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Personal Development

Switching On the Lights

There are many dark areas of the human condition. By dark areas, I mean, things we do not want other people to know about us. Call them pet peeves or guilty pleasures everyone has them. Yet, these dark areas have a way of derailing our lives if we keep them locked away in the quiet spaces of our hearts.

One example is suspecting a spouse or partner of cheating. Many people harbour suspicions of infidelity about their significant other and never say a word of it to them. Even if they have no proof that their partners are stepping out on them, their suspicion generally soils the relationship and before long, the relationship implodes. The bottling up of toxic emotions like suspicion generally comes to a head during disagreements. 


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One partner lashes out at the other and finally, the relationship dissolves. On second thought, if they had just talked about their suspicions in an atmosphere of transparency, maybe the relationship might have survived. In many cases, suspicion in relationships serves an indication of a need for deeper transparency between lovers. Tell him or her about your suspicions and have them allay or confirm your fears.

Another example would be having a secret crush on someone at the office. No one knows exactly why human beings have crushes on particularly people but to keep quiet about it is to assume that a crush is merely sexual. Nothing is more parochial. We can tell that crushes are more than an inclination to have sex by simply looking at children. Kids have crushes on other kids and sometimes, on adults. If anything, this attraction is innocuous. I used to have crushes on the smartest girls in my class back at Air Force Primary School, Victoria Island. It didn’t matter how you looked or where you came from, if you were the smartest girl, you were my imaginary girlfriend. And I didn’t keep quiet about it.

On a few occasions, my mum would abruptly ask about one of my crushes on the drive home from school, letting me know I had mentioned her name during one of my sleep-talking spells.  I would proceed to tell her about the new ‘girlfriend’ and she would tease me with it for a whole term, threatening to report me to the girl each time I misbehaved.

Anyway, back to office crushes, you have to act on them. It’s no use having a crush on someone if you hole yourself up in decrepit fantasies. What matters is the context in which you take action. If you are single and your crush is single too, explore it with the possibility of a platonic or romantic relationship. The key-word here is consent. Make the first move with an open mind. Relationships are not all about sex. In many cases, he or she may literally be the bridge to your next level in life and your subconscious mind is only trying to help you get there. If you are married, it gets simpler. Although some people like to complicate their lives with the excuse of having difficulties in their current relationship, there is typically nothing romantic about the crushes married people have on others. And yes, married people have crushes even though few will admit it.

Exploring attraction as a married person should be purely platonic or professional. You can have conversations with your office crush but set clear boundaries. Boundaries can vary from having a third party present when you talk with him or her, to speaking with this person only during office hours. It may be that they have a problem in their lives that you can solve or vice versa. Moreover, contextualizing attraction in terms of sex, which is usually how many people interpret a crush, will rob you of real opportunity.

A more common example would be misinterpreting the actions of other people without proper context. People typically use their own cultural experiences and expectations to evaluate the actions of other people. They forget that others too have their own cultural experiences and expectations that may clash with theirs. In Nigeria, a civil war broke out in the late 1960s because of this type of dissonance between the Igbos and the rest of the country. The dissonance may not be as pronounced as it was in the 60s and 70s but it remains the elephant in the room today. Clearly, the Igbo society is culturally networked. They have no monarch.  They are a rambunctious bunch who think in terms of commerce. However, other ethnicities in Nigeria live in culturally hierarchical societies. 


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We may not realize it but this cultural difference alone and the refusal to appreciate the difference has cost so many Nigerian lives. After the war, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was designed to integrate the country, however, it paid little attention to enhancing understanding between the entrepreneurial-networked cultural qualities of the Igbo and the administrative-hierarchical cultural qualities of the rest of Nigeria.  If you wonder about the current clamours for self-determination among some Igbo, this is the root cause.

In keeping with General Gowon’s task of keeping Nigeria one, I believe that creating an educational policy for young non-Igbo Nigerians to learn about Igbo Culture alongside their own. In turn, young Igbo Nigerians can learn about non-Igbo culture to enhance how Nigerians treat each other in the future.

Spotlighting any one of these dark areas is difficult. However, the benefits are always overwhelming whether it is opening up to your partner whom you suspect of cheating, approaching your crush or unifying a country.  It starts with a resolve to end the darkness.

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Nehikhare Omotayo Igbinijesu is an Economist, Poet, and Social Entrepreneur. 'He is the author of The Code: A Simple Story About Raising Great Women' and 'Marriage: 12 Questions You Need To Ask Before You Say, “I Do”'. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Akudo and two sons. He is Co-founder of Stuffsilos.com, a motivational resources company based in Lagos. You can email him via nehijesu [at] yahoo.co.uk

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