28.8.11

Why Do People Fight?

Remember the phrase ‘And they lived happily ever after’? Of course you do, because you heard and read it hundreds of times in your childhood. The sad thing is, you didn’t read it in a newspaper, but in a fairy tale. Reality is different, and it doesn’t even come close to fairy tales.

I’d like to reflect in this article a little bit about human reality, the way life really is, and how we can deal with it. To me it seems that wherever there is a group of people that live or work together, you will find arguments and fights. 


Fights are not that common in a team that works together on a project in a major corporation. But that’s only because it would look bad to the other departments, here a lot of politics are involved. But that doesn’t apply to a marriage or a family, where most of the time is spent outside the limelight.

I believe that first of all we have to accept the fact that fighting is the norm; it’s the normal thing that happens between a couple or in a family. Look at your own situation, your own marriage. Look around you, listen to the stories your friends and relatives tell you about their lives.


And it just doesn’t seem right. But the fact that we don’t like what we see or experience doesn’t take away the reality of it.

One way of escaping this situation is to live alone and, if possible, work alone. That’s definitely a solution to the problem. The drawback here is that we don’t like that, either. Many people who have tried it prefer to argue and fight with other people than to put up with this miserable loneliness that comes with living alone. As humans we need contact with other humans, we need to inter-act, talk and listen. It’s like catch22, you just can’t win.

It might help to realize that we are on this earth in order to learn how to solve problems. It might seem unfair, but as soon as we’ve learned to deal with and solve one problem, another one comes up. That might be by design, some higher power having a ball with us, or by accident, it doesn’t really matter. Life, at least as I see it, consists of a series of problems to be solved in order to make space for new problems. Agree with it or disagree with it, but just look around you and count the number of people you know who are truly happy and live in harmonious families. Life is meant to be difficult.

But once we accept that life is difficult, that this is a universal fact, that it’s not something that’s only happening to us, that basically everybody is unhappy and striving for happiness, then, in a certain sense, life ceases to be difficult. At least it becomes more bearable.

Another fallacy inherent in human nature, besides the belief that life should be easy, is that on some deep, unconscious level we believe ourselves to be the center of the universe, the axis around which everything moves. And if we don’t believe that, then we believe that it at least should be that way. It’s the human ego that continuously cries out ‘My Will Be Done’. But you see the difficulty arising from this, since everybody believes it.......

Fights, particularly within a marriage or in a family, do always have a very strong emotional component. And our emotions range from fear on one end of the spectrum to love on the other end. All other emotions we find within this range. And I can tell you, the louder a fight is, the more aggressive or violent, the more fear is involved.

It might help to find out first of all where our fears are situated. Remember, fear used to be a very helpful tool for survival in pre-historic times. But in modern times we find that most of our fears are simply irrational. Finding a couple of spare minutes to be with yourself and reflecting on your own personal fears might show you just that – that they are grounded not in reality, but in some perceived threat that doesn’t exist.

In a quiet talk find out what your partner fears most. You will find that that will open up a whole new dimension. It will show you the motivating factor, why your spouse is acting the way he or she is acting. Try to allay these fears, but don’t be too pushy, these attempts of getting to understand your partner better are easily misunderstood.

It’s extremely difficult to show strength of character when in the midst of a fight. But that is precisely what we need in a situation like that. We have to make the attempt to understand our opponent. ‘Opponent’ might be a strong word for your spouse or one of your kids, but that is at least how we feel about that person when arguing, don´t we?

Try to find the strength and put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, try to really understand him or her. It’s difficult, I know, and it gets worse. Because intellectually you probably understand him/her, but have you ever tried to emphatically feel with that person? It is one of the main reasons for fights getting out of hand or even violent – it’s not the disagreement, but the simple fact that one party feels that he/she doesn’t even get his/her point across. He/she doesn’t feel understood on some deep, emotional level. Never mind of not winning the argument, first things first.

I have to try to understand what the other one FEELS about the subject at hand, and through my feedback either let that person correct my perception, or, and that’s the trick, make him/her understand that I get the point he/she is making and, most importantly, what it’s doing to him/her emotionally.

