C/O Max Kukurudziak, Unsplash

We should rely on our humanity to navigate through hurt and sorrow 

My heart is heavy as I turn on the news and see events that many of us know all too well. Some of us have read about them in history books, lived through them ourselves or been close to people who have had similar experiences.  

Regardless of why we feel hurt deep within us, we must recognize the validity of these feelings and the best way to act upon them. 

I am Bosnian-Croatian. Exactly 30 years ago, Sarajevo was under siege — just as Kiev is today. My parents and all my loved ones have directly witnessed events that are very much the mirror images to those in Ukraine today.  

Having deep connections to my roots and my loved ones, I feel empathy for those experiencing it today. It’s still unfathomable to me that, after too many years, wars, conflicts, acts of violence and long-held tensions, we still fail to understand that war is not the answer.  

Regardless of why, it is still valid to feel hurt and empathize with those experiencing conflict today. It does not matter that you have not lived through a war, a siege, bombings, violence or anything of the sort. The fact that we care and feel so much hurt is a testament to our humanness and the solidarity that accompanies it.  

As humans, we are built to care for others. Although we are not all in the same situation, we still react in a trademark human way.  

So, what do we do with these feelings? Although it is all too easy to make a few posts on social media to show we care, how much does this really do? Why don’t we start in the simplest way and discuss our feelings, thoughts, opinions, hopes and worries?  

While a few pictures with a caption may not do much, sharing our humanness with others and allowing ourselves to feel will further bolster civilization’s unity in the long run.   

What’s happening in the world right now can be viewed through a variety of lenses — political, sociological and economic. Let us begin by viewing it through a human lens.  

Given the difficult complexity of our world, we can always find an anchor in our own humanity. This is the approach we should be taking to grapple with such a precarious event. 

It should, however, be noted that those on both sides of every conflict are allowed to feel the same hurt, pain and anger at current events. Our differing perceptions are what vary dramatically, but we can still acknowledge that they — however different from ours — are also human and experience the same hurt that others do.  

Human nature is unwavering, but it can be manipulated and conceived in many ways.  

Understanding this is the first step to re-establishing peace in even the most turbulent times.   

While what is happening is difficult to understand, we can look within ourselves to find the right response. Though our simple actions may not have tangible impact, finding the roots of our solidarity and being able to fortify it is invaluable in times of conflict. Regardless of how we feel, what we do or who we are, it is all built upon the foundation of the human being. 

Photo C/O @goodbodyfeel

Robin Lamarr has been the only person of colour in a movement class. With this personal experience and her own desire to make mindful movement accessible, the movement educator and community activist had been thinking about how she could address the lack of representation in the movement community.

When she obtained a physical space for the studio she founded, Goodbodyfeel, she saw it as a good time to introduce a designated space for people of colour. The result was the first Movement Melanin Expression workshop on Feb. 24. The two-hour, three-part workshop was designed for individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

The intention is to create a space where folks who usually feel like they don't belong can feel belonging. And then, because it's an exclusive space, we can be open, raw, vulnerable and honest about what… we're feeling and why… [W]e can be super open about it without having to… defend ourselves against someone who might have white fragility for example,” said Lamarr.

The workshop was the result of a partnership with Hamilton-based visual alchemist and movement teacher-in-trainer, Stylo Starr. Starr joined the Goodbodyfeel Teacher Training last year when she met Lamarr and is almost finished her 200 hours of training.

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Lamarr and Starr have collaborated on a similarly structured workshop before. Last summer, they ran a satellite workshop at the Art Gallery of Hamilton wherein Lamarr led a movement sequence followed by Starr leading a walking meditation involving collage material.

Similarly, Movement Melanin Expression began with Lamarr leading participants through her famed R&B Pilates movement sequence. The sequence starts slow and warms up the individual parts of the body before ending with an intense squat sequence wherein participants scream in order to release all their emotions.

After moving, a circle discussion took place. The discussion was intended to address how people of colour can take up space and reverse the lack of representation in the movement and wellness industry. Most importantly, the conversation was meant to be open and unrestrained. Starr hopes that the conversation acted as a catalyst for participants to discuss how they’re feeling with the people in their lives.

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The workshop ended with Starr’s collage workshop. As she did with the series at the art gallery, Starr led participants through a walking meditation, allowing them to find pieces that spoke to them and create something there. The creative portion of the workshop allowed participants to express and liberate themselves.

