Chicken. Pigeon. Cat. Dog.

                                                                         

Chicken.

Pigeon.

Cat.

Dog.

How would you categorize these animals?

Years ago, an anthropology professor of mine posed this question. It was based on the experiences of one of her students who came from Africa. He was smart with excellent grades but he repeatedly failed biology.

One day, he suddenly leaped up from his desk and yelled, “I’ve got it!” He wrote “chicken, pigeon, cat, dog” on the board and asked his classmates to sort them into categories.  American students instantly grouped together the chicken and pigeon because they are birds and the cat and dog because they are household pets.

“Wrong,” he said, “here’s how they should be grouped. Chicken and dog belong together because if you feed them, they will stay at home. Pigeon and cat go together because if you feed them, they may still leave home to go wandering”.

We group animals, people, and things in specific ways based on our cultural expectations. Our cultural expectations are based on assumptions that are so old, so ingrained they are invisible just like the air we breathe. These assumptions then shape our world view.

When our assumptions are harmless, like how to categorize four common animals, it’s mildly amusing. But some assumptions lead to the “us v. “them” world view.  We are convinced that our world view is the “right” view because we never want to question our assumptions.

That’s why it’s naïve to believe that different groups of people can overcome their differences simply by talking to each other.  That’s also why it is so difficult to overcome prejudices.  The earthquake that reshapes our assumptions is internal.

I’ve been fascinated by the question of cultural expectations ever since my anthropology professor posed her question to a classroom of college kids who thought they were really smart but who couldn’t see the assumptions that shaped their cultural expectations.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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The Other Side of the Couch – A Storm Passes  

 

A friend and I were recently eating lunch at a popular Nashville restaurant.

We often sit toward the back of the restaurant, and this is also the area that many of the families with young children choose.  As we sat down and were served our meal, a little girl, perhaps four or five, dissolved into loud sobs.  Her distress intensified, as did the sound of her crying.

What happened next was amazing.

The child’s father, seated to her right, calmly pulled her chair closer to his, reached out, and gathered her into his arms, holding her close against his shoulder – and he just held her and let her cry.  He didn’t talk; he didn’t explain or tell her what to do; he didn’t tell her to pull herself together – he just held her and let her cry.

Within a couple of minutes the sobs began to diminish.  The child sat up, took some breaths, and soon got back to her own chair and her own meal.

The storm had passed.

We never really knew what precipitated her distress.  It could have been anything – hurt feelings, not liking her lunch, competing with her sister, wanting attention – we didn’t know.  What we did know, however, was that this father knew that if he let his daughter feel what she was feeling, without interfering or explaining or trying to change things, she would work it through.  And she did.

Children are so in touch with their feelings and their bodies – they know that they need to express the emotions that arise in them.   Our job is often to stay out of their way as they do so.  A child who has experienced a challenging moment has feelings arise and allows those feelings to move.  Loving presence is often the best thing we can offer.

What if the child were acting out – throwing things or harming self or others?  In that case, clear boundaries must be set, but loving presence as the child works through the experience is still needed.

I appreciated this father’s skill.  His daughter is being given a gift that will last a lifetime.  Would that all children could have that opportunity.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com .

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Havana: A City Caught in The Past But Looking Toward the Future

We recently spent two days in Havana, Cuba as part of a Caribbean cruise. As children who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, my husband and I know nothing of a world in which the tiny island was a hub of glamour, music, beauty, and of course, The Mob. So we were intrigued, and yet a little uneasy, to visit what is today a Communist country that is a mere shadow of it’s former self.

We began our visit with a lengthy wait on the ship to disembark. The line of cruise passengers snaked through the ship, down the gangplank and into the terminal. After making our way through immigration, passport control and security, we stepped out into the blazing sun, unsure of where to head first. We had scheduled our guided tour for the next day and planned to spend this first day exploring on our own.  IMG_3852

We crossed to the square across from the terminal, narrow streets falling away in different directions. We headed off down one of them, following the crowd. As we wandered some people checked us out, some ignored us, several people approached as we walked asking if we needed directions or wanted to book a tour or hire a taxi. Skeptical American tourists that we are, we tried to put them off and keep walking. After awhile it became clear that for these folks, cut off for decades from the U.S., seeing Americans on their streets is a curiosity. They want to engage in conversation, to learn about the world beyond their island.

