Chidinma Nwobi:‘Poorly developed emotional intelligence skills responsible for domestic violence’
Chidinma Nwobi considers herself a spring of happiness flowing with love, authenticity, and intuitive wisdom, cheering herself, her family, and humanity towards enjoying flourishing and meaningful lives. A seasoned professional, she is one of the pioneers of Applied Positive Psychology in Nigeria and also an Applied Positive Psychology Coach, a Practitioner of Applied Positive Psychology, a licensed Emotional Intelligence Assessor by the notable Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network USA, an Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified Peak Performance Consultant and a Neurological Re-patterning Therapist.
Due to her love for family, she serves as the Director of Studies at the Institute of Family Engineering and Development Africa, and is committed to raising competent Family Life Practitioners as a Master Trainer of Family Systems Engineering. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for family, importance of emotional intelligence and path to purposeful life.
You champion the cause for a flourishing, harmonious and happier life, what really led to this project?
I BELIEVE that all the pursuits of man are aimed at being happy. Like the famous Aristotle once said: ‘Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life; the whole aim and end of human existence.’ Yet, a lot of people feel that happiness is a scam and a fleeting emotion perhaps, because they have erroneously dissociated happiness from their seasons of pain, suffering and negative emotions.
As a champion of this cause, I inspire people to know that happiness is not just a rush of positivity, but also a way of being that embraces both the positives and negatives in life. I also empower them with the mindset, toolset and skillset to build resilience, navigate life challenges and enjoy their kind of authentic happiness, as I believe what makes life meaningful and happy differs from person to person. I created the ‘Architecture of Intentional Happiness’ framework, which I adapt in my personal and professional life to teach people that as the architects of their own happiness, they can enjoy more flourishing and meaning lives by being intentional with their thoughts, feelings and actions.
My work enables me to support individuals, families and organisations to develop resilience skills, adopt wellbeing and relationship enhancing habits and practices, but above all, to give themselves the permission to be human as they go through the flourishing cycle of awareness, compassion and care. I love to start up conversations that inspire hope, possibilities and resilience with people.
As a pioneer of Applied Positive Psychology in Nigeria, how has this evolved and enhanced meaningful living?
Applied Positive Psychology is a descriptive scientific study of optimal human functioning, which aims to promote the factors that allow individuals and communities thrive. Unlike traditional psychology that is based on a disease model and focused on what is wrong with people, positive psychology is based on a wellness model and focused on what is right with people.
As one of the pioneers of Applied Positive Psychology in Nigeria, I am helping people shift their mindsets from what is wrong with them, their spouses, children, colleagues and even the society to what is right with them. Such that people, who are dealing with traumas of various kinds, or who feel depressed, or dissatisfied with life, or struggling in their relationships, or perhaps are overwhelmed with work-life imbalance etc, can see possibilities and learn how to navigate their life challenges more effectively. I do this through my speaking, coaching, mentoring, authoring and consulting services.
You are passionate about family life, how are you able to ensure that more families live purposefully?
I believe that the family is the bedrock of society as every one of us is from a family; be it a functional, happy family or a dysfunctional, unhappy family. I also believe that you can live a purposeful life doing what you love and loving what you do. Consequently, I have created quite a number of family centred solutions and interventions supporting families to live more purposefully such as The Harmonious Living Process, The 30-Day Get Your Power Back Transformative Programme, and The Intentional Parenting on the GO Programme. With my husband Nedum, who is also a certified family life practitioner, we co-authored The ABC of Intentional Parenting: How to Love, Lead and Influence Your Child with Ease. Many of its readers dub it the ‘parenting Bible.’ Nedum and I also mentor couples through our Intentional Marriage Mentoring Programme and Intentional Family Programme.
As a certified Applied Positive Psychology Coach, a certified Assessor of Emotional Intelligence and a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistics Programming, I deploy my expertise and research-based tools through my signature solution; The SAGE Advantage through which I support individuals to develop growth mindsets and empower them with the skills to develop their self-efficacy to handle life’s challenges more resiliently.
With your wealth of experience in parenting and family life, what major issues do you find recurring and how can families live above them?
