My latest lesson

I used to be against. Injustice, for example.

Then I decided that it was better to be for things than against things. More positive.

But you can’t be for the safety and well-being of children if you don’t also fight child abuse, which includes that you are against its acceptance in some circles and cultures. (As expressed by for instance a recent decision in Britain that child abuse victims by definition “consented” to their abuse if they were living in the same house as the abuser, and other nasty nonsense like that.)

Similarly, you can’t be for the creation of a better future if you’re not also against its destruction.

You can’t be for human rights for every human being if you’re not also against the taking away or diminishment of human rights of some people by some people (such as in the case of that abused apprentice who had the misfortune of working at a business with an approved abuse culture).

I see that now.

I am redefining myself as fiercely anti-abuse (etc) first and fiercely pro-flourishing (etc) second.

That is probably what I already was when I started out. I don’t like feeling angry, however. So I tend to avoid anger and tend to see it as something negative. But you can’t accomplish a thing in the world without anger. Ultimately, anger is what makes the world go round. Anger for instance makes people fight against (the effects of) abusive people in power, like Donald Trump, and fight for a better world.

Anger pushes people out of complacency and opens their eyes. And then it makes them decide to do something about what caused the anger and fight for what becomes possible without it. Anger makes people start food banks and raise funds for medical treatments in the presence of failing governments and corrupt politicians.

Anger is a tool that you can learn to use. The first step in that learning process is to stop avoiding and suppressing it so that you see how you can actually use it constructively. Anger makes people stop waffling and whining and begin to act instead. Anger is empowering. It is powerful.

Anger can therefore be very destructive (particularly if you suppress it and allow it to fester). That is the risk inherent to anger, and part of the reason why most people try to avoid it (and also why it’s generally seen as done for men but not for women).

That’s why you have to tie it to something else. Compassion, for example. Anchor it.

See, when you get angry, you have a choice. That choice is whether to let the anger make you act for good or act for bad. Whether to make a cake to throw into a politician’s face or to make soup to hand out to strangers on a cold street. Whether to start a mud-slinging campaign on Twitter against some public figure or start a fund-raising campaign for someone’s medical treatment, or heck, sponsor the pill for an American woman.

An example of fighting for justice and against child abuse:


(“Wow, the Guardian and the Times not calling me a fantasist anymore after Conifer report”). For more, see for example:

However, “Even when people are unhappy with a state of affairs, they are usually disinclined to change it. In my area of research, the cognitive and behavioral sciences, this is known as the “default effect.” wrote Musa al-Gharbi in May in the US News on the likely reelection of Donald Trump. Today, the same prediction was made by a different medium.

People generally dislike taking responsibility. They don’t like stepping up. This is often connected to risk aversion. So they are angry, but don’t do anything with their anger. That causes stress.

Stepping up does not have to mean getting your face into the newspapers because of something you did or proclaiming that you want to rule the world. It does not have to involve huge risks. Stepping up can be as simple as driving your neighbor to the supermarket and back.

So to use anger, you have to look at your possibilities. If you don’t have a car, you can’t drive someone else to the supermarket. And I, for example, don’t have the power to vote against Trump or against Theresa May. So what can I do? And what can you do? Looking into that can force you to take other steps. Empowering steps. Steps that enable you to do something instead of nothing.

Here is another example of how you can use anger for good. (Don’t worry, there are five or so comments in Dutch but everything else is in English.) It’s an MTV video on Facebook that a Dutch cop showed a young woman who’d been using her phone while driving. He didn’t ticket her.


Who can you be quiet with?

I used to be known as a loud chatterbox. Well, maybe not everyone everywhere saw me that way, but certainly many people saw me that way when I was around 20, 22.

Many people also expected me to have oak furniture in those days while in reality, I had a tech interior. The industrial look. White and steel, with a touch of burgundy.

