Month: April 2019

Personal Connections and Emotional Health

Have you heard of or read Johan Hari’s book, Lost Connections? It is a bold and inspiring book where he shares his own journey with depression – but the book is helpful to far more than just those who suffer from depression. As Hari shows, we all have within us the potential to live in ways that are healthier and wiser.

1. Connection to Meaningful Work:

Find work that fulfills a deep desire. For some, this may be being a good stay-at-home mother, a nurse, a nurse etc. Find work that makes you feel happy, that adds value to you or others, that changes the world around you in exactly the way you want. If not work, find a hobby to practice often, that fulfills you deeply.

2. Connection to Other People:

We keep repeating avoid toxic unsupportive people. Well, find supportive, non-toxic people is the other side of that coin. Keep good people around you. By good, we mean, those people who make you feel the best you can feel.

3. Connection with Meaningful Values:

Do you have any personal values or belief system? Values and beliefs should guide our daily lives like a destination guides a journey. Saying “I believe in Jesus” is not a belief system, it is a religious conviction – Christianity. Religion can be a part of a beliet system, but it cannot be a whole belief system. One may divert sometimes, even rest, but you have your destination in mind and you keep moving in the direction you have set for yourself.

Growth Catalysts Core values

4. Connection to Childhood Trauma:

Most of us who have been traumatized by addiction, neglect, abuse etc want to forget. And forgetting is a good trick. But the best thing for our mental-emotional health is to accept that it has happened. To be aware that it is not our fault that it happened and to make peace with our entire past. Even yesterday. Use the past to direct the choice of the meaningful work in point 1. Imagine you spent your life helping others to survive similar events – childhood, puberty or relationships that you survived

5. Connection to Status and Respect:

Respect cannot be demanded or bought. If you succeed at gaining one person’s respect, you also gain a status in their minds. This applies in groups too – you win a group’s respect, you gain status in the group. Have you noticed those parents or relatives with lots of money but no one respects them? You do not need money in order to earn respect, you ned torsåect other people’s opinion, needs, situations, choices and support them to achieve their goals.

6. Connection to the Natural World:

Have you ever sat with someone you like, for some hours beside a river or a lake? Or on top of a hill with a nice view? Remember that feeling of peace? Tat is the natural world. Take a walk. Hug a person you like for longer than 3 seconds. Go fishing in the river in your village – you do not have to catch a fish, you need to immerse yourself into the surroundings and the sounds.

7. Connection to a Hopeful or Secure Future:

Imagine and re-imagine your future every day. Change some details in it. Prolong the period of time. Imagine it until it becomes a plan – a destination. Studies have shown that most depressed people get disconnected from the uture. They cannot see a future for themselves. That is why depression can lead to suicide. Because a depressed person does not really see the need to continue living a life without a future.

8. The Real Role of Genes and Brain Changes:

Be aware and be accepting of your genectic history. Do you have cancer in your family? High blood pressure? Diabetes? Alcoholism? “Madness”? When you know that there is cancer in your family, you usually go to cancer screening as soon as you feel an unexpected pain. Right? Same applies with diabetes. You are the one who informs the doctor that your father and grandfather before him had diabetes. Do you ever wonder what it means for you, that your father, grandfather and great-grandfather were alcoholics. Or that you have a few relatives who are “mad”? And have you checked WHEN they got mad, HOW it started and WHY it may have happened to them?

It does not necessarily mean that you will suffer the same fates and sicknesses as your relatives. However, being aware of it will trigger you to take care of yourself. Your mind. Your heart.

Have you other ways of establishing connection with your deepest self? Let us know in the comments!

Femicide in Kenya signals a Resistance to Change

It has been hard to ignore the overflow of grief, insults, insensitivities, demands and counter demands during the last months.

Between January 1 and April 15, over 50 women have been murdered in the confines of intimate relationships. These >50, are the cases that have been reported in the media. If we know Kenya, there are many other cases that never reach the mainstream media, because families, relatives, and friends of the families collude to hide the real reason a woman died.

Aren’t intimate relationships the spaces where women should feel safe? When women are being murdered by their partners, husbands, and husbands’ lovers, exes, stalkers etc, the opposite beomes true. We fear intimate relationships! And the fear affects all of us! Those women who are not murdered, prefer to kill themselves. They are citing stressful domestic conditions, abandonment and abuse that suffocates and kills all hope.

