Mano Po Must Live


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If you’re patient and willing to wade through any number of unremarkable, familiar duplications, you will eventually find someone or something at the mall that will hold your attention. This past weekend I was not disappointed. I witnessed an exquisite event – something I never expected to see nor shall I ever forget.

Much like bird watching in an aviary, I watch for rare and fascinating people at the mall.  I initially focused on an Asian boy and girl who had each purchased a large Starbuck’s coffee.  The boy was dressed in all the latest gear, head shaved, hat to the back, jewelry, chains – the works.  The girl wore equally trendy clothing, pink Keds, a tribal arm tattoo and various facial piercings. I was taken by the contrast between the cool, rough-neck, hip-hop look the boy was desperately trying to preserve as he delicately sprinkled cinnamon onto his grande coffee in a venti cup with two pumps hazelnut, two pumps vanilla, two pumps caramel, two Equals and four Sweet’N Low, filled to the top with cream – extra cream on the side, double cupped with no sleeve, a stir stick and stopper in the top. I looked away with a grin and sipped my plain, black coffee.  Over the rim of my cup I encountered the eyes of an Asian man intent on me.  He was dressed in Western clothing, but was also wearing a barong, his black and gray hair neatly combed to one side.  We each casually looked away, recovering smoothly from our accidental encounter.

The Asian man was with a young, teenage girl who I imagined was his daughter.  The two sat for a moment, not talking.  The man seemed to be settling in, taking in his surroundings before committing to sitting in that particular spot.  The girl was a bit jumpy, anticipatory, looking from side to side and checking her phone for texts. Before long the man carefully took money from his billfold and handed it to the girl.  She bolted toward Starbucks, taking her place at the back of the line. She gave two small, excited jumps, outwardly energized by some thought she was having.  Her movements were quick, rapid, unlike her father who seemed to move in slow motion, as if performing tai chi, adjusting his chair and settling in contentedly. He folded his arms over his chest and crossed one leg over the other.

It wasn’t long before the girl was joined by the boy and girl I had been observing earlier.  The jumpy girl apparently knew the Keds girl because, when they saw one another, they initiated an animated, dance-like greeting, gripping each other around the forearms and jumping up and down. The boy stood, sipping his coffee, still focused on maintaining his emotional distance. The girl pointed in the direction of her father, and the teens waved in his direction.  The man nodded back.

Not long after, the girl, followed by her friends, carried a tray of refreshments to her table. The hip-hop boy put down his coffee and approached the man.  He greeted him, referring to him as Uncle, and then took the man’s fingers in his hand and raised them to his forehead.  The Keds girl did the same.  I imagined that I must be in the presence of royalty, or at least someone who was very wealthy or possibly famous – someone who deserved this level of respect.  I looked at his ring finger, expecting to see a wide, ostentatious red ruby.  The man wore no jewelry. The teens stood for a few minutes and chatted, but soon left, bowing their heads once more in the man’s direction.

*****

One of the most wonderful things I find about today’s technology is that I can locate information about nearly anything in just a few second.  I typed some keywords into Google on my cell phone and learned that what I had witnessed was a Filipino greeting called mano po – mano meaning hand; po is placed at the end of a sentence when addressing elders.  It appears that Filipino children and young people greet or say goodbye to their elders by taking the right hand of the elder with their right hand and touching the back the elder’s hand lightly on their forehead. Mono po is a Filipino custom for showing respect to elders and receiving their blessing.  This gesture of deference is not, as I had supposed, reserved for the wealthy, the famous or the politically connected.  Mano po is performed as a sign of respect with all elders by Filipino youth, regardless of the status or social class of the elder.

Mano po represented a striking contrast to the people with whom I am more familiar in my own culture – people who shout orders and demands, swear, discuss intimate and private matters of national television, cough into the open air, shoot one another over a parking space, push, pull, grab and generally behave selfishly and inconsiderately.  How magnificent, I thought, to live one’s life long enough to be honored for enduring this short, yet chaotic journey?  To be prized for one’s experience and knowledge – to have achieved an even higher degree of personal value and social significance as a consequence of normal aging.

