone say “I don’t have any biases against any people!”? Whenever I hear people comment that they are free of biases, prejudice, or stereotypes in their daily living, I always question how authentic or honest they are being with others, and perhaps even themselves? As human beings, we engage in a process of “cognitive shortcuts” in which we tend to classify our environment and other humans into categories. Stereotyping is a categorical process that the human species consciously and unconsciously engages in that serves as a mechanism of trying to arrange our world in an orderly fashion where people are identified as belonging to groups based on race, gender, nationality, religion, ideology, social economic class, etc. We develop a set of characteristics associated with these groups are seen as being representative to the individuals that compose these groups (Crisp & Turner, 2010; Fiske, 2010; Feldman, 2009; Stangor, 2009; Wright & Taylor, 2007).

Traditionally, stereotypes have been associated as a phenomenon that leads to bias, prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization of people (Crisp & Turner, 2010; Feldman, 2009). Hence, researchers, academians, social scientists, and others have examined ways to reduce or eliminate stereotypes. Although stereotyping can lead to erroneous beliefs about a group of people, and individuals, the schematic processing does help individuals navigate their social worlds. The stereotypes we hold have been socialized through others around us, as well our vicarious experiences we have encountered through living. For example, living in Saudi Arabia, I found out through my own experiences of living, that men with long beards and short thobes (the traditional white dress of Arab men in the Gulf region) would typically not feel comfortable to interact with me because I am female. The first time I offered my hand to shake with an individual that had these traits, I was told “I do not shake hands with females”, I found myself blushing with embarrassment. Other experiences and comments I heard from others , as well as the media led me to develop a negative stereotype whenever I saw a Middle Eastern man with a long beard, and short thobe.

These stereotypes can often help us, but there is also a darker side that may lead us to making erroneous conclusions and decisions as well. My lesson in this happened one time on a return flight from Europe to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I was sitting in first class with my husband and across the aisle was another man dressed in designer labeled clothes from head to toes. I viewed him as progressive, open-minded, and most likely well educated. Another man who had a long-beard, a short thobe, and was wearing the traditional ship-ships (traditional Arab sandals worn by men in the Gulf) boarded the plane with his family. I automatically assumed this man was conservative and represented repression to me. During the flight, the two men were exchanging heated words in Arabic. Based on my stereotypes, and my limited comprehension of Arabic, I faulted the man with the long beard. Later as I discussed the events with my husband, I was astonished to find out that the well-dressed man across the aisle from us was upset that the man with the long beard had been allowed to put his carry-on in the first class cabin, even though he was ticketed for economy seating. In reality, the individual who had been the oppressor in this situation had been the man who was well dressed and using an individual’s ticketing status as a social construct in which to marginalize another human being. I found myself feeling uncomfortable with my own recognition that I had jumped to conclusions of the situation based on the superficial appearances of the two men.

Instead of eliminating stereotypical processes, we need to focus on developing a better understanding of how stereotypical thinking can lead to situations where negative outcomes, such as prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization can occur (Aronson & McGline, 2009; Crisp & Turner, 2010; Fiske, 2010). More specifically, we need to acknowledge some of our own stereotypical thinking and biases that exist as part of the process of being human with our need to categorize and classify the people around us. By making these personal acknowledgements to ourselves, it gives us the understanding and reasoning to question at times our own actions, assumptions, and behaviors that can at times serve to bias our views of others.

References
Aronson, J. & McGline, M. (2009). Ch. 8: Stereotype and social identity threat. In Nelson, T. (Ed.) Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2010). Chapter 7: Prejudice. In Essential social psychology (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Fisk, S. (2010). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Feldman, R. (2009). Essentials of understanding psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Stangor, C. (2009). Ch. 1: The study of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination within social psychology: A quick history of theory and research. In Nelson, T. (Ed.) Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Wright, S. & Taylor, D. (2007). Chapter 16: The social psychology of cultural diversity: Social stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. In Hogg, M. A., & Cooper, J. M. (Eds.). (2007). The Sage handbook of social psychology (concise student ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage

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Aggression, Betrayal, Existential psychology, Personal Growth, Psychology

Choosing the Role of a Victim or a Survivor

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Tragedy, heartache, failures, and unhealthy relationships strike most of us at one point in our lives.  Death, broken trust in relationships, accidents, and life changing experiences can alter our way of living, alter how we see others, and even alter how we view ourselves.  When events occur, that may be either partially out of our control, or completely out of our control, the first response is often “Why is this happening to me?  What did I do to deserve this?”.  Questions that can often never have a resolution or answer that give us some reasoning to the feelings of pain and helplessness. 

