Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being Human and Accepting Your-SELF

Have you met with any of these incidents or similar? (I am sure, you as a human being, would definitely have had):  failed in exam/initiative/venture, feared/worried to face your manager or client, caught red handed in your misdeeds (intentional)/mistakes (unntentional) in public or in office; been an object of joke/insult and couldn't retaliate;  been cheated, rejected in love etc.  

Do you possess any of these emotions or thoughts? (I am sure, you as a human being, would definitely have had): mood swings, worry, anger, fear, hopelessness, ego, jealousy, selfishness, despondent, demanding, pity, bored, impotency, highly sexual, money minded, stingy, inferior, not good looking, not having good dressing manners, undisciplined etc.

Whenever you have been through one or more of these feelings or thoughts or incidents, what is it that you did as a first thing? What was your afterthought? And if these were repetitive, what opinion did you form about yourself? Most probably, if not always, you would have had felt bad and regretted, or forgotten after sometime, or started questioning yourself, or picked up self-help books to fix it, or escaped to smoking, drinking, and drugs in a worst case scenario. All was done in a desperate struggle to avoid the memory of these feelings or thoughts or incidents, to fix them and ensure that they don’t come back again, to run away from them so that you feel comfortable and you feel OK with your-self.

One of the very first and a wrong thing done in such scenarios is to read the self help (motivational) books. Most of these books jump start with where you have to be, what potential you possess. Indirectly, showing you where you're now!! Above this, the self-help books come with a load of ideals on being, integrity, confidence, faith, courage, belief, high self-esteem, morals, value etc. Reading them during such a phase, without resolving the basic issue, puts anybody in an abyss.

When a negative feeling cripples the daily life, or disturbing to others, it is definitely a problem and has to be resolved. But, that’s not the case always. See these day-to-day examples:
- You’re bit jealous that your colleague got a good performance rating.
- You worry a bit more than others, even for small things.
- You’re untidy or stingy.
- While walking on the road, you slipped over a banana peel.
- Forgot to put the pant zip was a victim of joke.
- You watch pornography movies and feel bad about it (of course, later).
- You had failed in an exam.
- You stammer or get little nervous, while in official meetings.

Many a times, these feelings or thoughts cause no harm(unless we create around it) and we still hate them, want to fix them, resist them or feel bad about having them!

A human being is made up of flesh and blood. It takes in yummy food, but, also produces urine, poop, sweat everyday and passes it out. This process is god’s creation and nature’s formation. On the ditto lines is the design of a human’s mind with so called positive and negative feelings and thoughts. The human mind is built up of fight-or-flight system. All the so called negative emotions such as fear (pointer to indicate that there is a danger in your environment), jealousy (pointer to indicate that there is a danger in your environment), shame (pointer to indicate you're not feeling worthy), worry/hopeless (pointer to indicate that there is some uncertainty), anger (pointer to indicate that you're not in control of the situation) and so-on and so-forth are part of this fight-or-flight system. The moment, you define anything as a “problem” the FIGHT/FLIGHT system gets activated. You decide to FIGHT (self help books, criticize, and go to temple/yoga/meditation classes) or FLIGHT (cigar, drinks, drugs). This is natural; It is BEING HUMAN. Did you read that - BEING HUMAN?

At the end of the day, any human being wants to feel OK with himself/herself and that there is nothing wrong with him/her. Most of the time, we expect only good qualities within us and loathe the bad things, though smaller. We forget that these so called negative emotions, which we loathe, are PART of human being’s life and tend to reject them. In the process, we start rejecting ourselves, causing low self regards and self esteem. We are not robots that we have only a set of good/great feelings like faith, hope, dignity, self-pride, high self-esteem, self-worth, good communication skills, courage, etc. and can programme ourselves only for them and say - NO ENTRY - for other feelings. The emotions and thoughts are like a spectrum. See these examples for the range of feelings:
1. Highly worried – Worried - Secure (comfortably worried) - Careless (not at all worried);  
2. Hopeless – Confident - Over confident
3. Ashamed - Low worth – Worth – Very worthy.
The emotions and thoughts can't be compartmentalized. They are not Boolean in nature. We are humans.