During this first day, the sights, sounds, smells, were overwhelming. We’ve traveled to many countries, but nothing prepared us for this. Havana’s decay is stunning. Once beautiful colonial buildings barely hang onto life as makeshift homes and shops. The cobblestone streets can rise up at any time, so it’s important to have a steady foot and sturdy shoes.  IMG_3855

The most famous attraction of Havana is, of course, the cars. Those relics from the 1950s are everywhere! Some have been beautifully restored and serve as government run taxicabs and cars for hire. Some are simply held together by screw drivers and duct tape and are privately owned cars that also serve as makeshift taxis.  IMG_3871

As we explored, the sky turned dark, the air thick with humidity and of course, it began to rain. We saw cabbies run to cover their cars, scrambling to put the tops up on the convertibles. We ran for a local hotel and headed for the bar. This particular hotel is part of a European chain, part of the burgeoning partnerships between the government and the private sector. After enjoying a Cuban beer and listening to some music, the rain finally let up and we headed back to the ship to get ready for our evening.

After freshening up and relaxing a bit, we made our way off the ship, again through immigrations, passport control and security; though this time it didn’t take but a few minutes. We found a cab, a more modern car, which took us speeding along the coast to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where we had reservations to see the Cabaret Parisien show. During the drive, we were surprised to see hoards of people hanging out along the sea wall, relaxing, talking, drinking.

The hotel sits atop a hill overlooking the ocean. It is one of the few buildings we saw that first day that has been restored and maintained. After we were dropped off, we entered the lobby and walked through the doors to the outside grounds. The patio was alive with people having a drink at the outside bar, wandering the gardens and listening to a strolling mariachi-style band. Overlooking the cliffs, off in the distance, a rainbow began appearing, creating a beautiful photo op.  IMG_3896

IMG_3889

That evening’s cabaret show was a feast of sights and sounds as performers wove a story of Cuba’s cultural history. Our small table was right next to the stage so we didn’t miss a thing. It is worth noting that the food, although adequate, was pretty much what we had heard about government-run restaurants: bland and uninteresting. This is due to a lack of spices, herbs and fresh vegetables, which are expensive and in short supply. But the Mojitos were great!  IMG_3911

Day two, we were up and out early and made our way to the hotel where we were to meet our tour. Our guide was a young woman named Sady. She explained the day’s events, which would include a walking tour of Old Havana while she educated us on the city’s history and architecture. Of course no tour of Havana is complete without stopping at La Floridita, the bar frequented by Ernest Hemingway where he would enjoy the traditional Daiquiri.

Midday, we stopped for lunch at the home of one of Sady’s friends. This is a privately owned Palidore. These establishments are popping up throughout Havana as families try to supplement their meager government incomes. Some families, as was the case here, also rent rooms in their homes. We made our way up four rickety flights of stairs to the rooftop. There, under a gazebo and surrounded by mint bushes, was a table set for our group. We happily gathered around the table to relax, drink some ice-cold water and relax. We watched as our hosts snipped sprigs of fresh mint to make mojitos, while enjoying a 360 degree view of Havana.  IMG_3974

Lunch that day was a delicious feast of chicken, fish, fresh vegetables, fruit, potatoes and flan for dessert. Although government run restaurants offer up bland, colorless food, this family-run establishment featured the best of traditional Cuban cooking. The herbs are all grown in their garden and there was no lacking for spice and flavor. The meal was prepared and served by the family.  IMG_3973

Following lunch, we headed out for a ride in the cars! We chose the 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible, newly restored, red with white leather interior. Off we went, with our driver winding us down the coast away from Old Havana, toward memorials to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, through the neighborhoods where stately old homes abandoned by their owners during the revolution now stand as embassies, and through the Havana Forest.   IMG_3985

Our driving tour ended back at the Hotel Nacional where we gathered in the Mob Bar to relax and enjoy more Mojitos!  IMG_3998

During the course of our tour, I had the opportunity to talk to our guide about her life, her political views and her plans for the future. She lives with her mother and her boyfriend, has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and is currently studying for her MA in Sexology and Emotional IQ. When I asked what she plans to do once she finishes her degree she told me she wasn’t sure, but since the education is free, she wanted to study what was interesting to her. She also explained that the banks do not extend credit so people generally don’t have bank accounts and cannot own a home or a car since everything must be purchased in cash. I asked if she is able to travel beyond Cuba. She explained that while Cubans are technically allowed to travel, they must pay hefty fees to apply for a visa with no assurance they will be granted one. Most people don’t even bother since those fees are nonrefundable. We discussed the current American political scene and she said people in Cuba are worried about the new administration’s plans to roll back the advances made by the Obama administration to encourage tourism.

