Dear Diary: Social exclusion really hurts . . .


Every human being wants to matter. Exclusion creates self-doubt and affects the quality of work produced.

Have you ever been rejected or socially excluded at some point in your life? Do remember how you felt when that happened? Lousy wasn’t it?

Social exclusion results in anger, depression, withdrawal and vindictive behaviour. Tangible threats to socially mediated pain are: being excluded, being disrespected, being embarrassed, being undermined and being overlooked or unfairly treated.

In South Africa a large part of our population has suffered social rejection/exclusion through apartheid as a result of the colour of their skin. Many of these people have become murderers and rapists which leaves us with the question: why? Why do they behave the way they do?

What are the reasons for someone to punch, kick, stab or fire a gun at someone else or even him/herself? Why do some men deliberately seek out women and children to brutally rape and/or murder?

Expression: Some people use violence as a mechanism to release feelings of anger or frustration. They believe there are no answers to their problems and turn to violence to express their emotions which are out of control.

Manipulation: Violence is used as a way to control others or get something they want.

Retaliation: Violence is used to retaliate against those who have hurt them or someone they care about.

Violence is a learned behaviour: Like all learned behaviours, it can be changed. This is not easy because there is no single cause of violence – there is not one simple solution. The best we can do is learn to recognise the warning signs of violence and to get help when you see them in others or in yourself.

Warning signs of youth violence:
People who act violently usually . . .
• Have trouble controlling their feelings
• May have been hurt by others
• Think that making people fear them through violence or threats of violence will solve their problems or earn them respect. Some violence occurs as a response to prolonged hurt, trauma, bullying or victimisation. People may use violence to get something, while others may act out of self-protection or desperation. People who behave violently lose respect. They eventually find themselves isolated or disliked, and they still feel angry and frustrated.

Anger itself is not always a sign that violence is imminent. While anger may be a warning sign of violence, it must be put in context. In fact, by assuming that anger or increased substance abuse will always lead to violence means that many non-violent people who are in need of help become unfairly characterized as violent. What is most important to look at is if there are “new” signs and significant changes in behavior.

The presence of some of the signs or factors listed below should alert us to the possibility that an individual may be at risk of violence. It should be noted, however, that the presence of one or more signs or factors does not necessarily mean that the person will be violent.

Some signs of potential for violence may be historical or static (unchangeable) factors like:
• A history of violent or aggressive behavior
• Young age at first violent incident
• Having been a victim of bullying
• History of discipline problems or frequent conflicts with authority
• Early childhood abuse or neglect
• Having witnessed violence at home
• Family or parent condones use of violence
• A history of cruelty to animals
• Having a major mental illness
• Being callous or lacking empathy for others
• History of vandalism or property damage

Other signs of potential violence may be present over time and may escalate or contribute to the risk of violence given a certain event or activity. These might include:
• Serious drug or alcohol use
• Gang membership or strong desire to be in a gang
• Access to or fascination with weapons, especially guns
• Trouble controlling feelings like anger
• Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
• Regularly feeling rejected or alone
• Feeling constantly disrespected

Some signs of potential violence may be new or active signs. They might look like:
• Increased loss of temper
• Frequent physical fighting
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Increased risk-taking behavior
• Declining school performance
• Acute episode of major mental illness
• Planning how to commit acts of violence
• Announcing threats or plans for hurting others
• Obtaining or carrying a weapon

The pain of social rejection:
Reasons for violence:

Having said all this, how does this relate to perpetrators of crimes like: Alison Botha, Valencia Farmer, Anene Booysen, Reeva Steenkamp and others? What went wrong in the lives of the perpetrators of these crimes to make them do what they did?

The major causes of Criminality:
What is the source of our ideas, schemes, anger, greed, lust, passion, jealousy?

• Lack of hope?
• A mixture of biological dispositions and environmental influences?
• Living in communities and regulating social behaviour?
• Overt behavioural causes (surface behaviour) of crime: Lust, greed, ego, passion and jealousy? Are these controllable?
• Covert behavioural causes: ideas, motivations, schemes, urges, passions, aversions, revulsions, thoughts and desires?
• Inability to conform, the amount of life stressors we experience, the availability of criminal outlets, biological dispositions toward impulsiveness and neurotransmitter dis-regulation, the specific demands that are imposed on individuals (based on what society they live in, what their social standing is, and how they perceive their roles)?
• Nature and nurture i.e. we are a product of our genetics, upbringing and culture?
• Our biology and attitude (culture)?
• The lack of learning the benefits of delayed gratification?

Overt behaviour is what can be observed by us and others
Covert behaviour (private behaviour) is what is observed by the individual alone (like his thinking process) but, who is thinking and who is observing?

How would you answer these questions?

