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

CHORUS

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

CHORUS

Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking

Brain

This past week I spent two days at a workshop hosted by National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) on the subject of Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking.

I found this workshop very interesting and informative because I learnt that criminal behaviour, just like any other behaviour, does not exist in a vacuum. In order to deal appropriately with crime perpetrators, one has to understand the individual in relation to him/herself, the community and the world in which we live.

Some of the key learning for me was:
• How the values, beliefs and attitudes of perpetrators influence their behaviour negatively because of their negative world view and their negative view of themselves.
• The most commonly cited macro-level factors that contribute towards crime are: population structure, rapid migration from rural to urban areas, high levels of unemployment, inadequate education, insufficient welfare services, weak areas within the criminal justice system, large scale illegal immigration, availability of firearms, porous borders which makes crime syndicates, trafficking and smuggling a viable option and inequality and poverty.
• The development of behavioural problems early in life and critical thinking errors in later life also contribute to a life of crime. The eight most common static and dynamic risk factors for youth and adult crime are: history of anti-social behaviour, anti-social personality pattern, anti-social cognition (thinking patterns), anti-social associates/friends, family and/or marital problems, school and/or work problems, leisure and/or recreation choices and substance abuse.
• Brain development – what really stood out for me is that the brain does not fully mature until between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age which means that classifying a person as an adult at age 18 is actually technically incorrect because research has shown that the brain actually only completes development (matures) by age 25 – this includes impulse control, planning, reasoning, thinking before acting, the regulation of emotion, abstract thinking, resistance to peer influence and the ability to delay gratification. Whether a person is mature enough to be classified as an adult therefore needs to be decided on an individual basis.
• Schemas (the way we view the world) – we learnt that there are 5 schemas and there are 18 early maladaptive schemas grouped within 5 domains i.e. disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance, other directedness, over-vigilance/inhibition and impaired limits.
• The link between emotion and cognition and criminals do not necessarily lack empathy towards their victims but that there is a selective application of empathy.
• There are 8 criminal thinking styles or patterns which support or reinforce four behavioural styles i.e. problem avoidance, interpersonal hostility, self-assertion deception and denial or harm (to others).
We also watched a DVD of an interview of a child abuse survivor called Beth. The interview was done when she was aged about 6 years and she vividly remembers everything that was done to her by her father when she was only 1 year old. It was really heart-wrenching to watch her and how she could recall everything without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Here is the link to the interview we watched: http://youtu.be/ME2wmFunCjU

Do yourself a favour and get the movie/DVD called Child of Rage and see for yourself the events that led up to this interview.

We also watched an interview of a young man accused of murder and this was also moving because of the total lack of emotion when he recalled the events leading up to the murder.

There was just so much information shared at this workshop over the two days that it will probably take a while for everything to sink into this little pea brain of mine.

I now see perpetrators of crime in a new light. Where it was easy to judge them before and write them off as the scum of the earth, I now look at them and say “why?” and “what went wrong?”

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Conversations with myself: Has the world gone mad?

Blind_Justice
Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others. Anonymous.

Since the brutal rape and disembowelment of a teenager recently and subsequent incidents of rape that have come to light, what have I been thinking? While most people have had knee-jerk reactions to finding solutions to rape i.e. castration, death penalty, to educate young men about sex, review childhood socialisation, anger management and conflict resolution skills for young people etc.

 I have done some more thinking around trying to understand the reasons behind the behaviour of the perpetrator. Can a rapist’s behaviour be explained – especially those who brutally disembowel or maim the victim? If so, what could be the possible reasons for such violent behaviour?

