Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cognitive Distortion--The Should Statements

Cognitive distortions as we all know,are faulty perceptions of reality--either lopsided,exaggerated,or totally false.Our perceptions harden into beliefs and govern,not only our behavior but also our emotions.wrong perception of people,events or our own selves can therefore push us in the wrong direction.To a large extent these distortions are responsible for the feelings of unease or discontent which often spoil our moods.

The 'should statements'-commands emanating from inside us,which tell us what we should or shouldn't do-form one such segment.Some of us have very strict codes of conduct for self as well as others.If after a perfectly reasonable act,your mind tells you that you should not have done that,then it is your 'should distortion' on the job.

For example if I rebuff someone who has been annoying me since long and subsequently feel that I should not have done this,then instead of feeling good about having asserted myself and secured myself from future annoyance,I feel guilty.

Take the case of someone who is hard-pressed to meet a deadline but is repeatedly distracted by a thought that he ought to have finished that task earlier.Imagine his stress in such a situation.To an extent the should thoughts remind us of our obligations,but if unjustified or ill-timed,they could become a pain in the neck.

Sometimes these notions also prompt us to pass strictures on others' behavior,thereby courting their ill-will and straining the relationships.

Whichever way we look at it,the shoulds burden us with unnecessary guilt,anger ,frustration, and anxiety.If we repeatedly tell ourselves,'I should have done this','I ought not to have done that', 'I must do this',then we are only gathering dark clouds over our minds.We cannot thrive in such an atmosphere.

It is not difficult to get rid of this tendency.Just identify at the very initial stage, thoughts containing words like should, must,and ought.Contradict them again and again and these checks and controls will vanish into thin air.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be--A Busybee

I was born with a congenital fault,or default-I don't know which-to keep doing something or the other throughout the day.It is very oxymoronish to hunt for odd jobs to occupy me and then complain of being overburdened with work.No one compels me to do this or that.The compulsion comes from within.How does one categorise this tendency?Is it a blessing or a curse?

Actually I have many reasons to be thankful for it.It keeps me fit and supple.Very little chances of my joints creaking from disuse.I don't feel like a sucker-I am doing my bit to justify my existence on this planet.Keeping busy,indulging in various activities broadens my vision and adds to my bag of skills.

I hate to request anyone to do something for me unless I am unable to do it myself.This comes from a yen for selfreliance,perfection,and also a bit of ego.Looks like I myself have chosen this kind of life--no destiny or default at fault :(.

Happy as  am to potter around my home doing this or that,sometimes I do look wistfully at those who enjoy greater leisure time.I guess their minds must be more at peace than mine,because I become restless if I have nothing to do.

If not a life of leisure what about a thundering career?There was no career to speak of.I could have carved out a distinct identity for myself if only I had stepped outside my comfort zone.But my utter content failed to niggle me to look beyond my home and family.

Did I choose right?What do you think?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Shocking Crime and #Antisocial Personality Disorder

We often read about shocking crimes committed in the heat of the moment,and fail to find a logical explanation for them.It is psychology which then comes up with plausible answers to such questions.This fact was revealed explicitly to me when Jay came over to me for counseling a few years back.

He was a robust 35yrs old young man at that time.He required no prodding to come out with all the details of his life till date.He had studied only up to 8th class and he began to earn at the age of 14yrs.He had been driving a taxi since the last 20yrs.Very matter of factly,he stated that his mother did not care at all for him.The only person who loved him had been his father who had expired six years ago.He had two brothers but they lived separately because he went out of control whenever he was angry.

He had gotten married to Ena 3yrs ago but she left him after one and a half years.He loved her profusely.Now he wanted me to mediate between them.If she did not return he would first kill her and then himself.Two weeks prior to this he had purposely shoved his taxi down into a valley.It turned turtle five times and landed upside down but nobody was hurt.All this,to get Ena back.

He gave me her number and I promised to find out what she wanted.Her mother came on the line when I rang her up.She told me that Jay was addicted to opium and smack and in no way would she send her daughter back.

So I called him and gave him the update.I tried to reason out with him,to show him how he was destroying himself and finding no joy in life too.On top of that he was wrecking his health and there was still time to turn back.

He listened quietly and merely said that yes I was right.I was not surprised that he did not turn up for the next appointment.I rang him up after a few weeks to find out how he was doing.He merely said he was OK and that was the end of the story.