Love and Money

The Nobel Peace prize winners Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad mentioned this in their Nobel speech. They mentioned Kenya by name. According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, over 70 percent of all women intentionally killed in Kenya, in 2018, were killed by intimate partners or other family members. The report indicated that little progress has been made in preventing such murders.

Bloggers and even radio presenters have been quick to comment and speculate on the WHYs of these murders; some even going as far as to predict that this is just the beginning. It will get worse if women don’t follow the rules the men are setting. High on this list of rules is Money, specifically, the exchange of money between women and men. If a man:

  1. offers you money, any amount of money; and you accept the money.
  2. invites you for a meal or a drink and you accept it.
  3. loans you money. The amount is irelevant.
  4. buys you a gift. The price doesn’t matter.
  5. takes you on vacation, and pays for it.
  6. pays your school fees, whether you requested it or not.

In the 5 scenarios above, you should be aware that you have just sold sex which quickly puts you into a catch 22 situation. You cannot win.

  • If you do NOT want to pay with sex, you are dead. Many men and women have said.
  • You pay with sex, you may inadvertently have declared a commitment with said man. In which case, you are required to remain loyal for life. Same men and women say.

It does not matter whether you have married the man or not – the rule applies as soon as money moves from his mpesa account to yours. Or from his mpesa account to something that you consumed or enjoyed. Whether you requested for it or not.

The phase or depth of your relationship does not matter either. You may be dating, courting, cohabiting, married, divorced, separated, or, he may just be stalking you.

Men as a threatened species

In recent years, men’s plight has been described as stressed, neglected, ignored, and un-considered. Men claim that their lives are threatened by women, alas, I cannot find any proof of it. Searching for statistics of Kenyan men murdered by Kenyan women during 2019, I came up with 1 murder case in Ndhiwa. Plus the highly publicized case of the murderous beauty queen in 2018.

Did I miss something?

Some social analysts and opinion builders have commented on the neglect boys have suffered in the last years. Immense focus has been placed on the girl child, leaving the boy child exposed, un-protected and un-supported. Fathers have been too busy chasing younger women, and mothers too preoccupied with the bitterness, ignorance and shame caused by the same neglectful older men. Mothers are barely equipped to teach young men about the new emerging society. Because they themselves are raised in another society – where women were women, and men were men.

Slay Queens

Women, especially young beautiful ladies have been blamed for using and misusing men for luxuries the young ladies would not afford by themselves. Or for cheating with sugar daddies who provide the luxuries the young men cannot afford.

Those young ladies that have their own income and are not dependent on the men’s favours are blamed for their independence. Freedom. They are insulted as slay queens, or, feminists who just lead men on without needing the men in the long term. If you reject the money or gifts the man is offering, he is hurt, injured, devastated too –

“who do you think you are?” They ask.

“So you can imagine a life without me.

A life with someone else?!”

The Jokers

Both men and women have made jokes about femicide. Women who are mothers to daughters. Sisters. Friends. Adult women are playing patriarchy-princesses who will do anything to please the men they want to please. Men who have wives, girlfriends, sisters etc are displaying all their patriarchal and misogynistic values and opinions.

Parents and loved-ones have had to endure lies being spread about their murdered daughters – everything from infecting with HIV, to them being money-grabbing sluts. Gold diggers out to ruin innocent men

Change is Brewing

In all this, we all know that the truth, the whole truth, lies in-between. Change that went too fast – not fast enough for women, and not slow enough for the men. Change has been brewing for a while and it is change that cannot be stopped, avoided, ignored or trivialized – just like the women’s right to vote, to divorce, to have their own Identity Cards (ID), to own property etc.

There is a feeling that many are very scared and intimidated by change due to the fact that they do not feel ready to adjust to the new expectations. Change always alters the rules of engagement. In some cases, change means the loss of privilege for some. Power is privilege and men have always held power.

In a society where many women are marching towards equality and equity, the female becomes the male’s enemy number 1. And women easily turn against each other when the male gaze rests on them.

Progress is colliding with culture:

We are all in agreement that women are not as they used to be. We are all positioning ourselves in our different roles. Some women helping to keep women in the roles they always held. Other women adding fuel to the fire that is “fear-of-change.” The rest of us are embracing the change and pushing the buttons that will move it forward and fast.

