Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Golden Mean

We all wish that others should admire us,hold us in high esteem.An upright, likable image is conducive to success and happiness too.But which are the attributes that can help us attain such an image?A clear cut picture in our minds of the things to be done and those to be avoided will surely make things easier.

Great thinkers and philosophers of many religions have advocated the adoption of a golden mean to lead a happy and successful life.In other words avoiding extremes of any kind is the best way to be.

At every step in life we are required to pick options.Other than the common place choices there are some issues which require well thought out decisions.These decisions determine  our personality as well as the course of our lives.

Take the question of Achievement,of chasing tall targets, surpassing everybody on the radar.Work yourself to the bone,shelve rest,obviate all kinds of  diversions and you may one day find that you are so alone at the pinnacle.All that labor has not given you the desired results.

On the other hand,take life easy,go with the flow,avoid challenging tasks and you will one day realize that you have stagnated and not made enough use of your talents and abilities.

Swimming with the tide is easy and comfortable while pushing against the current can be exhausting.But what of the euphoria you feel when you have conquered an opposing force and reached your desired destination?

Making such choices should follow a deep analysis of one's needs and abilities,plus the tendency to avoid extremes.

Take the case of Amiability.Everybody wants to be loved and accepted by others. Close,loving relationships make life livable.In order to sustain them we sometimes give in to unreasonable demands or allow others to encroach upon our territory.But if we make it a habit to give in in order to be liked and accepted,we could end up being trodden all over.  

On the other hand if we religiously nullify others'attempts to dominate us we are likely to be labeled as unfriendly and uncooperative.

Dwelling at any end of the spectrum will besmirch our personality.The golden mean is the best choice.

Forgiveness is another tendency which requires careful thought.Whenever we are deceived by any one a natural reaction is to give tit for tat or plan revenge.But as Gautam Buddha said:When you hold a burning coal in your hand to throw it on someone it is you who get hurt.

Fine,but whom,how often,and for which kind of wrong to forgive?This is a nebulous zone.Going for full throttle vengeance makes us a negative person while forgiving unthinkingly can attract further invasions.Neither extreme is desirable.

Courage is another quality which should not be taken to the extreme.Too much of it will make us foolhardy and too little shall label us as being a coward.

Related to this is the matter of  Self-confidence,neither extreme of which is desirable.

Come to think of it:an extreme of any kind is counter-productive.A sense of balance in our endeavors as well as our reactions will give best results.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Major Depression-A Case History

Deepak is 80 yrs old and clinically depressed.He has been unwell for more than a year now.It started with anxiety,excessive quietude,reticence and lethargy.Six months ago this transformed into major depression.Since the last 4 months it has been at its peak.

He spends the whole day lying down with his eyes shut.He barely gets up for his meals for an hour and then it is back to bed again.He will neither talk nor respond to anyone.He has become totally apathetic and docile.Personal hygiene is at its minimum.His appetite and weight have decreased drastically.But he is not bothered about this depreciation in his health or personality.Nothing at all interests him.

He underwent a physical examination and thankfully he was found physically fit.

He and his wife Bina have been our friends for eons.She is a bit of a psychologist.She noted the changes in his personality at the very beginning and tried through various means to extricate him from anxiety but it did not work.Then they consulted their family doctor who gave him a psychiatric medicine.It did not agree with him,he became disoriented and developed fecal incontinence.

He was referred to a psychiatrist whose medicines led him to sleeping round the clock.The psychiatrist eliminated the barbiturate from his medicines.Thankfully the antidepressant agreed with him and there were no adverse effects.After taking the medicine for six months there were small signs of improvement off and on but soon he would revert to his old condition.The doctor,upon being contacted,refused to change the medicine,saying increasing the dose or potency would make him more somnolent.He advised him to gear up and be more active.

This was easier said than done.Deepak was just not interested in taking up any physical or mental activity.Even talking was too much of an effort for him.When cajoled to get up and do something he would say that he did not have the strength to do so--this,when he was physically fit.He had no desire to awaken his old booming blustering self. 

