I Wonder Who I am

Is cocreation a hopeful approach for contemporary individuals to feel a sense of belonging?

A recurring question that leaves an individual with varying feelings of confusion, perplexity, being frozen, agitated and so on, is an outcome of the need of all humans to make meaning of their experiences, their lives, their journey. In the play ‘Life”, we assume and enact so many characters and roles commencing with being a child, sibling, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, spouse, supervisee, supervisor, and the list continues… Each character and role has specific tasks, needs, goals, and requires support and guidance to accomplish a feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment.

This constant pondering on the question ‘Who am I?’ promoted me to probe various elements of my psychological structure. I was born and brought up with certain values, beliefs and attitudes which were evident when I engaged with professionals, who very often triggered discomfort in me, as I experienced my frame of reference being different. Simultaneously, I experienced discomfort when I was in the midst of my family, as in this milieu my frame of reference also seemed different. I experienced a sense of belonging nowhere but within myself.

To anchor and belong within myself and my contextual setting, I began the search for the elements of culture that I was forming and disseminating to the individuals who engaged with me, as undoubtedly transference and countertransference were in play.

In the hierarchy of existential needs, recognition is a validation of an individual’s existence. This begins in the family – the primal system. Therefore, in the need for recognition the individual follows the implied social norms and expectations of the system to which they belong. The fear of being excluded is paramount. These social norms are the values, attitudes, prejudices, that govern the daily life.

Geert Hofstede a well known sociologist defined “Culture as a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes one group from another” This programming of the mind is acquired by individuals who grow up together in the same Forest. Culture is an integral element of the Human Mind’s Operating System.

As TA practitioners in a global context, diversity is immense. Is it not important to question or probe an individual’s cultural framework prior to evaluating their behaviour as restrictive or promoting? Awarely or unawarely, do we not enact the role that the client or student subtly hands to us? Enquiry of the other’s culture, possibly will be a channel to be sensitive so that growth is potent and self sufficient for the person in their social context.

In todays’ world, diversity in its various forms is obvious …yet acceptance of diversity is so challenging! Exploration of cultural frameworks will be the process to understand some of these questions.

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Global Learning to encourage Global Thinking

(Article by Anna Chandy in ‘The Script’, published by the International Transactional Analysis Association, Sept 2013)

Have you explored your cultural wiring as a therapist , trainer or trainee  in Transactional Analysis ?

I am a PTSTA in the Counselling field from Bangalore in India, and have a very keen interest in understanding individuals and groups  as they move  from one developmental stage  to another.  Bangalore is one of the fastest developing cities both in India and the world.  It is the IT hub, and many multinationals have a huge presence here resulting in a heterogeneous, diverse population.

In my experience as a life coach, therapist and trainer,  both  individuals and groups  often experience feelings of  “stuckness”, “inertia” and “being rudderless”  when they seem to have completed a developmental stage and yet are not aware of it.  It is at these phases in their life that they require support, playful challenge  and an infusion of energy to promote  awareness, movement, recognition and direction required for the next stage.   I was experiencing these feelings in my PTSTA journey.

With this perspective in mind, I took the opportunity to visit Oxford in April 2013  and participate as a co trainer and learner with Rosemary Napper for ten intense days.  I had the opportunity to train and simultaneously learn with groups from diverse  cultural backgrounds.  We were three trainers: Sylvia from Austria, Rosemary from the UK and myself from India.  The participants in the group of trainees were mainly  citizens of several ethnicities from the United Kingdom, the United States and Brazil.  To me,  ethnicity is the hardware, the deeply embedded  psychological wiring that binds the individual to their systemic cultural roots ; citizenship is the software , the multilevel relating language and coding, individuals or groups learn and develop to fit into, engage with, and create belonging to the environment in which they have taken up residence. Hardware resides in the unconscious; software mainly in the conscious.

As an Indian, my hardware had some transgenerational  contaminations  of which I was unaware and that surfaced during my time in Oxford.  In my country, I am a successful individual, self assured and independent.  My clientele are from various walks of life and different countries.  Many international clients have shared with me that I was recommended to them as an independent ,progressive professional to whom they would be able to relate because I have travelled outside of India.

