Not always bad to be a follower or put another way, Covid-19 could be good news ©

By Dr Beba Papakyriakou (PhD) (Psychology)

They say there are three sides to every story, and I have advocated elsewhere there are three sides to every coin as well – heads, tails, and rim.  Put differently, positive, negative, and the bit in between.  Humans are powerful.  We can align with any side. We can focus on the positive only and stumble on the negative we deny exists; we can focus on the negative only and devastate our lives regardless of, say, the presence or absence of the imposing Covid-19. Or we can focus on the bits in between where we acknowledge the bad and the serious, look for the good and the light-hearted, and resolve to work for healthy outcomes rather than wage war against a perceived enemy. 

At least three men, world leaders, uttered the words “war” and “enemy” about the latest crisis on our collective doorsteps.  No surprises there – boys bring out their big guns and seek to blast through problems.  For their part, women are formidable, strong, multi-dimensional, capable, and intelligent and could add other things to the need for healthy outcomes.  Globally, together we can – and will – get through this new nuisance in our lives that is serious, brings heartache, inconvenience, and upheaval.

We can buy into the panic and see the end of the world in the dark cloud overhead; we can continue on our destructive path involving self-absorption, superficiality, divisiveness, one-upmanship, and ugliness, and thus ensure the impact of the virus stays with us a lot longer than the virus itself.  We can put blinkers on, refuse to adhere to the advice of the experts, flout the new rules of social engagement, disregard basic hygiene, continue our hedonistic lifestyle and look for scapegoats for all our problems.  

Or we could become accountable, take personal responsibility, and all become leaders in our own lives and in the lives of those we cherish.  We could acknowledge that scary as Covid-19 is, we are not powerless.  It is a dark cloud, but even clouds dissipate in time.  The hectic pace of our lives has slowed down, and we could use the time to reflect, to be more considerate, to acknowledge and validate the people in our lives, and to make peace with reality. And we could choose not to be defined by the crisis but calmly to find ways over, under, and around the big boulder on the road. 

We must not lose hope – life is full of surprises, I heard somewhere.  Alibaba’s chief is sending us much-needed medical supplies for free; Venice has clear canals; opponents and world leaders are working together on a common problem.  Curiously it has unified the world.  In South Africa, it has shifted our focus from the debilitating load-shedding, and a miracle has occurred:  somehow we suddenly have uninterrupted electricity. 

Let’s find or retain our sense of humour. Let’s focus on counting our blessings wherever we find them, and if we can see no blessings, let’s try to find just one positive thing and embrace that.  Let’s improve our hygiene and our inter-personal relationships even if we cannot sit within spitting distance of others for now.  Let’s find different ways to connect, e.g. the Italians in lockdown are singing on their balconies, and John Legend is providing us with a free concert to liven our spirits. 

We in South Africa can be so thankful that our geographical location at the tip of Africa has shielded us from much global trouble and that we have had the benefit of being forewarned regarding Covid-19.  We can also be thankful for the prompt, decisive, responsible actions by those in power in South Africa and around the world implementing best practices learned from one another.  Now is the time to realise we are all in this together, and if we cooperate, we will prevail.

We may not all be elected world leaders. But if each of us did our part in our little way, we would contribute to the outcome of the impact of the virus – we can either allow it to decimate us or to make us stronger, wiser, kinder.

© Dr Beba (X M) Papakyriakou asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.  The idea and concept of this work are original, including the “Three-sided Coin”, and the intellectual property rights vest in the author and may not be utilised by anyone without the author’s written consent. This material is for information and entertainment purposes only.  

You’ve just got to visit Istanbul! The land of plenty. the land of culture. The foodie’s paradise. You’ve just got to!

In late May 2019, I spent just six days in Istanbul, the land of the generous, the land of the hospitable, the land of the darlings.  And I loved it so much, I wrote a book about it *.

A special component of this visit–50 years after my first–was an adult awareness that I was walking on the same soil that was under the feet of my grandparents and parents before me (Greeks born in Turkey and living there for a time, before going to Greece and eventually coming to South Africa).  It afforded me simultaneous experiences–the privilege of metaphorically being with my family of origin, whose spirit I could feel all around me, and the exquisite pleasure of savouring the present.  It was a sublime mental and emotional space to be in as a Greek living in Africa where what is Greek what is Turkish is often indistinguishable.

