Unpacking the tragic deaths of Tafadzwa & Samantha

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Tafadzwa Murengwa and Samantha Ruvimbo Dzapata

By Bothwell Matewe
The tragic deaths of two young lovers Tafadzwa Murengwa and Samantha Ruvimbo Dzapata has resulted in a lot of animated discussion on various social media platforms over the past few days.

Tafadzwa, a Ximex dealer shot dead Samantha with a 0,38 Webley revolver before committing suicide in the Gletwin area of Shawasha Hills in Harare a few days ago.

The deceased young man who had means to spoil his girlfriend has been labelled an abusive control freak who dabbled in rituals while Samantha has earned her own share of brickbats.

Some saw her as a promiscuous gold digger who sought to cream off the young dealer of his money without giving a hoot about his feelings.

They argue if she and her relatives had not accepted Tafadzwa’s gifts, the tragedy would not have happened. This blame-game on social media platforms is common and understandable whenever a tragedy of this magnitude happens.

However, from a psychological point of view, what may be useful is to understand how mental health gets affected by the challenges faced by two lovebirds and then embrace ways to overcome stress.

The brain’s emotional processing areas do not differentiate gender, but as humans we have different expectations when it comes to emotional processing for men and women.

From a very young age, men have been conditioned to bottling up their emotions. Venting them out by explaining their own feelings will be out of character with the male identity. However, women are more likely to lay bare their emotions than men.

While research shows that men experience emotions just the same way as women, they may be more emotional during breakups.

A lot of men especially from 17 to 30 years of age are highly affected by the emotional pain caused by relationship problems and not the general problem itself.

Studies carried by Ryan Boyd showed that men discuss heartbreak significantly more than women. These findings suggest that the stereotype of men being less emotionally invested in relationships than women may not be accurate.

Most men experience a downward spiral when most of these heating emotions go unaddressed. Unaddressed emotions are not wiped off by the brain, for it was not structured in a way to totally forget but rather to suppress them.

The same unaddressed emotions will always find a way crawling into the future and sometimes in unwanted and ugly ways.

The Tafadzwa-Samantha saga is a good example that demonstrates this.

Tafadzwa had relationship problems with his girlfriend Samantha, who was not reciprocating his love advances.

Tafadzwa noted in the audio that he spent a lot of money on Samantha, supporting her relatives and family members to prove how much he loved his girlfriend and hoping to ward off competition from another suitor, a married man.

What is clear from his sad narrative is that the affair lacked reciprocity.

The relationship lacked mutual exchange of energy and support between the partners, with the girlfriend (Samantha) thought to be having a secret affair with another person.

However, you might have all the money needed to impress but who would want an emotionally and physically abusive husband. It all comes back to our emotions and ‘small kindness perception.’

The cycle of abuse in relationships fluctuates and is unpredictable. Abusive individuals often dish out some small acts of kindness when they discover their partner is slowly pulling out of the relationship when they still need them.

The act of kindness, sometimes coming in the form of freebies to a lover’s relatives, acts as a catalyst to rekindle the relationship especially when it has hit the proverbial rocks.

Most of these acts are impulsive and often lead to regret when the goal and objective is not successful. As a result, the provider may suffer from high stress levels, when he realises he is not being loved anymore.

Think about how Tafadzwa threw precious US dollars in the street the day before he gunned down his girlfriend.

If you follow social media street-talk, you will think it was a ritual, and all those who picked the money will suffer “for their blessings have been taken.”

However, psychologically, this money-throwing-stunt was a sign of a serious mental health problem, specifically emotional stress that afflicted Tafadzwa.

Emotional stress is a state of anguish that can take many forms. One may wonder what causes emotional stress and why the writer is associating Tafadzwa with it.

This can be due to mental health issues or special circumstances such as relationship difficulties or financial stress.

Stress and aggression feed off each other, leading to a cycle of violence that can be tragic. From the cycle of violence, it explains clearly why aggressive behavior escalates so easily, especially in men due to their higher levels of testosterone. When it has started, it is so difficult and complex to stop it.

When one experiences severe emotional stress, instead of stress hormones preparing one for the ‘fight or flight’ mode, in the presence of an unwanted thing or event, they resort to your brain and facilitate aggressive behaviors.

If men fail to open up when they are going through stressing moments, how then, does one notice if a colleague or yourself is going through stress?

The body is not a machine, there are general symptoms that can help to easily identify stress which are: Sadness, anger, irritability, restlessness, making bad decisions which one is likely to regret, racing thoughts or constant worry, feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated or unfocused.

Having identified the above different symptoms, there are solutions apart from seeking mental health services.

We have different ways of managing stress and most men resort to alcohol and drugs.

Yes, many have reached for a glass of beer or wine after a stressful event or day but, however, turning to alcohol when stressed may seem to be a possible and easiest way to relax, but psychologically it will not help in the long run for it might interfere with what your brain needs for good health and proper recovery.

The first step in managing stress is to identify the source of stress in your life. It is not that easy, but it is important. The true source of stress may not always be obvious as we tend to ignore our own thoughts and feelings that cause us stress.

Always try to identify where the stress is coming, because if you fail to do so, it will not be good for your health. A stressor acts like a magnet, if it goes unidentified it invites others and subsequently, stressors will pile on top of one another.

One way to identify the source of your stress is by tracking your thoughts. Generally, when we look at our thoughts, negative thoughts are more automatic, so track your thoughts. This will give you a good picture of what, how and when your thoughts have affected your daily living.

One of the important solutions is to communicate.

Communicating your problem is very essential, whether you are speaking to one person or a hundred. Acknowledging this will help you to deal with your nerves and to use the negative energy in a positive way.

Talking about your problems can lighten the burden of stress and help you feel better. Tafadzwa shared his story from the audio that was circulated on social media, but by the time he shared it, it was late because he had already made an irrational and emotionally driven decision.

The struggles he was going through kept the mind boiling.

Spend time with others. Men are especially prone to withdrawing socially and isolating themselves when feeling stressed and this can make you feel worse. Spend time with others to help take your mind off your problems.

Always take some regular activities, one can take a walk or do some exercises. Research has proved that exercises reduce stress hormones. Regular exercises do stimulate the production of endorphins which act as painkillers and mood elevators.

Look for a support system. Stories of men failing to control or manage their emotions leading to loss of life have increased, with some happening in remote areas not much exposed to social media.

  • Bothwell Matewe is a lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University (Psychology Department) and a counselling psychology practitioner