In my lifetime, older people have never been greeted with any particular degree of enthusiasm. It seems, instead, after a certain age, older people become more or less invisible, incidental, imaginary and tedious – much like the appreciation we show when cleaning the underside of a toilet bowl. We know it’s there and we know it needs attention, so we take care of it now and then, just to keep up appearances. The aging person, placed under these harmful psychological pressures, can, instead of the gift of mano po, expect aging to be a frightening period, more likely to instill dread – even terror, than a sense of achievement let alone esteem.

Seconds after the two Filipino teens left, the man and the girl stood to leave.  The girl was still quite excitable.  I watched as the older man rose confidently, pushed his chair neatly under the table and collected the trash from the tabletop. The man handed the girl her own empty cup and she accepted it and dropped it into the bin. Once on their way, the older man placed his hand lightly on the young woman’s shoulder and the bounce in her walk seemed to slow a bit.  He slightly increased his own step and the two found a balanced cadence, a tempo with which they could both walk comfortably together.  They disappeared into the crowd.

Do you know anyone who would benefit from a gesture of mano po?

Would you willingly offer mano po to the elders in your own life?

Are you willing to replace a handshake with a gesture of mano po?

The gesture of mano po makes certain that there will always be cooperation between elder and youth, Filipino and Filipina.  It is a gesture that represents equality, possibility and hope.  In its magnificent simplicity, Mano po makes experience and strength a dynamic of dreams; and, because of that, Mano po must never die.

Each new generation wants to believe it holds a unique perspective on the future – so we ignore our elders and the advantage of their insight.  As a result, we have either lost our ability to build rapport with older people or we simply have never developed the skill to talk across generations. Regardless of its cause, ageism keeps us divided, ignorant, ineffective and hopeless.

We have so much more potential than that.

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I Sing Quite Out Loud


eitheory.com

How about just a chat – instead of polished piece?

No endless editing.

Just my thoughts for what they are, in the moment, today, right now.

I have talked a bit in the past about how I walk every night, at least four miles, and how I like to concentrate on my breathing.

I left out some things.

My walk is more like a power walk than a dawdle or a mosey.  It’s the kind of walk Donald Trump would take if he walked. (I imagine he’s carried most places, now that he’s too powerful to walk anymore.) It’s late winter now, and it gets dark early, around six; so I am often left to power walk in the dark. I don’t normally run into anyone at that time of night. My neighbors sometimes pass me, when they occasion to walk their dogs. We startle one another, like one is started upon discovering a raccoon in the bin eating leftover lettuce.  Of course I can’t hear a thing except the music on my iPod, so I imagine my neighbor says, “Hello!” much like one would presume, so I say, “Hello!” probably a bit louder than expected, and the dog starts to bark and struggle against its leash.

In the spring and summer, however, it’s light out when I walk and I can clearly see my neighbors taking their evening constitutional, as if their diddling about could possibly burn off that chocolate cake they had for dessert. They do feel better, I’m sure, and that’s all that matters. I look at them smugly, as I propel myself down the road, fists chugging like a great iron steam engine, listening to my iPod. My neighbors look at me rather sympathetically, knowingly, as if they’d met me before.

When I walk, I imagine myself a thoroughbred heading for the finish line, rounding the one-mile-circle of asphalt that surrounds my neighborhood. Everyone is cheering and there is a great wreath of flowers waiting to be set around my neck, like a Hawaiian lai. I sometimes pretend that the song on my iPod is the backdrop to a show at New York Fashion Week and I am Sebastian Sauve on a runway. The paparazzi are going NUTS! and I’m pretending not to notice. When I am not a well-paid fashion model or a frothing stallion, I am a rock star, a finalist on American Idol, a diva or the lead in Fiddler On the Roof, performing in front of a live audience.

And I sing quite out loud.

If I skip a day of walking, because I have sufficiently convinced myself to take a deserved break, I punish myself the next day by walking five miles instead of four. (Sometimes, in fact, I walk an extra mile just because I like the song that’s playing on my iPod, as I head for the home stretch and I feel it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t become Whitney Houston for a moment and belt it out into the forgiving darkness.)

