The Piano Teacher

Earlier this week, I called up Hem, who identifies himself as a creative film maker/ recordist (!!) After discussing my recording requirements, which are mostly classical music based stuff, I was generally talking to him about a few other things.

Hem is a south Indian, and lives near my parents’ home in Delhi, a place called Kalkaji. He is trying to set up a studio of his own, which I think finally he has found a place for. When I was here in December from Goa, he and another person, who we will call as R, came to meet me. R has been known to me for the last nearly two decades or possibly a little less than that. I have known him to be a musician of a small order, who has not learnt music thoroughly from anyone, yet by learning to play by himself and by dabbling with his keyboards.

He has often come to me for learning music, but more with the intention of ‘getting things out’ rather than really learning classical music. Surprisingly enough we have never clicked as a teacher-student. He always came, once in a couple of years, bowed at my feet (whcih I always resisted and told me not to) and talked about musical ideas and compositions. He never had it in him to learn music with anyone- he was always in a hurry to ‘encash’ things- quickly learn a raga and show if off to others. Even when I invited him to play with me, as I sang, I did not find him competent enough to, because he would be too restless to hear and start playing as I would start singing.

There are many I know like him- who keep playing tunes on the keyboards and then they figure out full melodies and they become musicians. Nothing wrong with that. They are doing things which they wanted to, by dint of sheer persistence.

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So willy nilly, moving in our conversation, Hem informed me that R is ‘out of the market’. I heard him and did not pay heed. He repeated it for me again. I thought ‘what a strange thing to say’. So I asked him what he meant. He repeated himself and said that R was in jail, for the next ten years at that. Oh! I thought, now what was that about.

And then it struck me that I had read about it in the Hindu paper, that  a piano teacher being caught abusing his student in Kalkaji. I asked Hem if he was talking of that incident. At that moment when I read about it, I thought of R- what a coincidence. I of course was not thinking of him as an abuser, but I just thought that he was the only piano teacher that I knew of in Kalkaji. But then I consoled myself thinking that hopefully there would be others, and it is not him. Now what Hem was telling me confirmed that indeed it was R!

It is sad. The world of Hindustani music is rife with teacher-student abuse, which has stifled many a career and many a relationship. ( There have been instances when teachers have married their students, but that is not an instance of abuse) But a man in his forties abusing or exploiting a child. I do not know how quickly the prosecution worked but they gave him ten years in jail. I thought for a moment, what would happen to him after those ten years and what about his family?

And then what about the child who suffered? What would be the consequences of this on her? And what if there would be more children, who could not raise their voices against him? Would there be someone to support her traumatic experience? I am sure it would have taken a lot for her to express her suffering.

The sad thing is that when people known to you do anything, your faith in humanity is shaken for a moemnt and then the whole anger which each of us has against the systemic abuse- finds a target. I feel no sympathy for R. In fact, I feel more for his wife and family. What a suffering they would have to go through socially. Like we always say, letting go of every abuser only emboldens them further- it is about time some were punished. Even if those some be people of our own associations and families. It is about time.

Here is a related post about the same incident, on another blog.

 

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Why family support is NOT WORKING in mental health

This article can be downloaded from here, and is one of the resources offered by Antardhwanee. In this location, this article is titled, Families and Recovery.

In societies where social resources in health are limited, families play a crucial role in the illness and recovery of people. In mental health the case is even more so. For long periods, it is the family alone that bears the brunt of people’s illness and disabilities. Sometimes this may amount of a lifetime, and then the parents/siblings, who are the primary caregivers end up with the massive concern of who will look after their loved one[1], after their own demise.

Here is a brief list of findings, that research leads me to conclude, in the context of roles that families are playing, which ensure that people remain mentally ill, rather than recover and reintegrate back into society. This list is not exhaustive and as study is an ongoing process more thoughts will get added to this. Here are the beginning ideas.

Learning to be helpless together

Sometimes when one person is given a mental illness diagnosis, the whole family is paralyzed by a fear that mental illness has crept into their gene pool. They feel  extreme pressure due to the diagnosis and the social stigma associated with it. They all feel helpless about it and the infirmity or sense of loss that accompanies mental illness diagnosis of one person, in fact impacts everyone deeply. Secretly, they all start analyzing their own behaviours to see whether some traits of it are also lying within them!

In such a case if another member of the family faces anything of a similar nature, they are very quick to take action and take them for a ‘check up’ as well.

Protecting the loved one interminably

I have seen personally families being so defensive about their loved ones, that they keep protecting them from the world around. At times it amounts to the extreme case of hiding them from view, or not letting their loved one engage in any social milieu by themselves or without supervision. It aids in chocking both the people or set of people very severely, as no new ideas can come into the ecosystem, which does not interact with the outside world in any significant ways.

I have even seen another extreme, which surfaces in scenarios of marriage. I am not sure if this happens in India, but I have seen it here only. I have seen multiple families ‘hiding’ the mental illness diagnosis from the partners of their loved ones. As a result people are not able to remain truthful in relationships, and the trust that could be there between married partners never develops fully, because one partner knows they are not honest. This protectionism of the parents does not allow the partners to be one another’s greatest support systems, which marriage was traditionally meant to be.

Hero worshipping

Paradoxical as it may sound, I have found in many families that parents or siblings talk about their loved one, with a great fondness and regard, often attributing their mental illness to a ‘high IQ’, superior intelligence, artistic abilities or anything else like that. Though there are studies that have proved that mental illness is more positively linked to artistic creativity, the reverse is not true. Artistic creativity does not appear out of the blue, just because you are mentally ill and therefore your intelligence is also more than the average person.