Often, there are so many things told in the literature, TV, school, parents that we, the human beings, are great. This greatness is associated with being ideal, which in turn is associated with some set of good qualities and characteristics. The biggest of all things in life is BEING HUMAN. Is human being made up only the good and godly qualities? 

One of ways to work with these feelings is to learn accepting your-SELF. If we define such feelings as PROBLEMS, the FLIGHT/FIGHT system is activated immediately. Before getting into that, is it possible at the first place to accept that, which is in you, without labelling it as “bad”, “negative”? Can you just see, understand or feel the emotion or thought? And in many cases, if it is not causing you or others a problem, can you just stay with that feeling? Just accepting and understanding this (accept + understand = empathy) is a big relief in itself. It removes the grip of that negative emotion on you. The so called greats of history and time were also human beings and they too had all these negative qualities, negative incidents in their life, but, they accepted it and moved-on. However, you shouldn't disguise the acceptance as a route to escape and hide yourself. For ex: You can't say that you’re a human being, you have desires and so breach the trust (not being celibate) or run away with someone else's money. The demarcation is like a double edged sword. The acceptance has to and will help you to move-on in life and stop criticising your-self.  It helps you in stopping the crippling criticism and make you realize that you're human being and all the traits treated as negative/sub-standard are also part of a human being's realm and not that of a robot's.

At the end of the day, it is essential to understand and realize that - "You're OK, as you're" and let the rest of the internal communication start from this state onwards.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Midlife Crisis: Is This What I Wanted To Do in My Life?

The opportunities, diversity and quick growth which an IT industry provides have pulled many of us to seek a profession in this industry. You're a graduate or post graduate by the age of around 21 or 24. By the age of 31-34, you have sailed through the rough and tough waters of project life cycle for around 10 years, gathering a rich experience in managing the risk, keeping the commitments, interacting with clients, managing team etc. Such a journey would have definitely exposed you to your own strengths and weaknesses and made you aware of your capabilities. On the other hand, during this same journey, you’re well paid, got lucrative opportunities, well connected with people, have travelled across the world and by 31-34 you’re almost settled with Car-Kapada-and- Makaan (Car – Cloth – Shelter), which reflects the economic security you possess. But, in spite of all these things, somewhere, deep inside, there is an unsatisfied soul voicing – “I don’t like this job!”, “Is this what I wanted to do in my life?” reflecting a gradual pile up of the dissatisfaction and frustration over a period of time.

Before dwelling deep into the matter, understand that the same voice is silent while the other basic needs are not met. To make it clearer, say tomorrow, god forbid not, you lose your job!! You'll immediately keep aside all these questions on dissatisfaction and jump start to search for the same job! And this is true for everyone, not only for you.

Every human being fulfils his/her needs in a specific priority. The following simple diagram shows Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, proposed by an American psychologist Abraham Maslow:


Glance through the diagram to get a fair idea of what is happening with in you. Revisiting the problem definition, it is clear that the bottom three levels of needs viz., Physiological, Safety and Love/belonging are quickly fulfilled, particularly in the span of around those 10 years from 21 to 31 or 24 to 34.

The crux of the problem lies at 4th level, the Esteem, which covers – self esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. In the job held, the needs of Esteem are also fulfilled, in full or partially. It all depends on whether you like your job or not. If you like your job, then you'll be looking out for expansion and further growth and if not, then you’re struggling here, at this 4th level in your life.

The dissatisfaction or dislike or frustration might have crept in because -

1. It is a monotonous work life and growth opportunities are quite distant (further demotivating – as it takes time to get to next roles as we grow in the career ladder). You might just need a break from this and need to spend time on a different kind of roles and responsibilities (in the same industry or business).

2. It is a monotonous work life and you have lost the touch with the creative and expressive part of your-self. You might just need an out let to express your-self through a hobby.

3. You really don’t like the job or the domain or the industry of the job and want to break free of it and pursue your aspirations. And to put you in abyss, you might not know what your aspirations are!!

