Tag Archive | fear

Right To Addiction

Addictions are kind of like phobias. Many people think they have a phobia and tell everyone, when really, they just have a strong fear response – me and spiders for example (or anything with more than 4 legs). But those who know they have a phobia or could be addicted, don’t talk about it. I think the word addiction is in danger of being over used sometimes, much like phobia.  

My friend Philip blogged about the addiction to certainty and how opening up to uncertainty is a way we can perhaps start to create a different culture that is open and flexible. I think there is an addiction that is similar, the addiction to being right. This is slightly different to the fear of being wrong that Kathryn Schulz talks about, but is more of a commitment to obliterating anyone who has an alternative version of something. I’ve noticed ‘right addicts’ in my own life and think I might have nearly become an addict myself – it kind of runs in my family. Right addicts in my personal experience never consider the harm their addiction causes to others. Speaking for myself, I found being around this form of addiction ate away at my confidence and sense of worth as nothing I said was valued.

I’ve noticed this in other contexts such as the rise in the use of the term ‘conspiracy theorist’. This is a relatively recent phrase, first coined in the early 20th Century but picking up it’s negative meaning in the 1960’s with the CIA deploying it in response to anyone questioning who shot then President John F Kennedy. Since then however it seems that the term conspiracy theory is used to mock, put down, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

The addictive aspect of being right also drives people to search online for evidence to back their case – ‘I must prove I am right’. It can set up a ‘them and us’ mentality bringing people together in ‘like minded’ groups to get high on taking down or attacking someone elses ideas. I’ve seen it on social media and it’s pretty ugly. But like most addicts, they don’t see any harm in what they are doing, and insist on their right to be right.

There are some groups who will see their addiction as healthy and important in terms of knowing The Truth. Two groups who have been trying to win over more users of their version of being right are scientists and those who are religious (I’m generalising). I’m not sure I want to get caught in their turf war, but sometimes I think how amazing it would be to hear either of these groups say ‘we need to revisit this idea it might not be quite as it seems’.

Maybe quantum physicists are like the addiction clinic, helping those from strong points of view on reality to understand both could be right. Me, I’m happy to be a conspiracy theorist, I find it more interesting to consider there could be more to something than what I first believed. I don’t mind getting new information that challenges my thinking or perspective. But to even question how do we know what we know, or don’t know – that is a real rush.

 

 

 

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Finding Pulse

The mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando USA, has likely stirred many conversations. I wonder how we make sense of these sorts of events here in New Zealand. The thing is, while I can imagine the terror of being at the venue, I can’t comprehend that level of violence based on some form of fear.

It’s important to keep perspective and recognise our own judgements and assumptions. Three communities are in the spotlight: the LGBTQI+ and Latinx communities; and those of strong religious faiths, particularly Muslim and Christian.

So we might not have the kind of violence other countries seem to experience, but maybe we have other forms of violence that do not get recognised. Like making groups of people ‘disappear’ so they don’t exist.

When I talked to a bunch of counsellors recently, some of whom worked in schools, they shared with me how Principals do not see LGBTQI+ students as needing any form of recognition or place of safety. Some schools seem concerned that acknowledging this community existed would potentially bring protests from parents or others.

Uniforms forcing young people to fit specific gender roles also stop diversity being expressed and, if you want to identify as something other than your assigned sex, then you have to submit to the violence of a psychiatric diagnosis.

So – no mass shootings in NZ, just mass ‘shooings’ – like, “Shoo, you pesky rainbow people, you are messing with our perfectly heteronormative, gender defined image.”

But right now my thoughts are with the LGBTQI+ community in Orlando. Sending messages of support could be a way to bring visibility to our own community and discuss the other forms of violence going on in our schools.

Let’s also open up discussions about religion. I think schools need to do this because pretending people ditch their beliefs at the gate closes down opportunities to look at the complexity of identity.

Talking bull

This week is bullying awareness week, well, unofficially and Pink Shirt Day is Friday 20th May. So how to start a conversation about bullying that hasn’t already been done a thousand times….

There are plenty of bullying stories out there, and stories of people who make a stand it against it. There are lots of ideas on how to stop bullying, and schools put in punishments to make it clear it’s wrong to bully. There are also plenty of groups willing to come in and do a presentation, performance share a personal story to help ‘get the message out’ about how bad bullying is. How is that in spite of all this education, it still happens?

