From the desk of a psychologist!

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Is learning only retaining?

With each passing day, I am getting more & more convinced that what we test is the merely the retention power of our students. Is that what real learning is?
To be honest we don’t know better. Stuck with the teaching skills of the 70s, we blindly follow.We claim that we are preparing students for the 21st century but refuse to equip ourselves for the same.

You would be shocked to know that instead of empowering our students, we are crippling them more. We try our best to make them the best learners but restrict them to become inadequate rote learners .

To understand this, lets first try to understand what is learning?

The most simple explanation is very well depicted through this diagram.

 

We have conveniently stopped ourselves in the first step of procuring. I strongly think the biggest hurdle, in our smooth movement to the next phase, is our own RESISTANCE. We are so comfortable in checking the procuring ability of our students that we refuse to change and move forward. We are failing to make learning meaningful.

I don’t think that our students are failing us, but it is we who aren’t able to make them understand their own potential & worth.Go ahead, challenge yourself…get out of your comfort zone. You have the power to make life long learners, making relevant transformations.

TIME TO CHANGE US!!!

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Building Tolerance

They say awareness is the key to fight any kind of epidemic, orthodox, illogical belief system & for that matter even our survival or any kind of success . The awareness & knowledge of the holiness of a cow in Featured imageone religion is as important as the significance of sacrificing a goat in other.

I was delighted to see my children being educated about the various Indian festivals in the same way
I was. They got Ramayana to read and I am sure this will give them great insight about how goodness prevails all.
Religion,one of the best ways to inculcate values in the young, impressionable minds.Teach them about Dusshera/Diwali, Eid, Bakried, Baisakhi, Christmas, Easter,Paryushana Parva, Mahavir Jayanti, Pesach, Shavout, Gahanbar….to name a few! Tell you honestly had to refer to google to find out about the main festivals of India ( I am not even talking about the world).
But to actually start thinking on these lines we have to deal with our demons first, our biases,prejudices & lack of awareness. Intolerance creeps out of ignorance.Education shouldn’t be limited to books. Lets create awareness which will gift us with tolerant, sensitive & openminded global young minds. A better me, us leading to a BETTER WORLD!!!

Addiction in India: The War Goes On!

I am so thankful to Aamir Khan for giving voice to an  important & relevant major cause, which exists in our country but no one is willing to listen. I am an addiction counselor, who came back to my country with huge dreams of  changing the world of addiction treatment here. But am not ashamed today to accept  that I left my struggle because it was full of hurdles.  I am so grateful that today after watching Mr. Khan’s episode of Satyamev Jayate, my candle of hope has started burning again.

I have worked in various addiction treatment setups in India and it is sad but a fact, that most of them are only there to mint money. No one has a clue of what works. Because people are needy they trust them which is then misused. I was a part of this system. It made me question my integrity and disturbed me. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. I realized how much it means to me to find the answers. I traveled to the hub of addiction study, United States of America, and completed my chemical dependency certification and worked there for some time. It helped me understand this dubious disease in a better way.

I came back with huge dreams and hit the reality pretty soon. It was a WAR against the age-old mindset. I gave up but with time I had learnt one important lesson that I am not here to change the nation but to give something back to the society. Even if one person learns something from this blog, I would think that my goal is achieved. I have this powerful tool of my blog today and this post goes for the passion of my life… Addiction. Though in the show the talk was only about alcohol but here we are going to talk about addiction, whether alcohol or any other chemical ( marijuana, cigarette, cocaine etc.). The disease remains the same.

We have a very sorry state of addiction in our country. There are so many prevalent misconceptions & myths that there is no help for it.  I would like to put some light on this topic through an Indian perspective:   

  • Addiction is a disease not a bad habit or moral issue: Why in a party some people can be decent drinkers while a few make a fool of themselves. People actually wait for them to bring entertainment in a lifeless party.

I will give an example to make you understand it in a better way. Two friends decide to go for a drink. Let’s say Mr. X & Mr. Y.

Mr. X suffers from addiction while Mr. Y has no such disease. When they have the drink, Mr. Y may enjoy it but for Mr. X it is a new never  felt  before state. Mr. X is never going to forget about it.

  • Chasing the dragon: Then the chase starts. An addict, every time when goes under influence, it is with the wish of reaching the same state it felt the first time. This never happens only the substance keeps on increasing.
  • Tolerance is not good: How many times have you heard someone boasting that I can hold my drink . The biggest indicator of chemical dependency is increased tolerance of the substance.
  • The different stages of the disease: It’s an ongoing treadmill which ranges from experimentation, use, abuse to dependency on the substance. If you have the disease and you introduce your drug of choice to your body, this is how the disease will progress.
  • Hit the rock bottom:

Tony Robbins once said there are two things that motivate people to make dramatic changes in their lives: inspiration and desperation. In the journey of addiction recovery, there needs to be a kick which can stop us from the journey of  self-destruction.

