I work in a quiet (most times anyway) part of Dadar, and at the time that I walk down to office, not many shops are open. The raddi wala does open routinely at 8 though. Just like any other day, I was walking down to office from my bus stop, and glancing at the second-hand books for sale. I spotted Edward De Bono’s name and I have always wanted to read him. The book was titles ‘Future Positive: A Guide for the Energetic Eighties’. I wondered if it would be largely out of contect in 2015 (almost 2016), but on browsing, it seemed relevant, so I bought it. It cost me 30 bucks.
The last owner of the book and/or all the moths that had attacked it did not leave it in a great shape. Fixing the pages and designing the cover made it look more friendly, but I managed to spill some water on the felt-pen drawing:
The first few pages itself informed me that this book would answer a lot of my questions. It is a book about changing social structures by changing our thinking styles. A quote from the book:
Intelligence and thinking skills are different. The power of a car is different from the way it is driven.
Therefore, the author says that we have made great advances in our mass of knowledge and crystalized aspects like intelligence, but not so much in thinking skills.
As a psychologist and a mental health professional, I do feel that our socio-political reality impacts us greatly in our emotional lives, and there is no point in just treating the symptoms as that would be half measure.
What is it that we can do to change our thinking styles, leave out archaic ways of thought that had a different social context, and develop newer systems that solve our social and political problems?
I think this book will help me answer these questions, and I found it just in time!
Wow, this was both insightful and pleasant! :)
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.
Outrage is the new Indian hobby. Initially, social media would outrage over issues that required outraging, like rapes and brutal statements by politicians and what not, but now a days, we seem to outrage without thinking. Or worse, we outrage to drown out minority voices. Minority here stands not for muslims, but any person or group of people who want something different than what the mainstream does, something that is not an illegal or immoral thing to ask for.
When Aamir Khan said his wife suggested moving out of India, he voiced the feelings of not just Muslims, but all sorts of groups who have felt targeted and the Government has done nothing to tell them they will be looked after. These groups include, but are not limited to: women, queer population, Sikhs, SC and ST population, tribals, people in high-distress areas, people affected by man-made and natural disasters, people under the poverty line, people with mental and physical disability, people affected by crimes, people stuck in human trafficking and child labour, children and young adults stuck in observation homes, and so on.
There were some Muslims who came out and said that they have had nothing but love and respect in India, so how could Aamir Khan say what he did. First of all, it’s good that their experience was nice, but because he expressed a different opinion, that does not mean that he is wrong. He has all right to say what he feels, and it is not irresponsible, because he just expressed a sentiment, that many people have been feeling, and not flung mud at anyone blaming them for it.
The outrage he harnessed proved his point that we are inching towards intolerance and bursting at our seems. But it also proved the convenient duality we had: We are happy to garner NRI investments, but loathe when someone talks of leaving the country. We want to champion minority rights, but we don’t care when Muslim women say that they want changes in the Muslim personal law. Perhaps he poked us where it hurts: our denial blind spot.
This divided attention and lack of peace-making efforts from central authorities (but harrowing communal comments from politicians, instead), speak of a psychological divide that was only at the fringes before but now is seeping in everywhere. There are some who are not divided but they simply do not care, and I can’t decide which is worse.
In light of the recent incidents, having an opinion is perhaps the costliest in India. It is much easier if you want to be a mule, absorb consumer products and mindlessly churn our revenue and tax.
I work for a start-up that’s trying to make counseling available online, therefore addressing the accessibility, affordability and stigma question, all at once. In the background research for this facility, in roping in experts, and in general as a training counselor, this question has often plagued me, “Isn’t therapy or counseling a western concept? How can we expect people to take to it?”
Sometimes, the question originated within me, as I saw the reluctance of people to come for counseling or pay for it, even when they could afford it. Most of the times, it was by concerned (and some mocking) friends and family.
To answer this question, for all of of us, I did some digging and here are a few pointers:
- We have adopted a lot of seemingly western concepts with great ease, allopathic medicine, the current governing systems and computers are a few good examples. Do you ask about a discount when you buy a laptop, because it’s a western concept?
