Friday, October 23, 2009

The Law of Inertia

One of my seniors once told me, that I should not expect myself to be able to help, let alone cure every patient. There will be some who will not respond at all and then there will be some who will respond only that much. I have tried to keep it in my mind ever since but every time a patient comes who I feel just needs a change of perspective to respond and then does not, it becomes difficult to accept. Its not like pulling the plug for a brain dead individual, because for the quintessential optimist, there is always hope; he can't give up and he can't accept others giving up. If a parent asks me whether their son or daughter is going to be fine, I say,"I can't say"; of course I would like to extend all help that I can, except perhaps the positive confirmation. But when a patient asks me I always say,"yes, you can". But I should say ,"I can't make you fine but you can". You can say,"very Diplomatic!", well that was not the intention.

I can recall so many young girls and boys who I have seen over past 2 to 3 years, whose problems were more psychological than biological but no amount of counselling or therapy could change their perspective. I am not a behaviorist so I do not expect to change people by modifying their behaviors. I believe in insight oriented approaches and thus believe that awareness can bring change in perspectives and hence the behavior. Still there are so many who would close their eyes to the half full glass while focusing on the empty half. That implies I am failing in my job of changing people's perspective. But 'change' is the word that causes discomfiture. Can you really change a perspective? A woman is obsessed about her food, she is afraid of having physical discomfort if she takes wrong kind of food. I have been seeing her for 4 months now. Her depression has lifted but her obsession has stayed. She recognizes her symptoms to be the result of shifting her preoccupation from her children onto herself but somehow she cant shift this preoccupation over to her husband who is obese and diabetic and perhaps needs as much attention as her children. Why? Well, he never gave her that, so how can she! I am happy that I was able to bring insight - but change - no, that did not happen. Could Freud have done that - restructured a personality through psychoanalysis!
In hindsight, don't we all resent change, even while seeking it. As objects bound by the Newton's first law of Inertia- we do not want to change unless change hits us with a force.; even if we are in poorest of situations, we go on; well most of us do if not all.
So, what do I do with these children, the girl who would go back to slashing her wrist because she can't get a job that will fulfill her ambitions, or the boy who has multiple backlogs in first year of professional degree course and still would postpone the formulation of a study routine to tomorrow while the examinations await at the end of the month or the person who would not let go of the fear that he might become mentally disturbed tomorrow due to a partially heritable defect so he is just wasting away today.
May be the solution lies in that force that finally moves the object from its state of inertia. Can we learn to find that force or that force comes to us in time, lets wait and watch.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What is it about Love?

I read this article about Love in the Sunday times some time back which made me plunge into the age old debate as to what is love. A long time back, when the mind was more pholosophical, I did discuss with my would be husband about my take on love. I thought it as a positive emotion on a scale with centre marked as 0 i.e. no emotion; to the right where positive feelings exist and left where the negative feelings exist. Human being is a pendulum, in equilibrium its stable at 0, and then a force pulls him/her to its side. The analogy is obviously too simple and cannot explain all aspects of this complex phenomenon, except that the more you get pulled to one side the more likely you are to swing back to the opposite.

This time I still think of it as a positive emotion but would explore a little further. As an ardent admirer of Freud's observations, I too believe in the primal instincts of eros and thanatos, and the pleasure principle. Anything we humans do serves one purpose- survival of self and species and we do it for one thing- the pleasure. Love serves the purpose of survival of self and the species. In basic neurochemical science, it shouldnot be such a complex issue. But it is, the more I read about the issue the more confused I became.