 Some people have suggested that:

  • Men felt emasculated because they could not fulfil the traditional role of breadwinner due to extreme poverty
  • Men are angry about the empowerment of women – angry that their jobs are being taken away by women
  • There a no male role models – most rapists are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers
  • Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) would not make a man rape but would make him more violent
  • Own childhood abuse

 Last weekend I attended a Trauma and Recovery workshop hosted by Families SA (Famsa) Western Cape, facilitated by the Transactional Analysis Association (TA Association) and presented by Joanna Beazley Richards – a registered trauma specialist from the Wealdon Insistute in the U.K. A profound statement made by Joanna has stuck in my head – she said: when it comes to trauma “the body remembers”. Joanna said it does not matter what the source or cause of the trauma is “the body remembers.” She also made reference to a book called “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild which she encouraged us to read. This book speaks of how your body remembers trauma no matter how long ago it experienced the trauma or what the source or cause of the trauma was.

This got me thinking about the perpetrators of these extremely violent and brutal rapes. I started to wonder whether there could possibly be a connection between childhood trauma (such as detachment by parents) and adult psychopathology.

Now why would I think this? Allow me to generalise throughout this blog post. In most of the cases involving brutal, violent rape, the perpetrator would usually have come from very poor socio-economic circumstances, usually raised by a single mother or grandparent mostly because of an absent father who disappeared the minute he heard the mother was pregnant. Or maybe the father stayed but resented the fact the mother got pregnant and beat her everyday of her life since finding out that she was pregnant. Very often these children would have been subjected to neglect and/or sexual abuse (childhood trauma) which could cause them to develop deep-rooted feelings of helplessness escaping into a world of sexual fantasy which can provide refuge from reality. This fantasy could be fuelled by the child’s own experience of early (premature) exposure to sexual activity, combined with pornographic material (magazines and/or movies), and assuming these children have been exposed to deviant sexuality probably since infancy, it is through modelling and conditioning that they develop their own deviant sexual fantasies. Themes such as power and anger – rather than sexual gratification are central to these fantasies and are believed to be the underlying motivation for rapists to commit their crimes (Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom, 1977). 

Sexual sadism and other paraphilia can cause rapists to engage in bizarre sexual behaviour, such as mutilation, bondage etc. There is even a rapist type (anger-excitation) dedicated to the sadistic rapist in Hazelwood and Burgess’ Rapist- Typology (1987). This means that there COULD be a connection between childhood trauma and psychopathology, however, a closer examination of the facts would be necessary to reach a definite conclusion.  [Thanks to Alexander Becker (Psychologist) for the references and some of the wording used here.]

So how do we deal with correcting this deviant behaviour in a pro-active way rather than being reactive?

Our department of Basic Education has a wonderful curriculum on Sex Education for children from grade 3 to grade 12. The problem here is, those who rape have either dropped out of school or have not gone to school at all. Also, the department curriculum focuses on teaching girls and boys to keep their bodies safe, not to trust strangers, to avoid peer pressure and how peer pressure and the choices they make could affect their lives. What protection does this offer me from being brutally raped and murdered and how does it stop boys from becoming brutal rapists?

Some people have come up with wonderful solutions of what various sectors of society (including Government) can do about the scourge of rape but these are, again, reactive as opposed to proactive solutions. It also still does not stop brutal rapes and murders taking place.

How then do we stop the scourge sweeping through our country? We need to look at the parenting skills and socialising of our children but how do we do this when (again I’m going to generalise), most of these rapists and murderers come from single parent homes where the primary caregiver is usually using alcohol or drugs (or both), mostly unemployed or living off a social grant of some kind or earning so little money they can barely afford the necessities. They often live in squalor (overcrowded houses), sometimes even homeless. How do we teach them parenting skills (new ways of parenting)? Their way of parenting is the way they were raised and because it is the only way they know, they don’t see what the problem is.

Also, how do we approach these parents? We cannot just knock on their door or walk up to them and say “please come to our parenting classes or parenting workshop”. Can you just imagine what sort of reaction we would get? I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction would be to get defensive (with a few superlatives thrown in for good measure).

 We could also start with those who have just started school and offer parenting skills classes from around grade 8 onwards but that excludes a whole bunch of children growing up and becoming parents in the meantime.

So what do we do? Mmmmmm . . . ???

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In pursuit of my African Dream – please tell me why?

