Think Tank – Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes that people assign to another person or group without being aware of it. These biases affect how people interact with each other.

Do you feel you have been exposed to unconscious bias? At what cost? Are you aware of your own unconscious bias? During this Think Tank we will explore what we can constructively do when we are faced with unconscious bias directed at us, but also have an honest look at our own.

Join Khanyi Mthimunye & Vera Marbach on a group coaching whatsapp call to explore unconscious bias together.

Send a private message or email to vera@tt-tt.co.za to book your place and get details for payment. Suggested donation: R50.

If you cannot make this time on Saturday, could you make the earlier one at 11.30?

Planning for laughter?!

Last time we had a closer look at the role of the neurotransmitters Oxytocin and Serotonin in experiences that lead to happiness. This time we will focus on how dopamine and the endorphins are produced and what we can do to stimulate their production.

 Dopamine produces a sense of excitement about an event that rewards us more than we expected. It can motivate us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when we achieve them. Many of the goals we had before lockdown have had to be postponed indefinitely, like celebratory events, or holidays we planned. So to produce more dopamine, we can focus on goals that are possible given our current circumstances. Is there something that challenges you, maybe something you always wanted to do? It could be learning a new skill, finishing something you previously started, tidying up a specific area, writing a journal, recording memories for your grandchildren. Breaking the task into bite-size pieces, maybe making a start of just a few minutes, makes success easier to reach. Crucial to the process is that we celebrate the achievements in some way – giving yourself a “gold star” obviously won’t work, but doing something you really enjoy after meeting your goal may do the trick.

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Dwelling on the positive

It is so easy for us to focus on the negative, especially at this time in history. The news headlines grab our attention with words that play into this human habit and feed our fears: “Jobs bloodbath”, “emergency budget”, “decimating and devastating storm”, “lockdown dictator”, “Eastern Cape battles shortages”.

We also have a tendency to replay our blunders from different angles and regurgitate our mistakes.

Pleasant emotions seem to be so much more subtle than negative ones. Our attention is arrested by numbing anxiety and we hardly notice the passing potential of the positive experience.

According to research in the field of positive psychology, pleasant incidents are more frequent than negative, but it is a choice to let those positive events become positive emotions by giving them more attention. Apparently our perspective is broadened and we become more creative when we are positive. I could certainly benefit from a broader perspective and more creativity right now!

So, I have decided to pause and prioritise those fleeting experiences – the fresh taste of the juicy grapefruit, the warm comforting glow of the open fire, the contagious belly laugh of the toddler, the colourful flower conquering the cracks in the pavement, the smiling eyes above the mask, the polite gesture from the stranger, the effort made by shop attendants to communicate despite the PPE barrier, the reassuring hug of a close family member. Let’s linger a little longer as we think upon these things…

 

This is not my battle…

I was chatting to a friend last week about the effect that the lockdown has had on us. We had hoped that we would have had time to assess what was really important to us, to learn to focus on what needs to change so that our lives display our values, to be grateful for what we have. Despite my friend being one of the most selfless people I know, she confessed that she had realised to her horror that she had become more selfish, rather than more outward looking. She had realised what important things she did not have, and what securities she wanted in the future. These things involve access to the private health sector and the required financial stability that gives access to it.

I could certainly identify. In terms of these longings, we are all on common ground. We don’t want to get sick. We want to be able to earn well enough to meet our needs for nutrition, shelter and health. The two are closely connected.

Taking a bird’s eye view of where we are as a country going into level 3, we also have these two common goals:

Limit the spread of covid 19 – don’t get infected, and don’t infect others.

Get the economy going – get to work, make an income, get others to work, so many of us can make a living.

These two are also interdependent. It feels too obvious to state, but I will any way: keeping infections low is key to keeping the economy open. I may feel I have little influence on getting the economy going, but I actually do have an important part to play:

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Family

On 18 May in Auckland Park, the topic chosen was “Family”. The dominant theme was the continuing influence of inequality

on our relationships within families. The underlying power struggle between inequality due to race (with different

shades represented within a family) and inequality due to gender (with a strong patriarchal dominance) was evident,

with strong voices representing both.

Looking back on the dialogue together, the following observations were made:

  • The system is oppressive.
  • I have a greater understanding of my own pain.
  • Black women found it more difficult to represent anger and moved to expressing pain.
  • People tend to shift from pain to anger. Anger is vocalised pain. If not vocalised, pain is internalised.
  • Pain can assist us in finding a solution.

A big thank you to those who bravely sat in the uncomfortable voices of pain and anger and committed to growing for all of us!

 

What blocks progress?

This topic drew the most votes at our Diversity Dialogue on 4 August 2018 – “We have such potential as a country. Why are we stuck?” A long list of reasons was identified: Inequality & poverty, Labelling & discrimination, Poor leadership with no integrity, Broken people, families & communities, Fear, A culture of destruction & rage, Greed, Denialism, Right wingers, White supremacy, Patriarchy, Despondent & desperate youth … it seemed overwhelming – there was a general feeling of paralysis and fear in the room.

Anger moved the system out of this trapped overwhelming feeling at the beginning of our time together and it became a lively dialogue. This was illustrated by the movement of the person in the “Despondency” voice to join the new voice of “Young black (disadvantaged) women” that emerged. Other changes included that the voice of “Patriarchy” was heard speaking from “Poor Leadership” and the individual in “A culture of destruction” became a “Fix it” voice.

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