Don’t Fight Crocodiles in a Swamp.

11 Nov

I’m sure I’m not alone in observing negative behavioural changes in society, online and in the media. What appears to be happening is that it’s getting more divided and extreme, and that voicing outrage and unleashing opinions, bitter criticism and malice towards others is becoming a new normal. What I would like to question is, are we unconsciously being encouraged or forced to accept bullying as normal rather than challenging systems that allow it?

Nearly every episode of the Block NZ 2019 was uncomfortable to watch, because of bullying, and at times triggered people with trauma, so I still feel compelled to write about it. Writing about it at the time would have been like fighting a crocodile in a swamp and I didn’t fancy myself being swallowed whole by those who thought the targets deserved it. The bullying was overt and mostly unchallenged, and we the viewers, whether we liked it or not, were put in a “bystander” position, powerless to stop it; which further perpetuates the acceptability of bullying and inevitably, yet again, it becomes even more embedded in our culture as the norm. 

It’s reality tv you might say. Why even watch it? Because along with thousands of home renovator fans, including children, the first six seasons prior to 2018 didn’t include bullying as a part of the shows entertainment value. I don’t like standing by without having a voice to challenge what I consider wrong doing, so my hope when I write about the dynamics at play is to raise awareness of the tactics used.

In reality, reality show contestants are not being adequately protected from becoming prey. The contestants are pre-determined by the shows producers and one has to consider whether the choices are specifically designed to generate conflict. Take Married at First Sight NZ 2019 as another example where the producers didn’t really take responsibility when they said “Duty of care for all participants in the experiment is paramount.” They went on to say “To have edited out the confronting behaviour from last night’s episode would be disingenuous to the characters of those on the show and would have left a lot of unanswered questions for fans.” Not a good enough explanation when there were literally dozens of times when a few of the contestants could have had their homophobic slurs, threats of violence, shaming, hateful language and bullying stopped. It could have been a perfect platform to use the experts to show that behaving in those ways shouldn’t be tolerated and that change is possible, but alas that may not have been so “entertaining.”

In real life it’s so much easier to sidestep bullies and maintain minimal contact with empathy deficient people. It’s easier to be cautious, to avoid, to be able to stay in a kind, distantly compassionate position towards those who lack empathy or fake empathy, but in social experiments designed to be thrilling and conflict filled, it’s unnatural and destructive.

Bullying tactics include manipulating as many people as possible, so as to portray the villains as the injured party. This means firstly getting other competitors on side and insidiously influencing everyone else from judges to viewers. Using provocation to elicit a response from their target, puts the target in a difficult position of either ignoring the provocation which allows it to worsen, or it forces them to counteract it. Both responses are lose/lose because the target is being watched like a hawk for any wrongful move so they can be falsely accused for character defects they don’t actually possess. Then comes the dehumanising, name calling and projections when the target stands up for, or defends themselves or their position. Apathy and indifference to their distress spreads, which the villains actually rely on, to gain allies and win at all costs.

A bully decides how to target and how, when, and where to harm people.

Production companies and executives need to held accountable. On tv, contestants are connected and interconnected with many people at any given moment. With a random mix of strangers, you might say it’s a coincidence, that there are bound to be a few able and willing to hurt others if given the chance. I don’t think so. I think they are well aware of how people are “likely” to behave and people are purposefully put in harms way, in a culture that allows bullying to flourish. We can choose to not be contestants, and we can choose to not watch the show, but the problem exists and targets are real people who have to find ways to heal from their experience. Regulation needs to be put into place if such “entertainment” is to continue.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioural, professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control and subjugation (criticism, exclusion, isolation etc). Bullying is sustained by abdication of responsibility (denial, counter-accusation, pretence of victimhood) and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (e.g promotion) for the bully.” Tim Field. British anti-bullying activist. 1999.

Art credit – Aidar Zeineshev

The Super Blood Wolf Moon.

20 Jan


Art by Neal Sutton.

In New Zealand, Monday morning, at 12.16am the moon eclipses while the sun is in Aquarius and the moon is in Leo. 

I like to try to research what this might mean and come up with a simplistic version that gives a little direction to those of us interested in personal transformation. Whilst we won’t be able to see the total eclipse in this part of the world,  the moon is 15% larger and 30% brighter so we are more likely to feel the power of the moon and the speeding up of change.