In the late winter, when it gets dark very early, I am almost always alone with my imagination. The real challenge is in the spring and summer, when my imagination is on display and the darkness doesn’t cover me.

My imagination improves with each passing season.

Love your life.

Making the Unconscious Conscious


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Freud’s main focus was to discover in the individual h/er unconscious urgesto make the unconscious conscious.  In order to achieve this goal, he applied a particular brand of therapy, a method known as psychoanalysis.  You might imagine yourself stark naked, standing before a gargantuan, over-filled closet.  Your goal in psychoanalysis is to examine the meaning, connotation and minutia of each and every piece of clothing you find there, before deciding what to wear. Freud’s method could be expected to last upwards of seven to ten years, making it all quite costly, leaving the patient rather self-absorbed, esoteric and, ultimately,  undressed.

Freud’s theory of the human mind was biased toward women, often describing females as inferior to men, helpless and sexually frustrated – especially weighted down with penis envy. Addressing the idea that females could potentially, one day, be psychotherapists, Freud stated, “We shall not be very greatly surprised if a woman analyst who has not been sufficiently convinced of the intensity of her own wish for a penis also fails to attach proper importance to that factor in her patients” (Freud, 1949).  According to Freud, women were prone to not only developing penis envy, but hysteria and melancholia as a result of a life dominated by an obsession with sexual and reproductive functions.

In as much as Freud contributed broadly and harshly to the subject of women, he added another dimension to the discussion of men and the development of the masculine gender identity.  That discussion, although seemingly as absurd as his ideas on the feminine gender, continues today and is responsible for a number of encouraging modern-day presumptions about gender development.  Freud’s work, more than anyone else before him, disrupted the established idea of human sexuality and made possible serious inquiry into the complex mystique of masculine and feminine gender and male and female sexual development.

Although Freudian psychoanalysis, when practiced at all, is often the exclusive domain of psychiatrists, many of Freud’s theoretical constructs survive today and are actually quite valuable, used to promote insight in an array of other more modern therapeutic orientations.  Defense mechanisms (DM) for example are Freudian concepts and are often the focus of a number of therapeutic initiatives.

DMs are believed to be unconscious psychological motivations used to preserve and protect the self image. DMs reshape psychological and environmental phenomena by influencing perception. The reshaping of perception makes psychological information more adaptive for ego assimilation.  Essentially, the purpose of DMs is one of many ways we protect our mind from anxiety.  Simply, if we don’t like what we see, we are capable of seeing it differently.

There are believed to be four types (levels) of DMs: Level One (Pathological): delusion, projection, denial, distortion; Level Two:  (Immature) acting out, projection, idealization; Level Three:  (Neurotic) hypochondriasis, isolation, repression, regression; Level Four:  (Mature) altruism, humour, identification and sublimation. DMs are expressed through unconscious motivations and overt behavior and often influence or even form the expression of individual personality.

Freud identifies the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego as having significant influence over the development of defense mechanisms (DMs).  (These three conceptual structures, the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego, represent functions of the mind and are not meant to describe parts of the brain.)

  1. The Id is UNSEEN and can be imagined as a screaming newborn (about the same size and age you are right now), motivated by instinct, self-gratification, impatience and pleasure. “I want what I want and I want it PRONTO!”
  2. The Super-ego is also UNSEEN and processes information believed to be ideal, moral, wholesome, and ethical – highly motivated by consequence and outcome.  “That is not right. I will avoid or postpone that opportunity.”
  3. The Ego is one’s PRESENT awareness, the result of how the Id and the Super-ego resolve their difference, and is SEEN in how we express our personality.

According to Freud, the Id and the Super-ego engage in a struggle of sorts, counterbalancing one another – the Super-ego attempts to inhibit the pleasure-seeking demands of the Id, and the Id attempts to thwart the managed, moral and principled forces of the Super-ego.