Most of the time it is option # 3 of breaking free from the job or job domain or industry which seems to be the true desire of the heart. But, matching to the same count, most of the times this turns out to be a superficial feeling. However, since this also being an inner voice, it can’t be ruled out just like that.
These are soul searching, life changing questions and hence we get struck for long time in getting answers for them. It calls for patience, introspection and exploration. There is no one-fit-for-all solution to this problem as this is quite personal matter.  A gradual change in the routine by picking up the new responsibilities in office, spending time on hobby, joining hobby groups would help in great deal. You can in parallel start noticing the difference in your productivity and the sense of job satisfaction. Also, start noticing, whether you really wanted to break free of this job or job domain or industry or it was just break you wanted or a desire to express yourself (hobby)? But, in spite of all these attempts and exploration, if the inner voice persists, then indeed it is not superficial feeling.

By now, during this journey of exploring yourself, you would have narrowed down the problem definition to option # 3. At this juncture, if you say –“I definitely don’t like the current job, but, I don’t know what to do!”, you still have things to explore within and there are plenty of personality tests available which help you in identifying your innate structure and what kind of jobs are suitable for you.

Remember, a job is not selected just for fulfilling the Esteem needs. It should be fulfilling our Safety and Love/belonging needs at first. As I wrote before - “Say tomorrow, god forbid not - you lose your job!! You'll immediately keep aside all these questions on dissatisfaction and jump start to search for the same job!” So, let us accept the existing job happily and then explore our inner voice with patience. I wish you a very happy journey in this exploration of your-self.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Screaming and Stubborn Child!!

Often, I get to hear this complaint from the parents about their child(particularly of the age group 3-6): "My daughter screams a lot or behaves stubborn when the object of her wish isn't given to her. What to do?". As a parent, I am not exempted from this.
Let us understand the child a bit here: It has a desire or wish. But, I as a parent, am not fulfilling it. So, what can the child do now? Had it been the same situation for me, as an adult, I have many alternates in terms of people and situations, if I don't get my object of wish. I can reach out to someone or take a different path. And I am also aware of the concept of time. But, what alternates and options does the child have in terms of people to reach out to? the approaches it can pick up? Or Is the child even aware of the concept of alternate itself ? No. It is not.
The parents are the only source for anything and everything to the child (Unless its a joint family or there are others at home with whom the child is close to). It can speak and express itself to the parents only and it has no alternate to whom to reach out; it even can't do it by itself (For ex: If it was getting a chocolate from fridge or getting a toy from wardrobe's top section). The only available options for the child are the basic not-moulded, emotional sources like screaming or shouting or behaving stubbornly. If we even close this, where should the pent up frustration, anger, disappointments of having not got the object should go? That is really emotionally unhealthy for the child.

If you don't want your child to express its frustration, anger, disappointments through shouting, screaming and behaving then teach it the alternates. The first thing we have to do as a parent is to listen to the child. Make him or her feel that its requests are heard. And whenever the request is not inappropriate either w.r.t the timing or safely, try to fulfill it. But, when it can't be fulfilled 'coz of one or the other good reason, try to explain to child the reasons, in its own language. And very importantly, stick to your decision once said. (This point of sticking to decision is open for debate. Will write about it in a different article). The chances are that the child might "reduce" the instances of screaming or shouting or behaving stubbornly as it feels heard and addressed, repeatedly. The trust starts building in it.

However, note that - these shouting, screaming and stubborn behavior will not be eliminated completely.
Often the questions like - Had I given it(the object) or not to my child or Had I slapped him or not does arise. There is nothing as PERFECT PARENTING. As a parent, I am also human being and made up of many flaws, own inauthenticities, fears, joys, confidence etc. There is no fixed rule which says, if I do x,y and z then it is correct parenting else it is not. So, whichever way you feel appropriate to the moment, go ahead with it.
And very importantly, notice that - On the other hand, its a good sign in the child that its strongly behind the object of its wish. This shows the strong will of the child.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

FEAR - I am OK with it

Because of the several reasons, we often hide(from outer world and also from our own self) many a emotions and feelings in us. One such feeling is 'fear', which is often loathed. Usually, when it appears, we immediately detests it.
Being a human, getting scared, feeling the fear is natural.It proves to me that I am a human being and not a brutal animal, a psycho or an imbalanced person.
There are different varieties of fear which are borne within us. These can be put into three categories:
1. Really contextual and are not hampering our day-to-day life.
2. Really contextual and are hampering our day-to-day life.
3. Hidden cause due to some past experience, which is even out of our consciousness.

