June: I’m just gushing

Ok. This post should probably come with its own warning,
because I am going to gush. A lot. About South Africa. And I’m apologising now because there are no academic references whatsoever. It really is an unashamed excuse to gush.


There’s a small centre near my practice that houses various businesses, a photographic studio, an attorney’s office, a bookshop on Judaica, etc. And at this very moment, as I type this (rather excitedly, I may add) a Nando’s is being built into the centre. A halaal Nando’s. Right next to the Judaica bookshop. Oh. My. Word. I want to shout ‘PROGRESS!,’ I want to hug the builders, I want to shake the hand of the individual who got this right.


In my attempt at journalistic integrity I called up the bookshop once I got back to the practice and the person who picked up* whether there were any adverse reactions to this arrangement. No, she said, and she thought the builders were doing an excellent job because the place was looking great. I didn’t get the sense that the answer was carefully constructed or devised in any way, just a straightforward answer.


There are many things that don’t work and that need to be improved in this country. But there are also so many things that should be lauded and celebrated, such as the fact that people living here have religious freedom, when elsewhere in the world people are killed for their religious beliefs. So here I am: lauding and celebrating!


*it could have been the manageress or the sales assistant; I will be the first to admit
there are glaring gaps in my journalistic abilities, eish!


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18th July is Mandela Day!

Nelson Mandela spent 67years of his life fighting for freedom and the rights of humanity. Thus Mandela Day calls on people in South Africa and around the world to dedicate 67minutes of July 18th in aiding others.


What will you do for your 67minutes?


If you’d like some ideas on acts of service to do on the day or if you’d like to post what you will be doing, go to the below website.


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The Zuma Spear

The hubbub around the Zuma Spear has died down, but it has certainly left a mark on the canvas of South African history (yes, yes, that was a barely concealed and absolutely contrived pun, but anyway…)


For those of you who may be unfamiliar with The Spear, it was a painting done by a South African artist and exhibited at the Goodman Gallery. The painting depicted the South African president, Jacob Zuma, in a Lenin-esque pose with his genitals exposed. There was an outcry from many Zuma-supporters and the ANC (African National Congress), the painting was later defaced.


I was invited to join a conversation (podcast) on the matter that centred around art as social commentary. Try this link to view the podcast:


I had the great opportunity of meeting Elfriede Dreyer who is an associate professor in Fine Arts at the Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria as well as Mongezi Mtati and Chris Dykes, our gracious hosts. Telana Simpson, who is an established Life Coach, did very clever things with technology to get the show running.


Let’s Talk Possibility is on the Let’s Talk Network, which is a non-profit South African podcasting and event streaming network. Their vision is to stimulate the growth of South African internet content by creating an audio and video platform that is accessible to everyone. Visit:






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I want to introduce a new feature that I will be adding to the website, Off The Top Of My Head, which will be where I review websites, books, exhibitions, really anything that catches my attention on my meanderings. Look out for upcoming reviews!


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May 2012: Civil Unions



May 17th is International day against Homophobia and Transphobia and in preparation for a brief interview I was doing for eTV (a South African television channel) I did some trawling on the net to research the day and hopefully find some thought-provoking articles. The search results were dominated mostly by stories on *gay awareness, gay rights, the debate around the gay gene, anti-gay legislation around the world and the inevitable ‘how to cure homosexuality’. But what has always caught my eye and what I want to write about is the idea of gay marriages and the ‘civil union’. No term elicits quite the same reaction for many people as this, except perhaps for ‘apartheid’. Confused? Read on…


Maybe to start with a basic fact of gay marriages: very few countries have legalised gay marriages, these are: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and South Africa (SA being, I might add, the first country in Africa to legalise same sex marriage and yet another reason why I love this country). In the United States, same-sex marriages are not recognized federally, though same-sex couples can marry in six of the fifty states.

When talking about gay marriage, the terms ‘civil union’ and ‘civil partnership’ are thrown around. These two terms are one and the same thing and refer to a legally
recognised form of partnership similar to marriage. It was introduced in Europe
(Denmark to be exact) in 1989 specifically for same-sex couples, with the purpose
of providing them with rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar to opposite-sex civil marriages.


