They’re Indians, what do you expect?

totem poleMy entire extended family is from Saskatchewan and when I was very young I remember seeing a group of men fighting and stumbling around on a Regina sidewalk. I asked why they were acting like that and my older cousin said, “They’re Indians. What do you expect?” Someone else mumbled something about drunk and Welfare Wednesday, which I didn’t understand. Then we were ushered away.

In elementary school, my favourite subject to study was the “First People of Canada”. I loved learning about their art, their connection with the land, their myths and legends, their housing, and the clan structures. I still to this day stare at museum dioramas and visit ancient archeological sites imagining what it would have been like to live in a traditional First Nations’ way.

Being born in Yukon Territory and then living in Prince George, I saw a lot “First People of Canada” who didn’t look or act anything like the wise and noble people I was learning about in school. They were the cliché image of the Indian in the derogatory  jokes that I heard outside of school.

I didn’t understand what happened to the “First People of Canada”.

At university, I continued to study the First Nations with instructors who were Aboriginal. That was when I read Resistance and Renewal — Surviving the Indian Residential School by Celia Haig-Brown. I still have my copy today because it had such a profound impact on who I am and how I think about every single social issue.

I started to understand what happened to the “First People of Canada”.

From the 1880’s until 1986, the “First People of Canada” were victims of antidialogical action, which is one group dominating and controlling another group through invading the cultural context, imposing their own view of the world, silencing them and disrespecting their potential.

In this case, it was called residential school.

Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, ‘to kill the Indian in the child.’ Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.

– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, official apology, June 11, 2008

A formal apology from the government over the residential school policy was necessary, but the damage was already done.

For generations, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families, forbidden to speak their own language, abused, and given an inferior education that focused more on skills training for manual labour and domestic work. Because they were removed from their families and segregated from their siblings by gender, many students grew up without experiencing a nurturing family life and without the knowledge and skills to raise their own families.

The last residential school did not close its doors until 1986, so many of the leaders, teachers, parents, and grandparents of today’s Aboriginal communities are residential school survivors.

Half of all children in foster care in Canada are Aboriginal. Four percent of all Aboriginal children are in care compared to .3 percent of non-Aboriginal children. Although Aboriginals only comprise three percent of the adult population in Canada, forty-one percent of women who are incarcerated are Aboriginal and twenty-five percent of men. There are almost 1,200 Aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing since 1980.

They’re Indians. What do you expect? Well, the United Nations human rights envoy has suggested that we should expect that the outstanding concerns related to the First Nations education bill be addressed, a national inquiry on missing and murdered women be conducted, the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be extended “for as long as may be necessary”, the housing crisis be addressed, education, health and child welfare be funded, and service delivery be coordinated with provincial and Aboriginal governments.

I expect to live in a country where every single Aboriginal child who is placed in foster care because his or her parents were raised in an institution and didn’t learn parenting skills matters. Every single Aboriginal man who committed suicide because he was haunted by the sexual abuse he endured at a residential school matters. Every single missing, murdered, or incarcerated Aboriginal woman who didn’t know any other world than one of poverty, exploitation, addictions, and abuse matters.

I know there are people who will argue that the government has already spent enough money trying to “help” First Nations people. Critics will use arguments such as, “Aboriginals already don’t pay taxes, they get special privileges for fishing, and their university tuition is paid for, but they can’t capitalize on those opportunities.” There are also people who will argue that the past was the past and Aboriginals should get over it and assimilate.
The mistaken belief that assimilation to white culture is the only right way to live is what started this problem in the first place.

First Nations people are not inferior, they are not stupid, they are not useless, and they are not worthless. They are recovering from one hundred years of abuse, family destruction, and cultural genocide. Trauma takes time to heal. Education takes time to instill. Healthy communities and traditions take time to rebuild. Many nations have already become healthy, strong, and wealthy again, but it will take longer in remote and isolated areas. It will take forever if they continue to believe the lie that being an Indian means being inferior.

When someone says, “They’re Indian. What do you expect?” I hope you respond by saying, “Great things.”