Here I am mainly addressing the fears of type #1 and #2.

1. Really contextual and are not hampering our day-to-day life:  Let me get into an example directly. Recently, I relocated to London. I didn't had an apartment to stay, no bank account; The system and people are new to me, have to run around with my passport everywhere(you know how dangerous it is to lose it), its winter here and not many people are outside. Logically, I needn't to worry for all these things as I was on my company's deputation. Company would take care of me, if in case anything goes wrong. Moreover, there are many Indians over here. And hence, I do have a security built around me. In spite of all these, like a new born baby, though in safe hands, I did get scared, I felt the fear.
Now, if we analyse this scenario, isn't this natural for me, as a human being, as a social animal to feel this fear? Had there been someone else in my place, won't he/she would have felt the same? I am sure, he/she would have.  Moreover, it also confirmed me that I am psychologically healthy. Neither did I act much on it, nor did I try to reason it out to myself.  I just accepted it and left it. And the fear didn't disturb me anymore, though its still with me.
So, just accepting it as-it-is removed the grip of fear over me.

2. Really contextual and are hampering our day-to-day life: Just accepting the fear and leaving it as it is doesn't work ALWAYS. Many a times, the fear imbalances our life and hampers the day-to-day life. Such a kind of fear definitely have to be worked out or addressed.
Usually, we fear something over which we don't have control  - it can be some person, some event. For ex: losing the passport, becoming victim of a disaster and losing a body part, property etc., interview, exam, competition, answering my manager. One simple solution for such a fear is: UNDERSTANDING the CONSEQUENCES of the event, of which we are scared of, would release the grip of the fear upon us.
Let us consider an ex: I am having exams tomorrow and I am scared, though I have prepared. What are the CONSEQUENCES: First of all, I have prepared well. Say, I have covered 80% of syllabus and couldn't read 20%.
If the questions are from the 80% of the syllabus, I am confident that I can answer. If the questions are from the 20% of the syllabus, then I might not be able to answer all. However, logically, not all the questions would be from 20% of the syllabus. There may be some portion of questions from the 80% of syllabus too. So, I might not be able to score 90/100, but, should be able to make it up to 60 to 65/100. And if I get 60 or 65, I might lose my overall score and go down in ranking. 'coz of this, I might miss out some good college or interview options and so-on; ( Understandably, it is not in this last moment should I be worried of ranking and losing of job/good college opportunities. These should have come back quite earlier. )
In the above example, I moved from the state of - "How will be tomorrows exam paper be?" to "X, Y, Z possibly would happen in tomorrow's exam paper". The CONSEQUENCES are pretty clear to me. The movement from "How will" to "X,Y,Z possibly would" have  moved the whole thoughts in me from "uncertainty, unknown" to "most probable, known" things. Expecting certainty, a secure feeling, is fundamental to a human being's psychological formation and that's where I have moved my fears to. The fear still persists in me. But, it has lost the strong grip on me and has stopped hampering my day-to-day life. The awareness of the probable consequences, have made me accept it. I feel - I am OK with the fear.

3. Hidden cause due to some past experience, which is even out of our consciousness: There are varieties of these fears and this in itself is a big subject. When the fear which we are feeling is way out of balance w.r.t the reason for which we are feeling then it is surely due to some hidden cause of past experience. Consider the previous example of being in a new place. If I can't consume food, can't sleep, get quite nervous to just go out and meet some one, 'coz I am in a new place then it is an indicator of fear being quite out of balance. Or in the case of exam, if I feel like committing suicide or start getting fever or feeling sick then it also is an indicator of fear being out of balance and control. These things would need to be addressed from an experience counselor.

Are there any fears you're facing  and are working on? Would you mind sharing with me or over here? Did the solution proposed here works out?
Appreciate your thoughts and comments.