Behavioral Health

Behavioral Health

Strolling a Souk: Learning to Embrace All Experiences

Posted on: April 29th, 2016 by DJ Moran

As a consultant and psychologist, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see much of the world, and strolling the souks in Middle Eastern countries is one of my favorite things to do. Walking around open-air markets in the Gulf Region is an amazing experience. The storefronts are crowded with huge burlap sacks brimming with seeds, spices, and herbs.   The scent is so pungent that the first time I went to a souk in Dubai, my eyes started tearing. I have no allergies or sensitivities, but the fragrances are penetrating.


The souks also gleam with neon lights and shiny objects. The front windows are crammed with gold, baubles, electronics, and souvenirs. You can buy many unique items in the souk. It’s exhilarating to be there.


But there’s something I don’t love about the souks. The vendors abound and their energy is inexhaustible. The salesmen trying to sell you hats, jewelry, fabric, trinkets, and shisha pipes continually accost you. They are relentless throughout your entire trip through those exotic alleyways.


Well, I’m fortunate enough to have been brought up in NYC, so I am fairly street smart. And I was trained by the late, great Albert Ellis – one of the pioneers of cognitive-behavioral therapy – so I’ve been through quite a bit of assertiveness training. I’m not about to fork over any of my hard-earned dirham to a vendor just because he’s in my face and hassling me.
AND – It’s still annoying… so I came up with a remedy! One day, I simply popped in my ear-buds. When I did that, I had the best of both worlds. I saw, smelled, and felt the souk but only heard the pleasant sounds of my favorite music. It was funny to watch the faces of the vendors trying to sell me something and then see them realize there was no way I’d be buying anything from them because I couldn’t even hear them. Some of the men simply just stopped mid-sentence while talking to me. I could see the abrupt change in their expressions when they realized I wasn’t listening. For a little while, I felt victorious.


And then I realized something: I was avoiding living Life on Life’s terms. I was not absorbing the culture or interacting with the world. I was numbing myself from the experience. Yes, some of the experience was an annoying, but it was a real, genuine experience nonetheless. I thought my ear-bud idea was a great buffer from the irritating sales pitches, but it also robbed me of the realness of the souk.


I took the buds out, and smiled at every urchin who approached. Their aggravating pitches were absorbed – accepted – and I simply committed to acting kindly to them all while keeping my wallet safely in my pocket while I embraced the unfolding of it all.


People who are mentally healthy are able to embrace their experiences. A marquee concept in valued living is being willing to accept these experiences while doing the activities that you care about.  Whether you walk around Middle Eastern souks, city streets, or just the day-to-day path of your Life, see if you can embrace a little more of what you might have previously avoided… it could open up a whole new world for you.

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