The dynamics of life and consequently the challenges people face differ from family to family. However, one of the commonest reasons why couples seek therapy and children fall out with their parents is communication related issue. Whether it is emotional affection issues like, ‘my husband doesn’t love me again’ or ‘my wife doesn’t respect me’ or general communication matters like ‘my parents don’t understand my needs’ or ‘my teenager has changed’, family members experience challenges when they attempt to communicate their core and changing human needs or express their feelings when their boundaries are overstepped, or core values violated.
Rather than how families can live above such issues, I’d like to reframe it to how they can thrive in spite of such challenges. Disagreements and conflicts will continue to happen in our homes but having a growth mindset to take them as learning opportunities is important. Being efficacious, that is knowing how to handle such conflicts, will make a huge difference, whether those family members will grow through such experiences or not.
Domestic violence is one major issue in some homes, what do you consider solely responsible for this?
Domestic violence is one of the most inhumane treatments of another person. A home is supposed to be a haven; a place where a person feels safe and enjoys secure attachment with significant people like a spouse or parent. Domestic violence violates a person’s core brain needs for love, connection and belonging. Irrespective of what a person does, domestic violence is inexcusable.
I think that one of the factors responsible for domestic violence is poorly developed Emotional Intelligence skills. I like to say that it is not what happened that makes a person go violent, rather it is how the person chooses to respond to what happened. We all have the power to choose our responses per time. The domestically violent person is one who in the moment, fails to pause and choose a more empowering, humane response when he is a situation at home that he finds offensive. I also think this apparent lack of agency to apply Emotional Intelligence in domestic squabbles is selective. It is not really that the person lacks the skills to restrain in that space and make a better choice; I sometimes think domestic violence, such as beating, stems from that arrogant thinking of ‘I-am-bigger-than-you’ mentality.
For instance, a man who batters his wife at will under the excuse that she provokes him, when provoked by the stern looking officer of the Nigerian Mobile Police (MOPOL) in the streets, suddenly becomes tamed and does not go into a fight. Hence, suddenly can control that temper than was uncontrollable when it was a situation between him and his wife. So, it’s not that such a man lacks motional intelligence, it is simply because he has a selective, situational application of Emotional Intelligence. I dare say it’s because he feels he has control over his wife and she cannot do anything to him.
Issues around DNA/child paternity have become a major topic in the society. What in your opinion is responsible for this culture that is gradually becoming a part of us?
Issues around child paternity have always been around. In the past, people resorted to threats, bullying and other methods to verify their doubts and clarify if they are raising children who aren’t theirs. As science evolved and DNA paternity testing came to be, people now have more advanced methods of determining if an individual is their biological child.
With the shrinking of the world into a global village through the effects of social media and the internet, more cases of marital infidelity, stories of people who have exercised paternal rights and duties towards a child for years only to find out at old age that the child isn’t theirs, spread easily these days. As these stories spread, the knowledge of verification alternatives such as DNA paternity testing also spread. So, people who have doubts or are coerced to doubt the paternity of their children can now satisfy their curiosity and go for such tests.
DNA paternity test is not going away any soon; we can either embrace it or continue to fight it. Having a child is a huge responsibility. Ideally, two loving parents should raise a child. To consciously make someone take on the responsibilities of a father to a child he thinks he biologically birthed when you know otherwise is wicked in my opinion.
Would you say social media has influenced family units to achieve goal of living purposefully?
Social media has had a huge influence on me personally and professionally. Most of my clients say they first came in contact with my work on social media or were referred by someone who has been following my work. I leverage social media to teach the science of human flourishing and showcase my work. However, while social media can positively influence families, it can also be a source of headaches for families too.
Parents and children alike can be negatively impacted by peer pressure, which can spiral to mental health issues. Children can also pick some bad behaviours from their online role models and friends. Social media is also an easy ground for sexual predators, cyber bullies etc. Studies show that although Generation Z teenagers who were born into the Internet age spend a lot of time on social media, they are also the most depressed generation on earth. Social media is like a knife; inherently neutral but can serve a person depending on how it is used.
That’s why I admonish parents to have a family online safety guideline, which includes the kind of people to follow, what to do when a respected online figure no longer speaks in alignment with their personal and family values and when to go on a social media break to preserve their sanity and wellbeing.