 

Update: I would like to thank everyone who has sent me e-mails and left phone messages to privately thank me for writing this article after an abridged version was first published in the Richmond News. It means a lot to me that it resonated with you and that you would take the time to thank me. I hope that this article will continue to bring awareness and open discussions.

– Danielle

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Is Being Nice Always Necessary?

A woman with a heavybe kind accent called my office yesterday from an unidentified local number. She asked for our accounts receivable department. I told her that we didn’t have an accounts receivable department so she asked to speak to the owner. After explaining that I was one of the owners she said that the credit card they had on file needed to be updated.

“Which company are you calling from?” I asked because she hadn’t stated it at the beginning of the conversation and I could hear the chatter of operators in a call station in the background.

“Uh.” She paused, shuffled through some papers, and eventually came up with the name of a Canadian company that we do business with.

Consumer advocacy groups are always warning people to not give out personal or financial information over the phone and since the call was originating from out of the country but re-routing through a local number I was cautious. I told her I would look into it and contact the company’s local representative directly to update the information if there was a problem with the account.

Shbe nicee became hostile and rude saying that I was obviously not the owner as I stated otherwise I would be able to deal with the credit card information on the spot.

Her reaction was strange. There is a possibility that she was legitimately authorised by the company to collect the information, but whenever someone becomes aggressive it raises red flags.say no

She is just a woman trying to do her job and earn a paycheque. Maybe she was having a bad day and couldn’t muster her normally pleasant disposition. Maybe she has challenges with communication and wasn’t able to clearly represent who she was or what she was doing. In which case, I should be patient and understanding, right?

Or, maybe my instincts were correct and she was working on behalf of a company trying to defraud me. In which case, I should blow her off, right?

I was torn between being polite and matching her tone. Most people want to be seen as a nice person, but there is a line that gets crossed when the other person is not nice to you.

It is possible to act “nice” and not be kind. It is also possible to be a kind person without coming across as particularly “nice” depending on tone of voice, bluntness, and body language. In a situation where someone is being aggressive or trying to take advantage of you is being nice and accommodating the best reaction? Is being nice on the surface worth anything if it’s not rooted in genuine kindness?

DoormatA person who only acts nice on the surface typically remains silent or caves in when there is a conflict or a situation that is emotionally charged. A genuinely kind person will speak up. A kind person will advocate for equality, justice, and fairness even if it means rocking some boats to make sure it happens.

A person who only acts nice on the surface tends to bottle up all of his or her needs and buries the resentment and anger that results from being taken for granted by others. Genuinely kind people are comfortable stating what does and doesn’t work for them while striving to reach a win-win compromise that could work for everyone.

post-it-note-quote-corrected.jpgA person who only acts nice on the surface will lie in order to preserve an image of being a good person. Genuinely kind people know that the truth is the only way to actually understand each other and reach peaceful solutions.

People who only act nice on the surface are so busy tiptoeing and side-stepping to please and avoid hurting people’s feelings they forget which direction they were supposed to be moving in on their own journey. Genuinely kind people move forward on their path with as much patience and compassion as they can despite nay-sayers or criticisms.

There are many people who will argue that being nice is more important than anything else. I’ll argue that being genuinely kind is more important and that in some situations being too nice will put you at risk of being taken advantage of. Ideally, we would all be nice and kind. I’ll keep working on it.

Is Technology The Sh*t Or Just Sh*t?

While vacationing recently, I was lounging poolside engrossed in my iPad next to my husband who was also busy using his iPad. A woman who had been drinking in the hot tub staggered up to us and slurred, “Come on people, turn off the electronic devices. You’re on holiday, relax. Loosen up. Live a little. Have some fun.” Then she teetered away to get another drink.

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Via Mankind Wake Up: Facebook

There are plenty of articles circulating about how electronic devices are mindless brain sucks breeding a generation of young people who won’t know how to communicate or interact with each other. One photo I saw (ironically, on social media) was a split screen of a group of kids one hundred years ago playing a ball game on the street juxtaposed with a group of children sitting on the couch wired into electronic devices. The caption on the top image where the children were playing: This is life. The caption on the bottom image where the children were fixated on their screens: This is sh*t.

