Category Archives: Awareness

Thought of the week

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“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

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Violence: the unspoken, the unnotice

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Today is the International Day to Stop the Violence against Women. Campaigns and signs of solidarity are all over the internet.

I think about my family’s history. And the history of so many families touched by violence.

– He gave me a slap on my face, only once, was one of my grandmother’s recollection if her 35 years of marriage, shortened by the war and grandfather’s early departure.

By her world standards, this was a violence-free marriage. In a rural soviet medium, violence was omni-present yet unspoken. It was seen on women faces and bodies, yet left unnoticed. By the church, by the community… .

My grandmother knew nothing about human rights or Conventions. Yet, she gave me the strength to never accept any act of violence be it mental or physical. She gave it to me by the belief that she is always by my side.

As a child I witnessed violence in the soviet illusion of violence free communities. You got quickly to see that the ideal family projected on the soviet propaganda TV was in stark contrast with the reality. What women who suffered quietly needed was to know that there is someone by their side. They still need it today.

On days of campaigns like this, I ask myself: what can I do? Can I be someone by their side? Can we be someone by their side? So that they find the strength they need to live the life they deserve as human beings.

Children, parents, mirrors

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One morning, couple of weeks ago I was about to enter a coffee shop next to my hotel for a dose of ristretto. The door opened suddenly and an angry woman pushed a girl out. A paper cup was on the floor. Coffee was spilled around. A taxi was in front. The lady was in a hurry. The girl looked ashamed, eyes on her hand. The door of the taxi slammed and the scene disappeared around the corner. All this – in 30 seconds.

I thought to my self : 30 seconds to start a day. To spend with your child ahead of a busy day for both… The coffee was definitely not for the child. Although she seemed to have been put in charge of it.

There is no judgement here. It was a reminder to self that as parents we need to maintain our awareness that children mirror our behaviour. Studies and research show it extensively for the still skeptical ones.

If we are in a hurry and angry and things start falling, it’s us, the adults. 

If we prioritise the concern over a spilled coffee instead of a burned finger, we, adults, set an example.

If we start the day with a smile and a belief that we have time for everything, it’s us, the adults. 

If we show concern over the child’s concerns, we set an example as a grown-up human to a growing up human.

A clean mirror gives a clear image. Up to us, adults, to keep it clean.

The other side of empathy

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I have a confession to make. I feel and I see more than others usually do. And it’s not easy staying grounded and open to others. I learned that key is to be discerning, so that my empathy does not attract people who drain my energy.

Empathy, etymologically, comes from the Greek word pathos, “passion” or “suffering”.  I learned from Wikipedia that the term was adapted by Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener into the English term empathy. 

Everytime I feel into someone’s feelings, I pay an emotional price. Empathy can cause emotional overwhelm, research shows. I also learned that the empathy-receiver might not be on the net benefits side either. Here is a story:

Some time ago, a colleague struggling at work, rebuffed with “you have to be more empathetic towards me!”. What she did not realise was the energy I was already giving her and that she was responsible for the situation she was in. By being empathetic towards her situation, i was doing her a huge disfavour. She would continue to be in a victim’s role she assumed herself. The moment I stopped acting like a “golden fish” of understanding and giving and she stopped asking for more, she learned to take things into her hands and move on, as a responsible adult.

So I learned to give empathy with moderation, set and be clear about boundaries and  encourage others to take responsibility for their own situation. So that we all benefit from a healthy and meaningful dose of empathy for harmonious relations.