Friday, 27 July 2012

Our Distrust is Expensive

The famous 19th century writer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Our distrust is very expensive.” It’s true, if we lack trust in others we suffer an extreme form of isolation. A good example of the chaos that can result from distrust gone array is what happened in Colorado on July 20, 2012.

James Holmes, a 24 year old man, who a few months before had a life of possibility, apparently developed a distrust so insidious and toxic that he collapsed his life and simply closed down from all society. Former FBI profiler Brad Garrett stated on CTV’s Canada AM, “His behavior changed erratically and suddenly. When you start to distrust everyone you have an extreme form of isolation and we can all go off the rails in regards to our thinking.”

Trust is not actually a given and some can not help but come into a new relationship riddled with a sense of distrust. For example many who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often find trust a constant tug of war. However, in an attempt to build relationships and end their own isolation that same individual might decide they will trust until the other is proven untrustworthy.

Our western judicial system begins from a place of trust; that being, all are innocent until proven guilty. As young children we begin our life psychologically from a place of trust. An infant holds a pure trust, a perfect trust which ‘just is’. However, this state of perfect trust is fleeting and even if our parents do not violate it, we as humans will never know it again.

So how then will trust look as we age?  As we grow our trust will no longer ‘just be’ as when we were infants. Rather, our psychological trust in others will have to develop. The most recent theory on trust maintains people obtain and sustain certain patterns with regards to trust.  In this theory, trust in relationships develops in stages. Each stage is built on a foundation of ability, integrity, and benevolence. So the more we see these behaviors in another person the more we trust that person.

The first stage of trust development is calculus based. We look at someone and we decide subconsciously what are the rewards for trusting that person and what are the threats should he/she violate our trust. Then we continue to calculate and we subconsciously decide if the rewards will out weight the threats. If the rewards are greater we will begin to form a calculus based trust. This first stage of trust is a cognitive trust which is grounded in the dependability of the one who is being trusted.

The second stage of the development of trust is more emotional then the former. As two individuals successfully navigate through the calculus based trust stage they might-- if it is appropriate to do so-- move to the second stage of trust development. With a better understanding of one another and a more extensive personal history they may actually realize that they share the same goals and values. With this awareness their trust will grow to a higher level that is referred to as identification-based trust.

Identification-based trust is more emotional than calculus-based trust. Two individuals who have developed an identification- based trust will understand each other to the point where they will be acting on the others interest and subsequently an emotional bond develops. Identification-based trust is a rich, quality type of trust built on a foundation of emotions.

Confussion by Kolenya

Psychological trust is not a given. We can not be expected to trust everyone we meet. Yet if we distrust everyone we meet we will never be able to build trustworthy relationships and will live our life in a severe state of isolation. This type of isolation can lead all of us to behavior that is regrettable. We are social beings and we need to have some socialization to function in a productive way. So what can we do when our trust for whatever reason has been betrayed?

What we must do is subconsciously or conscious decide to build trust with another. As our personal history develops with another and we find they are trustworthy, so to will a rich, emotionally based trust: the most rewarding and nurturing of the two stages of trust.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Making a Living Writing: A Detour from the Usual Posts

Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind. I am going to take a small detour from my usual topic with this post. I would like to pause and reflect on why it is that I do what I do. Why is it that I write?

My writing career is a delightfully twisty journey which has never left me bored. No straight lines for me. It was in 2005 when my BA was nearing completion that I had to decide how I was going to utilize what had cost a fortune to acquire. My skill set was formed through a major in History with a minor concentration of both Sociology and English. I knew how to research and write. Not only did I have the ‘know-how’, I loved the work. So I felt a career in writing was the natural result.

My writing career was actually my second career, but it was the first time I had chosen a career. My first career I fell into, with this career I had designs. So I began to volunteer for local newspapers, I can still remember the buzz I got when my first article was printed. That euphoria has simmered a bit, but there are still some projects which provoke the high.

I have not yet pursued post-graduate work, though I know it is around the corner. I am educating myself at the present, which is one of the strongest ways I learn. But I am realizing there are wonderful resources out there and I am planning to tap into them.

It was only a few months ago I happened to stumble across the website Make a Living Writing while cruising my LinkedIn site. I was quick to realize this site had much to offer me so I signed up and began to follow it. Since then, I often access the information Carol shares. It was not too long ago that I made a trip into the Freelance Writers Den; which is an educational resource offered through Making a Living Writing website, and once again paused.