That judgment is oversimplified and not fair. Nobody knows simply by viewing a snapshot what those children in the modern photo were doing on their electronic devices. Maybe the youngest one was solving digital puzzles. If she had been actually manipulating wood carved puzzle pieces as children did one hundred years ago, would that have been a more legitimate form of play?

Maybe the middle child was creating digital music on her laptop. If she had been sitting near the fireplace practicing her violin as they did one hundred years ago, would that have been a more acceptable form of musicality?

Maybe the oldest child was reading The Chronicles of Narnia on his screen. If he had been curled up on the couch reading a thick paper bound book as they did one hundred years ago, would anybody have called what he was doing sh*t?

It’s true, children should experience a balance of physical activity, creative play, and interaction with peers and nature. Are we to assume that because we see them playing on an electronic device that they didn’t just return from an invigorating game of hide-and-seek outside, or swimming, or a play date? Are we to assume that just because a snapshot is taken of a child on an electronic device that the child is chronically sedentary? Are we to assume that the child is playing a violent or mindless video game that will lead to anti-social tendencies and aggression?

The moment when the tipsy woman from the hot tub shared her social commentary with us, my husband was charting out our sight-seeing plan for the following day. He uses Apps to coordinate our train and boat schedules, pre-buy our tickets to tourist sites, check reviews for off-the-beaten-path restaurants, and map our routes. I was reading Dear Life by Alice Munro.

If I had been reading the Nobel Prize winning author’s critically acclaimed collection of short stories from a paper back book rather than a digital book, or if my husband had paper maps and tourist guides spread out on the table, would we have garnered the same critical judgement? I doubt it.

For a living I communicate and interact with people. Sometimes I like to have a break from that. My idea of a relaxing vacation includes reading a good book or two, editing and sharing the photographs I take, experiencing the culture of the place I’m visiting, and video calling with my family back home. All of these things are possible with the use of one electronic device. Sitting in a hot tub drinking all day with a bunch of strangers is obviously someone else’s idea of a relaxing vacation, but that doesn’t mean that what I do to relax is sh*t.

 

Free Therapy

They say the best things in life are free. They also say you get what you pay for. I’m not sure which to believe, but what I do know is that some of the most valuable tidbits of counselling advice I give clients are free and surprisingly simple.Lucy%20Therapist

Sure, professional counselling services can help you build communication and relationship skills, guide you through a process of self-awareness and therapeutic healing, or encourage you to achieve your goals. I’m an advocate of therapy, obviously. However, there is a huge percentage of the population who either can’t afford private counselling, or feel too proud or embarrassed to access the services.

Good news: there are a few secrets to mental health and emotional well-being that are free and accessible to everyone. They will all seem overly simple when you first read them, but that’s the point. Sometimes the solutions to life’s problems are simple.

1) Eat well. Mental and emotional health are linked to physical health. The most fundamental way to maintain the proper functioning of every system, organ, and cell in the body is proper nutrition. Bodies that have an abundance of nutrients are more resilient to stress and recover more quickly from traumatic events. Bodies that are deficient in nutrients become overwhelmed, breakdown at the weakest point, and can develop disease and mental health symptoms.

nutrition

New clients come in all the time with depression or severe panic attacks and one of the first things we talk about is nutrition. Ninety percent of them are not eating enough, or aren’t eating nutrient dense food. If you are going through a stressful time in your life eating healthfully might be the last thing you feel like doing, but it is a vital part of emotional recovery and mental health.

2) Be active. Physical activity and spending time in nature both heal the mind as much as the body. Exercise is the easiest way to hit both of these birds with one stone. Before the non-athletic types roll their eyes, please note that this activity doesn’t have to be a rigorous competitive sport. Simply going for a stroll and sitting on a bench next to a pond will produce an immune boosting effect.

Soak up some oxygen and Vitamin D. Everything that is good for the cells of your body will improve your mental and emotional health as well. Movement is also the fastest way to shut off the fight or flight anxiety response that is triggered by stress. For most stress related symptoms, a brisk twenty-minute walk will do as much for you as a session in my office.