His was a typical case of Antisocial Personality Disorder - impulsiveness,violence,breaking laws,destroying property,scarce concern for others' rights and emotions,manipulation--it was all there.It is possible that his disorder was the result of genes or early life experiences.He deserved sympathetic,supportive treatment.

In such cases the family also has the responsibility of keeping a watchful eye on the sufferer and making sure that s/he does not get into trouble especially if s/he is a minor.

I wonder how he is,and whether or not he has transformed himself;though the chances appear bleak.The prognosis of this condition is not encouraging,however,they may mellow down with age.

 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

#Relationships and #Mentaldisorders

We live in paradoxical times.Life is easy,convenient and comfortable as never before,but the mind is at unrest as it never was.Innumerable appliances,apps and devices make the mandatory functions a breeze,yet a large segment finds itself overworked and overstressed.Leisure hours have dwindled and psychological problems have multiplied.We the urban educated,have countless facebook friends,but how many with whom we can discuss a personal problem?

All this raises a pertinent question-has life become easy or more complex than before?Easy as far as the physical aspect is concerned but complex because of the way it compromises our mental health and equanimity.The stressors are aplenty-waiting at every turn to pounce at the vulnerable.Maintaining our cool under the circumstances has become a challenge.

A study by WHO informs us that there has been a rise of 18% in cases of depression in the last decade.We generally brush off such reports believing we could never succumb to stress,but this is far from true.A major upheaval could rattle anyone.After that whether he keels over or manages to find his feet again depends mainly upon two factors-his own resilience and his support systems.I have already written in length about resilience in this post so I will not go into it again.

When resilience happens to be insufficient,it is our support systems which enable us to keep our heads above water.They boost our morale when we most need it,and motivate us to not give up hope and find a way out of our problems.Sadly,such support is not easily available today.That is why loneliness and incidents of mental disorders are increasing.

A potent prophylaxis against mental disorders is what we all need,and this we can easily possess by building a web of secure,positive relationships;not merely as a crutch for  the critical moments,but as an important,happy feature of our lives.

Stable,positive relationships extend support and infuse joy in our lives.They offer respite from hectic schedules and taxing times.Chatting with friends and family-really,not virtually-enables us to forget our worries and recharge our batteries.We come to know of the problems which others face,and realize that we are not the sole sufferers on this planet.We see how others cope with their problems and learn new skills to meet life's challenges.

Those who are bereft of strong relationships generally keep their angst bottled inside and this can cause psychological problems.Isolation brews melancholy.It spurs feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.It can deepen into depression if it continues for long.Incidentally,even #toxicrelationships can precipitate mental disorders.In fact it is better to have no relationship at all,rather than a toxic one.

Studies have shown that those who are socially connected live longer,healthier lives.They enjoy better physical and mental health.Just think,if you go on a binge,stuff unhealthy food,go overboard with alcohol or smoking,who cautions you?Who urges to seek medical aid if you feel weak and exhausted?Your friends or relatives of course.But only those who care for you and for whom you have shown your commitment.

We get only that much as we put in.Relationships demand loyalty,devotion and mutual give and take.If we extend a helping hand to someone in a soup,that person is sure to remember it and reciprocate.This is how support systems take shape.It is like investing in our happiness and wellbeing.That is why it is important,and even therapeutic, to connect with the people around us.

You can start right now by calling someone who has not been seen since long,smiling at the person you next meet,fixing up a fun-time with your cronies (how many do you have?),calling friends over for a meal,and wishing them on their birthdays and anniversaries.

It is our relationships which make life worth living.What we often do not realize is,that they could also act as a barrier against mental disorders.







 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five Habits Which Foment Discontent

Discontent as such is not a bad emotion.It stirs when we realize that something is not right and then it motivates us to work hard,achieve our targets and climb up the evolutionary ladder.But disgruntlement about every minor issue can devolve into an Anxiety Disorder.