As we approached the memorial to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro I asked her what people in her generation think about the future. She said most are not members of the Communist party and believe things will change. “Communism is an interesting philosophy,” she said, “but it doesn’t work in the real world.” It has been reported that Raul Castro will retire in two years and, with no immediate successor from his family, it’s unclear who or what is on the horizon for the Cuban people.  IMG_3982

My visit to Havana has stayed with me and I hope someday to return and see more of the countryside. I am still processing the trip, though it’s been several weeks since our return. With an uncertain future, both inside the country and between our two governments, one thing is sure: the basic curiosity to know about those different from ourselves, and the desire to find common ground. Even those living under a regime, effectively captive on their island, have dreams, thirst for knowledge, the desire to improve the world around them, hope and love for their families.  IMG_3843

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Get On The Table!!!

I was talking with a dear friend the other day. Her mother has been having neck pain. It is severe and fairly constant. She underwent a major surgery last spring for a tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain, which, thankfully, turned out to be benign. The recovery process was quite arduous and it took its toll on her. Because she wasn’t able to move her head at all for some time and had to remain sedentary for a time after that, her muscles “stiffened up” as she describes it. My friend is a total believer in therapeutic massage. She has seen the results it has provided for her in times of stress and “discomfort.” Yet, try as she might, even though her mother has witnessed the benefits of the work, “Mother” refuses to give it a chance.

As bodyworkers, my colleagues and I have encountered this scenario countless times and we often share our perplexity with each other. Why, we wonder, are some people so resistant? Bodywork/therapeutic massage may seem new to our culture, but it’s not like this really is something new.  Naturalhealers.com says,

“The practice of using touch as a healing method derives from customs and techniques rooted in ancient history. Civilizations in the East and West found that natural healing and massage could heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses. What’s more, it helped reduce stress and produce deep relaxation.”

So what could be so bad about that? Some of us consider it resistance to change. Let’s face it, we all, yes ALL, have moments of that conflict, and it can hold us back on many levels. But you would think folks suffering with pain would literally jump at any opportunity to get out of it, especially if it doesn’t require surgery or drugs and can actually be a pleasurable experience. Sure, sometimes “therapeutic” bodywork can result in some discomfort, but it is temporary and a means to an end, as they say. From a wonderful article in the Harvard Business Review, Ten Reasons People Resist Change, Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggests:

Excess uncertainty. If change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded, then people will reject it. People will often prefer to remain mired in misery than to head toward an unknown. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” To overcome inertia requires a sense of safety as well as an inspiring vision.

Everything seems different. Change is meant to bring something different, but how different? We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Too many differences can be distracting or confusing.

Though the article is about leadership, to me, it applies to healing as easily. Perhaps people wonder, “What if I don’t feel better? or, (Oh no!) What if I DO? I’ve been living with this for so long now, how will I live without it?”

I believe in massage therapy. I believe in bodywork; whichever name you choose. I practice the very light touch, CranioSacral Therapy. I often incorporate dialogue too. I think all of my colleagues would agree that the key is trust. If we get the opportunity to get a person to trust us, to feel safe with us, then, hopefully, they’ll see and accept healing ahead, and we can finally get them to       get on the table!

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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What Makes a Hero?

What makes a hero? I cogitate on this question every year as July 20th approaches.  On July 20, 1944, a group of German Army officers came darned close to killing Adolf Hitler with a bomb.  Today those officers are considered heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance. It wasn’t always that way, though.

 

In 1944, the officers were considered traitors by their fellow Germans and by the people on the Allied side of the war.  In 1944, only anarchists, traitors and Communists were so morally challenged as to commit political murder.  No one wanted to believe that respectable, educated, upper-class men would commit pre-meditated murder.