St-james-park-london-mymzone

3) Express Yourself. Yes, talking it out with a neutral, non-judgemental, trained person is one of the benefits of counselling. If you can’t afford counselling and you don’t want to burden your friends with all your stress, write it down. Journaling doesn’t cost anything and it’s cathartic. If you’re worried about privacy, type it into a computer document and delete it once you’re done. The purpose is to get it out of your system. If you don’t like writing try some other expressive outlet such as music, art, or woodworking.

musicartjournal

4) Breathe. The simplest free strategy is also the most valuable one. The body and the mind are designed to seek a state of balance and will heal themselves if we let them do their thing. The problem is that most of us continually add new stress and don’t slow down long enough to let the immune system and homeostasis checks catch up. 

Breathing provides a moment of reflection to gain perspective and determine what’s important. Deep breathing floods the blood with oxygen, which is vital to the survival of every cell in the body. Breathing also signals the nervous system to turn off the stress response and all the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety.

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I can hear some of you laughing sardonically and scoffing. “Yeah, Danielle, organic apples and wild blueberries aren’t going to do me any good when I’m prying my school phobic child’s fingers from the door frame every morning.” Or, “Good one, lady, walking around in a grassy field and taking deep breaths isn’t going to save my crumbling marriage.”

You’re right, these simple and free steps are not going to solve all of the issues and problems that bring people to counselling. They will, however, provide the necessary foundation for healing. Being healthy makes a person strong and resilient. Living pure and simple provides the opportunity for clarity. If you use these simple suggestions as a starting point, you will feel stronger and all the other issues will be easier to tackle.

Are you ready for change?

Ah, it’s a new year. A lot of people are starting fresh and setting goals for creating a new body, a new relationship, or a whole new lifestyle. Sadly, we all know the gyms and yoga studios and diet group meetings will only be packed for the month of January before trickling back to the regular core group of members. It happens every year.

Yoga-e1330480168268Resolutions are often good intentions backed up with maybe a month or two of genuine effort. Why bother? Sometimes setting a resolution can be the incentive that motivates someone into action and change. More likely, people will change when they are ready. The question to ask yourself is, are you ready?

Maybe you made a resolution to be a better spouse. That’s nice, but are you really ready to improve your relationship? Do you know how hard you have to work? Are you prepared to learn how to become a better communicator? Can you shift away from competitiveness with your spouse into cooperation? How willing are you to become less selfish?

How about resolutions to spend more quality time with your friends and family? Sweet, but intending to spend more time with them doesn’t do any good if you never get around to it. Are you ready to listen more, care more, give unconditionally more, compliment genuinely more, and criticize less? Hosting more dinners and attending more parties is not all there is to spending more quality time with your loved ones. Do you know what they need and want or do you assume it’s the same as what you need and want?

Did anybody resolve to be a better parent? Being a parent is a very difficult career and the job description is constantly changing. Are you willing to give yourself a break since the hours are grueling, it’s messy, there is no compensation other than a job well done, you can’t quit, there are no promotions, and all of the training is on the job without a supervisor? Do you have a support network in place? Are you armed with extreme patience, stellar negotiating skills, and spidey senses that will allow you to see dangerous situations behind you and prevent them before they happen? Can you accept that you are human and sometimes you can’t do it perfectly and that’s okay?

busy1-500x350Let’s say you are ready for the resolutions you made, do you have time in your hectic schedule to do all the things that you have established as important? If you were taught that busy is the opposite of lazy and having a lot to do is a sign of success, can you shift your values so that being busy watching a butterfly land on a blade of grass, listening to your child tell a story, or doing nothing other than listening to your inner voice is as important as signing twenty contracts at work?

Whether you like to make resolutions as a way to light a fire under the seat of your pants or you think resolutions are empty promises that lead to ultimate failure and self loathing, the bottom line is that we could all stand to grow and improve over the upcoming year.  The key is to know exactly what we want to change, what we need in order to make that change, and to give ourselves the time and space necessary to do it. We will all have different goals and different things will motivate us to work toward those goals. Are you ready to take action?

Happy New Year.

Anti-bullying initiatives aren’t working?

