Monday, November 24, 2008

Has Your Kid Witnessed Violence, Victimization Or Bullying?

image by ugaldew,

Throw A Protective Sheath Of Nurture And Care Around Them

Whenever there are incidents of shootouts in schools and colleges, the entire focus of the media is either on the perpetrator(s) or on the people who have become their victims. Close-ups of the bully or the psychopath and the innocent victims are shown nauseatingly incessantly on the television with their life stories discussed threadbare, and over-zealous reporters scoop memorabilia out of dusty cupboards and tear old photos out from old family albums to pose before the camera. The parents and the other relatives become the focus of national and international attention for that brief while. After a few days, there is yet another incident involving something else, and this particular event is all but forgotten.

image by urbano2006,

In the flashes of the cameras and the stark photos of the bullying / victimizing / violent events, however, are the hazy images in the background of the scores of other people who are witness to these events. If the event happened in a school / college setting, then invariably a majority of this crowd comprises young kids with impressionable minds. While all the excited attention is riveted on the "main actors" of the drama, these fillers in the background always get ignored. Which is a pity. For, very few appear to have bothered about what the sound of the gunshot or the sight of the assault or the frenzy of the chase or the stab of the knife or the sight of the blood spilled out on the road would be doing to the psyche of those who stood by while the drama was being enacted. I know of counselors working on the perpetrators; I have seen counseling sessions going on for the victims and their parents; but I have so far not come across or read about any case of institutionalized counseling being conducted for the witnesses, though academic research has been undertaken on this issue.

image by tizwas01,

And then what happens when these kids report their firsthand experience to their peers who were not present on the scene but are curious nevertheless, and who while recounting what they saw, add some more gory details generated from a creative mind that has become even more hyperactive in such abnormal circumstances? A spiral chain is set in motion as fear hops from one vulnerable mind to another.

image by gerard79,

Let's not leave out the "less fearful instances" such as verbal insults, verbal threats, the younger students being shoved and pushed around by older and / or stouter students, group / gang conflicts, extortion, sexual assault - have I put them all down, is there anything left out? - and we become pretty sure that the kid is not carrying home with them only the knowledge the teacher imparted on the blackboard of the classroom - it's a lot more, besides.

image by jfg,

Despite the imposing facade of the school's buildings and the soothing morning prayers and the charming talk given by the counselors, a sense of insecurity begins overtaking the mind. Attrition, absenteeism, and under-performance are perhaps just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The impact goes deeper than that. Depending on the combination of DNA and childhood environment that has nurtured the mind, the individual copes in different ways. They either externalize their behavior - become aggressive or truant or rebellious, or they internalize their experience - withdraw into a shell, become submissive, anxious or depressed. As they grow up and enter the adult world, coping becomes even more difficult if the right counseling has not been undertaken at the right time. The struggle-to-cope may manifest in the form of a messed-up career or a messed-up family or social life. And the spiral continues to the next generation.

image by ophelia,

As parents, therefore, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that if at all our kids have witnessed any violence, victimization or bullying in the community or in the school, we give them the right counseling that nullifies whatever negative impact the incidents might threaten to have on them. After all, as this article observes - children are like sponge, and they absorb whatever comes their way, good or bad.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Banish Cynicism And Bitterness From Life

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Optimism And Cheer Wins Battles (And Elections!)

Blessed are those whose lives have been populated by positive people right from birth and childhood. For such people grow to be optimistic, are always hopeful, are always able to capitalize on opportunities that come their way, are fully resilient to not let defeat and failure ruin their poise or composure, are always willing to give happiness another chance to enter their life in times when it might have temporarily left them. These are the ones I would count amongst the truly blessed - not the ones who have cash and jewelry straining to burst from their bank lockers or who have multitudes of friends and relatives to mourn their passing away.

image by mattox,

Otherwise, chances are that there is at least somebody in our life who is a nay-sayer. A diehard cynic. A person who, when others are looking at working towards success, will thump their chest, wag their fingers, and emphatically tell you why success is not possible. These are the people who will jump up and down and indulge in all sorts of theatrics and histrionics to make themselves heard, and at the very least plant the seed of doubt in our heart and mind. You get the picture? Does anybody come to your mind in your life who fits this picture? This is the one.

