Sunday, 18 March 2018

Seize the Day!!!: T2 Article dated 18th March, 2018

There are two ways in which we can be trapped in the past. First is when we are so enamoured of our past achievements or so traumatised by our tragedies that we stay frozen in that time, rather than attending to the present.
The other is when we start living in a fantasy world created by us. This world is all about what could have been if things had happened differently. Like how easy life would have been if we had the perfect job, or how nice things might have been if we had approached the girl/ guy we fancied back in college. This kind of living ' in the past ' also robs us of our skills, mental availability, efficiency and peace of mind in the present.
Then there are others among us whose minds can be constantly flitting from the present to the future. We think faraway, have grand goals and get so absorbed in visualising the outcome of our choice that we don ' t even stop to think what the road to that goal might look like! That in order to achieve our target, there are smaller steps to be taken in the here and now. If we are too focused on something that might happen in the future, we miss all the opportunities that are there in the present moment.
The other flip side of this is that we keep obsessively worrying about the future. So many of us use up so much of our time and energy imagining the worst possible things that could happen to us or our loved ones. Not only that, we put in a lot of effort inventing ways to avoid or solve those situations too.
The result? We are least productive in taking action in the present situation.


Can ' carpe diem ' — or the idea ' seize the day ' — be a remedy for our troubles? That seems to be the philosophy that popular culture is obsessed with of late, and the self- help industry is making the most of it too, but let 's try and understand what it means.
The Oxford English Dictionaries describes carpe diem as "to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future". The popular Latin aphorism is also often equated with the arguably misinterpreted and debatable Charvaka couplet in Sanskrit: " Enjoy every moment of life as long as you live. Even if you need to borrow money, always ensure that you are well- fed. " But " just enjoying the moment " while ignoring everything else and " being present in the moment " are two very different things.
Conceptually and in practice, they are diametrically opposite.
The modern- day idea of carpe diem is a stance where we are constantly looking for pleasure; we want excitement and ecstasy all the time. When we try hard to make every single moment pleasurable, it disconnects us from the totality of that moment. So we tend to pick the ' truths ' that are comfortable for us and ignore those that are not. Which actually amounts to turning a blind eye to reality.
The Roman poet Horace first used the phrase ' carpe diem ' to urge people to take action in the present moment in order to build a better future.
Even Charvaka, for whatever little could be retrieved and decoded, taught people to take action based on objectivity, rather than lofty metaphysical ideas about afterlife and karma.
In their teachings, both advocated an action- oriented, awareness- based living, so that one could be more available in the moment.


Then, what is living in the moment? Well, it is an approach of inclusion, where you take in both the good and the bad — whatever it is that the moment offers. In the real sense, living in the moment is an invitation to be completely aware, awake, and available in the current moment.
When we are present, we are aware of our surroundings, the people around us, and we are aware of ourselves. We are also aware of the situation we are in and what we are feeling at that moment — pleasant, unpleasant or nothing in particular. We try to remain as non- judgemental as possible and assess all of it with a sense of calm.
Here, we look at everything with a certain degree of objectivity. We look at ourselves and others as a whole, and take a measure of our limitations as well as our potential, objectively. We try to see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, with kindness, and work on them without being self- critical or ashamed.
Such a perspective also lets us look at our strengths and use them appropriately, without feeling proud or arrogant. We also remain connected to others and ourselves. This stance needs us to be acutely mindful of ' what is ' and it helps us to face life situations even if they are uncomfortable. So, we make rational decisions, instead of rushing into something, swept by a tide of emotions. And we can look at the present moment as part of a continuum, not as an isolated dot in time. Here, we are centred and collected in the present, while remaining connected to our past and aware of the possibilities that lie in the future.
It allows us to learn from our past mistakes and experiences, and assimilate the learnings in the present. So we can prepare to put our best foot forward.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta 
are medical practitioners and practising psychotherapists. They are trained Family and Structural Constellation leaders