1362847865_5459_bullyingThe problem of bullying is a complicated issue. It hits a nerve with everybody who has been the target of bullying, it makes bystanders uncomfortable, and it is a problem that can have very dire consequences if it is not dealt with. Unfortunately, nobody really knows how to deal with all of its intricate layers at once.

People want a quick fix to stop bullying, but there isn’t one simple solution because there isn’t just one reason why people are victimized, and there isn’t just one reason why people bully. The problem exists in the home, in the media, on the sports field, in the schools, and in the community. It will require a shift in all environments in order to see a change.
Some anti-bullying initiatives, such as those that encourage and empower the bystanders to join forces and declare that bullying behaviour is not okay, are seeing a slight reduction in bullying. Other initiatives result in no change. Sometimes it’s because a one-size-fits-all program won’t work on every demographic. Sometimes it’s because the initiatives aren’t tackling the correct problem.
Is the problem a tormentor who has impulse control issues and comes from an abusive or troubled home? Is the problem an emotionally fragile or socially awkward victim who inadvertently invades others’ personal space or unwittingly provokes a hostile reaction? Is the problem a culture of competitiveness where aggression and overpowering those who are weaker is rewarded with status and power? Is it something else entirely?
stop-bullying-sourceEvery student in our school district participates in anti-bullying campaigns each year. They wear their pink shirts and blue bracelets and learn that bullying is bad, so why does social aggression still happen every single day?
Let’s start with a clarification of the definitions. Social aggression includes everything that we would consider mean or rude: name-calling, teasing, exclusion, inappropriate jokes, threats, and physical aggression. Bullying is repeated, socially aggressive behaviour intended to damage people, physically or mentally, so they will submit or retreat.
The vital distinctions between social aggression and bullying are that social aggression is a method for establishing boundaries, appropriate behaviour in a group, and hierarchy. Bullying is the REPETITIVE, HUMILIATING use of social aggression that results in SUBMISSION by the victim.
Thanks to anti-bullying campaigns, young students call all social aggression bullying. “She invited everybody to her birthday except me”, “He wouldn’t let me play defence and pushed me in the mud”, “She always chooses Chelsea instead of me”, “They wouldn’t use my idea in a group project and said it was stupid”.
Although upsetting, everyday social aggression is not bullying. Conflict teaches children how to solve problems, how to cope, and it builds resiliency. Children need to experience situations where they are pushed around or challenged. Solving conflicts on their own is necessary in order to grow and build the skills to survive in a social world that has rules, competition, boundaries, and a hierarchical structure.
Bullying, on the other hand, should not be allowed to exist under any circumstances. The difficult part in eradicating the more severe harassment is that a victim of real bullying will almost never talk about it because it is incredibly humiliating and scary. “The girls who I thought were my friends photo shopped my face onto a pornographic picture and posted it online with my phone number”, “A grade twelve student peed in my locker and told me if I don’t sell weed for him he’ll hurt my little sister”, “A girl I don’t even know told me to stop dating the guy she likes or she’ll jump me, and she’s waits outside my school every day with a bunch of her friends”.
If we want bullying to stop, we first need to stop governing with it, conducting business with it, and laughing at it. The television program GLEE Glee-logoprides itself on tackling topics like bullying, while hypocritically the characters say things to each other like, “Rachel, your moustache is thicker than a Middle Eastern dictator”, Read my lips because we know you can’t read words”, “All I want is just one day a year when I’m not visually assaulted by uglies and fatties… if you’re hideous stay at home.”, “Wheels, Gay Kid. Come on, move it! Asian, other Asian, Aretha, and Shaft”, and “…your finger-licking, lard-loving, Gilbert Grape-looking mama”.
Why do we laugh at that and give the show awards? Humiliation isn’t funny, and laughing at the expense of someone who has been humiliated makes it unlikely that the person will ever talk about it.
In order for a culture of bullying to change, we need to teach children to put a stop to humiliating and intimidating behaviour immediately, even if that requires them to be rude or socially aggressive. We need to teach children to stand up for themselves in a strong but non-violent way ­ because in their lifetime, they will likely be harassed, threatened, intimidated, hurt, or the topic of rumours. We need to teach them the difference between bullying and social aggression. And, we need to support any child who is emotionally vulnerable and at-risk of becoming a victim or a bully. Most importantly, we as adults need to question what we laugh at, what we encourage, and what we role model.
 Be-kind-for-everyone-you-meet-fighting-a-hard-battle-500x530
 -Danielle Aldcorn

Does police bashing prevent police brutality?

