Relationships with the opposite sex

Head Banging Stickman Animated

Relationships – why are they so complicated or do we unnecessarily complicate them ourselves? I’m talking about relationships with the opposite sex.

In my world view created for me by my parents, it was socially acceptable for the man to be a year or two older than the woman – even up to five years older. On the other hand, when the woman was older than the man, it was questioned immediately. “What does she want from him?”, “she has a hidden agenda”, “she wants to corrupt the poor guy” etc.

You see, it was socially acceptable for the man to be older because this would usually mean that he was “wiser” than the woman (because of his age, he has more life experience and possibly even had one or more sexual encounters so he could teach her all she needs to know about life and what to do when it came to sexual relations). It was not acceptable for the woman to be older in age because this would mean that she must have had at least one (if not more) sexual encounter which meant that she could teach him a thing or two and this was totally taboo (socially, I mean).

In my world view constructed for me, when a man is 15 years older than the woman, she should run like mad in the opposite direction and get as far away from him as possible because all he is interested in is getting her into bed and “corrupting” her – making her sexually wise before her time. The woman (or girl as she would be referred to) would be forbidden from seeing this man to the point of being “kicked out of her parents’ house” if she dared to disobey the parents (usually the father) and continued to see this guy “without her parents’ permission. The father would threaten to disown her – cut off her right to inheritance from the parents’ Estate if she dared continue having a relationship with this man.

Having a woman 15 years older than the man was almost unheard of. If this happened, it was not spoken about in public – everything was kept behind closed doors.

Parents whispered about this when the children were all safely tucked in bed so they did not overhear the conversation.

Was this woman also made to suffer the same fate as the woman involved with an older man, or did they have different rules?

Mmmm . . . I wonder!

Conversations with Myself: Five steps to Un-Whining (dealing with the urge to complain)

Dolphins in water

Lately I have caught myself moaning and whining about certain aspects of my life. I don’t intend to whine, it sometimes takes me a while to realise I’m whining, but it’s there none the less. Have you found this happening to you?

How do you stop yourself from whining? I found this article (cannot remember exactly where) and thought I would share what the author had to say on this subject.

Here are five steps to un-whining followed by an explanation of the psychology behind this process.

1. Identify the discomfort when you feel a complaint coming on.
“Something is bothering me and deserves my attention.” I then move on to ask the question “now what?”
2. Consider an alternative proactive behavior instead of lamenting out loud.
“Is there anything I can do that will alleviate my discomfort?” Often there is some immediate action we can take that responds directly to a complaint. This doesn’t only apply to physical aches and pains, but emotional and interpersonal ones as well. A productive action makes us feel like we are taking charge of our discomforts rather than being passively victimized by them.
3. Tolerate the discomfort temporarily if no action can be taken right away.
“Can I hang in there until I figure out a solution?” it’s about taking time to think about solutions (or if necessary, eliciting help from others) rather than voicing discomforts out of habit. Besides, eternal satisfaction is an unrealistic goal, perpetuated by a culture that promotes non-stop happiness. Unless we learn to tolerate some frustration in life, we set ourselves up to be whiners.
4. Shift expectations of yourself and others to lower the bar.
“If I make some internal adjustments, perhaps my discomfort will be more tolerable.”
Life is a series of adjustments. Sooner or later, we will all experience physical and cognitive changes that come with age. Some confront these losses earlier, some more dramatically than others. Sometimes the most challenging changes are the ones among our loved ones. But we all have to adjust our expectations to avoid feeling chronically disappointed.
5. Think long-term change to avoid future complaints.
“Perhaps I can alter my situation so that the discomfort is less likely to occur in the future.”
Some discomforts require the broader, longer view on life. It may mean shifts in our environment, relationships or lifestyle. Changing my outlook on the sport I love will lead to changes in my behavior that will likely result in fewer complaints. Taking this long view — both on and off the court — is especially important in order to keep the activities and people we feel passionate about from becoming a source of increasing unhappiness.

I view chronic complaining as a learned habit. Breaking it (like most maladaptive behaviors) takes practice. “Un-whining’ requires repeating these 5 steps over and over in order to develop alternative behavior patterns that are more effective. Once the new habit is formed, it will be reinforced by the positive reaction it evokes.

