Travelling while female…and Black (Part 1)

“Travelling Home to Rome….” photography by D. M. Blake (2011)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a long conversation with my mother that included remembrances about her childhood and my grandfather.  There was something else of which spoke that made a deep impression upon me.  That is, she spoke about her travels around the world.

It is a bit strange, perhaps, that my memories of my mother are of old photographs:  my mother standing in snow-covered places, my mother amongst tulip fields and windmills, my mother feeding pigeons in a wide and open plaza, my mother on a ship…

My mother in places that I, as a child, never understood how she came to be there or if I would ever see such wondrous sights in my life.

I remember finding and displaying all the coins from the many foreign countries in which she had travelled.  Places with strange names, strange languages, differently shaped than the money I knew as a child in Jamaica.

How could one person have travelled so far at a young age?  So very far from the island country that served as a birthplace, and where she had both children and husband awaiting her?

Then again, how could she have not?  She was teaching us, her children (and even our father), something very important.  She was teaching us that no matter who you are and where you are, you should never limit yourself.  Think big, dream even bigger, and allow life to take you where you will it.

“How to Create Dreams I” photography by Diedré M. Blake, 2011 (Rome)

There are many answers that one could give, or rather, that I could give.

The fact is, I travel because I need to understand that nothing is this life can limit me but my own self.

Not the colour of my skin.  Not the kinkiness of my hair.  Not the language that I speak.  Not the relationships that I have built through blood or friendship.

Perhaps it is selfish.  I am certain that culturally, for some, this type of attitude is selfish.  For me, I see it as setting an example for the younger generation of my family, who will undoubtedly face a world that is filled with stereotypes, some of which will be aimed at them.

Trust me, travelling is not easy for people of colour, especially in parts of Europe, where the colour of one’s skin can mean a reason to be attacked (again, this is my own opinion).

Travelling, however, is one way of challenging stereotypes.    It takes courage to say, “Let me leave everything behind and go somewhere far away.”  And that is regardless of race/ethnicity/sexuality/religion/etc… Everyone, I believe, feels some fear when away from what is familiar, and from those who are accepting of us.

When we open our eyes and our arms to the world, we allow ourselves to see beyond stereotypes…Equally important, we allow for the world to see us as individuals.  Thus, why should the world not be our oyster?

I thank my mother for passing on the wanderlust that has allowed me to have and to act upon the desire to see as much of the world as I can…I suppose she, in turn, thanks her grandfather, who was a ship engineer.

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

P.S. —

Some YouTube Links of Black Women Travelling:

Babs in Japan: “Love life and Japan” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VLx7Yc0dwU&feature=share&list=UL2VLx7Yc0dwU

Charly in Korea: “Black in Korea” http://youtu.be/mbLVIWNtdzo

Interesting Blog from China: “Life Behind the Wall”  http://lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com/

Emotional Capital: It is what it is…

"Zed" photography by Dolores Juhas, 2008. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Entering into the world of academia again, although enlightening, is quite time-consuming.  Thus, I find myself overdue to write my blog.  Beyond my frantic search for time, being a student has reminded me once again just how costly education can be (I am thinking about the numerous books each student must buy… After all, we are told not to share.) Whether spending in euros or dollars, the process of unnecessarily parting with my money leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.   This is not dissimilar to how I experience unnecessarily parting with my emotions.

In previous blog postings, I have discussed repeatedly how emotions are triggered or caused by our thoughts or perceptions.  Thus, if one is able to have awareness of one’s thoughts and to reframe one’s thinking successfully, then ideally one should be able to adequately manage one’s emotions.  Right?

Well… I believe even the best amongst us might not be able to pull of the feat of always successfully managing his or her emotions.  In effect, at some point in our lives, we will all struggle with being emotional spendthrifts.

Now, this is when you might say, D., what do you mean by ’emotional spendthrift’?  To put it bluntly, we waste our time (read here: ’emotions’ and ‘energy’) on people and/or situations that are nonbeneficial to our self-growth.  And why exactly do we do this (and you know that you do…)?

Well, the reasons are many.  Oftentimes, they stem from repetition compulsion, i.e. the unconscious act of reenacting past traumatic experiences, perhaps with an unconscious hope of a different outcome.  (Please note: the word ‘trauma’ is being used in with a more generalized denotation.)

Take a look at your past (and perhaps present) romantic relationships.  Are there any similarities in the personality types of the people you have chosen to share your intimate time?  Is there something familiar about the way in which each of your significant others have treated you?  Do you ever find yourself wondering at the end of a relationship, “Why in god’s name do I keep doing this (i.e. date the same type of person, get into the same kind situation, etc.) to myself?