By making their loved believe they are ‘smarter than the average’, families bestow them with a sense of entitlement, which means, just because they are more intelligent, they have a right to have moodiness, depressions, or any other attribute. This even inflates their ego and self belief that whatever they do or not do is well deserved, because now they are ‘mentally ill’.

I have seen in many cases that these loved ones, even when they come into counseling are so cocksure of themselves that they do not believe they will gain anything from counseling. They don’t. Their own intelligence is such a barrier, which their parents have created around them, that they are unable to use that intelligence for their own betterment by seeking help from anyone outside the circle.

Families ensure compliance to Medication

Since families have a great amount of faith in modern medicine they do not believe that psychiatry does not have a cure for mental illness. In fact, I would go to the extreme of saying that in families where parents or siblings are doctors or scientists, the possibility of anyone recovering from any serious mental illness is quite remote. Due to their unquestioning faith in modern medicine they keep medicating their loved ones, without ever probing into whether medicines are really bringing any tangible outcome.

Families may become human rights violators

Nobody ought to be coerced or forced into psychiatric treatment, especially electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Families often believe doctors so blindly and rather innocently, that whatever the medical professional recommends is to be taken as a rule. ECT  is a very controversial procedure which has long term repercussions for a person. There is no need to administer ECT to anyone, but doctors do not educate families enough, who are anyways only too willing to follow what psychiatrists say.

Often people are given psychiatric medication against their will and in spite of having no need for it, even on the sly (by mixing in food for instance). Those with mental illnesses are not allowed to choose their treatments, because their families believe they cannot decide for themselves. As a result they keep medicating them and pushing them towards the edge, for the rest of their lives, till they reach their end! Sadly, the human rights violations in mental health are the most in any category of health, and the most part of it comes from families.

Fractured Communications

In  a whole lot of families people do not talk to one another- either properly or at all. As a result whatever support could come to all of them due to interpersonal communication, does not come about. Everyone lives in an emotionally marooned state, spiritually shrunk, cold, deeply fatigued, restless and wounded.

Even if one of them finds a solution to a problem, since their inherent communications are flawed, they are not able to convey that to others. In my own work I have seen many a family member, including people with a diagnosis, have been enthused to either meet me, encounter my work or hear about the sort of work we do. However, they have not been able to convince other members in their families due to a long term loss of trust, in one another and in the fact that any other ways could appear, leading them out of mental illnesses.

Not only in my case, but often due to lack of communications, people do not seek any other social mechanism to deal with mental illness, apart from free resources that the internet offers them.

[1] Throughout this writing I have used the phrase ‘loved one’ to refer to those who have been given a mental illness diagnosis, rather than calling them someone with a mental illness.

FEAR, LOATHING AND ENVIRONMENTALISM: THE SNAKES ISSUE

FEAR, LOATHING AND ENVIRONMENTALISM: THE SNAKES ISSUE

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Introduction and methodology. 1

First and Second Year Students. 1

Awareness about snakes. 1

Personal Responses. 2

Utility of awareness mails. 2

Suggestions Provided. 2

Presence of Medical Infrastructure. 2

Third Years. 3

Reaction. 3

Awareness. 3

Suggested Solutions. 4

Medical Infrastructure on Campus. 5

Awareness. 5

attitudinal change. 6

Acceptance of risk and awareness of medical infrastructure awareness. 6

Administration and guards. 6

Conclusion. 7

Introduction and methodology

The issue regarding snakes on campus has been a serious one and this makes the lack of discussion on the same a cause for concern. This lack has not just been in the direction of a solution but even the more essential aspects of awareness and medical aid. The problem came into sharper relief while surveying the students on questions relating to the presence of snakes on campus, and their awareness relating to the same. In this vein, we have surveyed various interested parties and stake holders in college, who vary both in their temporal relation towards this college and their interest towards the college. The primary groups surveyed include a broad typology between the junior-most batches, the third years and finally the penultimate and final year students. Another perspective that we have explored is that of the administration and faculty.

First and Second Year Students

The survey team first interacted with the juniors of the University. There were seven students from first year and second year who were interviewed and expressed their concerns regarding the presence of snakes in abundance. The importance of this group serves as a litmus test for the current attitudes towards snakes in the wake of the increased awareness on campus. They also form an interesting footnote that contrasts their levels of awareness vis-à-vis their counterparts in senior batches.

Awareness about snakes

Most of the students didn’t expect presence of snakes at the college. For most of the students, encounters with snakes was an event that they had rarely, if ever faced before.  Most of them never had any encounter before coming to University. The majority of students are scared of snakes, and the fear has triggered hate against snakes. One obvious cause for the same is lack of awareness.

During the interaction, all the students believed that all snakes are harmful. Most of them aren’t even aware of the names of the common snakes which we might encounter at the college. This is a very hazardous situation as identification of snake is the first information that is required before administration of anti venom or other medicines in case of a snake bite incident. The knowledge on identification is restricted to popular tropes wherein the surveyed persons were scared of all ‘hooded’ of snakes and judged threat from a snake based upon ‘hood’, color and length.

Personal Responses

All the students said in unison that they will run away. A few first years said that they will call the seniors who have experience in handling snakes, or the guards around them. All accepted that they have no knowledge about the first aid to be administered after snake bite. A few tried to answer this question but their techniques were wrong.

Utility of awareness mails

Most of the first year students find the mails circulated for ‘snake awareness’ of great utility. To an extent, it also helped them in clearing their misconception about snakes. But interestingly, most of the second years don’t remember anything about the mails.  This might imply that the frequency of such mails can be increased. Further it might also suggest that with time, the students accept the presence of snakes and don’t find it significant enough to educate themselves.