I think some of the reason is we go looking for a kind of person or action that we can identify. But is there such a thing as ‘a bully’ does this type of person actually exist? Because I get a bit confused when I talk with people about ‘bullies’. If I ask a range of people about a student from parents, teachers, friends, coaches I get different responses – I never have everyone say ‘yeah they are a bully 100%. So one shift I think needs to happen is to look at bullying not IN people – but BETWEEN people. Anyone can bully or be bullied, there is no ‘type’. You can also be bully and bullied at the same time, which is perhaps why it gets a little confusing.

Another thing I find interesting is the idea that people grow up and grow out of being bullies, I’m not so sure about that. Adults bully that’s a fact, our family violence statistics back that up. Family violence is about control and the use of fear to maintain that control. Bullying is similar. Anyone can bully because everyone feels vulnerable, scared and powerless at times. Bullying is a form of social event – no – I don’t mean it’s something to promote, but people form connections. People make sense of themselves and others through these actions, they give entry into groups. If we look at it this way then anyone can become involved because everyone needs to feel connected, a sense of belonging.

One good example is mocking, put downs, teasing. Humour and laughing are something all of us enjoy. The thing about humour is in order for it to work there has to be some form of shame attached – otherwise it doesn’t work. Friends can sometimes do this with each other. If someone has to say ‘naaaaa jokes’ to convince you that you shouldn’t be offended then it’s likely to have been intended to shame, hurt or humiliate.

Bullying and humour can be an uncomfortable fit. Both can pick on difference, or a sense of wrongness about that difference, this is something we all need to challenge. Laughing together at circumstances or even ourselves is good and healthy. Humour can help us understand the strange ways we are expected to be in the world based on our gender, culture, age, sexuality or functioning. But pointing and laughing at someone is not joining with them in a sense of understanding, it’s alienating and isolating.

I guess my challenge is to groups of friends. How do you respect each other’s differences when having a laugh? How do you laugh in public together-including in digital spaces? Is someone potentially getting their way of being in the world made wrong in the moment? How can you in that moment shift what you do to create a safer more respectful and ethical form of action? Because while you might not be doing the action that gets defined as bullying, your response will either be part of the acceptance and normalising of that or it will challenge it. I’m also interested in challenging homophobic put downs and harassment. Even if it’s amongst friends it can hurt but making it unsafe to be gay or transgendered. Sexuality and gender are unique human qualities we all want others to value. Feeling safe in who we are as people is a fundamental human need.

And just for the record, I think the worst examples of bullying are from adults not young people. It’s also why I love animals, they are just straight up about how they feel about you and they don’t really care about what their friends think if they are friends with another species.

shedding light on the rainbow

If you are at student at a secondary school in New Zealand there is a good chance you’ve been taught health. I really like the idea of Hauora – total well-being, our being is more than just our bodies. I remember health when I was at school but sex education will be forever etched in my mind as nothing but awkward and I’m pretty sure I came away with the impression that sex would result in some terrible disease or pregnancy or both. But what I also remember is not much was said about sexuality or gender. I think the words lesbian and gay were mentioned but that was it. But I think I was lucky to even hear that.

So there was nothing for anyone questioning gender, sexuality or even the idea that you might not be entirely sure. But there is now a great resource, it’s called Inside Out and it is free to download and use. It explains and sheds light on all those places some teachers never go, like intersex, transgender, bisexual and does it with simple straight up real people. If your school hasn’t found their way to this fantastic resource send the link to your teacher and ask them to take a look. Or ask rainbow youth to pass it on. Knowledge helps to reduce fear and ignorance and sometimes that is all some people need, a chance to ask questions and get a bit more understanding.

I know many young people who find who they are is never acknowledged or represented. My experience is that while sexuality (lesbian gay and to some extent bisexuality) is talked about transgender and intersex is not and we need to open up the conversations, let’s get this rainbow full spectrum.

Finally if you really want to test your teachers knowledge ask them what a gubernaculum is. It’s also a really great scrabble word.

Day of anti-silence

girl shouts into the wind

12 June is the “Day of Silence“, “a day of action in which students across New Zealand vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, name-calling and harassment in schools.”