Today only a small percentage is contented with the kind of life it leads.Most people are dissatisfied with who they are,where they are,and how they are.Very often it is not a person's circumstances but his outlook toward life which causes discontent.Five habits in particular,add fuel to this fire:-
  1. Comparisons-No two human beings are alike,nor their life conditions,strengths and weaknesses.It is but natural that their achievements and their stature too should differ.Unfavorable comparisons generate unnecessary stress.
  2. A hunger for more and more-Some people have this innate urge for acquiring more and more of everything-whether it be wealth,material possessions,awards or fame- which is never fulfilled.As a result they are always on the edge.
  3. Perfectionism-Perfectionists strive for excellence but it is not possible to be perfect in everything one does.Things can go wrong because of many factors.Unfinished tasks,poorly executed plans,or misfired attempts create a lot of unrest in such people.
  4. Unfulfilled Expectations-These are a huge source of discontent.We all feel sorry when our hopes are belied.The only remedy is to not have many expectations-the lesser the expectations,the greater the tranquility.We cannot change others,we can only change ourselves.
  5. Not Accepting Reality-Certain things are preordained-like where,in which family,with what kind of abilities you are born.Fuming about these things serves no purpose.Then there are tragedies,calamities,age,and illness,over which too,we have no control.Such happenings are painful for all,but ultimately,just incorporating these setbacks in our lives and going on from there is the only way.Seething about the injustice of it all aggravates misery.
Like many other things,discontent too has many facets.If it can zoom us up the social hierarchy,it can also push those seeking instant gratification into the labyrinth of illegal activities.A potent antidote for overpowering discontent is to be grateful for what we have.In the end,what better way to sum up this topic than in the words of Eckhart Tolle--
"Discontent,blaming,self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future,no matter how much effort you make"

Taken from--
 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/discontent.html

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Pit of #Self-pity

I don't know about you all but I have found
that whenever I am seething with rage,discontent,or a feeling that I have the shoddiest life possible;at the bottom of it all is--much though I hate to admit it--self-pity.

There are times when self-pity is called for and times when it is not.It is natural to pity oneself when in the midst of a tragedy,but here I am talking of the small stuff,the day-to-day hassles like a tiff with a loved one,the daily help on leave,lots of stuff on one's plate,very little leisure time,not being invited to a friend's party,no fun in life,etc etc.

These might seem like pin-pricks to you but they are enough to throw me into the slush of self-pity.I become surly and snap at whoever crosses my path.Those who know me maintain a safe distance,and then I feel lonelier than ever.The atmosphere of my home crackles with uncertainty,anything could happen!One small grievance becomes the cause of many more unpleasant experiences.All because my maid took two days' leave,or the cooler of my room had stopped working.In this way I generate many more reasons to pity myself.

We all feel self-pity now and then but the problem starts when it becomes a signature tune.Cognitive distortions like Black and White Thinking or filtration are often responsible for it.We overlook all that is hunky-dory and obsess over pesky irritants.And then there are comparisons-if we keep comparing ourselves with those who are smarter,wealthier stronger or more successful than us,then we can never be happy.Sometimes we also do it to draw attention to ourselves. Emotional trauma like a breakup,separation or a major failure or loss too,can ignite self-pity.

It is cathartic to shed tears and grieve for a while but ultimately self-pity does more harm than good.

It prevents us from trying to achieve that,which we envy in others.We have this blanket excuse that the cosmos is against us,we do not have the facilities which others enjoy.We overlook the fact that the impediments which we believe are holding us back,are commonplace problems which others faced and overcame.Self-pity gives us an excuse for being an underachiever and taking life easy. 

Indulging in self-pity in order to gain sympathy or help from others does not  work for long.After a while it begins to annoy people.It is viewed as fake behavior and people being busy with their own problems,do not like to be drawn into imaginary or exaggerated woes.It becomes counter productive.It also spoils our public image.We are likely to be slotted as weepy whiners.

What's more,our happiness becomes contingent upon others reactions.If they sympathise with us we are happy,and if not,we become even more dejected than we were before.

Self-pity prevents us from paying heed to our family,friends and the people around us.They might be looking to us for love or support,but we being consumed with our own miseries,do not get their signals.We let them down.In this way we deprive ourselves of the happiness which comes from a bunch of warm relationships.

Playing the victim is much easier than taking charge of our lives,but if we can get out of this cocoon,we shall be rewarded with better chances of success and happiness.

If you want to relinquish this habit then first of all determine which facet of life is causing you the maximum misery.Is it your health,family,friends,love life,career or your financial condition?Pick up that one factor which never fails to depress you.Can you change it?Or at least tone it down?Do whatever can be done to ease your situation and whatever deficit remains;learn to live graciously with it.

You must remember that love,luck,success and happiness are not distributed evenly in this world.There are certain things with which everybody has to compromise.Lamenting about them only makes things worse.Self-pity is not a good coping mechanism.There are no benefits,only disadvantages.Next time when you are on the verge of throwing a pity party,stop.Consider what it will do to you.And turn back.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Six Habits Which Can Keep You Subpar.