In Oxford, while  I was training individuals from another country, I internally felt inadequate and nervous.  Upon  self reflection. I realized that my systemic trans-generational psychological position of “being not OK” was the force behind the feelings.  I was in Oxford,  considered to be the heartland of colonial politicians, and the buildings there reminded me of colonial history , which had an impact on my hardware.  I am an  Indian born much after independence, yet my hardware had the impact of pre independence days experienced by my forefathers.

I required the playful challenge, infusion of energy and support from individuals whose hardware is different from mine, for insight by which to deconstruct an aspect of my psychological  framework. In my environment this opportunity most likely would not have risen, as although we Indians are diverse, specially in our software, our hardware is very similar.

In both CTA and PTSTA training  journeys, at different developmental stages. I think needs such as these arise for most trainees.    I think and believe that a trainer from a different environment with a different software, hardware and frame of reference will enrich the trainee’s experience and development.  This is especially true given the changing world we live in where it is crucial  that we are global and not parochial, so that we relate, engage and negotiate from a “we-ness” rather than  “I-ness”.

I think multicultural , multi setting training with the objective of learning  globally  to encourage  global thinking  will benefit our trainees, trainers and clientele. With this purpose in mind the pilot group of trainees will be visiting Oxford to  experience, observe and learn, both individually and collectively, in a setting diverse from theirs, and taking online  tutorials from trainers of  three nationalities (UK, Australia and India).

Will you like to explore your cultural wiring and include this tenet in your training?  We are hoping trainees from other parts of the globe will join us to represent varied frames of reference and thus broaden and deepen the experience for all of us.

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Nothing Grows Under a Banyan Tree

By Anna Chandy

Have you ever wondered why nothing grows under a Banyan tree?  The Banyan tree is so large and spreads its tertiary roots a great distance away from the original tree. In addition, the branches and leaves form a large canopy.  From the secondary branches, new nodal roots appear, which slowly get embedded and finally, there is no room for sunlight, loosened soil, or space for a small sapling to grow and become a tree.

The tree of psychological approval from significant others, is similar to the Banyan tree.  From infancy, one of our primary existential needs, is recognition in the form of psychological approval. Gaining approval from our parents or significant adults is vital for our existence and continues even in adult life.   If we have not received adequate amounts of approval, we almost feel lifeless, rejected, abandoned and isolated.  Approval becomes a core need, embedded in our psyche and part of our unconscious and the adult’s internal self-esteem is dependent on our need for approval.    This need for approval becomes a constant self-perpetuating system that if not fulfilled, disables us from feeling liberated and empowered, even though we may appear to be successful, socially and professionally.

Individuals may be successful and functional in various roles, yet they disregard any achievement or success, because their internal psyche has not yet been satisfied.  They filter out any other forms of recognition and continue to seek approval from significant adults or individuals, who psychologically represent their parents.

Our intrinsic need for approval promotes us to engage in interlocking with individuals in an unhealthy psychological game.   It is this theme that we relate to in various systems.  Approval is a common theme in all systems.

The family system is the primary source, or space, where this intrinsic need of ours is rooted. For a child, parental approval is vital for existence.  The child interprets any actions, behavior, transaction and strokes from the parents as a form of positive or negative approval.  This interpretation becomes the core, and all beliefs and values of the child, are based on this core feeling of sense of worth. In a family system, approval is withheld as a form of retaining the locus of power and control.  If this need is not satisfied, we will continuously try to seek it out from other systems that we belong to, like our workplace, our social setting and our friends.

As a child, if you have not received the adequate approval that is required for your growth, then even as an adult, the process of individuating and retaining one’s uniqueness is never maximized.  In the workplace, this need for approval is projected on to receiving the leader’s approval.   Without awareness, at work, this leader becomes your parent and any feedback, either positive or negative, is interpreted as positive or negative approval.  If you have a leader whose approval you constantly need, it may be worthwhile for you to examine your internal need for approval.