Monday, 11 December 2017

Acceptance: Fact of Life :T2 Article dated 10th Dec'2017

There are three musts that hold us back: 
I must do well. 
You must treat me well. 
And the world must be easy 

— American psychologist Albert Ellis

What we do not realise is that often what's coming in the way of our happiness is our list of 'musts'. How do we overcome these? 
One of the ways is by being mindful of our own 'musts'. 
This can be done by- 
  • Observing our emotions, such as "I am irritated at myself for not being happy as I must always be happy". 
  • Being aware of the talk that goes on in our head, like " I must be perfect at all times "...
  • Watching our reactions to situations, such as " If things don ' t go the way I want them to, I feel pissed off". As we become conscious of these, we also need to develop flexibility, kindness and acceptance towards ourselves and others.


Acceptance can mean different things, depending on the context.
Psychologically speaking, one can say it's the ability to experience or acknowledge life as it is. Being in denial of certain facts of reality or running away from a particular situation is the opposite of acceptance.
To be mentally healthy and functional, one needs to practise some degree of acceptance. Studies on acceptance at the workplace by Prof Frank Bond and his colleagues at the University of London have shown that individuals with higher acceptance levels have better mental agility, better mental health and better job performance.


We experience life in two ways. One is our external experience — of life situations and events that include our interactions with people, our health and our work. These are things that we can only partially control or sometimes have no control over at all.
And then there is the internal experience — our reactions and responses to these events and situations, and the emotions we feel as a result. These are the things that we can change or control.
Many of us tend to think that acceptance means we have to accept the external experience only and can overlook our internal experience. Well, the internal experience, in fact, is more important in the long run and also easier to regulate.

In life, some things just happen out of the blue. You're waiting at the signal and a car rams into your car from behind. While you can do little about the fact that it has happened, brooding over it might be counterproductive. You ' re not able to undo the damage done to your car, but by accepting it you can at least reduce your own suffering and may be calm enough to take necessary action, like lodging a police complaint and claiming insurance.

Then there are life situations that are difficult to come to terms with easily or quickly, like failing an important exam, losing a job, or a loved one passing away. It is important to identify and acknowledge our feelings and accept them the way they are. We can allow ourselves to feel the loss, and mourn or grieve it. If we are sad, angry or hurt, we can learn to acknowledge and accept these feelings too. It is absolutely all right to feel hurt, angry or sad in such contexts. And being okay with our own emotions sometimes helps us to be at peace quickly. 
This kind of acceptance means that neither are we justifying and brooding over our feelings, nor are we judging, rejecting or suppressing them.


Many tend to confuse psychological acceptance as giving up, or not being proactive, or as if it ' s the end of life. That is not what acceptance is.
Let ' s say, you have shared something in confidence with a friend and they have gone ahead and disclosed it to others. Then it is possible that you may feel angry, hurt, betrayed or let down.
Acceptance, in this case, would mean first accepting your own emotions and that it is okay to feel this way.
Next would be to accept the flaw in your friend — that contrary to your expectation, he/ she is not a person who can keep a secret. First, acceptance can help you reconcile with the situation and second, it can help you take a proactive stand of either communicating calmly to your friend about how you felt, or making sure that you do not share your secrets with this friend in the future.


Accepting one's life as it is is an important first step to actually changing the things you want to change. If a student wants to score 95 percent in the board exams, the first thing she has to do is identify her skill set and accept her shortcomings. If she ' s someone who can ' t sit down to study for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, she needs to acknowledge that drawback and make a plan factoring in this aspect.
Maybe she can take a short break every half an hour, with a reminder to herself that she needs to get back to study after that. And once she is able to do that, she can also try some concentration exercises to train her mind to sit in one place and focus on what she ' s studying for a longer period.
One of the most important things to factor in when setting a goal is knowing one's skill set — the strengths as well as the weaknesses and accepting them as parts of you.