The  worst part was that there was no external problem which could be amended to grant him relief.His family and life conditions were perfect.The cause seemed to be endogenous.Perhaps it was his personality which had rendered him vulnerable to anxiety and depression.He had never shared his emotions with anyone or laughed heartily.His approach to everything had always been negative.Likewise,his reactions.All this might have led to a festering of wounds inside.

After about seven months of medication he showed signs of improvement in small measures.He agreed to go out and sit in the balcony.By and by he was persuaded to take at least 10 minutes' walk every day.It took a long time to entrench this into his routine.Then he started walking in the evening too but this left so many hours of the day to be spent positively,otherwise he was sure to give in to the urge to go and lie down on his bed.But he was not interested in taking up any activity.He refused to participate in an indoor game,read something or watch TV. 

After the passage of another two months he began to watch religious channels on TV and tried to extend his waking hours which finally settled at fourteen.Good progress,but it was extremely slow and transient.Very frustrating for the family members to watch and maintain a hopeful facade.

Talking or meeting outsiders was still difficult for him.It is rather challenging for a mental patient to accost outsiders.After countless months of isolation he cannot suddenly turn outgoing and jovial.Others take it as a cue to stand off.Sad,but this is what mostly happens.The onus to cajole and help him to join the mainstream once again rests solely on the family members.Without their support nothing can be achieved.The patient has to be encouraged to believe that he can and he will get well.He should be helped to take constructive steps one at a time.It is just like a baby learning to walk.He needs all the help he can muster.The journey is long but essential.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Now Where Did I Put My Happiness?

I remember very well when I was young,during my school going years,it used to reside in two places-my home and my school.

Then I grew up.The friends left one by one and horror of horrors-even my parents left for their eternal abode.It was difficult to spy my happiness during that time,but my children and grandchildren filled the gap.

By and by they too got caught up with their lives and I had to look for it at close quarters.Where was it near me?I found it in the rush of kitty parties and socialization.

This was satisfying no doubt,but old age pitched in to obstruct the flow.Old age and the quirks of those we socialized with.Going to parties,communicating with them was no longer pure happiness.It was an amalgam of positive and negative emotions.

Anyhow,I prodded myself to evolve and be more accepting.But where was my happiness?I had misplaced it again.

Intensive introspection revealed that if I wanted it to remain always with me I had to look for it within me,to latch it on to my thoughts and activities-activities which did not require external support.

So friends,I picked up occupations which give me optimum satisfaction and adhered to them.Thankfully I have a plethora of hobbies-things which keep me usefully occupied and also grant a sense of achievement.In the ultimate analysis it is best to be self reliant,to peg your happiness to your own self.The externals dissipate one by one.Keep it where it cannot be stolen.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Four Fold Path to #Happiness

We all want to be happy.All our activities are designed towards that end.Yet this elusive state of mind sometimes fails to oblige.Scientists say that there is an inbound capacity for happiness in every human being.Our observations too,affirm that some people are always brimming with joy while some others are generally morose and pessimistic.Events which the former would have taken in their stride are sometimes given by latter as the cause of their despondence.

I think our personal attributes-in addition of course to our life experiences- play a major role in deciding whether we are happy or miserable.Let me share with you four habits which,if incorporated,will enable us to maintain a cool state of mind even when things do not go our way.Here goes:---

Adopt a rational attitude towards life: 
Life is never static,it keeps moving-and changing.We are effused with joy one day and down in the dumps the next.When misfortune comes after a good phase it causes a lot of heartache.But we fail to realize that everybody has to go through both kinds of experiences and we are not someone special that we should be spared the thorns and showered with roses.

We can not,and should not expect the good times to last for ever.That would be unreasonable as well as insidious,because what we expect from life,what we think we ought to have been blessed with but are not getting;is enough to leave us disgruntled and unhappy even when things are pretty good by any standard.Reasonable expectations protect us from breaking down at every minor or moderate disappointment.  