Yes, I am energetic by nature – but one of the reasons why I became a loud chatterbox was that when I was a teenager, people kept saying things like “Why are you so quiet? Is something the matter?” (as if I would tell them, ha ha).

I’d be cheerful at 7 in the morning in the days when that was when my morning shifts started. Why? Because it beat giving in to feeling tired and resenting having to be at work at that early hour. Big time. “How can you be so cheerful and energetic this early in the day?” It was simply a choice I made, but I was still too young to realize that and I probably never provided a useful useful answer.

Chances are that I merely shrugged in response.

I drank tons and tons of coffee in those days, probably a minimum of 8 cups per day, perhaps even twice as many. The early shifts usually messed up my digestion and made me so tired that I’d often collapse on the bed the minute I got home. I wasn’t feeling any more positive about those early shifts than the people around me. In fact, I sometimes found the early public transport trips to work really depressing, but I refused to let despair and grouchiness grab hold of me.

Except that one time when I had a brief burnout that made me snap at people, and I needed to recharge the battery. It took me two weeks. Prolonged lack of sleep and constant changes in working hours can wear you out. I had simply gotten completely exhausted and was no longer able to put up the brave face, no longer able make the choice to be cheerful. But I digress.

I grew up near woods and moors. I often hung out there for hours, usually taking the family dog along, being anything but a loud chatterbox.

Becoming a loud chatterbox got people to shut up about me being too quiet.

I am not a real introvert, but I am not a real extrovert either. I am somewhere in between. I love to entertain, and I miss the hustle and bustle of big cities when I am away from them, but I want the noisy parts of life to be balanced by a lot of quiet.

That was really important to me when I had jobs that required me to talk all day. The one with the shifts that started at 7 in the morning was one of them, and that too was part of the explanation for my attitude. You can’t be grouchy to hotel guests at 7 in the morning. Well, you can, of course, but I preferred not to. That’s what working in hospitality is about. In fact, behind my back, management held me up as an example to some of my colleagues, one of them told me. “Why can’t you be more like her? She’s always smiling, always cheerful.”

(Couldn’t that manager have said something to me about that too? Would have been nice.)

In those days, after my relocation from a room in Baarn in an often noisy environment (and with a long commute to work) to a flat in Amsterdam, not too far from Theater Carré, I relished that I was able to come home to peace and serenity, not having to talk and not being bombarded with more chatter after my shifts.

I also remember a time when I was working two jobs and used the metro ride in between as my little oasis of quiet during which I recharged the battery. Oh, how dismayed I was when very loud and insistent buskers burst into the mini meditations during which I made my mind go blank or simply gave in to daydreams. They wanted a response. They insisted. Please gimme some money or look at me and say that you won’t. Yes, I understand that. Fortunately, they’d usually just work the car – one person playing, the other one asking everyone for money – and then move on to the next one.

Living in a big city is often much quieter than a lot of people think. If you wander around, you may even discover delightful oases of silence that you never knew existed and at night, most streets become quiet enough. On the other hand, I like the nice fuzzy feeling of having lots of people living around me. There is just some cosiness to it that I can’t explain to anyone who prefers to live anywhere but in cities.

When they’re at peace, that is. Ugly protests, fights and clashes usually make me want to take a detour, and those too happen in cities. Huge masses of people celebrating a football win (soccer) aren’t my cup of tea either.

When I happen to live very close to a natural shoreline, I can sit quietly watching the waves for hours, all by myself. But I haven’t done that in years.

People I can be completely quiet around, and with, are rare, though. They’re true treasures. The quiet seems to mean we’re in sync, and it almost never happens with complete strangers. When it does, it is with one of those people who instantly feel as if you’ve known them your entire life.

I remember driving to the Dutch city of Maastricht with one of my sisters, many years ago, and both of us being forced to shut up because every time one of us said something, that was exactly what the other one had been thinking. So we gave in, stopped talking and enjoyed the serenity, the harmony. We were at peace.

Who are you at peace with?