Monday, August 13, 2018

Combating Collective Fear and Anxiety

 Collective Fear and Anxiety

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought about collective fear and anxiety. More and more lately, folks are forming tribal alliances based on their fears.

The best defense lies not in keeping the so-called wrong people out, but in building confidence, purpose, love and kindness for the folks who are in whatever office group, family, neighborhood, city and country that you are in.

So, what is fear and what are we afraid of?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion that has been caused by a belief  that someone or something is dangerous and likely to cause pain and harm. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, a nervousness or unease about something we perceive to be imminent, having an uncertain outcome. (Oxford)

What we perceive to be real often becomes real in its consequences.

My first after-college job was at a shelter for victims of domestic violence and rape. My second job was as a researcher with the Victim’s Assistance Agency in Jacksonville, Florida.

We served to assess and find ways to best serve people who were victims of crime. This was difficult and often depressing work. Each day I heard accounts of the horrors that victims had experienced, and I sought pathways and resources for healing.

One of my tasks was to help design a city-wide survey that would get a better perspective of the problems victims faced. To start, I created a high level open-ended city-wide questionnaire that would allow us to know what we should be measuring before we even began to measure it.

Several observations became more and more apparent. When I asked people what they feared in regards to crime, the list was long and intense. When I asked the level of fear, the response was great and again rather intense. But then when I asked about the number of times that thing had actually happened, I found something amazing; people who had not experienced the thing had a great deal of fear around it. 

Moreover, while they feared some of everything, they knew absolutely nothing about the resources and solutions that were available if something ever occurred. 
Folks had been buying smoke alarms but had no plan for getting out of a burning house.

In contrast, many of those who had experienced the crime intentionally sought and found ways to live without the fear of it happening again. They had surrounded themselves with love, determination and purpose. They participated in activities that made them feel secure in their own being and they intentionally sought out a healthy community that was not grounded in fear.
But those who had not experienced a crime were busy collecting data to prove that their fears were well founded. 

We have all been marketed and fed a daily diet of so much fear that we’ve become afraid of things that we have not and for the most part, will not experience. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy does of fear keeps us out of danger. However, when we believe that our locks need a lock for their locks we become prisoners in our own lives.

Our anxiety and more specifically, our collective anxiety is extremely high. We are afraid of our neighbors and the "others"; those folks we do not know. Instead of getting to know our neighbor, we collect data on how dangerous our neighbor is and seek ways to keep them out of our fortress. But I need my neighbors. I need them to expand my own perspective.

Instead of addressing out faulty thinking; our theoretical perspective, we go out and collect opinions, observations and poorly organized data to support our feelings and predetermined outcomes.
This is dangerous on so many levels.

This week try to step out of your fear and anxiety.

·       Take a higher view of the thing that is causing you to worry. What and who are you listening to?

·       Assess your paradigm, your theory, your point of view.

·       Be honest with yourself about your part in the problem you see. If you can’t see that you play a part, you won’t see that you have power to change the present and create a better future.

·       Create a plan for change.

·       Execute the plan.

·       Assess your progress.

We have the power to change the world around us, but first, we have to start with our own self.

Be you, be well, be purposefully fearless.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Thing You Seek

Increasing Your Excellence

When I was younger, I didn’t care much for goal setting. Don’t get me wrong, I was focused, determined and driven. I earned my doctoral degree at the age of 26 and was a bit down, because I had told myself that I’d get there by 25.

Still, I preferred setting standards; believing that if you live by the standards you set, you will get to the place you desire. This is true, but only in part. The other part has everything to do with the people you align yourself with and you can’t set and live the standards of others.

With Wes Bush
Then I heard Wes Bush, the brilliant engineer turned CEO of Northrop Grumman. Wes said, “If you want to increase the excellence, you must increase the performance.”

Within this most parsimonious statement lies a marvelous equation for reaching any goal. But, you can’t reach a goal if you don’t set one.

My life is now filled with graphs and charts marking and measuring my performance towards excellence.  
When setting out to do anything new or new again:
  • Don’t look back in shame or regret.
  • Use what you have learned and apply it to what you are      learning.
  • Be grateful for where you are now.
  • Forge new alliances with those who have the skill sets you need.
  • Follow-through daily.
  • Assess daily, weekly and monthly.

          And always remember, "The thing you seek is seeking you." ~Rumi

                                                                       Bertice Berry, PhD.


