Tag Archives: mental health

Authenticity versus narcissism

Chances are if you are following the crowd, you’re following the wrong path.

– Bob Proctor

Narcissism is defined as an excessive interest and or admiration of the self. The basic human need to be validated and to be heard however seems to have fallen prey to the stranglehold of the ego-mind in a society obsessed with the glitter of immediate gratification.

The need to conform to societal parameters of success, beauty, or fame comes with the high price of disconnect from soul nature and authenticity with all the resulting consequences in the form of stress and mental illness.

Teenagers moving from childhood to adulthood in the struggle of finding their identity are particularly vulnerable to the dictates of the fashion, norms, and cultural beacons of their peer group. Those not following the crowd are bullied into isolation and will feel particularly suicidal if they do not have a safety net to fall back on.

Unsurprisingly we are seeing an exponential rise in mental illness and suicides among teenagers. Suicides among adolescents and young adults aged 10-24 have increased in the United States by nearly 60 percent in the period 2007-2018. Researchers pinpoint multiple causes but the negative effects of excessive use of social media are undisputed.

Creating a brand on social media has become in vogue. The lifestyle and “happy images” posted on social platforms have become the perfect platform for what has ballooned into a collective narcissistic culture.

Seldom do we see portrayed the authentic circumstances of a person’s struggles, pains, and up-and-down cycles triggered by life’s circumstances. It becomes a major mental stress factor to conform to an artificial image that bears little resemblance to what is real and authentic. The echo chambers of the media industry are ruthless when the cracks to authenticity begin to show. Here are some of the differences between narcissism and authenticity:

  • While narcissism is directed toward external validation and acceptance, authenticity turns inward to galvanise the forces of unconditional service to a bigger cause.
  • Narcisissism is immune to self-development and will defend with all means available the right to be right and the image it has created. Authenticity is open to constant adaptation, evaluation, growth and elevation of consciousness. It will admit to mistakes and failure.
  • Narcisissm is anchored within imagined thought and personality while authenticity is rooted within soul and heart.

Much of the mental exhaustion we are seeing around us stems from the lack of authenticity and disconnect from soul nature. The pain will at some point become unbearable when all the energy is focused on creating an external image that is incongruent with soul destiny.

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Children still connected to their true nature will sometimes tear down the facade of image and conformity, much to the embarrassment of the adults around. It is why Jesus once said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

It is a call to reconnect to the innocent authenticity of the child. When you do what you are destined to become you will connect to the inner child and feel an expansion of energy, vitality, and connection. Can you recall an incident from your childhood when you last felt unconditional love and joy? Those are the clues to follow when it comes to connecting the dots that lead you from the head mind into the heart-mind of authenticity.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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Family and Christmas: Joy or challenge?

If you think you are enlightened go spend a week with your family

– Ram Dass-

As we approach the festive season you might be feeling a little trepidation as expectations run high and family dynamics inevitably come into play. It’s a time where also the shadows from the past can come to a head.

Expectation and reality

Especially for those on the path of self-development the quote from Ram Dass is so revealing because it is easy to fall into the trap of the spiritual ego that is telling you: “I’m done with that. I’ve got it now. I’ve learned my lesson. Everyone else in the family has just not got it yet.”

Relationship with parents is challenging because it inevitably defines all future relationships on a subliminal level. A strong emotional bond can swing on the pendulum from love and affection to anger, aggression, disappointment, and melancholy sadness.

The major disappointment stems from the societal indoctrination of the perfect Christmas show. The reality is that families go through break-ups, separation, loss, and all the dynamics that come with multiple patchwork constellations.

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Avoiding the booby traps

Families are a reflection of society and we are seeing increasing divisiveness fanned by the information silos of social media. Children are severing all ties with parents and vice versa over even such issues as political and religious affiliation, vaccinations, or climate change. It is even more difficult to accept a differing opinion from somebody who is a cherished family member. Moreover, these topical issues are often a smokescreen of much deeper underlying conflicts, stemming from childhood hurts or trauma. It explains much of the heated exchanges and arguments over “an issue”.

Mindful acceptance

It is in most cases wasted energy to engage in an argument with a family member, or anyone else for that matter if an opinion becomes a belief. This is sometimes the best approach: “I hear you. I see you. I love and respect you but I beg to differ on that matter and we should just leave it at that.”