Feminism is becoming Women who:

  • will work outside the home.
  • earn their own money and have their own bank accounts.
  • won’t cook for their men.
  • will not obey the men.
  • are not as submissive as our mothers were with our dads.
  • do not patiently wait for men who leave.
  • have no in-born respect for men simply because hey are men.
  • do not stay with abusive men for better or for abuse.
  • are unafraid of men’s violence or rejection.

The global community, Kenya included, is undergoing another change that will not be stopped, not even by violence.

Actually, violence may aid the quick progression of this change.

Do we all want to preserve our culture?

Culturaly, women persevered, forgave and enabled men in co-dependent relationships, while men provided, abused and misused the women’s perseverance.

A friend tried to explain to me how his mother was beaten, silenced, and neglected by his dad. But she still stayed. For the children. Because she was totally dependent on her husband, she had no income, she owned no land, she could not educate her children or offer the boys an inheritance. She could not bare the shame of a broken home. Currently, she can take pleasure in seeing her grown-up kids, though her relationship with her lifetime husband is still estranged. They meet at weddings, dowry parties, funerals etc

Her joy in old-age, is knowing that she fulfilled societies sole expectation on her. Find a man. Have some children. Live or die for the children.

Most women do not need to make these sacrifices anymore. They definitely do not put the church and its attendees, traditional values or bible verses before their own progress.

Hence, a collission with men.

I end with questions, not answers:

  1. I wonder what happens when women become the objects where men can direct their frustrations, hate, despair, fear, disdain?
    • Will men be happy when they become womens’ worst fear?
    • are we capable of moving from status-quo to the unavoidable new world without soaking the road there with women’s blood?
    • is this the lost generation, or the inevitable crossroad of change?

References:

  1. https://cnyakundi.com/statement-fida-feminist-organisation-releases-statement-on-rise-of-femicide-in-kenya/
  1. https://ksnmedia.com/2019/03/revealed-the-shocking-figures-of-femicide-in-kenya/
  1. https://www.theplatform.co.ke/2018-nobel-peace-prize-award-shines-spotlight-on-femicide-in-kenya-2/

Have you ever been raped?

Why do people rape?

At a recent event, I asked two questions:

  • Have you ever raped someone?
  • Have you ever been raped?

Of course no hands were raised! I wasn’t expecting any hands up either, because rape is the shame of all shames. When we talk about rape, we normally picture the brutal, forceful violent, hateful act of forcing a woman to have sex! I Say a woman because only a handful of men would come out and say they were raped! When they do, it’s almost always sodomy, by another man. Because they would rather phrase it as if they had sex with a woman rather than deal with the shame that would come with admitting that a woman raped them. Obviously, women rape too.

Rape seems to have evolved as society evolves, but I think it always was this way. Most likely, in the old patriarchal setting, nonviolent rape was not considered as rape. Like a hug that takes a little too long. A touch that is too far above the knee. A smile that  borders on the overbearing smugness.

Furthermore, in the traditional patriarchal setting, there were some attempts at punishing rape. My grandmother told me that if a man took a girl by force, he was forced to marry her. As a reparation for the integrity-breach and as a way to wash off the shame.

Whether it is a straight-up, obvious attack, or a nonviolent rape, the violation of integrity leads to the same consequences as rape always did.

If your heart’s not in it, and you have expressed verbally and nonverbally that you don’t want to have sex, then it is a NO. Even if you say yes at first, verbally or nonverbally, and then change your mind along the way, it is still a NO.

A YES is when you explicitly agree to the sex.

If I was to put it in my own words, Rape is any type of sex you are forced to have by:

  • Coercion
  • Force
  • Manipulation
  • Obligation
  • or any other expectation that plays on an assumption that you will:
    • incur some significant loss
    • or face some punishment, if you don’t have that sex.

How Rape afects your Mental health:

First is the confusion. In this stage, you would serve youself well if you told someone. You may be in a state of shock and may need help putting things into perspective. Questions you may be battling with:

  • What just happened?
  • Did I agree to that?
  • Who can I tell?

Then comes the shame and self-blame. By this stage, you may start to cut ties with loved ones, just to give yourself space to digest your experience. You want to isolate yourself. Questions you may be battling with:

  • How stupid am I?
  • I should have seen that coming, no?
  • Will anyone believe me? I was the one who asked to meet. I went to their place. I accepted dinner and alcohol. I drunk too much.

