(Note from Wendy: This Q&A is a bit different than the usual ’10 Questions for’ format, but Muriel already had her own Q&A.)
1. Q: In a nutshell, what is the book about?
A: The book deals with a number of issues that affect relations in any society, but in a nutshell, it points at parental absenteeism as one of the causes of juvenile rebellion. It emphasizes the inner need for acceptance, love, affection and to be valued, by every human being
2. Q: Having said that, who is the book directed at? What is your target market?
A: It is for every teenager, to understand how to communicate and interact with their parents. It is for parents with teenage kids and preparing for those years. It is for everyone who has had what they term bad childhood, to be inspired and see and learn that a good, meaningful and fulfilling life is possible after bad childhood. It is for everyone who is battling some amount of unforgiveness and wants to learn how to forgive.
3. Q: What inspired the writing of the book?
A: I believe in the power of words, and just want to use the art of writing to help address some of the issues that affect us all. Art can be used as a form of entertaining, but that can always be combined with education and bring across a lesson or answer to societal questions in an edutaining way. It’s funny, ‘cause the story line evolved in my head while watching a program on TV, debating the morality of euthanasia. Yet, euthanasia occupies only about 2 or 3 pages in the whole book.
4. Q: Have you always known that you wanted to write?
A: Not always, I discovered the interest a little later in life, and find that I enjoy it. I first started with writing feature movie scripts, hoping I could sell them to anyone interested, but found it difficult to do so. Then I thought it might be a good idea to turn my movies scripts into a book.
5. Q: What do you want your readers to get from the book?
A: The book is both entertaining and educating. The blurbs describe it as riveting and un-put-downable. First of all, I want the readers to enjoy what they are reading, it’s hard to forget what has entertained you, and then I also want the readers to be reminded of all the moral lessons and self-help tips in the book.
6. Q: Is that the reason why you wrote it in a story form, rather than just a self-help book?
A: Precisely, learning something in a fun and entertaining way seems to be easily understandable and effective. It just stays with you for a long time.
7. Q: Are you a teacher, by training?
A: No, I don’t have any formal teaching training. Maybe by nature, ‘cause I find that I like to explain things in detail, and sometimes even repeat myself for clarity. But then, most of us women are detailed by nature, but that does not make us all teachers.
8. Q: What are some of the issues you deal with in your book, other than what you’ve already mentioned?
A: Towards the end, I take quite a bit of time, elaborating on the remedial issues. It is one thing to highlight an issue, dissecting it and talking about where it originates from; like talking about rejection as one of the causes of rebellion. But that is just half the truth, from here on, I think one needs to talk about the treatment, how to bring about total change and reverse the effects of a problem.
9. Q: Talking about the remedy, I notice you talk quite a bit about forgiveness in your book. What is the formula or process of forgiveness. If someone is struggling to forgive those that have hurt him what advice can you give?
A: There’s a 5 step program that is very effective. I found this out while doing research for the book, so I take no credit for it; it’s not my own invention. For easy recall, it’s called the REACH program. Recall the hurt – don’t try to deny or bury it, but don’t dwell on your victimization. Empathize with the one who hurt you. See things from their point of view, feel their feelings and identify with their pressures. Empathy is the key step in forgiving. Altruistically decide to give the gift of forgiveness. Commit to forgiveness publicly; verbalize it to someone, a friend, the perpetrator, or someone. Say it out loud. Hold on to that forgiveness. Do not replay the tape of hurt. Rumination is at the core of unforgiveness. Do not see the perpetrator as a personification of evil, out to deliberately ruin you. This form of forgiveness is difficult in the beginning, especially when you have to empathize with the perpetrator, but it is very effective. In fact, while doing research and reading up on forgiveness, I read about a research that was done, employing two methods of forgiveness. The first group was told to forgive for their own good. They were told that forgiveness benefits them more, and it releases them form bitterness and all the possible accompanying physical effects of unforgiveness, so they forgave quite easily. But after a week or two, when the two groups were compared, the group that forgave for their own benefit, had declined in their resolved to forgive. Forgiveness was mainly a gift to themselves, it was for selfish reasons, it did not necessarily replace negative emotions with positive empathy. But the second group had held on to their forgiveness, ‘cause negative emotions had been truly replaced by positive ones. It looks like we don’t just drop negative feelings; they need to be replaced by something positive.