Humans in general are a species that thrive on the illusion of having complete control over their environment, believing that through technology and their own willpower that they can control both natural forces, supernatural forces, and the human forces of others.  If we think about this illusion of complete control, it is quite pretentious and unrealistic that we have created this illusion of control and predictability that is unharmonious with the reality of living.   

Victor Frankl, a renowned psychologist of the existential movement in psychology had always made a profound impact on me through his writing.  Dr. Frankl, not only a renowned psychologist, but also a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, later wrote about his experiences of surviving and the meaning in life that came out of his experiences in the classic Man’s search for meaning”.  All of his family perished during the holocaust, and just one sister and he survived the atrocities of widespread human ruthlessness.  Three of his lessons learned from his detention and torture have forever been imprinted in my mind since the first time I read this book.  The first lesson was that in all cultures, regardless of nationality, race, or ethnicity, two types of people exist:  the principled human and the flawed human that receives pleasure in controlling, dominating, and yes even hurting others.  The second important lesson, is that despite a person’s circumstances, pure unaltered and selfless love is one’s power over adversity.  The third lesson was that no matter what one’s circumstance is in life, the only power and control they have is how they choose to react and behave in the face of adversity. 

Most all of us will face adversity and situations where the concept of fairness and logic of human kindness may be forgotten.  Only those who pass away from life at a very young age may not experience the more painful experiences of living.  While it is unrealistic to believe that we can fully ever control our life, the forms of control we do have are related to Victor Frankl’s insight.  Even though our lives may be momentarily derailed and thrown into chaos by those that have flawed characters in a society, principled people still exist that are worth knowing, loving, and making connections with.  In addition, even though we cannot control the behaviors of others, nature, or accidents, we all have the control within us to determine how we choose to react to these events.  We can sink down into the role of the helpless victim.  We can sink down into the role of planning and carrying out acts of revenge and hate, or we can choose to find our inner strength, understand we cannot control all people in our lives, but we can control how we chose to react to those people and circumstances and move forward to become a survivor of our circumstances. 

The pain of life circumstances that we are faced with gives us all a choice, and that choice is yours and yours alone either to be a victim or a survivor.  The victim either gives away their own self-control, or becomes tormented by engaging in flawed behavior of controlling and destroying others.  The survivor chooses to take a more principled path, choosing love, self-respect, and respect for others to  move forward towards a life of empathy, compassion, and kindness.  

 

References

Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY:  Simon and Schuster.

 

 

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parenting, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Saudi Arabia

Perspective: The Gift vs. the Sacrifice of Children

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We have all been in situations in which we talk about the “sacrifices” we make in life.  We often hear parents speak of the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children.  Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2014) defines sacrifice as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”.  Whenever we speak of sacrifices made for someone, especially our children, we are inducting that child into a world of feeling guilty for their own existence (Ausubel, 1955).  When I hear parents say “Look at the sacrifices I made for you” to their children, I always cringe at the  feelings of shame and guilt the child is having imposed on them for the event of being born, which was an action brought about by the parents, and not the innocent child.   

An individual recently commented to me on their perceptions of the many “sacrifices” I had made to stay with my children.  I sat and thought about their comments for a moment, and as I thought about it, I realized I had not made personal sacrifices for my children.  I am not going to lie and admit that there have not been times when I have had the thoughts that I sacrificed my life goals for my children.  I put off pursuing a PhD for 10 years because of the age of my children.  I have moved away from my family and friends of my childhood to be with my children and husband in Saudi Arabia.  One could see these as sacrifices, but in fact, not choosing to stay with my children would be a personal sacrifice for me.  Children are gifts, although I will be the first to admit that during the toddler temper tantrums, the mood swings of pre-adolescence, and the rebelliousness of the teenage years, it is hard sometimes to keep this point of view in perspective. 