Monday, July 30, 2018

On Change and Transformation

You CAN Change

Believe it or not, your personality is not a stationary bike; it can go somewhere. 

We have been made to believe that we are who we are and there’s nothing we can do about it. 

Sociologists, and I'm one of them, are fond of saying things like, “The self is social, we are a product of everything and everyone we ever come in contact with.”

It reasons then that if the self, yours and mine, are created, then they can also evolve.

We have decorated our house, our self, for people who don’t even live there. There are rooms that are never used and drawers that are filled with items we don’t need but are afraid to throw away.

The same can be said for our self; the person that we are.

I am working on some things that I no longer need. My list is long, but it’s getting shorter.

I can always stand to lose weight, but the external stuff is easy to pick out and pick on. It’s the internal stuff that makes us who we are.

I can stop cutting people off in mid-sentence and I can stop cussing at bad drivers. I don’t need to be so hard on myself and I can always laugh more.

Any change, external or internal, should be up to you, and for you. Becoming your best self is not about being what someone else wants, it’s about you doing and becoming what you want for you.

Decide for yourself what you want to work on and get to it.

Be you be well, be wonderful.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lessons from A Buried Past

Restored and United:

Lessons from a Buried Past

I had just gotten back from a healing place called Kanuga, but I was scheduled to go out again. My sister/friend Brynn met my daughter Fatima and I and off we went to Sunday school with President Jimmy Carter in Plaines, Georgia.

Brynn and I had been before, but I wanted---no, I needed to go again. On the way, Brynn told us about a place that sold peaches in every and any form, including homemade ice cream, so we got off the highway and took the back road to Lanes Southern Orchard.

I’m not big on dairy products, but I’m always up for an adventure; both were delicious. Afterwards, we decided to stay on the back roads for the rest of the trip.

We were laughing and singing with the soundtrack to Hamilton when I spotted an unusual site. From the road, I saw a cemetery like no other. Over the redbrick wall, I could make out hundreds of headstones lined perfectly together.

When we could get a signal, I did an internet search for the town and discovered a place that none of us had ever heard of.

The Andersonville National Historic Site is a memorial to American prisoners of war, but it was also one of the Civil War prison/internment camps to this nation’s Union soldiers.

We knew that we had to go back, so on our way home from a moving time with President Carter, we intentionally made our way to the memorial site. Soberly, we drove through the enormous compound, listening to a guided narration on the car’s radio. We learned that over 70,000 Union soldiers had been imprisoned there. 55,000 of them died there. We made our way slowly past the stockades down the trenches and around to the cemetery. We could not speak. Thousands of headstones were lined up shoulder width apart. 

We learned of the work of a Dorence Atwater, a former prisoner of Andersonville, who kept a record of the names and numbers of the dead, so their families could be notified. After the war was over, Atwater used a smuggled second copy of his records and worked with Clara Barton, matching the numbered markers with the names of the dead.

My time at Kanuga, Sunday school with President Carter, at the historic site in Andersonville and even at the peach market, have led me to this; we are moving further and further away from our own truths. We have replaced them with the business of noise and things that look like living, but we are doing anything but.

As an African American northerner, living in the South, I don’t often want to hear about the Civil War. But as an African American Northerner living in and loving the South, I cannot walk into a Civil War cemetery filled with Union soldiers without being deeply moved. I need and want to know more.

This nation is divided in so many, many ways. I have come to see that if I want others to be united, then I need to be restored and united within my own self.

Get off to a quiet place, take a short trip, go see the history in your mind and in your own backyard, then ask yourself this question:

What do I need to see, recall, recollect and remember?

Be you, be well, be restored.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I wrote this post several years ago. I'm back on track and grateful for it, but last week, I had the chance to speak to the Icons of Dentistry, women who have been trailblazers in their field.
I also had the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, Dr. Dan Fischer. Dr. Fischer is the founder of Ultradent, an inventor, entrepreneur and modern day abolitionist. His work heals and literally sets the captive free. Read about him and ask yourself what else you can do. In the meantime, let's all take better care of the only self we have.

Okay boys and girls, remember two things; you can’t shoot the messenger and the messenger had to take the first hit.

Wellness begins in your mouth; not just with the things you say, but also rather literally with your mouth.