Suggestions Provided

Most of the students were of opinion that the ideal solution would be to bring mongooses into the campus. One person, XY, further said,” In my opinion, snakes should be killed as soon as we see them. This is not for any ego issue, but for purpose of safety. Also, something must be done to stop their breeding.” One student says, “This campus is surrounded by forest, it is obvious that snakes will be present. Instead of killing them, we should get street lights in all the areas of campus, specially the path to the mess via lawn.”

They also criticized the administration. One of the student says,” I think we should definitely do what we are doing right now, but also have trained experts catching the snakes instead of students.”  This statement is with regard to the safety of the senior students, who generally take up task of catching snakes and then releasing them in safe areas. It is these students who are informed at first whenever a snake is found on campus.

Presence of Medical Infrastructure

The majority of junior students are not aware of the medical infrastructure which has been implemented on the campus to deal with the unfortunate situation of a snake bite. They have no idea whether the facilities are up to any recognised standards or not. This further reveals the lack of awareness both on the part of administration and students. One of the students says, “Just because snake bite has not occurred in past, doesn’t mean it will never happen in future.” It should be kept in mind that real problem is not the presence of snakes, but the absence of knowledge, awareness, and proper facilities.

Third Years

 Eight students belonging to the third year were surveyed personally to arrive at the following observations. This group stands as a handy intermediary point between the ignorance of the first and second batches and the obsolescence of the final year students. As such, third years can be expected to have the biggest stake in addressing the issue due to a combination of factors of experience and knowledge

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Reaction

Firstly, the initial reaction of fear was expressed in one of two ways on encountering a snake. Either screaming and running or slowly backing away and locking the snake in if possible. Both of these were clearly conveyed as a reaction induced by the fear. Further questioning the basis of the fear did not show the presence of any previous experience of trauma related to snakes but were simply an instinctive reaction due to the perception of these creatures as venomous and life-threatening. The justifications, however ranged from classifying all snakes as “plain evil”, or ”absolutely disgusting” to an articulation of fear that was not specific to snakes, but a reaction similar to what one would feel towards any creatures that could potentially harm you. Thus the first reaction to encountering a snake seems to be, as one student put it, attributable to a desire to not die of a snake attack.

Secondly, a general reaction to the presence of snakes, even to the ones who have not directly encountered one, was sought. The responses were not vastly different as students were mostly terrified of the idea that snakes could be found anywhere on campus. The fact that “they are so quick” and “manoeuvre around difficult areas so fast and easily” were some of the reasons why the mere presence of snakes on campus was considered extremely unsafe by the students.

Awareness

The students were questioned on the level of awareness they have regarding snakes with reference to either identification and/or first aid. They were asked also, if the level of awareness has increased after entry into the campus because, firstly, the incidences of encountering one have increased and secondly, there have been several e-mails sent to aid the students in identifying and employing personal safety standards, among other things. Being students of third year, the interviewees were expected to have had a reasonably long exposure to a series of such mails. The responses to the questions were mixed as students either claimed to have forgotten the contents of the mails, “retained only terrifying information like the fact that snakes can climb stairs” or simply not opened these mails and were hence at various levels of cluelessness. On the other hand, there were some students who thought that they were slightly better equipped, more watchful and have, most importantly, learnt that not all snakes are venomous and the non-venomous kind didn’t pose a threat. However, that would bring us to the next cause for concern; the fact that none of the surveyed students considered themselves able enough to identify snakes and would not, consequently, be able to differentiate venomous and non-venomous varieties.

The awareness with respect to first aid for snake bites were also lacking as the students had no idea as to any course of action, while one person said that they would tie a cloth over the bite to stem the flow of venom to the rest of the body but didn’t know further procedure.

Suggested Solutions

The surveyed students were asked about what could be done to handle the situation better. The suggestions saw both extremes as some students wanted the campus to be devoid of snakes by any means whatsoever. Even as one student suggested that the college should get mongoose and “purge this place of the blessed creatures”, others felt that the possibility of safely removing the snakes from the campus and transferring them to better suited habitat must be explored. It was felt that the administration should perhaps get in touch with people equipped with dealing with snakes and employ them instead of relying on students to take care of themselves. The suggestion stemmed from the fear of absence of the two students currently equipped to deal with the situation, because an immediate corollary reaction to fear on encountering a snake is to call one of these students for aid and in their absence, there was no alternative safe solution available to the students. It was felt that it was “extremely reckless” of the administration to let students deal with the issue irrespective of how equipped they might be. Other suggestions included the purchase of anti-venom and safe modes of administering the same as well the oft repeated suggestion that an identification manual ought to be circulated among students to aid with awareness of what snakes they are encountering which also becomes crucial while dealing with the administration of anti-venom in case of emergencies.

Medical Infrastructure on Campus

It was unanimously agreed by all the students surveyed that the campus had absolutely no medical infrastructure that enabled them to deal with a case of snake-bite. Some students said that even if there was a stock of anti-venom, there weren’t any qualified medical personnel equipped to administer the same and this was clearly a serious issue as the misadministration of anti-venom could be as life-threatening as the snake bite, if not more. It was suggested that there should also be a few sessions on first aid given to students to inform them on how to act immediately after a snake-bite before seeking medical aid. And the obvious extension to this being that on seeking such medical aid, the same is available readily and efficiently so as to not distress the students further. The need for a qualified medical professional available at all times as well as a functional ambulance was severely advocated for unanimously.

SENIOR STUDENTS

The nest group that is being surveyed is a collection of senior students, drawn solely from the 4th and 5th year batches. It was important  for us to target the said group in order to explore the temporal aspect to the attitudes towards snakes in college. These students, by virtue of having been on campus for 4 and 5 years respectively, have the gift of retrospection and form a handy litmus test towards how attitudes towards snakes have changed  over time in college. Another insight that this group brings is that they are in a better position to judge the changes in awareness and preparedness on campus towards snakes.