The Freelance Writers Den looks to be a wonderful way to begin some post-graduate work. I know I would not be getting a certificate or documentation but the skills I would acquire would serve me well. I need help figuring out how to bust into the magazine market, how to scope out jobs which pay a decent wage, I need mentoring with the work I do online and how to network and market myself. I have so much to learn I suspect the Freelance Writers Den would be a fabulous first step in figuring out that which has stumped me thus far.

As a writer I have lots of wonderful hopes and dreams. These dreams serve me well as I formulate short and long term career goals. My favorite writing career dream is that I have a book publish with great reviews. I often visualize this dream focusing in on how such a success would make me feel. Then I buckle down and create goals which I believe will lead me to the realization of this favorite dream. I believe lack of information has been a barrier to my accessing all that I wish to. Possibly post-graduate work through a source like Freelance Writers Den would remove that barrier.   

It is interesting to note that Making a Living Writing is actually hosting a contest. I love contests, they offer me new writing ideas and allow me to once again dream about possibilities. So with this blog post I am actually entering into the contest. The prize is a free month in the Freelancers Writers Den. What a great opportunity to see what it is all about before I invest in a membership. I felt it was a wonderful opportunity which I did not want to miss. Now, I step back and let my imagination run wild, and dream. 

©H. Ballantyne 2012

Monday, 18 June 2012

Stigma and Prejudice: Where do we Draw the Line?

It happened again. I had a conversation a number of months ago and I am still reviewing it my head. This is how my brain works; I write articles and stories in my head like some people experience a song playing over and over again. I know there is nothing to be done other than to write it down and spit it out. Hang on to your hats you might not like what I have to say.

On May 8th I was a guest of WOTCH Community Mental Health at the 2012 Breakfast of Champions here in London. This celebration recognizes individuals who have tirelessly and successfully worked in the field of Mental Health Care. Michael Landsberg of TSN was the guest speaker; he is a consumer survivor, which means he is a working individual who admits he has a mental illness. As he was presenting to the audience he used the familiar phase, “They have stigma and I need to bust through it.” The gentleman who was sitting next to me whispered a response to this statement, “I hate it when they use that term stigma. It is prejudice.” There it was, the remark that I have grappled with since.

            My first course of action was to connect with this provocative man via Twitter to see what he was really trying to say. It was as I heard, he does not see stigma as stigma but as prejudice. Fine. Next I turned to the dictionary, which was maybe where I should have started from. Stigma is a mark of disgrace, a stain or reproach on one’s reputation. Prejudice is an opinion formed without taking time and care to judge fairly. Stigma is an internal action; as is disgrace, so can only be realized through the individual who has a mental illness. Prejudice is the external label attached to an individual who has a mental illness, without time to consider first (maybe to save time or brain cells).

            I can now clearly see that we as mental health advocates are interchanging the two. I am now wondering are we trying to be polite? Do we do this because of political correctness?  I know I did it out of pure ignorance. But I can no more. I must call a spade a spade and I will no longer view prejudice as stigma.

I, as a consumer survivor can still harbor stigma about me, but if I turn my way of thinking onto another mental health consumer, I am prejudiced. This means if I think someone who has suffered through a serious mental illness can not work as well as someone who has not, then I am prejudice. If I think that I need to decide for a mental health consumer how their recovery should look than I am prejudice. Likewise, if I think that I will never work again because I have a serious mental illness than I am dealing with stigma. And if I decide that my recovery can go no further than where it is, it is stigma that is my barrier.

            I have been enlightened; stigma is not the only barrier prejudice is the greatest. From this point on I will draw the line. I suspect that until someone realizes they are prejudice they can do nothing to change. So I invite you to take a long look at yourself. Are you prejudiced?

Monday, 30 April 2012

Jack and Jill: Chapter One

I thought I would share this story in small bits. Hope you enjoy.

It was just another Tuesday morning for Jill. Her alarm clock began its beep-beep-beeping at 6am sharp. As is always the case, Jill put her feet to the floor without thinking about what she was doing. Heaving her slightly overweight frame up, she stumbled sleepy-eyed along to the washroom to pee and have her shower.
Every work day morning Jill showered, it was the only way for her to find consciousness. The hot water encouraged all her senses to come to awareness. It did not need to be a long shower, but on this early winter Tuesday morning, she was moving at a snails pace. After 30 minutes of suds and water Jill stepped from the bathroom to her closet to get herself dressed for another day of work.
Coffee in hand, work clothes on, lunch packed, and IPod in its case, Jill stepped outside. Bright winter sunshine forced her to squint as she dug through her purse to find her sun glasses. The air was crisp and the snow that covered the January ground was still fresh and white. Jill could not help but to feel the beauty of the day.

