1. Aida, tell us about your early life, schooling and college university studies.
Every phase of life is beautiful in its own way. It is from each and every phase that we take something for ourselves what ultimately makes us what we are. And when I look at all my life phases, those pleasant and less pleasant days, I wouldn’t change any of that, actually I realize that it was the best solution at the time. Most people say that childhood is the most beautiful part of human life because we still enjoy large area of children’s curiosity, motivation, imagination, everything is possible there, every thoughtful journey, each vital role, any idea builds itself without hindrance and with full commitment. Sometimes I think that mine has never ended, that I still live in it. I was born in 1973 in a city on the Sava River in Bosanska Gradiska, where I finished elementary school under the watchful and very careful eye of my grandfather and grandmother. They did not support childish and skilfully designed excuses to skip Sunday maktab classes and I am deeply grateful to them because I gained there everything that has helped me throughout my whole life to find the strength and the right path. I have spent my teenage days and secondary education in a new linguistic and cultural environment, in a small town in southern Germany, in Boeblingen.
In this part of my life I learned what it meant to be a stranger who had to give a maximum effort to achieve success, but I also learned that knowledge, dedication and perseverance open all doors that we knock on. There I developed first honest friendships, among those my best friend, my husband with whom I have spent 15 years of marriage, and with whom I have two sons. After completion of secondary school I got married and went for studies, together with my husband, in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Again there is a change, completely new environment, language, and people. This time I face new life roles as well, a role of wife, mother, student. Definitely at this time I learnt what it meant to maintain a balance. Through the study of psychology I started perceiving directions in which I needed to think and act, one of these was the concept of integration, which became one of my life goals. I realised all the complexity and beauty of the apparent aim when I returned to my homeland. The most challenging and the most beautiful integration that I work on is connect and bring closer spiritual and material to one another and then all other segments are brought closer between an individual and society.
2. How and when did your interest in psychology start?
Mindful interest in the nature of human being began in high school and not trough the subjects but the wonderful people who have transferred their knowledge and been fully with us. As the Germans say; “our eyes met in the same line”. Their sincerity and approach with inspiring love awakened in me a desire to learn and explore more than it was offered within the regular classes. I used to sit for hours in the local library and reed various texts and what attracted me the most were books in the field of psychology. Of course, at the time I was still far away from the decision to study psychology and choose it as profession. Although, even today when they ask me what I do I rarely say that psychology is my profession. It would sound as if I deal with life because psychology is present in all dimensions of society and individual. Since I am most present in education and psychological counselling, it would be more accurate to say that I am a midwife, because I help people in the process of labouring good thoughts and feelings, which they already possess.
3. How does your knowledge about psychology help you to “read” people? To what extent is it possible to find out about a person’s inner state by their non-verbal communication?
Generally, I do not try to “read” people because they speak loudly about themselves, some even too loud, mostly through their actions. So I learned to listen actively and carefully to what they want to tell me. At the same time I am aware that it is most important that they hear themselves in aim to comprehend and realize how much they are satisfied with what they presently are.
On the other hand, of course we have that spontaneous human observation and need to grasp something about others through the way someone holds his body, how they walk, the reason someone smiles or cries the choice of their friends, what type of clothes they wear, and even by the look of their Facebook profiles. Maybe we can even find out something, but it would still be more like a momentary experience instead of a definitive conclusion about the personality of a person. We should always have in mind that observation is always superficial, while listening is much deeper process because it involves understanding.
4. “First, stigma, after charisma.” Remember that most people who have made enormous contribution to mankind went through incredibly difficult life situations. Abraham Lincoln had three nervous breakdowns, every day experienced a defeat, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Muammar Gaddafi, Alija Izetbegovic the first President of independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, all of them spent long time behind bars. Many writers, psychologists, philosophers have emphasized that difficulties are actually something most useful to humans. Are life difficulties excellent means to build human character?
The process of converting the stigma to charisma speaks on applied emotional intelligence, which is the key to success at any time; it is an art of balancing, wisdom guided by the right motives, which is the basis of success and something that should constantly be questioned because it all depends on our ideas when approaching us and others. Picture speaking, it is not just an attempt or assumption of emotional alchemy, but proven hypothesis that it is possible to turn our emotional lead into gold. All these charismatic persons that you mentioned achieved that because they lived in situations out of comfort zones. To be out of comfort zones is what keeps us awake , it activates our senses and mind to maximum, it creates depth in thinking, a willingness to renounce, it encourages setting noble goals, in other words keeps us in mental and physical shape. It is logical to conclude that if we mobilize all of these positive processes we will succeed in building a strong and good personality that fills in the whole area with its appearance and energy even without saying a single word. One cannot but see them. Today, we very often see people who can talk all day in important spheres of society yet we don’t register them and what they say therefore they cannot move us. This is due to untreated motives, dormant and empty soul in its material comfort. Nothing moves it because it has “everything”, at least in the sense of satisfied bodily needs, which is the main problem. At this thought it can be somehow understood why Adam came under negative influence and lost control of his actions, and thus violated the order and failed the test in Paradise. He literally had everything and was not motivated by any goal to overcome the temptation. The same is applicable when upbringing children, parents provide everything in material sense -a small home paradise thus take away the will to move and set a goal that will develop internal self-control. It is not difficult to understand that difficulties strengthen the character, but it’s hard to resist laziness. Scientists have found out even in animal world that the brains of animals living in their natural habitat are more developed than of the animals that are domesticated. The natural habitat of man would be the out of the comfort zone. For some reason we run for comfort despite the fact that it weaknesses and destroys us.