What, in your view, are the solutions?

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Dear Diary: Far from the maddening crowd . . .

50 Aged to Perfection

Three weeks ago I said goodbye to my 40s and hello to my 50s. Physically, nothing has changed. Psychologically, I think there has been a shift.

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

The day before the big “50”, we were given the news that my mom’s chemo treatment was being stopped immediately because it was not working and that her Cancer is now at stage four. How is one supposed to deal with this kind of news the day before you enter the next decade of your life?

NJ & Mom closer

My defence/coping mechanism was to switch off emotionally, to be my practical, realistic self in just getting on with the job of coping with daily life. I had more than enough to keep me in this “switched off” mode. Coming home from a day at the office, it was straight off to the kitchen to get the evening meal prepared, dishes to wash etc. For escaping from reality – there was social media. In between all this, I had to make some attempt at opening my books (assignments due in March – a few weeks away), but what about the rest of my life? Where do I want to be in five or ten years from now?

I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of the corporate world. I have been in formal employment since the age of eighteen years. I cannot see myself in formal employment for another ten years (until I reach the age of sixty years), so I’ve decided to spend the next five years working hard to prepare for an early retirement from formal employment.

Would I stop going out to an office job entirely? Not necessarily, but I would like to have the freedom to choose to work three or four days per week rather than a full five day week. I would like the freedom to be able to take a “creative sabbatical” to do whatever makes me happy. So, what would I do all day, I hear you asking.

I recently read an article – see: which helped me shape this part of my story. I used some of what was said and tried to give it my own “spin”, here goes . . .

In pursuit of the creative dream (goodbye tension, hello pension), the top ten misconceptions of a stay-at-home person is as follows:

1) You don’t work
This really depends on your definition of “work”. If you are referring to formal employment where you go out to an office to do work which you are paid for, then yes, I won’t work, however, doing what I have chosen to do can still be classified as work. When I sit at my desk and switch on my PC or laptop, I am working. When I make a card or little gift for someone, I am working . . .

2) What will you do all day? I would be bored if I had to stay at home all day
Firstly, given the fact that I would not have to check in at a particular time because I am being paid by the hour, I would now ease into my mornings (seeing as I am not a morning person anyway). I would therefore start my day at whatever time I choose to do so.

What I choose to do once I have started my day can vary from baking a cake for a friend, making a card/gift for a friend’s special event/occasion, I could go back to playing the piano/organ/keyboard which is something I neglected while being in full time employment, I could attempt to get through the mountain of books I’ve not had time to read while I was in fulltime employment, I could catch up with long lost friends or relatives I’ve neglected while in fulltime employment – the list is endless. There is too much to do to have time to be “bored”.

3) But you don’t “work”
Refer to point number one (1) please.

4) You are lost – no direction in your life!
What makes you think I would be lost? The path I’m on right now could be and probably is part of my journey called life. Just because I’m not following the path you created in your mind for me, does not mean that I am lost and that I have no direction. This is the right path for me to be on right now. This is what makes me happy.

5) You probably spend all day in bed or at the beach, reading books or getting spa treatments
How I wish this would be the case. You have no idea how quickly time goes when you just have so much to fit into one day. Certain things can only be done during daylight hours which means that by the time those things are done, you are sometimes left with the same amount of time you would have had if you were in fulltime employment.

6) It must be so nice being at home. You can surf the internet, drink tea/coffee, watch TV all day long etc
Surprisingly, NO! There is so much I could have, would have liked to have done while I was in fulltime employment, that I certainly don’t have time to waste surfing the internet, sitting and drinking tea/coffee and watching TV all day. That is BORING and would drive me mad. Keeping busy is the best thing. If I did surf the internet, it would be for information which would be beneficial for me to use in a project I’ve planned or to share with someone who needs that information.

7) You are on Facebook 24/7! Clearly you have so much time on your hands
– Facebook is my “escape” from reality and I am a sharer. I like sharing information which could be useful to others. I like learning from others and one can learn so much from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
– I do Facebook, Twitter and other social media while I’m having lunch or after supper while watching TV. Its called multi-tasking.
– Facebook is also a less intrusive way of finding out what’s happening in the lives of my friends and family. It could enable me to offer my help or assistance where it might be needed.

8) You don’t wake up to go to work, your life is a breeze
– I would not wake up to go to “work” but wake up to “work on my life” – to do the things I enjoy.
– I would not say my life would be a breeze. Time management when you’re at home all day is just as much of a challenge as when you are formally employed on a fulltime basis.

9) Aren’t you worried you will turn into one of “those” women?
– Who exactly are “those women” and who are you to judge? Who are you to define them? Are these maybe the princesses, the kept women or the desperate housewives?
– So what if I have chosen to become one of “those” women? Maybe that’s exactly what need to be right now?