A friend of mine recently posted a link to a controversial article written by the wife of an RCMP officer. She examined the tendency for the public to automatically finger point and blame the police. She acknowledged that although there are few bad apples in the policing field, most members are working very hard to serve and protect and make it home alive at the end of the shift.

Many of the comments on her article were supportive. They respected that men and women in first responder professions risk their lives every day and that they are put in positions where their decisions or mistakes might have dire consequences. The author’s main point was that the public shouldn’t judge a situation that they know very little about, or automatically blame the police when they don’t know what led up to the decision that the officer made.

 The other side of the comments on her article ranged from people pointing out that police brutality exists, to extremely hostile, police-bashing, angry-at-the-man type sentiments. She eventually had to close the comments when individuals threatened her and wished that her police officer husband would beat her to death.

As I read through the progressively more disturbing comments, something occurred to me.

Regardless of your opinions about the police, we can all agree that there needs to be more accountability. I don’t mean holding a person or group accountable; I mean being personally accountable.

Whether we are bureaucrats, corporation heads, teachers, parents, or blue-collar workers we can all be more accountable for our behaviours and choices both the ones we make and the ones we don’t. This would include what we say or stay silent on, how we spend our money and time, our attitude, what we consider important, and whether we jump to blame or jump to find solutions.

We are all responsible to act the way we would if we knew everybody was watching, even when nobody is watching. We are all responsible to respect other people’s things, families, beliefs, and lifestyles as if they were our own. We are responsible to ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow humans, whether that means protecting the environment, speaking up against an injustice, or simply being honest and trustworthy.

Personal accountability is fairly simple: work hard to be a person others would admire; adhere to the law or run for office to change the law; admit when we make mistakes; accept the consequences when we slack, break a rule, or screw up; exercise our right to vote so the people we want representing us are elected; appreciate and value the people who are trained and willing to do the difficult or dirty jobs that we can’t or don’t want to do.

Everybody is where they are today because of the choices they made yesterday. If you commit a crime you will be treated like a criminal. That is the choice you made and it’s not a police officer’s fault that you made that choice. On the other hand, if you are in a position of authority and you abuse the privilege or power that has been entrusted in you, you shouldl lose that position of authority.

I’m glad there are men and women who are willing to be spit on, attacked, and threatened with weapons as their profession. Sure, some police officers are corrupt or lack integrity; some have been on the traumatizing and sometimes thankless job too long; some have personal problems that affect their judgement; and some abuse the authority they have been entrusted with. Most of them are individuals who are caring, responsible, brave, and calm in threatening situations.

If we cop bash, the type of young men and women who we need in policing will think twice about choosing that profession.

Instead of bashing, let’s all work on being accountable to ourselves first.

Sometimes the NECESSARY HELPFUL TRUTH tastes bad and is hard to swallow

 

There are two basic problems that occur in our communications with each other. One is that we said something we shouldn’t have said. The other is that we didn’t say something we should have said.

 

 

In elementary schools there are posters with THINK printed on them to remind children what they should consider before they speak. The T reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is TRUE. If you spread a rumour, lie, or share an inaccurate fact, who benefits? Likely the only person who benefits is you, and in most cases that benefit will be only short-lived until the rumours come back around or the lies catch up to you. If it’s not true, don’t say it. If you’re not sure whether it’s true, check your facts then check the next point before you share it.

 

 

The H reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is HELPFUL. There are many TRUE statements that are not HELPFUL to share. For example, if you walk into someone’s house and say, “Wow, looks like you haven’t had any time to do housework,” this may be true, but saying it serves no helpful purpose.