5. In our societies, we can notice the so-called “competitive spirit”. In all fields of public life, we see the intention to be better, to be the first. In some societies, such as China, competitive spirit is so developed that it often results with suicide, mostly by young people who cannot cope with this challenge and demand of their environment to be perfect. How healthy is this for a society? Should we rather bring up generations with a sense of teamwork and cooperation?
A human being is such of a nature that it tends for success and functions healthy only if it sets goals, it is our driving force. If the goals are realistically set, in the sense that we don’t overestimate or underestimate ourselves and if motivation i.e. approach to oneself and the goal is adequate – with purified senses, free from narrow-mindedness and the need to prove oneself we have the possibility for proactive self-regulation. Proper motive gives strength, wrong motive destroys it. Proper motive would be to become a healthy cell of an organism, rather than carcinogenic who has lost control of its self-expansion, thus suffocating other cells. For this reason most people cannot cope with today’s challenges, transforming themselves into cancer cells of a society, eating away the very essence of it. Increased rate of suicides in the “developed” societies is only the final act in the play whose poor direction and scenario destroy the talents of actors.
6. We can rarely see a group of people not mentioning other people at business dinners, friendly get-togethers, and simple conversations over coffee. In our society, we call it “gossip”. Why is there a great need to talk about others?
It would be more than good to call it a gossip in our society, because than we would be more aware of the harmful consequences of such speech, how we spend our precious time and how we employ huge potential of the mind. Unfortunately, together with other harmful forms of human speech it is given attractive and acceptable names. Gossip is mentioned as something like soul care, compassion over the others’ challenges, to learn a lesson, learn from the mistakes of others, to keep abreast of events and similar. Motives for gossip vary from the treatment of exaggerated sense of individuality to feeling more or less valuable, which maintains false sense of security, to fill in the empty space of monotonous life. In other words, people are talking about other people’s lives when they are not satisfied with their own or when they are bored. In fact, all forms of backward speech (aspersion, wail, insult, ingratiation, calumny, judgement, bragging, arrogance, abuse, etc.) are either the result of ignorance or lack of common objectives in communication. In both cases, importance for spoken words is lacking.
7. “We see only what we want to see.” Every now and then we hear that someone saw the image of Jesus on toast, door, a cloud in the shape of a cross, inscribed name of Allah on vegetables, fruits and even on a cat and countless other such examples of members of different religions. This phenomenon we observe even among those who are not religious, who interpret different events in a way they believe.
The human being is mainly subjective in its selection, guided with emotions and personal needs, thus it’s important to educate our senses to know how to choose wisely on what we will lay our eyes on and what we are going to engage our mind and soul about. What we notice is what we think about. If our inner content is stingy and limited then our eye observations is the same. Also if it is driven by fear it will see only things it fears. However, for those people who have a wealth of thoughts they can see the wonder in the most mundane things, the smile of a child or a newly discovered ability of wood to move if we look at its branches. I would say that when enthusiasm impoverishes with what happens inside of us, and then we focus on what is happening around us in search for something big to fill up the empty space of the soul.
8. Countless books have been written, a large number of documentaries have been recorded, and every day more and more speakers motivate people and advise them how to succeed in life. However, few people have written about the benefits of failure. It is seen in our society as something that we should avoid at all cost, something that should not happen. What is the positive side of failure to your understanding?
Anyone who has successfully completed one stage of life to the end and honestly evaluates his path he will realize that there were many downs, errors or failures. Today there are those other successful personalities who do not act any perfection, who realistically and openly talk about their failures and deviations from the desired goal as launch-pads to success or key turning points in life. We will recognize them as simple and ordinary people, but at the same time we will admire their ingenuity. Each of us know that failure is deeply characterized as socially unacceptable advent because it relates to incompetence, shortcomings and weaknesses, but actually there lies the human power and success.
Therefore, it is important to mention that with falling we reached whole new levels at where totally different laws are ruling, and we’ll probably have to go against our well-established logic. Failing does not necessarily mean the same thing as failure, because when a leaf falls from a branch on the ground it turns it into humus soil from which springs new life. At the branch it had laws of heights and falling on the ground it got new laws and they determine its new role. To accept its failure as a path to success is not easy, this is feasible only for stable persons who find the right motivation within them for future and are capable to climb from the fall.