Proponents extol the virtues of civil unions, and certainly, civil unions offer rights and
protection that same-sex couples might otherwise not have, however what does
its very existence imply? That gay couples will be given similar rights but not the same rights, because that would be asking too much? That gay couples should be
grateful they’re getting that much? Is this really advancing gay rights?  Similar but not the same sounds suspiciously like ‘equal but separate’, the system used during apartheid in South Africa and America (remember separate entrances, ablutions, transport, etc?) and smells like the legal justification for segregation.

Sometimes it sounds as though it is merely a convenient way of skirting around the issue that a basic human right that is being denied.


** the above post is not meant to be academic fare, nor is
it the view of all psychologists or, of course, everyone. The views stated
above are my personal observations

* If you would like more information, here are some useful
websites/organisations to try:

1. Genderdynamix: www.genderdynamix.co.za

2. Family Life Centre (South Africa)

3. www.bgiok.org.uk
(Being Gay is OK)

from: http://lalalizlang.wordpress.com




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April 2012

Where are the parents?

Someone asked me about the impact of parental involvement
and I thought it would be a good idea to post a blog entry on this interesting
and important issue.

By and large, there is a lot of research and information to
be found on the positive impact of parental involvement in education. A study
conducted by the American Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2004)
found that, regardless of family income or background, students with involved
parents are more likely to:

-receive higher grades/test scores and enrol in higher-level

-pass their classes

-attend school regularly;

-have better social skills, show improved behaviour and adapt
well to school; and

-matriculate and go on to tertiary education

Singh, Mbokodi and Msila (2004) in their article in the South African Journal of Education, have
shown that parents who played little or no role in their children’s homework
and study programmes contributed to the poor performance of their children.

So if parents play an important role in impacting on their
children’s progress in school, research has also shown that schools have significant
part to play in determining levels of parent involvement. Vuzi Mncube, a
lecturer at Stellenbosch University and researcher, explored South African
parents perceptions of their role in the democratic governance of school and found
that parents are not fully on board and that there is not enough parental
participation in school activities (2009)

So more effort must be made by schools, government and corporate
institutions to include parents in decision-making at schools and to encourage
parental involvement with their children.

I happened upon an article that appeared in New Therapist (31, 2004) on how parental
involvement also boosts health. People with ample parental support during childhood
are likely to have relatively good health (including physical and
psychological) throughout adulthood, whereas people with inadequate parental
support while growing up are more likely to have poorer health as adults,
including depressive symptoms, hypertension, arthritis, and urinary problems.

With such results, the importance of parental of involvement
is clear. Linked to this, educators, psychologists, school governors and even the
corporate world can play a supportive role in pushing for more parental
involvement, but at the end of the day, the onus is lies with the parents. Will
they come on board?


Journals/websites used for this entry:

New Therapist

South African Journal of Education



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March 2012

Solitude and Isolation

Do you live in a big city, are you a Joburger,
a New Yorker, do you hail from Mumbai? Or do you live in a house filled with
people, whether your family or fellow dorm members? People in these scenarios
know how overwhelming it can be, how the chance to escape to quieter surrounds
is enviable and how important ‚Me Time‘ becomes. ‚I just want to get away‘ are
words I’ve heard uttered countless times by clients, friends, colleagues,
strangers. Most of us have also experienced what it’s like to feel uninvited,
left out, unwanted, unwelcome and perhaps the urge to  avoid people in our lives, whether friend or foe. These varying examples centre around the idea of being alone.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, isolation is: “to put/keep sombody or something
entirely apart from other people or things; to seperate“
, while solitude is the: “ state of being alone without companions”  While the two terms are often used
interchangeably, I often make the distinction between them in my work with clients
in my practice, involving agency.

These two words, very close in description can differ in one important aspect: choice or responsibility. Now, while someone can be responsible for isolating themselves and one can be put into solitary confinement against their will, I find it useful to look at these two phenomena in the following way: Isolation is something that happens to people, perhaps against their will, and solitude is something that can be taken on voluntarily.