10) Well, you don’t have a job, and you don’t have a husband and children. So what are you doing with your life?
– The freedom of “unemployment” is that you have the time to do whatever you choose ie. Spend quality time with a loved one or friend, help a friend to shop for the perfect outfit for an exciting event in her life, take a long scenic drive to see a part of the city you’ve never seen before, do volunteer work or attend an NGO meeting, have coffee with someone who needs a listening ear or shoulder to cry on.

You see, I can be happy and fulfilled in my life knowing that the “cost” of living now and in the future has been taken care of by my exceptional planning skills.

Dear Diary: Life’s Curve Balls!

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @

Isn’t it strange how life throws you curve balls when you least expect it?

2014 was the year I would be celebrating my big “50th” birthday. I was so excited about the prospect, not knowing what to expect from my family in terms of celebration i.e. I’m the one always organising surprise parties and I wondered if one was going to be organised for me.

I started hinting about this a few months before Christmas (I like to be pro-active and be prepared in advance) and there was no indication from anyone that there would be a surprise party. I was on my own. If I wanted to have a party, I would have to organise one myself. Sigh!

October 2013 onward had me planning, adjusting the budget a million times to make the rands and cents work. I eventually settled on a plan. Instead of throwing away a whole lot of money on one big party, I would book mom and myself into a Spa for a day (the day of my actual birthday) for a spa treatment and we would “sleep it off” at the same hotel that night and leave the following day. I would also take the whole week off from work (as opposed to only taking the day of my birthday) and spend the rest of the week doing day trips in and around the city where I live. The Saturday following my birthday, we would have a High Tea for some close friends and family. By Christmas break, my plans were finalised and we were all set, waiting for the big day to arrive. The plans for my birthday were made based on mom having chemo treatment during the week of 27 January 2014.

Here’s where the first curve ball came: mom was scheduled for a CT Scan on 29 January 2014 to see whether her chemo treatment was working and, unbeknown to me, chemo treatment is not administered in the same week as a CT Scan. This meant that mom’s treatment was postponed to the week of 3 February (my birthday was on 4 February). Not a problem, I thought. There is enough time to make adjustments to my plans so instead of applying for one week’s leave, I would only apply for two days (seeing as mom would be sleeping most of the time after treatment, there was no point in being home if she could not join me). We would then still go for our Spa treatment and stay overnight at the hotel as planned.

Another curve ball: I was informed that with chemo treatment, it is not advisable to have a full body massage as the pressure of the massage could cause the cancer to spread. Not a problem I thought: I contacted the Spa and asked if they could change mom’s treatment to a Manicure and Pedicure only and I would still have my full body massage.

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @

Next curve ball: The 3rd February arrives and I take mom in for her chemo treatment. We see the doctor first (as is usually the case on the first day of chemo) who informs us that mom’s chemo will be stopped immediately because it is not working and that the cancer has now spread to the liver, lungs and on the glands around the kidneys. The cancer is now at stage four (4). The emotional rollercoaster this put us on would not just disappear by tomorrow. This put a real damper on me even wanting to celebrate my birthday, however, plans were in place. There was no way I could cancel everything now. We arrived home at about midday, had lunch and started sending text messages to everyone we knew to let them know the bad news about mom. This, in a way, was therapeutic for both mom and myself as it seemed to have taken the sting out of what the doctor said. I, however, still have not had the time to deal with the emotional and Psychological effects of this blow and am still feeling very emotional about this whole ordeal as I write this blog.

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @

The day of my birthday finally arrives and mom and I check in at the hotel, have lunch, have our Spa treatment and relax for the rest of the day. We try our best not to talk about the cancer issue – I’m too emotional about the whole thing and did not want to “spoil” my birthday by crying my eyes out the whole day. I also don’t want mom to see me cry because it will upset her because she is always wanting to “fix” things and this is something she is powerless to “fix”. Mom and I then agreed that, for the sake of granting me at least ONE day to enjoy my birthday, we would not talk about the cancer issue.

Back home the next day we went back to reality and everything went back to normal. Responding to friends and family phoning and texting us regarding our news . . .

Photo by: Tami Magnin

Photo by: Tami Magnin @

The Saturday following my birthday, we had a High Tea at one of our local hotels (The Cape Grace Hotel at the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town). It was a small group of about 20 made up of friends and family. I was hoping to use the opportunity to thank those present for the role they played in my life but was not able to say as much as I wanted to because of the pent up emotions regarding my mom’s diagnosis, I almost burst into tears a few times. Nevertheless, we managed to have a good time in each others company so everything turned out well in the end.

There is a saying that goes

“when life throws you lemons, make lemonade”.

Did I do this? I think I did!

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
David Brinkley