The Ego can be imagined as an observer, watching the match between the Id and the Super-ego, having no role in the battle except to carry out the will of the victor.  For example, “I want the cookie. If I eat it, it will be good.  If I am caught, I will be punished.  If I am punished, I will be bad. If I am not caught, I will still know I did it and I couldn’t live with that.  I could always lie and say I didn’t do it.  If I lie, it will be wrong and I will be bad.  If I take the cookie and eat it I could pretend I didn’t do it.  I could feel good about stealing it because I should get a cookie anyway. I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t want to lose my mother’s love. I will lie to her, but if she finds out, she will forgive me anyway; oh, what to do?”  We may see the development of denial, distortion or rationalization taking shape in the dialogue. Freud believed that DMs often appear when impulses of the Id are in conflict with the reasoned conclusions of the Super-ego, e.g., anxiety will result when the resolution between these two conceptual structures is maladaptive and not sufficient to resolve an external threat posed to the Ego. If you make a quick, irrational and self-serving decision, do you adjust to the decision by denying, rationalizing, intellectualizing or projecting?   If you take your time and choose not to pursue your ambition, do you find yourself fantasizing, distorting, intellectualizing or undoing?

Modern psychotherapy promotes a here-and-now style of emotional problem-solving – one where the focus of treatment is placed on the client’s current behaviors and attitudes, rather than relentlessly reviewing one’s past – as if giving a client a forum for continuously, cyclically telling and retelling themselves the dreadfulness of their past can somehow help solve their problems in their present life.  Not only is our recollection of our past often narrow, inadequate and biased, but can serve little or no purpose.  By searching for meaning in our past, we are often left to construe meaning, motivation and purpose, leading nowhere except to re-live events that were unfortunate and regrettable to begin with.

A here-and-now perspective encourages the client to recognize that emotional problems are more likely resolved by making the past an issue of the present:

“My mother was neglectful.  She often didn’t feed me.  She was alcoholic.”

“How is that a problem for you now?”

“I feel like I didn’t have a childhood.”

“What if you didn’t have a childhood?”

“Then I would have missed out on a lot of things other kids got to experience.”

“How would that be a problem for you now?”

“I don’t feel like I have had a complete life.”

“What would that mean?”

“That I will never be what I could have been.”

“What do you think you could have been?”

“A dentist.”

“What would it have meant if you had become a dentist?”

“I would have been happier. I would have more money.  People would call me doctor. I would have gone to college.  I would have married better.  The list goes on.”

“What does it mean now that you haven’t achieved those goals?”

“That I am not successful.”

“What does that mean to you now?”

“That I am a bad person.”

While a here-and-now approach can be an intense, transformative experience, it is also an opportunity to build a stronger awareness of ourselves, our patterns of behavior and our potential for change.  The client creates a working condition from which problem-solving can occur, rather than depending on some esoteric interpretation of the past. When the client becomes fully aware of the importance of the present in emotional problem-solving, s/he is more capable of identifying repetitive patterns and behaviors that can be changed NOW.

People are often not able to appreciate who they really are because they keep listening to their historical dialogue. Changing how you talk to yourself NOW is far more likely to bring about lasting change.

We may benefit from Freud’s dependence on the past to resolve our immediate emotional troubles. We can, in fact, find something to wear without examining every garment in the closet.  In fact, Freud’s description of the Id, Ego and Super-ego can be used to strengthen our understanding the human mind while continuing to promote a here-and-now perspective.

Knowledge and awareness of both paradigms may help in providing better treatment outcomes.

Possessing a heightened awareness of what may seem antediluvian Freudian ego psychology may very well help inform a modern application of a here-and-now orientation.  Rather than remaining an unconscious (UNSEEN) phenomenon, we can bring the repetitive, negative dialogue that rages between the Id and the Super-ego into our conscious (SEEN) awareness.  The more conscious we can make the dialogue, the more we can deliberately influence the overall outcome.

Instead of being a bystander to the disputes that rage in our unconscious, we can be the primary arbitrator of our emotional disputes.  Remaining in the here-and-now, we might recognize the puerile quality of our unconscious arguments by making them part of our consciousness.  By doing so, we might draw our own conscious, well-balanced conclusions.

You may decide, in the NOW to end the dispute between your Id and your Super-ego and welcome an emotional life that emphasizes the here and now – neither depending on the past nor the future for your state of mind. The shape of your personality may become the result of an active, intentional and conscious process, rather than leaving it to the victor of an unconscious argument involving two extremes.