According to; Love, affection, devotion all mean a deep and enduring emotional regard, usually for another person.I am fine with 'deep', but 'enduring'?? Further refrences suggest that there are innumerable definitions and types of love; there is the maternal, the paternal, the amorous/romantic, the religious, the platonic and all different varieties of love. Have we ever talked of so many kinds of sadness/happiness/anger/jealousy or in more basic instinctual terms- hunger/pain etc. This makes me reflect that love cannot be one basic emotion or feeling. Invariably, love between adult humans especially unrelated (opposite sex is no more a neccessity) gets associated with sexual felings - after all that is the basic drive that serves the nature's purpose of propagation.In one of the searches it was mentioned that while sex is a biological concept, love is a social concept. I like the statement as it makes sense- we have to have a social concept so that mother can take care of an infant, man can take care of a family, humans can take care of other humans. So, through evolution, those sentiments which could activate the reward centres of brain were prized, moulded into moral codes of conduct, fed through romantic stories/ stories of sacrifices made for the sake of another human/living being in the name of love - leaving us with ideals to follow.

Well one thing is for sure, research suggests that love and sex are mediated by different centres in brain, of course it doesnot mean there is no association. Another study suggests that sex could be a primer for love; so if you have sex you are more likely to fall in love??? (theory behind falling in love after marriage!)

All said and done, the myth of eternal love, the unconditional love, the selfless love- confuses the simple reward centre theory. Then we make associations through learnt and taught experiences of others before we experience them ourselves. We tend to colour our experiences in the colour of our expectations, so we associate feelings with the fairytales; and end up with the sense of something missing!

I am a romantic by nature, somebody who would like to believe in something more than the chemical reaction, but could it be another form of fantasy, nature's way of keeping our species alive; society's way of keeping social system in order, a MATRIX of sorts to keep wayward instincts under control. Whatever it is, it sure is intoxicating (and is associated with release of dopamine in brain, like other intoxicants), but gradually tolerence develops, so I refute the word 'enduring' in its definition.

The discussion can take innumerable twists and turns, there is no mystery here but a craving to get the thrill again and again and because it doesnot happen we keep searching for meanings. What is the question again?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blues of the Blue

After a really long time I watched a really bad movie. Not that bad movies are not made anymore, but I would follow my instincts and skip it. But this time, after 3 years , my husband asked me out, so I couldnot refuse, and since reliable sources had not recommended "Wake up Sid", we zeroed on "Blue".
Thats the movie all about-'the colour blue', and ofcourse, green, red, orange, yellow......Because that is all it has to offer. It promised a treasure hunt which didnot start till the end, and when it did- it wasn't a hunt; more like picking it off a platter. Rest is all noise which fails to have an impact. The girls may have given some adrenaline rush to the men but for the women- its a beach party in a potbelly! ghosh!!
If there is absolutely nothing to do this weekend, you may enjoy national geographic at the nearest theatre i.e. if you can suffer the sloppy dialogues delivering a totally predictable sequence of events and a huge sense of something missing- a STORY.
At the end of it, my husband was red in face for having suggested Blue.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The fire or The fireworks

What it is about Diwali? Since childhood, I remember associating the crispness in the air to the festive season that brought 10 Dussera holidays and another 20 days of school full of anticipation, for the couple of days when the lights light up the earth and sky. Is it just the anticipation or something more, because if I sit back and think, Diwali always brought along the restrictions of being able to spend only that much amount on crackers/gifts/shopping, rest was looking up at the sky and enjoying the sights while some affluent families displayed the more designer fireworks. Now I can afford all that to a certain extent, still there is the sense of something amiss- the anticipation, the excitement, the dream…………or something else. I am not sure, like most of the other things in life.
May be it is just the easy innocence of childhood, the ability to enjoy small things in life that has made all the difference. IT is always the fire not the fireworks that bring in the excitement, the exhilaration, the fun of the festival. As the fire slows down, the fun seems to be diminishing too. But it is not the chronological age that does it, as always the mental age that defines the fire, the zeal to live and celebrate. Wish there was a way to relearn the old younger way, till the one we will make do with the fireworks alone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Agonies and optimism