"Percy Shelley..." photograph by Diedré Blake (2011), Rome, Italy.

Emotional Capital: Keep on keeping on…

It took many years for me to understand my behavioural and thinking patterns (a.k.a. repetition compulsion) in relation to others as well as to myself (and I continue to learn…. Trust me!)  😉

Throughout the years, however, I began to recognize and acknowledge that I spent a great deal of my time in emotionally futile conversations and situations to my own detriment, physically and emotionally.  In essence, I was allowing others to lure me into conversations and/or situations that ‘took away from’ rather than ‘gave to me.’  I had a just keep on keeping on mentally towards myself and the person in my life.

I believed that if I continued to endure, then I might be able to change (read: danger! warning! achtung!…) the situation, person, and/or myself for the person.  I was unwilling to accept the reality of my relationships, and thought if I gave more of myself, then all would be well… And so I gave and gave and gave.  It took me a long time realize that I did not examine whether or not the other person was giving too, or rather whether or not I understood myself to be receiving.

So, you might ask at this point, What did you give, D? Well, I thought I would make a list and even ask for suggestions for what other people have given in their relationships that has left them feeling/having/being a lot “less than,” rather than basking in the wonders of feeling/having/being “more than.”

Ten Things That I Gave That Increased My Emotional Deficit:

  1. Energy
  2. Time
  3. Money
  4. Friendships
  5. Physical Space
  6. Interests
  7. Hopes/Dreams/Goals
  8. Principles
  9. Pride
  10. Physical Self

Ask yourself, what have you ‘had’ (chosen) to give (up) in the name of a relationship? What are you giving (up) right now?

It is what it is….

I may have mentioned this before in a past posting, but when I first arrived at McLean, I made a sign for my office (a.k.a. the expressive therapy studio).  The sign wasn’t an artistic masterpiece, it was fairly simple and on it was the sentence, “It is what it is…”  In general, I believe this sentence summarizes well how to look at and to accept reality.  It’s basically that old idiom “There is no use in crying over spilled milk,” but in plain speech.

Do I regret having given the ten things listed above? No.  The reality is that in any relationship one has to learn how to strike a balance with the other person.  It may mean giving more of yourself at times, or for the other person to give more.  And the fact is having given so very much of myself (perhaps to an extreme), I had to learn how to achieve a balance-I am glad to say that I am solid path to do so and I am enjoying balancing my emotional checkbook.  Especially, when I realize that there is a surplus of positive emotional experiences. 😉

What I am writing about is when you are the only one who is giving and you know it or sense it.  It can also be about when both people are giving, but neither gives what the other person needs or what the relationship needs.

Like all creatures, human beings are given an enormous amount information through their bodily experience.  For example, if your skin becomes too hot, your brain understands to send the appropriate signal to get the body to move away from the source of the heat.

Finally, information can also be gathered from the body in emotional situations.  For example, when you feel constantly and inexplicably tired (or get headache, or some other suspiciously psychosomatic ailment ;)), when dealing (e.g. having to talk, confront, spend time, etc.) with your relationship(s).  Your body allows you to know what ‘it’ (the situation/ the reality) is for you.  Your body tells you simply if the situation that you are in is either…

GOOD or BAD

After that the issue is simply one of choice.

How wisely will you spend your emotions?

To whom will you give them?

How will ‘it’ (the situation, etc.) benefit you?

To what end?

Well, I leave you to it here… but a small gift of Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone.” –Best of regards, D.

“…Oh, Well hold up
Listen partna
I ain’t no cheap thrill
Cause Miss Badu is always comin’ for real
And you know the deal
Everytime we go somewhere
I gotta reach down in my purse
To pay your way and your homeboys way
And sometimes your cousin’s way
They don’t never have to pay
Don’t have no cars
Hang around in bars
Try to hang around with stars
Like Badu
I’m gon’ tell you the truth
Show and prove
or get the boot…”
( Lyrics from “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu, taken from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/erykahbadu/tyrone.html

Next Time: Men… and other thoughts. 

Self-portrait by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: d_juhas@yahoo.co.uk.  She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr

What if I told you… a Secret?

What if I told you that on Thursday, October 14, 2010 as I sat on an airplane travelling back to the U.S. from my very first trip to Rome, I wrote the following words,

“I want to return to Rome and stay for 6 months 1month very soon.”