Awareness

All of the people surveyed agreed that they came into law school in their first years with attitudes towards snakes that were at best, mildly fearful and at worst, diagnosed phobia of snakes and other poisonous creatures (it is important to note that OurSchool is also home to many scorpions). However, they all broadly agree that in many respects, their attitudes towards snakes has taken a turn for the better. One student, AB, told us of how after attending a talk on the increasing environmental change around Shamirpet, she had been forced to understand the part that displacement played in pushing an unusually large number of snakes towards campus.  More than half of those surveyed recalled the attitude in OurSchool towards snakes in their initial years. In the absence of any awareness, preparedness or skills, all snake sightings were inevitably met with panic and the inevitable death of the snake at the hands of the security guards of the institution. One interviewee, SB, recalled an instance where he personally witnessed a perfectly harmless rat snake being killed by the guards because of the prevalent attitude.

attitudinal change

The attitudinal change came for many in the 5th year, through their interactions with their batch mates, who would hold forth on the subject and the harms of such an approach. For those in the 4th year such sensitization was primarily carried out through emails that were circulated to the batch. A clear and consistent response was that initially the increased awareness of dangers on campus, made most of them far more nervous and consequently cautious while stepping out. Secondarily, and variably, it raised the awareness and sensitivity towards issues of lack of medical awareness, the need to develop antivenom infrastructure and finally (and only in certain cases) the need to consider the ecological impacts and ethical costs of the indiscriminate killing of the snakes.

Acceptance of risk and awareness of medical infrastructure awareness

Needless to say, the senior students displayed, by far the most moderate attitude towards the presence of snakes on campus in college, with certain responses ranging from utter indifference to their presence, to a cautious state where the occurrence of snakes has become a normalized part of the experience of college. One particular student, who once found a snake in his cupboard, insists that this in retrospect is a fond memory, part and parcel of the more rooted nature of living in college alongside the clear skies, the lake and the fresh air. Furthermore, these students were all able to mention at least certain basic techniques for addressing the contingency of a snake bite and had moderate knowledge about anti venom and where to procure them from in case of an emergency

Administration and guards

It is the general perspective of the student community that more involvement is necessary from the administration in order to manage the issue of snakes on campus. The faculty and the non-teaching staff of the campus are well aware of the issue at hand but also don’t always possess the level of awareness desirable to deal with the same. Thus it becomes vitally important to gauge their reactions.

On questioning the staff, it became clear that most of the problems that the students are grappling with also affect the members of staff who also acknowledge that they need to be better aware and prepared. This is especially true in the case of guards who inevitably happen to be one of the first ones who come to know of snake sightings. On surveying them, it was clear that they are also largely scared of the creatures and their first instinct is to beat them to death irrespective of whether or not these creatures are venomous and are actually threatening. On interaction with the guards, we get to know that they aren’t aware of the best method to deal with snakes. They do their job of trying to catch it and keep students and others safe. Safety of snakes is none of their concern. Hence they don’t hesitate in killing a snake. Once when a snake was found inside hostel, the students called guards, and together killed the snake. Afterwards it was found out that the snake wasn’t venomous. This is seen as rather unfortunate by those sections of students who advocate for the safe transfer of even dangerous snakes.

The above incidents shows that even the guards are required to go through proper training to deal with snakes. It is necessary both for the safety of snakes as well as guards. Snakes aren’t supposed to be killed. They being aware of right techniques and with proper equipments will be in a position to catch snake, and not to kill it. Further, it would reduce the fear from the minds of both guards as well as students.

Therefore, in order to deal with the issue more effectively, awareness and direct involvement of the staff of the campus becomes crucial. This duty includes not only being more aware and prepared personally but also in employing able personnel who would be able to provide aid in cases of emergencies and advocating and actively pursuing the goals of better awareness for the entire community.

Conclusion

The survey exhibited that the students and administration considered the issue of snakes on campus as one requiring immediate attention and also that nothing constructive was being done in this direction. Lack of better modes of creating awareness and, more importantly, lack of  medical facilities are concerns that warrant swift redressal.

Shift in West Asia Policy- not mine

Perhaps governments do not expect ordinary citizen like me to even have a thought about Palestine- Israel crisis, for have we not been fooled and befuddled by the extremes that we experience in our daily struggles to remain alive? Not to talk of remaining ‘sane’. We of course have the Vyapam scam raging live midst us right now and idiotic filmstar weddings to dazzle our senses and more nonsensical news of filmstars (not to forget the FTII furore over Gajendra Chauhan!!) to hoodwink us and believe they are more significant than the rest of the country, including little children. (I must add as an aside that left to their own means, and without scripts, these film actors are really the MOST IDIOTIC characters going around ).

Just to bring the context in, recently the Indian government (GoI) has shown a shift away from Palestine, towards Israel, in a historically unprecedented move. All these years, we as a newly independent nation were supportive of the claims of the people of Palestine to their home in the West Bank and Gaza. Yassar Arafat, when he was alive and active, would have always known India to be a fraternal nation, supportive of its struggle against Israeli control and in asserting its independent status.

In my personal capacity, not that it amounts to anything, I am absolutely unhappy about this shift towards Israel- not because of any innate anti-Semitic streak running in me, but because I see it as a weakness of spirit and solidarity towards the Palestinians who have always been dear to Indians.  I see this as a larger ploy to keep West Asia in continued conflict, (not that India can actually have a decidedly significant role in this),  to inflict unthinkable amount of violence on thousands of people without a remorse and to openly flex its military and financial might, by trying to rope in all parties who are willing to believe its story. Sadly, now we in India also also supposed to believe that Israel is correct in its senseless pounding in Gaza.