Every small community has these individuals called agony aunts. You go to them, talk to them, read their columns and get some guidance, free of cost. Now with the ever narrowing terrain of human interaction, more professional forms have developed. I also deal with human emotions all the time; comes from my agony aunt status in the hostel I guess. Here I see a pattern and after all these years I still can't see how I am helping.
A long time back, a girl had come to me; she had missed 3 travel opportunities, not far from home, small things that involved trekking, participation in a large scale cultural carnival etc, all because her father thought being a girl, she was vulnerable to hostile elements in the society. After repetitive loss of such opportunities she was angry and defiant, so I offered her the ray of hope;"you are young, you will have better opportunities, your father is just protecting you......blah, blah, blah." I guess I did help her by giving her a dream.
In recent years, I saw another young married woman who was informed by her in laws that she did not need a passport because they would never let their son go abroad while they were alive. She was upset because she had wanted to go out and see the world and her husband had agreed with her before marriage and now he did not wish to deliberate over the issue. I again used the optimistic approach, that her time will come, that she should identify her strengths, and set priorities and when avenues open she will be ready. As a professional, we don't use Paulo coelho's ideas to support people, but the belief that the universe contrives to make our wishes come true helps us become more convincing while dispensing the medicine of optimism.
Now I have another woman, who is frustrated and angry because she cant go alone on a professional tour for a couple of days which may enhance her career profile because no one at home is willing to support her in order to assuage her guilt of leaving a young child; simply put- the child gets upset if the mother leaves and no one tells her ;"do not worry, she will be fine". If I follow the same old optimism charm, its unlikely to work, because I am loosing the belief that the time will come. I do not know if the last two girls found "their time"; I do not know, if this one will. As long as I believed, I could dispense dreams like tablets, pop one before sleep and you will be fine. But doubts are creeping in, am I dispensing placebo- false dreams.
There is a third approach too- the west gives all eastern things a fancy name, so it is called 'the third wave psychology' also reffered variously as Acceptance and Commitment therapy, Relational Frame theory etc. Its basically accepting your limitations and working with in them. I have used it with people with disabilities. But for these woman, bound in the sociocultural matrix of stereotypical roles, isn't accepting their limitation as a woman- stagnation, loss of hopes, dreams , the right to dream. They are mostly career women, they pay bills, children's school fees and their own maintenance, they are also expected to take responsibilities of behaving in a socially befitting manner as regards their dealings with significant elders, relatives, children, friends(whichever they are allowed to keep), and then they break apart and no one is ready to understand. They will be judged, pronounced guilty of being stubborn, inflexible, irresponsible, immature,selfish, non adaptable, difficult- or simply WOMEN.
I saw this highly disgruntled lady some time back, who came to seek answers. I had to let her go because she thought we had a communication gap when I tried to tell her I couldnot give answers, I could only help her to find them for herself. Her foremost question was "do I give up all my dreams because I am married". I did try to understand her circumstances, so I saw her husband several times who was himself miserable in their situation. But I could not help, she was too far gone, lost in her bitterness she could only blame the world. I did not have enough grit to dive into the dark sea of her bitterness projected upon me and find the ray of hope, and so she left.
Its scary, what frustration can do to us. I have brought forward the agonies of women, bound in the roles derived through cultural evolution over ages, unable to break free because of the imbibed moral guard. To protect themselves from the glare, they wear a different eyegear everytime they have to face realities and down the lane, the whole perspective becomes dark and fuzzy. I am sure somewhere this is happening to the men of the generation too. Those couples who work it out together need not see me, for the rest of us, I am still searching the right answers. Till then I will continue to dispense the pill of optimism-"your time will come".

Monday, October 12, 2009

The wonder of BOUNCING

It is amazing how interactions with other individuals can add a new dimension to our thought process. This girl who has below average intellectual abilities starts fighting with another patient outside my chamber, when she comes in for her session, she is upset. She is not able to accept my assertion that she need not fight. She talks of self respect and as I discuss the various interpretations of the terminology she has used, I begin to become aware of its meaning – spontaneously. I start evaluating the difference between one’s own perspective of self as compared to that of others and how it affects the respect for self. I tell her the difference between ego and self respect and realize that I never read about it or even thought about it before today but still I am able to give a concept. Now, as I ponder over it, I have a sudden urge to search the net, to check out how others feel about it. And lo behold, so many have deliberated over the issue before myself and have more or less formed the same concept as I have.
So does that mean that all of us think similarly, or all answers lie within or there is a common unconscious that Jung referred to as the collective unconscious? Well, as I further explore it in my sobriety; I feel these are mere perspectives, perspectives that are derived from common norms and ethics that are part of the common society, perspectives that work for us. This is perhaps the result of the Jean Piaget’s “hypothetico-deductive” thinking we all are supposed to attain by adulthood but all of us don’t; but that is a matter of another perspective.
My friend has just informed me that it is “bouncing off ideas”; i.e. when we find answers while we are discussing them, even asking them. So I will call this column the same. But I just can’t stop being amazed- that the answers lie within and bounce off when we start churning the ideas. Is that metaphorical then, the churning of the sea that led to the rise of all treasures – the vish and the amrit. Before it gets too philosophical and bounces of our heads I’ll pause, still wondering though that if you are thinking what I am then why is there the difference of opinion. May be that is why we all don’t develop the same level of hypothetico-deductive thinking. Let’s leave this discussion for the next time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I have been observing it for quite some time. Mostly in myself. How I just say things that I donot mean but I know it will please the other person. There is nothing wrong in pleasing people; if I can put a smile on their face, which also gives me satisfaction. Then why am I writing about it. I wont write about routine things that didnot bother me. There is the catch- it starts bothering after a while. And you cant start acting otherwise or you prove that you were a liar. But was it really a lie, a gesture that I didnot mean but expressed it because I noted it would make someone happy- there are so many diamensions to a lie or a truth or whatever we might call it before deciding which one of either is it exactly.

This is perhaps the smooth talk we often use in context of sophisticated people. When all that matters is smoothness, avoid conflict, make an encounter pleasant and then get on with one's life. I really wont care much about the impact it had on the other person. What I do care about is letting the moment pass uneventfully. The way we want life to pass, conveniently, without complications. Its a wish that hardly comes true, like most other wishes but no harm done in wishing.

But really, why am I bothered, of avoiding un necessary confllict, of making life less challenging than it already is, of not expressing the real me to suit the life situations. May be that's the problem with Jester's musings while he is called "pseudo". Though which part of us is the 'pseudo' can be left to further musings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Prequel

Was it a dream I lost
Or myself
Somewhere along the way
The time gone by
without leaving a trace
That I could track
In nostalgia
To find again
My dreams

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Re awakening

There was a time when words came easily to the service of thought. Those were easy days, fearless articulation, countless expressions and a new feeling every day. The head full of ideas, heart brimming with passion to explore new territory. And yes, there were dreams and hopes.
There were moments when intensity of emotions led to the rise of poetry- abstract turbulence, abstract expressions. I remember writing everywhere, pieces of paper, strewn around like little emoticons. Words did come easily, got strewn into the thread of ardor and hung around my neck. I was not afraid to show off.
And then one day, just like that I realized that I had lost the free fearless voice. The vocabulary was limited to expressions that made social sense, well oiled, accepted within the norm; rest got lost or buried. They called it maturity. There has been this numbing sensation ever since. I can’t name it. There is nothing wrong with the life I am leading. There are no significant issues, no more dreams to follow, I guess I have got it all, or all that is expected of me. Then why is there the unrest, this sudden shudder that is shaking the soul, awakening the hidden nameless feelings. Only time can tell. So I have started the journey, to find words again - the fearless, free expressions of feelings unknown or dormant. Is this the Re awakening. I do not have an answer yet.
But I hope to find it.