Nelson Mandela and the ANC’s War


Few people speak about Nelson Mandela and the ANC’s armed war against the apartheid regime. Some would call it terrorism, but then again all war is terrorism and so is oppression. Mandela was a prominent leader of the militant wing of the ANC, known as Umkhonto we Size or MK. MK was established approximately a year after the government had violently crushed a peaceful protest against its regime, among other incidences. During the nineteen sixties and seventies MK would habitually bomb public areas, particularly those that were designated for Whites only.

The ANC only started to gain  traction in their quest for liberation after Mandela, still as a prominent (and incarcerated) leader resumed advocating and practicing non aggression principles.

To date the non aggression  principle is the most effective, paradoxical approach towards responding to aggression. If you are looking for some proof in the pudding, just look up Ghandi, and Martin Luther King.

Taking a non aggressive approach prevents you from being stuck in your reptilian brain during aggressive and stressful encounters. It also allows direct access to the critical thinking region of your brain, your prefrontal cortex, which affords you insights into dignified alternatives to end the conflict.

I understand that some people would read this post and dismiss it as rubbish, or perhaps a promotion of weakness, but nothing could be farther from the truth as well as contradictory. It takes courage to seek and exercise peace, this is because all impulsive and reactionary behavior is motivated by fear, with little regard for consequences.

The fight or flight analogy needs to be improved, because whether you are fighting or fleeing, you are reacting to fear. To react to fear is the equivalent of fleeing (from pain and suffering) and when you are running from something, you are certainly not giving a lot of thought to where you are headed.

Sure, if you were to lose your temper in the heat of the moment it is easy to convince yourself about your lack of care for potential consequences, that is, until the the time comes for you to face the consequences of your actions.

Violence begets violence, and regardless of how you may view yourself, all human beings are equal, primarily because we are equally vulnerable and we live at the mercies of each other.

I was putting together some information about workplace bullying and effective strategies for how to respond to bullying in the workplace. Right now it’s looking like it’s going to be a two part post. Regardless, the post will be up Monday morning, Arizona time.

If it turns out to be a two part post, the second post will discuss effective cognitive behavioral strategies for dealing with and putting an end to workplace bullying and mobbing.

Rest in Peace Mr. Mandela.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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The Power of Believing You Can

A college student I worked with was experiencing difficulty in school, in regards to completing and turning in her class assignments. One day she mentioned to me that perhaps she suffered from attention deficit disorder . I responded by reminding her about how we had rescheduled our agreed upon appointment two weeks prior because she had to take an examination, which was three hours long. I further reminded her that during our most recent meeting, she had informed me that she had passed the examination.

“People with attention deficit disorder struggle to pull that off,” I added. As it turns out, her lack of motivation was caused by her not knowing what she wanted to study and that she was only pursuing the major of study she was enrolled in to impress her parents. This revelation came out after she came to realize that she was able to concentrate for hours at at time as evidenced by how well she had done on the three hour exam. The difference was that over the years she hadn’t been doing it on her own terms.

From time to time, I encounter people who become upset with me because I tell them they can get better, when they believe  they can not. There is another story of a client who used the analogy of a blind man, he informed me that telling him that he could get past his depression was like telling a blind man that he could see again. I then informed him that while blind people certainly couldn’t see, they could still get around  and function on par with their sighted fellow humans.

The human mind is neuroplastic, it has a remarkable ability of reorganizing itself to help us  address our everyday issues in life and thrive, regardless of the trauma experienced and survived. What remains is for us to believe in our ability to adapt and change.

Your Brain is “Neuro-Plastic”—It’s Moldable & Changeable from Josh Kastleman on Vimeo.


Consider this study, involving hospitalized depressed men for the effectiveness of fluoxetine in treating depression. The men were divided into two groups, one group which received the actual treatment and the second group which received a placebo treatment. Both groups showed dramatic and significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, as evidenced by self reports and scanned images of changes in their brains’ glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET). This is one of many studies that shows that power of simply believing, through the effects of placebo.

PET scan 1   pet scan 2    pet scan 3

The truth is that we are able to accomplish any feat we set our minds unto. So if you are experiencing difficulty in consistently accomplishing a task, or following through with agreed upon expectations, perhaps it has nothing to do with your ability but your willingness, influenced by other factors.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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How To Achieve Happiness Through Risk Taking

If negativity is to water, then positivity  is to the boat that keeps you afloat and takes you across.

The best way to explain this analogy is to substitute negativity as  challenges and positivity as the courage to practice change in overcoming certain challenges.

