There is the noble slogan “live and let live” that is supposed to rule society, but life is not so simple. A colleague phoned me earlier today, asking for advice on how to deal with a work situation where mind games are on the order of the day.

Mind games in the shape of extreme manipulation that is also known as gaslighting.

Sometimes it seems as though people run out of options on how to deal with life. One small hick-up and they are ready to throw in the towel. This doesn’t mean they are weak, but many things went wrong.

The compounding effect of uncertain times can become too much. Reasons for wanting to give up include:

  • They are overworked with too much to do in too little time.
  • They expect unrealistic, fast results.
  • They remain stuck in the past.
  • They dwell on mistakes – their own or other people’s mistakes.

It’s not surprising that the changes and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of worries or tension. After all, this invisible virus causes serious physical problems and limited most people’s ability to do their jobs or everyday chores.

When you worry about problems caused by your health and the impact of COVID-19, you are trying to figure out solutions. However, sometimes the worry and tension go too far. Worrying about health problems and potential catastrophes can become new problems!

As a youngster, I listened to rugby broadcasts with my dad on Saturday afternoons. Those were the days before television. He listened to the radio with undivided attention, while I was usually doing something else. At some stage I remarked that it sounds as though the players are making a lot of mistakes, aren’t they? He wisely answered that it was only the people on the field who makes mistakes, while the crowd makes noise.

Life is much like rugby. Life is like a team sport and you can’t do everything alone. At one point in your life, you may regret certain decisions. Mistakes, challenges, and finding solutions are just part of life.

You can learn from your mistakes.

Over the years I have heard how counsellors and novices advised people to write letters and journals after sad experiences. Journal-writing can indeed be a way of attempting to help yourself during a difficult time. However many people experience a reinforcement of their pain and unwellness when they have to write about their feelings.

Writing a letter to someone to express your unwell emotions or pain can be as daunting as confronting them in person. Writing a journal can also be intimidating if you don’t like expressing yourself in words, let alone putting words on paper because you have some form of dyslexia or a lack of privacy.

The many faces of trauma

The popular opinion allows people to see ‘trauma’ as being synonymous with distress or discomfort. The other day I stood in a queue to pay for a pair of shoes when I overheard a lady telling her friend that she was so “traumatized” because another shopper “snatched a bargain from under her nose”.

The haphazard way people are using terms like ‘trauma’ and ‘stress’ gives the impression that they know what they are talking about. Our own biases allow us to assume that we know what they are talking about and we have the answers.

The problem is that as listeners we stop listening with the intent to hear and understand. We stop paying attention to what they are trying to share and why they need to tell that part of their story.