The spiritual lesson

There is much to be said about the Buddhist teachings on the Karmic bonds between family members where we enter “into soul contractual” agreements prior to birth in order to elevate our spiritual consciousness.

Family constellation therapy can reveal those defining behavior patterns and traits that often go back many generations in the family lineage. How we relate to our parents, the primordial relationship pinpoints at the same time the greatest lessons we need to learn.

Family: The blessing and the curse

If you come from a family where traumatic emotional and physical abuse was the norm a strong separation boundary is often the only solution. Even, what we term as a “normal family” would in most cases realistically be defined as dysfunctional. Often what is seen as “harmonious” from the outside is a shrewd strategy to conform to societal expectations – a particularly common trait during the 1950s – and we all know how that turned out.

We, humans, are complex multi-faceted beings. Family is more often than not constant crisis-management in juggling different needs and expectations. It is the same challenge we face in all our relationships in communicating these different perspectives. We need more humble acceptance that we are incomplete beings.

The point of life is that it was never meant to be an easy ride in a comfort zone. Every crisis is merely putting the finger in the wound of where the seeds of opportunity lie waiting for further growth, change, and evolution of consciousness.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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A lifetime wasted on the treadmill?

With only a few weeks left to the end of another year you might once again have thoughts of how “time flies” and feel a little melancholy sadness about the things you had on your to-do-list and have had to postpone.

Our culture is obsessed with time as we rush from one appointment to another or try to squash as much activity as possible into leisure hours.

During this week I did a workshop with participants from diverse establishments ranging from public service to production with some of the companies registering absenteeism due to illness of up to twenty per cent. Our hurried and just-in-time economies are not only unsustainable but are having a major impact on physical and mental health.

A life spent in haste is a wasted life

In Germany alone the number of mental illnesses, mainly job-burnout, has doubled in the past decade. In the United States a study revealed that a frighteningly high number of employees are experiencing symptoms of fatigue and burn-out. It is seldom talked about but many victims of the pandemic have been people with an already weakened immune system caused by work stress and other factors.

When your body is flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline you will have difficulty slowing down, relaxing and spending time alone in solitude.  Moreover if stress hormones remain at a constantly high level over months and even years your body’s natural defense systems and key body organs are being steadily weakened.

I know people who feel extremely uneasy if they don’t have the television in the house switched on 24-7 or don’t have loud music playing in the background. On a subliminal level the body senses never have time to recuperate.

Time for the soul to catch up

You think you might just google a quick question and already you have been hooked and sidetracked into  spending hours of precious “lifetime” on social media.

During my childhood my grandfather, a farmer in South Africa, loved to tell the story when he gave a lift  to an elderly Zulu man. After sitting quietly next to my grandfather in the pickup truck the Zulu man asked my grandfather to stop for a minute to help his soul catch up as it had been left behind by the speed at which they had been travelling.

The Zulu people at the time lived with their senses closely attuned to the laws of nature, getting up at sunrise and retiring for sleep soon after sunset. They often joked about the ways of the white man and why he always seemed  to be in a hurry and living life according to the clock.

Hurried people make mistakes

It’s an old wisdom. When we are in a hurry we are more likely to make mistakes. We miss important way markers along the road when we go into a stressed-out tunnel vision. We fail to hear the whispers from the universe telling us that we have placed our ladder against the wrong wall.

It brings to mind that in the pre-industrial era the main mode of transport for most people was walking from A to B with the body finding its natural rhythm during walking. The advances of technology have given mankind the possibility of flying from one continent to another within hours. We can cover a journey by car that took our ancestors weeks or months on horseback or carriage. The downside is that our mode of travel is contributing to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere and that the speed at which we are travelling is giving us less time to reflect and internalize the experience of the immediate surroundings.

Eternity lies in the full experience of the here-and now

The great spiritual masters throughout the ages teach us that eternity lies in the experience of the “here-and-now.” It is when we are aligned completely with the activity we are doing and time somehow seems to have become irrelevant. It is when we find peace in meditation and feel the immediacy of each in and out breath. Or, when we feel at one and in synchronicity with a natural sound of nature.

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One of the blessings of the pandemic lockdowns is that it has forced millions of people to slow down and reflect. What do I want to do with the rest of the days of my life that I have left? Do I really want to spend a good portion of my day stressing in a commute to an unfulfilling job while I’m not  seeing my children growing up? What contribution can I make to make a positive impact on the world?  What is depleting my mental and physical energy  and what is boosting my energy on all levels?