Habits are diehard ways of thinking and behaving which make us who we are.Gradually,they rule out many options from our lives because the comfort of old habits prevents us from attempting anything new.You can call it a desire to live in our comfort zones.

But sticking religiously to old habits keeps us from evolving and becoming sharper.We are witnessing massive changes around us in this era.It is not easy to keep abreast of all those changes but it becomes almost impossible if we are bogged down by our old habits.Here are a few examples:--
  • Following a fixed routine-If you are doing today what you have been doing for the bygone weeks,months or years,where is the need for your brain to strain itself?It will snooze in it's comfort zone because it too needs exercise like any other organ of the body to work at its optimum capacity.
  • Refusing to try anything new-This is partly like the aforesaid habit but it has wider ramifications.Technology has invaded every aspect of life today.Numerous needs can be fulfilled at the click of a button but if we continue to do things the old way,the brain slows down and our personality loses it's spark.We also waste a lot of time doing what could have been done in a jiffy.
  • Keeping aloof-It is not media alone which informs us about the developments which can make life easier for us.People around us can fill in the gaps if our knowledge is incommensurate  and the tech-savvy can be roped in to learn the tricks.
  • Not asking questions-We avoid asking questions in order to conceal our ignorance but in the process we become more and more ignorant.We may pretend that we know it all but others can easily see through this facade.This tendency is responsible for us remaining ignorant in many fields.
  • Rejecting criticism-There are two kinds of critics-those who wish to pull us down and those who have our welfare at heart.When we reject the second kind we lose an opportunity to improve ourselves.
  • Lack of curiosity-Newton's curiosity about the reason for an apple falling off the tree led to phenomenal changes in our views about the world we inhabit.It is curiosity which introduces us to new domains and enlarges the field of  our knowledge.
Not only do above habits prevent us from keeping pace with this fast changing world, they also nibble at our self esteem.Changing the very basic ways of conducting our affairs is certainly not easy, but incorporating at least some of these changes in our lifestyles will enable us to become one of a cluster and not  an isolated dot.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cognitive Distortion-Blaming Others

It is but natural that personalization should be followed by Blaming-a thought disorder which is opposed to it in almost every way.It denotes blaming external factors for everything which goes wrong in one's life.

Those who suffer from this distortion have a blind spot regarding their own role in the problems which come their way.They do not look back to examine if their behavior was somewhere at fault.This closes the door on a constructive refinement of their outlook and behavior.The setbacks and disappointments recur again and again.

Even in the realm of emotional problems you will hear them complain that so and so is causing them a lot of pain--oblivious of their own role in the deterioration of that relationship.


No doubt ignoring one's contribution to a problem absolves one from the responsibility to improve the status-quo;but this short term relief results in long term disadvantages.Persisting with such behavior makes it difficult to tackle life's problems head on.

It has been seen that those who are forever complaining about this and that are generally not regarded as good company.People get weary of listening to their grouses and showing sympathy.So they are often left alone.

It is not difficult to determine the genesis of this thought disorder.Perhaps they were coddled and made much of as kids--led to believe that they were perfect and could do no wrong.If they grew up as egoists or narcissists,it is hardly their fault.


If you wish to break this shackle you will have to rewrite your ego,understand that you too have drawbacks and weaknesses like everybody else;that these might partly be responsible for your difficulties and they have to be overcome if you want to move forward in life.

If you want to untangle yourself from the clutches of this distortion follow that old Greek adage-Know Thyself.Try to analyse the extent to which you were the cause of a recent mishap.Examine the steps taken by you to solve that problem.A thorough scrutiny of your predilections,weaknesses and misperceptions will enable you to undertake a much needed course correction.

When you finally recognise yourself in the mirror of truth you will have lesser grouses about the world.What's more,your problems will diminish because now you can see how you also added to them.You will embrace better coping skills and have many reasons to be proud of yourself.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cognitive Distortion-Personalization

Personalization is a very common thought disorder.It denotes assuming blame for things not under one's control,holding oneself responsible for others' behavior and interpreting their actions as being directed at oneself even when this is not the case.This kind of thinking produces unwarranted stress and tension. 

When someone holds himself responsible for any blunder,mishap or tragedy which was not his fault,he invokes unnecessary guilt,shame and remorse.Suppose an innocuous remark by someone sets off a heated debate amongst friends and he blames himself for having brought a friendly reunion to a bitter end,he is unjustifiably castigating himself by personalizing the debacle.