No one could describe Jill as anything less than pleasant. As she walked towards the bus stop located directly in front of her apartment building, she smiled softly as if she was remembering a pleasant encounter. When people walked passed her she always made eye contact and greeted them with a hello or some such phrase. At the bus stop, Jill stood shoulders-turned-in to fight back the cold as she waited for the 7:38am heading downtown to the city core. She worked in the London Life building on Queens Avenue.
Jill had been making this morning journey for 25 yrs. She planned to stay put now until she retired. She remembered when, as a young 30 something she had begun to look for another job thinking she was becoming stagnant at London Life.  Jill was never really sure what the prompt was, but at the same time she developed a discontent feeling, London Life offered her the first of a four promotions she had received in the last 15 years. She knew she was a good employee, a trustworthy employee. The type of employee who came to work early regardless of the weather, and who could be counted on to stay late when the need was there. She was focused and of sound mind. Jill knew this about herself. But where was that bus? At last; here it comes.

© Holly Ballantyne May 2012

Friday, 17 February 2012

Considering the Power of Words

This last week was an eventful week for me, and it got me thinking. Let me share the story.
On Friday, I logged on to my Face Book account where there was a brief message on my wall from a young woman who helped me run the Face Book account of an animal rescue. The message was two short sentences long with the famous lol at the end of it. For those of you who may not know, lol means laugh out loud on Face Book, and is often used to implement tone of message. However, this lol was of no use, the two sentences preceding it were snarky and just plain rude. With that said I decided to focus my attention on the lol and let the message itself slide. How was I to know what kind of a day my Face Book rescue friend was having? In the name of cyber friendship I was prepared to move on and say no more about it. But my young friend was not.
I will not go too much longer into the boring and often confusing nature of the back and forth messages via the Face Book messaging system. The point would be moot. What I want to dwell on, but once again is the power of the language we use.
As a professional word smith, I am simply smitten with words. I have come to realize that the words which flow from our month, our pens, or from the strokes of our keyboards can do both. Words can lift us up to the highest of heights or they can cut us down, leaving us face down in the dirt. With anything so powerful, care should always be taken before use. Yet many speak without care and brush off all responsibility. I wonder why? Is it laziness? Is it an inability to act responsibly? Is it a narcissism that only humans can carry?  
I know that not everyone speaks without for-thought. I also know that many try to exercise the discipline of pause, but from time to time slip. I would consider myself in that category. What I do not know is how anyone can think a lol will lessen the sting of a hurtful remark. All I do know is that anyone who uses lol as a way to veil a rude remark might consider using the caps locks on their lol, and simply leave out the prior sentences. Those sentences will only cause a break in communication. Which, I am sad to say is now the case for my friend and I.   

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Learning To Laugh When You Feel Like Crying by Allen Klein A Book Review

