The worry factor

Most of us, if we are honest, will admit to worrying, regardless of our personality or upbringing. It seems part of our human condition to be concerned about people we love or things that either have happened or might happen. So, we can’t escape our ‘worrying’ gene or tendencies but we can control the degree to which we worry.

Sometimes we equate worry with love. If you arrive home two hours late and your partner is casually watching tv, eating corn chips and barely flicks you a glance when you finally make it through the door, you would probably say something along the lines of “Weren’t you even worried about me?!” We do tend to measure love in increments of ‘worry’.

Other times, our level of worry can be construed as mistrust; just ask any teenager, they will surely say that their parents worry is in direct relation to how much trust their parents have in them!

So is worry, really love in disguise? Do we worry about people or things we don’t care about? Is it possible to love sufficiently yet without the worry factor?

We are constantly being told by the ‘experts’ not to worry but if we don’t worry that someone is late etc does that mean we don’t love them? If we are calm, and seemingly not worried, in the face of a possible problem or calamity, does that mean our care factor is zero? Does an absence of worry really indicate nonchalance?

Sometimes I think we are guilty of looking at others who don’t worry and taking that as proof that their love or care for a particular situation is less, when in fact they have just made a decision to not worry. After all, worrying really doesn’t achieve anything positive; it can’t change the outcome of a circumstance or prevent something happening.

So how about you? Is worrying how you show your concern for people or circumstances? Or have you found a better way?

So. I’m short.

Years ago, when I first met my husband, I made some flippant remark about the fact that I was tall. “You’re what now?” my then beau asked. “I’m tall.” I replied confidently. The guffaws and hilarity that then ensued had me a little baffled.

You see, I had grown up being told by my mother that I was the tall one amongst my sisters (my brother was heading towards 6ft by the age of 15). My soon to be husband, once he had sufficiently recovered enough, managed to gasp out, “You aren’t tall, in fact, you’re rather short!”

I was shocked. All this time I had not been tall? What?!

Now, although I feel I have come to terms with my somewhat diminutive stature, I must have some remnants left over from my ‘tall’ past.

I have attended two school functions this past week, where the idea is very much to be able to see one’s little darling performing their heart out up on stage. Out of respect for those behind me, I have sat in the second row, so as not to block anyone’s view by sitting in the front row. Clearly, I still believe that people may not be able to see over my enormous 5ft 3 frame.

Unlike others.

Tall people (factually tall people, not ‘tall’ by my mother’s definition) sat in front of me…both times! So, either, I do actually look tall to them, or they are unaware of their own height advantage and oblivious to the fact that my perfect view of the performance was now marred by their head and shoulders.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not…<insert politically correct word for short people who don’t like tall people>…it just made me think about how different our perceptions of ourselves are.

I very rarely see size or height in people. My husband may comment after meeting someone that they were tall or short and always has a chuckle at my shoulder shrugging “oh, were they?” response. I just don’t see it. I tend to think I am the same size as whoever I am with at any given time.

We have all seen tall people who stoop to try and mask their height and we are all familiar with ‘short-man’ syndrome, so which came first? The personality or the stature?

Maybe it’s a combination of both – some people are so sick to death of it being commented on that they are tall or short that they compensate as best they can and their personality then has a bearing on how that plays out.

Regardless, of how we got there, we all have a view of our own space. Those who sat in front of me may not genuinely be aware of how tall they are, maybe they feel small on the inside. I do not know either of them, so this is pure ‘homespun psychological’ conjecture but maybe how we feel inside is how we project on the outside. We all know those short people who we refer to a ‘pocket rockets’, they have a dynamic element that goes way beyond their actual physical size. Conversely, some of the quietest, shyest people I have met have been over 6ft tall (or so I’m told 🙂 ).

Or, maybe, this is just all a reflection on me and how I see myself. Maybe I am the only one who is short but thinks they are tall. Maybe I just have an inflated sense of the amount of space I take up.

If I do, I blame my mother. She started it. 🙂

Warning: heavy post

You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the furore surrounding the export of live cattle since the Four Corners program aired in late May (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2011/s3228880.htm). I didn’t watch it, and it turns out, I didn’t need to as it has been repeated and talked about so much since.

It is abhorrent that this is going on and we are right as Australians to stand up and be counted as saying we want it stopped. People power saw the Government take action (which, not surprisingly, has upset a whole other set of Australians). I am proud to live in a democracy where we as citizens actually can be heard and listened to.

But.

As disgusting as what is being done to the cattle is, it is by no means an isolated case. Innocent dolphins are being slaughtered to the tune of 23 000 a year in Japan alone (http://nicolemclachlan.wordpress.com/the-taiji-dolphin-slaughter/). Over 70 million animals are killed each year in the USA in cosmetics laboratories (http://www.animalcruelty.com/acfastfacts.html). If you are feeling brave, just do a quick surf on the net and you will be astounded at the level to which we are harming all kinds of animals.

But.

As disgusting as what is being done to animals is, we are doing far worse things to fellow humans and a fair chunk of them are children. Every 26 seconds a child is sold into the sex slave industry, often by their parent or guardian (http://www.destinyrescue.org/aus/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=24&Itemid=38). Human trafficking is increasing, not decreasing in our ‘enlightened’ modern times (http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery/). Do I need to go on? Frankly, I don’t think I have the stomach to list any more atrocities.

Why are we not incensed by these issues of human cruelty? Why do we rise up when we see the cattle torture on TV, yet chat and sip our coffee when the World Vision ads are on and happily go back to watching our favourite TV show after seeing starving children on our screen?