As a teacher, I often feel confused and perplexed with this need of my students.  Most of them ask for guidance in the guise of explicit direction. Along the way, guidance is interpreted as nurturance, protection and approval.  Without awareness, they are seeking the same kind of relationship that they had with their parents.  They are unwilling and unable to take risks, step out of their familiar territory and carve their own path. Making a mistake and learning from it is not the end of the world.

Recently, I was observing a situation between a father and his grown up son.  The old man was listening to his son share about his career.  The son was successful, yet it was so obvious that somehow he was still seeking approval from his father.  His father, with or without awareness, withheld giving him that.  Both the father and son seem to be relating from the old transacting pattern and not mindful that both of them have evolved, changed and moved ahead.

As you chronologically and psychologically age in your journey of life and you begin the journey of exploration, you realize that in order for you to blossom, evolve and be giving to yourself and to others, you need to examine your own need for approval.

The last six months have been months of contemplation and exploration, as I challenge and reweave my own canvas of values and beliefs.  As I near the age of fifty, I am impacted by the information and realization, that for the past fifty years, over a two third of my decisions, actions and choices were made from the framework of family and social approval.  For the next few years that I live, I would like to weave my own tapestry of colour, texture and elasticity, on seeking my own approval

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The Cake Shop

by Anna Chandy

Recently I attended a gathering of professionals.  The venue had a combine of individuals who were professionals.  These professionals were at different phases of their professional journey and had come to share new ideas, research papers, thoughts and their expertise.

It was like entering a cake shop.  There were assorted cakes for display and sale.    There were wholesome cakes that were heavy, well risen, firm yet moist, tasty to eat and had no icing decorations.  They stood alone, firm and tall.  Then there were feather light sponge cakes that were were fully decorated with soft butter icing, soggy cakes decorated with thick almond icing and cup cakes that appeared divine, and yet lacked taste.  Each of us symbolized the various types of cakes standing on the shelves of the cake shop!

The past few days, I’ve been reflecting on each of us as human beings and the roles we play.  Somewhere along our journey, we forget our core as a human being and instead seem to get trapped in our role identity.  The outcome of this trap of role, is that we forget who we are and slowly engage with ourselves and the other from our role expectations.

Irrespective of your professional qualifications, expertise and role identity in society, your core is a key determinant in your behavior and the manner in which you engage and conduct yourself – alone or with others.

I was observing various professionals at the gathering.  Although some of them had age (assumption of experiential wisdom), qualifications and expertise, yet they resembled the cupcakes.  Fully decorative and divine, yet they lacked taste.  They seemed so afraid of the loss of their professional position and recognition that they held on to it rigidly.

The divine cakes were calling out to be taken, for fear of being left on the shelf.    Out of this fear of becoming stale and being disposed, they kept engaging from a rather patronizing one-up position.  They used jargon to mystify and create an impression that the road to ‘Leela’ or play, is long and tunneled.  In Transactional Analysis terms, they take the life position, ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK’.  Further on, when we engage with divine cakes, they are so divine to look at, that we are caught up in the fantasy and are unable to connect with our consensual reality.

The feathery sponge cakes can be eaten but will still leave you feeling hungry.  These professionals are full of esoteric theory.  They appear so fluffy in esoteric theory, as if they are floating on a carpet of Nirvana.   I wondered if they were digesting all these vast amounts of learning and information.  When we engage with individuals who are like the light, feathery sponge cakes, they are so light that we seem to experience them as unanchored.

Have you ever had the experience of an almond iced cake?  You chose to eat a slice because the icing was so smooth and glossy in texture.  Yet, when you ate a piece, it was soggy and not fully cooked.  It is well known among cake makers, that if a cake is soggy and unevenly risen, the best way to cover the error is to use almond or fondant icing. as the icing will camouflage the inside.  Some of us are expert theoreticians, yet we do not ruminate and assimilate our own theories into our core.  The theory symbolizes the almond icing.