Acceptance of things needs us to be more mindful, which in turn can help us be more focused and goal- oriented.
Acceptance- based treatments have shown to help people with chronic pain, anxiety, inability to quit smoking, high- stress jobs and burnout. This may be due to the fact that as we become more accepting, we might not feel the need to avoid situations that cause us distress; we become open to seeking out new opportunities. This may lead to fewer negative thoughts and higher productivity.
For example, X may not apply for a new job because he's scared of being rejected.But Y, because he ' s okay being rejected and can take it in his stride, might apply for the job and land it too! 
Again, a businessman who's suffered a financial loss might feel very disheartened and dejected initially. But if he cannot accept this situation and his emotions at some point, he might end up feeling like a victim and lose out on other opportunities to turn his business around.

People often fear that by accepting, one is compromising. That is not true. However, at times, we tend to use acceptance to disguise our laziness, fears or our desire to not do a particular thing.
Sometimes our mind feigns acceptance and makes us remain averse to a situation. That is passivity, rather than acceptance.
That is why we need to be honest with ourselves about our true emotions; we need to be aware and mindful of what we are feeling.
When one is more accepting, it ' s possible that our priorities and drives change. Things that didn't matter may become important, while those that meant a lot may not seem so anymore. When this happens, our ' musts ' don ' t hold us back anymore and we are free.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta 
Medical practitioners and practising psychotherapists.
They are trained Family and Structural Constellation leaders 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Happiness Part 2: Happiness in larger scheme: T2 (Telegraph India) article dated 12 Nov' 2017

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do...

Pharrell Williams has got it spot on in those four lines of his Happy song. We are genuinely happy when we know what we want to do, when we find our place in the greater picture and feel like a room without a roof. So how do we get there and what are the detours that we usually take? 
We try many different ways to ensure our place in the larger scheme of things. For example, when we chase money, often we are not chasing money per se. If we look closely, we may find that in the garb of chasing money, we are chasing our idea of happiness because somewhere we have decided, quite arbitrarily, that money would give us something more than comfort and luxury (which money anyway provides). It could be power, social status, recognition or fame that we feel money can get us and make us happy.
Why do we want power or social status? The answer we may get within us could be, because we need adulation, validation and respect. What will that give us? Well, perhaps, people will listen to us, see us, value us, and as a result, we will feel connected, we will feel we belong. So though we may start chasing money strategically to feel validated, deeper inside it is actually the need to connect, to belong, to find our place that drives us. And we are usually unaware of these unconscious motives.


Freud and other later psychoanalysts have talked about the two contradictory drives that humans have in them ---- one is Eros, the life force which makes us go out there and connect with others; the other is the ‘death drive’, the desire to withdraw and be isolated. It is now widely accepted that the isolation part helps us as much as the connecting part. 
The key to happiness lies in striking a balance between these two seemingly opposite forces: reaching out to others and then coming back to our own self. This balance can be achieved by practising centredness. How? To start with, when we engage with the world, we need to let go of our hidden agenda to establish our value by dominance, control, or being proud. We need to go out there as a self-assured person; we don’t depend on others to make us happy. And when we withdraw within, we need to drop our judgements -- neither should we judge ourselves through other people's eyes, nor should we judge others by our standards and understanding of a context. When we are focused within, it’s important that we don’t become so self-absorbed that we forget about others. We need to assume a balanced stance where we are not dependent on others to define us and our happiness and yet we feel a sense of belonging and feel happy. 


The self-help industry today is big on the ‘think positive’ mantra, which is most often interpreted as getting whatever one wishes for. ‘You think positive and it will happen.’ Well, it doesn’t always happen that way. And the very demand that ‘things should go the way I want them' is actually the cause of much of our unhappiness and worry.  
Sometimes things are going to happen that will not be in our control. The positivity is in how we approach the situation. It’s when we ask ourselves, ‘how can I make the best out of this situation?’ 'What else does this situation or experience mean to me?', 'What do I learn here, and can I develop any strength from it?', 'What are the opportunities it presents?' When we take the lows in our stride and do not discard the experiences, that is when we are being positive. 
It is important to accept that not everything is in our control and life pans out the way it does. We often tend to think that being a realist or seeing the whole picture means being negative. Well, the fact that one can see the negative in any situation means that one has the ability to recognise, anticipate, discern and analyse and may be, even take action to avoid such a situation! It is a laudable quality to have. Otherwise, if we cocoon ourselves in our comfort zone and completely shut ourselves to anything that is a little difficult, we will forever stay in our illusional bubble without picking up any life skills.


