Snow White and the seventeen dwarves: A fairy tale lesson in resilience

 Inspirations  Comments Off on Snow White and the seventeen dwarves: A fairy tale lesson in resilience
Jul 202016

Snow White woke tired as usual, dreading the day ahead. She thought, “if only evil queens just brought poisoned apples!”

The modern Evil Queen had used the legalities of the German health care system. She realised that all seven dwarves had Special Needs of some kind (Grumpy, Sneezy, Dozy etc.), and promptly had Snow White designated their legal guardian, their Beantworter.

The Evil Queen also used Boiled Frog theory: if a frog is dropped into boiling water, it jumps out, but if you gradually turn the heat up, it boils to death. Each year she added one more Difficult Dwarf to Snow White’s burden: the poor girl had aged eighteen years in ten, and had lost hope and what German’s call wiederstandfahigkeit, or resilienz for short.

If there is a Cosmic Scriptwriter, she or he clearly has a fine sense of irony, shown in this story by the Fairy Godmother appearing in the guise of a compliance officer. She taught Snow White a basic tenet of front-line resilienz: empower your clients, and start setting your own boundaries.

Snow White realised how dependent the dwarves had become, and started doing less for them. Soon there was uproar, but out of it the dwarves started to find their talents. Grumpy got so cross that he took initiatives. Smarty started to clean the place up. Sneezy was told by the others to live in the outhouse. Chirpy started appreciating everyone’s progress. Dozy gave up his tranquilisers and set up a cooking rota.

You may be wondering where is the Prince in this story? The Evil Queen had side-lined him early on, by having him committed to an asylum for narcissistic heroic fantasies.

The Fairy Godmother, whose knowledge of German regulations was prodigious, explained to Snow White that after ten years’ service as a guardian, she could apply to be released from her post and would qualify for a training grant: she decided to train to be a Heroine. And she could nominate a new guardian: who else but the Evil Queen?

Of course, modern training for a Hero/ine includes nothing so crude as physical combat. There are modules like Einflussnetzentwicklung (building an influence network), Buerokratieuberreden (persuading bureaucracy), team dynamics and eco-psychology. For her practical module, Snow White challenged the asylum’s assessment procedures, and secured the Prince’s release. They lived resiliently into the future.

Note all references to German regulations and institutions are speculative.

Men’s Resource: cultivating friendship

 Men's Interest  Comments Off on Men’s Resource: cultivating friendship
May 242016

Good friendships can oil the gearbox, making big change easier, and ice the cake, adding extra delight to life.  But there’s an art to growing and sustaining good friends.  Here are my top tips on this:

  • Be willing to experiment: trying a range of approaches with a variety of people increases your chances of success.
  • Realise that there are many kinds of friendships. Be aware of the various kinds you would like, and try to sense early on what your potential friend wants. For example, the level of openness and emotional sharing may vary hugely. In many male friendships, all this is unspoken: remember Last of the Summer Wine.
  • Imagine a new friendship as a spiral process: don’t plunge in, but let it deepen gradually. Listen for clues from your friend about the subjects they do and don’t want to talk about, and guide them on your preferences.
  • Cultivate your listening skills: try to hear what your friend is saying, and respond to it. Don’t get preoccupied with your own nerves and needs. Listen for what’s not being said: many men struggle to express their feelings or ask for support, so listen for clues and make an offer, for example, “Would it help you to talk more about the divorce?”
  • Co-counselling training can help with friendship skills, including negotiating contracts. This may sound formal, but it’s simply about getting clear expectations between you. Men often share a problem with a friend because they want practical advice, but sometimes they just need a sympathetic ear. Checking what your friend would like from you shows that you care about their needs.
  • Find the courage to make the first move. In shifting from casual contact towards friendship, someone needs to take the initiative: Remember the other guy may be even more shy than you are.
    For men, doing something together can be an easier start to a friendship than sitting and talking. It could be quite simple, like going to a film, or having a walk.
  • Remember the question early in this Chapter about the Giver, Taker and Receiver roles: do you and your friend have a balance between these? If you’re stuck in one role, experiment with changing.
  • As a friendship starts to build, if you want it to deepen, try talking openly with your friend about how it’s going and what you both want from it. This kind of frankness doesn’t come easy in our culture, but it can help both of you to get what you need, and to learn as you go along.
  • Conflicts between male friends can be quite sudden and severe at any age. Often men lack the skill to express and hear difficult feelings, or to use the techniques of conflict resolution. Men may find it easier to dump the friendship than face the conflict. There are some good methods of conflict resolution, such as Non-Violent Communication, which are relevant for friends, groups or communities.
  • As you change, the kind of friends you want will change too. If you want to move from friendship down to acquaintance, do it honestly: talk it through with your friend, hear their feelings, try to reach a point of completion and celebration for the friendship. This will cause less pain than just stopping.