And then there are wholesome cakes – you eat a slice of it and it provides you with energy for the next few hours, because it digests slowly.  In our day-to-day lives, when we engage with individuals who are down to earth, comfortable, accepting of themselves and the other, they convey to us gratitude, compassion and unconditional love – qualities that enable us to live with hope.  The energy from them is acceptance of realities, pain, joy and fear.  They embrace life.

What kind of cake will you endeavor to be in the Cake Shop of Life?

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No More a Head Load Worker

By Anna Chandy

A head load worker is an individual who engages in the profession of carrying heavy loads from one place to another, without examining the contents, the weight and possibilities of damage.  He or she receives wages for carrying loads.  These wages are essential for existential physical survival.

Our lives represent that of the head load worker.  We carry and convey loads and loads of unrealistic psychological messages trans-generationally, irrespective of the burden or weight.  The contents of the messages, or its implications, are not explored with regard to our current contextual realities.  Recognition and gaining approval for being perfect, are the wages we receive from the family, community and other systems that we belong to. Recognition and approval are existential psychological survival needs.

Psychological head-load workers play an ongoing, continuous series of psychological games, from generation to generation.  Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, a Theory of Personality, says that eighty percent of a person’s entire life is spent in playing mind games.  Deepak Chopra says that by the time a child is three years old, he already has the template of mind games, which he’s learnt through the modeling of his parents’ games.

These games are played outside our awareness.  The purpose of these mind games is to continuously build an inner core of feelings of self worth and adequacy.  We engage with one another in various types of psychological games.  Critical judgment, victimization, persecution, intellectualization, accusing, patronizing, and rescuing are all part of the gaming equation. The duration of any game varies from a few seconds and can be extended to many years.  The intensity and the types of games depend on the social setting and the kind of relationship.

Although the purpose of games is to increase our core feeling of adequacy and self worth, which in turn enables us to seemingly appear perfect in multiple identities, it is not so.  At the end of each game we end up feeling inadequate and unworthy, because the plan did not go in the manner that we had envisaged. Our partner, who we enrolled in the game, may confuse or surprise us with a new strategy that we are not prepared for.  We experience the pain of unworthiness and our core is ashamed.  To avoid the pain and feelings of shame and failure, day after day, we create new strategies, initiatives and plans to actively enroll and win!  This is the reason why, very often, we hear of a seemingly close, intimate relationship ending after several years.  It was a game that provided pseudo intimacy.

We are so deeply embedded in playing games, that brick by brick, after each game, we cover our authentic core with bricks of fear, anger, shame, jealousy, hatred and disgust.  As time goes by, you don’t know who you are, what it means to be authentic and instead of engaging in relationships that are meaningful, we engage in those that are harmful and pseudo intimate.

I often wonder how much of energy I spent in the game of trying to please others, just so that I am accepted and recognized in society as a ‘good person’.  One of the main roles I focused on, was being considered a good in-law and the game I played was “I am capable”.  For over quarter century, I played the “capability game” since I wanted and needed the approval that I am smart and capable.  In my birth family, I was the incapable one, in comparison to my sibling – who was a high achiever.  Therefore, my inner unconscious core contained feelings of inadequacy.  To avoid the painful feelings of inadequacy, I performed, irrespective of the task, not for a moment taking into consideration my health, my needs and wants, and my limitations.   I multi-tasked and was on top of every identity.  I was efficient in homemaking, good in cooking and well known in my profession.  I became the primary caregiver to my brother-in-law who is schizophrenic.   I even extended the caregiving service to my aged mother-in-law.  I was rated AAA.  I was so busy fixing everyone’s lives!

The amount of energy expended in building this falsified image, has cost me vast amounts of pain.  Last year I fell ill and was advised by the doctor that I am not a super woman – I needed to slow down and needed to share responsibilities.  I asked for family support.  All hell broke loose.  I was accused and humiliated, stories of me being a mercenary were publicized, my morals were questioned.  I hung my head in pain and shame.  I survived the surprise hit, because of my work and a few friends who conveyed unconditional support, empathy and non-judgmental acceptance.  The onslaught of accusations continued, I hit rock bottom.