I've seen firsthand how movement has helped my creation. It's just a way of accessing a part of your mindfulness that maybe sitting still might not do for many people… I think it's really important to mesh these worlds because it's often implied that they're so different but they're actually very similar. In creating sequences for classes, it's a collage of different movements and they might not always look the same,” Starr explaining.

Approaching creativity through the medium of collage is one of the many ways in which this workshop made itself accessible. Unlike other forms of art, collage is not very intimidating for the non-artist and allowed individuals to express themselves with lesser concern about artistic skill.

Like several other Goodbodyfeel classes, this workshop had a sliding scale in place to reduce the financial barrier for participants. The studio also has clean clothes for participants to use and provides mats and props. By removing these obstacles for participants, the studio is hoping that no one is priced out of accessing mindful movement.

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“I've been practicing some form of mindful movement since 2000 and… it's been a really big part of my healing journey. And so since moving to Hamilton and starting this community, my aim is to have as many people as possible benefit and have access to the transformative effects of mindful movement.

Why does the movement community need to even address race and representation? Well, because it's incredibly beneficial to mental health and well-being and everybody deserves access to it,” Lamarr said.

At the end of the day, the most important part of Movement Melanin Expression was the formation of community through movement. Starr and Lamarr intend to continue the class so that people of colour can continue to take up space in the movement industry and discuss more ways to break down the barriers.

 

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Photos C/O Aaron de Jesus

Twenty. That's how many weddings I shot in 2018 as a wedding filmmaker, and that's how many couples I've witnessed embark in the romantic tradition of love through ceremonial spectacle. As Aristotle puts it, love that is "composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”

But what stems from this poetic union of two perfect swipes matches? A spiritual bliss? Unconditional passion? A fulfilled soul? Maybe. But there is a definite partner in crime to romantic love we all need to control: ego.

What is Ego:

Not the Freudian ego, but that Kanye ego. You see it in films, you hear it in music and you feel your eyes rolling back when your lab partner urges you to believe that they "meet the perfect criteria" for their Friday-night-fling. Or better yet, the heavenly Friday-night-fling "fits all my checkboxes."

This is only the bark of the evergreen ego, which we can define using author Ryan Holiday's definition as an "unhealthy belief in our own importance” found in his book Ego Is the Enemy. This is synonymous with arrogance, vanity and of course, Kanye.

What is Romantic Love:

The ego in love inflates our own level of significance, while at the same time projecting ambitious standards for another to meet. With this principle narcissism, we begin to see the clinging relationship of ego with "romantic love" — which we can describe through the wisdom of Alain de Botton as a lifelong passion of unconditional affection, monogamous sex of the deepest expressions, independent of any logical reasoning and relying only on instinctual emotions and feelings.

Take that in — romantic love lives solely on emotion without logic. To the casual reader, these childish thoughts may seem obvious, but reflecting deeper, we begin to see signs within ourselves and our closest circle. We must control this. Let's take a look throughout your life.

Children: The Seedling Ego

Going back to where this all began, childhood is where we first experienced love. Most can associate child affection with a loving authority. Whether we called them our parent, sibling, relative, or neighbour, we needed them. The attachment theory research of John Bowlby throughout the 1900's, followed by Prof. Sue Johnson's couples therapy research today, brings sound evidence for our dependence on others. When we screamed for food, we got it. When we cried to be held, we got it. When we laughed for playtime, we got it. This is a good thing. Relying on others is the fundamental reason our species has survived millennia. The downside is in its longevity and growth through life.

Yes, we need others in life, and yes, our deepest instinct is to seek attachment, as outlined by Prof. Johnson, but the feedback loop of the Ariana Grande-esque "I want it, I got it" is the root that sprouts the dark ego of romance. Getting things as children paves the way for this underlying principle of romantic love: When we want something, we'll find a way to get it.

Adolescence: The Budding Ego

Which brings us to the next step of the growing ego in love. Found in puberty, high school, college or university, new experiences with decreased micromanagement and guidance. This is when the ego begins to experiment. Our claustrophobic wants begin to explore outside the supervised home and seeks easier ways to be watered. Whether through becoming captain of the volleyball team, taking the alto sax solo in band and most notably, finding a significant other to seek love and affection from.