Then comes the secrecy and the self-hate. By this stage, your loved ones know that something has changed you, but cannot explain what it is. Thoughts you may be battling with:

  • I am stupid and dirty. That is why he chose me.
  • He would never rape Rita because she is not stupid.
  • I am dirty and useless. No one will want me once they know I have been raped.

2 examples:

1. The best friend:

Sonia is a gorgeous girl with a steady job and a family of her own. When she finds out that her husband of years has been cheating on her, they have a nasty fight and as he stand there apologizing, Sonia storms out. She calls her colleague who is always friendly to cry her heart out. The colleague offers to buy her dinner. As they talk it out, and of course dinner comes with wine, wine comes with tears and heart wrenching outbursts. Time flies, and Sonia is drank, enough for this gentleman friend to offer to drive her home. On their way home Sonia;

“says you know what, let’s go to your place! He has to know that I too can do this. II can also have sex with other people, can’t I?!

The colleague disagrees but Sonia is hysterical and doesn’t want to go home. To avoid drama he heads back to his place, with Sonia in the passenger seat. Long story short, they end up having sex, and in the morning when she sobers up she asks her colleague;

“did anything happen?”

She can barely recall having sex and the little that she does is bits and pieces.

He tells her that yes, they had sex because she had insisted. Sonia is shattered. She doesn’t even shower, before she calls an Uber and leaves.

It’s true she asked him to have sex with her, there was consent, so does this qualify as rape? If it’s not rape why does she feel this ashamed and used? Why does she go ahead and block her colleague and friend, and never talks to him again? After all she insisted right?

2. The dream job:

You’ve gotten you dream job and you are sooo excited! You’ve been crushing on this lady ever since you met her on your first day of internship! It doesn’t matter that she is your superior at work, after all you are age mates. You all go for drinks to celebrate that you finally landed the contract. Everyone in the office comes along, her included, and she insists she doesn’t drink. It’s a plus for you because you know you have a designated driver. As the night wears off everyone leaves, and it’s just the two of you. You whisper that you like her dress, and her response is;

“well you better, coz I approved your employment. Without my yes, you would not have received the contract!” She follows that with a sensual touch on your thigh and a seductive smile.

You feel uneasy, because you didn’t even know she had the power to hire or fire you. However, you still have a crush on her and she likes you back! Sadly, an uneasy feeling has crept in and it lingers as she says that she is paying for the drinks.

“You’ll make it up to me later when you undo this dress.” She finishes with a wink.

You should be delirious with joy and anticipation, but all you feel is obligation it removes all the warm fuzzy feeling you’ve had in the belly.

You wonder, what will happen if you don’t undo the dress tonight.

Do you even want to undo the dress tonight, or another night?

Do you have options?

At the end of the event, I asked 3 questions:

  • Why do people rape?
  • Have you ever been a victim of non-violent rape?
  • What did you do about it?

Again, I was met by silence.

What would you do about it now?

Whatever it is, do not be silent about it. The police may not take action. You  may be demonized and blamed. But to save your emotional and psychological well-being, find one person who believes you and speak about it!

4 situations when Love isn’t enough

I don’t know when I first knew, but I have known for a while that love is a verb. Hard knuckle breaking work. Still, when I met love, I almost missed it! Like driving by the junction where you are supposed to turn left, on your way home and realizing it when you see the road sign for the next junction. GPS would remind you to take a U-turn, but sometimes, in real life, it feels like there are no U-turns.

I almost missed love because, like most of us who have a complicated childhood, where toxic adults reigned supreme; I had no idea how love should look like. How should love feel like?

The Bad years

Like everybody else, I have had some awful bad years. Terrible years of not knowing what to touch, and what to drop. The worst years were marred with feeling abandoned, self doubt heavily spiced with self hate. Feeling lost sometimes, in mazes I created. Some years, after I broke up with a deeply loved individual, I felt used & misused. Unlovable. Not because I really am unlovable, but because the love on the table wasn’t enough.

How I survived these years? By finding the parts of myself that were lovable and trying to love them. Plus finding the parts that were injured, and trying to soothe and heal them.