Outside my office window, the Ontario winter wind blows and sends the snow every which way. As I stare out, I realize I feel as deregulated as the wind. I’m not well again. I tell myself it is appropriate to feel this way; it has after all been a long week. But though I take a small amount of comfort from this internal reassurance, I know the tears that I shed as I blankly gaze at the wonder of nature, are more than simply the result of exhaustion. I am dealing with the feathery touch of a subtle grief. My grief is not the punch in the gut, sudden shock grief of a sudden lose. Mine is the grief that comes from watching a loved one nearing the end of their journey here on earth. I have faced this situation now for over a year; and I am fragile. So it was timely that I had the opportunity to review Allen Klein’s EBook; Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: Embracing Life After Loss, since I am presently working my way through a grieving process.
Mr Klein has experience dealing with grief. He is the former director of the Life-Death Transition Institute in San Francisco. Likewise, Mr. Klein has written over a dozen books dealing with the issues of grief and its effects on those who are living through it. He is highly acclaimed in both public speaking and Therapeutic Humour. Finally, Mr Klein has been a hospice volunteer and has struggled through the grieving process himself. In fact the book evolved from his own lived experience through the death of his wife. With this knowledge, I felt confident that Mr Klein would have something to offer me in my own time of grief, and I was not disappointed.
I love quotes, especially when my mind is racing and I find it hard to think straight. I find that when I am dealing with shock, my mind does race and I cannot focus on long verbatim or academic rhetoric. Therefore, I was glad to see that Learning to Laugh when You Feel like Crying: Embracing Life after Loss used quotes as its navigational tool.
Each chapter in Mr Klein’s EBook is introduced through a quote; such as, the chapter Triumphing Over Tragedy’s.  This chapter begins with a quote by the American poet, John Vance Cheney, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” These short poignant sayings allow the reader to form their own first impressions, and then the author backs up the quote with the point he would like the reader to realize. The result is simple, direct, and easy for the grieving reader to comprehend.
 Some of the points made by Mr. Klein in Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: ... are familiar to me since I have past experience with grief. These familiar points are fundamental to the process we all go through as we grieve a loss. I can remember when I first heard the ideas; such as, others ask that fateful question ‘why me?’, or the realization that endings are actually new beginnings, and finally the importance of forgiving yourself and others. When I first heard these fundamental points I took comfort in the knowledge that someone else understood me. I felt connected to someone else and therefore not alone in my grief.
I think that connection between people is easily forgotten when anyone is dealing with a powerful emotion. They feel like no one has been through this, that they are alone and different. The result from this notion is a deeply rooted feeling of isolation and loneliness. I suppose it is true that no one wants to be miserable in isolation; they need company to remind them that there is more outside of themselves. The points that Mr. Klein discusses in the EBook allow that connection to be made. Then Mr. Klein turns to deeper lines of reasoning.
Personally, there was one particular point which Mr. Klein made which left a lasting impression on me. He ascertained, “Your loss is a milestone that has made a major impact on your life. It has ended a world you once knew. But, at the same time, it has created new opportunities and an opening for the beginning of a yet to be discovered world.” I have come to trust hindsight and I believe that this statement addresses just that. Though we cry at present, though we are angry and confused, though are heart breaks so; if we can just hang on, in time we will see how a new world began when the old loved world--which revolved around the one we loved--passed with them. This enlightenment cannot be forced, it has its own agenda and we must wait patiently. Mr. Klein encourages us to trust that we will see the result; and while we grapple with the wait, possibly turn to humour to lighten our burden.
Be clear, Learning to Laugh When You Feel like Crying is not intended to be a heavy cerebral work. It is written in an easy style perfect for anyone, even for someone who is struggling with concentration due to their heart ache. It teaches you about what grief is and speaks to your heart, to your emotions, to encourage a shift in your attitude even if it is only for the briefest of moments.
Do not be mistaken, Mr. Klein is not telling the reader that grief is something we must avoid at any cost. That we should rush through the emotional roller coaster that seems to be a part of the process. Rather, he is asking us to use humour as a way to realize even a few seconds of relief from the depths of grief. To allow ourselves a brief break from the emotions that can overwhelm us. The purpose is multifaceted. Firstly, to find space to learn from what we are going through. Secondly, is to feel a bit of recovery from our pain. Thirdly, humour boasts hope, and hope is important.
I do have one concern and it is not with the author or the content of Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: Embracing Life After Loss, it is with the editor. I am not a grammatical genius by any standard, but when I read an item that has been professionally edited, I expect a piece without grammatical errors. This is not the case with Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: ...; and I found it a distraction. With that said, I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling through the grieving process. 