Personalization also causes discord and hostility.When a casual remark by an acquaintance is taken personally by someone,it leads to a thaw in the relationship.Taking another example,if a person beset by personal problems passes by a friend without registering his presence,the latter promptly concludes that he is miffed with him.Now he spends hours wondering why that person is annoyed with him and what he had done to deserve such treatment.When they next meet,he gives him the cold shoulder in order to get even,and kaput goes a promising relationship!All this,without any substance.

Many of us fall in this trap some time or the other,but when this becomes a regular pattern it generates rancor,spoils relationships and vitiates the ambience.Of course nobody would choose to do all this knowingly,but our insecurities distort our perception of reality.A person who is unsure of himself and has poor self esteem is more likely to personalize things.

Sustained efforts are needed to get rid of this tendency.Here are some tips:--

Whenever an agonizing thought clouds your mind check its veracity;ascertain if it is fact or fiction.Be more logical and less impetuous while drawing conclusions about everyday happenings.

For longer lasting benefits,strengthen your self esteem and be confident of your value systems and abilities so that you do not hold yourself responsible for everything that goes wrong.You will feel significantly relieved when you have gotten rid of this thought disorder.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cognitive Distortion--# Magnification and # Minimization

Life would be so much easier if we perceived reality in its' true colors without weighing it down with our insecurities,biases or prejudices.In this way,we even color a normal change with dreadful overtones or magnify the gravity of a problem and invite unnecessary anxiety.


Or we exaggerate our flaws and minimize our capabilities;thus laying a perfect pitch for tension and despondence.That is not all,sometimes we even overestimate others' skills and overlook their weaknesses;placing ourselves many rungs below them.

This is known as Maximization and Minimization.We blow our problems out of all proportions and minimize the positive aspects of our lives.A related distortion is catastrophization,in which we apprehend the worst possible outcome of any situation.A tiny blob on the horizon is taken as a sign of doom.

The ill-effects of these distortions are many.They kill our confidence and we envisage failure even before we have given the task a good try.This not only thwarts success but also further aggravates low self esteem.All this results in a host of negative emotions which are the root cause of depression and anxiety.

We all commit the mistake of magnifying the gravity of a problem sometimes,but it is best to shake off this habit before it takes firm roots.You can do this by being more mindful of your thoughts.Start by being vigilant of the thoughts which make you anxious.Write them down and at the end of the day and evaluate their sagacity.You can also cross-check your judgements with someone whom you hold in high esteem.

Next,try to decipher the hangups which propelled those ideas,why you think the way you do.Perhaps you were belittled by your parent or an older sibling and this has matured into a conviction that you are weak and incompetent.Or a recent setback has made you nervous and apprehensive.

Getting rid of such distortions requires practise and patience.The moment you recognise a thought as being inaccurate,replace it with a more logical one.This will make you more confident and proactive.You will successfully meet challenges and not shirk them.You will realize your full potential and find greater happiness too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#Cognitive Distortion-# Filtering

Normally when we filter something we keep the useful portions and throw off the chaff.But in the thinking process known as filtration we do just the opposite.Or we may may concentrate so much upon one aspect of a situation or task that we forget about the rest.

Suppose you go to a party and have a good time with your friends but one acquaintance-B- snubs you.If this spoils your mood so much that you cannot sleep the night,then you are guilty of filtration.You ignore the overall experience and cling to a tiny bad part of it.

We receive adulation from some and rejection from some others.We may succeed in one enterprise but fail in another.Amongst many warm relationships,there might be a failed one too.Those who can put the disconcerting elements behind them,or at least not concentrate solely upon them;are the ones who will be hopeful,sanguine,enthusiastic and happy.

But agonizing over annoying bits and ignoring the positive aspects could depress anybody.Filtration saps self esteem and makes one pessimistic.This is self-goal or self inflicted misery.Those who feel depressed and dissatisfied with life should scrutinize their thoughts to find out if the cause lies in filtration or any other cognitive distortion.

It is easy to get rid of this habit,only you should first recognize that your thinking is erroneous and it is harming your interests.One way of doing this is,to add 'but' after every troublesome thought and continue from there.Going back to the earlier example,when you say to yourself " B does not like me," add "but I have many friends who do."See the difference?Doing this every time will diminish your anxiety.You will be more satisfied with the tenor of your life.

