By Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist & Founder of PsychMatters®

Welcome friends to Fabulous February – not because it is a short month and you wishing for the holidays to arrive already! Rather because there is something fresh and alive that represents this month, with many fabulous and hopeful changes for our beloved country, And… of course the secret romantic in me has a love for what Valentine’s sentimentally stands for.

So last week my husband Chris and I took my toddler Natalia to watch the animation Ferdinand. I was so moved by the messages in this movie. This is a story about a bull in Spain that was primed by his family, environment and society to grow up to be the most powerful bull-fighter like his father and his forefathers. His inner calling and purpose was to be the exact converse – to be soft, kind and collaborative despite how big and physically strong he was.

It got me thinking about how we as a society have become – using Power to fight for our rights, fight to survive, fight to get what we want, fight for our positions at work, fight to get somewhere in life, fight to be heard, fight to be right, fight to overpower others, fight fight fight. What this does to our society is it manifests literal and figurative armours to protect, shield and defend ourselves from real or perceived the attacks, and ultimately co-creating inner and outer wars in our lives. Ferdinand showed us in this movie that power and strength can be used in a far more valuable, collective way to bring about peace and tolerance for the greater good.

It then got me pondering about what the antidote for this “societal war mind-set” could be and the word – KIND – came up. Imagine a society that instils the value ‘KIND to others and to ourselves.

With this war mind-set we are more likely to be inclined to idealise those that present themselves as strong, tough, in control and powerful, and kindness could be associated with a weakness, mistrust, or way to manipulate – “why is he being so nice what does he want in return?”

When we treat someone else with kindness, they are more likely to show kindness in return and it has a ripple effect on the next person they engage with.  Our actions and inactions have a ripple effect beyond what we can perceive. I investigated some research and came across the term “emotional contaguation”. Emotional Contaguation a term that describes the fact that we take on the moods and attitudes of those around us. In other words, your mood can rub off onto others. Some of the explanations would be:

  1. Mirror neuron system – this is a group of neurons that mimic the facial expressions, attitudes, and talking tones of those around us.
  2. Facial feedback hypothesis – when your facial muscles change into a smile or a frown, our brain respond in a way that matches the facial muscles. What this theory is saying is you should act the way you want to feel – the concept – fake it until you make it would apply her. Studies were done where people who were stressed were asked to smile for a period of time and later reported to have felt better.

Thus, our behaviour has an impact beyond the person we’re interacting with. It’s always good to pause before reacting when upset, however tempting it may be to express exactly what we’re feeling in the moment.

The Victorians for example knew that good manners were a sign of strength. Being civil is indicative of self-control, requiring us to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths, pause, delay our own gratification to meet another person’s needs.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fibre of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with this concept, or are stuck in anger, self-righteousness and hostility, PsychMatters® is inspired to help you heal. We can be contacted on 0114503576 or info@psychmatters.co.za.

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