Teenophobia- The cure

India is rapidly changing as a country. People, thinking, attitudes, relationships almost everything is changing. The equation between parents and children are also going through a huge transition. As we all know by now, change is good but often painful.

I am a person, who witnesses both sides of the coin. I don’t know whether I should take it as an advantage or not because it makes me feel for both and I find myself in a fix. I understand the dilemma both go through on an everyday level.  There are a lot of confusions, frustrations, irritations which leads to utter chaos.

If you are a parent of a teenage child, these are some of the statements you often must have heard,

” You need to trust me”,                  

” If everyone is allowed to do it, why can’t I?”,

” My friends understand me better than you.”

” Why do you compare me, all the time?”

” Why should I do something just because you want me to?”

” What’s your problem with my phone or computer use…It is my life!”

” You are never satisfied or happy with me.”

And as a parent you must have seen yourself repeating these sentences over and over,

” Do you even listen to me.”

” Put the phone down.”

” You need to do this because I say so.”

” Where is your respect?”

” I am just asking for a little responsibility.”

” I have seen the world, trust me.”

The gap, between both of you, all of a sudden looks so huge. Something, somewhere has changed drastically in a couple of years. It is like as a parent you were doing great and now nothing you do is sufficient.

Every day I have at least a couple of sessions which give me the feeling of déjà vu. After dealing with quite a number of these cases, I have understood some things, which  I would like to share with you today:

  • There is a lot of Miscommunication or Lack of communication between an adolescent and parent: While talking to both the parties, I have realized one thing…both have a lot to say to each other, which they never do.

Parents are generally uncomfortable in talking about certain issues, like sex, substance abuse, which leads to them either opting to not talk about it at all or becoming overly aggressive as soon as the topic is brought up.. This also makes the kids uncomfortable. They sense the discomfort of their parents and find it easier to hide or lie about it.

  • As parents, we need to understand that the world is changing, as so is our culture. We need to be aware about what  the general trends are as far as the freedom and independence of our kids are concerned. We need to know the outing hours, frequency of peer outings, time on laptops and phones of the friends of our kids.We can neither live in the last century, nor just let go of all the rights of a parent.

It is always a good idea to be in regular contact with the parents’ of the peers of our teenager. We should know what is being allowed and accepted by others. This will help us with the typical, ” The rest of the parents are cool with it.”

  • We need to have our own home rules and regulations. It should be talked with the adolescent and make them understand the point and the reasons behind them. It is also a good idea to abide by these rules yourself before implementing it.  They will learn the best when they will see you rather than hear you.
  • It is a good idea to always give them the reason behind your decisions. Just because you have gone through a childhood, where rules were made without any questions and answers, that doesn’t mean you could do the same.

If you’ll make decisions without giving reasons, you’ll lose the trust of your child. They will start taking you as a dictator and stop sharing their thoughts and issues with you. They will think that their friends understand them in a better way than you.

Generally, I have seen that you stop giving reasons when you yourself are out of it. Reflect and see, whether the point you’re sticking to is even worth it?

  • There is also a major issue of ‘talking back’ of children: The generation we are talking about is very forthright. They will ask till they get an answer, which they like. We need to understand it and should be tactful in such situations.

If the ‘ talking back’ becomes disrespectful, you need to be clearly voice it to your teenager. There also is a need for the presence of proper consequences when there is crossing of limits, which needs to be decided beforehand.

You should always remember that whatever is the situation, you need to be emotionally available for your adolescent.

For a teenager, the times are really difficult. They are going through change within them as well as the outside world . They are highly confused and as a result very vulnerable. Be gentle with them.

Your child is seeking support, though it comes with an attitude. You can’t blame them, it is their age of confusions!

P.S. If you are a teenager reading this article, I have a message for you. Your parents love and care for you and that is why they always want to protect you from this big bad world. They are scared and don’t know how to reach you. Help them help you!

Counseling Simplified!

I talk a lot about counseling. I’ll go on and on about it but what does it really mean and most importantly how it helps?

I am an Indian, so by default I am surrounded by people who speak in computer language. But sometimes I feel lost between them. They take it for granted that everyone must be aware of their basic terms like  Download, WiFi, Java etc. I try to keep pace but sometimes it sounds like gibberish and I lose my interest. On observation, I found out that most of the professionals do this; they mix their own basic terminology and unconsciously expect the whole world to understand it.