How I soothed and healed the injured parts? Well, by doing the things that calm me. There is so much trial and error in finding the things that calm us, but it is so worth it to keep doing the labour of looking. I always loved reading. Reading is such a fantastic way to hide from relentless human connections. Reading is travelling, without ever leaving the comfort of a cozzy soffa or bed. I always loved to travel too – travel as a way to run away from difficult people or situations. Or travel to get away from myself.

So, reading and travelling became a good mix of escapism for me in the beginning of healing.

Writers write about us without ever meeting us. One of my all time favorite poems is Unending love by Rabindranath Tagore. When I first read it, I did not think about someone else I loved. My entire body and mind thought of myself. This is how I wanted to be loved! These are the words I longed to hear from and feel from another person. Without hearing them from another person, these are the thoughts I wanted to have about myself.

To believe that I could be loved in this deep, for several lifetimes. Often, I have gone back to this poem to find inspiration on how to love myself.

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times.
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Rabindranath Tagore

I knew I didn’t want the love I saw or experienced during childhood:

Love that:

  • abuses.
  • ignores.
  • belittles.
  • leaves.
  • stays but is not really available.
  • controls.
  • goes behind you back.
  • cheats.
  • mocks.
  • hurts constantly.
  • kills.

Shattering love.

Most of us learn about love through living & making mistakes. Over time, we even find that the things we did to escape life, are infact life-saving activities. I have found reading and travelling are not just escapes, they are acts of love and self-care. To read is to learn, to learn is to grow, to grow is to heal. To learn, grow and heal is a journey that needs to be travelled in any ramshackle availble.

4 times when love is not enough:

(1) Low or non-existent Compatibility.

Comaptibility can be many things – intellectual, emotional & sexual. If we are not compatible, eventually everything becomes such a struggle, it breaks the both of us down. Mentally and emotionally. To communicate, to have sex, to take a long walk in the woods, to travel to the romanti Paris, to just sit together & have breakfast requires a level of compatibility. Without compatibility, it doesn’t matter how many Paris trips we can afford together – love turns out to NOT be enough.

However, compatibility is a complexity that may require compromising and lots of communication. It doesn’t matter how compatible a couple is, keeping the compatibility relevant is essential.

Imagine the elation when you realize that you both love Paris with all of two hearts. And the confusion when you fight every time you are in Paris together. Simply because one of you loves the museums and the history, and the other loves the cafés and fine dining. Paris visits become a source of conflict that ruins Paris visits for both.

love-respect-cycle

(2) Low or lacking Respect is the end of love.

For every relationship, boundaries have to be set & boundaries have to be respected. If the boundaries sound unreasonable, they need to be re-negotiated respectfully or the love will not survive. Boundaries cannot be over-stepped without re-negotiation where respect is present.

In my experience, when compatibility and respect are properly balanced, communication issues are few and severe misunderstandings far in between. Apologies are genuine and forgiveness easy. A person who feels appreciated, loved & respected will be more forgiving. A person who feels unappreciated, unloved & disrespected is more antagonistic, bitter & unforgiving.

(3) Lack of We are our own little Gang mentality/attitude.

Politically correct members of society say “we are in this together” or “we are a team”.

For love to be enough, one has to feel that they belong with the other person. Totally. Like Lily & Marshall. So glued together that when a 3rd person even considers attacking, annoying, gossiping, looking down on one of you; the other jumps the 3rd person! Immediately & brutally. You have each other’s backs & you keep each other’s secrets.

One team actually mean the god of the team comes before individual wins. But, I do not advocate putting another person’s needs before your own, all the time, and for long periods of time. Of course, this goes both ways. The other person should not be expected to put your needs before theirs, all the time, and for long periods of time.

That is abusive.

There is need for a simple understanding and accepptance that your needs are not more important that your partner’s. And they are not less important. Unless we are in a crisis, where we all put our needs aside and focus on helping each other.

(4) Lack of commitment which leads to Plan Bs.

Plan Bs are a love killer or a love challenge at the least. In my experience, a case of one foot in, one foot out, usually means both feet out.

If there is some other person, place or experience that feels more interesting, more important, more exciting than your partner; then love will not be enough. Especially if most of these things feel more fun when done without the partner. If mother dear is better at most things. Or your best friend always understands you better. When that fight you had yesterday made you wonder if you really should be together.

The answer may well be that you do not belong together.

Would you add something to this list?

What are your deal-breakers when it comes to love relationships?

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