9. Are humans “social animals”? According to some views humans can fulfil and develop their personalities only in a society. However, is it required for a person to affirm as an individual firstly in order to be social?
Animals are often more social than men because they do not deviate from their natural roles and respect the harmony of space in which they move and reside, making synchronized and orderly community. We will not find a swallow with an identity crisis when winter comes for example and decides that she is not really in the mood for flying south. But we’ll find a man who will spend days lying because he is not willing to work, even though his construction is fully equipped for work and movement. For a man to approach others, one must first approach himself, and that means daily mental hygiene and self-improvement because we are as much at risk of accumulating “junk” (useless information) in the head and alienation through conflicts, failures in communication, loss of orientation and such. In this movement between distancing and approaching it is important to find a moderate way, neither too close nor too far (away). Approaching too close to ourselves would be an obsession and exaggerated individualism that stifles the fabric of society, and yet too much of approaching society is a danger that we lose ourselves, our uniqueness. It is the same with the distance. In both cases it is clear that the extreme is harmful to man and the move (path) to the right way requires a lot of skill and wisdom. We can succeed as individuals and as a society only when we achieve a harmonious synchronization of knowledge and moral consciousness.
10. Your personal understanding of individuality? The need for individuality is noticeable all around us, whether it’s about extreme examples such as tattoos, piercings, whether it is about the behaviour of individuals.
There is no doubt that individuality is needed just as different instruments in orchestra make performance fuller and more beautiful, but only when they are well coordinated and trained not when the individuality puts the “I” in front of “we.” The need to be noticed at all costs makes people walk through their life arrogantly and insensitively. Tattoos, piercings and other artificial additives on the body can be seen as indicators of the process of conflict within oneself or with the world around us as a form of reading what is in us and around us, but also as an attempt to upgrade the external rather than internal us. In any case, we learn from each other in our diversity, we develop spiritually, and in our similarities we find no incentive to think and thus perform uniformity which dries us spiritually and mentally. Unfortunately, people are now closing themselves to their well-established and sealed circuits.
Convinced that there is nothing else worth noticing except contents of their circle they lose the ability and blessing to see other beautiful dimensions of the same picture where they also belong.
11. The difference between education, intelligence and wisdom? Should these three concepts be distinguished/differentiated? We often hear sayings like “I was smart but education ruined me,” or “It seems that he has completed 10 faculties.”?
If we allow ourselves to say that education is accepting learning methods, that intelligence is recognition of the importance of knowledge and learning, and the wisdom is its implementation, it is inevitable to wonder where and under what terms those exceptionally important processes take place and with what motives we access them. Conventional opinion is that the entire responsibility of the success of the process is reduced to formal educational institutions whilst one fact is ignored that all life is one endless dimension of learning and spiritual formation. If we teach our children to gain knowledge only in school, we limit them in their point of views and leave under a question mark whether they would get from the class everything what they need in life. The saddest thing is that we have deprived them from the best laboratories in the nature and among the people.
12. Often we see a variety of disagreements between parents and children. These differences happen because parents do not realize that their children live in a totally different time and environment. How can parents, who have also “been there”, understand that their children in these youthful years have different interests and goals from theirs. It is their hunger for life, rebellion, and not thinking about the same things like their parents, to wash the dishes or tidy the room up. Another unpleasant and common thing is venting on frustration onto children. We often see that children seek support in their friends rather than their parents.
Conflicts and disagreements are an integral part of life. They will always be apparent in all human relations, and it would not be normal if they did not exist. Because if they were not existing it would indicate the absence of personal uniqueness and individual needs. Families are different only in the fact that some do not run away from conflicts and successfully resolve them and some deny the problems and have unhealthy approach to them. Unhealthy approach uses control, force and blackmail, so it is normal to expect rebellion from the other side because one act initiates the other. Healthy approach involves an open dialogue and respects free decision making for all sides in conflict, especially when children are in process of developing their identity. In that case, both sides are satisfied. Unfortunately, in most cases we find frustrating outcome where one side is always a winner and the other side a loser. Nobody wants to be a loser, neither a parent nor a child, and then there is the extension of agony of misunderstandings and doing harm.
13. In an attempt to eliminate gender inequality some have gone a step further, calling for deletion / elimination of all differences between women and men. According to this call traditional names “mother” and “father” would be replaced with “parent 1 and parent 2”. However, since the birth females and males have been treated and brought up differently and therefore there is a logical consequence the differences between the genders. What would be the negative outcomes if such differences were deleted?
There is only one thing to say about it, it would be pretty dull and monotonous world. It is apparent that boredom causes all kinds of harmful behaviours for individuals and society. Therefore we must not underestimate the boredom.
14. Your plans for the future?
I will continue with active listening to myself and the world around me.
15. Message to our readers?
To stick to their vision (thoughts, ideas, feelings) and to have confidence in the process.