image by lockstockb,

Not that such people are always wrong and we are always right. Not that anybody who holds a view or opinion contrary to ours must be stayed away from. Heavens, no. But what makes such people stand apart from the wise and the logical and the rationalists, is their tendency to play the role of nay-sayer consistently. These are the people who always see doom and gloom all around them. These are the people who always have the most acerbic comments up their sleeve, and whose words always seem to drip with the acid of cynicism and the corrosive of bitterness. Who are not able to hide their glee when they see us faltering in our path, who will rub their hands vigorously, grin from ear to ear, saliva drooling from the mouth, eyes wide open, and the expression plainly says - "See, I told you so, I told you so!" Now do you get the picture? Does anybody now come to your mind who fits the picture? This is the one.

image by lockstockb,

Delve deep into their psyche and it is not difficult or time-consuming to discover the source of their cynicism and bitterness. Unless it is a gene-thing, that is. You will usually find that their life-story is strewn with a string of failures or heartbreaks, or that there was one big failure with a capital 'B' and where they had to face a lot of flak and which punctured their self-confidence and which they never recovered from, or that they somehow positioned themselves on a plane of low self-esteem and have been operating from there ever since.

image by giniminigi,

If there is somebody in your life who keeps pulling you down while you are struggling on your way up, or who keeps putting obstacles in your path while you are striving hard to attain a success that you always dream about when you are asleep --- steer away from them!

image by connman21,

Now this is the hardest part. We have, up until now, enjoyed visualizing such people in our lives. There is "somebody else", some "other person" who is being cynical and who is being bitter. Let's stand before the mirror now, shall we, and ask ourselves this: The person staring back at you in the mirror: is that the one we have been talking about up until now, by any chance? Do you recognize this person who is looking at you from the mirror, and who fits the picture we have been so graphically painting in the past few paragraphs?

image by l_avi,

Gee. Did it hurt? Sorry. In case it did hurt, in case you did recognize that it is you who has been cynical and bitter all along, go easy on yourself. Doesn't help, this self-flagellation. But let's now try to change our mindset and our outlook and perspective and shift from negativity to positivity. Let's be optimistic and hopeful and positive about our destiny and our life, for a change.

image by srbichara,

Good 'tis to have a wee bit dose of cynicism and bitterness in one's life. Some amount of poison never killed anyone. Prevents one from trying to plant one's feet firmly in the air and keeps one rooted to the ground. But beyond that wee bit dose, let's banish the rest of it.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Look Out! Is That An Opportunity Masquerading As Crisis?

image by sofijab,

Shed Your Cynicism, Discard Your Gloom, And Look Again

Come the morning, and like on autopilot we begin going through the rushed ritual of readying to go to the office. It is while searching through the hangers of clothes in the wardrobe, making up our mind whether it is going to be beige or navy blue today --- that it hits us. But we were handed over the final confirmation yesterday evening! That our contract-renewal request was finally, finally turned down! That yesterday was the last day in the office we have been going to for the past so many years! That today is the first day of the rest of our life, without any office to go to, without the usual banter and the bitching and the politicking and the oily food at the canteen or cafeteria and the water at the cooler and the meetings with the clients or vendors or the bosses or the colleagues and the...

image by dubes,

Indeed, that we are facing deep crisis as a community is official and public news now; so it is okay to admit that, like the next-door Joneses, we too will have to scrape our way through the present times till the next upswing comes by. No use putting up pretenses that we are doing any better than the rest, is there? The long of the face and the drag in the shuffle and the droop of the shoulders say it all. The sympathy in their eyes and the nodding of their head and the understanding pat on the back say it all.

image by hisks,

Sounds very good, and temporarily comforting, isn't it, when in such times somebody gives a very inspiring sermon on how there might be some very good opportunity lurking behind what superficially appears to be a crisis? In our cynicism and weariness, we know that, once the momentary euphoria wears off and the stark reality of having to re-heat yesterday's leftovers stares us in the face, we get back to the daily grind and the despair, and sprinkle all the words of inspiration over the crust of the stale pie. May be the food will taste better!

image by vorax,

And yet, yet, behind the exhortation that there indeed could be an opportunity that is masquerading as crisis, is ancient wisdom. Not that whatever is ancient has to be good. But this wisdom has been tried and tested. We can neatly categorize the crises in our lives into two - one that we draw upon ourselves of our own accord, and the second that are thrust upon us by circumstances that take perverse pleasure in throwing those curve balls at us when we are least prepared.