At Epsom Girls Grammar School, however, 12 June will be a day of anti-silence. Students who are part of DIVINQ will be taking a different tack.

We’ll be shouting about bullying all over the school at lunchtime.

We think silence is the friend of bullying and, to support and complement the people and organisations behind the day of silence, we want to yell in no uncertain terms that bullying is unacceptable, unwanted and uncool.

We will holler messages of acceptance, diversity, uniqueness and love. Yes, love, because love is the absence of fear – and fear causes bullying.

So, whether you’re silent or loud on 12 June, make it a day to celebrate and honour humanity, in all our magnificent beauty.

Labels – past their used by date?

When you go to the supermarket to buy stuff, you expect to read labels. I mean if you want shampoo it makes good sense to have shampoo bottles labelled so you don’t accidentally put toilet cleaner or dish washing liquid in your lovely locks.
There has been both a move toward creating more labels for people and resisting labels and trying to ‘unstick’ some that have become old, worn and perhaps not so helpful in understanding what is behind the packaging. In particular the language around sexual diversity has exploded, (I’ve already done something on ice-cream but this is slightly different). The supermarket equivalent could be breakfast cereal or chips. Back in the day there were only 3 flavours of chip – plain, chicken and salt n vinegar…don’t ask me how chicken got in there, still a mystery. Gender and sexuality for years were pretty simple packets. Two flavours of gender and two of sexuality – three if you were in a sophisticated supermarket, I mean environment. Someone who might best represent a label free upbringing is iO Tillett Wright. Functional diversity has followed a bit of the same journey with disabled and ‘normal’ being the limits of language in the past. I like more options to define ourselves but I’m not convinced that infinite labels are the way to go.
People are not consumer products, although maybe some might want to stick warning labels on at times. But whether we like it or not labels for people exist. Pretending we don’t notice people based on certain characteristics is sort of like saying all cats are the same…try bringing home a full grown tiger and pretend you got it from the SPCA! Anyway, my point is noticing difference is fine, it’s absolutely normal and natural to observe things that ‘stand out’. Our eyes or other senses are drawn to this so if we are in an environment where everything is the same then the slightest difference will stand out.
For example, if you are at a ‘single sex’ school, with all girls wearing skirts or boys wearing shorts then people might naturally start to notice alternative forms of diversity. Probably the most common thing we notice is ethnicity but what then? Well I suggest our ideas about what that could mean might start filtering assumptions, beliefs or ideas about whether this person is someone ‘like me’. Sometimes it might be hard to know but at some level we’ve probably already put some knowledge into motion to assess if this other human being could be someone I can relate to, communicate with, have a laugh with, feel safe with?
What I wonder about is the role of communication in all of this. If someone looks ‘foreign’ either because of their ethnicity OR because they function differently (e.g. in a wheelchair with a different kind of communication device) our first instinct is probably related to ‘how will we communicate?’ So I think enough of the labelling, or trying to label more things about people – I’m already confused but talk to me about bikes, lego, sport and science fiction and I don’t care what planet you are from you are one of my kind!

Big shoes to fill or just find a better fit

I got thinking a lot after I saw this pop up on Facebook.

As long as human beings have been conscious of their own existence in the universe there has been wonderment about the meaning of life and the place we have in it. There are traditions, rituals and beliefs that stretch back to the ‘dawn’ of our species. Indeed, how our collective ‘sun came up’ is one of the most contested and debated ideas of all time. Religion has been around longer than science (I think), but for its short time in our cultural landscape, science has weighed in just as much into the debate and for some it has turned into arguing two sides ‘evolution vrs creation’.

But we cannot ignore the fact that a very large percentage of the worlds population follows one form of religion or another. I did a quick google search (as you do) and was pretty amazed at the incredibly diverse faiths, traditions, beliefs and religions of the world. Some have emerged in more recent times to dominate in terms of numbers of followers but within Christianity alone there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin. I suppose one of the things that really interests me is the way cultures shift and change through migration and colonisation, especially for indigenous cultures.

I was watching Avatar recently (for about the 10th time) and aside from the futuristic offworld giant blue people and crazy scary flora and fauna, the parallels of one group trying to impose its beliefs and values on another are pretty clear. There is a pattern we shouldn’t ignore or be afraid to examine because it might help us understand and possibly reclaim some different ways of relating to nature and each other.  Read More…