At rock bottom you are forced to face your demons.  Once you face your demons, the liberated feeling of being authentic and compassionate to oneself, begins to capture your attention.  I vowed to myself that I would endeavor to be authentic and compassionate to myself.  ‘Compassionate’, to me, is defined as being mindful, having clarified boundaries and being accountable for my behaviours towards others and myself.  If, the risk of being self-compassionate is acknowledgment of failure of my role, I willingly embrace my failure with courage, authenticity and openness..

Recently, when I addressed my community, I was told that an individual had made a comment “Oh how can she talk? She has a poor track record of being a good in-law.”  I agree with her completely.  Yes, I have failed. I acknowledge my imperfection.

Radha (name changed) lived a life filled with violence for many years.  She lived with this ongoing violence so that she conveys and maintains an image of being a good wife, a good daughter and a good mother.  Her rationalization of continuing this painful experience was that “No one other than me knows my misery and therefore my children will have a better life than me.”  She continued in the game “Kick me “ for over two decades.

Lately, the violence has been extended to her children too.  Her planned strategy has not worked.  Her children continue to be unmarried and in fact, are disillusioned with relationships.  She now lives with the guilt of not having taken courage and responsibility in the early years.   If she had ended the marriage, it may have resulted in her being branded by society  as having a failed marriage.   Yet, the violence would not have been extended to the children.

Is it not important for each of us to endeavor to look inwards and face our own demons of imperfections and limitations, instead of looking outward into the imperfections, limitations and vulnerabilities of others?  Is it not possible for us to pass the baton of imperfection and vulnerability, to promote compassion, courage and conviction?  Or, do we become like the critical lady who is so limited, that all her psychic energy is consumed in blaming, judging and victimizing others, so that she sits on a false pedestal of belief that she is worthy and others are unworthy.

Do you want to examine and explore your head load?

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A Blooming Lotus in Murky Water – Promoting Empowerment of Women in a Collective Society

(The lotus is the only flower that thrives in muddy waters.  This talk, given by Anna at the Inner Wheel Club, Kottayam, is about promoting empowerment for women in a collective society – a society which makes many demands on the roles women must play.)

To empower means to enable or to permit.

A lot of organisations, individuals, governments and community, work towards promoting physical empowerment of women.  However, this evening I share with you my thoughts on a different type of empowerment, psychological empowerment.   Psychological empowerment is a need in our current society, as more and more women are shedding, or stepping out of traditional, stereotypical roles and entering a new work arena.  In fact, data is showing that India is experiencing a social crisis because of the change of traditional social roles.

While we educate our young girls to become independent, take jobs and responsibilities, we also need to provide them with life skills to manage and cope with their uniqueness.  They need to be informed that it is impossible to excel in multi roles and that choice is acceptable.  No two individuals are similar, each has a set of strengths and limitations, yet society expects them to be perfect and excel in all the roles they play.  If they do not, they are branded or marked as failures.  For us women to understand psychological empowerment, we need to understand a prime factor or issue that prevents psychological empowerment – shame.

Shame is a psycho-social construct.  We are a shame based society, that controls members of a system – like a family, a clan, or group, by shaming and humiliating members when they do not live up to the expectations thrust upon them.

All of us have multiple roles and identities that we are expected to fulfil – those of a mother, daughter, in law, granddaughter, sister, employer, employee, etc.  We get deeply embedded in these roles and constantly feel pressured and stressed, trying to fulfil the demands of these roles. We fear being ridiculed, shamed or humiliated.  We fear exclusion.

Inclusion is the third most important need in the hierarchy of needs, after food, water and shelter.  All human beings have a core need of being acknowledged, included and accepted, as a human of self worth and dignity. Example J

Fear of exclusion disables us from experiencing the liberated feeling of who we want to be, aspire to be, or dream to be.  Instead, we constantly feel cornered, trapped and victimised.

When Talita invited me here this evening, to talk to all of you on women and empowerment, I experienced feelings of joy, of being included, of being acknowledged and recognised as an individual who has the ability to address all of you.  Simultaneously, I also had feelings of fear, of being judged, ridiculed and excluded.