Try to be more rational and balanced about the things which normally pique you.Whenever a troublesome feeling raises its head,recall the agreeable elements associated with it,which you had overlooked.Soon you will realize that along with the annoying bits there are also many pleasing features in your life.

These seemingly minor changes can cut out the negativity in your life and make you happier.

Next:--
Magnification and Minimization. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cognitive Distortion--# Fortune Telling or # Jumping to Conclusions

Cognitive distortions are irrational,biased, or exaggerated thoughts about our own personality or simply about what happens around us.They warp our understanding of reality,thereby rendering us ill equipped to lead a fruitful life.Alice Boyes in Psychology Today has listed as many as 50 cognitive distortions.For Black and White cognitive distortion you can see this post.

Fortune Telling or Jumping to Conclusions is another distortion with which   many of us might be familiar.As the very name suggests,those prone to this kind of thinking decide beforehand what the outcome of anything is going to be.They apprehend dangers where none exist,and permit their misgivings to guide their actions.The seed might lie in a painful past,lack of confidence,low self esteem,or innate pessimism.

Jumping to conclusions implies forming opinions and imputing motives to others without any substantive evidence.This kind of thinking is different from sixth sense or instinct.When you jump to conclusions about others' conduct without considering attending circumstances,you put up a wall against them. This can be detrimental to your relationships.

Those who denounce everything without even giving it a fair trial are usually creatures of habit who feel secure in their comfort zones.Whether it is about a new job,interview,or a change of domicile;they will start with the conviction that it is not going to work (positive fortune telling is rare).A lack of resolve and half-hearted efforts will result in fulfilling their predictions,reinforcing their way of thinking.

With the passage of time cognitive distortions mutate into automatic thoughts and influence our behavior significantly.Premonitions prevent us from picking our way forward in life.We could miss a lucky chance or a pleasurable experience.When our mind is repeatedly sending ominous signals, evolving and realizing our potential becomes difficult.Trashing everything new consigns us to a subpar,monotonous,lonely existence.

Naturally,this kind of thinking is deleterious for success and happiness.You can get out of this rut by being more mindful of your thoughts:-

How many times in a day do you presuppose outcomes and intentions?Recall,and write down the number of times this happened.

How often did you change your course because of a premonition?

Now check if these beliefs were supported by evidence.

Would a third,objective person have reached the same conclusions?

Are your assumptions doing you any good,or are they blocking your progress?

Would you be happier if there was less negativity and more accuracy in your thoughts?

Gyalwang Drukpa has put it very nicely-

"You will find life more relaxing and rewarding if you go about your daily life with a little more mindfulness which encourages appreciation,helps us be more generous and kind and so brings us happiness" 
    





Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#Cognitive Distortion-- #Black and White Thinking


Cognitive distortions are inaccurate,biased thought patterns which mostly spawn negative emotions about ourselves or the world around us.These negative emotions influence our beliefs as well as our behavior,and foment relationship conflicts,anxiety or depression.If we become habituated to distorted thinking,we fail to realize that our views about our own self or those around us are totally misplaced.The resultant agony can be averted by nailing the irrational/exaggerated/faulty thought patterns and getting rid of them.



One such cognitive distortion is Black and White Thinking-the belief that things are either right or wrong, good or bad.Those who fall prey to such thinking totally miss  that there are many more shades in between,which are much more common and reasonable.

How often do you utter polar words like awful-awesome,disgusting-heavenly,scoundrel-saint,imbecile-genius,detestable-lovable?These extreme terms certainly embellish our language with color and intensity,but do they portray the said person or situation accurately?Seldom can any individual or circumstance be pinned at one end of the spectrum.

Many of our problems start when we begin to think of life conditions or our own image in such extremes.Suppose I fail to finish a project in time and then curse myself that this always happens with me,I am good for nothing.Finishing it on the dot was what counted with me and since this did not happen,I felt that I had failed--totally!I did not consider how near completion my work was,and how good its quality.If I always gloss over the finer/better aspects of any situation then my vision of the world,or my life,will always be dark and murky.

Suppose I expect a friend to support me in an ongoing altercation but she chooses to take the other side.Upon going home I rave and rant about her,using epithets like mean,horrible,good for nothing;forgetting her other sterling qualities.I may even break off with her,and then repent all my life.The correct thought should have been that she had disappointed me this time.No one is all good or all bad,and expecting people to conform to your specifications can mar relationships.

It can even become worse.Think of the various instances of young students killing themselves simply because they could not gain admission in an institute of their choice.Why couldn't they have settled for the second best and continued to live?The same thing happens when a lover's advances are spurned by his/her heartthrob.So many people sink into depression or contemplate suicide because of such setbacks,overlooking the positive aspects of their lives.It is all or nothing for them--another name for Black and white thinking.

This kind of thinking wipes out the whites and leaves only dismal,depressing blacks.Therefore,if you catch yourself slipping into this mode,pause.Do a reality check.How close to truth are you?What are the facts which point to the opposite direction?Introspect --what is it in you which prompted you to use that term?Is it a bias,vindictiveness,jealousy,lack of confidence,poor self esteem,past experience,or habitual despondence?

Once you begin to view reality in a rational,objective manner, a lot of your anxiety will dissolve,leaving a more amicable and peaceful you behind.

Next--Fortune Telling

Image,courtesy google.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When a Relationship Breaks

It is excruciating to go through a  breakup in any relationship,especially when you are at the receiving end.The pain scorches you to the core.A part of you whisks away with the one who broke up with you.It could be anyone-a romantic partner,spouse,parent,offspring or a sibling.

Actually the atmosphere today is not conducive for stability and continuity.Everybody is on the go.We are not satisfied with what we have,and aspire for more in every sphere-whether it be relationships or lifestyle.No harm in striving for a better life,but in our quest for whatever it is we are running after,we sometimes even ditch what is an integral part of our lives; what has depth,true meaning,and is good for us.

The tragedy is,that such instances are becoming more and more common.We are exposed to countless stimuli every day,and those who have little self control are easily swayed.That is why there are rising instances of adultery and divorce today,not to talk of breakups in relationships.Such parting of ways inflicts a grievous injury on the one who is left behind.

What can you possibly do if you are at the receiving end?Very little to bring that person back.Because he is scurrying after that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.While he is pursuing his goal headlong it will be difficult to divert his attention.He may return if he realizes the futility of his chase,or he may keep his distance if he is too shamefaced to confront you again.Time will tell.

What you can do is,find a way to soothe your hurt and put your house in order once again.To start with,have a good cry.Admit to yourself that this was a severe blow.Don't sweep your emotions under the carpet.Grieving is in order.

But for how long?Set your own limit and then tie up the loose ends.Think back-did you give this relationship the best you could,or more importantly,what could morally have been expected of you?If yes,then trash the remorse and the guilt pangs.

If however,you were at fault,then you could maybe attempt a patch-up.If this is not in your cards then treat it as a learning lesson,a springboard from which to leap into a new era.You know now,how to avert a breakup.An honest appraisal will protect you from making the same mistake twice and breaking your heart once again.

As any association or era recedes into the past,it is the pleasant memories which cause maximum grief.But was this bond all good without any jarring episodes?There must have been unpleasant confrontations too.Desist from viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses.Things came to a head because of a lack of compatibility or divergent values,motives or goals.The continuance of this relationship might not have been so hunky-dory after all.

Relationship breakups are rife in those who are on the threshold of adulthood.The prevailing milieu is very challenging for them.They have a tough time picking their way through a jungle of attractions and distractions,and often end up aping their peer group or their role models.In the proccess,they sometimes discard the core for the chaff.

Certain things in life are destined to happen.We cannot control everything.Except how far or how deep we allow anything to affect us.That is very much in our hands.It helps to remember that while relationships make us happy,give support,help us to forget painful instances and relieve the drudgery of monotonous routines;they also impose restraints, bestow responsibilities,and demand explanations.When a relationship breaks the advantages fly out of the window,as do the curbs and restrictions.So now you can be more your own self,do things you enjoy and spend your day as you like without having to listen to grumbling,irritating or disapproving noises in the background.Make the most of it!

Image courtesy google 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How We Overcame General Anxiety Disorder,Panic Attacks and Hypochondria

Aug 2015
It all began six months ago when my husband (BH) was declared a diabetic.It was a major downturn in our lives.The medicine he was prescribed did not agree with him.We got it changed and also amended our lifestyle (which was not much bad earlier),but his health continued to deteriorate.

He complained of various physical complaints.It was not long before I realized that he had become a hypochondriac--it is an awful affliction,believe me.There is no enemy to fight,it is all so nebulous.He began writing his various symptoms in a journal and it was crystal clear that his symptoms changed hue every day because there was no biological basis for them.But this did not set his mind at rest.

