In one of my favourite movies, at the start of the movie, our hero is with his lover, who after a whole day’s romancing and after the inevitable outcome of all that, as they hang around in bed together, asks, “Do you know what you could do to improve?” Our hero, still flush from his exertions, smiles indulgently and asks, “What do you think I should improve?” expecting some sweet romantic nothing. “Your obliques. Right now, you are flabby. You really should work on it.”
They split up soon enough, and as movies go, our hero meets another person and again a whole lot of romance later, the scene repeats itself. This time when the question comes, our hero warily asks, “What?” to hear this time, “Nothing at all. You are perfect as you are!” At the movie hall, a collective “Aww” went up, leaving everyone feeling warm and mushy.
That’s the movies for us. In real life, often it can be quite another story. When someone tells us we are perfect as we are, we often think they don’t know what they are talking about. They are blinded in love, or are saying sweet lies just to get you hooked. Or worse, that they are really undermining you - this person actually wants you to be unattractive to others and therefore is saying you are already perfect, so that you don’t work on yourself, don’t get better and they get to keep you forever.
We are often unable to take a real loving compliment because we just don’t love ourselves enough. We see our imperfections a lot more and so we can’t accept it when someone loves us enough as we are and are brave enough to say that we are actually quite ok.
It isn’t our fault, really. For the most part of our lives we are told to aspire to higher and higher standards of looks, fitness, academics, employment, art and every other aspect of human life. We are not just told that, we are actively told that we will be lovable only when we attain and maintain those standards. Like in the movie I am talking about - if the first lover’s words hit our hero hard, he might not be able to take the second lover’s overtures, and instead of pulling into a grateful, loving embrace, he might quickly say bye and hit the gym, wondering if those obliques he had built up had thawed back into gentle love handles.
We want our lover to be a source of motivation, of strength and support in “becoming the best version of me,” and yet, we also hold the entirely opposite of “I want to be loved as I am.”
Which is it? On the face of it, they seem such opposite things.What if the answer is something different: Can we love ourselves as imperfect, striving people? Can we then allow ourselves to be loved by imperfect people as imperfect people, all striving together?
Perhaps, that is what is really love.
( As written for The New Indian Express)
Here's a #veryshortstories to start with:
"When they announced free counselling for everyone for any issues at the office, I was very hopeful. I have been really wanting to talk to someone for a while, but never knew how to find someone I can trust. I passed by the counsellor's office for many weeks, contemplated knocking on that door. Sometimes, I almost did, but every time my hand went up a voice in my head would say "What if they don't understand? What if my manager or team got to know?", and I would walk away.
But today was different. I really felt the need to talk after the incidents of last week, where my makeup kit fell out of my bag as the whole team looked on. I thought I was quick to cover it up by saying my sister must have put this in my bag, and laughed it off. But I have this strange feeling where I feel I am being watched closely. I'm cautious of the way I walk, talk and dress - but why are these people still staring at me? Do they suspect anything?
So, I risked it. As I slowly open up to my counsellor, I start feeling that they are not getting me. "I am gay," I clarify, assuming that as counsellors they would be OK, but they freeze. "Why do you feel the need to bring that sort of behaviour to office? Don't you think that's calling for it?:" I leave as soon as I can - I cannot trust them, and cannot work here anymore."
When organisations institute counselling support, there is still a need for ensuring that they are capable, and that their partners can really support all their employees.
Watch this Diversity Dialogue to undertand how an EAP provider can partner with an organization in building inclusion. #inclusion #lgbtiqa #mentalhealth #diversitydialogues
now that the academic year has restarted in right earnest, as classmates get back into their groups, many are discovering that in the few weeks that people have been away, somehow, quite magically, so many have coupled up. People suddenly have boyfriends and girlfriends, or are seeing someone though they haven’t labelled anything yet or are just chatting.
If you are one of those that didn’t get coupled up, and haven’t yet for a few years though everyone is coupled up around you, h probably have mixed-up feelings about it. Your best friend barely has time for you, and when you do meet up, all you get to hear is about the lover and no real interest in your part of the story. Even if you say you got into your dream college, you might get a “That’s so great! I am so happy for you!” before segueing back into talking about the special someone. You look around and you notice everyone around seems to be interested only in hanging out with their sweethearts, and when you get invited or tag along anyway, you get quite conscious of being the third-wheel that it gets tiresome.
Sometimes, you even have fights with your BFF over how little your friendship seems to means now, and you say hurtful things like ‘Did you ever even like me? Was I just a stopgap till you found someone?’ There are cycles of feeling upset, fighting, crying, making up, and again feeling distant. You are good for about two days before it is back to the same old pattern. It is a mess.
Being single never feels as much of an issue as it is when surrounded by coupled up people.
While for most, it is a mere annoyance and a change in social circumstances that need some adjusting to, for some, it can become really, really painful as they tell themselves that they have somehow got left behind, that they ought to have been coupled up as well and that they now are not good enough. Meeting someone and becoming a couple gets treated as if it is a race, or a competitive exam and not being paired up becomes a social nightmare. There is an urgency to then meet someone, and more often than not, the urgency leads to less than great choices, and that leads to cycles of its own misery, including breakups and patchups, neither because you really want the person, but because “something is better than nothing.”