In 2000, when I stepped out from being a homemaker into the professional arena  – I had fears and was scared, because I was only a homemaker and yet, I was going to be working with individuals from B-schools of premier institutions.  I was scared because I was not confident that I was equipped, and felt anxious that I would be shamed and not included.  I feared I would be an outsider!

Today, I feel the same fear as I have failed in one of the identities that my community had expected of me – I have failed to live up to the expectation of being an ideal, good in-law. I was willing to be a caring in-law but parallelly, I wanted to continue in my professional journey, which entailed a lot of travel and time away from home.  This was perceived as neglect and selfishness.  I had made a choice to take care of my core need, for which I was accused, blamed and humiliated.

I share this part of my personal shame with you, because to feel empowered, one has to have the courage to acknowledge openly your failures, imperfections and vulnerabilities.

Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher on shame states, that women experience shame as a web of layered, conflicting and competing social community expectations of who we should be, wh3at we should be and how we should be.  This is our identity in society.  Shame can be specific to the different roles we play and to the expectations of these roles.  The fear of not fulfilling these roles, fuels our core feeling of shame.

Psychological empowerment is the ability to accept that you are a human being of dignity and self worth and to also acknowledge your vulnerability and imperfections.  Empowerment is a social community issue, because for us women to feel psychologically empowered, we need to be aware, to acknowledge, and to courageously experience our feelings of shame, if we fail in any of our various roles.

To become empowered and to empower, we need to embrace our unique truths, imperfections and inadequacies.

Since society a shame-based, it uses power to control, influence, exert and retain.  There are two types of power. There is over-power and there is real power.

Over-power is to exert, to control, to force and bully.  It is a type of power that is used for all of us to feel powerless and to experience in short supply, feelings of self worth, love, care and acceptance.   The feeling of short supply of positive feelings, promotes us to be critical, judgemental, persecutionary and forceful.  When individuals indulge in these behaviours, it is indicative of their core, which is one of worthlessness and inadequacy.  They attempt to feel worthy through over-power.

Real power comes from within.  It enables individuals to change something if they want to, it is limitless, and we don’t need to fight for it.  It is available abundantly.  It is not forced on us.  In fact, it is what we create and build along with others.  It is inclusive.

Real power has three components, conscious, choice and change.   For us to empower ourselves, we need to be conscious, make choices and subsequently change.  It is real power that enables us to connect with our inner core.  It also promotes us to develop social support networks and create power through interaction.  In interaction, the personal zoom lens that was inward looking, starts looking outside.   Social support networks develop only through sharing our own feelings, experiences and issues, while interacting with other individuals.

When an individual is going through a difficulty, they are inward looking, so their struggles are magnified, their stress increases and they are unable to problem solve.

When we share, we are talking aloud and therefore get clarity in our own thoughts.  It is therapeutic, because we also learn problem solving when people share from their experiences.  It is through sharing that we finally acknowledge our feelings.  Acknowledgement is therapeutic because we have moved from denial into reality, which is the key to problem solving.

Dr. Uram, a trained psychiatrist, explains that most of us adults think of traumatic events as big events (like wrecks, disasters, natural calamities).  We tend not to recognise that the small, daily, quiet, traumas that we experience, trigger the same brain survival reaction, that a large traumatic event creates.  That is, flight, freeze, or fight.  These are all defence mechanisms, these are all shame screens or denial mechanisms.

That is why, very often, before we actually recognise that we are experiencing shame, when we feel criticised, ridiculed, rejected, we actually experience bodily reactions.  That is because the brain registers that there is a threat beyond our control and we get sense of a wound.

The neo cortex, which is the part of our brain that is involved in problem solving and logic, is paralysed and unable to function.  We are in automated positions of fight, flight and freeze.

Shame screens create a barrier that disallows or prevents an individual from experiencing their core feelings.  It is when our shame screens are in position, that people experience us as powerless, having no presence and no potency.  Intellectualisation, justification, blame, generalisation are varied types of shame screens.  As women, for us to harness our personal power and empower ourselves, we need to become conscious of our predominant shame screens and the triggers which prompt us to pull up our shame screens.

