CoVid lockdowns are relaxing, but positive cases continue to climb up mercilessly, especially in Bangalore. One is quite careful to avoid going out as much as possible, and a lot of us are self-isolating at home. This act of self-care and social responsibility is not a noble act or anything like that, but just common sense and self preservation that is playing out. We all should be doing that, but we also see in the media and in real life that not everyone is holding up the social etiquette that is demanded in these times. Half the people on the streets are wearing their masks below their nose, many wear the mask but pull it off when they need to sneeze or cough, or worse still, if they feel like they need to clear their throat and let fly a glob of their snot on to the street somewhere. We see people wandering around without much of social distancing, and milling around.
A lot of people are getting really angry and quite agitated with all these happening around them and feeling the powerlessness and helplessness that goes with that. There is much anger and frustration building up amongst those bearing for themselves the burdens of safety and hygiene. It is exacerbated in these trying situations, but even under ordinary circumstances, we see that anger and frustration that we experience with the world around us staying with us much of the time. It might be from things we notice in the workplace, on the streets, in government offices, in social circumstances - pretty much anywhere, really. Given the power differentials and how we as a culture, find it hard to speak truth to power, there is just so much that is being bottled up.
Where does all that anger go?
The only place that all this bottled-up negativity and pain finds some expression - at home, and often, the expression of this rage is at the cost of the most vulnerable people at home, be it children, the elderly, the people without independent economic means, the dependent partner and the such. For far too long, well-intentioned elders would advice the suffering partner and the children, “This poor creature is out in the world facing all sorts of harshness, and if we can help them get some relief, then so be it!” Children are shushed and told to behave lest anger finds a soft target in them. Food given great attention to, lest plates and food go flying in fits of anger.
We are told to accept bad behaviour as just “angry behaviour,” and sometimes, in perverse ways, we are coached to accept such behaviour and violence as even a show of love.
Should love be making space, cushioning and holding all this anger brought into its space from outside? Is being a punching bag love’s labour?
The answer is a clear and emphatic No. Love is not a dumping ground for anger, and any attempts to paint it so, needs to be called out for the toxicity that it is.
As written for The New Indian Express
Imagine the worst fight you have had with the love of your life. You may have been screaming at each other, maybe came close to being violent – hopefully, stopped well short of it, and you may have continued on and on for hours if not days. Maybe you made up, maybe you decided the fight wasn’t worth it. Maybe you just let time heal and let other things become important enough so that the fight no longer mattered.
The point is this: How do you know a fight has ended?
The challenge for many couples is that when they stop fighting, one party might believe the fight is over, while the other might just believe they have taken a pause in the fight – an interval in a long movie, just to attend to some other things, and the fight has been marked as “To Be Continued.” If it is the latter, then on another day and time, it might join yet another fight to snowball into a much bigger deal than either fights by themselves. Of course, it becomes a really big, ugly deal if both parties to the fight are in the “To Be Continued” mode – then, the interval could be really short, and each break becomes shorter than the previous one.
As more “To Be Continued” fights pile up like a bed-side library full of books that one has never completed, it is more than likely one day to topple over and crush you. As the pile increases, there is less and less faith that anything will ever get resolved. Soon, there is either a giving up and an uncaring attitude, or there is an active rage that throws out everything, or it becomes an irritation in itself and there are fights about fights. And then fights about that.
To continue with that image of a pile of unread books, what would it be like if couples could pick up a book now and then to see if they want to really finish it now, or do they want to clear the clutter? Imagine yourself doing it quite literally for all the incomplete things in your life, be it books, or those shows that are left at 40% seen on NetFlix, or those half done craft projects in your closet. If you really took stock, how much of the clutter would you keep? How much would you clear away?
My bet would be that you would probably find that there are a lot that you simply grew out of and that you just don’t want any more. Maybe a few that you want to keep for later, and maybe one or two that you really cared about and find that you want to attend to right away.
So, what would happen if you actually kept an active roster of open issues? A journal exclusively for all these “To Be Continued” fights that you are having with your loved one? Could it help you let go, and yet hold on to what is really important?
As written for and published in the New Indian Express
Ever noticed how people in love call each other ‘honey’ and 'sweetie'? There is hardly any reference to other tastes. Occasionally, we might see a reference to a hot chilli or a spicy pepper, but that is more about sexiness and attraction rather than feelings of love itself. And no, it isn’t yet another western notion that has come to India. People in India have been calling their lovers ‘laddoo,’ ‘jilebi’ and what not. I haven’t heard anybody call their sweet-heart ‘mysore-pak’ or ‘kaaju katli’ but someone out there probably does use these terms for their loved one. A ‘paal payasam’ or a ‘kheer’ might be stretching it, but other more solid sweets – there is probably a person high on love somewhere calling out to the object of their affection with what could be the menu card of their local mithai wallah.
When we are not sweetening it, we are quite likely babying it. Babe, baby, coochie-pie, kutti, kanna and every other thing that we last called a cousin’s 6 month old.
What is it about love and sweetness and cuteness? What makes us become a melting pot of sweet, gooey chocolate when loving some one? Why do we go on and on with sweet nothings ?
Are all these terms just empty calories that is going to fatten up the person, or is there anything actually nourishing to the soul about these sweet endearments that make us use them?
It really shouldn’t be a surprise, but it turns out that we are all suckers for the kind of desire that the sweet words imply. When our loved one addresses us with the sweet endearments that show us we are special to them, we react with a specialness as well. Often times, even without realising that we have kinda softened, we reciprocate in some similar fashion. We may not use the sweet words ourselves, but we might be paying a bit more attention to them, feel a bit less hostile or angry, be less agitated or upset.
Try it out next time you are having a fight with your beloved. For the first couple of times, have the argument using only their given name through the whole fight. No pet names. No sweet terms. No terms of endearment. Just see how long it goes and how bad it gets before you both work it out. Observe yourself, and observe your partner. A few days later, when you have the opportunity again (and I am sure there will be) use your pet names for them, use the terms of endearment, the sweet talk – and observe again what happens to the fight. Are you fighting as hard or as bitterly? Does it go on for as long? Are you both more willing to make up, or less so? Just notice what happens.
For the everyday conflicts, I would bet that fights where you remember to use your sweet somethings (and mean it) are shorter, less harsh, and more easy to recover from.So, go on. Use those endearments.
As written for and published by The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.