This is also the point where ego meets romance. Our idea of love at this time is heavily influenced by the media, family and friends, and I'm willing to bet they all follow the blueprint of romantic love defined above. The fairytale love. The princess and prince charming love.

The budding ego spreads its roots and leaves into new terrain, searching for nourishment through this angelic and socially-acceptable soil called romance. This fair ground is for taking, stemming from it the seedling motto of “doing it because you want it” which only leads to the growth of our selfish plant called ego.

Into Adulthood: The Warped Ego

This is when our ego blooms the biggest, taking our primal egotistic need for affection and mixing it with the socially-acceptable irrationality of love. It almost becomes Machiavellian in the way it finds love.

Robert Greene, author of The Laws Of Human Nature, highlights a few archetypes of the folly relationship: the victim types that need saving, the saviour types to save victims, the devilish romantics of seduction, the image of perfection that never comes to fruition and the straight-up "they'll worship my ego indefinitely and unconditionally because of who I am" type.

Nowhere near complete, these types in relationships are ever-present. They may not come to mind right away when we think of romance, but when we look deeply at traditional love stories, the Romeos and Juliettes, the Snow Whites and Prince Charmings, there they are. And when we look beside us, there they are.

Is this a bad thing? Aristotle once said that to fix the warped curvature of wood, one must apply pressure in the opposite direction. And I do believe that regulating our growth should be at the forefront of any visionary. But is this subjective idea of "true love" really a disservice to our growing forest of human interaction?

 

The Solution:

Yes, I do believe this traditional view of love has well overstayed its visit. Especially with our cultural shift towards individuality and independence. And the first step to grow with the grain is understanding and loosening our ego.

For better or for worse, it's our ego trying to keep up with the Kardashians Joneses in love. But they're not you, and only you know what climate is best to grow love. Not Disney, not the latest country ballad and not the many wedding films found online. There are 7.4B definitions of love, and we need to rid our ego of any unexamined soil.

This means stop assuming that relationships are the norm. Stop associating sex with love. Logical thinking can be just as divine as cupid's arrow. You don't need to love everything about someone to love them. Arguments are arguments, and not signs from a higher power. We can't put full responsibility on another to complete ourselves. And above all, it doesn't make you any less of a person to love someone.

Let go the ego to let love grow.

 

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Graphics by Sukaina Imam

By: Jackie McNeill

When I had friends over as a kid, I would pull my mom aside after a few hours and ask, “When are they going to leave?” It’s not that I wasn’t having fun — I loved seeing my friends, but this time with others never failed to become draining and leave me with a need for some alone time.

While I once thought this desire to be alone was abnormal and unhealthy, as I got older I learned to take advantage of it to promote self-improvement. Left alone with just my thoughts, I’ve had the opportunity to think critically about who I am as a person, what I like about myself and what I want to do better.

Learning about who I was, both outside and inside of my relationships with others, and working to better myself has helped to increase my self-esteem exponentially over years of self-reflection.

I’ve experienced how this increase in self-esteem has aided my relationship with myself, but studies show that it can also benefit the way we interact with others.

Megan McCarthy, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Waterloo, suggests that people with low self-esteem are more likely to stay in unhappy relationships with others, resulting from their resistance to recognize and address problems.

“People with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them,” explained McCarthy.

The self-concept is our idea of self, constructed through a combination of our own beliefs about ourselves and how others respond to us. A negative self-concept, then, can cause someone to assume negative reactions towards them and therefore avoid confrontation or conflict as a defense against these assumptions being actualized.

So, an increase in self-esteem can certainly improve romantic relationships, but those are not the only relationships we experience. Every interaction we have, be it with friends, family, or even our co-workers, can benefit from the practice of self-love and self-care.

Time alone also increases communication with the self through self-awareness. When I spend time alone, my own thoughts, feelings and desires become my priority. This has helped me realize that communicating with myself should remain a priority throughout my life, including when I interact with others, paving the way for honest and open relationships.

In addition, being self-aware has allowed me to be more receptive of others’ thoughts, feelings and desires, which may reflect similar concerns or insecurities that I possess. By reflecting upon the self, we can become more sensitive and considerate towards the people we build relationships with.  

It is important to note that my idea of alone is not one size fits all. Spending time alone can simply mean loneliness for some people, and as a Psychology Today article explains this can lead to anxieties, depression, or reminders of loss and abandonment.

McMaster University’s Prof. Tara Marshall illustrates this idea through the example of a breakup.