Children come into the world by the choices their parents make.  If a parent believes that they have made “sacrifices” to have children, perhaps they should reconsider the purpose of having children.  The concept of “responsibility” becomes a crucial component of this concept of “sacrifices” and “guilt” versus our “values” and “responsibilities”.  If an individual sees the sacrifice of raising children with emotional support, love, caring, and teaching them responsibility as a sacrifice, perhaps their values as well as concept of parenting needs to be re-evaluated.   

As I sat and carefully pondered this person’s perception of my sacrifice, it came to me I had made no personal sacrifices, except for the time I sent my 15 year old daughter back to the United States from Saudi Arabia to finish her education.  That was a sacrifice, because I had to let someone l loved dearly leave me, versus keeping her in a country that was not her own.  I choose to stay with my three younger children, and have her go back to the United States:  This was a personal sacrifice; I had to give up someone that I wanted with me on a daily basis, and chose my three younger children in Saudi Arabia.  Who has really sacrificed are my children because of the past choices I have made.  I looked at the person who said this comment to me and told them “Staying with my children is not a sacrifice, because my children are my gifts”.    

 

References

Ausubel, D. P. (1955). Relationships between shame and guilt in the socializing process. Psychological review, 62(5), 378.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.  (2014).  Sacrifice.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice

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Aggression, education, Emotional abuse, parenting, Psychology, Relationships

Silencing the Generations of Emotional Abuse

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You are stupid!  Your are ugly!  You are fat!  You are nothing without me!  You can’t do anything right!  You are worthless!  You should have never been born!  I hate you!  My life would be so much better off without you!  Why don’t you just go kill yourself! 

If you have had someone tell you these words, you are most likely in an abusive relationship.  People often believe that an abusive relationship occurs when some type of physical abuse is occurring, but emotional and mental abuse is a form of abuse that occurs in relationships as wells.  The effects are just as devastating, in which the bruises, cuts, and scars occur on the internal psyche of the person.  Research has shown that the negative effects of individuals being in an emotionally abusive relationship can be more detrimental in terms of stress and emotional damage than an episode of being in a physically abusive relationship (Theran, Sullivan, Bogat, & Steward, 2006; & Wicks-Nelson & Israel, 2009).   Although these wounds may not be visible for others to see, they are inside the person festering, often never being exposed to the air to have a chance to heal.  As the painful messages continue to be hurled at the person, the individual internalizes these words as part of their self-image.

Emotional abuse in a relationship may not only take the form of verbal insults, but also through controlling the other person’s movement, isolating them from family and friends, withholding of affection, constant criticism,  marital infidelity, withholding of attention,  guilt, and externalizing blame of their problems to the other person.  Emotional abuse is built into the acts of physical and sexual abuse, although physical and sexual abuse may not be present when emotional abuse occurs.  Cultural variation of emotional abuse may occur in which  the abuser also extends the rights of the  emotional abuse to occur by family members (Yoshihama & Sorenson, 1994).

Abuse tends to occur in cycles, as well as there tends to be a family history of abuse that occurs.  Often when we look at the individual that is perpetrating the abuse, they themselves came from a family where they either experienced some type of abuse, or watched abuse occur on family members.  This aspect has special relevance to parents who may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Not only do our children learn what acceptable behavior is in a relationship, but they also learn to model our behavior of being a victim, or an abuser.  Even though a child may not directly experience the abuse, the vicarious experience of watching a loved one’s pain sends messages to the child of not only their own worth, but also a distorted image of what authentic loving relationships entail.  The children fail to learn to establish appropriate boundaries of protecting themselves emotionally from others.  I learned as a therapist that doing a family genogram, which involves engaging  with the client of constructing a family tree of sorts, to examine relationships of patterns  of abuse, mental health issues, and drug addiction that often these cycle tended to repeat themselves through generations of a family.  This historical representation often helped a client not only understand their family history, but also question their mental framework of what constituted authentic healthy relationships that had been established through their lifetime in taking in their social world around them.