Istanbul these days is a modern, vibrant, youthful, cosmopolitan, secular city throbbing with life-giving energy.  It is safe, it is welcoming, it is filled with character.  It is Turkey’s powerhouse, its largest city, and its most populated with innumerable treasures–not least the warm, elegant, thoughtful Istanbulites.  “My (six-day) Istanbul Lifetime” resulted in 1400 photos following a desire not to confine myself only to well-known sights and experiences even though I certainly experienced some of them.

For example, I spent time in the must-see majestic, imposing, mesmerising Hagia Sophia (church turned mosque turned museum).  The impact on one’s senses is palpable, dramatic.  Every inch of this extraordinary monument dating to the 6th century encapsulates the long, complicated history of Turkey.  My senses were enchanted further by the fabulous Blue Mosque dating to the 17th century with its 21 000+ handmade Iznik tiles on the interior, its alluring calligraphy, its many columns that sparkle, and its tantalising decorated cupolas.  And I loved the night-time cruise on the Bosphorus with high energy traditional dancers, a Whirling Dervish, a tireless belly dancer, food, music, good company, and the unimaginably glorious sight of the landmarks, along the shore, lit up in gold, white, red, and pink everywhere I looked. 

I delved deeper into the soul of the city by walking in the footsteps of those who came and went on the Orient Express almost 150 years ago, and by touring Balat and Fener and learning about the Orthodox Jewish and Greek populations, and about the Armenians in Samatya.  The history of this city is long, ubiquitous and fascinating.  The world’s populations calling Istanbul home have left discernible footprints.  The city’s transformations over the aeons are complicated and as enthralling as the land-city-seascapes.  There is almost nothing superficial about this city.  Everything is much more than meets the eye.  If you allow it, Istanbul will draw you into its core and caress your very being. 

And as a foodie’s paradise, every morsel will excite your taste buds.  With (nine) booked guided tours separate from wandering around on my own, I was occupied and could not devour as much as I wanted of the cuisine that’s in my blood, and I love it.  Still, on the two foodie tours (one on each side of Istanbul-the European side and the Asian side) and the rest of the time, I sampled the epicurean banquet including unbelievably tasty fresh fruit; spectacular dried fruit and nuts; fabulous stuffed mussels; warm, soft chestnuts; delicious meze, and the iconic balik ekmek (fish wrap mentioned on one of Rick Stein’s shows). And I couldn’t get enough of dondurma, the elastic, mastic piece of ice cream heaven that invariably comes with a playful sideshow.  You’ve just got to have some!  I also spied the baked sheep’s heads complete with teeth that I remember eating in my childhood in South Africa.  It’s comforting when some things remain the same throughout the decades.

I got around on numerous modes of transportation that afforded me spectacular perspectives and included the adorable historical funicular (Tünel) that became my best friend taking me from Karaköy at the base of a seriously steep incline to my temporary home base in Galata (in the new town, European side).  I was breathless and mesmerised on the Big Bus with a view of the stunning cerulean Bosphorus Strait, the beautiful shoreline and gorgeous homes and villas on either side of the Bosphorus Bridge going from West to East and back in a matter of minutes.  Imagine that:  One city, two continents!  My short ride on a (genuine) fishing boat with a (genuine) fisherman on the Golden Horn was charming and gave me a memorable experience of the water up close, a view of Galata Tower, various mosques, and neighbourhoods filled with character and life.  The commuter ferries with a man selling simit (ring-shaped bread) and Turkish tea provided a lovely ride, and a fabulous glimpse of the vibrant red ECG sign on a renowned cardiac hospital when approaching Üsküdar on the Asian side.  The user-friendly Istanbulkart that can be used for most modes of transportation was cheap and indispensable.  And the treks on the steep roads on foot, in the City of Seven Hills, showed me parts of the city’s soul I might otherwise have missed, e.g. the well-looked after stray dogs and cats.

I bought beautifully crafted products in quiet environments and in vibrant markets and bazaars and engaged with attentive, respectful, generous vendors.  I luxuriated over tea and cake in the Kubbeli Lounge at the historical Pera Palace, whose history is intertwined with the history of the country, and on my balcony with the crisp, soothing sea air, the call to prayer, and the unparalleled, expansive, breath-taking views of the rooftops of Galata, the magnificent historical peninsula, and the astonishing kinetic energy on the gorgeous bodies of water.  I expanded my knowledge through tours with and without university-educated licensed guides, and I learnt about adorable beliefs and sayings.  And as a bonus, I gained personal insight into the lives of Istanbulites through the new friends I made (my new family).  I observed the city at work and at play, and I saw its big heart everywhere I went.  I’ve travelled fairly widely, but this trip changed my life.