Sharing and acknowledgement of our shame is an antidote to shame.  Shame gets paralysed when we acknowledge it.

However, it is important for us to note and be cautious, whom we select to share our feelings of shame with.  We need to share with wholehearted individuals.  The tenets of wholeheartedness are empathy, non-judgemental and mindful behaviour.   Each of us, to promote our empowerment, need to be conscious, to make choices and to change.

To be conscious means to reflect, observe, identify our shame screens and triggers.  Once we are conscious of our shame screens, we are able to look at various options available and to choose what we need to let go of, edit or change.   We then make the choice of what behaviour we would like to alter.  We make the choice that is appropriate to the context. Once we make the choice, we embark on the journey of change.

An empowered person, has the ability in themselves to change when they become conscious.  They are more accepting of themselves and the other and embrace imperfections, uniqueness and vulnerabilities.   The lotus begins to bloom.

As fellow women, take a moment and ask yourself – as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter, do you want to equip your younger generation of women with psychological empowerment, or do you want to continue to judge, criticise, ridicule and put down other women, leaving them powerless and ill equipped to live harmoniously and positively in today’s changing world.  I encourage each of you to become the flowering lotus in your pond.

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Caring for the Self

Caring for the Self

A Need that Must be Added to Our Daily Bucket List

by Anna Chandy

The trends are changing in India and along with the change, our needs and priorities are also changing.

The changes and needs are so obvious to some, yet a large number of Indians seem oblivious to some of the prerequisites for a satisfying life.  The new age Indian seems to be chasing material possessions – which are of course a requirement.  But they do not seem to take a breath, pause, and ask themselves a question, “How much is enough?”

I started my career as a therapist in the field of mental health eighteen years ago.  At that time, the number of individuals, families and children that needed psychological help was minimal.  Today, each day is packed with individuals, families and children requiring psychological support.  From a career perspective, this makes me a successful professional- however, from a social perspective, I sometimes wonder.

The individual in today’s world does not take into cognisance the importance of emotional well-being.  In fact emotional well-being is one of the foremost essential prerequisites to be successful, driven, motivated to fulfil dreams and goals, and simultaneously, to lead a satisfying family life.

The generalised assumption is that if the family and the individual are provided with two or three homes, good bank balances, extensive globe travel and holidays and a luxurious life style, “Everybody will be happy.”.  However, in my practice and experience, this has not proven true.

I have been systematically making a mental note and collating data on the number of individuals and/or partners in a relationship, who are not content because they don’t feel a sense of emotional well-being.  One common theme that seems to be a core issue, is that their partner lacks sexual drive.

In society, this person is considered a high achiever, very successful and a good provider.  The reality is that they are unaware that their partner is dissatisfied, lacks contentment and is searching for other avenues to fulfil these needs.  The partner is fully aware of the consequences of getting involved in an alternative relationship – can be the possible breakdown of family systems, immense emotional turmoil, guilt, anger and being viewed as having weak morals by society.   Yet, because of an unsatisfied sexual life, they are willing to break existing cultural and social values and beliefs.  Sex is also a need for emotional well-being.

Seema (name changed) comes to therapy to share her sadness, sense of rejection and discontentment. “My husband Santosh is only interested in making money, he says it’s for the family … he keeps long hours at work, or is travelling.  When he is at home, he is on the laptop.  He has no time for me, or the children.  I am only 35 years old.  I have told him so many times that I too, work, we don’t need so much money. He does not pay attention.”.

How will Santosh have energy or time?  Every human being has only a certain amount of psychological energy.  If that energy is invested only in one particular direction, what will happen?  He will be burnt out and this affects the family system.  Of late, several women have been coming to me with the same core issue.

It is so vital for individuals to take a pause, reflect, introspect and rejuvenate ourselves periodically and systematically, in order to lead a holistic satisfying life.  As a therapist, I continue on my mission to work in prevention, rather than cure.  I encourage individuals to take a breath, a pause and look within.

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