10. Q: Does forgiveness always inevitably lead to reconciliation?
A: Forgiveness is not synonymous with reconciliation. Forgiveness is one party deciding to give the altruistic gift of forgiveness, replacing negative feelings with positive ones. Reconciliation on the other hand calls for both parties to desire to reconcile, and both committing themselves to the process of reconciliation.
11. Q: What is the process of reconciliation?
A: Again, this is what I found out during research, again I take no credit for this process. The first step we’ve touched on already. Both parties need to desire and commit to reconciliation, then they need to discuss the transgression, in soft attitudes, with humility and empathy, and no denial. During this discussion stage, there’s the acronym CONFESS. Like I said, I take no credit for this acronym. Confess without excuses. Offer an apology, be sincere, show remorse and be specific. Note the other person’s pain, do not downplay it, do not call them too sensitive of just the imagination of their minds. Forever value. Love is valuing the other person. Equalize. Show an act of kindness to make up for the hurt. Say never. Commit yourself to never hurt the other person the same way again. Seek forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness.
12. Q: You mention parent absenteeism as one of the causes of teenage rebellion. In some cases, you find both parents present, presumably both plugged in, and yet the child turns rebellious. What could the cause be here?
A: The problem might stem from the parenting style practiced at home. There are different parenting styles, depending on the values, teachings, temperament and personalities of the parents. Then there’s the traditional expectation of stormy teenage years. Parents expect his stage of their kids to be rough, and they talk negative things, in line with their expectations. But, results emerging from new research, show that teenage years need not necessarily be stormy. And to help their teenagers to make a smooth transition into young adulthood, parents need to change their views of their teenagers, change the way they think of them, their expectations, and learn new parenting styles that will actually help their teenagers. The most effective parenting style is when adults parent from the child’s strengths, rather than coming form the negative. Again, I take no credit for this approach. This is called the 5C’s of parenting. They are Competence, Confidence, Connections, Character, Caring. Parents need to find 1 of few things that their child in naturally gifted at, and encourage the child to develop that talent. As the child becomes more proficient at that, they develop confidence in themselves. Confident people are easy to relate with others. This naturally leads to connections. They interact easily with others, Parents need to encourage their teenage kids to develop relations with others outside the home, encourage socialization. Parents need to instill in their children character, both b teaching and by demonstrating it. Character is the internal moral compass, its sets boundaries for the child. It guides them as to what they may or may not do. Then parents need to teach their teenagers care; demonstrate it in the home. They can do certain things together as a family, like volunteering together at an orphanage or assisted living centre.
13. Q: How can a young person handle peer pressure, because at times, they do things purely because of peer pressure?
A: Having a sense of belonging is crucial, especially belonging to a group of people your own age. In fact, it is one thread that runs through the story of my book. Hence the title, The ultimate human need. Unfortunately, some people will sacrifice everything to feel accepted and validated, especially if they do not have this need fulfilled at home, just like the character in the story in the book. That is why they make reckless decisions and hang out with the wrong crowd.
It’s important for parents to help their kids to develop social skills and good character, which we’ve already defined as an internal sense of moral compass, that defines borders. Hence, sense of belonging should be based on shared common values and interests.
14. Q: What’s your message to absent fathers?
A: Get back to your child or children. Your absence is sending a damaging message of rejection, and that is hurting a child in ways you cannot imagine.
15. Q: What’s the first step they should do to re-establish, or in some cases, establish a first-time relationship with their child?
