Wednesday, 26 February 2014

New Love: T2 article dated 23rd Feb' 2014

Let there be spaces in between your togetherness — Khalil Gibran, on marriage.

After witnessing the Valentine's Day celebrations and attending a cousin's wedding, we got thinking if imagining a fairy tale happily- ever- after actually makes a solid base for a long- lasting and fulfilling relationship.
At the beginning, be it in a relationship or marriage, we look at our partners with unadulterated love and devotion. We ignore things that would otherwise have bothered us, because we are ' in love!' We think we are going to make each other very happy, that we won't be like the couples that fight because we are truly in love. We tend to believe that our love is so special that it will never fade.
Dr Dorothy Tennov, after studying many couples, concluded that the average life span of a 'madly in love' feeling is two years. Eventually we all wake up to reality. The longevity of our relationship depends on how well we cope with this reality.
The reality kicks in when we start noticing how annoying some of our partner's habits are, how hurtful or angry they can be... so irrational at times, often ignorant, insensitive and unavailable. This is the time when bathrooms are left wet and dirty, the lights are never turned off, the wardrobe is left ajar, shoes and socks never find their way to their designated places, and one of the partners is 'always busy and has no time'. This is when we feel that we are 'putting in all the effort' or that our partner is 'insensitive, always complaining, feeling- less' or even 'selfish'. From the world of finding no faults, we end up where a look can hurt, or a word can crush.
So what goes wrong? The root lies in the initial fairy tale period. In our quest for harmony, we start overlooking our personal needs, view points, values and at times even our identities.
We try to create too much 'positivity'. We convince ourselves secretly that our love is so genuine that though our partner is not giving what we need now, they will give later, or will somehow figure and willingly adopt to our value system. That eventually they will have the same priority as ours. We do everything we can to eliminate any significant disagreements.
This creates a false sense of security and builds up our expectations.
We avoid conflicts and pretend or even lie to ourselves that they don't exist. We create a make- believe world for both us and our partner.
In the process, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn how to deal with these conflicts. Without having developed the confidence and desire to know each other's emotional vulnerabilities and reactions to dissent, we don't learn the tools that those challenges call for. Here are a few tips that will come in handy when you enter a new relationship. 


Be yourself: You are beautiful as you are. Only when you are yourself will you be able to know who your partner is, their preferences, goals, ambitions and ideas. It may then be easier to find a real common ground.
Respect and love yourself: Do not lose yourself 'in love'. If you don't respect yourself, others may not either. Respecting yourself does not mean that you become rigid. It means you remain true to your identity. We can only feel loved when we love ourselves.
Expecting your partner to make you feel loved all the time may not work in the long run.
Be realistic and open to learn: Expect differences. Be open to learn from them. It will not only strengthen your bond but also widen your horizon.
Express your love: There are many ways to express love — verbally, through touch ( not always sexual), through actions to make them feel cared for, or special by giving gifts, occasionally praising them for their efforts, spending quality time. The idea is to choose the love language preferred by your partner, not what is convenient for you .

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Write to them at 
dr.sangbarta@ gmail. com

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Stay Real Stay Positive: T2 Article Dated 2nd Feb' 2014

A student of ours very sincerely told us that when there's a problem, she pretends that the problem does not exist. She believes that the more one thinks and talks about the problem, the more it gets " energised" and gets bigger. She thinks she is being " positive". 
Walk into a bookstore and check out the self-help section, you will find hundreds of books encouraging ' positive thinking'. There are innumerable teachers teaching us to be positive and you only need to go online to find articles, books and studies promising long- standing emotional, physical and even situational benefits of positive thinking. These teachings appear to follow a simple philosophy — ' our thoughts create our reality' — and so they believe and teach that it is possible to change our reality by changing our thoughts.
As empowering as this philosophy may be, the problem is that the teachings are often oversimplified to be understood as ' we just need to think' and things will change. But we conveniently forget the ' act' part of it. We are held captive by our own hopes and paradoxically it paralyses us from taking any action.

College- goer Swati came to us heartbroken. The " love of her life" had turned her down and she could not move on. The following is a part of the conversation with her: 

Therapist: How do you feel?
Swati: I feel devastated and awful.
T: So this boy clearly said he is not available…
S: Yes.
T: So why is it a problem? 
S: Because I can't imagine myself not being with him.
T: So you imagine yourself with him? 
S: Yes, all the time.
T: Even though the boy is not available? 
S: Yes.
T: You want to move on and yet you keep imagining yourself with him.
S: Yes, I guess I am being stupidly hopeful here.
T: So what can you do to move on? 
S: I think I have to let go of this hope first. Guess hope is hopeless for me at this time. [ There is a faint smile on Swati's face] 
Thinking positive doesn't mean we have to stay in a fantasy world. It just means that no matter what the situation we are in, we can find the courage and resources within us to face problems without fear or bias, and with an openness to look for solutions however unpalatable they may appear to be, as in Swati's case.
Whether it is psychology, philosophy or spirituality, all these fields nudge us to acknowledge and see what really is. Only then can we be truly empowered to see the solution and walk towards it.
If you want to get rid of the cockroach hiding in a corner of your house, thinking that it's not there would hardly help. It's only when we acknowledge what we see, can the possibility for a solution arise, be it using a broom to shoo the cockroach away or spraying insecticide.
When faced with a problem, think positive, think realistic. Here are eight questions to help you get a realistic assessment of a problem:
1) What is the problem? 
E.g. I am broke.
2) Why is it a problem? 
E.g. I can't provide for my family.
3) What are the available facts related to the problem? 
E.g. I lost all my money in business.
4) What do you want to achieve? 
E.g. I want financial security.
5) Are you contributing to the problem? Or, are you moving towards a solution? 
E.g. I'm feeling so helpless that I am not doing anything, I am contributing to the problem.
( If you've said yes to the first half of question no. 5, ask — What do you want to achieve? 
E.g. I want financial security.) 
6) What can you do to achieve or come closer to the goal even if it seems like a tiny step? 
E.g. I can look for a job.
7) What skills do you need to develop to do that? 
E.g. I need to learn computers.
8) What is your plan of action for that? 
E.g. I can join a computer course and start looking for a suitable course right now.
If you can write down truthful answers to these questions, it might help you approach your problem with clarity and in turn help solve it.
( Name changed for confidentiality) 
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches