Saturday, 31 May 2014

Loss and Grief : T2 article Dated 1st June 2014.

Almost every day, Anamika, an independent- minded working woman in her 30s, tells her friends about how her marriage has become a living hell. Her husband is abusive and unconcerned about her. She has been thinking about walking out on him for the past five years, but has not yet been able to take even the first step.
The solution looks pretty simple: she should separate from her husband and move on. But since she is unable to do that, it's quite possible that Anamika is actually grieving over the loss of her idea of a " happily ever after". We generally associate grief with loss, in the form of the death of a loved one. But grief can be the outcome of various kinds of losses, like what Anamika is going through, or retirement, loss of job, selling and moving house, loss of a dream or, for that matter, any kind of change. The intensity of our emotions depends on how significant the loss is to us personally.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler Ross described the process of loss as going though five stages: 

1. Denial: 
Denial is refusing to acknowledge that a particular situation has occurred. " This is not real/ permanent" is the dominant thought. People go about their lives as though nothing has changed for them. In case the loss involves the death of a loved one, we may avoid acknowledging it completely.

2. Anger: 
The intensity of the pain of loss comes out as anger, which may be directed at oneself, at loved ones or even God! Anamika might feel, " I deserve to suffer as I fell in love with this person". Severe manifestation of this feeling could be self- harm and self destructiveness.
If it's directed at the husband, the thought could be, " I will stay in this marriage and make him suffer just as he has made me suffer." Or it could be: " God created this and now He will sort this out for me." Anger often creates deep resentments if not healed. It can cloud our judgement and take us away from reality.

3. Bargaining: 
In this stage, we try and hold on to the situation as we see it. And we are willing to pay a price too. So, there maybe an attempt to strike a deal with God: " If you make it go away, then I will…" Anamika might mentally agree to quit her job " as a price" since that was what had " kept me from giving full attention to my husband".

4. Depression: 
A sense of hopelessness takes over in this stage. Often one experiences intense sadness. Lack of motivation to do anything is common. This is a stage when one
might need a friend, not to give advice, but just to lend an ear or a shoulder... to reach out. In this stage, talking and expressing the sadness helps. One might not be able to take an active step but the mourning actually helps as a preparation to accept the reality.

5. Acceptance: 
This is the stage when one is ready for a resolution.
There is an acceptance of the loss.
One makes peace with what has happened. It does not mean that we are happy, but that we have reached an inner calm. This is the most empowered state, where one can rationally choose the next step.
There is more focus on " what needs to be done" than " why it happened". 

The process of grieving does not follow a linear course. It has its ups and downs.
People who are grieving typically have good days and bad days. The important thing to remember is that it is normal and all right to feel the way you are feeling. And that it will get better.

  • Be patient with your emotions.  
The pain does not go away faster if you ignore it. It is more likely to intensify.

  • Be comfortable with your true feelings.  
You do not have to put up a brave face or be strong in front of family and friends. It is normal and okay to feel pain and sadness, be lonely and scared. Crying does not mean you are weak. It is also not true that if you don't cry, you do not feel as intensely as others.

  • Be open to communicate how you are feeling. Sharing and seeking support helps us cope.

We all have our own ways of expressing grief and they are all right. It is also possible to resolve grief without going through any of these stages. Just try to be in touch with the reality of " what is". The late poet Maya Angelou had said: " We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through." The secret of healing lies in allowing and admitting the changes.

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

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Vulnerability : T2 Article dated 19th May, 2014

Rangan, a very articulate, confident- looking young professional with ' I- care- adamn' attitude, admits in a session: " I put up a big facade. I like to think of myself as flamboyant, confident and a huge showman. And I project an image which is larger than life but deep within I am actually ashamed of my ordinariness. I am scared of being rejected. I am lonely and vulnerable and can't take the risk of getting hurt." Rangan was addressing his relationship with his wife, and childhood sweetheart, Ritu. He was finding it extremely difficult to admit his faults and reach out to her. Ritu, on the other hand, could only see the rude, aggressive, and ' not emotional' Rangan. She had distanced herself from him.
We all have a Rangan inside us.
Somewhere deep down, we are really uncomfortable with our own ' weaknesses', our helplessness and vulnerabilities. Maybe our rude, aggressive behaviour is a mask that we wear to hide the feelings of our own perceived inadequacies. The fear of getting hurt might be so great that we wall off our vulnerable or ' weak' aspect. In turn we close ourselves to love, human connections and openness. This prevents us from creating real connections or being fully present in our current and future relationships.

Brené Brown, sociologist and author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead , says, " Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love". The word courage comes from the old French word ' corage' meaning ' heart's innermost feelings'. In middle English it was used broadly for ' what is in one's mind or thoughts'. If we can simply master the courage to acknowledge our own imperfections, vulnerabilities, our fallibility, our triumphs as well as our losses, if we can embrace our strength and our weaknesses and be all right with them without judgement, we will be in a better place. More peaceful within and more open towards others.