Last week, I did something that I had neglected for a rather long time. It had been 3 years since my last “visit” to the dentist. Prior to then I went more than regularly with 6-8 visits and cleanings a year.
I have been blessed with great teeth. At 52 I’ve never had a cavity. A great deal of that is because of the care I had given my teeth, but let’s face it, the other part is pure genetics.
My genetic juice also blessed with me gums that require a deep cleaning every 6 years, but that too had been neglected.

So last week when I broke down and made an appointment (which only happened because my daughter needed to go,) I was embarrassed by the state of my oral health.

Wellness truly starts in the mouth. Your physician probably won’t tell you, because quite frankly, they don’t know, but the lack of oral health is related to heart disease, strokes, joint pain and diabetes. The bacteria of gum disease can get into your blood stream causing a slow and painful death.(Read more about the oral systemic connection)

If your mouth is not well, your body will not be either.

As my mouth put Michele and Dr. Breitberg through a workout, I cried out in pain. When Michelle, the hygienist asked if I was okay, I told her that everything hurt. She was about to call the doctor in for more Novocain when I stopped her and managed to say that the pain came from the realization that I had been caring for my mother, my children, family, dogs and friends, but I had forgotten to take care of my own mouth.
As I cried, I vowed to not let it happen again. I had another appointment with the dentist but I moved it up and got back in sooner.

The gum cleaning not only made my teeth look better; it made my body feel better too. The aches and pains I had been feeling in my back and knees have miraculously gone away.
I find most dentists to be a humble lot. They don’t tend to make big bold claims of miracle drugs and treatments, but what they know about the connection between the nerves in your mouth and those in your body will astonish you. 

If I told you that there was a way to avoid a heart attack or stroke would you listen?
There is and I’m telling you---get to the dentist.

Before you buy another pair of shoes, a dress or even a cup of coffee, put your money where your mouth is and see a dentist.

Be you, be well, be smiling.
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Into the Woods of Your Mind

What’s in Your Woods?

It is a poorly kept secret that I suffer from Mobility Stuff. (Same initials, I just won’t give it power.) After nine years of good and bad days, I’m getting better. So, I’m doing what I need to do and I’m walking through it.

Lately, I’ve been taking morning walks and I'm amazed to actually see some of what’s living in my woods. One morning, a fox strolled towards me before realizing that he might want to go the other way. The fox looked exactly like they do in a kid’s cartoon, bright red with a “sly” smile.

I saw a giant turkey vulture sitting on a fence. She looked at me as if she belonged there and I did not. And then I “discovered” the barred owls who starred at me as if they’d never seen anything so odd.

I may not have seen them before, but these creatures live here, and they have been here all along.

These encounters with the wildlife in my woods got me to thinking about my own subconscious. I began to wonder about what has been living in the woods of my own mind. What wild thought has taken residence and has birthed a family in my subconscious?

What lives in the woods of my thinking, nesting and belonging without me even noticing?

Maybe, I’ll heal better when I clear out the thoughts that have burrowed a nest in my subconscious and have sent pain down my nerves and into my limbs. 

Maybe, just maybe the woods of our mind are harboring creatures that keep us up at night, keep us from moving forward whispering doubt and disbelief.

The fox, deer, owls, vultures and even the snakes that I know are out in the woods can stay right where they are, but the unknown of my mind had better watch out, because I’m doing a clearing.

I am renewing my mind on a daily basis. I’m getting rid of anything that keeps me from moving forward into the best I can be. 

Be you, be well, be healed.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Becoming Mature

On Maturity

I am now a woman of a certain age, but I must admit, I don’t really know what that certain age is. I’m 57, feel closer to 47 and can’t wait to be 67. I love getting older, more specifically, I love maturing.

For some reason, folks have been confusing maturity with aging. Getting older doesn’t mean that one becomes more mature. When people speak of mature adults, they usually mean old; but this is not the true meaning.

To be mature means that you have reached an advanced stage of mental and emotional development. Maturity is defined as one who is stable, sensible, responsible, levelheaded, reliable and dependable.

By now you are thinking of all the grown folks you know who are just not grown.

Now, join me in turning this on yourself. Ouch. I can only speak for myself when I say that as hard as I have worked and as much growth that I have seen; there are still several key areas in my life that can use some maturity.

I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you this; it’s time we evolve, grow and become all that we can truly be.

I don’t want to be a 67-year-old kid. I’d like to be a wise and mature 57-year old vessel of light.

Be you, be well, be evolving.

Bertice Berry, PhD.