What we hide does find a way out!

img-20141208-wa0005

My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!

After all family is family…

It has taken me quite an experience to understand this fact of life. For years I heard people say this to me and I was also fortunate to see some people act on this belief. Being a person who needs to experience things first hand to understand them ( you can read it stubborn), it was not an auto response for me to nod my head when my father said to me ‘ in trying times, it is only your family that comes to your rescue’. In my share of life experiences I had seen friends and well wishers come to your help when it was needed and when they couldn’t I just did not take it as an opportunity to fall back on my father’s words. I always believed that you meet people in your life as per your needs and friends become your extended family or sometimes even acquaintances reach out to you when you need it the most. It is also important to mention that these experiences I am referring to occurred in my life when I had the luxury of having a permanent roof on my head ( provided by my father) and some money in my bank account (courtesy my employer). What I needed the most then was more of emotional support and I sought it from my friends.
Today, I am a student in a foreign country (US of A) who does not have a permanent income or accommodation. Being a romantic optimist I chose a university where I do not have any family relatives or friends that I knew from before. Somewhere in my heart I used to feel that life was too easy for them who had relatives that they could lean on when they needed. I would see some of my roommates who would go live with their relatives over the weekends and could count on them when they needed some help in this foreign land. When I saw the relatives help my roomies I would think , it need not just be family but anyone (who is your friend) would come to help you when you need it. Fortunately in addition to a couple of Indian friends, I also made some non Indian friends here who helped me go to a grocery store (you had to have a car to move around in the uncivilized neighborhood I lived in), drop me home from school, help me shift apartments and the likes. These experiences affirmed my beliefs that there are good people out there in the world to help you out. I felt that these people who helped me until then were my friends and I thanked the guy above for having met these people. What I am going to share further is completely a personal experience and I don’t intend to generalize it. Two months ago I fell very sick and I had to be hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection. This was sudden and I had not dreamt that I am going to need hospitalization. That day in my head when I was searching for someone to come and get me stuff I needed, I could just think of one name of the many friendships I thought I had developed here. It could be my shortcoming but some of my other experiences had made me aware of some cultural differences between Americans and Indians. A small example would be that I felt the degree of cautiousness surrounding common cold/cough and the likes among the people who were brought up here was very high compared to what I have seen back home. At times it irritated me and at times I was successful in making myself see the benefits of being so cautious. When I fell sick, my head told me that I should not try and call someone who generally is overcautious about avoiding infections. I did debate with myself saying that may be the people I was thinking about may understand the complexity of my present situation however I decided against putting anyone through such a dilemma and called on the one person I had no doubts would understand.

img_4233

Boston

During my stay at the hospital, I recalled the times when one of my family members fell sick and without a second thought we would do what was required. When I was here in a foreign land without anyone whom I could assume would bring me my clothes/ food and other basic stuff I remembered how members of a family perform such duties as an ‘auto’ function. As much as I am thankful for the two friends who helped me the most during this period, I did gain a far better understanding of what it means to be a family. No matter how strained your relationship, when need arises its your family that takes over the situation and understands your needs even before you verbalize them. I have been fortunate to find such support with people who are not ‘related’ to me however there is always a limit to what friends can do. Some willingly cross that limit and go out of their way to be around you when you need it but that limit always stays. Beyond that limit is when you enter the circle of your family and close relatives. Sometimes members of extended family may do it as an obligation but I guess it still counts because at the end of the day they do help. I have not personally experienced the ‘extended family’ reaching out to help part but have seen this happen with people around me when cousins and uncles traveled distances to settle their niece/ nephew in this place they would otherwise be foreigners to. Perhaps, you can say that I have learned to appreciate some relationships when I did not have them around me.