- Indians have always been known for stories, and the need to tell about life’s dilemmas in eloquent ways in order to find solutions. The Jataka tales, Pancharatnas, and our epics are good examples of lengthy discussions done in order to understand and deal with the shades of grey in our lives.
- India is where Buddhism was born, and Buddha was known for his calm demeanor and talking to people in a logical, reflective way, which helped them change for the better. Counselors are not Buddha or Buddhists, but if conversing reflectively can help, then why would you use chemicals with side-effects instead?
- Counseling or therapy don’t have to be dull or pathological. There are strength-based approaches, group approaches, community psychology approaches (which use local rituals and indigenous patterns for healing) and therapy using art and creative forms.
In essence, we could do a lot if we would combine our knack and need for talking, story-telling and metaphors, with an organized system of healing like counseling, and by dropping the elite-western air.
We would have an approach which could address India’s alarming mental health situation without heavily relying on drugs. It would reduce crime rates, increase productivity. A preventive and curative approach, given we think of counseling as important to have reliable professionals and spaces for it, from the public health and government hospital space to the private sector.
The question is, do we want to? Will we?
Ever since the BJP Government came into power, with its development agenda, we hear news of growth and development everyday. From the news that our GDP is more than China’s (but what that may mean is still debated, as stated in this article), or whether it’s about newer investments in India, our Prime Minister’s efforts at bettering foreign relations, to newer roads, flyovers and more money put into development infrastructure, it’s all to the slogan of ‘India Rising’.
But can you eat money?
Last I checked, you could not.
We always forget the human development indicators in all this. What’s the point of high rises and big roads if your people are unhappy and unwell? We are losing more and more merit to nations like the US because our policies of education and employment are forcing Indians to leave for greener pastures.
Our basics of poverty alleviation, education, health and mental health – have a long way to go. According to a WHO report, we are one of the most depressed countries, with suicide as second leading cause of death. That way, the only thing that seems to be rising, is unhappiness. Farmer suicides are a constant problem. It looks like materialism and vote bank politics are not a permanent solution.
Does this mean we give up infrastructure development? Of course not. But that will only improve our structures. What about the functionality of these structures? What about the users of these structures?
The expenditure on mental health is 0.6% of the health budget, not even of the GDP. Clearly, our allocation to human development and quality of life indicators need to improve, which of course includes gender ratio as well.
Sports (apart from cricket) are suffering, with football clubs like Pune FC and Bharat FC are shutting down. Our LGBTQ population have little or no legal protection from harassment. Moral policing is on an all time high with police raiding hotel rooms used by two consenting adults. We are becoming more and more intolerant about diversity, which used to be our strong point, and more and more leaning towards safeguarding ‘our kind’ and our thinking with imposed bans and bandhs for reservation, or against helpful laws.
We need a people-friendly government. A policy and police system we can approach and don’t have to be scared of.
It’s good to have good structures to live in, and travel by. But it’s even better if these structures are complemented by basic needs, of which, it’s high time that education, sanitation, livelihood, health and mental health were made an important part. It’s imperative to have human conditions of happiness and satisfaction. Concrete can only do so much.
I’m down with a bit of flu, some bit of fever triggered by throat infection. I have noticed that I am snapping a lot and not being my usual collected self with family, may be even friends.
I am irritable because of fever and body pain and a few complaints. This – after getting access to medication the day i fell ill. Also, the day after was the weekend so I did not have to go to work. And i do not have to for a while now. This, after I am getting all the rest I need, am at the liberty to eat and sleep as I see fit, and am gradually getting better.
Compare my situation to someone who has had an illness – chronic or acute, mental or physical, without privilege.
If a flu can make me snarky, what can constant pain do?
Yet, we want all patients to be nice, sweet, obedient, playing the victim. If they are angry, hostile, rude or in anyway not how we expect them to be – rosy – we do not treat them well, consciously or unconsciously.
If a flu can trigger hostility and bring down inhibition, stronger stuff definitely can?
Why do we want cute little victims?
Has being a savior become more important than being a humane health professional?