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Archive for January, 2008

In a recent LA Times article, John Glionna reported that Chinese women living in rural areas “are taught to refer to male spouses not as husbands but masters. They inhabit a world where the emphasis on bearing sons is so strong (due to needs for male strength in agriculture] that women bear names such as Zhaodi (“looking for a little brother”) and Aidi (“loving a little brother”).” “Three of four Chinese women—more than 450 million—still live in the countryside, where rigid social customs breed loneliness and abuse. Domestic violence rates are high. Each year 150,000 women commit suicide in rural China—the only place on Earth where more women kill themselves than men, according to the World Health Organization.” But change is being spearheaded by one brave and visionary woman, Xie Lihua, whose efforts include a paper run for rural women, a hotline for battered wives and abused female employees, and pressure upon the government to support minimum salary and basic insurance for domestic workers not covered under China’s labor laws. “Her efforts have empowered multitudes” but her “critics say she embarrasses China.” DR. SHARON SAYS: China, embrace your embarrassment. It tells the world that you are aware and that you know things shouldn’t be like they are for women. Once you make the statement of your embarrassment over the situation—not your embarrassment at the disclosure—you will be in an even better position to act on it for the better. Embarrassment is different from shame. Shame indicates that one doesn’t know or understand the rule that is being violated. Readers, here is what I think you can learn from this situation. No matter what embarrasses you, show your embarrassment socially by grinning sheepishly, shoulders shrugging upward as you smile your sheepish smile. Showing your embarrassment in this manner reassures those around you and relieves them of the need to try to control your behavior. It also relieves you of creating unnecessary tension in yourself by trying to hide your embarrassment. If you have shame, hunch your shoulders and cover your face, eyes and mouth open. That very movement will start to teach you the rule that you don’t get. It’s very strange, but true. The best explanation I have for it is that shame is deeply hard-wired into social creatures to do the work of getting us to behave adaptively in groups…which means following rules or norms. Even if you have no earthly idea what the rule is, or even if you really believe that it doesn’t apply to you, or even if it’s truly a bad norm, physically expressing shame guides you and your social group into healthier social behavior. [Special thanks to John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times for his excellent article Wednesday, January 2, 2008

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Hate Outlets: “Defenders” of Ellen DeGeneres and Paul McCartney There’s something striking that two 2007 star-centered public gossip spectacles had in common: an outpouring of hate. When Ellen deGeneres spoke of the dog Izzy being removed from the home in which she placed him, the women who gave Izzy to Ellen, and who had written into the contract that she was to return him to them if she didn’t want to keep him, received an astonishing and sickening deluge of hate-filled accusations and threats when they insisted on removing Izzy from the new home. Similarly, in the process of Paul McCartney’s messy divorce from wife Heather, Heather also received a flood of hate-filled “communication.” What’s going on here? To me, people clearly are not dealing with their own feelings of hate close to home and, instead, are displacing it onto distant targets. Now, don’t get me wrong: hating is normal. And displacing it onto “safer” targets than yourself, your mate, your mother, father or sibling is necessary. But how does one displace it? That’s the key question. First, when you hate anyone or anything, even if just for a moment, you are dangerous. If you suppress the hate, it leaks toxicity inside you. If you throw it at someone else, you spread the toxicity. So, first, recognize your “dangerousness”. Then, act dangerous in some safe, even silly, way. Let it out. When you find yourself thinking attacking and hating thoughts, attack items that are fair game for recycling—junk mail, old magazines, weeds in the garden, useless junk in storage…instead of attacking others in either thought or deed. Or write out your hateful thoughts, rip up the paper, and then write again about what similar things, closer to home, you also hate. And add the why. In addition, whenever you “vent” hatefully about anything, no matter how trivial, question yourself as to what pain and rational hate lies underneath your passion. Whenever you hate at anyone or anything, something truly is wrong in your life. That’s what the transforming emotion of hate is trying to tell you. What’s wrong can be anything that is causing you pain or any situation in which you feel helpless to make a healthy change. Discovery is the payoff. Hating on something far from your issues is good if you don’t do harm in the process. It can help you go searching for what’s really the matter, closer to home. DR SHARON SAYS: When you hate, don’t devastate. First regulate. Then excavate. Then articulate. Finally, activate. Intend to form a good plan to improve your life in win-win ways for you and those who are wronging you.

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