Adapted from an article originally written by: Vivian Diller, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She serves as a media expert on various psychological topics and as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. For more information, please visit her website at

Conversations with Myself: The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

Teddy Smile

Since my childhood days, I have always been fascinated by and instantly drawn towards teddy bears. I cannot walk past a teddy bear without picking it up. As an adult, I cannot resist the temptation to buy one to take home with me.

I still treasure the very first teddy bear I was given by my parents. He has lost an eye and his neck was broken during a tug-of-war between a cousin and me but my late grandfather very loving tried to stitch his head back on for me after I could not stop crying because my cousin broke my teddy’s neck.

Teddy now occupies a very special place in a toy cot under my bedroom window together with other precious toys I have not had the heart to get rid of which is of enormous sentimental value to me.

What is it about teddy bears that make them so irresistible? What is the draw card? Why is it so difficult to walk past one without picking it up or buying one?

I came across this bit of information posted on my Facebook timeline by a non-governmental organisation as part of one of their posts. I found this information very interesting and when I think about my own life and my childhood, it makes a lot of sense.

Four Psychological Powers of Teddy Bears
By Priscilla V. Marotta (shortened by Laurette)

Teddy bears are a wonderful tool for psychological health. Look around your home and the home of your friends. Almost every home has a collectable teddy bear or a teddy bear figurine. What is so powerful about a teddy bear? Why does even the thought of a teddy bear bring a smile to your face? Teddy bears are cherished, many are collectable, and there are so many types of cuddly collectable teddy bears. This is understandable when you realize that there are four powerful psychological effects of teddy bears.

First, teddy bears are the symbol of child-like innocence. They remind of us of being nurtured and cared for by others. Teddy bears are a symbol of the care free moments of childhood when are greatest concerns were the next play time. We all hold on to our “inner child” that still remains with us.

Second, teddy bears remind us of a special person who loved us and brought us a teddy bear. Teddy bears remind us of the joy of being loved. Teddy bears are not a sex symbol…. they are a love symbol! They remind us that someone loves us and treasures us. Psychological assessment tests have proven teddy bears have a positive effect on people’s emotions. The psychological necessities for love and caring are central to human lives. Teddy bears are used by police officers and fire fighters to bring comfort to families who are experiencing difficulties. They are a universal symbol of caring.

Third, Teddy bears are also used as a special gift. The psychological value of treasured memories is great. Pleasant memories colour our world with happy thoughts and bring comfort in difficult times.

The fourth powerful psychological impact is the power of the soft touch. A huggable, warm teddy bear brings the comfort of touch. Touch is a powerful need among human beings. Holding something soft gives us immense psychological comfort. The ability to hug a soft object provides a seductive combination. Holding a teddy bear is a simple pleasure that provides relief from stress. A few moments with a teddy bear are a simple tool to bring your blood pressure down, put positive endorphins in your body, and provide a moment of peace.

It is amazing to realize that a teddy bear is a unique personalized gift and that teddy’s and special stuffed animals, could impart such comfort. Teddy bears are special. In today’s hectic world, a teddy bear is a proven comfort item with multiple psychological benefits.

Hug a teddy bear today!

I am reminded of a song my mother always used to sing to me as a child called “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” . . .

Teddy Bear’s Picnic Song

(If you don’t know the tune, check out this YouTube video.)

If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o’clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they’re tired little teddy bears.

If you go out in the woods today,
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic


Every teddy bear, that’s been good
Is sure of a treat today
There’s lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic


Conversations with Myself: Can you Hear Me?

Deaf (Interpreter Sign)

Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated from 29 August to 4 September. The purpose is to draw attention to Deaf people, their accomplishments and their issues. Deaf Awareness Week is dedicated to educating the public about hearing loss, deafness, Deaf culture and sign language. The aim is to ensure that hearing people understand deafness and the culture of the Deaf community.

For quite some time now I have been concerned about the Deaf and hearing impaired victims (I prefer to call them survivors) of crime and how they interact and navigate their way through our criminal justice system. I’ve had the nagging suspicion that most, if not all, are “falling through the cracks” and are left frustrated and angry for not being heard.