Today my post is going to be based on an article I read in one of our morning newspapers: The Cape Times, Thursday July 5, 2012 (page 9). The headline of this particular article was:  “A raped child is devastated and suffers unimaginable mental torment”: by Carmel Rickard

A few points in this article struck a cord or two in me . . .

I quote: The two high court judges saw fit to scrap the life sentence imposed on the attacker and reduced the punishment to 22 years on the grounds that . . .

  • The 30 year old rapist was a “first offender”
  • The 7 year old girl who “suffered serious mental anxiety” was not “physically harmed” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor”.

Mmmm  . . .”suffered serious mental anxiety” and was “not physically injured” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor. What could “serious mental anxiety” mean for a 7 year old?  The 7 year old could possibly:

 

  • Behave out of character? Not want to eat or sleep? Not speak to anybody (be withdrawn most of the time), at times be aggressive?
  • Walk about restlessly or aimlessly, constantly looking over her shoulder as if waiting for someone to come?
  • Be unable to sleep – refusing to answer when asked what’s the matter?
  • Fearful of all strangers (especially men)?
  • Wetting the bed and possibly even soiling herself – not wanting to be left alone (not even to go to the bathroom)?
  • Might insist that all doors and windows be kept closed at all times?
  • Be intensely distressed and deeply frightened?
  • Experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Be “hyper vigilant”, constantly monitoring her environment because of feeling afraid and unsafe?
  • Experience deep emotional pain manifested by “uncontrollable crying”?
  • Feel overwhelmed by fears and anxiety – could suffer from “severe insomnia and nightmares”?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to live like this as an adult, let alone as a 7 year old child. Just reading this article has made my stomach churn. Your childhood is supposed to be the best time of your life. You are supposed to be happy and carefree. Children should be able to trust ALL adults they come into contact with, no matter where they are.

I have a 4 year old niece and a 7 year old nephew.  I often sit and watch them while they are playing and try to imagine how I would react if anyone dared to violate either one of them in any way. I will probably have to be locked away in a mental institution for the rest of my life.

I must say that having a physical disability makes me feel as vulnerable as a child because it does not take much force to make me lose my balance which leaves me vulnerable to a whole myriad of possible violations. I could so easily be raped, sodomised, or violated in any other way and I would have very little chance of coming away unscathed physically. All this being said, I avoid going anywhere I’ve never been to before, I avoid clubs and any other “social” places, I avoid going out at night if at all possible and on the rare occasions that I do, I make sure I get home as early as I can. I don’t go to church at night anymore and I don’t even walk around my own neighbourhood for fear of being identified as a “soft target” by some unscrupulous opportunist out there.

I am “hyper vigilant” even when driving my own car. I am suspicious of anyone coming towards me, no matter where I am. Even when at home, doors and security gates are always closed and locked. I keep the curtains shut so nobody can monitor my movements inside the house. My house is so well burglar guarded that the only way in would be through the roof and through the trap-door. When I get up during the night to go to the bathroom I always glance up to make sure the trap-door is still shut and that there is no evidence of anyone trying to get into the house.

This is what it is like for me – a “nearly 50 year old “ adult with a disability, so what must it be like for a 7 year old child? Then again, 7 years of age is not the youngest to be targeted. Here in sunnySouth Africa, even babies of a few months are raped and sodomised by adult men. Babies, who have even less control over their bodies and environments.

My mind boggles at how an adult male can attach himself to a baby a few months old and yet it has happened – not once or twice but too often to mention.

Please tell me why? What happens inside the brain to make any male capable of something like this . . .  I cannot even find a word strong enough in my vocabulary to describe this act/deed.

What has gone wrong with the human race? Even dogs and animals in the wild nurture and protect their own. Have you watched a lioness with her cubs? The lion who provides for his family and protects them at all costs?

 When will this scourge of violence against women and children in our country end? Please tell me when?

Some of the perpetrators of violence will tell you they need help but cannot specify exactly what it is they need you to do in order to help them. I know poverty, hunger, overcrowded homes (in some cases no homes) have a part to play in all this but violence against women and children will not make this go away. After raping a woman or child you will still be hungry, homeless, unemployed etc. So what is the point?