From Charles Darwin (evolutionist), to Karl Jung (clinical psychoanalyst), to Desmond Morris (zoologist), it is generally agreed that as humans we want to form attachments (respectively for different reasons). According to Karl Jung (see Glossary), we are all born with an archetypal need to form relationships or that the inborn human tendency needs to feel related, not only to people but also to things. Solitude and Isolation can be, at once, on the adjacent and opposite sides of this quinessential human condition.

It is said that when these attachments are lacking (whether broken off or just missing), we suffer. This is what I believe to be isolation.


Isolation is one of the identifying characteristics of depression. A depressed person often feels alone and abandoned and tends to then isolate themselves. There is a reason why isolation is often used as a form of punishment. Erich Fromm stated that:‘ To feel completely alone and isolated leads to mental disintergration just as physical
starvation leads to death’

Refugees are an example of the cripplingeffects of isolation, uprooted from their surroundings and homes, without family, friends, communities, etc.


Some people enjoy solitude, some even go out of their ways to seek it, everyone needs to be alone sometimes. The search for solitude can be understood as the search for transcendence.

According to Wieland-Burston (1996) in her book, Contemporary Solitude, explains
that seeking solitude can be about wanting to break away from feeling obligated to others, of seeking rest, recuperation and regeneration, of relishing a heightened sense of pleasure and of being able to experience better awareness when in solitary situations.

Through the ages many characters have emerged as heroes who stand apart/alone. Hercules, Ullyses, The Lone Ranger, Superman, etc. While many of these characters sometimes suffer from being alone, there is also strength as a solitary figure.

Religiously and spiritually speaking, much store has been placed on retreat, in many religions.

For me, the distinction between isolation and solitude is an important one and are like the two sides of the same coin. With these distinctions it may be also be easier for people to differentiate what they are experiencing.


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February 2012


            „Universals that stretch across cultures are rare and tell-tale“

                                                                                -The Ascent of Man, J. Bronski


From eighteenth dynasty Egyptian love poetry to the present day with the latest smash hits by Rihanna, there is evidence that love is a topic that never goes out of fashion.

It’s the month of love and romance as the majority of the world celebrates the 14th day of February as Valentine’s Day. Celebrating love is certainly not a wholly Western practice, with many countries putting their own spin on the practice of expressing romantic love…

Japan: The Japanese actually have two days dedicated to love. The first on February 14th when females bestow gifts to their partners or any other significant males in their lives. The favour is returned one month later on March 14th, known as the White Day, by men.

Chocolate plays an important role on these days as there are two different chocolate gifting traditions. The first practice is to gift males who are colleagues, bosses, friends with giri-choco, ‚Giri‘ meaning obligation, so these chocolate gifts have no romantic connotations.

Husband’s, boyfriend’s and lover’s are given the more special chocolate gift of hon-mei, which are handmade by the women as store-bought chocolates would not signify true love.

China: The Chinese celebrate love on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The day is known as the Festival of the Double Sevens or the Night of the Sevens. Besides the usual exchange of flowers, chocolates and small gifts, there are also colourful rituals for the day that couples partake in. These include couples visiting the Temple of the Matchmaker to pray for their future happiness and their possible marriage. Singles also visit the temple to ask for their chance at love.

India: it is interesting to note that Valentine’s Day really only gained popularity in the early 90’s in India. Apart from the exchange of gifts such as chocolates, cards, etc, the hype surrounding Valentine’s day starts weeks in advance with special television progammes and festivals.

In any language, love is something that gets people talking. As this is a blog on a psychologist’s website, you may be wondering what the link is between love and mental health. Well…

Crazy in Love

            ‚Love is a sickness full of woes, All remedies refusing‘

                                                                                                Hymen’s Triumph, Samuel Daniel

While love is a highly lauded phenomenon, if we look closely we see that it is not an entirely pleasant experience. Rather, it is an amalgam of pleasure and pain, it can catapult a person from heaven to hell and back again in an instant. It emobodies melancholy and rapture, the sacred and the profane.

Is it a coincidence that being in love is often closely associated to mental instability? A serious mental affliction where one is ‚Crazy in Love‘, ‚Head over Heels‘, Falling in Love, Mad about Someone, Love sick, etc.

