Saturday, 30 November 2013

Communication in relationship: T2 Article dated 1st Dec' 2013

After a long and tiring week, Rajiv is looking forward to Sunday. No alarm to wake him up, no schedules, no meetings. He has just settled down with t2 when he hears wife Diya say: " There is no milk and bread in the house." Rajiv decides to get them in the evening when he would go out.
Half an hour later, they have the following conversation: 
D: Why haven't you got the milk and bread? How will we have breakfast? 
R: ( Surprised) But you never told me to get the milk and bread now! 
D: Rajiv, didn't I tell you that there's no milk and bread in the house? Last evening we discussed that we had run out of eggs.
R: But you didn't tell me! D: Don't lie! You just want to read your paper and don't care about anything else.

Falling in love and staying happy in a committed long- term relationship are two different things. Many of us, men and women alike, look at relationships as a kind of destination, rather than a journey. We act as though there is an unwritten law that just because we are now together, we will remain together forever. The reality is, a relationship needs constant work from both the partners to keep the spark alive. It needs understanding, commitment and action on an everyday basis. And the key to this is clear communication.

There are three components of communication.
 Sender: What I mean to say.
 The message: What I actually say.
 Recipient: What is understood, or the outcome.
In Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP), the purpose of communication is to bring about a desired outcome. Unless it fulfils the desired outcome, it is ineffective. Now let's take Diya's example.
What Diya meant to say: Please go buy milk and bread. We need it for breakfast.
What Diya actually said: There is no milk and bread in the house.
What Rajiv deduced: I'll pick it up in the evening.

Communication has a verbal and a non- verbal component. The tone of the voice, body language, facial expressions and genuineness — all play a huge part. One needs to develop the skill as a sender as well as a receiver for effective and harmonious communication.
Try these 12 steps and watch how your relationship with your partner gets better by the day: 
1) Communicate: When talking to your partner, be open to his/ her point of view. Make sure your partner does not feel rejected as an individual.
Communicate regularly and often to let your partner know that you care for him/ her. Your love is not an automatically ' understood' fact.
2) Be specific: There are various ways to interpret the same sentence.
Avoid ambiguity and be as specific as possible.
3) Express your needs: What is ' common sense' for you may not be so for your partner.
4) Take responsibility for your needs: Do not give justifications like ' Everybody needs appreciation'. If you need it, say it clearly: ' I need your words of appreciation now and then to motivate myself. Could you please do that?' Do not get irritated at having to remind your partner often. Old habits die hard.
5) Request, don't demand: Remember there is no universal law that your needs have to be fulfilled by your partner. But you can always request him/ her to help you get what you want.
6) Reach out: Express your love verbally and non- verbally casually or after an argument. A hug, some flowers, spending quality time or an occasional surprise gift go a long way in reassuring that you are there for him/ her. It's a must in most relationships.
7) Avoid sentences... like ' because of you...', ' you do/ don't...' Instead of blaming the other, focus on solutions.
Also, steer clear of judgemental sentences like ' you are selfish/ you don't care/ you are a liar'.
8) Be respectful: Just because he/ she is close to you does not mean you can behave with them whatever way you like.
9) Listen: When you are listening, ' be there'. Truly. Ask your partner, ' Are you okay?' and then listen to what they have to say.
10) Do away with your agenda: When you are listening, stop thinking how to prove your partner wrong, or how to make your point clear. Instead, acknowledge your partner's feelings.
11) Wait, be patient: Let your partner finish what they have to say. Save your views till your partner is done expressing theirs. Be willing to take turns even when it's a heated argument.
12) Make empathy the norm: Empathy does not mean you have to always agree with what your partner is saying. It means you do not judge them just because they have a different take than yours. Avery D. Weissman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, describes empathy as ' respect for another person's irrationality'. 

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

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Revisit your learning: T2 article dated 17th Nov' 2013

Has your world come crashing down when someone betrayed your trust? Could you never trust anyone again, and yet never realised why? Or, never fallen in love again and always wondered why the right man/ woman never crossed your path? Yes? Welcome to Riddhi's world. Riddhi, a homemaker, and Abhay, an executive, came in for relationship counselling. The following is an extract from one of their therapy sessions.

Therapist: So, Riddhi, what happens when Abhay goes on long business trips? 
Riddhi: I feel very lonely and I feel insecure.
T: What do you mean by that? 
R: All kinds of negative thoughts come to my mind... like he is having an affair. Or that he is going to leave me and go away. I feel miserable.
T: Okay... 
R: I feel he does not love me. And I know there is no rationale to it.
T: So you feel unloved.
R: Yes.... 
T: Do you feel not loved only when Abhay is out of town? 
R: (Long pause) Actually, I always feel this way... with Abhay, my parents and even my friends... 
T: Okay... 
R: It all started with a broken engagement with another guy. Abhay knows about it... (Abhay nods) I was engaged to this guy and I poured my heart out to him and then suddenly they broke off the engagement without giving any reason.... I was devastated for a long time. I didn't know what happened.
T: I see... 
R: I blamed myself for the whole thing... I blamed myself for loving him and feeling miserable. I felt nobody could love me ever. It was too much pain for me... I felt I couldn't trust anyone again... 

We selectively try to 'learn' from our negative experiences how to avoid them. These mechanisms become our survival skills for sometime, but they also close us up.
To protect ourselves, we create walls around us and then we get disconnected from our inner selves.
We learn 'never to love again', 'never to trust again', 'never to be open again' and hold on to the pain, anger and hurt inside us as a reminder of our learning. We yearn to fill the void, desperately waiting for ' others' to love us. 
Blindfolded, we look for the connection outside which we have severed inside.
It is difficult to find love and happiness outside when there is no love for ourselves. And it is impossible to love oneself fully if we can't accept ourselves in totality.
So, let's step out of our comfort zone, overcome our fear and embrace our vulnerability. And a great way to inch towards this is by practising Metta meditation.
'Metta' is a Pali word meaning loving kindness. This is a Buddhist meditation with an inside- out approach to fill your heart with positivity and love for yourself first, and then extend it to others.
How to practise Metta meditation: 

Relax and sit upright. Take a few moments to quiet your mind by focusing on your breathing. Begin by offering Metta to yourself.
Visualise your heart filling up with love for yourself, allow yourself to feel safe and cared for. Gently repeat to yourself: .. May I be safe and protected.
.. May I be peaceful and happy.
.. May I be healthy and strong.
.. May I be able to take care of myself, joyfully.
When you are comfortable, try offering Metta to someone you like, love or care about. Imagine them standing in front of you and allow the love from your heart to flow to them. Repeat the same lines for them. Once your Metta flows easily to a loved one, do the same for someone you neither like nor dislike, and then a slightly difficult person. With practice, and if you are ready, you can offer it for someone who you felt had hurt you.
For each person you offer Metta, including yourself, recite the phrases for a few minutes. Finally, imagine this loving kindness spreading to all the people you know and then spreading further to all living beings.
It may seem a little unreal at first, but it will change with practice.
If you've distracting thoughts, acknowledge them. Remember it's all about acknowledging and accepting. One needs to practice this for six to eight weeks daily to experience a change. Regular practice not only helps you stay positive but also helps you stay calm in difficult situations.

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

Core beliefs: T2 Article dated 3rd Nov' 2013

As we get ready to make our houses sparkle with lights this evening, let's also shed a little light on the dark corners of our inner selves.
Let's go a little deeper to understand how our perceptions depend on our innate or core beliefs about life.
Core beliefs are the essence of how we see ourselves, people, the world and even our future. They may be positive — ' I am capable', ' Life is full of exciting opportunities'. Or they may be negative — ' I'm not good enough', ' Nobody loves me', ' I am helpless'. Now consider the following example.
Situation: Neha finds out that her friends went out for lunch together and did not invite her.
Neha's first thought: ' They don't like me and don't want to be with me.' 
Neha's emotion: Sadness.
Neha's core belief: ' I am unlovable' or ' No one loves me'. 

One way is to observe your random thoughts. These are the thoughts that pass through our minds constantly, the constant chatter going on in our head. ' I want to have a healthy lunch today', ' I am going to make my daughter study for her test', ' That lady reminded me of my sister', ' Why can't my boss have a little more faith in me?'... Once you identify the train of thoughts, you can question it to get to you core belief. Ask yourself questions like: ' If that's true, what does it mean?' ' What's bad about it?' ' What does it say about me?' Let's illustrate the process through Neha's example.
Neha's first thought: ' My friends don't like me and don't want to be with me.' If that's true, what does it mean? ' There must be something wrong with me.' What does it mean? ' I'll never be able to have close friends.' What does it say about me? ' I'll never be able to have a relationship.' What does it mean? ' I'M UNLOVABLE.' WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE YOUR CORE BELIEF Once you have identified your core belief, ask yourself, ' What experiences do I have that show this belief is not completely true all the time?' Make a list of such experiences.
Use these experiences to challenge your current belief and then replace it with a new balanced belief.
In Neha's case, some of the positive experiences that counter her core belief ('I am unlovable') and which she can focus on might be:  When I was in school, I had two really good friends. We hung out together almost every day.
Unfortunately, we didn't keep in contact after we left school, but I did have friends who liked me.
I had a neighbour who became quite a good friend. She moved cities for work now, but we still keep in touch.
At the hospital where I volunteer, there is someone I have coffee with.
Now, her balanced core belief might be: ' Not everyone will like me all the time, but I am likeable to some people.' Often, belief systems lead to unhealthy expectations from oneself, others, situations and life in general. If you have the core belief ' I am not loved', it may very often give rise to an unhealthy expectation or Brooke Davis has that ' aha' moment in the hitTV show OneTree Hill
need for love from others.
If the core belief is ' I am not good enough', it can create a constant need to prove you are good. These expectations from the self or others can put immense pressure on you and your relationships, both personal and professional.
We all can justify our expectations. But it is important to check them, and if need be, challenge and change them. The question to ask is ' Are my expectations empowering me?', ' Are they making me happy?' Happy Diwali! Do write to us.