 

 

The I reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is INSPIRING. I actually prefer the word encouraging, but since THINK is not spelled with an E they went with INSPIRING. The choice of words and the delivery are what makes a message encouraging. The helpful and true components of the message will be ignored if it’s discouraging.

 

 

The N reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is NECESSARY. What you say should serve a purpose: to make someone’s life easier, safer, happier, fix a problem, design a plan, inform, or entertain. It’s not NECESSARY to notify people of things that they already know, talk for the sake of talking, or correct a person for errors that don’t impact the outcome of the conversation in any way. If you say too many unnecessary things, people will start to avoid and ignore you.

 

 

The K reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is KIND. This one is subjective because, like medicine, sometimes the NECESSARY HELPFUL TRUTH tastes bad and is hard to swallow. It can sometimes seem mean or like the person doesn’t care, but if what they said will make your life better in some way, take it with a grain of salt. Just because something is hard to hear, doesn’t mean it’s mean.

 

 

If something that someone said rubbed you the wrong way, it’s possible that they didn’t THINK before they spoke, but it’s also possible that you weren’t ready to hear what they said. If you are trying to recover from the sting of someone’s words, ask yourself the following questions:

 

 

What was the intentionality of the speaker? If a person says something that is based in ignorance or distraction rather than malicious intent, don’t take it personally. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and if you don’t share that opinion, simply ignore what they said. If they said it to be malicious, don’t interact with them.

 

 

What pushed your button? You need to dig deeper than the surface to answer this question. Find out exactly what rubbed you the wrong way did they touch on an insecurity that embarrasses you? Did they remind you of someone else who made you feel bad about yourself? Are you mad at yourself for not saying something back and standing up for yourself?

 

 

Maybe it wasn’t even what they said. Maybe it was something that happened earlier in the day and they were just the icing on the cake that pushed you over the edge. If what they said is something that wouldn’t have normally bothered you, it was likely your own mood that impacted your response.

 

 

What is your relationship to the person who said it? We assign different weight to comments based on where they came from. Ironically, it is often feedback from strangers that stings the most probably because we know they have a non-biased opinion and no reason to hold back. Keep in mind that strangers don’t know everything about you or your situation.

 

 

If there is some truth to what a person said and you would like to use it as a place to focus self-improvement, fine. If they are off base and imposing their own expectations on you, just say “thanks for your input” then let it go.

 

 

Words are powerful and as with all sources of power, they can be used to help people or destroy people. Use and receive words wisely

 

 

Considering Divorce?

I was reading an article written by a recently divorced woman named Jennifer Cullen. It was a list of things she wished people would have told her about divorce ­ not that she thought the insight would have changed her decision to get divorced, but it would have helped her understand what to expect and prepare for.

 The feedback comments she received were heated and obviously struck a cord with a lot of people. It wasn’t the content of the article per se that people were responding to; they were reacting strongly to the subject of divorce in general because even when divorce is the best option, it is still not easy for anyone involved.

Divorce is hard (and expensive). You’ve been warned, so don’t say, ‘I wish someone would have told me how hard it was going to be before we separated’.

There are numerous reasons why people get divorced. Some reasons may seem more justified such as one of the spouses is cheating, carrying out criminal activity in the home, alcoholic, or abusive. Some reasons are as simple as we just don’t love each other anymore.

Some people feel very strongly that when you make a commitment ‘until death do you part’ or some equivalent, that vow should be taken seriously and literally. Other people feel strongly that we only live once and life is too short to spend it being unhappy.

Everybody is different and it’s not fair for an outsider to judge who should have tried harder to make their marriage work and who was right to walk away when they did. Keep in mind that a lot of people are divorced who didn’t want to be. Their spouse ended the marriage and put them in a situation that they never wanted. Judging them for the situation they are in only makes everything harder.

Regardless what your personal beliefs on divorce are, we can probably agree that those who are going through a divorce will be in for a difficult transition. It will be a challenging adjustment for everyone involved, including the person who initiated the separation. Freedom from an unhappy existence comes at a price.