Life is too short to be wasted with things unimportant on the journey that is life.  More and more people are realizing the importance of slowing down, realigning and just enjoying the beauty of autumn colors reflected in a stream or the sound of migrating geese flying above.  Priorities are starting to shift and it’s a good thing.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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What is your unique thumbprint?

„The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

-Pablo Picasso-

There is an ancient story that tells us of the wanderer, who after a long journey arrives in a town. First he comes across a crippled and blind beggar, then he sees an old woman being beaten, and a funeral procession. Witnessing all this suffering in succession, the wanderer runs out into the desert in desperation, screaming at God: “Why, if you are so powerful do you allow all this suffering and pain? Why don’t you do something?”

After a long silence, the wanderer finally hears the words of the Divine: “I did do something. I created you.”

The story is revealing in that what we see and what we hear is often determined by our current state of .consciousness. In our world of polarity with the constant pull between yin and yang, light and shadow, beauty and ugliness, violence and peace it is easy to make judgmental statements that are seldom congruent with the true facts.

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You have been born with a unique gift

It is part of human nature to make the Divine or any other entity responsible for all the misery of one’s own state of affairs or that of the world. According to the ancient Mystics we have each been born with a divine purpose, and been handed the gift of a free will.

Surrendering control to external forces for one’s circumstances is one of the big fallacies of our time. We are to a great extent shaped by the culture and place where we are born. But at the same time we must take responsibility for our thoughts and actions.

The true calling often lies in the wounds of the past that have sculptured us into the human beings that we are destined to become. When reflecting on the past it often becomes obvious how the pain, and the obstacles that we have had to overcome gave us the skillset needed to fulfill divine purpose.

The Hero’s Journey is riddled with obstacles

The Hero’s journey through life is riddled by failures, making the wrong decisions and losing the way on the wrong path.  At the point of complete surrender, when we are completely empty, when we choose to give up everything that once defined identity, we become open to the whispers from the Divine.

It is at this juncture that we can forgive those people that have wronged us or inflicted great pain onto us. When we transmute our “enemies” into positive agents that have catapulted us toward major transformational change and elevation of consciousness, it is much easier to forgive.

Getting stuck in the grievances and the sorrow over that which once was and is no more, is the root cause of much of the collective anger we see currently being played out on the political stage. It is also symbolic of the disconnect between external and internal needs. External gratification is never fulfilling when it is out of line with soul purpose.

What is your unique song?

How we share our unique talents and abilities with the world, is as diverse as creation itself. We each carry the seed pf a divine song within that is awaiting to play its part in the concert hall of creation.

It is what moves and inspires you, to which you are magically drawn and where you fell in rhythm with the heartbeat of the universe. It is what Rumi describes as surrendering to that “deeper pull of what you truly love.”

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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Is social media controlling your life?

The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.” – Irene C. Kassorla

You might think that you are in control of what you think, believe and purchase each day but our hurried modern lives are being manipulated in a big way and it’s time to seize back control.

The latest facebook-scandal, with former employee Frances Haugen testifying before a U.S. Senate Committee, has revealed the irresponsibility with which social media is using algorithms to spread misinformation and incite political violence.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to connect with old friends, and family living in faraway places of the world. But what we are hearing in the testimony is that these big tech companies know more about human nature and about your individual life, your needs, wishes and desires than you probably know yourself.

If something is for free like the use of social media then there is a price attached. These companies are there to make a profit and they need your personal data to sell to advertisers. The more clicks and shares, the more revenue for the advertiser on the same page.

This means that the loud, angry voices of outlandish lies and misinformation are getting the most attention. They have occupied the big stage while the majority of calm and reasonable voices are being drowned out. It creates a distortion of reality and what our world really looks like. While printed media bears responsibility and is liable for the content it disseminates, social media has been left off the hook by legislation. That really needs to change.

Multiple studies are in fact showing that too much time spent on social media affects mental health, especially those of young adolescents. It can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy of appearance, loneliness, depression and anxiety.

What you feed your mind with you become

Divisive hate speech, and bullying has always been a dark side of humanity. Social media however is amplifying such dysfunctional behavior on a global level. Scientists have found a correlation between heart disease and negative emotions expressed in language on Twitter, according to a major study.