Wherever I went in this provocative city, I could breathe easily and fully, and with carefree abandon move around as though walking on air.  The weather was perfect.  The city was calm.  The traffic was manic but orderly with polite, considerate drivers.  The Istanbulites were out on the streets, in the cafés, in the shops, in the markets living their lives calmly but with passion. 

The pulsating energy of this magnificent city gently guides you along.  For me, “Istanbul is the ultimate alchemist: It takes burnt out, fragmented souls with guns blazing, breathes life into them, calms them down, and makes them whole again.  And it lubricates the well-oiled machinery of the energetic among us and reaffirms life’s privileges”.

You’ve just got to get to Istanbul.  You’ve just got to give yourself this gift of life.  For my part, I “hunger to be in Istanbul again”;  it has “spoiled me for other cities and other people”.  And I don’t want to (just) go back to Istanbul–I want to make it my home.

By Beba Papakyriakou (PhD)

* “You’ve just got to visit Istanbul!  The land of plenty.  The land of culture.  The foodie’s paradise.  You’ve just got to!” is available as an eBook and a paperback on Amazon ( ).

© The intellectual property rights of both the text and images vest in the author and may not be utilised by anyone without the author’s written consent.  The source of the text in quotation marks is the book named in the title of this article.  Article requested by Debra Robins, Editor of Odyssey Magazine, to be featured in March 2020 mini-mag.  Previous article featured in March 2019 mini mag

Drag yourself out of your emotional quicksand ©

I’m a huge fan of the mind – its power, its capabilities, its complexities, its awesomeness, its vulnerabilities.  I love how it collaborates, on a good day, with the rest of the organs in our bodies to give us opportunities to do the most basic of things and the most magnificent.  Together with deliberations about intangibles, such as the soul, higher powers, the universe, it paves the way for us potentially to live consciously and fully.

We humans seem to spend much time in “do” mode, seeking ways to improve our bodies, our lives, and our relationships in countless ways.  What’s great about this is that we are trying – to be more, to do more, to have more of whatever it is we are seeking.  What’s also great is when things coincide with the universe’s plan for our lives, and conspire to make something happen – though perhaps only when the time is right and if it’s meant to be. 

While these sentiments are positive and life-affirming, here’s a thought:  Could it also be that our lives are lived on a series of continuums?  On the one end, we find the very poor, for example, and on the other the very rich, with the rest of us somewhere along the continuum.  At one end of another continuum are the super fit and super healthy, and on the other, those oppressed by ill health and barely able to breathe.  And so it goes.

When we then have a quest to drag ourselves out of our emotional quicksand, fundamental to our success could be an acceptance of the concept of Control whose continuum has similar extremes as the others do.

The things within our control place us in a position of great power:  We can facilitate, direct, organise, arrange, change, and make things happen in our personal sphere of influence.  We are in the driver’s seat.  This is our bus.  And it is great.  What is perhaps not great is when we misdirect our energies, our resources, and our focus and make extraordinary efforts to drive the bus regarding things that are not within our control, and essentially seek to force outcomes. 

Under whose control are these other things?  Who knows, but more importantly, perhaps, who cares.  If we cannot control something, let us not try.  Let us recognise that we are not omnipotent.  Let us acknowledge that living consciously and exercising the awesome power of our magnificent minds means that even with things over which we have no control, paradoxically, we have control.  We have control by putting ourselves in the driver’s seat in terms of how we experience things, and what we discard and put into a sealed box, while we focus on what we can do rather than on what we cannot do.  We can focus on the ability – our capabilities in all respects, and what we can control – rather than the disability – our diminished capabilities, and what we cannot control.  For example, realistically we cannot control the weather, but we can take along an umbrella in case it rains.

What’s important is to know what we can control and what we cannot.  When we surrender to present reality and find a way to make peace with it, and we let go of our attachment to how things should be or how we want them to be, other paths could open up for us, and we could be presented with new or different experiences.

