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".