What it means is that we acknowledge and accept ourselves in totality. We need to break down the walls of our internal defences even at the risk of getting hurt. We need to live wholeheartedly, wholesomely and fully. That's what being alive truly means.

Here are three steps to get started on embracing yourself with your warts... 

Allow your emotions to touch your heart :

We cannot selectively numb pain, hurt, sadness, and feelings of misery, while at the same time feel happy and meaningful. Do not judge your emotions ( we only judge the negative ones). If you are suppressing or denying your emotions, you are also disconnecting from yourself.

Acknowledge them without judgement and with kindness.
Only then can you look beyond the emotions and understand the deeper thoughts behind them, thus allowing yourself to gain a new perspective.

Be patient, be truthful to yourself :

Be patient with yourself. At least once a week, take time to introspect. The problem is not that we can fool the world; it is that we fool ourselves the most. Being truthful to yourself can take you to your darkest space. It means facing your worst fears. It can be tough, so hang in there. Becoming more aware of your feelings and thoughts is work in progress.

Be compassionate towards others :

If you find it hard to acknowledge your vulnerable side, then perhaps you can start by becoming more patient, nonjudgemental, compassionate and kind towards others. This is a huge favour that you can do to yourself. The attitude with which you approach others may also become the attitude towards yourself.
Being compassionate towards others and oneself without shirking one's responsibilities makes it easier to find solace.
Inward or outwards, the journey is the same and so is the destination.
The poet Walt Whitman spoke about his so succinctly...

I am not the poet of goodness only,
I do not decline to be the Poet of wickedness also.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches. You can mail them at: 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mind-Body Connection 2: T2 article dated 4th May 2014

Ever wondered if it might be possible that the nagging cough and cold you have could be stemming from the emotional conflict you are suffering? Or that the masseur at the spa was right when she said " you have too much stress" when your shoulders started hurting as she massaged the area.
As far back as the end of the 19th century, American philosopher William James had remarked that 'no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied or followed by a bodily change'. The stage was set for new research into the effects of the mind on the body in 1975 with Robert Ader's discoveries. Ader, an American psychologist, successfully demonstrated that our body's immune responses could be modified by classical conditioning. Which means, there were connections between the brain and the immune system, and the mind could have a profound effect on the body's functions that were thought to be independent.
The view is supported by various new- age alternative medicine practitioners, who are coming up with different theories.
Louise L. Hay, the author of the best- selling book You Can Heal Your Life , believes that every disease stems from some negative emotion or thought. Often we are not even aware of these. She believes that by correcting these thoughts and emotions, the disease can be checked or reversed. According to her, for example, for spine- related diseases, the corresponding thought could be related to lack of support in life. A balancing thought or feeling of ' I am supported by life' can heal the problem. Similarly, a simple acne could be due to a thought related to ' not accepting oneself ', and a balanced thought like ' I love and approve myself ' could help improve the condition. Hay says that every person needs to be examined and understood to reach the emotional ' diagnoses' of the diseases. What she shares in her books are broad generalised guidelines.
Dr Ryke Geerd Hamer, a controversial medical practitioner and the founder of ' German new medicine', researched almost 15,000 cancer patients and found that the genesis of cancer always happens first on the emotional plane from a personal experience of an extremely brutal shock, a dramatic and acute conflict, experienced in loneliness and sensed by the patient as the most serious he has ever known.
Dr Hamer summed up his research with this sentence: " I searched for cancer in the cell and I have found it in the form of a wrong coding in the brain." Though the Swiss Cancer League describes Dr Hamer's approach as dangerous, as it creates a ' false sense of security', there are many takers for his approach all over Europe.
Psychologist Guang Yue, at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, conducted a curious study which showed that just by focused thinking and trained visualisation, we can The Five Koshas Anandamaya Vigyanmaya Manomaya Pranamaya Annamaya
gain half the muscle strength as any regular gym- goer in the same amount of time.
As a concept, though, the mindbody connection has been around for thousands of years. Ayurveda, one of the most ancient practices of medicine, explains it as a harmony between the three doshas or humours, which are influenced by physical and psychological factors.
Yoga says that we all have five koshas or 'bodies' — annamaya kosha or physical body, pranamaya kosha or vital energy body, manomaya kosha or mental body, vigyanmaya kosha or knowledge body and anandamaya kosha or bliss body. These ' bodies' influence one another and influence our health — mental as well as physical. Other ancient healing modalities like acupuncture, acupressure and traditional Chinese medicine focus on the ' energy body' as the access point of our physical body.
Homoeopathy, too, recognises the psychological plane of diseases.

A renowned maxillofacial surgeon in Calcutta once told us while chatting that the moment he sees a tumour he ' knows' the social background, the mental make- up and domestic conditions of the person. According to him, they follow a pattern. The tumour for him is a window to his patient's mind and soul.
The connection between the mind and body is real. And perhaps it's time we took it seriously. If we really want to take care of our ourselves, we need to take care of our thoughts and emotions, not just our body.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches 

Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com