All this theory is grand.  But precisely how do we drag ourselves out of our emotional quicksand?  There probably are as many thoughts about this, as there are people on the planet.  But here are a few that might also work.  We find a way to disempower the dark pit and see it as character building and as a catalyst, our reverse-bungee jump out of the emotional quicksand.  We deliberate, and we make decisions.  We find ways to do things ourselves, to rely on our own wits and our own resources where necessary and where possible.  This alone can be hugely empowering.  We detach from our original wishes and dreams, and we become open and flexible if new experiences present themselves.  We embrace those.  And we deal with those.  We focus on things, but we are not blinkered.  We do not lose sight of other interests in favour of just one. 

We realise that we are not trees planted in concrete, stuck in one place until the end of time.  We can move, we can be moved, we can go in a different direction, and we can have a different view and a different experience of the world.  We open ourselves up to seeing things from many angles, as each angle has something to offer.  We persevere, but we change tack if something is not working.  We do not keep doing the same thing over and over in the same way, hoping for a different result.  Metaphorically, we do not keep pressing the elevator button; we take the stairs.  We relinquish control over our expectations, including our expectations of how people should behave, and we take things as they come and we accept people are they are.  We realise that nothing is static.  Everything has less of something or more of something; it all depends on which cycle it’s in.  We do all this, and in this way, we have some control over the bus.

Is that all?  Is it that simple?  Yes and no.  The departure point is to find the courage and the strength to grab the bungee cord and start to pull ourselves up, out, into a lighter space.  How do you do that when you are drowning in emotional quicksand, and you cannot see the light and, further, you do not want to see the light?  That’s the not-so-simple part.  Sometimes, from somewhere, for some people, something breaks through the darkness, and they grab the bungee cord.  What’s important is to try to find the life-saving cord in whatever (healthy) guise, and to grab it.  The rest is relatively easy.

By Beba Papakyriakou (PhD) (Psychology)

© The intellectual property rights vest in the author and may not be utilised by anyone without the author’s written consent.  The material in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to influence anyone’s religious or spiritual beliefs in any way whatsoever. Article requested by Debra Stevens, Editor Odyssey Magazine for March 2019 mini-mag

Seize the carpe! ©

Yes indeed – grab every opportunity you get, life is short, live life to the fullest, enjoy every moment.

I recently learnt of the sudden passing of a special friend. It was not a long or intense friendship by any means where we saw each other frequently. But there was a connection, and a mutual interest to make the effort to stay in touch (technology has its benefits). Unfortunately, we did not have opportunities to seize the day, organically, mostly because of the geographical distance between us. No real excuses though – we could have resolved to make an extraordinary effort to touch sides somehow. But life is busy and complex, and whilst there might be desire and good intentions, sometimes things just don’t come together.

My friend and I were remiss in failing to make touching sides a priority. And now it is too late, and I am heart sore. But what neither of us did was shoot ourselves in the foot by failing to keep the connection going, or by not appreciating the other, or by taking the other for granted. Or by taking advantage of the other’s affection. Neither of us ignored the other’s efforts to connect, neither of us did any pull/push stuff – basically, I’m interested in your life but only at my convenience at which point I’ll be in touch, and I will have an expectation that you will be there (where else would you be?). Until then, you sit by the phone, metaphorically, and make sure you’re ready to resume the friendship when I snap my fingers.

When we shoot ourselves in the foot, it’s sort of like burning bridges. But even if the bridges aren’t permanently burnt, more importantly it means that in any given moment in the “now”, we miss hanging out with someone, celebrating an event even if the person who is willing and available isn’t our absolute first choice for that event – it’s better than sitting around licking our wounds. Shooting ourselves in the foot also means others begin to lose patience and empathy with our particular predicament and say, “Oh well, what must I do about it? You had the best of all worlds, you didn’t make an effort to nurture things, and now you are sitting in your four walls when you could be doing something fun and revitalising”.

Many, many years ago, I had a discussion with a colleague and asked him if he thought I should pay the extra whatever it was for something. His words are in the forefront of my mind to this day: “How important is it?”

Indeed. How important is it to make an effort with people, how important is it to give as well as to take, how important is it to seize every opportunity to connect with those we deem special in our lives – even when it isn’t overwhelmingly convenient for us.

“Seize the carpe”, but at the same time don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Beba Papakyriakou
BA; Hons BA (Psy); MA (Psy) (Cum Laude)
© Reproduce freely but retain copyright and author/contact info.
Published on

Older Entries Newer Entries