Outside the realm of literature, the first person to explore the psychological effects of love was the philosopher Plato. He made the link between falling in love and being lovesick and attempted to explain how the two were often experienced simultaneously.

He proposed, in the semantics of his time, that when a person sees their lover, their sould is reminded of the state of perfection it revelled in before birth. This kindles the regeneration of the soul, which is described as the regrowth of its wings. The soul ‚pulsates‘ and afflicted with sensations of ‚pricking‘, ‚irritation‘, and ‚pain‘, as the wings develop. At the same time the sould also experiences pleasure, as the pain is related to the original memory of perfection.

By the tenth century, well before their Western counterparts, Arabic doctors and scholars had amassed knowledge of the workings of the body and the mind. Among the mental afflictions was ‚Ishq‘- love sickness or love madness. The origins of this condition were spiritual, the meaning of the word was to have excessive religious fervour, however due to the fact that the term had a sexual connotation many scholars refrained from using it in religious texts. Thus it lost it’s spiritual undertones and was used solely to describe the excessive or obsessional love for another person. There is a strong link, here too, between love and emotional instability.

Eventually with the renaissance, enquiry became a focus in Europe, and so too medical investigations. The Europeans became concentrated on Melancholy (which at that point was considered a medical condition) and often ascribed it to being in love. The term ‚falling in love‘ also gained popularity at this time, to fall in love was like falling over, apparently by accident and not intentional. It was also like falling sick, an illness that struck suddenly and left the victim weak.

Why do we fall in love?

Through the ages falling in love has been associated with numerous (less than appealing) symptoms, such as sleeplessness, weeping, emaciation, unsociability, physical weakness, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, the list goes on. And the question remains, why do we fall in love? Why is it still such a trophy to be won and prized?

One answer lies with the evolutionsists. Darwin’s description of natural selection: ‚Multiply, vary, let the strongest lilve and the weakest die‘, meant that organisms became increasingly well adapted to their specific environments in order to survive. According to evolutionary theory, mental phenomena can be seen as adaptations. So to understand emotion better we can ask: ‚what purpose does it serve?‘ An example is that of fear- the experience of fear (psychological and physiological) prepares us for an encounter with an aggressor or for escape.

When it comes to love, the answer lies with sexual reproduction. Love is said to prepare the mind and body for action and establishes behaviour to increase the likelihood of reproductive success. The obsessional nature of love (the daydreams and thoughts of the loved one) ensures that the loved one is not forgotten. Love apparently takes command of the reward and punishment centres of the brain. When the lover is in the presence of the loved one the experience is one of delight, however, on separation the lover is punished with feelings of heartache and loss. This reward-punishment structure encourages prolonged periods of contact. The establishment of such a pair-bond also ensures the survival of any offspring.


There are also religious and spiritual explanations of why we fall in love, but perhaps one of the best accounts comes from that hallowed place, with it’s cornucopia of knowledge, glamour and mystery: Hollywood.

In the 1996 movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Barbra Streisand’s character, Rose, gives a lecture on love and says:

Think of this. Sex was always the fatal love potion. Look at the literature of the time. All consummation could lead to was madness, despair or death. Experts, scholars and my Aunt Esther are united in one belief: True love has spiritual dimensions, while romantic love is a lie. A myth. A soulless manipulation.

The question is, why do we buy it? Because, myth or manipulation, we all want to fall in love. That experience makes us feel completely alive. Our everyday reality is shattered, and we are flung into the heavens. It may only last a moment, an hour, but that doesn’t diminish its value. We’re left with memories we treasure for the rest of our lives. I read an article awhile ago that said, ”When we fall in love, we hear Puccini in our heads.” I love that. His music expresses our need for passion and romantic love. We listen to La Bóheme or Turandot, or read Wuthering Heights, or watch Casablanca, and a little bit of that love lives in us too. So the final question is: why do people want to fall in love when it can have such a short shelf life and be devastating? I think it’s because, as some of you may already know… while it does last, it feels f@*%ing great‘

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New Beginnings!

January 2012


2012 is setting up to be another year of exciting things to look forward to.

If you are Islamic or Jewish, you celebrate the year 1433 or 5772 respectively, and welcome in a new year that is seen to be a transformative one. It is also the Chinese year of the Dragon, a mythical creature sybolising power. This fifth sign in the Chinese Horoscope also signifies luck and, accordingly, 2012 stands to be a year of prosperity, success and happiness. (So, a good year on the whole it would seem!)

For South Africa it is 16 years after the first democratic elections were held. The African National Congress celebrates its‘ 100th anniversary. And while it always a point of pride that the country has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the government faces developmental challenges of poverty and unemployment and we wait with bated breath to see the outcome of the State Protection of Information Bill (more commonly known as the Secrecy Bill) debacle.

Internationally there are the London Olympics to look forward to; the first commitment of the Kyoto Protocol ends and it is likely that nature conservation and environmental matters will be earmarked as a priority for many authorities. We also look forward to seeing the how the outcomes of COP 17 will be rolled out by participating countries.


It is also the year that may provide the biggest anti-climax or absolute climax the world has ever known, with predictions of the end of the world around every corner. This kind of doomsday prediction is second only to the moment when the clock struck midnight on 31st December 1999 and the world did not, in fact, come to a complete digital and electronic standstill. Yes, 2012 is the year that some pundits have lauded as the year the world ends. On the 21st of December to be exact. Apparently that is the date when the Mayan calendar ends. It must be noted that no actual connection has been made between the end of the Mayan calendar and the end of the world. Would this be an apt time to mention that the Mayan’s disappeared a pretty long time ago and holding too much store in their predictions may not be the wisest thing to do?  Irrespctive of your beliefs on this matter, I do think that it is a good opportunity to garner action to set your affairs in order, take the risks you wouldn’t otherwise take and invest in some good goal setting, spread your wings and take the leap. Sometimes endings do not represent an actual end, rather it may be the end of something old that gives rise to something new. The end of a world as we know it, and the beginning of a new world- perhaps a healthier one? „Fines nova initia semper ferunt” is Latin for ‚endings always bring new beginnings‘ and what better way to prepare for new beginnings in YOUR life than goal setting?

New Beginnings

It’s the time for that ubiquitous practice that millions of people worldwide engage in: the compiling of New Year’s Resolutions. Over the last few years it would seem that the tide has turned on this popular tradition and more people have opted to steer clear of making any at all. Some say it is too cliched, too  ’overdone‘ or simply too difficult to keep to. Whatever your take on New Years‘ Resolution-making, it cannot be denied that it can be a powerful tool to implement change in your life.

The beginning of the year brings with it the opportunity to make a clean start. Symbolically it’s the end of the old and heralding in of the new. The opportunity to start afresh, begin again, or just have the opportunity to make those improvements you’d been putting off for a while, a figurative Spring Clean.

Here are some helpful techniques to use when setting goals:

Goal setting involves establishing goals that are S.M.A.R.T.:

S- specific

M- measurable

A- achievable

R- realistic and

T- time targeted

Being specific and making your goals measurable: Setting precise goals, putting in dates, times and amounts means you can measure achievement. You’ll know exactly when you have attained the goal, and there is great sense of fulfilment when crossing off an item on a to-do list!

Achievable goals: Keep short-term goals that you’re working towards small and achievable. If you set a goal that is too large, it can seem that you are not making progress towards it or that the goal is unachievable. In line with this it is also important to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite discouraging to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons out of your control!

Realistic goals – It’s important to set goals that you can achieve. However it is also important to set goals that are not necessarily easy to achieve. This means that you will appreciate the obstacles that achieving the goal may entail or the work needed in terms of skills-development, etc.

Time-targeted goals: diarize your goal so that you give yourself a deadline to work towards.

For more Goal Setting tips visit www.mindtools.com  

Researchers, Miller & Marlatt (1998), found that 75% of people do not accomplish their new year’s resolutions. This disheartening statistic can be allotted to people not considering resolutions until the last minute, reacting on New Year’s Eve and making resolutions based on what’s bothering them or is on their mind at that time, and structuring resolutions as absolutes by saying, “I will never do X again.”

They suggest:

- Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.

- Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.

- Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.

To find out more about their research visit http://psychcentral.com


I hope this helps you in making some important changes in your lives and in taking the steps to live the life you deserve!


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