What friends you choose, what social media feeds you look at and what you read gradually shape you into the person who you are today. You might think that you are in control but you are not. Countless digital media companies are competing for your attention. They have some of the world’s best social scientists and psychologists in their employment and know how to prey on human needs and weaknesses.

We all have the need to be seen, to be heard and to be understood. And, we especially want to belong to a tribe that thinks, feels and talks the same language.

If you happen to come across scientific data or information that might contradict what you think you believe in, you might become confused and then angry. Computer algorithms inevitably lead to opinions becoming cemented in separate information silos. People who see each other from different reality perspectives cannot talk or listen to each other anymore.

Time to seize back control

I have for some time blocked those “friends” on social media that have a tendency to always post negative news or are spreading misinformation. Be careful who you invite into your living room and who leaves big footprints of dirt on your lovely white carpet.

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You need to stand guard at the doorway of your mind.

I would like to make a proposal for this week. Why not exclusively post just positive and uplifting information on social media for the next seven days? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can this information uplift, heal and boost the energy level of a fellow human being?
  • Is the information of a quality that it can elevate human consciousness in a positive way?
  • Will it make you laugh and enjoy the moment?

Lets make our voices heard in a positive way and let the world know that the majority of humanity is not divisive, angry and violent but kind, empathic, calm and reasonable.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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Finding truth and beauty within

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

– John Keats –

In his mysterious poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” the 19th-century poet John Keats reflects on the contradiction between mortality and eternity, equating truth with beauty, portraying how the external perception of beauty is closely linked to the beauty within.

How we perceive our external world is shaped by momentary feelings and thoughts. It is a difficult endeavor for the modern mind suffering from information overload.

The mind is pulled from one distraction to the next. And, if your attention is focused on a grievance or hurt going back weeks, months or years, you will not appreciate the beauty around you. You will miss the way markers sent by the universe and lose your way.

Empty yourself of everything

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tze one said: “The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness,” meaning we have to empty our mind of everything and become still. If we are preoccupied with thoughts of the past or the future we miss out on the present moment of real human experience. Thoughts of the past are colored by imagination and have only partial relevance to truth.

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According to Lao Tze we cannot force the boat to go upstream. Everything happens in its own time and place. We cannot control external events or a calamities, but we can control how we respond to them. His teaching emphasized “effortless action” and the acceptance of the “wu wei” which ultimately seeks harmony.

Living according to the Dao means living without attachment. Life itself is the objective and the motivation. Behind a seemingly chaotic exterior lies a natural order of things. Nature has its seasons and cycles. We need to accept the impermanence of all things. There is always change, growth, death, and rebirth.

But as we are all imperfect beings on a path of learning, keeping the mind still can be a lofty undertaking. Toxic emotions such as anger are easily triggered by anything from a news broadcast of an event thousands of kilometers away or finding yourself having to wait in line at a supermarket.

Alignment through stillness

When we are aligned we get into touch with ourselves and our feelings. The first step is acceptance of the momentary feeling be it sadness, anger or anxiousness. The next step is replacing that thought or feeling with a positive experience or an expression of gratitude.

One of the simplest methods of alignment is the act of mindful breathing and mindful deep walking. Inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of five. Inhale and on exhaling hum one of the most powerful mantras: “Om Mani Padme Hung”. When you practice such meditation methods regularly you will gradually sense a greater calmness and alignment of body and mind.

More than ever during these times we need to practice self-care and self-love. By becoming aware of the divine spark within we become aware of the beauty that is embedded within all things such as in the vibrant images that the poet John Keats saw in the simple contemplation of an ancient Greek urn. It is what inspired the great Dutch painters in the contemplation of everyday objects that led to the creation of some of the world’s greatest works of art.

By learning to BE in the present we learn to simply see things as they are without attaching to them comparisons with the past and giving them a definitive label.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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Breathing into health and wellbeing

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Groundbreaking research is revealing that a simple thing like how you breathe can be hugely transformational. Healthy breathing techniques embedded in ancient religious practice improves body posture, sleep, general wellbeing and spiritual growth.

In our stressed out modern lives we as a species have lost the ability to breathe as nature has designed. When the body is flooded with stress hormones we tend to breathe in fast short bursts from the upper throat and chest area with grave consequences for our immune system, mental and cardiological health.