The discontent that we feel can give us much scope for growth. Realising that something is not working for us, we find ways to get around it. Not being in a great state can, also, at times be very creative. Some of the most brilliant art, music and literature have been produced when people were not in a happy frame of mind. Even when a situation is not according to our liking, there is still peace in it. We can do something about it without being hyper or desperate about it. We need to be aligned to the idea that something may not work out the way we wanted it to despite our best efforts.
It may sound counter-intuitive at first but we don’t always have to be all right to be happy. The cyclical ups and downs are part of life. There will always be things that we will like and things we will not like, and therefore there will always be things that will make us happy and things that will make us unhappy, for the moment.
The idea is to look at things wholesomely, being grateful for what we have and rise above what we don't, to learn from negatives and to gather strength and be resilient. It’s about cultivating the subtle ‘enoughness’ within, irrespective of the situation, yet being ready for the next moment wholeheartedly to test our skills and put our best foot forward without being complacent. 
It’s again about a fine balance between staying fully engaged with the process itself and not getting too obsessed with the outcome. It is like being in the ‘flow’ with life itself. And for that very reason, we may need to stop chasing happiness like a distant mirage, and instead engage with life, playfully. It might also be necessary to drop our ideas of how it ‘should be', how things ‘must be’ and we may also have to stop trying to manipulate life and instead look at it friendlily.

Happiness is an experience of being engaged and yet being at peace in the situation we are in. If you are there already, clap along!

 Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta 
are medical practitioners and practising psychotherapists.
They are trained Family and Structural Constellation Facilitators.

Happiness Part 1: What Happiness Is: Are you happy? T2 (Telegraph India) article dated 3rd September 2017


One thing most people will agree on is that we all want to be happy. The problem is, we often don't know how to be happy or what makes us happy. What is happiness, after all? Sometimes, we are happy when we feel pleasure. Sometimes, a restless mind is happy when it experiences a certain feeling of 'rest', or peace, or solace. We also feel happy when we are grateful, or in awe of something, or simply humbled by an experience, or when we laugh over something, especially with friends and family. The emotions are so diverse that each one of us has our own definition of happiness.

What is important to understand is that happiness does not mean never experiencing negative emotions — pain, sadness and even anger are also important feelings. When we suffer an irrevocable loss like the death of a loved one, being sad is natural. We all need to know what sadness is, but having that experience doesn't take away our ability to be happy, neither does it make us unhappy as a person. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In order to have sustainable happiness, we perhaps need space to engage with other kinds of emotions as well.
June Gruber, a psychologist at Yale University, has shown in her research that having excessive positive emotions, or fervently seeking positive emotions all the time, or even expressing positive emotions in the wrong context is associated with being at risk for mania: a psychiatric disorder.
And at University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Dacher Keltner has discovered that pride — one of our often sought- after positive emotions — is easily confused with being in an excessively happy state, which can actually make us unhappy in the long run.
Pride can give us all the euphoric certainty that we perhaps long for in ourselves with a desired sense of confidence and well- being.
Dacher has shown that when one has too much pride or is seeking
pride too frequently, he or she is actually suffering socially, in the long run, creating a really unhappy state. Too much pride makes one come across as conceited or somehow inaccessible.

We often think we can be happy... .. only when our needs and desires are met .. when we are satisfied every moment with how things are going .. when we feel pleasure all the time Well, we can't function that way. The constant euphoric state is not normal, neither is it normal to expect that things will or should always go as we want. These, ' only when', ' every moment', ' all the time' are not practical contexts for happiness. We need to look at happiness from a broader perspective and as a realistic, wholesome experience.