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

Other side of the coin: T2 Article dated 20th Oct' 2013

The Greek philosopher Epictetus had said: "People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them." Truly, what we think is not always how things are. If we keep this in mind, life may be a lot easier.
Ramesh (name changed), a 42- year- old businessman, came for therapy because he would feel low most of the time and was unable to focus at work. In his second therapy session he revealed having a strained relationship with his father. 
The following conversation between Ramesh (R) and the therapist (T) was a part of his third therapy session.
R: As I am talking about my father I feel so angry, my whole body is shivering and my heart is racing.
T: Okay.
R: He always picks on me. For him I am not good enough. He always favours my brother.
T: Okay. And how do you know that? R: Every time my brother faces a crisis, my father asks me to help him.
At the end I don't even receive a word of appreciation. He is always partial to my brother even though it's my hard work that has turned our family business around. The whole family is benefitting from it but he never acknowledges it.
T: So, you are saying that you want appreciation from your father for your achievements? 
R: Exactly! I have done so much, but it's never enough! 
T: So, could it be possible that his favouritism towards your brother is actually coming from the knowledge that you are stronger and you don't need his support? 
R: He says that! 
T: Well, is it possible that every time he has been partial to your brother he was actually complimenting you silently on your strength, as you don't need him to be partial to you? 
R: (After a long pause) I think it is possible to look at it that way.
T:Then can you consider the possibility that by not acknowledging you, your father was actually acknowledging you? R: Wow! I never thought of it that way! T: How do you feel now? 
R: When I look at it this way, my anger is gone. I feel calm and can actually think of him without the bitterness.

This is one example of how we create our own realities based on how we interpret a certain thing. In this case, Ramesh thought he was the unfavoured son and not good enough for his father, as his father didn't verbalise any appreciation. But the fact was that his father trusted Ramesh's ability to handle a crisis and did tell him that he was strong, that he didn't need his support.
When Ramesh opened up to the alternative perspective that his father's way of appreciating was different from what he expected, his feelings towards his father changed.
Assuming, interpreting and drawing our own conclusions is important to our existence and daily life. But not all our impressions and inferences are absolutely correct. To stay happy one often needs to explore one's beliefs and assumptions and, if need be, change them. Here are some tips... Check your interpretation: Could there be another explanation? For example, is it possible that my friend was really busy when he said ' will talk later' and hung up, and my interpretation ' he is avoiding me' is actually not true? Could I be wrong to assume that my sister- in- law was ' shutting me out' just because she was quiet lately? Maybe she was distracted about something.
Remember these are subjective conclusions, not tested facts.
Evaluate your ' obvious' interpretations and be open to discard them if needed.
Challenge your all- or- none thought: We have a tendency to generalise, but life isn't about absolutes. One fight with your boyfriend or one rejected proposal does not mean ' nobody loves me'. Just the previous week your neighbour baked a cake for your birthday. Similarly, one failure doesn't mean ' I am a failure'. Question yourself: Check if your beliefs are helping you be happy, strong and empowered, or sad and weak. It's all right to change your earlier decisions, strategies and ' way of dealing' with something if they are not working for you anymore. Yesterday's smart approach can turn into today's self- defeating pattern. Be flexible to let go of your old interpretations and perspectives.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches.


Q and A about relationships: T2 article dated 29th Sep' 2013

Thank you for sharing your problems with us. Here are three letters (names withheld) with a common theme — relationships.
Hope our tips will come in handy.
Do write to us.
I broke up with my boyfriend recently after a five- year relationship. It makes me unhappy. I have lost my faith in love, life and the things that make me happy. I am having misunderstandings with my parents because they have started looking for a boy for me. Please tell me how I can be happy.
Break- ups are not easy, but that is no reason for you to lose faith in love, life and the things that make you happy. We use up a lot of energy and time in trying to answer questions like ' Why did it happen to me?' or
' How could it happen to me?' or thinking about ' how things should/ could have been'. Or, we allow ourselves to drown in selfpity.
The first step to being happy is to stop giving reasons for your unhappiness. Focus on all that you already have. Be open to welcoming new people, new relationships and new things in your life. Try and let go of the past. And if you need time for this, then let your parents know in a calm manner. Keep in mind that they have their own perspective on this matter, which may be different from yours.