Why?

Do we feel helpless in the face of the overwhelming number of people in need? Surely, we felt helpless when watching the Four Corners program, yet there was enough of a groundswell to make ourselves heard. Why do we collectively do nothing about the abuse of innocent children and the flagrant disregard for their lives?

I am angry, sad and frustrated. What do we need to see as a society to galvanise us into action? There is no cheery ending to this post, no happy upside to the issues raised. We need to realise that we can make a difference…after all, haven’t we just proved that with the live export issue?

Worn down?

When on our mini break earlier this year (see earlier post Looking out and looking down), we walked a great deal on the rocks . I am no geologist but I am sure those rocks have been there a very long time and in being there, have been subjected to the constant ebb and flow of the tide. I am also sure that the rocks looked quite different then, to how they look today.

As strong as they are, the rocks get worn down; they change their shape, become smooth and take on different hues.

Life does that to us, too. The constant ebb and flow of life has an effect on us and shapes who we are. The question is: are you being worn into a new shape, or are you being worn away?

Unlike the rocks, we can choose to allow the circumstances of life to either mold us into a new and beautiful shape, or we can allow ourselves to just be worn down by the worries and cares of living.

The rocks on the edge of the ocean, to me, are graceful and almost magical with all their various sizes, colours and shapes. Most often, they are rounded and smooth, not sharp or rough. Like us. When we allow life to smooth our rough edges, we become something more beautiful than we were before.

No matter how strong we are, it is easy to feel worn down by the world; the disasters we have all lived through this year alone, not taking into account our own personal losses and tragedies, are certainly enough for us to warrant feeling
worn down.

But.

Let’s be like the rocks, solid and firm but happy to be changed and molded into something new. Something that the ebb and flow of life makes even more wonderful than it was to start with.

The Bystander Effect

Whilst enjoying dinner with friends last night, the subject of one friends recent experience came up. Whilst eating in a ‘restaurant’, he witnessed an elderly man fall from his chair. Now, as the man was in the outside area and my friend was inside, he rightly assumed that one of the many people in the outside area would come to the man’s aid. He was staggered to realise that no-one did, so immediately went outside to help. The rest of us all then told similar stories of our own and it really was disconcerting to realise how often this sort of thing happens.

This type of incident generally falls under the title of ‘the bystander effect’. Quick disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form a psychologist, sociologist or any other sort of -ologist, so please remember this is just my take on this phenomenon. 

The bystander effect is essentially what can happen when an incident occurs in a group of people and no one helps or intervenes. Interestingly, the larger the group, the smaller the number of people who will help someone in distress. It seems that this happens for various reasons:  thinking someone else will help; fear of getting involved/hurt themselves; when we don’t see others helping, we subconsciously pick up on the social cues that what is happening is not that significant. For a very brief, layman terms definition of the bystander effect try this link: http://psychology.about.com/od/socialpsychology/a/bystandereffect.htm

So what makes people, like my friend, help in such a situation and seemingly be immune to the bystander effect? That is a tricky question, one I’m certain I am not qualified to answer but…see disclaimer above….I think it must just come down to who you are eg your confidence as a person, probably a certain amount of leadership qualities and a willingness to go out on a limb for a fellow human being.

What I find most interesting is that if asked the question “Would you go to the aid of someone in distress in a public area?” most of us would say yes. So, if most of us think that in our head, why does that not transpose to real life situations?  There are many legitimate reasons why we may not rush to help someone. For instance, it’s far better to alert the authorities than become involved in a domestic argument. Also, if there is a real danger to yourself, or your children, for example, at a car accident it may not be safe to approach the car.

Really, we need to be sensible when dealing with people and situations we don’t know. However, I can see no detrimental effect on my friend for having helped an elderly man back up onto his chair and ensuring he was not hurt. Maybe we are so full of bravado for all the ‘big’ situations we would help in eg the floods, that we are forgetting to help in small kindnesses.

I vote we all take a stand against the bystander effect and not hesitate to help where we can….isn’t there something about ‘do unto others…..’ written somewhere?

Change

I recently heard a quote from Maya Angelou – “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

My first reaction was, oooh, I like that! Too often we get the same, usually detrimental, treatment from a person and we wonder why it keeps happening, yet, in reality, they showed us right at the beginning who they were and we just didn’t believe them.

So that quote is true, to a certain degree, I think. There is some merit to the whole ‘a leopard can’t change it’s spots’ thing.

However. Does that statement leave any room for change in a person? Not really. Does it allow for growth, enlightenment and character development? Not really.

So, in essence, it’s saying, do not give anybody a second chance, do not choose to forgive and hope for a better future, do not recognise that we all make mistakes, bad judgements and decisions. That quote does not allow for any of those possibilities. It absolutely typifies one of my pet hates – putting people in boxes.

Now, of course, when we keep getting dealt the same behaviour eg consistent lying, we must, at some point, take a look at that person and be honest about what sort of person they are and whether we need to keep allowing them to have an adverse effect on our life. That’s just common sense and a healthy attitude to self-preservation.

But, essentially, I think people can change and grow. Imagine being judged based on a mistake, with no chance of any recourse whatsoever. No thank you.

On the other hand, if we read that quote positively, that is, if what someone shows you about themselves is wonderful qualities, we should believe them, too. So based on that, if someone, who we know to be essentially kind, loving and generous, doesn’t display that for any given reason, then we should believe our original summation about them and forgive them based on what we know to be true about them, not on a single transgression.

So the amount of truth in what Maya Angelou said, depends on your perspective. What’s yours?