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Re-engineering a New You..

A guide on how to balance the facets of your life

by Dr Tshepiso Matentjie (PhD.) & Semukele Lynnette Murape

Now that the month of January has come and gone, I’m sure it’s safe to say that the first of January is not a ‘reset button’. With that being said, it becomes evident that change can be implemented at any time, and happens constantly whether we like it or not.

Essentially, we are all different versions of ourselves daily. This means that we take on various roles that we constantly need to shift between. Thus it follows that the term ‘new’ carries different meanings with very different goals and aspirations for each area of our lives. Whether your goal this year is to lose a certain amount of weight or getting that promotion; these aspirations are based on our unique needs and circumstances.

The wheel of life is a coaching tool that helps you interrogate the balance between all the facets of your life. As you rate each area, you get to see which part(s) of your life are out of sync or that you’ve been neglecting.

Wheel of life

The Wheel of Life

by Paul J. Meyer

I, for example, am an employee; a colleague; a daughter; and a girlfriend – to name a few – and all of these roles have different responsibilities and require me to fulfil certain demands. The different roles I shift between essentially mean that I am also allocating varying amounts of my time to different aspect of my life. Because I find my job very fulfilling and very demanding on my time, I would score myself relatively high for ‘Career/Job’ and ‘Wealth’. Inadvertently,  this takes away my time, energy and focus from my ‘Family and Friends’, ‘Personal Space, ‘Playtime, Hobbies and Fun’. Although over the weekends and holidays I attend to these aspects of my life to varying degrees, personally I am not completely satisfied with what falls through the cracks in these areas because of my career. So I would rate myself very low on these aspects of my life. Thus, for 2019, re-engineering my life to be the best version of myself will mean I have to give up some work assignments to make more time available for the other priorities in my life. But that would require for me to make peace with missing out on a possible early promotion, and swallow the pain of watching Anne get it.

 

Complete your wheel by rating yourself out of 10 for each of the areas; with 0 being at the centre of the wheel and 10 being on the outer circle. Then ask yourself the following questions about what you have learnt about yourself:

  What areas have you been neglecting? At what price?

  What areas have you been prioritising instead? At what cost?

  What behaviours do you need to learn or unlearn in order to be the best version of yourself? What sacrifices do you need to make?

  What kind of mindset do you need to adopt in order to sustain the changes you need to make?

  How do you feel about this?

 

Remember that great things take time. Make it your mission to make ‘Project You!’ a lifelong project, it’s a marathon not a sprint! 

Being the Architect of Your Future

Invoking positivity into your life through mindset change

by Dr Tshepiso Matentjie (PhD.) & Semukele Lynnette Murape

What happens when the changes you need to make in your life are rooted in trauma and evoke a deep sense of pain?

Pain and trauma taints our perspective towards a difficult situation; it makes change overwhelming, which makes us feel helpless and hopeless, and traps us in a state of trauma rather than giving us an opportunity to heal and overcome it. This is not to minimise the problem, but rather to challenge ourselves to change our perspectives from problem-based to solution-focused.

Building on the Wheel of Life discussed in the previous article, use the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) 4D Cycle to tap into your resourcefulness and assets that have enabled you to achieve scores of above 5 on the wheel, and then use those as leverage to teach you how to strengthen the areas in which you rated yourself less than 5.

Essentially, the AI 4D Cycle facilitates a change in mindset, allowing you to view any issue of contention as an opportunity for personal growth and restructuring. 

The four key phases of AI are:

Discovery: reflect on the areas where you have rated yourself highly. This entails investigating and identifying the behaviours and habits that have allowed you to achieve; the type of thinking that led you to success; as well as your feelings towards how you managed to achieve success and what sacrifices you may have had to make.

Dream: formulating a results-driven vision of the best-case scenario; of rating every facet of your life highly. Think about what behaviours you would need to incorporate; the mindset you would need to adopt; and how you would feel about the choices you would have to make.

Design: articulating a plan of how to achieve your best-case scenario by building on the assets you have found in the Discovery phase.

Destiny: embodying the “I was meant to do this” mentality as a means of strengthening your confidence in your capability by acknowledging what is possible and how you can control. This will entail envisioning a balanced life; when all the facets of your life are scored highly. This will encourage further positive change, relinquish the feeling of hopelessness and sustain high performance.

Expanding on the example used in the previous article, I Discovered that my strength areas are ‘Career/Job’ and ‘Wealth’, and my weak ones are ‘Family and Friends’, ‘Personal Space’, and ‘Playtime, Hobbies and Fun’. Reflecting on these aspects of my life has brought me to a common underlying factor: Black Tax. Black tax is an issue that many young people of colour face today; it entails financially supporting both immediate and extended family members while trying to manage their own expenses; which leaves them with little to nothing at the end of the month. Although it has become the ‘norm’ of black culture, it is essentially a form of trauma, and this is the reason why I work so hard and have very little time for myself.