Our ancestors knew better

Western medicine for a long time believed that the nose was more or less an ancillary organ and that it was no problem just breathing through the mouth. But the latest research is revealing that our ancestors had more expansive sinus cavities and larger mouths, creating wider airways for breathing. This is not only related to the better diet where people were forced to chew their food more than the processed food eaten by most people today but by breathing primarily through the nose.

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Scientists, studying the shapes of jaws and mouth cavities from skulls several hundred thousands years old were surprised by the quality of the teeth and jawbones meaning that our ancestors probably never suffered from chronic respiratory problems, sleep apnea, snoring, sinusitis, or allergies so common today.

Rituals performed by ancient peoples and the old religions have always understood the power of breathing and that certain breathing techniques are essential in experiential spirituality and elevation of consciousness.

The power of prayer

Researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy measured blood flow, heart rate and nervous system feedback of dozens of people reciting the popular Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and the Latin version of the Catholic Ave Maria prayer. The breathing pattern changed instantly with blood flow to the brain increasing with functions of the heart circulation and nervous system reaching peak efficiency. Both prayer and mantra caused striking, powerful, and synchronous increases in existing cardiovascular rhythms when recited six times a minute.

Breathing through the nose

Inhaling and exhaling naturally through the nose is what you should be doing. As you inhale the nose warms and moisturizes the air. Your nose releases nitric oxide which widens the blood vessels allowing for better transportation of oxygen to vital organs. Your breathing will be deeper and slower increasing the volume of your lungs and diaphragm.

Conscious and focused deep breathing through the nose can instantly bring you from a state of high tension into a relaxed state of mind.

  • Sit upright holding one hand on your lower belly and the other in the heart area.
  • At the count of one inhale and exhale through your nose.
  • Continue until the count of twelve then switch your hands
  • Continue until the count of 24
  • Close by placing both your hands on your belly

You can learn more such breathing techniques in my online video course on mindful breathing exercises.

Low impact body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and deep walking in nature will do wonders in reducing stress hormones in the body. When you focus on nasal breathing your body posture will also improve naturally. Especially when walking the key is finding a natural rhythm where you go into synchronicity with your body movement and with your surroundings as you breathe through the nose.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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When things fall apart

During the past week I received reels of video footage from friends and family in South Africa revealing horrifying images of carnage and destruction. Thousands of looters were burning and destroying shopping malls and vital infra-structure with a government obviously too weak or incompetent to restore order.

It appeared as if all social order was collapsing. But amid all the chaos were signs of hope. Communities of all races got together to defend their homes and properties, gathering together for prayer, giving each other hope and volunteering to clean up in the aftermath.

Works by the Majorcan artist Joan Bennassar

South Africa is in many respects a microcosm of global problems highlighting race and gender issues, cultural diversity, and the huge disparity been rich and poor. The economic fallout from the pandemic has entrenched deeply underlying social and political frictions.

Inflection points bring out the best and the worst in humanity

Sharp inflection points, challenges and conflicts inevitably bring out the best and the worst in humanity. During my years as a reporter in South Africa I witnessed clergymen selflessly serving the poor and downtrodden in the poorest township slums. The country has brought forth leaders, poets, authors, musicians, sports and film stars admired all over the world. But some of its people were also responsible for terrible human rights violations and could be described as “the very personification of evil.”

Sometimes such contrasts can be found in individual persons. In the final years of apartheid Adriaan Vlok was the minister of police. He was the man responsible for bombing the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches and trying to assassinate its secretary general. He later publicly apologized for his actions, washed the feet of his former enemies and later ran a child feeding charity funding it mostly with his own pension.

Major paradigm shifts are underway

At the start of the 21st century we are seeing major social, political and economic paradigm shifts. Human knowledge and change has increased exponentially compared to previous generations. The American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil argues that whenever a technology approaches a barrier, a new technology is invented crossing that barrier. He predicts that such evolutionary shifts will continue to become increasingly common, leading to profound technological change and rupturing old orders.

Digital technology is at the forefront of a doubling of human knowledge every 13 months. Just to put this into perspective: In the year 1900 it took about a century and by 1945 it had been reduced to every 25 years. This “Knowledge Doubling Curve” was first created by Buckminster Fuller in 1982. 