From addictions to maladaptive behaviors, the key to emancipation from habits that weigh us down is practicing the courage to take risks. Imagine if you can, the look of disbelief when  I tell a client who struggles with depression that he needs to go thirty days without using marijuana, or the look of horror registered on  the face of the shy young adult who is given an assignment to ask someone out on a  date.

These two examples have something in common and the commonality is people being asked to take the risk to practice change. For example, the client who uses marijuana, by quitting will be taking the risk of experiencing the inner turmoil and discomfort he has been using the drug to hide from. In his head, facing his fears is the worst thing that could ever happen to him even though it’s the best thing that could happen to him. The exact same thing could be said for the shy young man, afraid to approach females he finds attractive.

There are a number of research studies like this one on risk taking that seem to suggest that people are more willing to take risks when they feel happier or more optimistic. However, what if it works both ways?  What if it is true that while happier people take more risks, that miserable people who practice risk taking also experience more happiness? More specifically, what if it turns out that people who are unhappy can experience more optimism if they take risks even when the outcome of their risk taking doesn’t yield success?

For example, what if a young man who is shy finally exercises the courage to begin approaching and making small conversations with women he finds attractive. What if he finally asks someone out and she says no? In my practice what I have witnessed is  that even when turned down, young men who struggle with self confidence report feeling more optimistic, because being turned down wasn’t as horrible and as unbearable an ordeal as they had imagined.

Furthermore, risk is a term that’s often used to describe irrational decisions instead of everyday life in which it should be used. For example, driving your car is risky for obvious reasons, but gambling in a casino is irrational, as the odds are always in the favor of the house, which makes the probability of you winning any substantial amount of money slim to none.

People become adverse to the idea of risk taking when their definition of risk involves taking steps to improve their situation with a high likelihood of failure. This certainty of failure becomes so big in their minds that they become fearful of taking any steps to improve their situations. It is when I explain to clients how they take risks everyday in theirs lives that they become more willing to take the necessary steps to do things differently  to improve their situations. When people start doing things more differently to improve their circumstances, they become more optimistic regardless of the outcome.  They also begin taking about more opportunities that have come up for them as a result of practicing get the courage to change.

Happiness like any other feeling is feedback from the brain that tells you that you are either getting your needs met or in the process of getting your needs met. It is not something that occurs before the event or an action is initiated. For example, it would be equivalent to feeling wet outside on a dry day shortly before rain pours from the sky. We take risks everyday with no guarantees that things would go our way, and happiness is becoming more aware of this phenomenon and being at peace with it.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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Why Insults Don’t Matter

My anger management book, titled, “Anger Management 101-Taming the Beast Within”,
is a bitter pill to swallow for some people,  and I understand. Some people have been led to believe that the best way to respond to force is with force. The problem with this is that force is negative, and negative added to another negative will only yield negative.

The idea of responding to with a positive towards a negative, is an old  idea that works, but is ironically foreign to some people.

So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Everything. Take for example, you are addressed by an insult from someone, what do you do? You can respond in a number of ways, but the best way to respond to an insult is to not respond back with an insult of your own.

When people insult me, I choose not to insult them back,  and I  will respond in one of two other ways.  I will either ignore them entirely, or if this is someone that I can’t entirely ignore or dismiss due to circumstances beyond my control, I inform them that their remark was unacceptable and declare my boundaries for how I prefer to be communicated with.

Twenty to ten years ago, I used to suffer from the disease of chronic anger. I would periodically resort to explosive temper tantrums that severed relationships with others who mattered and brought sick people closer to my circle. This kept me in a constant state of resentment, as the people I kept close always gave me good reason to be resentful.

This of course was all before I realized something about people who enjoy delivering insults to others, there is a lack of recognition in their ability to bring anything positive and useful into any relationship,  to include with themselves.

An insult is a rejection, and a rejection is an illusion. The illusion of being better than the person who is being rejected. It’s reverse psychology in action,  kind of like when a high end department store decides to not sell to certain members of the population. The message is this, we are the best thing to happen since sliced bread and you are not good enough to purchase our merchandise, our merchandise is only reserved for a select few.

The reality is that this store offers nothing you need at all, and their rejection of most people creates an appeal to a minority with the disposal income to purchase overpriced things they don’t need. This is because very few people will have access to the product, and from a hierarchical mindset, uniqueness is important . The important thing to  remember here is that the store has nothing you need.

So the next time you find yourself upset with someone who has just insulted you, ask yourself one question, what type of a friend would that person have made?

When we come to realize that there was nothing lost upon being rejected by another person, we stop being bothered by the insult.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.

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