Be Flexible:
Life has a mind of its own.It will not follow a script written by you.An ambitious project could bite dust,a new relationship may turn out to be the opposite of what you had expected,a dear one could pass away or a disease may change your lifestyle for ever.Disappointments pop up unannounced and one has to rebuild ones life around them.If a cherished dream fails to actualize replace it with something which has better chances of fructifying,nurture a fresh one.  

Flexibility alone can help you to accept the inevitable and forge a way of adapting to the new scene.Look for the positive aspects of a challenging situation.See how you can use them to your advantage and carry on with hope and enthusiasm.

Curtail Overthinking and Rumination:
Cogitating about each and everything fills the mind with a quagmire of doubts,suspicions,worries and fears:Not a happy condition,you will agree.Overthinking creates problems where none exist.It blocks action and can even spoil your relationships by generating unjustifiable biases about others. 

Ruminating about an existent problem or a recent fiasco is beneficial only to the extent that it assists you to find a solution.If carried on indefinitely,it unleashes a whirlwind of negative emotions which deepen anxiety.If you want to be happy curtail overthinking and rumination.

Practice Gratitude:
There is no denying the fact that some people have little cause for cheer in their lives.It could even be a prolonged phase for some.Happiness would be a tall order for them.But we all have to make the best use of what has been given to us in order to conserve our mental health.One way of doing this is to think of the positive features of our lives.This could be in the form of a good relationship,a roof over our heads,an able body,a sound mind,or that competence to fight against odds and yet keep whole.None of these can be devalued.A feeling of gratitude for the blessings we enjoy prevents the picture from becoming blackish grey.It mitigates anxiety.

We cannot control what life throws at us but we can construct a kind of buffer against those volleys and minimize their ill effects.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Ebbing Tide

The jabs and jibes
ultimately subside
an ebbing tide
makes one wise

who can give me
sorrow or pain
I only got
what was ordained 

bitterness or rancor
no more pinch
but from future
I sometimes flinch

the road ahead
is not so clear
murky waters
burgeon fears

the future however
was always dim
come what may
I shall win. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Seven Tips For Dealing With An Acrimonious Kin

We come across people of various kinds during this sojourn called life.We try to shake off those who are acrimonious,inimical or downright offensive,but what if such a person-friend,relative or colleague-cannot be avoided and the relationship cannot be terminated?Such people do crop up sometimes and they ruin our peace of mind.I think the only alternative left for safeguarding our own serenity is to modify our own behavior so that these encounters do not cross the line of decency-at least from our side,and preferably from both sides.

The other day I was feeling very sad because of the behavior of one such person(let me call her P )and a plethora of inconsiderate, rude and aggressive acts on her part came rushing to my mind.It made me cry.I gave vent to tears to cleanse my mind and sat down with an excellent cup of tea to divert myself.After a while the tsunami of hurt sentiments subsided and I became my rational self once again.

Why was I so anguished?This was not the first time that it had happened.All those ghosts from the past testified to it.P was the same old person and I too was the same old Indu.If I had taken it in the past I could take it in the future too.In fact I should have been immune to it by now because what cannot be cured has to be endured.In order to manage such an imbroglio more smoothly next time,I decided to write a rule-book for such occasions.Here goes:-

  1. Perhaps P's behavior stems from her own insecurity or a well concealed inferiority complex which compels her to belittle me so that she can feel superior.
  2. Maybe she is annoyed about her life conditions and I just happened to cross her path at a touchy moment.
  3. I must not inflame the situation by giving a sharp retort.A brief neutral remark should be enough.
  4. When ever possible I shall introduce a touch of humor to lighten the ambiance,taking care not to instigate her in any way.
  5. I should allow time to pass before encountering her again so that both of us have recovered our composure by then.
  6. It is important to recall the instances when she has been helpful to me.After all she does mean something to me,or I would have broken the tie long back.
  7. I will also stiffen my back ,analyse if I have in any way encouraged/allowed her to encroach my space.
I strongly believe that our life is a learning process.Even such individuals serve a very useful purpose:they stimulate us to grow,to learn,to acquire new skills and evolve;as I have done--become more tolerant and empathetic after associating with her.So the next time you come across a vituperative person,don't fret and fume;be thankful that s/he is helping you to evolve,become a better person. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Five Habits Which Perpetuate Anxiety