My partner is very selfish. He constantly justifies his behaviour. I get very angry and cannot focus on anything. What should I do? That your partner is selfish is your subjective interpretation. And even if he is, your anger is not helping him become unselfish. You can let him know how you feel when he is ' selfish', in a calm voice with understanding and compassion. There are people who can be termed ' selfish' and let's assume that your partner is one of them. Is his being ' unselfish' so important that you put your life on hold? When you get angry you are choosing to sacrifice your mental well- being and trying to ' fix' him. If you want to be happy with your partner, then work on changing your reaction to his behaviour. We all have our share of faults. Choose to be kinder to his, and maybe that will enable you to deal with the situation more patiently, calmly and efficiently.

I feel that after five years of marriage, my husband and I have lost love and respect for each other. We don't talk to each other anymore and I feel he is very unhappy in our relationship, which makes me sad. What can I do? 
Are you sure your husband is unhappy because of your relationship and not due to some other reason? Work on your relationship by focusing on yourself. It is difficult to communicate when you know you'll end up arguing or hurting each other.
So, adopt a different strategy. Try and communicate with your husband without trying to fix things. Try and reconnect. Start by talking about general things, maybe a light topic.
Try and understand him, without your idea of what a happy person should be like, coming in the way.
Try to be happy and joyful yourself. If you can radiate that joy, probably your husband will also gravitate towards happiness.

We often put conditions to our happiness. We think of happiness in terms of ' only when... then....' For instance, ' I can be happy only when our kids top the exams', ' I can be happy only when I have the special someone in my life', ' I can be happy only when I have this much money'. It is natural to feel disappointed when things don't work out the way we had planned or thought, but learn to look for the positives. Avoid associating your self- worth and happiness with things, people or situations. These are variable. Which brings us to the first step of our previous article — decide to be happy.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches.

Happiness: T2 Article dated 15th Sep' 2013

Ah Sunday! The day to put our feet up and chill, the day to be happy.
Actually, what makes us happy? Or, unhappy? Most of our life revolves around yearning, seeking, working towards that which we think will make us happy. Yet often we fall short of achieving that inner feeling of happiness.
Why? An important factor affecting our ability to ' be happy' is our own belief and attitude towards it.
We say, ' One can never be happy', ' Happiness is followed by sadness', ' It's my fate to be unhappy', or even ' I don't deserve happiness'. What's needed to be happy? Expensive cars? A big house? Fancy clothes and food? Or is it possible to learn to be happy, irrespective of the situations, place and time? We believe it is. We believe that happiness is a choice. This inner feeling of contentment, well- being and harmony can be achieved with a little bit of introspection, strategising and practice. Here, we share a few steps which go a long way in conditioning our minds to stay happy.
1. Decide to be happy. If you find resonance in the beliefs mentioned above, then you need to introspect what has led you to develop them? Is it from a personal experience? Or is it a belief you imbibed from others, for instance, parents, friends, colleagues? Once you know the cause, challenge it.
Change it to ' I deserve to be happy' or ' I allow myself to be happy'. 

2. Get some me- time.
Once in a while, a bit of self- pampering can bring out the best in us — a fun film, a massage, a walk in the rain.
After all, prioritising ourselves helps bring joy and cheer to our daily activities.
3. Practise mindfulness. Be focused and fully present in the moment nonjudgementally. We get angry, sad, worried or stressed by thinking of the past or anticipating the future.
Remember Master Oogway's words: ' Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.' Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, shows that just eight weeks' practice of Mindfulness Meditation significantly improves memory and empathy, and reduces stress.
As a prelude to Mindfulness Meditation, you can start by enjoying your meals in silence without the phone or the TV. Relish the food. Be completely focused and aware of what you are eating. Savour the taste, aroma and texture of the food. If your mind wanders away, gently bring your awareness back to your meal. This may also decrease the quantity of food you consume to feel satiated.
4. Enjoy quietude. Spend some quality time alone without the phone, Internet, TV, iPad.... Connect with nature. Watch the sun rise or set. Listen to birds chirping.
Sometimes one needs to step back from the chaos of life, and reflect on the bigger picture.
5. Pick up a hobby. Something you enjoy doing or have always longed to do.
6. Appreciate yourself. Do this regularly for all that you are, instead of waiting for it to come from others.
Celebrate yourself in totality.
7. Practise gratitude. We are constantly told what we still need to have to be happy. It is more important to focus on and be grateful for all that we already have.
Create a gratitude diary for yourself.
Write five things for which you are grateful every day. It is a great way of training your mind to look for the positives in life. And when you're feeling low, you can always leaf through the pages to cheer up.
8. Exercise. Practise yoga, hit the gym, walk or pick up a physical sport. Nothing better to release the endorphins.
Lastly, commit to be happy.
Practise the above steps. And do get back to us! 

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