Cultural leaps are not integrated mentally and psychologically

Such “cultural leaps” pushed by technological advances create enormous opportunity for the educated, computer-savvy middle classes with access to high-speed Internet. But we are left with less time to cope and integrate such changes mentally and psychologically. More knowledge does not mean more wisdom. A growing number of people respond to the massive cultural and economic changes by walling themselves off in radical political and religious “tribal bubbles.”

The large pool of people employed in manual jobs are no longer needed in an increasingly automated economy. Whether we are looking at the unemployed in the former industrial cities of the United States, the coal-mining areas of northern England, or the “yellow vest” citizens in low-paying jobs in France the picture is very similar. There is a growing populace feeling left out, having nothing to lose and who are open to the rhetoric of the professional deceivers and demagogues.

Those tech concerns who have reaped the most benefit from the digital revolution will have to learn to share their wealth by at least paying taxes in proportion to their earnings. This revenue can be used to invest in improved education, infra-structure, health and upliftment of poor communities.

The law of yin and yang

When things fall apart during times of crisis it is a wake-up call. It is not a time to blame so-called “instigators” but to look at the bigger picture. We need to ask questions and seek answers as to why there are so many very disgruntled, angry and unhappy people around us.

In the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang an illness always manifests itself when there is an imbalance between the polar laws of life. An imbalance causes first disharmony, then conflict and ultimately leads to destruction. When the scales tip into one or the other extreme we get to a tipping point.

Nature inevitably tries to restore the balance so that all within the system can survive – in the case of the human body, the different organs interrelating and working in harmony with each other to maintain physical health.

Humanity is currently not only battling a deadly virus but also having to deal with huge environmental, economic and social challenges. I would like to believe that humanity is edging ever closer to breaking through that barrier toward a new horizon of elevated consciousness and opportunity.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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The “boiling frog” syndrome

A well-known fable tells us that if a frog is put into boiling water it will immediately jump out. But if the water is only gradually heated the frog will not perceive the danger and be boiled to death. The story is a warning of how a creeping normality of crisis situations delude us into a feeling of false complacency. We fail to act until it is too late.

Our daily habits, thoughts, beliefs and actions play a major part in determining our future. The compound effect of bad or good habits over a period of years and even decades are hugely underestimated.

The compound effect of good and bad habits

Eating for lunch a burger with French fries and a soda drink will affect your body but not harm you in a big way if you eat healthy foods most of the time and you metabolize sugars and carbohydrates with plenty of exercise. But eating mainly processed foods over years and decades will have a devastating impact on your mental and physical health in the long term.

In the same way if your self-talk is mainly negative about yourself or if you incessantly blame others for everything that is going wrong in your life you will most probably be a grumpy, unhappy and miserable person during old age looking back on a life not lived and opportunities missed.

How often have you been buying things you don’t really need because you said: “Its only a few pennies.” But added up over years and decades you could have put aside a small fortune in savings.

Complacency is our biggest enemy

Social and political developments in the recent past should be shaking us out of our sense of complacency and nonchalance. It appears that the general social consensus on values and norms that has prevailed for most of the past decades is seriously being eroded. An independent press, non-partisan judiciary and democratic voting procedures are seriously under threat in countries such as Hungary, Poland, Turkey and first and foremost in the United States. If the United States is no longer the world’s best example of a working democracy authoritarian rule as we see it today in China and Russia will entrench itself in many countries.

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Like a physical body gradually weakening from the effects of bad nutrition, you don’t perceive the spiral downward immediately. In my home country South Africa the seeds of maladministration and corruption were sown with the election of a populist demagogue Jacob Zuma as president in May 2009. For a while things, like the national airline, appeared on the surface to still be functioning perfectly. But after nine years the rot was there for everyone to see. Most parastatal institutions are bankrupted, leaving numerous towns and cities in dire lack of basic services such as electricity and water supply. It will most likely take generations to get South Africa back on its feet economically.

We tend to forget that political parties, governments and institutions have been created by bodies of individuals. They are a reflection of who we are. When a social pendulum of change swings into a new direction it is at first always led by a minority that eventually become the majority view.

A crisis is a way marker

Crisis situations, whether on a personal or collective level, always tell us that the status quo is no longer workable and that things need to change. The art is to perceive the small, telling signs that something is moving into the wrong direction and to adapt accordingly. It is the frog sensing when the water temperature is rising to a dangerous temperature and when it’s time to get out.