It’s the last of five eclipses in Leo that take place that began in February 2017 and end now in January 2019. Something that you may have started two years ago, can come to a close now.

Tonight is a great time to step away from distractions and tune in to your deeper intuition and if you’re so inclined, angel guidance. Questions around major life lessons in the area of our astrological chart that contains Leo can be answered.

The sun and moon make a T-square to the planet Uranus which can bring unexpected opportunities and the possibility of breakthroughs, bringing those a-ha now I get it moments.

Tune in and allow answers to surface around

  • what do I know I have to clear away
  • what do I want to release that no longer serves me
  • what do I wish to move forward into that actually would allow me to live to my full potential?






How to Beat Back to Work Blues.

13 Jan


Forget the dread of “having” to go back to work, and instead say to yourself that you “get” to. Turn dread into gratefulness. Feeling gratitude for the time off you were able to have, increases feelings of happiness.

Reframe the first day back into it being just another day, and think about how good it’s going to be for your brain to sink its teeth into future challenges. 

Be sure to get plenty of sleep, not only the night before you start back, but all week. Being refreshed is important to help you cope with an added workload. Remember to avoid bright lights and technology for at least half an hour before you hit the pillow, and make sure your room is dark.

Pack a healthy, delicious lunch, one that gives you enjoyment. Think about changing out your water for sparkling water at least for the first week. If you eat lunch out, feel grateful that you have the finances to do so. Savour each mouthful and make sure what you read or the conversations you have over lunch are joy filled.

Take one of your inspiring, happy holiday photos to work and place it where you can see it. Place your hand on your heart and smile when you glance over at it. Let it anchor you to the good memories you had on your break.

Know that it’s a necessary thing to clip the ticket and work to earn money, to not only survive, but thrive. Extra finances help towards being able to plan and look forward to the next day off, weekend away, or holiday. Having things to look forward to keeps hope in your heart.

The first week back, make sure you put aside some fun and relaxing time for yourself after work, while the summer days are still long and the sun and light extend into the evening hours. Use the time to go for a walk and soak up the beauty in your neighbourhood. 

Make meals simple, or pre plan so you don’t get overwhelmed. 

Have a tidy house to come home to.

When you’re back at work, avoid being a perfectionist, at least for the first week. Instead be realistic about what you can and can’t get done. Relish ticking things off a list when they are completed. Try not to clock watch. Stay as mindful as you can on the tasks at hand, remembering to breathe low and slow often and to stop and stretch. 

Be sure to plan a treat for yourself at the weeks end, for a job well done.

You’ve got this.

What Makes Gossip And Rumours So Dangerous?

25 May


Gossip exposes someone who isn’t present to defend themselves, to the collective wrath of others. It denies them a right to be fairly heard. It’s a cunning, passive aggressive  form of ally recruitment, warlike in nature, used to advance ones own opinions and agenda. Spreading rumours can be harmful to the reputation, credibility and social standing of others. Gossip encourages recruiters to dislike, be wary, mistrust, avoid, exclude and see the target as unappealing. It’s a form of social bullying.

Incite hatred long enough in any community, and it will eventually fall into the ears of those from the dark side of humanity, those who take pleasure in taking matters into their own hands, provoking and harassing. Once indifference has been fostered, destroying others becomes sport-like. Be wary because encouraging others to act on your behalf is dangerous and in some cases illegal, for both of you.

Fight or flight becomes the norm for the target in a misinformation campaign. Sometimes targets can’t cope and may hurt or harm themselves or they may take serious revenge as an escape from the constant pressure. Both can have devastating consequences. (Please see additional links below if you need help for either.)

If you are in the presence of someone spreading gossip about another person, here a few things you could say to disarm them: Continue reading

Dementia. Becoming a Stranger in an Unfamiliar Body.

18 Aug

The prettiest tree in the world, full of tuis, just down the road from the resthome.

Mum’s grandkids might think that a zombie has stolen her brain. Apparently only high functioning zombies go for the brain. They are after serotonin, the happiness hormone. Our mum hasn’t actually been near any zombies, they didn’t steal her brain, but something has partly stolen her happiness. Mum very sadly has vascular dementia, brought on by mini strokes, which now affects the way she thinks, feels, behaves and perceives things.