 

So who were the German officers who tried to kill Hitler? They were primarily Junkers or German aristocrats and most of them were related to each other. They tended to be devout Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant. They thought, incorrectly, that if they killed Hitler, the western Allies (U.S., Britain, and France) would sign a ceasefire and agree to join them in fighting the Russian Communists.

 

Alas, their bomb failed to kill Hitler and the Nazis took revenge.  Henning von Tresckow, the mastermind, died on the eastern front hours before Gestapo agents stepped off a plane to arrest him. Graf von Stauffenberg, who planted the bomb, was shot by firing squad on the evening of July 20th. They were the lucky ones.  Most of the other plotters, and quite a few innocents, were taken to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin where they were tortured before being tried in kangaroo courts and hanged.

 

Their wives and children ended the war in prison or in concentration camps. The youngest children were sent to orphanages. Stauffenberg’s widow gave birth to her daughter in prison and spent about 10 years searching orphanages trying to find her sons.  The widows were ostracized after the war until the 1960’s when their dead husbands were proclaimed as heroes.

 

The plotters became heroes because West Germany needed heroes. In 1945, Germany was split in two. East Germany was occupied by the Russians. West Germany was created from the American, French and British occupation zones. By the 1960’s, West Germany needed heroes to give the country a sense of continuity with the past but without the taint of the Nazis.  The German officers who plotted to kill Hitler fit the requirements and became heroes.

 

So what makes a person a hero?  In the case of the July 20th conspirators, it was political necessity. But I like to think that the July 20th conspirators would have been recognized as heroes even without political necessity. They were truly brave men who knew they were risking the lives of their families in their quest to build a better future for all.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Contact me at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – In Search of the Goldilocks Moment

Remember the childhood story of the Three Bears?  Goldilocks was in search of the Just-right bowl of porridge, the just-right chair, the just-right bed.  She tested each bowl, each chair, each bed, until she found the one that for her was Just Right.

Goldilocks was persistent.  She kept on trying until she found something that for her was just right.  She didn’t give up, even in the face of repeated disappointment.  Something in her experience kept on telling her to keep looking.  When she found what was just right for her, she knew.

However, Goldilocks was also selfish.  She walked into someone else’s home without knocking. She helped herself to food without being invited.  She broke furniture by sitting on a chair that SHE thought was just right, but which clearly was too small for her, and in the end she was scared to pieces when the bears came home and found her asleep in Baby Bear’s bed.

Goldilock’s ability to recognize what she wanted and to be willing to keep looking for it is admirable.  However, sometimes that intense focus becomes a problem in relationships.

I often see couples searching for those Goldilocks moments without awareness of the price that they may pay in looking for them.  Finding a Just Right moment without paying attention to the process of getting there can easily backfire.  Goldilocks knew what she wanted and went after it, but in the process she lost sight of the perspective of others.  Couples do this all too often by focusing on what one or the other wants without awareness of the wants of the other person.

I am so often surprised and saddened by the struggle that even the most articulate individuals have to use words in their relationships.  Partners expect each other to know their wants and needs without ever having articulated them.   Partners tell themselves:  “If I have to tell you about it, it isn’t valid.”   The result is that you don’t get what you want, you are guilty of the expectation of mind-reading, and you are often disappointed, because contrary to popular opinion, human beings in relationships have not mastered the “skill” of mind-reading.

Are you like Goldilocks in your coupleship – so determined to find what you want that you forget to check in with your partner?  Your story might have a different ending if you remember to ask your partner about what he/she wants, and if you create that story together.  Just Right moments in a coupleship are best created by partners who are willing to speak up, use words, and be direct about they want and need.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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Independence Day!

july-4-1

Independent:   a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit an independent bookstore b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent an independent conclusion (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party. Merriam-webster.com

Hmmm…so, based on that, are we ever really completely independent? I suppose when it comes to the notion of being self-governing, then I would say as a nation, we are independent. And while some may argue that, given recent election events, we have been the victims of outside influences, we are theoretically still an independent democracy.

But what about the concept of not looking for outside opinions or guidance? I’m not sure I agree that independence means not being open to ideas or opinions different from my own. In fact, I would argue that true independence requires research, information gathering and an exchange of ideas. In the absence of such, aren’t we just living in a vacuum? In order to make informed decisions, to exercise my independence, I must understand the context of the world around me. And, I must filter the information in light of my own values and experiences. Indeed, my natural curiosity drives me to seek input from a variety of sources.

When it comes to my business, I am constantly seeking advice, gathering input from experts, researching new concepts and ideas, conferring with my partner. Am I independent? Well, in the Merriam-Webster sense I guess I am. I’m not subject to the control of other, larger entities. And yet, decisions are made based on all of the above. And the demands and responsibilities of business ownership often leave me feeling less independent than I’d like. But in the end, this form of servitude and endless engagement are of my choosing. I can stay and fight the good fight, or I can walk away.

So I suppose that is my true independence. The opportunity to chose my path, using the knowledge gained through hard work and research, integrated with my personal values and instincts and viewed through the lens of my life experiences. And while I may agree with certain elements of the dictionary’s definition, I believe independence comes from within.   Our nation’s history is filled with those with the drive to discover and innovate, and with the confidence to raise their voice against all odds to speak truth to power. Today, on this Independence Day, let us all remember those Americans, and pledge to do our part to exercise our own independence to further both our individual goals and the to fulfill the promise of our country. Happy Fourth, everyone!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company,a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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To Love and Protect?

It mortifies me that some humans can be so cruel. They take on a dog or cat, and at least cats retain much of their natural hunting/survival instincts, and then, when they decide they’re tired of it, or they can’t have a pet in their new apartment, or it’s just too much trouble, or (this is one of my favorites) they have a new baby, they put it out on the street. Maybe they drop it off in a neighborhood they’re convinced is the kind where “someone will take her in and give her a good home” or maybe they just drop her on the side of the highway – near the woods, perhaps, just sure “she’ll find food, and she’ll survive.” Unfortunately, most of these stories end very badly.

According to an article from The Animal Rescue Site, “Around 7 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, about half of which are believed to be abandoned, and according to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners after arriving in shelters. These poor animals are at a higher risk of euthanasia, and often suffer from separation anxiety and other, similar issues. It’s hard to imagine what type of monsters would simply cast aside their animals, but sadly, it happens.”

This video from the site may shock you, but it certainly drives the point home: https://youtu.be/JMs7dkdO4YY

The article goes on to say, “While the majority of abandonment stories end badly (a sad but true reality), the capacity for love that many animal lovers show can also save the day. Sometimes a kind heart can overcome the most disgusting abuse.”

This came to be the story for a loving little Chihuahua/Rat Terrier mix now known as Winnie. Her owners decided to toss her out into a Brentwood, TN neighborhood. After a few weeks of wandering and nearly starving to death, her owners were found. Their response: “We don’t want her anymore.” This landed her in the Williamson County Animal Center and she was one of the lucky ones. Noah’s Ark Society pulled her from the center and put her in foster care.

Winnie’s mug shot

Now I am the lucky one. After 16 years together, I lost my Gracie almost two years ago. I was finally thinking it might be time for me to open my heart (and home) to a new “furever” friend, but I had no definite plan yet. While helping to foster this poor baby temporarily for her foster mother, well, you can guess the rest.

Please make this an opportunity to help spread the word about this abhorrent human behavior. PETS’ LIVES MATTER.

About Jan Schim

Jan Schim is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Living with Fear

Fear is a universal emotion.  Every person alive is afraid of something. It’s what we do next that matters most.

Fear can be a motivator. It drives us to meet our goals. But too much fear can overwhelm us, paralyzing our emotional and physical responses.  As a person who has experienced both these effects of fear, I wanted to know how other people managed their responses to fear.

I’m a history buff so I looked for historical examples. An excellent study in fear is provided by the men and women who were in the French Resistance in World War II.  Every Nazi-occupied country had resistance movements, of course. But the French are notable for their tradition of writing books about their political activities. As a result, the survivors of the French Resistance were more likely to write about their experiences than resisters in other European countries.

What a life they lived! Living in occupied France meant living with fear. The Gestapo could stop any person at any time and demand to see their identity papers. Resistance workers knew if they were detained in one of these street sweeps, their forged identity papers would probably not withstand scrutiny. Or their forged identity might already have been revealed by a tortured colleague or a collaborator. In either case, it meant their worst fear would come true; they would be arrested.

Another quick path to arrest was violating the nightly curfew.  Resistance workers constantly broke curfew to travel to rendezvous sites to retrieve supplies flown in on moonless nights. They also conducted most radio communications with their leaders in London at night. Resistance workers caught at rendezvous sites or with a radio could be shot “resisting arrest” or arrested and taken in for interrogation.

Interrogation meant torture and probable death. Resistance workers were tortured in an effort to make them name names since the Gestapo was attempting to wipe out all resistance efforts.  The standard rule for Resistance workers was that they should hold out for at least 48 hours under torture to allow other Resistance workers to move to new, unknown locations.

Many Resistance members died due to the torture. If they didn’t die while being tortured, they were sent to prison in France to await deportation to a concentration camp.  Resistance workers were not covered by The Hague or Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war. They were not legally soldiers. They were legally defined as spies, criminals, or “enemy combatants”.  That meant they could be tortured, starved, murdered, or used as slave laborers.

Resistance activities could be deadly for a worker’s family. If the Gestapo knew or suspected the true identity of a Resistance worker, they would arrest family members of the Resistance worker.  Family members could be tortured, imprisoned, murdered, or deported to a death camp in retaliation for the Resistance worker’s activities.  Resistance workers knew they were jeopardizing the lives of their loved ones and this knowledge caused their greatest fear.

French Resistance workers lived with overwhelming fear that left psychological scars for the rest of their lives.  So why would anyone choose to join the Resistance when they could have kept their heads down and sat out the war?  Sitting out the war could have meant staying neutral, not collaborating, and waiting for it all to end.

French Resistance workers spanned the political spectrum from communist to fascist; but they had one thing in common. They were all French patriots. They wanted to end the occupation and free France.  That goal kept them going through deprivation, torture and fear.

Fear is often synonymous with weakness which is synonymous with cowardice in books and movies. That is wrong. Only an idiot or a liar claims to be constantly brave, never knowing fear. The bravest people are those who acknowledge their fear and still do their job.

That is the lesson about living with fear that I learned from the French Resistance. We are all afraid of something. But if we don’t allow fear to stop us, we can do anything that we want and reach any goal.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Why We Write   

 

What is it about writing?

Writing is not innate.  While speaking as a form of communication is part of the developmental trajectory of the human being, writing (and its companion, reading) must be learned.  That learning process takes years and requires practice.  How many high school students have labored over the five-paragraph essay or complained about learning expository writing?

The physical process of writing is becoming a lost art as more and more people who write depend on the keyboard and computer.  Experts debate both sides of this issue.  Some say cursive should continue to be taught; others say opting for print is the best.  A third group says the focus needs to be on keyboarding.  As a left-handed writer whose handwriting was already shaky, the final blow was taking speedwriting after college – the result is that anyone who attempts to read my handwriting often needs translation.

And yet – the process of using language to write may have therapeutic results. As a professional counselor I often recommend exercises that involve writing.  If you are a worrier, keep a pad and pen beside your bed, and if you wake up and are worrying, get those worries out of you and onto paper.  This process sometimes will help you calm down and return to sleep.  If you have unfinished business with someone that cannot be safely or reasonably addressed with the person, write a letter to that person – a letter that you may never choose to send –  to reach some degree of closure.  If you are engaged in a process of self-exploration, the experience of keeping a journal may help you deepen your journey.

For me the essence of writing is connection.  I write because I have a thought, an experience, or a way of seeing that I want to share with others.  Bringing whatever this is out of myself and into a form in which I share it with others who may be interested, may respond, may be touched or moved or shaken, is for me part of the larger journey of being in community with other human beings.

I write because I have something to say. Writing feels like the creation of something bigger than myself.  I don’t know where my words go, where they land, what impact they have, but in bringing them out of myself and offering them to a larger world, I am engaged in the process of creation.  I don’t assume that my words are great literature or that they are life-changing.  They may just be my words – and that is ok, too.   I offer them as they are – and for my reader, they can be taken in whatever way the reader chooses.

Solace, comfort, joy – struggle, pain, despair – writing can be all those things to the writer and to the reader.

Is writing a part of your life?  Does it play a role?  Has it helped you?  Harmed you?  Open the door to this process and see where it might take you.  You could be surprised!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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