It was therefore a real god-send when I received my latest copy of Servamus (a community based safety and security magazine). I found an article written by Jeanette Smit, Head: Academic, Southern Business School (SBS). In the article, Jeanette highlights the following:-

In South Africa we have the Victims Charter (2004) which represents a variety of policy documents such as:
• White Paper on Safety and Security (1997)
• National Crime Prevention Strategy (1996)
• Annual Police Plan (2006)

The Victims Charter, however, has focused mainly on victims (survivors) without disabilities. The needs of victims, says Jeanette (as I suspected all along) does not explicitly address the needs of victims (survivors) with disabilities and does not make provision for allowing victims (survivors) with disabilities to have equal access to the system.

According to this article, the hearing-impaired are more vulnerable to criminal victimisation – both by caretakers and strangers. The following Acts and policies address the status of people with disabilities in South Africa:-

• The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
• The Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1997
• The Disability Act (currently being drafted)
• The Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998
• The Schools Act 84 of 1996
• Special Needs Education Policy, White Paper 6 (2001)
• Victim Empowerment Policy
• National Disability Policy (currently being drafted)

Jeanette found that according to the official Census report of 2001from Statistics South Africa, South Africa has approximately 300,000 Deaf people. The same report states there are 3,5 percent hearing-impaired people out of a total population of 51.7 million. The biggest group of the hearing-impaired people in South Africa prefers to be called Deaf.

The South African Police Service currently does not have any official statistics on how many Deaf people became victims of crime because neither the case docket nor the computerised system provides for the capturing of specific data of any victim with disabilities. Jeanette goes on to say that Deaf victims (survivors) experience communication barriers when reporting crimes and are therefore deprived of the rights to give evidence. People with disabilities sometimes have dependency issues and are scared to report crimes committed by caregivers, because they are dependent on those who abuse them. They have limited communication abilities and cannot verbalise victimisation. They live in isolation and fear of being rejected by society.

I was surprised to read in this article that no official Deaf sign language interpreter has been appointed by the Courts in South Africa – they mostly use hearing interpreters. Courts use ad hoc services and do not want to use relay interpreters, as Prosecutors believe they cannot be sworn in and it requires extra cost and time. Only seven sign language interpreters have been accredited by the South African Translation Institute for interpreting in legal proceedings.

Jeanette’s research also found (as I suspected for a while now) that the South African Police Service do not adhere to the basic rights of Deaf victims (survivors) in the following respects:

• They do not explain the victim’s right to demand/have access to an interpreter (one can therefore assume that statements are not a true-reflection of events in each case).
• Taking Police statements without an interpreter has the following outcomes:
– A hearing person makes a statement for a Deaf person to sign
– The Police make the statement, resulting in the disempowerment/marginalisation of the victim (survivor)
– A family member/teacher/social worker, whom the Police assume is a skilled signer, acts as interpreter.

Jeanette found that the South African Police Service started with training in sign language in 2006. The training at that stage was not standardised resulting in the provinces using any service provider that could provide the service. Training was standardised in 2009 when only one service provider was used to train members of all provinces thereby ensuring the same standard and level of training. To date, 450 members have been trained at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels after the standardisation. The challenge is that members need regular sessions to practice sign language in order to maintain the skill.
Based on the research done by Jeanette Smit for this article, the way forward would be:

• The CAS system/docket should make provision for documenting details when victims (survivors) with special needs (i.e. hearing impaired) are involved.
• Police members basic statement taking skills should be addressed.
• There should be a closer relationship between the Investigating Officer and the Prosecutor.
• There is a need for the training of Deaf counsellors
• All role-players in the Criminal Justice System should be sensitised in dealing with victims (survivors) with disabilities.
• Investigators should take note of aggravating circumstances where a victim has lost their hearing (became Deaf) as a result of a crime.
• The South African Police Service programme on teaching sign language should be reactivated
• More multilingual people who are skilled sign language interpreters should be used

I am so grateful to Jeanette for writing this article and for confirming what I already suspected for a while now. I just wish I knew who could fix this problems (within the South African Police Service) to prevent further victimisation of the Deaf.

Having completed the second phase of South African Sign Language (equivalent to first year University level), I’m asking myself the question “how can I help and make a difference in the justice system?”

The criminal justice system is not the only place where the Deaf are marginalised. Our health system is also failing our disabled people – more the Deaf than other disabilities because of the communication barriers.

How do we overcome this?

How can I help?