Dementia appears to sadly be a taboo subject. An article in psychology today says that somehow, to many of us, the idea of dementia seems more horrifying than cancer. Perhaps we fear the idea of losing who we are – becoming a stranger in an unfamiliar body. I think if we focused less on it being a mental health issue and saw it for what it really is, a most complicated brain disease that is fatal and cannot at this time be cured, it could take the ‘stigma’ out.  The most challenging part of late stage dementia, psychosis with symptoms that present a danger to the person and others, where someone is inconsolable and in persistent distress with a declining ability to function, can be helped greatly by anti-psychotics. 

Although memory loss wasn’t the main early symptom of mums dementia, she now has hardly any recollection of recent information or experiences. She can ask the same question 5 or 6 times in a loop and yet still remember her way from one town to another. She knows where her mother was born and that mushroom soup is horrible. She also knows she has never had to have anyone help bathe her before.

We recently travelled north to offer emotional support to our brother and to spend a week with mum to say hello (and begin to say goodbye) and was shocked at how rapidly her kind of dementia has progressed. It appears that as the structure and chemistry of her brain becomes increasingly damaged over time, her ability to remember and reason keeps declining which is so sad and unfair. Having appeared to have never aged, the physical difference in mum is astounding in just a matter of months. Whilst she still understands a lot and communicates fairly well, it’s probable looking at the residents around her, that this may slip away sometime in an unknown future. 

Dementia is an illness that expresses itself in its own way for every patient, so it’s challenging for families and nurses to ride a different roller coaster for each patient. 

There are many changes to come to terms with. Most days mum doesn’t like or want to see her own reflection anymore. Food isn’t satisfying her as such and she has a lot of disorientation with respect to time and place.

She can remember us kids by name, but is forgetting the grandchildren and great children’s names. She finds it hard to choose what to wear. She doesn’t ever ask why she is where she is or what happened. In a lot of ways she is very present moment. 

The hardest behavioural changes are the paranoia and delusions that surface briefly at different times of the day which are hard to determine or pinpoint. It could be about people taking things, doing things she doesn’t like, or being mean or horrible to her. She often says no one gives her any food or any medicine but they do. She sometimes kicks up at not being let out, but that one is true, they can’t let her out for her own safety.

There are people she has to share space with that have personalities that anyone would find challenging to have to be around. They constantly irk her (and others) and make her angry and unsettled which is hard, but it’s important to not be triggered by her upset or anger and instead aim to calm and distract, and agree and redirect.

On the good side, Mum still has her lovely affirming, praising, smiling, joking, generous, good-natured self, always interested and enquiring after others. She knows who her favourite people are, and her favourite carers. She is very nice to people who are nice to her. She loves to get postcards and letters and photographs. Brief, happy, newsy with big writing works well now. Some of the staff love her and say she is their favourite which so put our hearts at ease.

In the dining room, mum knows to sit at what we call the “nice” table. One of her friends at the nice table now often just stares into space, has to be fed, and is totally confined to a reclining chair with her feet elevated. It’s heartbreaking to see all the various stages of decline. This lady can no longer go on the short trips out of the home and it was so sweet to see mum go up to this lady and rub her arm and tell her “I’m so sorry you can’t come out on our outing with us, you take care.”  Her other lovely friend at the nice table, who funnily enough has a surname of a variety of nut, seems in a less state of decline than mum, but her memory loss and confusion arrives in the late afternoon in the ‘sundowning’ period. Mums medication seems to thankfully inhibit her agitation at this time of the day, which in the recent past was highly problematic. Such is the drug dilemma. There’s a sweet, very quiet, well-mannered man at their table who eats up all his food and stacks up his dishes. He is a calming influence. Everyone at the nice table feeds the birds their bread which says a lot about their character!

One man at the ‘naughty’ table seems to be in a constant state of anger and aggression. His wife who visited said he was never angry in the past which seems so sad. He triggers all the other patients with his comments and energy and they all forget to not make eye contact or pay any attention to him. He tells everyone to bugger off, slams his plates around and doesn’t like anyone smiling at him. The nurses often have to settle him down. I even asked him to take a deep breath once or twice.