At the time I had no idea as to how I would do this.  I had no money, no time, and no seeming way that I could make this manifest.  I just knew that I wanted to do it.  I knew I had to do it.  I believed that I could and I would do it, even if I didn’t know how.  From the moment of writing those words, a series of many things happened, both experienced as good and bad.  All moved me towards achieving the above goal. 

What if I told you that by October 27, 2010 I had bought my ticket to return to Rome for less than $500?  What if I told you that along with the above words, I had also written,

“I want to live alone while I am there.”

and that by November 11, 2010 I had met the man, from whom I would eventually rent my studio at an affordable price.

 

The Power of Belief and Self-efficacy

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a fairly popular concept in today’s society, but it can be traced back throughout the ages. 

The idea is a simple one: what we truly believe, we will manifest into reality.  Typically, the self-fulfilling prophecy has a somewhat negative connotation as it may be used in association with “bad” events.  For example, if a man continuously worries that his wife will leave him, and then eventually  she will.  The self-fulfilling prophecy, however, is a simply strategy of thought manifested into reality.  The manifestation, however, can occur in three ways: positive, neutral, or negative. 

A positive manifestation is simple enough.  It is when we desire something positive to occur in our lives and we truly believe that it will, and thus it does.  The negative manifestation is, of course, the opposite of the positive.  A neutral manifestation (and this is my own term) is when we want something to occur in our lives, typically positive, but we do not fully believe that it will – We end up with perhaps a type of “mixed” result, a neutralized experience. 

For example, you may have just been interviewed for a new job and believe you will be hired because you see yourself as the best candidate.  At some point, however, perhaps due to delay in response from the company, you begin to doubt yourself as being the best candidate… you still believe that you are a very good candidate and that there is no reason why the company shouldn’t hire you, but now you are not sure.  So, you get the call.  You are hired!  Yes!  There is a problem, however.   You are offered a lowered salary or a different position altogether, because the company believes you are not as qualified for the position as they would like for you to be.  Do you see?  The situation has been neutralized.  You are happy for the job offer, but unhappy because the result is not exactly the way you had hoped for it to be… It is exactly what you believed it to be – That is, perhaps you were not the best candidate, merely a good one – Why would a company pay top dollar to good candidate or give that person the position when they can hire the best?   

In psychology, we have been quite happy to latch on to the self-fulfilling prophecy to help people to change their thoughts and their behaviours, and thus ultimately their lives.  Regardless of the branch of psychology, in my opinion, the ultimate goal is to have people have better opinions about themselves and a more positive outlook on their lives, in order to live their lives more effectively and successfully.  As a practitioner of DBT, I am constantly asking clients (and myself) to keep themselves open to new ways of interpreting the experiences they have in the world.  Why?  Well, like I said in my post on Saturday (2.12.11), it is our thoughts that dictate our emotions, and our emotions that dictate our actions, and our actions result in direct and indirect consequences (some of which we may not like).  Thus, it is in controlling our thoughts that we have the power to control ourselves, and the impact of the world around us on ourselves, holistically.

What we think, i.e. our thoughts, is one aspect of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  It is, however, not enough.  Thinking something once does not make or break you (and thank goodness for that!  Or else, I would be in serious trouble!) – It is the pervasiveness of our thoughts, i.e. how much we believe in our thoughts.  How often are we thinking these thoughts?  Are they there in the back of our minds as we go throughout the day?  Are they the first of our day, or last thoughts before we go to bed?  Are they the instant thoughts we have in reaction to anything “bad” or “good” happening to us?  This is what I mean by pervasiveness… by belief.  How much do you believe in your thoughts?

There are many of us who would like to say, “Oh, I might think some negative things about myself, but I don’t believe them.”  Really?  Then, why do you say them to yourself?  Ask yourself. 

The truth is that we can see ourselves as quite capable individuals in many areas of our lives, and are able to say to ourselves, “Bravo, you rock!  You’re awesome!” (These are some of my cheering statements – Feel free to borrow.)  There are, however, other areas, where we may not believe ourselves to be as capable and may say things like this ourselves, “I can’t believe I am so dumb!  Why do always crazy crap like that?  Nobody else would have been so stupid!  I’ll never get things right!  I am such a mess up!” (These aren’t my self-doubting statements, but you get the point – Remember, D says, “Don’t use these! Bad for you!”)

