Saturday, 28 June 2014

It's okay to be 'wrong' : T2 Article dated 29th July 2014

Shantanu came with a fear of public speaking. We had a few sessions. A partial conversation with him in one early session went as following: [ Readers, please note that fear of public speaking can be due to various reasons. Our minds are unique and different from each other.]

Therapist: What exactly happens when you need to speak publicly? 

Client: Oh my God! I can't tell you doctor how miserable I feel. I feel hopeless and as I am talking to you I can visualise that I am standing in front of the board members and I am feeling panic.

T: Stay with this visual…. How do you know that it's panic? 

C: I can feel my heartbeat. There are butterflies in my stomach…. There is a sinking feeling in my heart. I'm visualising that my boss and my colleagues are looking at me…. And I am blanking out. A fear is engulfing me… it's terrible.

T: Okay, stay with this fear…. Fear of ? 

C: That I am standing in front of them… I am feeling that they are judging me… I am feeling like a loser.

T: They are judging you for what? 

C: That I'm wrong… my presentation is wrong.

T: Okay, and if it is wrong? 

C: I can't be wrong…. How can I be wrong? It will be the worst thing if I am wrong... 

T: What if you are wrong? What does that mean? 

C: It means that I am a loser. I am not good enough.

T: And you are always right? 

C: No… but I try to be… T: Yes, I know you try hard to be… but is it possible to be always right? Always? No matter what? 

C: No. ( After a brief silence) I guess not… 

T: And if you try to be right and if you do everything to be right, is there still a possibility that people still might not agree you are right? 

C: Yes… that is a possibility.

T: So if this is a possibility, how about trying to be okay with it? 

C: Yes, I guess I can try that…. Strangely, I do not feel that anxious now. I feel more relaxed... I am sure I am going to be all right…. The fear of judgement is also lesser than before.

We all know how it is to feel not-so-confident: the nagging feeling of self doubt which we detest so much. It stops us from being sure, hampers our performance and dampens our spirit.

Sometimes we fight it by doing more, and pushing harder. And yet, at other times we succumb to it. This self- doubt reinforces our worst fear of ' I am not good enough'. For example, if we want to write an absolutely perfect article and take it upon ourselves not to start unless we are sure about the content of each and every line, we'll probably never end up writing a word.

Most of us believe and often demand of ourselves to be absolutely convinced about everything we do, that we must always make the ' right' decisions. In the process, sometimes, we neglect the initial signals that tell us when something is going wrong.

And if something really does go wrong, then we immediately start questioning our self- worth, as if our worth depends on being right about everything every time.
When we doubt our decisions or what we know, we take it to heart and feel miserable like Shantanu. We feel awful because we are failing to ensure that we are ' right'. We end up being extremely self- critical.
Instead, if we accept that we are just a ' work in progress' and acknowledge that we are capable of making mistakes, not only can we recognise where we are going ' wrong' at an early stage but also be more flexible to learn. We then have more freedom and openness to act, observe and grow. Here are three points to keep in mind... 

1) Be prepared to be wrong: Acknowledge that it is not possible to know everything and sometimes you will be wrong. It's okay to be wrong.
Do not deny it, and do not try to prove you are right. There is nothing shameful about being wrong. Actually, it takes a great deal of courage and InventorThomas Alva Edison created the design of the incandescent light bulb after many failed attempts
character to acknowledge that one is wrong.

2) Entertain that doubt: It's okay to be in doubt about the end result.
You don't need to be absolutely sure about something to act on it. You can always learn in the process. Be sure to give your 100 per cent.

3) Learn from the ' wrong': Allow yourself to also gain wisdom from your ' wrong' choices. You will learn what's ' right' for you along the way.

Be ready to make mistakes. Think of it as taking a step, rather than taking none at all.

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

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Why and when of therapy: T2 Article dated 15th June 2014.

Q.Could you please tell me when do I need to go to a psychotherapist? How can a psychotherapist or counsellor help me solve my problem? 