From this, I can envision a Dream of putting the same energy and time that I put into my job, and redirect it to dealing with this underlying issue of contention.

From this, I am able to Design a plan that involves applying these factors to the goal of elevating my black tax. This means that I firstly have to deal with the fact that I am feeling resentful toward society and even my family. I need to have an honest conversation with your family about the pain and the burden I carry about having to be the provider, the guilt it generates when I am unable to provide, and the fear of me possibly not being able to provide for them. Only then can I begin to put a plan in place to make at least some of my family members self-sustaining and financially independent. Putting this plan into action involves creating a short- and long-term plan, and having measurable milestones with timelines to keep me – and them – motivated and reinforce progress. It is important to always have a budget, and to constantly inform my family of this, as well as the boundaries about funding and my personal limitations. Remember, if the trauma remains, you will not be able to execute your plan

Lastly, I live out my Destiny by implementing the plan, getting myself help and reinforcing my boundaries when there is a new project at work; to avoid falling in the same trap.

Screenshot 2019-02-06 at 13.22.33

The AI ‘4D Cycle’

by Cooperrider & Whitney (2000)

Here are some questions that could facilitate your process. Then ask yourself the following questions about what you have learnt about your life:

  Throughout your life, when did you feel as though you were at a highpoint? When did you feel most alive, excited and engaged?

  What do you value most about yourself at your highpoint?

  What are the common positive factors that stand out about you when you are at your best?

  Picture your life ten year from now, when everything has gone according to plan, what will be the difference between your life then and now? What will be your legacy?

 

It is important to recognise your struggles, but it is equally important – if not more so – to acknowledge the fact that you have the power to overcome them. Always remember that the words that you speak, become the house you live in. 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The psychology behind staying in an abusive relationship

by Dr Tshepiso Matentjie (PhD.) & Semukele Lynnette Murape

Why people stay in abusive relationships has proven to be a hot topic of conversation, and I would like to unpack it with you. Caryl Rusbult & John Martz (1995) found that satisfaction level, quality of alternatives and investment size influences the individual’s commitment level; which then determines the decision to stay or leave – seen in the figure below:

TA Picture

The Investment Model of Commitment Process & Stay/Leave Behaviour by Rusbult & Martz (1995)

Satisfaction Level:

·      How happy I am in my relationship refers to the level of satisfaction I feel.

·      Here, I would take a closer look at what kind of needs my partner is taking care of. My significant other caters to my belongingness and love needs; which can only be fulfilled by intimate relationships or friends.

 

·      However, suppose he stopped giving me love and affection a year ago and now I am just holding on to the times that he did. That is a false sense of satisfaction because it is extremely important to look at where you are now and not where you were a few months or years ago.

·       The same applies to you if you find yourself trying to justify or explain to people why you are still in your relationship. In this ·         case, you are committed to a relationship that is completely unsatisfying. You are holding on to the ‘good’ parts of your partner and the relationship by saying things like “at least he doesn’t hit me”, or “she may break my things when we fight, but I know she needs me because I’m all she’s got”.

·         got”.

·         How to Leave:

o   Take note of what needs your partner is not fulfilling, and also what needs you currently fulfil – and are able to fulfil – yourself. This will show you whether you would be more satisfied on your own or not.

o   Speak to a professional, to help you deal with your trauma. If you cannot afford their services, then you could even find various support groups of people that are going through the exact same thing that you are, and are willing to help you in any way that they can.

 

Quality of Alternatives:

·      The more you rely on your partner for things such as safety and security, food and water, shelter, feelings of accomplishment, and money, ultimately determines how many options you have, should you decide to leave the relationship.

·      Given that I fulfil most of my own needs, have other potential partners outside the relationship and have my own place to stay, would make it easier for me to leave; as my quality of alternatives are high.

·      However, someone with little to no alternatives outside of their relationships would find it much harder to leave. This is why it is vital to recognise how much you rely on your partner, because the more of your needs they cater to essentially traps you further in the relationship.

·      You might “have nowhere else to go”, or have low levels of education and thus little to no personal income; this would cause you to rely on your abusive partner in order to survive.

·         How to Leave:

o   Break your silence! You cannot get the help you need if no one knows you need it. This does not necessarily mean going to the police, but confiding in someone that you can trust; they might be able to give you alternative options that you never thought you had.

o   In the case of being dependent on your abusive partner, begin by envisioning what your life would be like when you leave them. From that, you can figure out what steps you need to take in order to be ‘free’ from them. Whether it is secretly trying to find a job or furthering your education; you would at least be able to leave with a plan on becoming independent.