A: Apologize for their absenteeism. This takes us back to our CONFESS program, talking about the transgression; honestly and with humility. Acknowledging the pain that your absence or abandonment has caused the child, and honestly and sincerely apologizing for that, and asking to be forgiven. Father/parent, note that you’re not picking up where you left off. It’s new; you start afresh. You start with small unintrusive baby steps, and slowly build a more and mutually trusting relationship. The most important message you want to send to your child, is that you care and you value them.
16. Q: At this stage, can they offer an opinion or correction, when they see something wrong and dangerous that the child may be doing?
A: They can offer an advice, when asked for it. Beyond this point, they have not yet earned the right and privilege of a parent to correct. They forfeited that when they abdicated their parental responsibility, and they cannot return with a whip in their hand.
17. Q: What if it’s something very dangerous and self-destructive?
A: They might need to mention it to the parent who has always been present and let them do the talking. If they strongly feel they should deal with it, they might need to be very honest about it. They might need to begin with: “know I’m not exactly a model parent, I’ve hurt you in the past by my absence, and probably you may feel like I’m not qualified to talk to you about “such and such” problem. But, if you’ll allow me, I will give this “advice” or avail myself to give assistance in this particular way; e.g. like when it’s a case of drug abuse, he might avail himself to check the child in a rehabilitation center. We touched on this earlier on, offering an act of kindness to compensate or make up for the pain of the past. It also sends the message that you care about the welfare of your child.
Then, he will need to express his faith in the child’s ability to change that destructive behavior. This tells the child that he is intrinsically good, and that his father believes in him. Almost everyone who has made a positive change from a destructive behavior will always cite one person who believed in them. This is also the point in case in the life our young character in the book, The ultimate human need.
18. Q: Talking about making a positive change, how can someone who has had a bad childhood, or a bad past, make a transition into a positive life?
A: A good life after a bad childhood is possible, it’s not easy, but you can create it. Again what I’m about to say, I’ve found out during my research for the novel, so I take no personal credit for it.
First, accept the truth that you were hurt, don’t deny it, but refuse to define yourself according to those experiences. If you do, you take over the abuse and become your own torturer. What was done to you in the past was not about you; it was not because you’re a bad person. So define yourself correctly.
Then accept who the abuser is, not embracing it, but accepting that that is who they are and leaning to relate with them around those shortcomings, knowing that you cannot change them, and neither are you responsible for their change. No one can change the other person. Accepting is liberating. Understand their emotional struggle and empathize with them. When you do, you cannot but let go. In other words, you forgive them. Empathy replaces hurt, anger, resentment and bitterness. Negative emotions are now replaced with positive ones.
When emotions have changed, behavior is easy to change. In bad childhood, you learned al the negative behaviors as coping mechanisms, now learn to replace them with new behaviors and reactions.
Then reach out to someone and give some affection attention and approval. Hurting people have a tendency to want everybody to give to them, but they never or rarely reciprocate that love. But what you give, you will receive back. Give what you yearn for, and you will receive it back.
Decide to be a loving spirit, and find a greater purpose to live for, a passion to give yourself to. This takes the attention off of yourself. Hurting people have the tendency to obsess about themselves, but as you give yourself to something, you have less time to think about your hurt.
Then, learn to keep things in perspective. Without making light of anyone’s bad childhood, don’t think that your situation is the worst. There are others that are worse off than yours.
Lastly, adopt a positive attitude – it is a significant mind-set for a good life. Learn to count your blessings and be thankful.
This, “The Ultimate Human Need,” is Muriel Gill’s debut novel. She cares about social issues, and through her writing seeks to make positive contribution and promote better social understanding and harmonious interactions.
She has obtained her honors degree from the University of the North West in South Africa. She has worked as a Chief Data Coordinator, Information Analyst, Project Manager and has owned her own Bookstore.
Title: The Ultimate Human Need
Author; Muriel Gill
Publisher: American Book Publisher, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Number of pages: 300
The book is available either from my website www.murielgill.com or from the publisher direct online bookstore www.pdbookstore.com/comfiles/pages/MurielGill.shtml.