The Million Moms vs Human Rights


This post is a departure from my traditional blogging topics.  Although we encounter any number of opportunities to improve our emotional intelligence, I think the One Million Moms (OMM) movement is one of those cherished occasions when we can have an Ah-ha (or even an mm-hm) moment.

Haters are motivators, to paraphrase Ellen.

I have posted a copy of the OMM organization’s (http://www.OneMillionMoms.com) letter (below) which is available on their website.  I made very minimal changes to my re-post, except to add another dimension to the topic.  I changed Ellen‘s name to Beyonce and homosexual to black.  You are welcome to make your own substitutions. (Quite a number of them will work just fine.)  I did this because I was wondering how I could send a clear message to this organization that would help them understand why JC Penney may not be listening to them.  After all, they “stated their concerns in a kind, professional manner.”  It appears that JC Penney is “insulting customers by ignoring” them and JC Penney doesn’t “appreciate our business.”  The group goes on to demand that JC Penney should listen to them in a more “considerate fashion.”

I thought if I changed the focus of their hatred to something more socially and politically incorrect, something less acceptable as a target of bullying, they would be more capable of understanding why JP Penney chooses to ignore them.

*****

HEADLINE:  JC Penney is Now Insulting Its Customers

OMM [OneMillionMoms]began contacting JC Penney after the store announced that singer Beyonce would become the company’s new spokesperson. Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring a black spokeswoman will help their business when most of its customers are white. As consumers, what we find tragic is a corporate office and customer service department that not only transfers customers to voice mail, but even hangs up on them rather than verses hearing their concerns.

It is absurd to think that a company would find treating customers in this fashion an acceptable behavior. Our members stated their concerns in a kind, professional manner. Insulting customers by ignoring us will not be tolerated. OMM members can shop elsewhere if JC Penney does not appreciate our business. Unless JC Penney decides to be neutral in the culture war and listen to customers in a considerate fashion, their brand transformation will be unsuccessful.

Beyonce is not a true representation of the type of families who shop at the retailer. The small percentage of customers they are attempting to satisfy will not offset their loss in sales by offending the majority.

Since JC Penney won’t listen to us nationally, it is time we let them hear from us locally!

*****

I shall leave this topic for now.  I will return to it, however, from time to time, if I believe a message from me can help to further the cause of human rights, anywhere.  We have candidates for president of these United States campaigning for office using discrimination and hatred as an integral plank in their national platforms.These people receive applause and are re-booked to speak elsewhere when they should be shunned and ignored.  They write speeches, books, campaign slogans and make YouTube videos encouraging others to hate and harm other Americans.  In a country where human rights are given at birth, why are there so many people who smile broadly and clap their hands together at hearing this message of hatred, prejudice, discrimination, marginalization and bigotry?  Is freedom and safety only available to some Americans?

We should never stand by when people are being psychologically and physically harmed.  We should never divert our attention when people, especially minorities, are the objects of bullying and discrimination.  A significant purpose of establishing and protecting civil rights is not only to promote the idea that people can behave in a civilized manner, but more importantly to protect the rights and freedoms of minorities against the whim and will of the majority.  If we depended on the majority to establish civil rights for minority groups, we would hardly have moved ahead as a culture at all. I hope each of my readers will take h/er own position on this issue and post your own commentary on your own blog.  It is a topic worth our focused dedication, no matter how we feel about it.

Premeditated Impulsivity


In order to achieve emotional wellness, we must first establish a frame of reference from which we can visualize, evaluate and define our own sanity – and stop depending so heavily on others for that definition. You can call this your first step toward building emotional independence.

Isn’t emotional independence what we are all seeking?

According to Eckhart Tolle (1948 – ), “your conscious mind loves to create your world for you”  and delivers to you the emotional world you imagine. Like your definition of emotional wellness, your happiness should always remain independent of the influence of others.

If your goal is to establish your own definition of emotional wellness and, by doing so, define your own idea of happiness, you might begin with developing an inner reference for who you truly are and reconcile yourself with that. You might become more emotionally and physically aware of yourself in the here and now.  You might stop looking to the past to define who you are now; you might stop looking to the future for who you think you might be some day.  Let yourself unfold every day, in the moment. Be in the present and find your meaning there. You might plan for how you wish (or hope to) behave; how you wish think, and how you wish to express emotion – based entirely on your own inner reference point for making those judgments.

Just imagine yourself traveling through your day, free of the opinions, assessments, judgments, criticisms and evaluations that tend to impact your state of mind – those impediments to happiness and emotional health we each encounter every day. Imagine that you can, instead of making yourself upset, thank people for seeing you and all of your obvious imperfections. “I am grateful that you’ve taken the time to see me.” Imagine that the here-and-now is more important than the past or the future.

This is all very possible.

I try not to seek out others to dictate the parameters of my emotional options – although I still occasionally do. I have slowly come to realize that too much outside opinion can create a dependence on others for my personal value and my emotional state.  Outside opinion, I have found, can make emotional struggle even more of a struggle.

“Can you believe she did that?”

“Not really!

“What would you do?”

“I would be very angry.  I would want to slap her.”

“Goodness, was it really that bad?”

Yes, honey! It was the worst thing possible!  You are being way too patient and tolerant of this.”

“So you think I should slap her?”

“I would.”

As I said, I am not always successful at achieving my emotional goals. To my credit, if I have accomplished anything, I have improved my skill at differentiating between rational and irrational thinking.  I believe I have achieved an inner frame of reference that helps me tell the difference between which of my emotional encounters are manageable and which are unmanageable.  I often dedicate myself to addressing my unmanageable emotions using constructive, well-thought-out and rational solutions.  Although I sometimes fail at this ambition, I have at least come up with my own method for changing the things I can change and not trying to change the things I cannot change and for forgiving myself when I don’t succeed.  My confidence in myself for drawing conclusions and relying on my own considered opinion for what I am willing to call managed emotion often results in my increased potential for emotional independence.

I am not completely independent of others, however.

Nor would I want to be.

I like people (except some of them) and I like to share my ideas, thoughts and opinions with them.  I, alone, however, construct my own emotional environment, my own emotional life, and try, most often, for the emotional solution that will bring about or maintain my emotional and physical wellness.

My skills have certainly worked for me – most of the time.

You might begin your own journey toward emotional independence by concluding that your emotional wellness will depend on the definition of mental health you establish for yourself.  Creating your own personal definition of happiness, as well, will go a long way to meeting that goal.

Have you thought of how you view happiness?  Do you have a written definition?  If you wrote one out, would it reveal something about how you will know when you are happy?  Is your personal definition of happiness even possible?

Definitions of the word happiness that are linear, strict and perfect are often subject to failure.  If I think that the ONLY time in my life I can be happy is when EVERYTHING is going perfectly, I will have a limited opportunity for happiness. I would be at the whim and will of a world that is likely to provide me with any number of challenges, most of which are quite unpredictable. Happiness, for me, must include the fact that misfortune is a fact of every-day life and must be met with grace.

I hold a definition of happiness that includes an expectation of some measure of misfortune and that misfortune is likely to surface at any given moment in time. Happiness means to me that even when misfortune occurs, I can still be happy in my life – if I try.

*****

I strive every day to be in touch with my emotions and how I influence them through my thinking and rethinking. I have made a conscious commitment to take an active role in my own emotional life.

I often hear people say, “You think too much.  You shouldn’t think so much. You should just leave things the way they are. You’ll drive yourself crazy thinking all the time.” If I didn’t try to maintain a level-headed awareness of how I reconcile my emotional life, ALL THE TIME, I would be, instead of a THINKING PERSON, a rather random, indiscriminate and uncertain person – out of touch with my own emotional destiny.

I am not at ease with uncertainty.

Uncertainty leads to impulsivity.

It is not so much that impulsivity is bad or wrong.  On the contrary, impulsivity has a place in my life; I like to get in my car and just drive, winding up somewhere I hadn’t planned to go.  I don’t believe, however, that that kind of impulsivity would work well to maintain my emotional health. My emotional frame of reference includes aspects of me that are best guarded against foreseeable harm. I have learned that behaving impulsively, without parameters, would be reckless.

I am a believer in premeditated impulsivity.