Tag Archives: courage

Almost there

beyond the Darkness, is the Light. Keep walking, keep writing, you’re almost there…image


Opening up to life

my beautiful friend, brenda, taken on her 40th birthday by her beautiful friend jeff ayliffe

When we close ourselves to the world,

nothing can grow,

it is dark,

the sun is shut out,

no water can enter to

tend to our roots

and our shoots,

but when we turn to

face the world,

fully opened,

even though

we may feel vulnerable,

it is truly only in this state

of courage that

we have the chance to know

what we are fully capable of and

who we truly can be.

the Monster

and so,

she put all her pain and suffering

into one drawer

the drawer of pain

The photo of her

dead daughter

a crucifix that had fallen off

a rosary

given to her by the priest,

a letter from her sister

some unpaid bills

and she closed the drawer

and then she locked it.

but one night as she lay sleeping in her bed

(the drawer just a few steps  away)

all the pain locked up inside

gathered together

eyes, a nose, a mouth,

bones and flesh

it formed

and grew and grew

in the drawer

and, as she lay dreaming,

a vicious banging from inside

startled her awake….

the monster within banged and banged and banged

“let me out, let me out”, it screamed

She lay


beneath her covers

yes, frightened stiff.

‘if I’m really quiet and really still

he won’t even know I’m here.’

But the banging persisted and became louder and louder.

‘Okay then’ she said out aloud.

‘I’ll show you what a scream sounds like’

And so she started screaming, so loud that even

the most crazy person would have labelled her unwell

but after a while

she became too sore to carry on



she stopped

but still she could hear the monster

in the drawer…

‘The gun, where is my gun’

‘I will just shoot it,’ she decided…

but a she reached for her gun,

she made a strange realisation


the sound of the monster’s cries

seemed to have shifted

and were coming from within herself…

she would have had to kill herself to kill the monster…

in that absurd realisation

She finally surrendered.

And got out of bed.

She shuffled to the drawer

unlocked it

expecting the worst.

but inside,

it was just as she had left it-

a photo,

a crucifix,

a letter,

and some unpaid bills.

so she took out the image

of her daughter

now long gone

and she stroked it,

and as her first tear fell

on the

photo’s frame

the monster’s cries

that had kept her up for so long…..

finally abated.


Hope – one of positive psychology’s cornerstones

Where there is life, there is hope, my mom always says. She’s been using that saying for at least three decades that I know of.

She started using it first in pure desperation when we didn’t think my brother, who had been paralysed in a major car accident, would make it (he did), and she hasn’t stopped using it since. And of course, given the history of my family, she has had good reason to grasp onto hope.

My mom and dad, the mother and father of positive psychology in my life, impressed on all my brothers, sisters and I, the virtues of hope.

An inordinate amount of pain and suffering we have had to endure has always been met with the hope that we would survive it, and we did.

This hope instilled in all of us a remarkable sense of resilience in the world.

In South Africa, hope has time and again proven the skeptics wrong. A bloodbath predicted in 1994 never happened, a year later the winning of the Rugby World Cup took place amid a high-hope nation and the soccer World Cup 2010, with doomsayers saying it would never happen on African soil, kicked off here yesterday.

Hope calls people to action. The opposite of hope, says Dr Helgo Schomer, local radio personality, academic and practicing psychologist, is fear.

“Fear leaves people spiritless, visionless and lacking in energy. Hope, on the other hand, feeds those very things. It energises people into action, it strengthens the spirit and it creates vision. It nourishes the soul and brings a lightness of being.

“People with hope engage fully with life,” says Dr Schomer.

Volunteers are probably one of the most hopeful groups in society. These people have hope – if they didn’t they wouldn’t bother doing anything – and this hope, when put into action, has a snowball effect.

At a recent workshop in Cape Town on the Earth element which Dora and Jeremy ran, as statistic after statistic was being read out of how species were becoming extinct, rain forests were being destroyed and pollution was destroying the atmosphere, people openly sobbed. The statistics were so bad that one almost felt hopeless to affect any change.

But as the workshop continued and each person could start seeing how their contribution, however small, could not only make a difference, but was urgently needed, the atmosphere in the hall changed.

It went from being one of no-hope to one of optimism. People, when they realised that something could be done, were energised and all left with an undertaking to take action in realistic ways.

That night after the workshop, I phoned my parents. “Did you know mom, there are only 650 mountain gorillas left in the entire world,” I said, my heart aching for this species.

“Mmmm, 650. So, there are still 650….” she replied.

I knew what was coming next.

“Vivi, remember angel, there is still life there, and……where there is life, there is hope.”

In that moment I saw so clearly how hope is not that elusive. How it is in fact a call to action and why, sometimes, the seemingly easier route – yet the most devastating of all – is not to see the hope at all.

* An article which I wrote and which was published in this month’s Psychologies SA mag (June/July 2010) was based on these thoughts. You will find a full in-depth look at the psychology of hope in that article.