image by ba1969,

The first set is something that we need to work upon, and ensure that we do not repeat again. If we are given another chance, that is. The second set is meant to be transformative in nature - the Universe has in Its Mind a special plan for us which we have to implement. It wants us to stop doing this, chuck away that, and instead, take up this and embrace that. And in general, we are expected to rethink our perspectives, rethink our value systems, and redefine who we are, what we stand for, who is important to us and who is no longer. Important to us, that is.

image by bal969,

What does all this abstract painting translate into in practical terms, on the ground? Perhaps a change of vocation, for one. A change in the composition of what we call "family", for another. A relocation to another city or state or country, for a third. The problem is that we don't get the instruction in unequivocal terms often times - they don't dispatch the owl, HarryPotter-like, message in the beak, telling us what to do next. So we are left to our own devices as to what to do next.

image by hbrinkman,

We may decide to transform our life, or continue living it as it is. The key point is not transformation, the key point is to shift our perspective; to discard the doom and gloom from the heart and look at our situation with childlike wonder: so, what will happen now? The food is finished, the security coupons are over, what now? The foreclosure looms ahead, soon there won't be any shelter over the head, what now? The spouse of so many years is walking out the door, not to return, what now? How will the story pan out now? By shifting our perspective from playing a helpless character to becoming the director of the movie, our own movie called Life, we can think of alternatives to how our particular story unfolds. And make attempts to see how we can convert the challenge into an opportunity.

image by xenxen,

So, therefore, look out! There indeed is an opportunity masquerading as crisis! Catch it before it goes away.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Alleviate Stress Of These Trying Times Through Journaling

image by cierpki,

Putting Thoughts, Emotions To Paper / Screen Helps

In these times of layoffs and pink slips, with the wrinkles etching permanent lines on the forehead, worrying about where the next check is going to come from, worrying about how the EMI gets paid and the credit card bill settled, worrying about how the children's tuition fees are going to be met coming spring... quite easy it is to mope around, feeling anxious, stressed, and nervous about the future. In these times of troubled relationships, when the wear and tear seems to be grating through the delicate threads that bond, when we know not what is going on in the other person's mind, when we are just not confident of what the turn at the next corner holds for us in our life, whether somebody is continue to walk alongside or bid goodbye or simply vanish and no goodbye, just an SMS saying that it's all over... we can spend hours upon hours simply brooding and feeling sorry for ourselves.

image by ilco,

Dont' we do it? Spending hours upon hours simply brooding and feeling sorry for ourselves? Or, alternatively, we can spend these hours journaling. Putting our thoughts, emotions and feelings to paper, or typing them out on the screen. Venting it all out. This act sounds very simplistic. It is. And at the same time, it is quite effective too.

image by lusi,

One very good way is to carry a notebook around - the cellulose kind or the electronic kind, doesn't matter. And when the urge hits, simply open it up and begin writing. Give some appropriate heading before you begin, so your thoughts rally around that one theme. And then let the writing flow. Convert it into a daily habit.

image by ilco,

Be as detailed as possible in writing down all that is going through your mind. It could be anything: from the huge showdown with your partner last night to that cute, toothless smile the tiny tot flashed at you when you handed him or her candy in return for their singing. Don't bother if the pages appear initially to be full of junk. Just keep going at this very simple task. And when the task is over, close the book and stash it away. For the next day.

image by glennpeb,

Without your conscious knowledge, this simple (simplistic) act of writing begins to suck away the clouds of despair and brooding and anxiety from your mind. There is this feeling of lightheadedness, an immense release, which comes about when you confide in somebody who is very close to you. Somebody who cannot talk back or respond or proffer advice, but who is sympathetic and even empathetic in their silence. Somebody who is not passing any judgment about whether what you are feeling is good or bad, justified or unjustified, correct or incorrect, virtuous or blasphemous. There is a sense of catharsis that cannot be described in words! And you will experience it yourself, when you take up this hobby of journaling.

image by svilen001,

Don't worry about whether the output is good enough or not. We are not going to submit your writing for the Pulitzer competition, nor is it going to be checked by your language teacher. Of course, after some time, when you look back and review your literary work and determine that the world deserves to know you better, there's no harm in converting your rambling into book form and getting it published. Who knows, the next year's Pulitzer Prize just might have your name written on it? Miracles can and do happen, ya know.

Pulitzer Prize Medal

May be you could use the format of blogging, like I am doing. Who knows, you might even get to monetize it! And begin to earn income out of blogging!

For another take on handling the sense of despair and despondency and bleakness, read up this article here:

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