Mobility is another thing that declines quickly. Mum uses a stick and a walker to get around, and the swelling in her legs and ankles make it difficult to walk around much. The diuretic to counteract the swelling make toilet trips urgent which can be difficult when one forgets where the actual toilet is located. In time she may forget to recognise the need to go. Thankfully the pain meds are masking her arthritis pain for the first time in many, many years. All week she never once mentioned being in pain.

Mum, commonly has moments of reacting either aggressively or tearfully if she feels threatened or cannot understand what is going on around her. It’s called having a meltdown and the staff are great at diffusing such situations. They work so hard, with everyone, physically and emotionally, and deserve a medal. 

In times of distorted ideas and distress, distracting and comforting mum helped a lot, and showing her photographs of family and past times soothed her, so did the real fruit ice cream and feijoa smoothies we smuggled in.

In the last couple of days of visiting we saw a decline in her ability to express preferences. Asked by a caregiver if she wanted weetbix or porridge for breakfast, you could see the panic in her eyes to have to choose. And she chose wrong. Having eaten porridge most of her life, she took one bite of weetbix and I had to return it and ask for porridge. The staff will of course adapt to these individual changes and instead begin to just give one thing or lay out one set of clothes. Mum will say “That’s not my cupboard.” “Those aren’t my clothes.” “I don’t live here.” “I’ve only been here a couple of days.” 

She tolerates medical interventions but in a joking way likes to let us know she’s probably being given arsenic! 

As distanced from family and friends as she might feel, our little brother (and his wife) are doing a stellar job. He visits most evenings which isn’t often an easy time emotionally to visit. Once a week he goes to buy healthy soup and takes mum to her elderly and quite unwell sisters place. He prepares the food, eats and chats and makes them laugh, does the dishes and then returns mum back to the home.

Most Sundays he comes to pick her up and takes her to his house for lunch with the extended family, makes sure she takes her medication at the right time, and drops her back late afternoon.

At the home they have weekly trips out which she still manages, although she has to be hydraulically hoisted into the van. On fun Fridays she goes next door to the unlocked wing and enjoys a music afternoon with other residents. There’s a hairdresser who comes to cut their hair, and random visits from kind-hearted high school kids. They come in with animals to pat, and massage the residents hands. (Well those residents who don’t tell them to “bugger off.” ) There’s a piano in their lounge.  I wish a pianist could come in every day as it was lovely to see everyone calm down, close their eyes, sing and get lost in the music. Days can seem awfully long (that may have just been for me) and as fear inducing as it is to imagine ever being in the situation mum is in, under the circumstances she is luckily really being cared for in the best way possible. 

My husband just said that the reality for people like mum, the 80 pluses, is that they are the ones who have avoided road accidents, heart attacks and cancer taking their lives and now they are at the mercy of their eroding bodies and brains.

Zombies don’t really feature, and tiger pits, chainsaws and wood chippers might keep zombies at bay but dementia patients just need us to ring and write and visit if we can. They need love and compassion and music, always more music.


How To Deal With Verbal Attacks.

26 Feb


Online, you can delete, block and sometimes report inappropriate or abusive comments, but what do you do if someone verbally attacks you at a dinner party or gathering?

After watching Anthony  launch into a witch hunt on Cheryl at the dinner party on Married at First Sight Australia  (series 4 episode 10) I realized a few things.

1.  A lot of people, even strong empowered ones, don’t always know HOW to stop unwanted, unwarranted, unacceptable tirades.

2. Abuse often renders people speechless and causes what I call “bunny in the headlights.”


3. The majority of people tend to sit in a bystander rather than Continue reading

Are You A Space Taker Or Connection Maker?

18 Jan


You asked me for space by artist Soju Shots

A young photographer came into my shop this week and as it sometimes happens when it’s quiet and the energy is good, I got to work a little on-purpose magic.

She talked about her creative process and how she loves to wander with her camera, waiting for the moment to arrive that deserves capturing. She rolled her eyes at well-meaning relatives who direct her to take this or that.  When she goes to the beach with her boyfriend she said she can’t have quiet time because he is never quiet.

So I asked her Continue reading