Monday, 2 January 2012


Alice was crying again. It was only 6 am and she was once more sitting on the floor of her washroom crying tears of heart break. Alice was a dark-haired, chubby, pipsqueak of a women. She therefore could sit quite comfortably on the 2ft, by 2ft square which made up the floor of her bedroom washroom. Alice had been crying like this, curled down on the floor gazing up and out the bathroom window, for days now and she could not for her own life put her finger on why. She just did.
This morning was much like the previous mornings. She got up at 5:30 am, did her shower in the downstairs bathroom (so she would not wake-up her husband Jack), came back upstairs, made coffee, said good morning to Jack as he wondered past her on his way to his den, then went into her bedroom and with in seconds she would like a zombie walk towards her tiny bedroom washroom, close the door and then collapse into tears.
         Alice had always shed her tears in the privacy of a washroom. What an unusual room this washroom was. Five years ago when Jack and Alice had been house hunting for their starter home, they had looked at this house. Jack felt it was in a good neighborhood, with a great back yard, and of course the price was right. Alice felt the bedrooms were too small and that the bathrooms were weird. The house had three. One in the basement with only a toilet, a sink, and shower; then there were two on the first level of the house, a large bathroom located off the central bedroom hall, and then this tiny water-closeting, washroom, with only a sink and a toilet, which was connected to the principle bedroom.
Jack had insisted, “When the time is right and we have enough money saved we will fix things up more to your liking Alice. But the price of this house is good; we should just purchase it right away.” And so they did.
Alice had come to love her little washroom; it was her hiding place, her crying place, a place to hear herself think.
         As Alice sat on the floor and shed her morning tears she looked out the washroom window. The morning sky was so blue and lovely. She could see the many branches of the trees which canopied the house’s back yard. What Alice could not see as she gazed through her tears was why. Why did she marry Jack? Why did she go to work every day? Why did her gut feel so awful? Why did her limbs ache? Why could she not read a book anymore? Why could she not eat anymore? Why? Why? Why?
         Alice sat on the floor of her little washroom and wondered these things for the umpteenth time: still no answer came to her; just heart broken tears. Then she heard the familiar thump of Jack’s feet as he walked around the kitchen, and she knew with in minutes he would be in the bedroom getting ready for his work day. So Alice got up, ran the cold water, and splashed it on her face.  
Jack came in the bedroom. He was talking to her now, but Alice had stopped understanding what Jack said a long time ago. What she had discovered about her husband is that he was always happy when she said yes to him and always angry when she said no. Alice had decided she would no longer say no, she did not like it when Jack was mad.
         That morning, Jack noticed nothing unusual about Alice when she came into their bedroom from the washroom. To him she looked as she always had. Her hair was already up in its bun, and her face was nicely washed. Alice was not a raving beauty but that was the way Jack liked it. She wore no make-up and her clothes were simple and not flashy, again that suited Jack just fine.
Jack was ready for work first, “Alice I feel like a good beef stew tonight for dinner.”
As Jack left the bedroom Alice smiled and answered “O.K.”
Alice was alone again in her bedroom, but she knew she could not go to the washroom now for she had to get to work. 
         For many years Alice had been a receptionist at a social service organization. She never did like the job. She meant with so many strangers all day long. It frightened her. What were they thinking? Were they able to hear her thoughts? Her thoughts were very loud you know. Some of the strangers at her work looked at her as if they could hear her thoughts. But she would not let on that she knew this, it was just better not to. Her boss did not like it when she did, so she had decided it was best to do just what her boss wanted her to do. To ask the strangers who they wanted to see and then to tell them to have a seat as they waited. Sometimes though; the strangers that Alice knew could hear her thoughts, would sit and stare right at her. She did not like this and wished her boss would tell them to stop.
         So upon first glance, it was just another work day for Alice; eight hours of sitting at the front desk, trying hard to listen to her boss, her co-workers, and the many strangers. But Alice would not make it into work that day. And she would not call into work to give reason for her absence. This day was different then the rest. Alice just knew she would never go back there again. It was not that she was angry; it was just that she was done. So instead of going to work, Alice went to the park. She found a bench and sat down. There was where she spent her work day. No one bothered her. No strangers listening to her thoughts. No boss getting upset with her. No co-workers telling her all the things they thought she should know. She sat, watched the birds flutter around the pine trees. There seemed to be hundreds of trees in this park, Alice decided she needed to know for sure. She spent that day counting the trees. There were 105 trees exactly in the park where Alice sat on the bench for her work day.
         At dinner time Alice was back in her weird house, Alice undressed in her room. She hung up her work cloths and put on her house clothes. Jack said he wanted beef for dinner tonight. Alice began to brown the beef chunks. She hated the smell of browning meet, always had. She stood still and watched the cubes of meet brown, and began to see the face of the cow who supplied this meet for Jack’s dinner. There it was, in the middle of the pan, mooing at her. She understood what it wanted. She turned off the heat so then the cow would be able to reclaim the chunks that had been taken from her body. Alice did as the cow told her to. Jack needed supper. Alice would suggest he eat some cereal. It was filling and nutritious.
         Jack and Alice spent that night fighting. He wanted beef stew for supper not cereal. But Alice knew the cow had already reclaimed her cubes. She was whole again and Jack would just have to get over his disappointment. Besides, he should not eat cows, or pigs, or fish, or lambs, or birds, or dogs, or cats, or rats. He should be glad that Alice saved him from all those dead animals that would come back and ask for their flesh to be returned. Jack should take her advice and eat cereal. But he would not. He left the house angry, and went to grab a burger. Alice went to bed and as she lay in her bed she realized she had not yet cried. She always cried after work, after cleaning up supper, and before she crawled into bed. But tonight, she simply went to sleep.

©Holly Ballantyne  December, 2011