This is a thought in the spirit of peace and non-violence that I have in me and possibly my desire to work/aspire towards personal and universal peace at every level. I am vehemently against militarization of anything- whether it be a country, a region of a country, a piece of land/ocean or mountain or you name it. I do not think the world, if we dream of world peace, should ever indulge in the manufacture of arms and their sales. It is one thing to talk about peace (which all politicians do, as part of their job) and another to act in its creation. You cannot create peace if you manufacture, buy, create or sell arms – to anyone. And if one buys arms, then another will most certainly as well.

All sensible people, are dismayed at this shift of a non-aligned country, (of course the non aligned movement is long dead, no thanks to the end of the Soviet Union) towards Israel, a rogue nation in West Asia- which impudently crushes the rights of millions of people for decades.

As someone who struggles in this small world of mine, which is laced with musical notations, writing in mental health, counseling and supporting others and myself, I find it shameful that a government in my name (a govt always represents its people, not its own self only) is going back on the promise of fraternity that we once showed towards a greatly oppressed people. Is it because the government is really not tuned to the views of the people or is it because after all it is a government that enjoys the mandate of only a small percentage of its own population (33%). I am ashamed of this move and I stand by Palestine. If India is bending towards Israel, I am not a part of it.

Psychological group aided CIA torture, (should come as no surprise)

WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed e-mails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by US military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House, and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

The interrogation program has since been shut down, and last year the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a detailed report that described the program as both ineffective and abusive.

Rhea Farberman, a spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association, denied that the group had coordinated its actions with the government. There “has never been any coordination between APA and the Bush administration on how APA responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program,” she said.

By June 2004, the Bush administration’s torture program was in trouble. The public disclosure of the images of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib prompted an intense debate about the way the United States was treating detainees in the global war on terror, leading to new scrutiny of the CIA’s so-called enhanced interrogation program.

Congress and the news media were starting to ask questions, and there were new doubts about whether the program was legal.

On June 4, 2004, the CIA director, George J. Tenet, signed a secret order suspending the agency’s use of the enhanced interrogation techniques, while asking for a policy review to make sure the program had the Bush administration’s backing.

“I strongly believe that the administration needs to now review its previous legal and policy positions with respect to detainees to assure that we all speak in a united and unambiguous voice about the continued wisdom and efficacy of those positions in light of the current controversy,” he wrote in a memo that has been declassified.

“I strongly believe that the administration needs to now review its previous legal and policy positions with respect to detainees to assure that we all speak in a united and unambiguous voice about the continued wisdom and efficacy of those positions in light of the current controversy,” he wrote in a memo that has been declassifie

At that critical moment, the American Psychological Association took action that its critics now say helped the troubled interrogation program.

Read the rest here-

Comprehending complexities

Nothing in the world is a simple thing, including ideas of any hue or shade. Health, wellness, illness and becoming healthy are not simple ideas by any stretch of imagination. However to reach a certain stage of complexity one has to pass through many intermediate stages of events that are interwoven, which may be simple or complex in their constructions.

Complexity theory is a well honed framework in research, particularly in systems theory which looks at the functioning of individual units while looking at the functioning of a system as a whole. I am working with complexity theory and systems approach in family counseling, and how the various actors interact with one another is of immense significance to me, at all times. From my past observations what I find is that in a family system when one person is adversely impacted by family dynamics, in reality every person is being impacted adversely- to one or another degree.

These days I am reading some very fascinating yet complex ideas from a totally different domain- and trying to understand the meaning and difference between decolonial perspectives and postcolonial perspectives. On the whole applying this to the domain of mental health is another long journey of complexity, or looking at the same picture from a different lens.

Language has increasingly become the focus of my work and yet seeing the conception of language, or knowledge from the point of view of decolonial perspectives is challenging all the previously held notions of mine, even in mental  health. I think this will take me to a new inquiry, of an even more serious nature than I had ever thought of or thought that I would be capable of. Currently I am toying with many ideas coming out of South America, and superimposing them on ideas of emancipation, to see what new synthesis emerges.

Mostly new ideas will emerge in the domain  of research only, but inevitably research percolates down into day-to-day encounters in therapy. As a result, and thanks to the research orientation I bring into therapeutic dialogic collaborations, the conceptualization of distress itself is so vastly different in my mind, from the day-to-day mental illness labels that they are as far apart as the two poles, which would never meet!

I must be working on the intersection of complexity theory in family therapy, and that is how when I talk to one person facing a mental illness label it is my attempt that their family become a part of the therapeutic collaboration, to enable faster outcomes and better bonds, due to more open dialogues that happen in therapy sessions.

Forcefully holding on, damaging people for generations, does not create a great society

My heart is throbbing in anguish at reading this article– and I quote from it briefly, as follows.

In December 2013, a mob numbering a few hundred and belonging to the Karbi tribe attacked a Rengma Naga village in Karbi Anglong in Assam. A total of six Rengma people were killed, including four women – one’s intestines were pulled out and another was burnt to cinders. The mob, led by armed men, cut down all orange and betel nut trees in the village since these are the source of livelihood of the Rengma Nagas of Assam. A shelter protecting children of the village during the attack was bombed. All households were burnt down.

Till date, the Rengma people who fled their villages find themselves displaced. They still live without roads and power. The government of Assam provided ex gratia compensation to the families of the victims and washed its hands of the matter. The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council cared even less. The few mainstream news media outlets that covered the incident lost interest quickly (since, you know, this happens all the time). No judicial inquiries were set up.

When state organized terror seeps into the lives of people it dehumanizes them. To expect that by  coercing such people, in any name and to bring them into the mainstream of a nation, by forcing them to accept nationality, that slaughters them, marauds their spirit, their sense of self and their inner resilience, by putting fear- is surely not the making of any great nation. This is the egoistic stance of a nation. Why bother with holding anyone so forcefully, in such fear? The nation has failed- alas, cry the beloved country! Your children die in your name.

