Nermina Vehabović Rudež – Visoko: We should disseminate positive stories, because we are quite focused on the negative



Nermina Vehabović Rudež works in the Visoko Mental Health Center as psychologist. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a licenced psychotherapist. She is mainly into mental health, by personal and professional choice.

She attracted my attention with inspiration cards she conceived and designed. I read somewhere about it, so I was interested to find out what it was all about.

Nermina Vehabović Rudež:

In essence, I belong to a therapeutic movement oriented on the quality of interpersonal relations, where the essence is, effectively, in the change of the convictions we live with. This clicked somehow for me, because I think that, for young people, sometimes the only problem is what they believe. What educational system they acquired during socialization, during growing up and education.

For instance, if I am unpleasant to you, you will be unpleasant to me.

Or – I have the right to influence you, and I can change you.

These are the convictions we live with.

Or – if I apply a certain punishment, you will change.

I believe just the opposite. Coercion brings improvement to no one. How I behave is my decision, no matter how you act, i.e. I decide how I will act. And because, sometimes, young people hate to read, and they find it hard to have long conversations, I prepared this. Motivational cards are not new, but I organized this in such a way that sentences are written as if a young person is talking to him/herself, so this can serve as an inspiration for thinking in a different way. That had been a start, this is how things began.

Images – I had thought about what to put as the background, to serve as decoration behind these short sentences. Again, thinking what works for them, and what does not. As my daugher is a student of graphic design, we took her photographs from everyday life, which she shot everywhere, and put them as the background.

Then the story about inspirational cards went broader. It went broader because I presented them to elementary and secondary school teachers at a promotional event. Then a professor of the Bosnian language used them in a class, analyzing the book „Death and the Dervish“, because she realized that, actually, quite a few of those sentences I wrote could be found in the „Death and the Dervish“. Then we adults discussed it. Then they attempted to make links. e.g. the young would draw a card and look where that came from, how it is connected to Ahmed’s character, was it mentioned anywhere by the author. That was interesting enough for the children as well.

This is one aspect where I found an application in the teaching process. Teachers do this with children, although I had said this was intended for young people. Those photographs are curious. They may serve as a tool of the projection technique, because, in effect, when you take a photograph, you could talk about where you would want to be, what you would want to do, what it reminds you of. It is interesting that this appealed most to adults.

I practice reality therapy. What it means is that inspiration is something a person must have, some such idea. You take it and make something of it. But without acting on it, trying it, nothing can happen. And that is exactly where young people fail. And many grownups, too.

Another question, since I saw that you hold – talking sessions? How did that idea emerge and how strong is the response?

Actually, the other day we had a psychology evening in Sarajevo, at the Boris Smoje Gallery. I went as a guest speaker. I like a lot this aspect of informality. When it is not stiff, when people do not have to sit and pretend to be smart, when they can be spontaneous. I am rather effective in group work with people and I did o lot of it. And this casual environment, which you create by holding the event in a coffee shop makes a difference, because I am not sullied just for coming there. It matters a lot in small communities. And I still can interweave topics of interest.

Maybe, if I organized it here (in the Mental Health Center – translator’s note), they might not come. If we were to go there now, you would see writtenon the wall „Growth and Self Development Group, Wednesdays“. No one ever registered for it. But if I were to write for here, that it would be some casual gathering, but that we would be working on it, people would come. Because they would not be seen. Yesterday, a woman came to see me, and she sait, „Please, make sure I am not seen, and that this is not registered anywhere. So, this stigmatization is really intense, particularly in small communities.

People are coming, topics include, „Is depression a choice or a condition,“ which is quite interesting. Then, „On violence“; I love to talk about violence and protection from violence, then „Communication skills“. We had some six or seven talkshops, we generally hold one every month, unless I have other obligations. Typically, many women come, particularly young ones, then there are men who keep showing up.

In the beginning, they would not speak. Then, gradually, there is always someone willing to tell of their experiences. And this matters a lot because I believe that these life experiences allow others to see that the person who faced the difficulties managed to overcome. Which means that things that happen to us are not always terrible. A client of mine, who has melanoma, came, and she said, „I came to the talkshop toda. I often have fever, I probably have a fever right now, but I told myself – this is life, this is how I handle my difficulties.“

Last year, Nermina decided to enter politics. In local elections, she was elected to the Visoko Municipal Council. I asked what led her to that step, and what her impressions were.

In fact, everything is about taking action, if you just talk, and do nothing, nothing will come out of it. This passivity, for all that I get mad, and still get mad today, but it makes no difference. I could be saying „Look what this guy is doing,“ but still do nothing. I am, perhaps I can’t say apolitical, because I haven’t even voted. In this fashion, I created resistance – this is not what I want, I do not belong here, etc.

And then I realized that, in fact, I had been telling people, „Get a move on,“ or „This is good“, but I only talked and… And then I said – let me try my hand at it.

I am still amazed, to this day. For a year now I have had a seat on the council, but my sense of wonder persists even today. And despite everything I thought I knew about human behavior, I discovered another dimension. I discovered this dimension of interest. This thing I would have called hypocrisy, I see that it is a normal mode of behavior in politics. I.e. you and I can sit and talk, share a laugh, but when we go back to the council room, if I failed to motivate you properly, you would still vote against my idea.

Regardless of the kind of idea?

The idea has nothing to do with it being good or bad, it has only to do with your party affiliation. I cannot bear it, I find it very hard.

In a professional sense, now I have such feedback that… If you are on Facebook, then when I look at those likes for some of my totally professional posts, for instance for the promotional event for my cards. For that promotion of cards, a woman told me, „I’m sorry, I could not come, you know that every place you go is noted.“

And then I realize, and I had been warned about it, that some segments of my professional life are going to take a hit, because people are distancing themselves. That is another new dimension for me.

I believe that it is really the matter of people who enter politics, that there are many really solid people, who enter for a bit, and when they understand how things work, somehow they feel the need to exit, because it starts taking a toll.

And the question I ask everyone – how could we keep young peope from leaving BiH?

I held a workshop with young people, who told me that changes need to be made in this country, and that they would love to stay. I said as much in the council – our experiences teach us whether we should stay or not. In other words, when you have someone’s experience that they had an interview and got a job, then someone says, „You see, not everything is necessarily rigged.“ Which means that there are positive examples that teach you that things can happen.

This is why I believe that these positive stories we need to promote, positive in the sense that people are managing to get things done. We have an excessive focus on the negative.

We misunderstand the concept of education. We got lost between the patriarchal and democratic education. So you simply have spoiled children who, on the one hand, do not want to do anything, but expect that of their parents. He expects someone to create a job for him, to create his experience for him. They say „I have two years of experience, what can he possibly  tell me?“

Respect, that’s what we are missing. That’s what I would teach to young people.

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