After a breakup, people who are more secure in relationships and have higher self-esteem are more likely to desire some time alone,” explained Marshall.

“They may engage in some personal growth-enhancing experiences. People high in anxious attachment, on the other hand, desire to go on the rebound after a breakup,” she added.

Marshall went on to explain that humans are social by nature and we have a need to belong to social groups as our survival has depended on it throughout history. So it is important to balance time spent alone with socialization, just as it’s important to get to know yourself and what will work well for your own self-esteem.

The point of this time spent alone is to improve your feelings about yourself, but also to use this to positively affect your relationships with others. What works for me won’t work for everyone, but maybe by sharing my experience others will venture to learn more about themselves and how they interact with others.

Of course, when trying to self-reflect as a student several issues present themselves. Our days are packed with studying, interactions with peers everywhere on campus, trying to balance friends, a job, finishing that essay and visiting family; our minds never get a break.

So how do you get some quiet time in a busy day? Try the silent study in Mills— it’s a great way to ease yourself into being alone because you’re surrounded by other students, but everyone is focused on their own work. There’s no opportunity for socialization to distract you from yourself.

Sitting still can be difficult, so go for a walk alone in a quiet neighbourhood. No phone calls or music, just reflect on that day or what’s to come and make an effort to think positively.

If these options take too much time, go to bed 20 minutes earlier than usual and let your mind wander while trying some deep breathing. This can help ease stress and relax your mind, leaving it open for reflection.

This time alone allows you to drop what Psychology Today calls your “social guard.” Pay attention to how you behave alone and compare it to how you behave around others, and maybe work to let some of your “alone” self bleed into your public persona.

Whether you crave alone time like me or not, we can all benefit from a bit of self-reflection to better our relationship with ourselves and others. Self-awareness and the resulting higher self-esteem make an impact on the way we interact with others, and can keep our relationships open, honest and healthy.

 

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By: Mitali Chaudhary

Why does love feel like literally being stabbed by cupid’s arrow? Be it a bout of infatuation or a full-blown deep and passionate promise, at every step of the game, love seems to hurt just as much as it brings joy. To make things even more complicated, there isn’t just one type of pain that it causes. Instead, we get to experience an impressive range of conflicting feelings that are difficult to name, much less describe. But for all the lovers out there, we have made an effort.

Let’s start with the one the makes you feel the most insane: infatuation. This is essentially when you’re crushing hard on someone you often don’t know quite that well. Maybe they are in one of your classes. A popular activity in this phase is the social media, shall we say, “reconnaissance work.” During your research, you come across a picture of your object of affection with a (attractive) friend that suddenly makes you feel hurt. This is an interesting mix of about 78 percent cold, hard, green jealousy, ten percent indignation, ten percent hurt and two percent guilt (you stalker). “How dare they?” you might ask yourself, until you realize that they are human beings allowed to have friends and that they are not in a relationship with you.

Now let’s fast forward to when you and your darling are dating, and you think you might actually be in love. When you’re together, you’re over the moon, you have stars in your eyes and all that mushy stuff. You’re so happy that it hurts. There it is again, but this time it’s a faint pain at the back of your ribcage. Yes you’re both here, yes you’re having the greatest time, but that just makes you think more and more that you can’t live without them. Which is equally amazing and terrifying: are they the one? This pain is a strange one, as it’s 80 percent a feeling of being overwhelmed (in the best way possible), ten percent fearful and ten percent trusting. It’s pretty messed up.

Of course, it’s all roses and pink stuff when your love is right there, but when they have to go home to get some work done on their assignment (which you have to work on too, by the way, but you’ve been ignoring it because OMG IN LOVE), you feel pained once more. This pain is actually the most famous of all the love-pains: even Shakespeare thought to comment on it, as he penned, “Parting is such a sweet sorrow.” This ache is more of a piercing sadness, with about 64 percent abandonment, 20 percent grief, 12 percent powerlessness and four percent embarrassment (because you know that you’ll be seeing them the next day). This is amplified approximately 300 times when you’re in a long distance relationship.

Unfortunately, this analysis does nothing to demystify the complexities of and connections between pain and love. But it’s amazing to think that the strange and deep feelings this relationship creates has inspired thousands of years of human art and literature. These, undoubtedly, are reassurances to those suffering from love that they are not alone, and are, in fact, not insane.

Photo Credit: Stephen Phillips

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