Lobotomy- the ultimate cruelty

It is only a few months ago that I discovered about Lobotomy and I am not aware it this was ever done in India as well. But this post is not to document my personal disgust about it, but to share another post, which documents the effects of Lobotomy on the life of a person- it is quite disturbing indeed.

In this story of an American Nurse one gets to see the other side of the horror of a war, on those who are at the frontline- the soldiers and their supporting teams, and what effects the war has on their overall well being.

All families of soldiers should be aware of this and also those who think that war is the way to settle any dispute.

Renting a house or entering a war zone

I feel the need to move out of my current house, because it is somewhat isolatedDSC01006, and it cuts me in one corner of a small village in the South of Goa, which itself is considered a space, which is ‘non-happening!’. Not that I would have ventured far from here- just the next village.

So with great effort of several months, we found a house in the next door village and with the mediation of a person who is a nice, elderly, retired bank officer. With much ado we looked at the house, met the owners, not once, but at least half a dozen times, brought each of them to my current house and let them interact with my landlord, who shares my premises, to let him tell them of his experience with me as a tenant.

At the end of this long-winding road, they sent me a rent agreement; which I finally saw yesterday, after a span of ten days. I am sharing the language of the agreement here, direct from the draft. All the items that have been highlighted, cut off or in bold are my changes. However, having made the changes to this draft what I felt was, what I write the end of the draft.

NOW THIS AGREEMENT OF LEAVE AND LICENSE WITNESSETH AS UNDER :

 

  1. The Licensor hereby  grants a license and authorize the Licensee to use the said Premise for residential purpose for the period of 11 months commencing from 1th April 2015 to 28th  February 2016 for a total  License fee of Rs…./- (Rupees payable on or before every 5th day of each Succeeding month to the Licensor at his residence OR deposited in a designated bank account before the said date, via money transfer through electronic means.
  2. The Licensee hereby agree to pay the monthly compensation /Licensee fee of Rs…. to the Licensor regularly and punctually on or before 5th day of each succeeding month, failing which shall entitled penalty charges of Rs.100 per day in addition to the monthly compensation license fee for additional day of non payment beyond the due date and additionally and in such case the Licensor shall been title at his own option to terminate  the present agreement without giving any advance written notice to the Licensee.  
  1. For due and proper fulfillment of this Agreement the Licensee has deposited with the Licensor an amount of Rs….as security deposit .  The said amount of security deposit shall remain with the Licensor till the  Subsistence of this Agreement and the same shall be  refunded to the Licensee after expiry of the term of this Agreement after deducting  the amount of dues, if any, payable by the Licensee to the Licensor.
  1. The Licensee shall not carry out any structural alteration or repairs of the said Premise without prior written consent of the Licensor. If any such alterations are made or if any damages are caused to the said Premise, same shall be made good by the Licensee and Licensee and Licensor shall be entitled to adjust same from the amount of security deposit.
  2. The Licensee shall use the said Premise licensed to her for the bonafide purpose of residence only. The Licensee covenants with the Licensor that he shall not commit any waste or cause any damage to the said Premise.
  3. The said Premise is provided with separate electricity connection and Licensee hereby agrees to pay the actual amount of the Electricity bill received as and when the bill are issued by the Electricity Department and also liable to pay Water charges as per the amount of water bill to the Licensor, after the commencement of the period of the rent. No prior bills need to be borne by the Licensee.  After termination/expiry of the present agreement.  License shall have to clear all outstanding dues and produce valid receipt of the clearance of such due  and the Licensor shall be entitled to adjust  the unclear bills with the same deposit and hold back the payment of the security deposit till the same are cleared to the satisfaction of the Licensor.
  4. The Licensee shall upkeep and maintain the said Premise during the continuance of this license. They shall keep the electricity and Water connection in good and running condition.
  5. The Licensee shall use the said Premise licensed to him for the bonafide purpose of residence only. The licensee agrees to keep the said premise in the same condition as it is license to him subject to normal wear and tear and loss or damage caused to the licensed property shall be made good by the Licensee.  The Licensee solely responsible for any damages caused by the short circuit etc. occurred due to the negligence of the Licensee.
  6. The Licensor shall have the right to visit the said premiseat all reasonable time during the business hours to see its safety and for any other inspection by fixing a prior appointment with the Licensee.  without prior notice to the Licensee.
  7. The Licensee shall not sub let assign and or in anyway part with the possession of the license either by forming partnership or a company with any third party.
  8. The Licensee shall not carry any illegal activities in the said premise nor shall store illegal good, explosive, combustible, hazardous or corrosive material in the said premise. 
  9. The Licensee shall not misbehave with neighbors. Should I not write that the Licensor will be responsible for all misbehaving neighbours?!
  10. The Licensee shall not cause any nuisance in or around the said Premise nor shall throw the waste material in the compound of the said Premise. 
  11. The Licensee shall keep the license Premise its fixture, furniture and fitting in good state and in the event if the license Premise, its fixture, furniture and fitting are destroyed or damaged due to negligence act on the part of the Licensee then the Licensee shall be liable to pay the cost/damage caused to the said Premise, fixtures, fitting and furniture to the Licensor as per the approved valuer.
  12. The Licensor can terminate this Agreement by giving one month written notice in case of breach of any term of this Agreement by the  Licensee.  The Licensee can terminate this Agreement by giving one month written notice to the Licensor.  In both events Licensor shall refund security deposit after adjusting outstanding license fees and other dues as aforesaid if any.
  13. The Licensee shall hand over a peaceful and vacant possession of the said Premise to the Licensor at the expiry of the period of license.  If the Licensee fails to give vacant possession of the license Premise, after the termination or expiry of this Agreement, the Licensor shall be entitled to claim compensation / meanse profit @ Rs.2000/- per day for the entire period of such illegal and authorized use of the said Premise with immediate effect.  The Licensor shall refund to the Licensee the security deposit amount of Rs…. without any interest only after the determination of the entire period of license period although the present Agreement may be terminated earlier in point of time.
  14. It is hereby agreed and clearly understood by and parties that nothing in these present shall be construed to confer any illegal rights of tenancy sub tenancy lease etc. on the Licensee and that Licensee can enjoy the use of the said Premise temporary subject to the terms and condition of this Agreement.
  15. The Licensee is taking in his possession the goods from the Licensor pursuant to the said leave and license Agreement.  The Licensee hereby undertakes to keep the same in good and working condition subjected to regular wear and tear and make good the loss if any caused due to damage or loss of the said goods.
  16. In case of any dispute that may raise by or between the parties about the terms of this Agreement or interpretation thereof than the some shall be referred to a sole arbitrator who shall be appointed by the Licensor and the award given by him shall be binding on both the parties.  The proceedings shall be governed by Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 or to adjudication shall be subject to the courts in Margao.
  17. The Licensee shall be held responsible for all civil and criminal act committed by him during the occupation of the said Premise.
  18. After expiry of the license period the same shall be extended or renewed at the option of the Licensor on new terms and conditions mutually agreeable to the parties with enhance in monthly compensation/license fee by 7.5% i.e. for the next 11 months if renewed.
  19. The Licensee shall not obtain driving license, ration card, Adhar card or any other documents on the strength of this Agreement without written permission from the Licensor.
  20. The Licensee undertakes to vacate the said Premise after completion of 11 months or else the Licensor shall be free to enter upon the Premise and after removing belongings of the Licensee and shall be free to take possession of the said premise in presence of two prominent persons or witnesses. (this was the clause that blew my mind up finally)
  21. If the Licensor takes possession as per the clause 23 of this Agreement and keeps the belonging items in the compound or the passage of the said Premise which belonging items etc.  subsequently stolen by any person/s then the licensor shall not be held responsible or liable to pay any cost of the stolen items to the Licensee.