This is why some companies thrive by adapting to changing market conditions while others procrastinate. It is why some species adapt and others become extinct. Some marriage relationships adapt to changing needs and circumstances while others end in divorce. It is why the enlightened leader picks himself up during a crisis, using it as a tool of change in valuable lessons learned while the other stays in the shadow of self-pity and recrimination.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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A tribute to Father’s Day

My father died last year only three months prior to his 90th birthday. His last years in a retirement village in South Africa were spent in quiet solitude reading and reminiscing on the lessons of a long life lived.

Especially during my teenager years we had a difficult relationship. I perceived him as weak with our mother making all the decisions pertaining to important family and other matters. It was embarrassing when he would at times interrupt a conversation with a completely unrelated topic.

I could not understand why he was the complete opposite to his five opiniated and charismatic younger brothers who each in their way had been very successful. They ran profitable businesses, and farms and the youngest was the headmaster of a school.

The veil of silence

It seemed as if my father lived a life separate from the world around him behind a thick veil of silence. Unsurprisingly my two brothers and myself tried numerous methods, especially provocation to break through that veil. In his frustration he would try to discipline us by referring to the all powerful family figurehead. “What do you think grandfather would say?” That worked. We did not want to get in grandpa’s bad books.

We spent most  of our school vacations and weekends on the grandparents farm. Some of those happiest of childhood memories were the swims in the crystal clear waters of the Pongola river in rural South Africa, milking cows by hand, listening to the stories of the Zulus around a fireplace  and riding through the African veld on horseback.

A family secret revealed

Only much later in life my uncle and godfather, his life slowly ebbing away from cancer, took me aside with the words: “I think you need to know a few things about your father to understand why he is the way he is.”

The family secret was finally revealed. I was a toddler when my father had, what they called at the time “a nervous breakdown.” My father had been unable to fulfill grandfather’s high expectations. I can only imagine what the next weeks in a mental institution must have been like. Treatment of mental illness with controversial electroshock or electroconvulsive therapy was common in the early 1960s. From what my uncle confided to me that day a once proud, handsome man was reduced to a shadow of his former self. At that time the therapy was only known to me from the movie “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” starring Jack Nicholson.

My parents at their engagement in 1956

It took years of family constellation work for me to only begin to understand the deeper underlying structure of the “absent father syndrome”.  My great grandfather died when my grandfather could barely walk. Lacking a real father role model he projected many of his own insecurities onto my father, confusing  authority  with authoritarian control.

Absent father syndrome

Families in countries devastated from the effects of the terrible 20th century wars were affected for generations by the “absent father syndrome”. Those fathers who survived the war seldom if ever spoke about their trauma, leaving sons and daughters grappling with traumatized men unable to fully engage as fathers and role models. Mothers more often than not were overburdened with the task of emotionally handling the affairs of the family while the father was reduced to the role of the “breadwinner”.

Many a single mother knows all about absent fathers unable or unwilling to fully participate because of the chronic lack of role models. There is an African saying that it “takes a village to raise a child”.  Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers and godfathers were all part of elaborate initiation rituals during the important stages of life.

It is impossible to return to that world where village life remained largely intact, and few villagers left their familiar surroundings but the importance of ritual and the definitive roles of the father and the mother in these rituals appears to be a key factor in determining a child’s mental and physical health.

Reframing the father figure

Especially during the difficult phase of puberty where the child is grappling in finding its own identity separate from that of the parent. Society needs to reframe the role of the father and father’s need to explore role models beyond the dysfunctional family unit. Expression of vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of strength, and creates real space for intimate relationship. Humility is a powerful antidote to a false image of pride.

Jesus is quoted as saying in John 14:10: “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

The power within is that which opens the way to a new beginning from the path of pain. It is that innate feeling of trust that all has meaning and purpose in the greater cycle of things.

The twilight years

Today I can look at pride at what my father accomplished. He remained a humble man with  a stoic steadfastness during several family tragedies, earning quiet respect  from several people who had ridiculed and looked down on him in younger years.

During our last conversations he was simply grateful for the grace of a long life lived. I would not have been what I am today without him. Despite his reservations he allowed his sons to make their own choices and to live lives on their own terms free of judgment and parental control.  I will forever be grateful for that.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

One more thing…

If you have found this article useful please share to spread the message. Check out also the latest online courses for you to download and our special Retreat on the island of Majorca in October this year.

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Filed under mental health, mental-health