When we are emotionally charged it’s like our reason gets clouded. We might on a rational level even be able to agree with the other one, but our emotions make us literally blind. Once I feel myself really understood, that emotional constipation more often than not just dissipates, and we can get back to a rational level. Be strong.

23.8.11

Living as a Foreigner in Mexico

If you’re thinking of moving to Mexico to live there, this article might interest you. It is particularly tailored to those who want to live down here on a limited budget.

After having traveled the world extensively for 10 years I settled down in Mexico in 1989. In my case it wasn’t really intentional, I basically just got ‘stuck’. I found work as a language teacher, tried it out, found that I liked it, and developed myself along that path. Later I set up a language institute in Mexico-City, which I ran for about 5 years before moving to the province. I now dedicate myself to teaching German and English, and I like it just fine.

I’m telling you this so that you can see that yes, it can be done. You can actually start off with very little resources, and by working hard. Mexico is in many respects still the land of opportunity, but you have to know your way around.

If you are a person approaching retirement age and are looking for a place outside the US to live so that your pension would give you more purchasing power, I wouldn’t recommend Mexico per se. Yes, the cost of living is lower in Mexico, but not that much lower that it would justify leaving the US. Unless you want to while away your time on a beach in the south of Mexico, sleeping in a hammock, enjoying the sun and the sea. But that’s only enjoyable for so long. In fact, it wears off pretty soon.

But if you’re a writer, let’s say, or you are developing an online presence in order to make some profit through your online businesses, then moving to the south of Mexico would definitely cut down on your overhead. You can find simple, clean housing maybe close to the beach. If you can do without cable tv and shopping malls, that would be the right thing to do. Just stay away, or better don’t get even close to holiday resort towns like Acapulco and Cancun, to live there would turn out to be more expensive than anywhere in the US.

There are plenty of undeveloped strips of beach along the west coast, between Acapulco and the Bay of Huatulco, for example. As long as you stay away from the mainstream tourist sections, you should be okay.

I would suggest that you at least try and learn some Spanish. You should manage the basics. You have to be able to go to a grocery store and buy your stuff. Many Mexicans in and around the big holiday destinations speak English, but remember I’m advising against moving to those places. Outside these areas English is not very common, and if you move to a small town or village you won’t find hardly anybody who speaks English. He or she that does will find YOU to practice their English. But you still have to go to the drugstore, pay the electricity bill, hire a taxi, etc.

If you fit the profile of the type of person I am describing here, you’ll find a pretty large expatriate American community in Oaxaca-City, for example. If you are not used to living in a foreign country, and you, at least initially, have problems with the local language, you will find that you soon start yearning for some good old American company. As humans we need to talk to other humans, like it or not, and there are many people who have returned to their home country because they couldn’t cope with the loneliness. It’s simply not enough to say ‘Hi’ to a Mexican neighbor every now and again. And if there are two of you it doesn’t really solve the problem, because most likely you’d get on each other's nerves pretty soon because there is no one else to talk to. So either learn Spanish, get some of your friends to come down with you, or find a place where other Americans live.

17.8.11

When the world says “give up”, hope whispers “one more time”.

I’ve dealt in one of my blog posts with The Practical Value of Faith. This is basically an extension of it.

First of all, I’m not sure whether faith is an emotion. I believe, however, that, if it is an emotion, it is one of a very special kind. It seems to involve both mind, soul and emotional body.

Be it as it may, emotions are a fundamental part in the lives of us humans. I’d like to go as far as to say that it is them that make us human.

A very common human emotion is that of frustration. It belongs definitely into the class of negative emotions, for the simple fact that it feels bad.

However, that doesn’t mean that it is a useless emotion, far from it. Being frustrated means that you are not making the progress you are expecting to be making, and it doesn’t really matter whether you study for an exam or are setting up a business.

Frustration simply means that whatever you are doing feels like you’re doing it not fast enough. A frustration is basically the emotional reaction to an obstacle in our way.

Now, compare that with disappointment. Disappointment means that you have given up trying, end of story, it doesn’t work, I tried long and hard enough, can’t do it - you know where I’m getting at.

So not withstanding how frustration makes us feel, it is essentially a positive emotion. It means you’re still hammering away……