According to positive psychology thinkers, we can divide happiness into three categories. First is the pursuit of pleasure, which is short- lived. It is what we get when we buy a new car or have a bar of chocolate. It's a hedonistic sense of quenching the desire. The problem is, often the same object which is made accessible loses its ability to give us the same pleasure time and again. Next is a more subtle form of happiness — the happiness of flow. Flow is when we are content and fully engaged in doing something, like when we are painting or dancing, when, perhaps, we even tend to lose track of time.  In the happiness of flow, contentment comes from being fully engaged in doing something, such as a Sufi dancer whirling in a trance. Here, one is not focused on the outcome, one is not trying to create a great piece of work; one is just enjoying the process, fully engaged. The happiness of flow is more sustainable and fulfilling than the happiness derived from the pursuit of pleasure.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of Claremont Graduate University has extensively contributed to the understanding and use of this phenomenon of 'flow' in creating a more resilient state of happiness.
According to him, we can train ourselves to experience flow often and, as a result, be happy.
The third kind is the happiness of meaning. We experience this when we feel we have a meaningful life or a purpose in life. We all want to be a part of or be connected to something bigger than us; be relevant in the bigger scheme of life. We want to contribute to a larger cause. This is a way of affirming ' I am', beyond mortality. Doing something meaningful, according to our own ideas of ' meaning', can make us feel connected to society at large or humanity itself and create a sense of belonging. Being a parent, being a part of a community, attending Sunday meetings or group prayers, participating in festivals, supporting our favourite soccer club, joining a cause.... All these are perhaps ways of being a part of the collective.
We also have a sense of touching something larger than life and hence connected to something bigger when we experience awe, for example, when we are awed by nature or see a great piece of art. We also feel this, humbling feeling, though more subtly but more intimately, while actively contributing and adding value to something beyond our own selves. This feeling is altruistic in nature and also humbling at the same time. This is the most fulfilling and long-lasting form of happiness.
Loving-kindness meditation or 'act of kindness practice' has been clinically proven to be of help in cases like depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and anxiety — perhaps because these tools and practices help us nurture the feeling of meaningfulness by contributing to a larger identity.
Ultimately, we are all trying to be at peace with ourselves, so that we can feel good. In a way, we all are seeking assurance that we matter in the larger scheme of things.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta 

are medical practitioners and practising psychotherapists.
They are trained Family and Structural Constellation Facilitator

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What's the real story beneath your emotions: T2 article dated 10th April 2016

Emotions, when suppressed and not given proper attention, have a funny way of expressing themselves. We are often deceived by them.
To understand our emotions and tackle them, we need to be patient and transparent with our feelings. Our judgements towards these emotions push them to hide behind some 'justified emotion', thus masking the real reason and the real emotion.
Missing somebody may be expressed as anger, sadness as coldness and aloofness, vulnerability as indifference or an I- don't- care attitude. To be able to restore balance and functionality, we need to acknowledge these expressions and allow them to show their true stories, with patience and self- compassion.
Unless we stop judging ourselves and allow ourselves to see our true emotions, it's hard to tackle them without causing self- deception and harm. During this process, doubting and questioning what we already know about ourselves is not a bad idea! Let's understand this with Roshan's example.
Roshan started therapy on the pretext of "helping" Sonia, his wife who was fighting depression, but agreed to continue his sessions with the therapist after realising that, unlike what he thought was the case, he was actually upset about his wife's mental illness. In a later session, he understood that he wasn't really angry with Sonia for not wanting to have a second child. Further, he realised that he felt he had let himself down and blamed himself for choosing somebody who was not like his positive and nurturing mother. Excerpts from the session that followed...