The reason why some people gambol through life despite the ubiquitous ups and downs while others can find nothing to cheer them cannot be ascribed to external factors alone.I have come across many people who have everything going for them:a well established household,upper middle class standard,a loving family,healthy physique and yet they seem bowed down with sorrow and worries.
They will not accost or converse with anyone.If spoken to they will merely reply with a word or two.You will never catch them smiling.Despite living an easy life they always look tired and woebegone.Yes they do have minor physical ailments like aches and pains,gastric disorders or insomnia,but if you ask them whether they have any worries,the answer will certainly be negative.That is because they themselves do not know why they are always so depressed,there is no immediate trigger at work.
Such people are common but you cannot spot them at formal or chance meetings.Only friends and family know that something is nibbling at their hearts.The problem is endogenous-not because of an external cause.The tragedy is,that they could be happier if only they could catch the culprit responsible for their angst and extirpate it from their lives.
That is why it is essential to be aware of those of our own habits which cause anxiety and which we should change in order to achieve better mental health.
Refusal to accept a crucial change
A big change which has now occurred and cannot be reversed has to be accepted.If we obsess about what was,but is now no longer there,we will torment ourselves interminably.Take the example of Deepak who has now retired from work.He just cannot gulp this depreciation in his status and the absence of any opportunity to contribute to his field of work.His job had been the sole focus of his life.Now time hangs heavily on his hands.He feels redundant after this big change in his life.
Similarly,the onset of old age,loss of kin or a serious disease are things which hit hard but cannot be reverted.It is important to accept such changes and alter our lives accordingly.Being grateful for the blessings which we still enjoy and finding new alternatives to fill the gap is the only way to keep depression at bay.
Over thinking
Broadly speaking,doers are happier than thinkers.Over thinking befuddles the latter and pushes their minds into dark worrisome spaces because over thinking rarely ends on a positive note.Cogitating about each and every individual or event can clutter the mind and fill it with worries and fears.When this becomes a second nature it culminates into pervasive anxiety.A much better way of passing the idle moments is to get busy,do something.
Low self-esteem
A person suffering from low self-worth places himself at the lowest rung and therefore does not expect anything good to come his way.What could be more distressing than this?It has been said ad infinitum,we get what we expect.Those who suffer from low self esteem desist from going out,meeting people,making friends and grabbing opportunities of self advancement.They are perturbed by the thoughts of being inferior to,and looked down upon,by other people.All this is tailor made for anxiety or depression. 
Somewhat in the same category are the pessimists.They view life through a grey lens and thus find nothing to cheer them.They will pass off even a good development as a chance happening and nothing to rave about.A small obstacle will be viewed as a huge boulder and a hiccup construed as something ominous.They ignore all the positives of their life and focus only on the darker aspects.Naturally it is hard for them to be happy and tension-free.When thinking of future,they again envisage detrimental happenings.
Self Pity
This is another habit which prolongs anxiety.When we wallow in self pity we tell ourselves that we are the the unhappiest person on earth,life has been cruel to us and there is not a ray of hope on the horizon.We either become surly and reclusive or bore everyone to death with our sob-stories.Slowly the well wishers too avoid us and then we have more reason to be miserable.  

Our engagements with the external world are so time consuming that we get little time to peep inwards,to learn where we are going wrong,in which way we aggravate our anxiety and how we can reduce it.A reappraisal of our temperament,habits and thinking patterns will help us to find more peace and happiness in life.
Finally,the signs of depression and anxiety:

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