This is one of the most common questions we face from people considering therapy. So let's try and explore the why, how and when.
There are many schools of psychotherapy and counselling, and every psychotherapist develops his/ her own approach. Many modern psychotherapy schools have stopped seeing therapy as fixing an 'abnormality'. The one seeking therapy is now called a 'client', not a 'patient'. And the client is not looked upon as someone with a 'disease'. Most therapeutic approaches are now seen as cohesive joint ventures between client and therapist where the therapist helps the client navigate through their own mind and reach clarity on issues. In the process, the client develops the skills to have a happier and more functional life.
Most therapists today do not directly advice what the client 'should do'. They encourage clients to explore their thoughts, rationality, behaviour and actions and empower them to decide and change for themselves.
Broadly speaking, anyone can go to a counsellor or therapist. Here are some examples and areas when one might feel the need to seek help:  
  • When one identifies a problem  
  • When problem is identified by others ( psychiatrists, parents, schools, partners)  
  • When there is no problem apparently and yet " something is missing"  
We do share our problems with a relative or a friend, which is very helpful, but sometimes people who are close to us cannot be neutral and unbiased, which is necessary to have a fresh perspective on a problem. Consider the following conversation: Friend 1: I am fed up with my husband. He does not listen to me.
When he is home he is glued to the news channel. He doesn't even care.
It's as if I don't matter to him. He is like a stone, I feel no emotional connect. Every day we end up fighting.
Friend 2: Don't take this lying down.
Don't let him take you for granted. I have seen this in my life, all men are like this. Handle this with care.
Friend 3: I completely sympathise with you. I have seen my aunt weeping all her life, my uncle would be busy and she would be so lonely.
After this conversation, Friend 1 may feel good that she has a few people ' on her side' who ' understand' her. But what actually happened is that her fear of being alone got reinforced. From Friend 2, she also got a justification for the fight that occurs every day between her and her husband. It is unlikely that Friend 1 may have any long- term benefits from such conversations.
Now let's look at an interaction between a therapist and a client.
( There are endless possibilities and this is strictly hypothetical.) Client: I am fed up with my husband.
He does not listen to me. When he is home he is glued to the news channel.
He doesn't even care. It's as if I do not matter to him. He is like a stone, I feel no emotional connect. Every day we end up fighting.
Therapist: What happens after the fighting? C: We do not talk for a few days and we go back to the same situation.
T: And by same situation what I understand is that you again start feeling that you do not matter? And he does not listen to you? C: Yes.
T: So when he comes back every day and sits in front of the TV, what do you exactly feel? C: I feel I am not important. The whole day I wait for him and he comes back and turns on the TV. T: Does he know that you feel this way? C: Is it not obvious? What is there to tell him? And I do tell him when we fight.
T: Yes, may be it is obvious to you but what if it's not obvious to him? C: Maybe I should try telling him how I feel. Actually it starts with irritation and my anger starts building up. I try to control it and after a while I burst into fighting and it becomes a scene.
Maybe I can try and communicate more openly.
Now this may not be a solution, but at least the client is ready to do something different other than following a tried- and- failed strategy. And it is expected that over few sessions she would find her way. Following are a few examples when one can go for counselling/ psychotherapy:  
Dealing with a crisis. It could be interpersonal ( such as abandonment, rejection, changing dynamics of relationships), personal ( such as discovery of a serious disease) or any change in the environment  
General dissatisfaction with life  Feeling stuck in the same pattern of interpersonal relationships or conditions  
Haunted by past trauma,
Mental stress
Skill development, such as confidence, concentration, focus, goal- setting and trusting others.
Various psychiatric disorder along with conventional treatment  Anxiety, fears and phobia 

A psychotherapist will help you build the skills to deal with the situation and become empowered.
Several corporate houses and sports authorities today use psychotherapeutic techniques to coach, mentor and bring out the best in their employees and trainees.
It would be best if each one of us could be our own therapist. One of the goals of therapy is to encourage clients to be their own therapists so that they are in a position to look at things with a new perspective and find more harmonious and functional solutions.

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