Therapist: Hello Roshan, how are you?
Roshan: I have been thinking about our last session and I am astonished to realise that all my anger toward Sonia is actually my frustration for not being able to give my child a childhood like mine. Since then, I have been introspecting more and my frustration is much less... and I am curious if there is something more to it.
T: Yes, and you also mentioned that you had a lovely childhood, your mother was very nurturing and she raised you single- handedly... 
R: Yes.
T: Tell me more about your mother… 
R: Oh, she is no more… she passed on before my marriage.
T: I am sorry to hear that.
R: Yes, she has been a monumental support in my life.
T: You miss her, don't you?
R: Yes I do, and I also feel guilty too...
T: Guilty for?
R: That I could not take care of her in her last days. I was abroad, studying… ( Pauses, looks teary)
T: I see... I can see that it's very difficult for you to make peace with the fact that you could not be there with your mother in her last days.
R: Yes, I feel I let her down. I feel I let myself down. I feel she deserved more loyalty from me... after all what she did.
T: I see.... Last time you had also said that you feel you have let your mother and yourself down by choosing a partner who is so different from your mother.
R: Yes, I remember that.
T: You wanting to see the exact qualities of your mother in your partner.... Which can be a normal desire and yet in your case your stress on that was great. Could this be your way of being with your mother's shadow?
R: ( Pauses) Possibly! And that's why I feel so frustrated and angry that Sonia is not like her.
Though ours was a love marriage and I was courting Sonia when my mother died, and I knew fully well that Sonia was not like my mother, I only started getting frustrated after our marriage.
T: So you knew that Sonia would be different from your mother.
R: Yes! They are two completely different human beings and it's foolish of me to expect Sonia to transform herself into my mother.
Though she got into depression only after our child was born… you are right. It is my need to have my mother back. I have been thinking and I know that my anger towards Sonia was coming from somewhere else. It makes sense now.
T: We all tell ourselves stories and believe them too. The important thing is being able to recognise them without strongly judging ourselves. How do you feel now?
R: I am speechless but I also feel lighter. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.... I also feel bad for Sonia.
T: I am sure you can figure out how to be more supportive of her, especially when she needs you.

Roshan's guilt of not being there for his mother got turned into a compensatory need to be with a person who would be his mother's substitute, and when his wife was unable to fulfil this criterion due to whatever reason, he got frustrated and angry at himself and his wife. However, he justified his anger with a completely different story.
Being able to discover his actual agenda and cut through his own camouflaged sense of loss, Roshan was slowly able to make peace with his guilt. Eventually he felt a lot lighter and free and was able to be there for his wife.

[ The names and details in the examples have been modified] 

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches. Share your problems with them at gmail. com

Monday, 28 March 2016

Acknowledging own emotions: T2 article dated 27th March 2016

When psychotherapist Marsha M. Linehan developed Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, she noted that the key to dealing with emotions, paradoxically, is by accepting them.
The idea that emotions or feelings can be worked upon and perhaps be transformed, tamed or channelised is not a popular belief.
When we feel bad, sad, worried, angry, humiliated and vulnerable, we also feel helpless that we feel that way. And the more we 'fight' these feelings and try to deny them, the more we become their victims.
We get angry and frustrated that we are angry, we hate ourselves for being sad and depressed, and get defensive and aggressive when we feel vulnerable. A simple feeling is now transformed into layers of selfdefeating and complex emotions as we shied away from it.
To a large extent, our logic and rationale is also the outcome of how we get affected by our own emotions and how we have learnt to deal with them. We seldom acknowledge our emotions without judgement and apart from suppressing them, ignoring them or being in denial of them, we rarely have any other mechanism to handle them. This can be true when we deal with our own emotions or someone else's emotions.
The following case study throws light on this.
Roshan seemed angry and frustrated when he came in for a session. His wife Sonia was going through depression and she would have regular therapy sessions as advised by her psychiatrist. Their daughter was three years old; Roshan wanted a second one but Sonia did not. This apparently made Roshan angry and after a little insistence from Sonia's therapist, he agreed to drop in to talk about his feelings, though " only to help" Sonia and " put things in perspective".

Roshan: I just don't understand what Sonia's problem is. We have everything! She has the most wonderful daughter and a caring husband, why can't she be happy? What is her problem with having another child? It will be good for our daughter.

Therapist: I see that you feel frustrated that Sonia doesn't seem to be happy.

R: Yes! I give her everything. She doesn't have to work and nobody says anything to her yet she remains gloomy all day.... My mother had four children and after my father passed away early, she had to slog to raise us, yet she is the most positive person... and look at Sonia!

T: Okay... it is specially difficult for you to understand Sonia when you have a reference point in the form of your own mother, who is efficient and nurturing…

R: Yes, absolutely. She should be happy!

T: I get why you are angry. Sonia doesn't fit into your idea of a positive, hard- working, nurturing mother.... R: Yes! T: So, you actually feel angry about Sonia's condition rather than her not wanting to have another child.

R: I guess that's true. But I don't want to admit that to Sonia and I guess I feel let down by her... and I feel I let my mother down as I chose to marry Sonia.

T: I see.... So you are angry at yourself, too, for choosing a person who doesn't fit into your mother's shoes.

R: Yes. I think I don't want to admit that either… but Sonia can sense my frustration. I am trying to help her come out of the situation. I know that times have changed and it's wrong to expect Sonia to do what my mother used to, but I really want my child to have a normal childhood and a normal mother.

T: So you want to help Sonia but she can sense your frustration. Is it possible that it creates a hindrance for her to feel good about herself and come out of the situation?

R: (After a pause) Could be… Maybe I am harsh on her at times. I don't really want to be…

T: Right. I can see that your intention is to make her feel better…

R: Yes but perhaps in my overzealous way, I also make her sad…

T: Maybe both of you can try to create a conducive environment at home where Sonia and you can express and work on your emotions? But first, let us be clear that this has little to do with having a second child. As you talk about the second child, Sonia feels pressured and cornered. Instead, just let her know that you want to help her be happy.

R: I can do that.

How Roshan reacted to Sonia's emotion can also be true for one's own harsh criticism towards one's own emotional state, which often aggravates problems than resolve them. Vishal came with a similar problem like Roshan's. He too was angry and he hated himself as he was feeling depressed and unable to come out of it.
This anger made it more difficult for him to get out of the depression as he got trapped in the following cycle: Depression .. feeling that he is not good enough .. desperate to get rid of the depression .. anger towards self, self- loathing ( when unable to do get rid of depression) .. reinforcement of the belief that he is not good enough .. feeling more depressed.
Acknowledging one's own emotions without any judgement and seeing them as they are is the first step towards being empowered.

[The names and details in the examples have been modified]

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coach
write to them at

Saturday, 2 May 2015

To Be Happy: T2 article dated 3rd May, 2015

It is not at all necessary that we always stay happy.
Just as a car can go off track if the driver is not attentive and wouldn't be able to bring itself back on track even on a straight road, our mind too can go off track and create complicated, depressing thought patterns. The trick to happiness is to be constantly aware of our thought process and to keep realigning ourselves to the road of happiness.
As a saying goes — happiness is not a destination or something to achieve, it is a path to be . Happiness doesn't mean there is no sadness, disappointment, hurt or pain; rather it is a more wholesome state where despite our negative experiences we are more centred and at peace.
Afreen was emotionally disturbed due to conflicts with her partner Yogesh. Here is an excerpt from one of our sessions... 

