Digesting Life...

Africa Again

March 10, 2019

Day one of these travels proved to be exciting. I highly recommend taking advantage of a back and neck massage service at the airport pre-flight. Although quite costly, it served to loosen tensions that made a 15 hour flight bearable.

Most flights I have experienced have been uneventful until now. Thirteen hours in, the older man in the row in front of my position exposed his drunken self by playing music at a loud volume. He raised a fist at the most patient attendant and exchanged the usual expletive before cozying himself off to slumber.

Fourteen hours in a mother with a newborn panicked loudly that “he’s not breathing. Get a doctor, please." Her despair was real and challenged me to feel her pain. The attendants rushed to her aid and resolved the issue, reassuring her he was breathing as well as administered oxygen.

Most heartbreaking was the young woman in our row who was emotional the entire trip. She was up and down, unable to rest and was tearful. My understanding was satisfied when it was revealed she was on her way home to Pakistan because her father had just died less than 24 hours prior. She allowed us to pray for her and I believe a connection was created with our new Muslim friend. Before we departed, I gave her a card to contact if she wanted and she gave a hug in her traditional manner. And, yes, I allowed that meaningful interaction. The last leg of this journey is in progress. About 6 hours to go until arrival in Lusaka. God is certainly leading us.

March 11, 2019

This morning started with a workout and then a very British breakfast at a restaurant down the street. The plan was to go to the Ridgeway campus of the medical school to inquire about students who can complete the questionnaire. Far exceeding our expectations again, God has lined us up with the right people after only one inquiry. We were warmly greeted by students who remembered us from our last visit. The school is giving us three days during which they will announce that we are here and would like them to participate. Joy and Vivek (two 6th year students) met us and insured that they would make the 4th year students available to us. They run the clinical lab at this time and will give us access to that room where we spent time with Dr. Cheryl when we assisted her with the medical student clinicals. The Zambia community at the medical school placed a memorial photo of Dr. Snyder on the wall. Her vision to build awareness to addressing the mental health well being of the students is a goal that appears to be moving in a positive direction. In the last two years, there have been others who are becoming aware of addressing the mental health of medical students as the suicide rate among this population has increased. It is hoped that we can somehow work together to identify the need to providing mental health services, which will result in designing how it can be implemented to benefit not only the students but the school program as well.

Prayer needs for today include: That the distribution of the questionnaire runs smoothly; that we continue to be directed to the proper authorities who will assist us in identifying teaching opportunities in the future; that this beautiful weather continues throughout our stay; that our bodies acclimate to the time change for this very short trip and for safe travels.

Managing Me

The most important person to manage in a conflict is oneself. Without this focus, the chaos that ensues spreads with abandon like a flesh eating fungus. Being able to refrain from engaging in a problem leaves a leader available to engage towards a solution. It also sets the leader apart from the emotions of the moment, leaving them to respond with every portion of their thinking brain.

Most people do not like conflict and will do anything to avoid it. The idea of conflict can differ vastly in meaning. There are some who would consider conflict to be an occasion when someone disagrees with them. Others might describe it as elevated voices, as well as times when people do not listen. Know how conflict is defined in your life and your perceptions about how people respond to you. Through that work, insight can be gained which will enable you to effectively enter the conflict you are called to resolve.

Emotional intelligence

When conflict arises, someone has to practice emotional intelligence in order to influence a positive outcome. According to Badberry and Greaves, controlling emotions and defining the role emotions play in our daily life is what emotional intelligence is about. It is defined as being able to understand your emotions and to recognize emotions in others which will lead to an ability to manage personal behavior and relationships.

The emotionally intelligent individual is a thinker who is mindful of others and their surroundings. It is an intangible ability to navigate difficult situations and work through important decisions that produces positive results.

Managing oneself is a necessary component to achieving emotional intelligence. Bradberry and Greaves, in Emotional Intelligence 2.0, offer legitimate strategies that move one to an awareness of handling oneself in all aspects of life. One such way to accomplish successful self-management with others is to consider every encounter with others as a learning experience, thus relieving the pressure and stress of personalizing the encounter.

Knowing oneself offers everyone else a chance to interact with emotional intelligence. It sounds like an easy prescription to resolving conflict but is most difficult to achieve. Depending on one’s worldview, knowing who one is can be too painful an experience to attempt and live out. Many times people assume the persona of others while masking their true self in the process.

Something is going on internally

Conflicted people are usually afraid of something, which inspires them to be unsettled, causing everyone around them to be susceptible to the vacuum of their dysfunction. Even storm chasers get just close enough to the chaos without becoming a part of it. The conflicted person creates the tornado and extends a hand to whoever lacks the emotional maturity to refrain from joining in. What follows is a disorderly mess with no resolve.

Engaging in conflict involves a biological response of the limbic system, in particular the amygdala, which sounds the signal of danger and moves an individual to protect themselves at all costs. It may start with words and can easily escalate to a perception that physical protection is the only recourse. When that stage is reached, the damage that is done is most difficult to resolve.

The spiritual connection

For the one who believes in God and the truth of the cross, defining the core self is not complicated. It is difficult, however, as it requires the exercise of faith to believe that God has freed all from their wrongdoings and adds mercy to the mix in spite of the grace of the pain of the cross. Ephesians 2:8 explains how this gift comes solely from God with nothing to be added by humans in order to eliminate the pride that often follows works.

When the identity of self is grounded in the work of the cross that transformation can then support the ability to handle conflict from a spiritual perspective and understanding. Many times the act of Jesus, when he cleared the temple, is used as an excuse for allowing anger to be a part of everyday life. That thought process misses the point that Jesus, who is God, acted in a human body, but handled the business of God, leaving the comparison to man’s anger a weak example. Jesus’ point of view was different than ours.

Managing one’s involvement in conflict moves from knowing who one is to being empathic towards the conflict maker. That person thinks, perceives and expresses themselves in a unique manner and it is imperative to interact with them on their level of abilities without the expectations they can see things as they should. It requires a focus on the person, their affect and the words they expel. All of this information gathering in the moment will allow for the thinking brain to keep functioning so that the biological process previously described does not set off the fight or flight stage.

Moving forward

Establishing mental focal points is one way to address the habit of reacting to a distressful encounter. This involves taking the time to keep the brain thinking and distracted from defensive talk. For example, when someone puts out an accusation that is not true, a focal point could consist of self-talk which asks the question, “Is what they are saying true?” If the answer is yes, then resolve to correct that behavior if it is problematic. If the answer is no, then resolve that the truth does not need to be defended. While the aggressor may be tantrumming there will be an obvious contrast between behaviors. The party who has emotional control will walk away with both peace and power.

Be a first responder and not a first reactor. The first responder earned the name because when they appear on the scene, they are calm and focused on assessing the scene and then taking action. A first reactor arrives with their own anxiety that spreads a negative attitude over the scene, which interferes with the victim’s ability to trust the help that is being administered and could negatively interfere with the outcome.

Avoid thinking that others are manipulative and present a roadblock to impede good decision making. An external view that others are to blame for personal choices supports a victim mentality. It leaves one thinking they have less control over life, which is far from the truth. Owning one’s decision making abilities as well as the resulting decisions is essential. Blamers do not handle conflict very effectively and many times are the perpetrators of conflict.

Defensiveness is a communication killer. The defensive person approaches issues with passionate anger and insecurity. There is also a recognizable affect that attaches to the defensive person. Imagine raised clenched fists, tense muscles and agitation. Many times they confidently describe walls they have installed in their lives for their emotional safety. The reality is that the walls of defensiveness feed conflict.

Watch people and observe interactions in different settings.as an educational task. Take note of the differences in affect of people in varying circumstances. Observe an argument and note the emotions that may, or may not be seen.

Managing me in conflict starts with knowing me before the conflict. Doing the work to refine my attitudes and define what I stand for produces a peacemaker.

References

Bradberry, T. and Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego, CA: Talent Smart.

How to negotiate co-worker conflicts: 7 tips for managers. (2018). HR Specialist, 16(8), 6.

Father’s Day

To my children on Father’s Day. . .

I robbed you of this day when I did not marry my match under the healthy circumstances required to build a strong foundation under a marriage. This is not a letter of regrets but a writing to acknowledge how difficult your lives have been because you did not have a father to raise you. You missed out on the daddy love that only men can give. The leadership with authority and service that only men can give. The example of how to be a man for my sons and how to choose a man for my daughter that only a man can give. Many of life’s challenges are rooted in this deficiency for each of you. I admit that my actions contributed to this loss as a relationship involves two people doing it right or wrong. This is an instance when no action can resolve your experience. Some things just need to be addressed in a formal manner. . .

To fathers, I ask that you lead your families with the heart of a servant, and that you acquire the knowledge of what that looks like. Your role has been discounted and dumbed down. However, you are important indeed. All it takes is one man to stand up and be a father to his child(ren) and the example will multiply others to step back into their roles. Happy Father’s Day, 2018.

Sharing Toys

Toys can produce problems for sure. Sometimes you find there are too many, and they keep coming. Siblings fight over them, you step on them in the dark and trip over them in the light of day.

The shared toy dilemma can be resolved by keeping the toys in one area that is off limits to the children. You maintain control of them by checking one toy in and out like the library checks out books. Clearly explain to both children that if they continue to allow their sibling to play with their checked out toy when either one of them loses their toy privilege, then that consequence will result in no toy privilege for the offending sibling, twice as long.

Do not allow your eight year old to break you down when you must exert your authority. Now it may take some organization to get started, but I guarantee that any chaos of toy sharing will be nicely resolved.

Moving the Family

Parents are often faced with the dilemma to move or not to move. There are many factors which can influence this decision. When a child does not want to move, this compounds the problem. The reasons for the move are the first considerations. If it comes down to improving the family lifestyle there is nothing wrong with parents limiting the final decision to their discussion. Considering the wishes of their child(ren) can be a part of any informed decision. However, making it the basis of said decision might not be the best course to pursue.

Husbands and wives should discuss issues first between the two of them, which is a perfect example of putting the marriage first. This provides an example for the child(ren) that the parenting unit can take care of them and they will be safe. A child’s reluctance against a move can vary but many times it is due to a self centered reason such as leaving friends. It is understandable when a child wants to continue to enjoy living next door to their “besties.” However, the neighbors probably would not extend the same commitment to never move for the sake of a friendship. Further, often “best” relationships evolve and others take their place.

Carefully assessing where you would move, taking into consideration the proximity to the children’s school and friends (if it is local), is a fulfillment of a due diligence test. If you move, your child(ren) will have to learn how to handle their disappointment, stress, depression, anxiety or whatever other feelings they may conjure up. If you decide to stay put, do it because you both have decided you do not want to upgrade your lifestyle. Young children do not know what is best for them, that is why they have parents. Parenting often involves making decisions that your children feel is unfair. If you approach parenting in an emotional manner than you will give in to every childish whim in order to not upset them. That is not how the real world works and does not prepare a child to become an adult who is personally responsible for their actions.

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