I intentionally listed more self-demeaning/self-doubting statements.  Why?  Because, we tend to verbally beat ourselves up more!  That’s why!  Come on, think about it!  For how long do you keep yourself in a state of misery after something not so great happens?  For example, let’s say your boss, or teacher, or parent told you that you did something wrong, and they were angry with you…  I know this must have happened to you at some point in your life (and if it hasn’t happened, then bully for you, and just try to imagine it).  For how much longer after that conversation, were you upset with yourself, with them, with the situation?  Think about it.  No, really, try.  Perhaps, if you are trying really hard right now and remembering a very specific situation, you might even be experiencing the very emotions associated with the situation.  You might even feel a pang of anger, of embarrassment, and/or of fear.  And as I told you before… our feelings are a manifestation of our thoughts.  So, what are/were you thinking?

We are who/what/how we believe ourselves to be – Remember that I did not say “imagine ourselves to be.”  If you believe yourself to be “an incompetent fool” underneath your projected image of competence, then what you are is an incompetent fool.  Moreover, what people see is that you are an incompetent fool pretending to be competent.  (And if you don’t believe me, see the history of, thankfully, former American President George W. Bush.)  Think about that.

Self-efficacy

I decided to give self-efficacy its own subheading, in order to give this rather lengthy post a bit more structure.  

 I am truly a fan of the concept of self-efficacy.  It incorporates so many of the principles that I consider truly important in creating a meaningful and rewarding life.   To develop a sense of one’s self-efficacy is to begin understanding and, yes, believing in one’s capacity to create and accomplish one’s goals and other tasks in life.  These goals are not merely intrapersonal (relating solely to the self), but also interpersonal (relating to others).  It is sort of that idea that no matter what challenges life presents, you have the ability to tackle it! 

To go into the complete ideology of self-efficacy would be time-consuming and perhaps (somewhat) boring.  Thus, I will not.  I will encourage you, however, to look into it.  Also, think about how self-efficacious you are in this moment.  How do you see your ability to take on whatever life throws at you?  Remember, self-efficacy is not about “going it alone.”  It is about understanding your strengths, understanding where you may need help in order to achieve your goals.  It’s about using your smarts/intelligence/wits (however you want to put it) to get you where you want to go, but knowing/believing that your smarts/intelligence/wits will get you there no matter what!  You dig? 😉

A secret… The Secret

I suggested that I would tell you a secret…  And I shall. 

There are very few pop psychology book/self-help books that I really recommend that people read, or that I even read myself.  After all, most of my time is spent reading… well, psychology articles or books that are more strictly pertaining to my professional interests and background, which takes up a lot of time (as you can see… people in psychology like to write and talk… a lot ;)) – Thus, it’s nothing personal, and definitely not an issue of snobbery on my part.

As such… here is my secret:  I have been reading The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne from page to page.  Now…  I will tell you that when my mother bought this book for me back two Christmas’ ago, I was a bit nonplussed.  After all, I am a capable and competent (read “self-efficacious” here) therapist, what do I need with this pop psychology book?…Okay, maybe there was a bit of snobbery. 

I will tell you three things about The Secret: 

1. It is about self-fulfilling prophecy aka the power of belief  with an emphasis on the power of positive thinking (See, Positive Psychology). 

2. It is about believing in/developing a sense of your own self-efficacy (see discussion above). 

3. It is small enough to put in a small bag.

Mind you, I am not endorsing The Secret or any particular thing on my blog.  If, however, you decide to run to your local library, get a copy, read it and like it, then… the only other pop psychology book I have ever bought (besides ones about eating disorders, which is my specialization… so I ought to know what’s out there) is Bryn Collins’ Emotional Unavailability : Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap.  

Let’s just say, if you have ever been in a bad relationship, or if you are in one right now… or perhaps you are always in bad relationships… and you can never understand why… Well, Emotional Unavailability might help give you some perspective.  It’s a slight introduction to some basic DBT concepts on interpersonal effectiveness). 

 

Some thoughts on being a secret-keeper/privacy-holder:

As a therapist, it is my job to be a secret-keeper/privacy-holder for secrets/private thoughts that are non self-harming to my clients.  It is an important role and one that ought never to be violated.  I feel very honoured to be and to have been entrusted with the thoughts of so many who have come to me for help throughout the years.  There are truly not enough words to express my gratitude and humility.  

The title of this post, “What if I told you… a Secret?” though meant with some humour is actually a commentary on the fact that we may not often share with others what knowledge it is that we may have amassed over the years that has been truly beneficial to us in living our lives.  My secret is that I live my therapeutic practices every day of my life – I practice what I preach.  And it is truly my hope that in sharing these thoughts with you that you will benefit in some small way in your own life.

Best regards,

D.   

For the purpose of full disclosure: I am a registered Independent.