Oh, the good life, full of funâ€¨ Seems to be the ideal Sacha Distel
After half a lifetime of protestant work ethic and a secretly held belief that suffering is required for a good life (my mother would often mention people who had a hard life as if it was a badge of honour that somehow put them above others who had a good life), I am starting to move over to the other side.
By this I don’t mean Hamlet’s ‘undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn no traveller returns’ – in other words, the hereafter – quite the opposite in fact. I mean the pursuit of happiness in the here and now as a life goal, rather than that puritanical tenet that hard work never killed anyone, when quite clearly it could and often did!
I myself, for instance, must admit I am feeling happier at the moment. It’s a good feeling, particularly after having suffered sporadic bouts of s depression and its family; anxiety, bipolar, manic disorder etc.. For many years I kept that hidden, before ‘coming out’ in an earlier article so now to be looking at the flip side of that coin is an upbeat pursuit in itself and I am coming to the conclusion that a better option that stopping the pain of depression and anxiety is to seek out the good life.
Maybe it is because I am studying Perspectives on Well-being from a UEL’s positive psychology course. When I started the programme and browsed through the subject content I had a bit of a giggle at what was to be learned: flourishing, flow, mindfulness, gratitude and a whole bunch of other words that made me think new age, tree-hugging psycho-babble.
Well have my eyes been opened and with them my mind. I am faced with a body of science advocating that happiness is not a sin, is actually achievable and is positive for individuals and society as a whole.
The idea that people can flourish – which is defined as ‘a state of positive mental health; to thrive, to prosper and to fare will in endeavors free of mental illness, filled with emotional vitality and function positively in private and social realms.
Before I go further let me stress that mental illness and mental health are not on the same continuum despite my flip coin metaphor. Thus the absence of mental illness does not equate to the presence of mental health and, as empirical research has pointed out, the absence of mental health is as damaging as the presence of mental illness. Simply put, you may not be sad but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are happy – the vacuum of sorrow is not automatically filled with joy.
Those are two ends of a wide spectrum with many points in between. Thus when you meet talk to people in moments of deep crisis or emotional pain you will often hear them talk about escaping from or numbing the pain. Many depressed people don’t aspire for more than to stop the suffering, as if the goal is to end the pain not find happiness, pleasure or joy.
Positive psychology has only recently come into vogue with currently only two universities in the world offering masters programmes on the subject matter. But let’s face it the ideas are not that new. Aristotle concluded that the highest good for all humanity was Eudaimonia (or happiness).
Epicurus and later Utilitarians preached that happiness was the abundance of positive feelings and pleasure. Socrates, and Plato believed that when people pursued a virtuous life they would become authentically happy. Positive psychology is in laymen’s terms the study of happiness or the science of a meaningful life. First coined by Abraham Maslow it was later popularized by Martin Seligman a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Maslow said “the science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height.”
Previously psychology has been consumed with mental studies and pathology so much so that the mere mention of the word resulted in raised eyebrows and gestures like to pointing a circulating finger at the head and squinting eyes to suggest a person is one chocolate short of a full box. Labels like ‘crazy’, ‘cuckoo’ and ‘looney’ (influenced by the moon) and visions of insane asylums where patients walk around with straight jacket in a dazed, pill-induced coma resulted in psychology becoming ‘victimology’.
So whereas human beings with a physical illness could be treated and fixed, those with a psychological disorder were viewed as broken beyond repair. But now there is different focus, as summed up recently in one of my text books, which can be illustrated by two questions: ‘why do some people fail’ versus ‘ why do some people succeed?
So with positive psychology we shift from studying mental illness, weakness, damage and fixing what is wrong to developing or building on what is right. It recognizes that psychology is also about work, education, insight, love, growth etc. And when you consider how common mental illness is today, this approach is long overdue.
Whilst I am not sure if it is on the increase in my circle or it’s because I am more aware of the illness than others, it is worthy to consider that in studies conducted a few years ago by Keyes and Michalec, depression was ten times higher in 2009 than it was in 1960, with the mean age for depression today being 14.5 (compared to 29.5 in 1960).
Furthermore at any one time about 2 per cent of the population is suffering from depression and 14 percent of us will experience depression by the age of 35 (compared to2 per cent in the 1950s).
A modern disease, then, like Yuppie ‘flu, needing a radically different approach and a new perspective, changing La Vida Loca (the crazy life) to La Dolce Vita (the sweet life). It seems to be working for me so why not?
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.