Why do this at all?

 Please tell me why?

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In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart is breaking . . .

With reference to my blog yesterday (In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart aches) and an article in the Cape Argus tonight “Answering for Injustice” – DA demands an explanation for courts turning away women in need of protection (page 6).

I would like to say thank you to the DA spokesperson for women and children for:-

• Slamming the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities for her response to the matter, saying it was inadequate.

• Questions she (the DA spokesperson) will be submitting to the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities in Parliament to determine what interventions her department has made to ensure the protection of all women.

• Questions she (the DA spokesperson) will be submitting to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in Parliament asking what steps the Minister will be taking to ensure that all women who go to court will receive the assistance they need. I agree that the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities must take “personal responsibility” for ensuring that women are protected and that the Minister is also responsible for ensuring that the activities of various government departments are co-ordinated to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable groups. For the Minister not to do so, would undermine her department’s very reason for being in existence.

As I continue to read the very same newspaper, I turn the page and see the following headline: “US man abused SA children” – Peace Corps volunteer used his position to prey on young girls. Can you believe this? The article goes on to say the following:-

• He (the man from the US) has admitted he sexually abused four young girls while serving in South Africa.

• He faces up to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing the girls while serving at Umvoti Aids Centre in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

• He pleaded guilty in the US District Court to travelling from the US to ENGAGE IN ILLICIT SEXUAL CONDUCT WITH CHILDREN. Can you believe this? Was this his intention when he came or did he just suddenly “get the urge”?

• Authorities say the victims (I call them survivors) were three and six years old at the time.

• He was supposed to be helping young children in need, many of whom were orphans but preyed on them instead.

I really don’t want to sound like someone who hates men (because I don’t) – I know there are some good men left in the world (they are just getting more and more difficult to find, these days), but because it is mostly men who prey on females (children and adults) I must ask this question: “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Please help me to understand what is going on inside your head to make you want to do something like this to A CHILD!!!!!!! If you really have to rape, molest, sodomise, sexually assault etc, why not pick on an adult?

I am definitely not condoning violence against women of any age, but to do this to a child? WHY??????

I really need to understand what goes on in the mind of a man who does this – I hope someone reading this blog can explain this to me, please?

I have done 2 years of Psychology, been part of a rehabilitation group for sexual offenders, have resumed my studies, and still I have not found one person (male) who can give me a logical explanation for abusing a child. What goes on in the mind for a man to cross the line?

As mentioned earlier, I have resumed my studies to become a Criminologist because I seriously need to understand this phenomenon. What causes a man to see a child as an object merely there to satisfy his need for power and control? Let’s face it – sexual abuse has got very little to do with sex itself – it is all about having power and control over the one being abused.

A child? A precious child who needs to be nurtured, loved and protected? A child who loves unconditionally and only asks to be loved and accepted in return? Once a child has been violated, he/she is never the same again.

The innocence and unconditional trust of those known and unknown is lost forever. The child looks at all males older than him/her and wonders “Can I trust you or will you also hurt me?”

The child (Psychologically) will live forever behind closed doors – physically, the bedroom door which was always open and unlocked will now be kept closed permanently (the child might become obsessive about this, resulting in all the doors in the house always being kept closed), the child will have experience great difficulty and anxiety in being alone in a room with a male (whether a peer or an adult), even cousins, uncles, fathers and grandfathers will be looked on suspiciously – the child will always wonder “can I trust you or will you also hurt me?”.

Whenever a male speaks the child will wonder “what do you want from me – do you also want to do XXXX to me?”

The child becomes a teenager, then an adult – but through all these life stages, the child carries the trauma of what happened when still a child . . .

What are we doing to our women and children?

If you have any insights to my questions, please leave a comment to this blog, alternatively . . .

E-mail: womendemanddignity5@gmail.com

Website: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za

Justice delayed is justice denied!