You have authored three books, what informed your decision to put them together?
My first book, How Stella Wore Shorts to the Beach: My Journey from Shyness to Confidence, was my attempt when I turned 40 three years ago to share my story with humanity. I wrote about my journey from shyness and poor body confidence through my teen years into young adulthood and how I transitioned into a confident young woman. The book shared how my relationship with Jesus and my husband helped me reclaim my worthiness and see myself again as a beautiful, confident woman who deserves to rock her happiness unapologetically.
My second book, That Scam called Happiness: How to Enjoy the Kind of Happiness You Only Dream About even in Trying Times, was written during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is a narration of a conversation I had with a young lady, Nkeonyelu. The book starts with shedding light on what happiness truly means and why people say happiness is a scam. Then, I went on to explain the tested and proven Architecture of Intentional Happiness framework, which I created and adapt in my life and work.
The third book, which I co-authored with my husband, is a transformative Parenting resource. The ABC of Intentional Parenting: How to Love, Lead and Influence Your Child with Ease was Nedum and I sharing evidence based parenting tips as seasoned professionals in the family life industry in Nigeria, but also as parents to three assertive Generation Z teenagers and one preteen as at the time the book was released in 2019. The book was written in a simple form with each letter of the alphabet representing a nugget parents can leverage on to improve their efficacy in supporting their children navigate the different seasons in the lives with greater confidence.
With the many hats you wear, how do you combine them with family life?
I consider myself a spring of happiness flowing with love, authenticity and intuitive wisdom and that’s how I show up in life. So, whether I’m alone in the beach gazing into the horizon as the cool breeze caresses my face, or I’m with my family creating unforgettable memories or I’m teaching, coaching or mentoring someone to embrace all that life offers them and resiliently thrive towards a more satisfying and meaningful life, I’m just a spring from whence flows grace and evidence-based wisdom to make humanity experience the beauty of God through their relationships with one another.
Also, our family vision, mission statement and values empower me to wear the many hats that I wear, because we have chosen to be a model of bliss and raise other happy families. So, my work and family vision are intertwined. I’m blessed with a husband who shares core life and family values with me. Nedum is such a team centred husband who doesn’t believe that responsibilities in the home are gender based. Juggling life, work and family won’t have been easy without his support and push. As a family, we are intentional about family time and memories. When I plan my week, I schedule not only my client sessions; I also schedule time with Nedum and each of the children.
What has motherhood taught you?
Being a mother has taught me many valuable lessons; some of which I struggled to accept. Motherhood taught me that parenting is not so much about what I know (the resources I have) as it is about my state (my resourcefulness). There have been times I knew what to say, what to do or how to respond to my children, but I’m just not in the right mental, emotional or even physical state and I mess up that opportunity. This has taught me is pay attention to states. As such, I compassionately schedule and engage in daily rituals that will support me to be sane, energised and resourceful. And when I sometime slip, I forgive myself and if need be, I apologise to my children and make efforts to repair our relationship.
Motherhood has also taught me to be intentional, rather than being reactive and waiting for something to go wrong, then start running around for solutions. Motherhood has taught me to be proactive, to begin with the end in mind and set up systems, habits and routines in my home that will support us — both parents and children — to achieve our desired outcomes.
What advice do you have, especially for women who are faced with the challenges of living purposeful lives and being successful in their careers?
The question makes it sound like a woman living a purposeful life and being successful in her career are mutually exclusive. Sadly, this is a grave misconception that a lot of women I have been privileged to meet or work with have. Another misconception about living a purposeful life is that people confuse purpose for meaning. For that woman who wants to live a meaningful life, she is to start by leaning inwards and asking herself what a meaningful life means to her. Then, listing the different dimensions of her life that makes her feel significant. Living a purposeful life for her will then be to set goals, plan routines and rituals that will give her a sense of direction in life as she thrives to attain a feeling of fulfilment and significance in those dimensions of life, including her career, that make life meaningful for her.
What makes life purposeful is different from woman to woman, so, whether a woman is staying at home to care for her family or a force in the boardroom, both women can live purposeful lives by loving what they do and doing what they love, regardless of what the society has defined to be the roles, responsibilities and markers of purposeful living for women.
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