I am no exception. When I talk to people I expect them to know the meaning of PsychologyMental HealthCounseling etc.

If a person is not able to understand the basic terminologies,                                                      

how do you expect them to follow your discussion. It is more

like standing in a crowd where people are talking in a language,

which you have no clue about. Certainly you will loose your audience, let

alone convey your message to them.

So, today I decided to break this thought and start with the basics of counseling.

The first doubt which I want to clear is the difference between a Psychiatrist & a Psychologist. This is the most common place, where I have seen, a lot of people getting confused.

1. The major difference is in their degrees; A Psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor ( M.B.B.S.) while a Psychologist has Psychology Degree.

2. A Psychiatrist can prescribe you medication while a Psychologist uses psychotherapy/ counseling like behavioral, Psychoanalytic, Humanistic, Cognitive therapy etc.

3. Psychiatrist usually deals with mentally sick patients while a Psychologist caters to the wellness of emotional& mental health.

So here, I am going to be talking  about Psychologist, for the simple reason that I am one.

So, what we basically do is Psychotherapy/Counseling. A lot of therapists are going to have a problem with this statement of mine because if we go deep down in Psychology there are some minute differences between these two.

The goal of this post is to make things easier to understand and to stick to our aim, we are going to use counseling for both counseling & psychotherapy. Lets try to understand what exactly is Counseling first, I am sharing a definition which makes a lot of sense to me:

According to the professional body for counselling and psychotherapy in Scotland, COSCA: ” Counselling and psychotherapy are ways of responding to a wide range of human needs. Counselling and psychotherapy provide opportunities for those seeking help to work towards ways of living in more satisfying and resourceful ways. ”

Counseling is not only about the major problems of life but is a tool which could help you resolve something as simple as every day’s issue and concerns. It helps you make full use of your potentials and allows you to get rid of the hindrances in  leading a happy and contended life.

A lot of people think that if you’re seeking the help of someone else you are weak. This is a myth because counseling empowers you. Sometime you, yourself aren’t aware of your strengths, finding those hidden strengths is a byproduct of the counseling process. It makes you more independent than ever.

A Psychologist is a non judgmental person, who helps you in understanding your problem and working on it objectively in a methodological way. In counseling, you will never be told what to do instead the options are laid in front of you and you are equipped with skills to help you choose the best option for yourself.

I love to give this example to understand it in a better way;

I am sure all of us has been photographed whether we like it or not. We always ask ( or want to ask) the camera man about how are we looking?

Why do we do it?

Simple, because the cameraman can see the picture and we can’t.  Same is the case with our lives, sometimes we get so entangled in the details that we can’t see the full view objectively.

You have been given a life, go ahead nurture it, if anything is stopping you to do so, you now know what to do about it 🙂

The Sorry State of ‘ Mental Health’ in India

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
We Indians, have major issues in understanding this definition let alone apply it. Somehow, we have come to terms with the physical well being part of it but the other two, still an alien thought. We can easily follow all sorts of Babas and Soothsayers but will never accept the need to look after our Mental Health.

Almost every day the newspaper is full of reports about people ending their lives or going on a destructive path for reasons which could be easily dealt with, if taken proper care of. In our country, we are happy to be doomed but no one should call us crazy. We live with our problems, stress, difficulties, issues, in our self-made façade. Even our relatives and friends help us in covering our so-called weaknesses. It’s a pathetic state which is seeking awareness and help.

When do we know we need to take care of our mental health and how do we do it?

I would like to ask you a question in response to the above one:

How do you know you are physically not well? Your answers could be anything like; lethargy, tiredness, feeling sick, headache etc. Your next step usually is to take care of it by yourself and if it is something beyond your expertise, you find a doctor to help you, so that you can lead a healthy life.

The same signals are sent by our brain , when we need to take care of our mental health.  We go through an inability to be happy or experience positive emotions. Our lives become difficult and we carry it like a baggage.

Now, there is a difference between what should we do about this problem and what we do? We should, in this case also, seek an expert for help to make us healthier but generally we don’t do it.  We keep on dealing with it ourselves making it worse with each passing day.

I wouldn’t blame the people of my country entirely for the negligence in this field but there are a lot of other reasons for the stigma attached to seeking mental health care:

1. Lack of Awareness: Till today, everyone thinks if you are not on the streets with torn clothes, staring at space, you have perfect mental state. No one ( that includes all the literate people) will ever recommend counseling for a friend. If you are a good friend, you’ll help him/her by helping them hide their problems not dealing with them.

I’ll recommend you to start seeking answers. If there is something bothering you look out for solutions. Until you ask, you aren’t going to get answers.

