Dr Dorianne Weill

From Adversity to Insight

At the PSASA Johannesburg Chapter meeting held on Thursday 20th of August 2020, the Legendary Dorianne Weil, aka “Dr D”, spoke to us about pivoting in turbulent times. The 28 members and guests in attendance were enthralled by Dr.D’s profound wisdom and insight. Dr. D is South Africa’s leading Media psychologist whose extensive radio and TV talk shows over the years, have addressed a whole spectrum of life-challenging relationship and self-development topics. In addition to her speaking and therapeutic career Dr. D also currently hosts two shows a week, “Drive with Dr D” a podcast on Apple, and “Coffee and Connect with Dr D” recorded live. Alison Weihe introduced Dr. D citing the enormous influence she has exerted over the past 30 years, reaching millions of viewers and thousands of audiences in 57 countries. She quoted Nelson Mandela who said of Dorianne “I don’t know if you are aware of the hope and inspiration you offer and the difference you make to so many lives Dori. Thank you for the great contribution you make to building our nation.”

We as the PSASA are honoured to have Dorianne as a Member of our Association and also to address us at this particular moment in time – a time which she herself referred to as “a marathon and not a sprint”. Dr Weil set the scene for the evening’s discussions by referring to “Global Mourning as opposed to Global Warming”, a collective consciousness and mood that we are currently experiencing in this time of great uncertainty. She focused on the sixth stage of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ model of grief which had been added to the existing valuable framework, namely that of MEANING.

The first five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But as she explained this often does not happen in a linear way at all. She gave us many pointers that could assist us as we all ride this roller-coaster of individual and collective emotion. Dr. D said that whilst the stigma of mental health had been dissipated somewhat, men often battled to process their emotion, hence the increased surge of gender-based violence. She advised that “being positive” could serve an underlying directive to not own one’s feelings, which can be extremely problematic, as feelings of sadness and anger can be an appropriate reaction to the enormity of the current situation. She also focused on the difficulty of close relationships at a time where one has to negotiate “space rather than distance” and create opportunities to unpack and learn empathetic listening. She used great examples to illustrate how blame can be stacked up and amassed versus engaging in authentic vulnerability.

Dr. D cited Clarissa Pinkola Estes in “Women Who Run with the Wolves” who talks about looking at one’s needs and wants as a Smorgasbord of food beckoning you. She implored us to look inward and ask ourselves “what do we really need and what do we really want?” Sometimes we can have a million oranges but crave one apple. She suggested instead of dousing down one’s feelings, rather lean into them. In her beautiful eloquent use of words, Dr. D advocated “Name it to tame it” and “Feel it to Heal it”. She gave us techniques and strategies to close the gap between reality and catastrophizing an event or situation. She also spoke about the reality of Zoom Fatigue and the importance of finding a tribe in an era where we have lost routines, money, jobs and above all physical touch – so much we took for granted. She encouraged us to live into being present and empathetic, quoting Brene Brown who states that “Shame cannot coexist with Empathy”. Dr. D emphasized that in South Africa “Sawubona” means “I see you” and that in this country we have a unique opportunity to see one another in a new way.

Some of her key takeaways were:

  •  We need mindful realistic optimism
  •  Be aware of your own needs and communicate them
  •  Honor the other person, but not in an aggressive way
  • Keep the space clean
  •  Stay vulnerable and open
  • Use “I” messages not blaming or shaming
  •  If you avoid “rocking the boat”, you might start resenting the person you love
  •  Start caring about your partner and yourself as your partner’s partner
  • Acknowledge and lean in to your feelings
  •  Between reaction and response there is a gap which gives us the opportunity to choose how
  • Reframing questions to be kinder to oneself and others
  • The healing power of intimacy and love has great physiological effects, including less memory loss and quicker recovery.

She concluded by revisiting the importance of pivoting beyond acceptance to embrace meaning, to address and resolve current stress to prevent post-traumatic stress; to rather move towards post-traumatic growth and self-auditing – looking at what you have gained and understood and “Envisioning your Future Self”. She said that the remarkable work of Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” and the research of what took place during 9/11, both emphasized the need for a new Humility in an era of a new Humanity, where love has become the currency for true meaning. Marie Parramon Gurney movingly thanked Dr. Weil for her wonderful Covid wisdom and said that much of her wisdom was equally relevant for a post Covid era. She said that Covid was an incubator to talk about many things that had been buried for so long. Our Second speaker Dr. Puleng Makhoalibe who was voted one of 2019″s “Women Leaders of the World” and who is a highly recognised and awarded Global leader in creativity and innovation, was due to present an interactactive session, entitled “Reframing Covid-19 to Unlearn our Creative Potential”. Unfortunately due to connectivity issues, Dr. Puleng was unable to present her valued contribution.

We look forward to hearing her another time on this valuable topic. In the remaining time Dr. D shared more of her wisdom and Nikki Bush, our Chapter President, adeptly used the time to allow participants to share their collective learnings during this period of emotional upheaval and distillation.

Arthur Goldstuck also presented with powerful slides and imagery some of the compelling speakers that will be presenting and talking about ORIGINS at PSASA’s upcoming MidTerm Convention on 2nd and 3rd October. Nikki ended the evening by saying that we needed “Kindness Management rather than Crisis Management” and that we can “Evolve and not just Revolve”. It was a meeting that was a poignant reminder of why the PSASA tribe is such an incredible gathering, of not just learning and connection but of love. Recommended Readings:

Written and compiled by the Johannesburg Marketing team: Alison Weihe and Yoke van Dam Nikki Bush