 

Investment Size:

·       What I put into the relationship and what I get out of it is my investment size.

·       What I invest can be either be directly put into the relationship – like spending time together, buying each other gifts and sending ‘good morning texts’ – or be results of me being in the relationship – such as children, mutual friends, shared marital possessions, and even having a higher social status.

·       So, if you are married to your abusive partner – instead of just dating or living with them – have been with them for a long time and have children with them, you are most likely to stay.

·         How to Leave:

o   Ensure that you and your partner are contributing equal amounts in the relationship. You both need to get back what you put in.

o   In the case of not getting back what you put in, it is suggested that you invest in other friendships or hobbies or projects. You will son find your level of satisfaction increasing in your new investment and decreasing in your toxic relationship; therefore making it easier to leave.

 

Furthermore, it is important to make a distinction between internal and external factors that dictate our choices to stay in or leave an abusive relationship. How much the variables discussed above determines whether you choose to leave or stay depends on your specific situation. These are internal factors; such as low self-esteem, income and levels of education. In relation to external factors, a lot of people tend to harshly judge those who stay; without even being aware that they themselves contribute to that individual staying in the relationship. Putting this idea into context, a mother might chastise her daughter for staying with her cheating husband, while being oblivious to the fact that she takes every opportunity to brag about the fact that she has been with her father for decades and about how much of a ‘good wife’ she is. Or, a man may stay with his physically abusive girlfriend because society at large has dictated that only women are victims of abuse. This mentality held by the general public – including those around him – prohibits him from leaving or even just acknowledging that he is a victim.

It is possible to only have one variable that determines the amount in which you commit to your relationship. For example, suppose quality of alternatives is the factor for you, because you may solely rely on your partner for a sense of belonging and family, or financial stability. If you are able to find other potential partners or living arrangements, then leaving would be easier for you. However, it is also possible to have all three variables feeding into the level of commitment you have to your abusive partner. In addition to the quality of alternatives example, let’s suppose you have children together and although you are unhappy, everyone around you looks to you two as being the ‘perfect couple’. In this case, leaving is guaranteed to be much more difficult.

Let’s Be Adults About This

The key to healthy communication

by Dr Tshepiso Matentjie (PhD.) & Semukele Lynnette Murape

 

Interpersonal conflict – whether between you and your parents, children, co-workers or significant other – is a problem that many of us face. We are very quick to blame the other person for the issue of contention, and often fail to take accountability of our contribution to the conflict. There may be unconscious forces within us that often dictate how we interact with each other. 

According to Eric Berne (1964), we think and behave in ways that are informed by our ego states; shown and described in the figure on the right. These three ego states interact with each other, both within us and between us.

When you are trying to be rational, objective and logical about an issue, yet your partner gets emotional in response; you are trying to be an “adult” about the issue and they are being “childish”. I, for example, have instances at work where I have held a meeting aiming to address some work-related issues, but a colleague has taken my constructive feedback as an attack on their character, and thus reacts aggressively – escalating the conflict. Interestingly, conflict can arise the other way around too: I recently found myself in a situation where I was hurting and tried to elicit comfort and emotional support from my partner. He responded with the 6 W’s (who, what, when, where, why and how) in an attempt to try to understand what I was going through. This ended up making me feel extremely upset, because he was not giving me the emotional support that I needed at the time. Upon reflection, I realize that I needed him to soothe and comfort me, and not try to solve my problem because I am quite capable of solving it myself. Whereas, he wanted to understand the issue from an objective perspective, to help me come up with solutions. So, we were communicating past each other, I from the Child ego state and him from the Adult ego state. I wanted the Nurturing Parent in him, and he expected the Adult in me.With my colleague, she probably experienced me as a Critical Parent. When in fact she was seeking validation and reassurance from a Nurturing Parent perspective. I, on the other hand, was looking to speak to a fellow Adult, I didn’t come to work to parent anyone after all. In both scenarios, although there is communication, it is ineffective because our communication is crossed.

Here are some Tips on How to Facilitate Healthy Conversation:

·      Given that conflict arises when you talk to each other from different ego states, it is highly important that you recognize the current ego state that each one of you is operating from, in order to de-escalate the conflict before it reaches climax. Also be aware if the ego states that you are communicating from is effective or not.                                                   

·      Remain accountable for your contribution to the conflict. If your partner is being emotional and vulnerable with you, it is your responsibility to be there for them, in order toat in order to establish and strengthen trust and security in the relationship. Failing to do so will cause them to refrain from reaching out to you for comfort.

·      Always explore more effective ways of communicating with your partner, in the aim of avoiding having the same issues of contention coming up. Both you should feel empowered as individuals and comfortable with each other at the end of your conversation.

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