Though on first sight I braced myself and decided to tone down their language, but later having done all that, put all the questions, the exclamations and whatnot, I felt, is this really a zone I want to enter? So this is the response I wrote to them

I find the language of this agreement extremely noxious and hostile and does not evoke my confidence to enter into a rent agreement with the said party for I feel they are capable of serious harm, as their language is so ‘angry’ and full of spite. They seem to be renting out their premises, as though, to someone who is uncultured, uneducated and complete social nuisance. It is very disappointing to read what this rent agreement delineates. Perhaps I have to reconsider my decision to even rent out this place!

Considering I have lived always with such decency and that Hyginus Mascarenhas, my current landlord always had such cordiality in his association with me, which was a reflection of my cordiality towards him, I find this language to be very offensive to my sensibilities. My whole world is a world of communications and how we construct our relationships through language,and you know that well.

I am afraid we would  have to reconsider renting out this premises, given these terms and conditions. The alternative toning down of the language is what I am suggesting and sending back to you. Since you also have a copy of my rent agreement with Hyginus, you may want to check the language from there, to confirm for yourself how shocking the language of this leave and license agreement sounds.

When you enter into a rent agreement it is not as though you are entering into a zone of conflict where one person is offering their home to you and you are robbing them or intimidating them, or they you- and either party has to be on their guard all the time. If this is the attitude of anyone towards incoming tenants, they might as well not put up their home for rent- instead of showing this boorishness towards unsuspecting strangers. This way is strange indeed.

I have always considered my home a very sacred space and not a zone of conflict. Since so many people come and share their suffering and their stories with me, I in fact consider the space like a sanctuary and a healing zone. I do not think I can create a healing zone in a place which is so fraught with conflict and animosity.

On this note I decided I would not want to have anything with such people- who do not know the norms of basic civilized behaviour, human values and courtesy.

Seeing the Full Elephant- Spirit, Science, Religion and Psychosis  

I am writing this piece in a general way so that even if you do not understand any of the disciplines that I am borrowing ideas from, you would be able to understand what I am talking about. This is my offering to you on these different, seemingly divergent issues- which flummox people on many sides of life (parents, doctors, social scientists, patients, religious followers, lay public, and scores of others), for they are not able to see beyond their disciplinary/experiential boundaries. To comprehend better, what I am about to share, kindly suspend any judgment about who I am or how qualified to write this. Just enjoy the writing, for whatever it is trying to share. (Since I will take several hours in writing it, with a view to shed more light on unconnected areas, I urge you to spend at least a few minutes, reading with some patience). I am annotating this writing with scores of resources, for you to refer- for I am not just writing from self experience, but self experience fortified by ideas and wisdom gleaned from the work of scores of people across the globe. This is not to suggest that I am the wise one here, but in bringing these ideas to you, I hope we will all grow from the possibilities that they open out for dialogues.

Birth Onward

I am going to start with the birth of a child. Recall that the process of birth itself is a dangerous, potentially perilous and fearsome journey, because a living entity from a primitive, borne in water form (just like the start of life on the planet earth, in water) comes into an aerial medium, through a birth canal- it can die in that process, the mother can die, the reasons for threat are many. The birth is a big triumph for so many and for the birthing mother is considered a second life. It is a big trauma- though not for all. So the state of trauma can come early- let us remember that. We know of many women who during the birth process have near death experiences, show signs of PTSD, as well. The same signs will come later in life when suddenly exposed to other traumas- rape, victimization of any sort, violence of a man made nature, natural calamity that threatens life, war, drowning, and etc etc.