For example, a woman who has broken free from her verbally abusive husband may feel liberated and confident, but it doesn’t mean everything about being independent is rainbows and butterflies. The same applies for a man who leaves a loveless marriage after twenty years of trying every type of counselling available. He may feel grateful to be finally free to find true love, but starting life over has its challenges too.

When children are involved it is even more painful for everyone. Divorce may have been the best, or the only, option given the circumstances of the marriage, but justified or not, children will still be hurt by it.

 Of course, there are many well-adjusted children of divorce who have been able to blossom with the love of both parents and possibly two fantastic step-parents. There are also many happy and thriving children of single parents. But in my experience, even the stable, successful children who intellectually understand that the divorce of their parents was necessary and resulted in a better environment for them to grow up in, have a tiny part of their emotional inner child that still wishes their parents didn’t have to get divorced.

Even if we all knew how to communicate respectfully and skilfully to resolve conflict, if we were all emotionally mature enough to contribute to a marriage in an equal and unconditionally accepting way, and if we were all perfectly compatible for our entire lifetime, I’m sure there would still be divorces. Why? Because we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future and know that someone is going to become, as an example, a raging alcoholic when they are fifty years old.

Bonus warning: marriage is a lot of work. It is not all good times and you will be challenged to grow, be flexible, and to compromise. If you have any doubts about the person you are thinking about marrying, listen to your instincts. If there are any red flags, don’t brush them off. If there are already problems with respect, communication, and division of responsibility, it’s best to walk away early or work them out in counselling prior to making a commitment to marry someone or to have children with them.

Enjoying The Journey

When I worked as a social worker, one of the programs our agency provided was a summer day camp for children who were, for various reasons, not be able to attend community centre programs. We went to the zoo one day and one of my favourite kids was acting particularly anxious. He was running ahead, pulling at my hand to hurry us along, and on the verge of tears if the group paused to look at an exhibit.giraffe love

I told him we had all day and he didn’t have to worry about missing anything, but he was desperate to get to the next exhibit. As soon as we all arrived at the next exhibit, he was off and running again. He desperately wanted to see the wolves, but barely even glanced at them before he checked the map to see what was coming up.

We all tried to slow him down so he could enjoy the moment and soak it all in, but the excitement of everything that was offered at the zoo was overloading his system. tigerWhen we passed the tigers, all the other children stopped at the fence and observed as the trainer feed the big cats. My student wasn’t even paying attention to what was happening right in front of him. He only wanted to know what was next, even though he’d been looking forward to seeing the tigers.

I eventually took the map away from him, but it didn’t slow him down. Every time we got somewhere, he just wanted to get to the next somewhere. At the end of the day, when the tour was finished, he cried because it was over. He cried a lot, and he wanted to go back to do it again.orangutang

People ask me all the time to help them achieve their goals. They set their personal, work, and financial goals and assume that when they reach them they will finally be happy. People also come in all the time wondering why after they achieved all their goals, they’re still not happy.

Achieving goals is not a bad thing. Challenging yourself with novel aspirations that are slightly outside your comfort zone is the best way to learn and grow. However, it’s not the achieving that creates the happiness; it’s the striving. If we aren’t paying attention during the journey, we miss the point.

If you ask an angsty existential teen the meaning of life, he will say that in its simplest terms we live to pass on our DNA to ensure the survival of our genetic pool. Then we die.grave

If that’s the case, why is everyone trying to rush the process?

Goal driven people want to get to the top of the mountain, and they want to get there first, but what if the top of the mountain is where it all ends?mountain path

People rush up the path assuming that ultimate success and happiness can be found there. They ignore signs and avoid the other people along the path only to be told when they reach the peak, “Okay, it’s over”. The thing they feel at that point is regret that they didn’t take more time and pay more attention to all the things that happened along the way.

It’s true that everyone is on a slightly different path. Some are paved highways and some are muddy pothole filled back country foot trails. But we are all ultimately going to end up in the same place.

If we don’t like where we currently are, we can get on or off any given path at the next intersection or fork in the road. Find a road that makes you want to meander and enjoy the scenery. Nobody knows how long their particular journey to the top of the mountain is going to take, but whether it is destined to be short or long, we might as well slow down and enjoy the trip.