If you really question that idea, you’d probably hear a more rational voice saying something is definitely not better than nothing when it comes to these matters. Being by yourself is not nothing, and just being coupled up is not something special and can even be something horrible.
What we need is to respect that if people are coupling up, that’s fine – we each have our own life paths. It is not a race.
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Happy anniversary, InnerSight!
This week, InnerSight is six years old, based on its official registration.
The last year saw us consolidate and grow, and we are glad that the growth is in terms of our conviction in our ethical practice of counseling, and our ability to bring those principles into all the other related work we do such as our corporate work, our diversity and inclusion work and work we do with communities and educational spaces.
We are especially glad for all our counselors across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and hopefully, soon in other places too, who share our goal of Affordable and Affirmative Counselling.
Thank you to all our clients, friends and partners for this wonderful journey. You give us the strength in our conviction.
Choosing whether and when to say 'I love you' or waiting to say 'I love you too' can be such a frustrating problem for any of us. How do you decide?
Here's what we have to say on the subject:
PS: If you are a grammar nazi and correct the 'I love you too' to 'I too love you,' be warned. The love may no longer be reciprocated.
Sabotaging is to deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something. Now, imagine doing this yourself that to your self, diligently, day in and day out year after year. That's some serious self-sabotaging.
It is not that we are consciously choosing to sabotage ourselves. It happens as if it is an automatic program, a program that got embedded in childhood, a non-stop tape inside our heads that constantly speaks to us in a voice that tells us what's 'wrong' with us, why we cannot succeed despite working hard and how things will never be any different. It is a program that tells us we are not OK, and it keeps getting reinforced till it becomes so scary for us to come close to actually tasting real success, or find our true potential, that we scuttle our chances, we sabotage ourselves so that the 'I knew I couldn't get it' program can win, yet again
What constitutes self-sabotaging behaviour ?
The self-sabotaging stems from a firm belief that we are undeserving of love, unworthy of victory, incapable of achieving goals and with every successive 'I told you so' the belief hardens and this in turn reduces our ability to achieve what we want. With every failed attempt, we are proving ourselves that we are incapable of being good at anything. Seeking success of any kind makes our this program kick in, and we start anticipating failure, pain and emotional hurt.
To try and protect ourselves from this anticipated pain, we do something or get into behaviours that make it impossible to even attempt and certainly difficult to succeed. That's self-sabotaging behaviour. Self-sabotaging in that sense comes from a need of self-preservation. We create something that can take the blame for the failure. We now have a reason for why something didn’t work out. Our failures therefore are not a result of incompetence but an outcome of choosing some other thing, or an act of nature or just plain bad luck.
Sometimes, self-sabotaging behaviour comes across as simple forgetfulness ('Oh, dang! I forgot my cell phone. Now, I just cannot call her to ask for a date.') or procrastination. At other times, it can even seem altruistic and magnanimous - like giving to a competitor your key insights and work products. It can get really dangerous as well - like the dancer who literally breaks a leg for fear of getting on that stage, or the lover who deliberately cheats because this relationship is getting serious. Over the long term, such instances of self-sabotage can become patterns of really harmful behaviour: self-medicating, substance abuse and other ways of self-harm, and that can really be a challenge
Depression is a state of hopelessness. It is a hopelessness about oneself as much as about the world.
When depressed, everything can seem pointless and too much of effort, because one's critical mind mistakenly reasons that everything is doomed, nothing will ever be right and anyway it all falls apart. The brain is in a loop of ever deepening negativity, a whirlpool that sucks the hapless soul into black pits of nothingness. Happy thoughts and motivation struggle to swim against it, and often it is just a sinking feeling. There is a constant loop of negative thoughts, self-defeating beliefs and mood is depressed.
Even as we look at depression as a mood and thought disorder, at another level, it is an issue of love and compassion, for both oneself and the world around. Part of depression, when deeper, seems almost like punishing oneself. It is like a dictator has taken over the land, and is ruthlessly putting down every good thing - the hard, critical voice takes over and churns out unloving, uncompassionate messages that sap one's ability to believe in positivity, in people, and the world around them. That difficulty in experiencing self-love and self-compassion erodes esteem and confidence, setting into motion vicious cycles of self erosion.
Getting through depression requires attention to defeat these critical beliefs and thoughts at the first level, but it requires something more - it needs us to start being able to love, start to again be compassionate, and as the saying goes love is needed most when it seems to be deserved the least.
When our depressed brain tells us we aren't worthy, the world isn't worthy, that's when we need the love the most. In our quest to fight depression, let's be conscious that this isn't a war on depression. No weapons of mass destruction are needed. No aggression. We aren't fighting. We don't need battle armour and sharp, hard objects, or explosives. We need weapons of thought monitoring and whole lot of love and compassion.