At different times in our life, we may find ourselves in relationships, or loved ones that have become involved in emotionally abusive relationships.  The most helpless feeling is watching a friend, family member, or ourselves succumbing to physical or emotional abuse of others.  Social support for an individual that has been trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship is one of the key elements of that individual reaching out to empower themselves to get help out of the cycle of abuse.  The person may teeter for years on the verge of getting out of the relationship, while then returning into the cycle of abuse.  When abuse in a relationship occurs, it does not necessarily mean that the relationship needs to end, but education as well as psychological services is often needed for all parties involved to begin a process of recognizing the abuse, admitting the abuse, and coming to terms with the future implications of allowing the cycle to continue.  Failure to recognize the issue in terms of the family unit, often relates to parents developing mental health disorders, drug abuse issues, escalating forms of abuse, and children who experience academic and relationship problems, and in the future engaging in the same sort of relationships they witnessed in their family of origin.  Abuse occurs in all societies, and across the different economic social stratifications, and educational levels.

The victim and the abuser often stay in a cycle of denial of the abuse as a way to denying their own shortcomings, avoiding the hard process of change, all the while feeding another generation of pain to come to their children.  Breaking out of this cycle involves the adults in these relationships recognizing that there is an issue, which not only negatively affects them, but also younger members of the family.  If it all possible, keeping the family unit intact is the ideal outcome, while working on reconstructing healthy interaction patterns that establish individual respect, autonomy, and dignity.  In many of these situations, the abuser may not recognize the issue because of the power and control they have gained through the cycle of abuse.  Encourage and support those in abusive relationships to take back their own self-control and dignity to free them from the tyranny of emotional abuse, as well as to develop a “new family legacy” of establishing authentic, healthy, and loving relationships.  It is important for all of us to remember that while physical wounds may heal, the journey of healing the unseen internal wounds on being in an emotionally abusive relationship takes just as much courage and support.

References

Theran, S. A., Sullivan, C. M., Bogat, G. A., & Stewart, C. S. (2006). Abusive partners and ex-partners understanding the effects of relationship to the abuser on women’s well-being. Violence Against Women, 12(10), 950-969.

Wicks-Nelson, T. & Israel, A.  (2009).  Abnormal child and adolescent psychology (7th ed.).  London, England:  Pearson Corporation.

Yoshihama, M., & Sorenson, S. B. (1994). Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by male intimates: experiences of women in Japan. Violence and Victims, 9(1), 63-77.

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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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education, Feminism, Personal Growth, Psychology, Uncategorized, Women

The “Happily Ever After” Effect

princesses

Many from my generation and after have been brainwashed into what I called “The Happily Ever After Fairytale Syndrome”. We were brought up on Disney movies and fairytale books where the beautiful princess has great trials and tribulations in her early life, but with the help of a handsome prince, she finds the courage to overcome these barriers and lives with the Prince “happily ever after”. They ride off into the sunset in a carriage leaving to our imagination that splendid life the two have before them of children, palace, and gracefully beautifully aging together. We hear the trumpets blowing, birds singing, and a chorus singing enchanting themes enthralling one’s soul into a surreal bliss, with the words printed “and they lived happily ever after. The end”. This magical unrealistic view has been imprinted on generations of young girls of what they believe their future beholds.

What these fairytales failed to mention was that “happily ever after” is going to have those painful moments, and for at least half of the fairytales, there would be no happily ever after, but instead future challenges would be faced as the princess moved through her future developmental life phases. These stories failed to show the frailness of life itself and that overnight one’s life can change in a moment. Overall, these stories failed to show that even though our heroine in the story has overcome a major obstacle that her life, ahead would include many too come, which is the experience and art of living.

Life in itself is not a journey of “happily ever after” because the cycle of life is like a roller coaster with pivotal peaks as well as times we feel ourselves spiraling down towards the ground. The momentum and feelings that are associated with these peaks and valleys are alike in that they are both intense, but they differ in the experienced emotion. Our peaks are filled with emotions of excitement, joy, pleasure, and safety, while our times down low are filled with sorrow, regret, pain, and questioning our purpose in life. It appears to me it would have been far more helpful if the writers of these “happily ever after tales”, would have shown the princess experiencing more than just one obstacle in her life. If they would have shown how the princess picked up the shattered pieces of her fairy tale “happily ever after illusion”, moved forward, and continued living.

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