2. No one could help me: This is a feeling which stops most of us from seeking help. Sometimes we are not able to decide whether we even need help or not.

It is always better to get a second opinion because if you are in a situation it becomes impossible to take it objectively.

3. An Outside help for my problem is a taboo: It is difficult to admit that there are problems which need to be sorted and for that we need help.

What we don’t understand here is counseling works on the strengths rather than the weaknesses. It equips you with the skills to deal with your issues making you stronger and more independent than ever.

4. Lack of Mental Health Professionals: Even if you decide you need help, where do you suppose to go after that? Our country lacks good credible professionals in the mental health area. People are scared to go to a person and be exploited with their innermost feelings.

I’ll recommend checking and finding the right kind of specialist. Do your homework. There is a shortage of reliable professionals but that doesn’t mean there are none. It may take more work. Only go to a person, you can trust. It may mean you have to do some trial and error.

Thanks to technology now we have the amazing world of online counseling . You need not come out and announce it to the whole world but discreetly could seek help. We, Indians are born IT savvy. I have seen the participation of small, remote cities on social networking sites.

It is high time to build the courage to ask for help. It is in our hands to suffer till we want to. There is a huge misconception in our country, that you only visit a mental health practitioner, if you have major issues. It is not true!

I would like to take an example, which I often use, life is like a road and it is normal to get road bumps in it. It could be in the form of relationship issues, adjustment problems, stress etc. You need to slow down and sort it before speeding up again on the track, otherwise your vehicle of life will topple down.

Come out of the taboo and take care of yourself in the real sense. You need to nurture what is given to you. Take the step, if there is a need…Reach out. You need not make a scene or announce it to the whole world. Find a person, who could help.

Nothing is going to stop you in finding a way, if you make it your priority to take care of yourself!

Life is fun…Live it!

If you are an adult of this planet, I think this post needs your attention. All of us, in our everyday’s hustles are slowly forgetting  about the beautiful journey we are in, called LIFE. We are so stuck up with the smaller issues in life that we are not giving ourselves permission to look into the bigger picture.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” William Shakespeare

We are actors with our different roles which we need to act with a touch of detachment but is it really happening?

Honestly, how many of us can actually raise our arms and say that we are not attached to the roles we play whether its professional or personal. We carry the roles with us as a baggage. The baggage keeps on becoming heavier and heavier but we refuse to let go of it.

 

 

 

 I am not saying stop playing your part but what I am trying to convey here is you need to also remember that all these roles are temporary.Take some time out and enjoy the beautiful journey of life. The ride can get bumpy sometimes, but it is okay…let it be!

If the life you are leading now is what you wanted all along and you are happy; you’re right on track but if it is different then you need to sit back and reflect.

Where did it go wrong? When was the last time I actually had fun? A lot of you are going to think if we are going to have fun, who will do the work? Are you doing things you like doing or are you wasting the precious time of your life?

I am not advocating procrastination of work but I am trying to make you understand the importance of taking some time out to care for yourself. Self care is the most under hyped thing in this world. Once somebody shared this with me, which till date I am not able to forget:

” The way we treat ourselves, if somebody else will treat us even close to that way; we will kill the person”

Why the moment we think about ourselves, we start feeling guilty? Especially in Indian culture, which is based on the tradition of sacrifices, the mere thought of thinking about yourself is being selfish. We keep on doing our duties but at the same time crib and complain so much, that at the end our lives become nothing else but a complaint box. We love to find faults with everything else but refuse to see the change we could make. Fine, there is a problem but does that means we should stop our life there only?

Come out of your ifs and buts. Be positive!It is time. Think about a positive person in your life and how you crave to the company of his. Don’t think about things you can’t change or control and if you’ve a problem with it please refer to the Serenity Prayer. I always refer to it and guess what, it works!

Remember our slam books from childhood which talked about hobbies and we used to happily fill it with different activities. What about now? Any idea what a hobby is?

All of us are different and so the solution is also going to be different. Find something which really refreshes you; it can be as simple as following your favorite nonsense sitcom. Life is too heavy, don’t make it unbearable. Get out of your cocoon and start living it. Even if you’ve a major share of problems to deal with; trust me a little fun is not gonna do any harm.

If you are a person you want to live life by going back to the cocoon, do that. There are no written rules of how to live life. Until & unless you are not hurting yourself or someone else you are on the right track. You just need to be honest to yourself, the rest of the world will take care of itself 🙂

As the Unwritten song by Natasha Bedingfield  beautifully sums it:        

 

Drench yourself with words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten.

 

For a change, be selfish and think about yourself, be stupid, funny, laugh, cry, hug, jump…LIVE YOUR LIFE!!!

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