We need to teach all our children and talk to all of them with comfort and confidence on sex, sexuality and body, about consent and privacy, so that the world moves away from the stifling silences around these topics and the harm they perpetuate. Ajanta De and Enfold speak with TheNewsMinute
I suppose there is a big difference between making movies about therapy for an audience used to the idea of psychotherapy and counselling, and one which has largely been fed with histrionics and exaggeration of anything to do with mental health. Which is why, perhaps, there is such a large difference between how a movie like ‘Prime’ (Starring the amazing Meryl Streep and the awesome Uma Thurman) deal with the humanness of the therapist, and what Dear Zindagi does for us here in India, with the first introduction to the ‘DD’ being through a conference of sorts where the basic questions are asked: What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counsellor? Is this for ‘crazy’ people? (We have some answers in our FAQ)
There is much to appreciate in Dear Zindagi on how it approaches the subject of therapy, starting with the wonderfully nuanced declaration by the movie’s token gay character – that he is in therapy so that he can be comfortable to tell himself that he is gay. A lot of other therapy biggies get covered too – that the sessions have a time limit, for instance and that it is paid for (INR 3,000 per session, in the movie). It also covers transference, with the client wondering if she ‘like likes’ the therapist and asking if they could meet for a coffee, and for me, more than all that it was the simple and clear message that some of one’s present-day troubles, be it at relationships or work, can be from unhelpful learned patterns from the past, and that one can recover from it and grow.
Maybe I am picking nits, and I should just be grateful that this degree of realism was granted and I am grateful for that, but I do have some nits to pick. To start with, before I get to the nits, I guess I should take the pinch of salt the movie offered at the outset: the therapist declares himself very early on that he is in some sense, eclectic, that he follows the rules he chooses, and is flexible about others – and it was great to see that some of the basic rules do get maintained such as time, money, and some social boundaries.
So, the nits: At the very basic level, I do wish the therapist’s place was a lot less fancy and glamorous. I wonder if it might seem that therapy is only a rich person’s vanity, a luxury that rich kids of indulgent parents can afford.
There is so much other flexibility the therapist gives himself that made me question if that’s ok – like the sessions on the beach and on cycles, and once on a boat with lots of other people in hearing distance, all of that without much of a check-in on the what-fors and wherefores, so much of personal disclosure of the therapist’s own personal life (At one point, I wondered if the movie was veering towards the therapist manipulating the client into a relationship with the unusual sharing of one’s divorced/ single status and stories of child custody), a more-than-usual physical proximity with the client right from the get-go, and to top all that, an abrupt closure initiated by the therapist while using eye-drops that just didn’t feel right.
There are other nits too, but let’s face it: at the end of the day, this is a Bollywood movie. I am grateful that this much happened, and that there is a bit more conversation about therapy and counselling in India, a bit more curiosity, and hopefully, it sets us on a road of greater acceptance of personal therapeutic work.
Thank you, Gauri Shinde for Dear Zindagi, warts and all.
Parenting, especially in the present context, is a high-pressure job, and because it is so unique, there is really no handbook or manual that one can refer to for insyructions. If you take a look at much of the information on parenting, the focus most often is on the child. However, research indicates that there are many reasons for us to look inward and understand ourselves as people if our goal is to become a better parent.
We often project our critical feelings about ourselves on to our children. The ambivalent attitudes we have toward our children are simply a reflection of the ambivalent attitudes we have toward ourselves .
All people are conflicted in the sense that they have feelings of warm self-regard as well as feelings of self-depreciation. Therefore, it is not surprising that parents would extend these same contradictory attitudes toward their child.
Parents' attitudes toward their children are a by-product of their fundamental conflicts and ambivalence toward themselves. It is not uncommon for parents to disown their self-critical attitudes and negative self-image by projecting them onto their child. As a result, children begin to see themselves through a negative filter, which may stay with them throughout their lives. But if we look into ourselves and understand where our self-critical attitudes and self-attacks come from, we are likely to have more compassion for ourselves and our children.
How often have you caught yourself saying the same things that you mom or dad said to you? Most parents have the experience, most often when reprimanding a child, of suddenly hearing themself say the same critical statement that their parent said to them. The reality is that, parenting style is often reenacted.
If you feel that this is something you would like to change, then you will need to be open to revisiting that time in your life. Acknowledge how it felt when you were the child at the receiving end. With awareness, you will then be able to offer the warmth, affection, love, and the sensitive guidance necessary for your child's well-being.
As a parent, you are a role model – the first and probably the one with the most impact. Psychologists have found that children really do as parents do, not as they say. The processes of identification and imitation overshadow any statements, rules, and prescriptions for good behavior. Children develop behaviors through observing their parents in day-to-day life. The fact that our children are looking to us to see how to be is enough of a reason for us to focus on our own development as a person.
The bottom line here is that perfect kids and perfect parents do not exist. Parenting is a learn-as-you-go thing. We all make mistakes or do some things that we regret, or that are ineffective for our kids. That’s okay. The great thing is that tomorrow is a new day, and we can forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and move on.
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.