Afreen: I feel very neglected ever since Yogesh has been promoted. He is always working and even when he is not, I have become less of a priority for him.
Therapist: I see... you feel neglected after he took on new responsibility.
Afreen: Yes, I know it's unfair on him as he has to put in more hours now, but I am feeling so unimportant that it's breaking me. And I am feeling horrible that I am unable to enjoy his success.
Therapist: So you feel unimportant and insignificant as Yogesh is more involved with his work and new responsibility.
Afreen: Yes. It's not that I am not happy for him or that I am jealous…. It's just that it feels like I am not his priority anymore.... I've known him for long. He was jobless and very unsure when I started dating him. I had a good job, I still do. Yogesh started settling down and became focused staying with me. He openly acknowledges it too. But now that he is focused and is becoming an achiever, I feel I have lost my value in his life. I feel my job is done and he doesn't need me anymore.
Therapist: Yes, I can see that.
Afreen: Yogesh doesn't say anything but he is also hurt; maybe he thinks I am jealous of him and I don't want him to do well. I feel horrible.
Therapist: You also judge yourself as you are not exactly ecstatic about Yogesh's success. Have you spoken to him and tried telling him how you feel? Afreen: No, I feel ashamed to do so.
Instead I've been taking it out on Yogesh and then I feel terribly guilty.
Therapist: But there is nothing to feel guilty about. You perhaps played the role of an anchor in Yogesh's life, nurturing his talents, helping him to focus and find his drive. Now when you perceive that this role is over, you feel unimportant. It's not that you are envious or you don't want Yogesh to succeed.
This is a lot like how people usually feel when they retire. But this role doesn't define your value or your relationship. You just need to embrace your new role. Selfjudgement is not going to solve this problem. You need to discover your new role and redefine your dynamics with Yogesh. And talking about it might help. But more importantly, you need to value yourself irrespective of your role in Yogesh's life. Does that make sense? 
Afreen: Yes, it does.
To feel complete within and to be centred, one needs to have a selfassured and healthy relationship with oneself, with others and with life in general. Let's break it down... 

Relationship with the self — self- worth, life script and self- image 
Self- worth: 
How we value ourselves largely determines how we value life in general. We tend to depend on external situations, events and others to define us, or to give us value. Like, Afreen's criterion for valuing herself was based on how much she was needed by Yogesh. If a new situation or an event makes one believe that one has no significance or is not needed anymore, it can trigger personal insecurities and emotional stress. Learning to value ourselves irrespective of the situation is a very important skill to stay happy.
Life script: 
We often have a oneline script running in our head, based on the conclusions we have drawn from our experiences. These scripts are grossly generalised and often they have a prophetic undertone — ' nobody loves me and nobody will ever love me again', ' everybody who I am close to will leave me and go away', ' people use me and always discard me when they are done', ' whenever I try hard to achieve something, it always slips away'. These scripts, if not changed, become self- fulfilling prophecies.
Unconsciously, we end up following these one- liners even when we are trying to prove them wrong. For example, a script like ' nobody loves me' can make one overzealous to prove it wrong. So, the person becomes possessive and clingy, eventually leading to the script being reinforced. 
These scripts can be changed by coming to terms with the incidents which we generalised and drawn conclusion from.
Self- image: 
If we have a positive image of ourselves which says we are lovable and okay as we are, we can be happy and joyful on our own. We become less dependent on situations or others to validate us. Need for external validation comes from our If we have a positive image of ourselves which says we are lovable and okay as we are, we can be happy and joyful on our own. A healthy relationship with the self is a key factor in staying happy
inability to validate ourselves. A healthy relationship with the self is a key factor in staying happy.

Relationship with the greater self — meaning of life 

Sometimes it is not obvious to us what will give our existence meaning. Often we delude ourselves into believing that personal achievements will give us ' meaning' only to discover that even a huge amount of success, money and fame fail to give us what we are looking for.
' Meaning' can be found when we do something for the greater good.
Some find it in giving back to society, for others it can be being there for their family, friends, community or country. It gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of connection. When we know we are contributing to something bigger, and if we are in awe of it, then the mundane problems become less important and we can deal with personal disappointments much better.

Relationship with life and others 

Our happiness not only depends on the nicer aspects of life but also on our ability to make peace with disappointments. People often disappoint us, so does life. Making peace with disappointments does not mean we submit to whatever is wrong or unfair; it simply means that we take responsibility and give our best to improve the situation, knowing that the outcome is not in our hands.
In the face of these disappointments, if we learn how to look at whatever we feel is wrong as wrong and yet don't judge the people or life in general, if we can also appreciate the goodness, we can be fairly happy.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches