No One Knows Enough to be a Pessimist – Dorianne Weil “DrD”
It is understandable, after a long and agonizing journey, that those who’ve emigrated justify their decision vociferously. It is a huge wrench, the reality of which can never be anticipated and hence the need to continually remind oneself and anyone who cares to listen, of the precipitating and maintaining factors. The motivation is to reassure remaining family and caring friends that all is “relatively well” on the other side and although there is “some hardship”, we’ve made the right decision. Even after a magnificent holiday, some ex South Africans send doom and gloom emails often with the expressed intention of encouraging their friends to “face reality and get out before it’s too late”.
Behind closed doors, I hear different stories. One grandmother stated “You know, it’s the little things, what happened at school today? how did the doctor’s appointment go? and the details of daily life that fills conversation and serves as connecting glue when living nearby”
“The little things the minutiae are really the big things. It is impossible, however sophisticated technology might be, to develop and maintain a remotely similar involvement long distance. Sure, we speak all the time but it is still long distance”.
What is often not realised is the process supersedes the content. It’s not what you say but that you are talking which confirms and develops connection.
Most people refer to quality of relationship and look forward to the next occasion, holiday or visit. However, we need quantity to build quality. It’s a challenge to have three weeks of quality time at the end of the year with minimal quantity for the rest. The family life cycle is like a river … forever flowing. If you miss the moment you’ve missed it. Sure there are others but not that one.
One father who emigrated and returned with his family said “We left because of the crime and yes maybe returned to the crime … but you know what, the price was just too high. We are living an amazing life here celebrating and valuing the support and connection everyday. My children love their school and have grandparents who are an integral part of their lives. We now know there is no substitute for that”.
A business woman now living in London states “I am an invisible anonymous person I have to start from the beginning – just a number in a queue. There is no family history, credit rating, GP or green grocer it’s hard to start all over again”.
Most people underestimate the importance of “transcendental connectedness”, a sense of past which is woven into the fabric of your being, affects the present and enriches the future. They make new friends but miss “remember when”. There is an attraction and resonance with fellow South Africans because of the innate human need for belonging and community. New relationships develop but these are not coloured nor energised by history and tend to be mostly social and activity orientated.
So what to do?
Physical safety and survival is the most basic of human needs. After that on Maslow’s hierarchy comes the need for belonging.
There are very real issues affecting all of our lives in our wonderful country but the choice of response is a personal one although largely determined by those around us. Feelings and attitudes are more contagious than any virus and we get caught up in a heart beat in a pervasive sense of panic or indeed euphoria as we did just after the ‘94 election. The fact is, as you think so shall you be. If we are cynical, hopeless and pessimistic we unconsciously select evidence to continually confirm our position. This dominates our minds, our hearts and our conversation and will be felt at a visceral level even if unexpressed by those around us. This communication is deep and subtle almost like birds flying in a flock and suddenly changing direction without instruction.
When the lights went out coupled with a series of senseless and devastating murders, the downturn of the economy and pervasive political uncertainty we reached the proverbial “tipping point”. All the potholes grew bigger overnight fears re: sewerage spilling into the street, political anarchy and recession prevailed and above all, insecurity and anxiety concerning our safety and that of our children was rife and overflowing.
Two months later there is still a huge concern but a somewhat calmer perspective.
“Life is not a matter of holding good cards but of playing a poor hand well” said
Robert Louis Stevenson.
So what are the different responses?
The Fatalist - “what will be will be” characterised by the belief that fate and destiny reign supreme and cannot be influenced.
The Denier - the ostrich mentality. The hope is that by burying ones head in the sand and restricting your world, maybe all of this will disappear in the morning.
The Pessimist – characterised by binocular vision. The bad is magnified and overwhelming to the point where anything positive is minimised and reframed negatively.
The Realist – an attempt to be well informed and offer hardcore facts but often uses the present or the past to predict the future and thus finds it difficult to imagine a different scenario.
The Unbridled Optimist – finds it difficult to focus on current negative realities and will tend to dismiss glaring facts by saying “we’ve been here before and we’ll get out of it again”. There is an attempt to placate the pessimist and the realist by continually pointing out that other countries have worse problems and bad weather.
The Cautious Optimist - understands present realities, is well informed and strongly believes that commitment and focused intervention can make a difference. They tend to be life participants and influencers of others. They know that thoughts create actions and actions create results and thereby believe that destiny can to a large extent be modified.
They recognise the inherent goodwill of the vast majority of all of our people and help develop strategy to mobilise, energise, focus and manifest a common desired outcome. They seldom give up. They are mindful and honouring of others while also listening to their own inner drum beat. True leaders, they are connectors, authentic and inspiring. They make things happen. Fortunately there are many such South Africans and as Trevor Manuel said many times in his budget speech “we are all in this together”.
In his poem “IF”, Radyard Klipling refers to many dimensions of maturity and it would serve us well to remember his words “If you can keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs ... Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Clinical Psychologist “Dr D”
Trustee Tomorrow Trust