Saturday, 20 September 2014

Connect: T2 Article dated 21st Sep' 2014

Reader 1: 
I just started college and I feel lonely. There are students from reputed schools in my college and I feel inferior and inadequate in class. I want to run away. If I am feeling this way now, how am I going to sustain the whole course up till graduation? 

Reader 2: 
I am 15 years old and I hate my elder brother. He has always been the good boy. My parent's favourite child, he is a bully. He always teases me and makes fun of me. I feel humiliated in front of my relatives and friends. My parents always support him and I hate them for that. I feel nobody cares for me. I feel lonely and rejected.

Reader 3: 
My younger sister does not participate in any household activity. She was getting isolated, aloof and was keeping to herself. I then started giving her responsibilities and told her that if she wanted to be in the house she needed to take part actively. She is now angry at me and accuses me of making her feel that she is not a part of the family.

The festive season is almost on us.
Every day there are more people on the streets, busily shopping for their loved ones. There is a hint of celebration and joy in the air already. One of the important aspects of festivals is socialising, or connecting with fellow beings. It's a time to come together, to belong to and celebrate something greater than our individual self. But behind the celebrations, there are many faces struggling to suppress their tears, feeling lonely and miserable. And the stark difference between their inner worlds and the outer environment makes it even more difficult for them to step out and participate.
Recent research in psychology shows that one of the crucial elements for a person to feel happy is to feel connected, to feel that they " belong". If it is in our genetic and cultural make- up to reach out and be connected, then why do we so often struggle with loneliness and isolation? Let us try to understand this from the three letters we got.
Reader 1 is a new college student who feels " lonely" in his new environment.
Of course, there are many people around him but something stops him from connecting, making him feel isolated. And since he cannot fit in, he's unable to make any connections. He reveals that he feels inferior to the other students. Even if we assume that every student in his class is smarter than him, can that be a valid reason to not belong? It is possible that in his mind, Reader 1 has created a rule that goes " I can only connect if I am on a par with others", or it could be " If I am not on a par with others, they will mock me". This may be the self- imposed condition which is making him feel isolated and lonely.
In the case of Reader 2, it is not very difficult to understand that when siblings make fun of each other, it is unlikely that they are disconnected.
They are engaged but maybe not in a " positive" way. But Reader 2 does not perceive it as an effort to connect; on the contrary, he believes that by teasing and making fun of him, his elder brother is cornering him, leaving him feeling lonely.
Similarly, in the case of Reader 3, the elder sister may have perceived that the younger sister is isolating herself and to engage her and help her feel connected to the family, she put some rules in place. And this act has heightened the younger sister's disconnect from her.

As we see in above cases, one of the hurdles we need to overcome to connect to people are the conditions we put, such as " I need to be understood" or " I need to be like others". Along with this, we often unconsciously burden our connections ( relationships) to satiate our personal needs, like our need to feel loved, secure, powerful, respected or successful.
Our hidden agenda to connect becomes " so that I can feel loved" or " so that I earn awe and respect" or " so that I feel secure". These agendas can take away our freedom to explore and make new connections or celebrate and enjoy our old connections.
If we can try to discard our needs, go out and try to connect with genuineness and authenticity, not just to feel better or superior but just to connect, it may be very fulfilling. These connections can teach us openness and inclusiveness. As social beings, we are biologically wired to connect.
Maybe all we need to do is celebrate our differences. This festive season let us do that. 
Happy Puja! 

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, 6 September 2014

Questions and Answers :T2 Article Dated 7th Sep' 2014

Reader 1: In one of your articles, your advice was to " connect" to people. I find it extremely difficult to do. I feel everybody judges me. I hate talking to people. I feel uncomfortable when I need to face a group. I think I am much more at peace being by myself. Meeting people makes me anxious.

We are assuming that this uncomfortable feeling or anxiety of meeting new people or a group is a problem for you. If you are comfortable with not meeting people and are happy staying alone, it is not a problem at least for now. You have not mentioned your age, but whether you are a student, professional or self- employed, it is difficult to imagine any occupation which will allow you zero interaction with others.
If you feel judged by others, you need to explore why you feel so. You also need to ask yourself that even if your perception of people judging you is true, then what about it? People are entitled to their opinions. Do you start judging yourself too and question your self- worth because of others judgement? If the answer is yes, then you need to challenge this.
Maybe you have faced strong opinions of yourself from others and you want to avoid experiencing that. It could be that your way of ensuring you don't face their judgement is to avoid facing people altogether.
You can choose to face your fear, use the criticism to help yourself grow and learn, instead of holding on to it and being bogged down by it. A force can be used as " push" or " pull". You can decide how much you are going to allow other people to control your life. When you are trying to avoid judgement, you are still being controlled by the same judgement.

Reader 2: I have very low self confidence. I dread meeting people. I feel I will make a fool of myself in front of others. I am getting isolated and I feel lonely.

Low confidence usually makes us feel unsure of things, a course of action or the probable consequence of an action. However, most often we feel inhibited because of our fear of how others will react to us. The sure shot way to gain confidence is to practice being in the situation which challenges you. If you " dread" meeting people, go meet people. Face your fear. Gradually you will be able to desensitise yourself of the fear and gain confidence.
At the same time, start believing in yourself. Excess criticism towards oneself is counter- productive. Don't let your past experiences dictate your present and future. Be yourself, listen more, observe more and slowly you'll find that you are feeling comfortable.

Reader 3: I am a 16- year- old girl; most of my friends are into smoking, drinking and partying. I feel that if I want to be a part of the group, I have to behave like them.They say it will make me feel better. I feel confused and lonely. My parents don't understand me.

We understand your confusion. The question is not whether these things can help you feel better or not ( they cannot), but why you need things to make you feel better about yourself.
It is natural to want to be a part of a group. But that does not mean you have to do things that you do not want to.
We want others to accept us but we don't want to accept ourselves the way we are, or for who we are.
We look for approval from others.
Many of us don't feel good enough.
We find numerous flaws with ourselves.
We tell ourselves that we are not worth it. Challenge these ideas.
You are always worth it. Believe that you are enough, you are acceptable and lovable the way you are. Be with people who are able to understand you and are there for you without pressuring you to be something you are not.
But irrespective of whether you find such people or not, just be comfortable with who you are. If you are able to do that, you will see that others are also starting to accept you, and a group is forming around you. Make new friends, join hobby classes. Most importantly, believe in yourself and your strength. You may also consider taking professional help if things get too difficult.

(Readers' names have been withheld for confidentiality) 

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