I had daily counseling sessions with him.He listened attentively and also read material about his condition on the net.I gave him constant company and tried to engage him by yapping about this and that.But there was something troubling him which spiked his anxiety.

Soon he began to have panic attacks and my son was asked to fly down immediately.He was a great help but BH gave up whatever little he had been doing to keep the household running,and began to depend entirely upon him.More spare time meant more rumination and more rumination meant more anxiety.He became worse than ever.

My son stayed with us for 18 days.BH was not ready to let him go but I prevailed upon him so that he could take up the reins again.Soon my daughter came and again the same story.He lost his weight,stamina and confidence at a fast pace.We all tried our best to talk him out of it but understanding that he was being unreasonable with his complaints did not in any way help him to mitigate them even though our GP too,gave him a clean chit.

Soon my daughter too,went and slowly he picked up a few of his duties.He began driving once again.His favorite physician checked him time and again,followed by numerous tests;to rule out any disease,but BH was never convinced.The complaints began to mount.We consulted ten doctors but he still feared that he had a serious disease.

I realized that he was suffering from A feeling of insignificance.He had been very healthy and active all his life but failing health and empty hours were taking their toll even when there was no other problem in our lives.He had no occupation and no hobby.He is a very good singer but not once did he try to play any music.Even when I did so,it failed to engage him.He has a background of agriculture but he even gave up supervising our gardener's work.The only thing he did keep up was,walking,but mostly on our terrace.He did not feel comfortable meeting people.

Now what can you do in such a situation?I tried to involve him in growing vegetables on our terrace but I ended up doing most of the work.Then I asked him to talk to some laborers who were working at a house nearby and ask them to send their children to our home for studying.Three kids started coming over.I went and bought the required stationary for them and we started the classes on our balcony. BH took up the eldest child who was smarter than the other two.He was well occupied for at least one hour in the morning.I think he liked this diversion.There was a goal to be met,and something to look forward to. 

Then a friend of mine suggested we send them to a government school where they will get free books,uniform and mid-day meal too.We did so and now those kids are going to a school and they are very happy.We are both very glad that they are receiving formal education but we do miss their visits --i.e,I hope BH too misses them;because he rarely expresses his feelings.

Feb 2016
It is now one year since all this started.My sessions with him continue,he listens carefully but he is just not prepared to accept the changes which come attached to advancing age.He is very sad at these changes in his personality (if you smell narciccism here,you are not off the mark).He has numerous physical complaints which I suspect,stem from his anxiety.Some days are good,some are not:(.

Oct 2016
He tries very hard to free himself from anxiety and it is showing results.Given below are the various factors which have helped him to recover :--

Our GP was a great help.He prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and also something for insomnia.The medicines were just enough to give him relief,and not make him drowsy all day long;which he would have abhorred.

Our children's support has been very reassuring.

Our counseling sessions have continued alongside.

He goes for daily walks on the road and meets neighbours.

*Does stretching exercises.

Also does 'pranayam' and meditation.

Goes to the market to fetch groceries etc,does not take the help of a driver.

Listening to devotional songs has eased his anxiety to a large extent.

Tearing a rag to shreds when the anxiety was extreme helped to cool his mind.

*Going out and visiting friends has also helped a lot.

We tried to play board games but this did not interest him much.Neither did painting or coloring.

The whole purpose of narrating this story is to share with you how difficult it is to extricate someone from an anxiety disorder and what are the various steps that can be taken.Eventually,sustained efforts do show results,as they have in our case.I hope we will soon be out of the woods.

Dec 2016
Nearly two years have elapsed since BH's health problems started.Today he is completely cured.What a journey it has been!He has quitted the sleeping pills as well as the anti-anxiety medicine.

Jan 2017
I am always alert for any signs of relapse--God forbid.BH has been a model patient,he not only listened to my advice but also put it into practice.Wht's more,he resumed his stretching exercises,pranayam and meditation as soon as he was able to.My being a counselor who was in constant attendance too,was a lucky coincidence.

In the absence of a psychiatrist,or an able family physician or a counselor,it is the family which has to
bear the maximum responsibility for the patient's welfare.Even if the patient is getting proper treatment,there are certain do's and don'ts which the family members should be aware,of when they take care of a mental patient.Later on,when the patient is well enough to join the mainstream,he needs to be coaxed and inspired to take baby steps towards normalcy.Along with the requisite treatment;love,empathy,encouragement and companionship of a family too,are therapeutic.It is a tough journey,but very much worth the toil.