Any child soon after being born is a creature of pure instinct- there is no reason,  judgment, or boundary. When there is an instinct for hunger it may cry, when it wants to ease its bowel or bladder, it does not wait for the appropriate location- it just follows its instinct and wants to ease that pressure. So that is the state when the ego, is in a primitive, undifferentiated stage- it does not recognize anyone, anything and so forth. In this state, since it has emerged from an amniotic environment, it can only connect with its mother, in a parasitic (helpless) dependence. Recall here the idea of id-ego-superego, given by Freud.

The next stage is the development of the ego stage- it starts differentiating between it’s self and another, family and outsiders and so forth. If you recall psychology is the discipline that wants to start seeing from an early stage how the mind learns, trains and starts getting ready for a role in society, someday in the future. Most development of the ego remains just that- attachment, connection, identification with self. So if you recall, people who are called egoistic are those who think that they matter the most or what they have to say matters the most, their own knowledge, or sense of self is very heightened. So anyhow the field of psychology is all about studying the path of this development and where it goes off its set path. What is the set path of anyone? If you recall the work of Freud, for him the stages of development of every human are so significant that he reduces everyone to their libidinal instincts only and psychoanalysis comes to center around the early years of a person’s life- and trying to identify the present, using the yardsticks of the past. There is something right about this and something wrong.

Just like they say a mighty oak hides inside a little acorn– the potential of each human lies inside it’s body- but nobody can see where it hides- it has to go through its own maturation, its unique experiences and become a special person, different from everyone, different from the ones who created it. This potential is different for everyone- just like any species. From the birth if someone follows a path of becoming who they are destined to, which is given as potential, this path is called the path of individuation (Jungian terminology). But often it is not easy to follow the path, in a linear manner. Everyone faces hardships of one or another kind, the path is not exactly laid down like a blueprint- it changes in response to external stimuli all the time. On the path many hurdles lie for everyone, and sometimes the hurdles can be extremely painful too, like loss of a mother, accident and loss of a limb, sudden disabling condition, war, calamity, physical violence, abusive family or anything else- the possibilities are innumerable. That changes the path of individuation and a person like a plant has to undergo many a season, many a mishap if it has to survive till an older situation. When these mishaps and traumas do not get addressed at the time when they occur people do not get over their impact, or they may be unable to express them, for they do not understand what happened. For instance take the case of a child who faces an abusive/incestuous adult at home. All these sufferings, these lack of expressions come to lie hidden in a person thereafter, and keep getting added to other suffering, which life necessarily brings.

C.G. Jung and Analytical Psychology

According to Jung, a person’s potential is not a sexual template but a spiritual one- and he tells us that the whole of human history lies coded in every person- called the collective unconscious, with which we have no regular communication, except through dreams and symbols. Those symbols are not such convenient ones like the logo of Coke/Pepsi. They lie hidden mid folds of stories that are handed down in every culture- through its mythology, fables and fairy tales. He also shares that the reason why mythology acquires any significance via gods and goddesses is not because they were real beings, but they were chosen to carry forward the messages that a culture wanted to transmit, about itself for generations ahead, through simple stories. They are patterns of behavior, which are chosen to be identified as desirable or noteworthy and made an example of.  So the power of a story in mythology does not lie in the story itself, but in its interpretation.[1] Joseph Campbell did some remarkable work in the area of mythology by studying the mythology of scores of peoples across the world and then he wrote many a book, for me personally a great book- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (life changing book as I see it). The essence of the book was that he brought together any number of stories from around the world to harbor on the fact that the HERO is not one person (only)- he can have a million forms, faces and voices. But ultimately every ‘hero’ (that potentially lies in every human as his/her unique potential) has to go through a big circle of suffering, losing his way, whiling his time, getting a reminder of who he is and then making the labourious journey of finding a way back into the world, with the learning gathered, and if possible, offer that to others. This pattern in every story of a mythic dimension is what Campbell calls the monomyth. It runs through any mythic story,(or any human’s story) from anywhere in the world.

If, at this juncture, you may be reminded of the story of Siddhartha, who is born a prince- goes on a difficult path because his allure for life has been jolted. He sees the possibility of death, suffering, old age and whatever else it was, to realize that everyone will go that way. If you have read the road he takes, he followed no footprints- his is a search, often a perilous one, for he can even die in the process. But he does not- he survives, become the Buddha, and returns back to civilization- to offer that method to others.

The Underworld

That is the method which all those, who makes a descent into what Jung calls the ‘underworld’ (not the one of gangsters/mafia, but one’s own unconscious mind) have to take by default. Those who have long years of depressions, who have nightmares of gigantic proportions, who see great suffering for one reason or another-  descend into a land which inspires fear, where nobody would want to go out of choice. Descent into this underworld may be a one way road for most, because they do not know how to integrate the experiences of that world with the day-to-day reality of living. Their entry into the underworld may be a result of a suicide attempt, a rape, a war, a family violence, a poor exam performance, a divorce or anything else. They become lost, fearful, worried, confused, anxious and bothered. Seemingly simple things like accidents, family violence, bullying at school, dominating adults in the family , untimely  loss of a parent, or anything else that makes a child insecure can much later in life manifest in a sudden descent of the spirit.

I am now going to bring this descent of the spirit, into a contrast with its ascent, due to sudden equally unexpected situations, in a format possibly unfamiliar to many- the serpent power in the subtle body.

The Game of Consciousness- from self to the transpersonal realm

Let me make this transition via the theme of the collective unconscious lying dormant inside every person. In the yoga tradition there is a similar thing- called the kundalini– lying dormant inside everyone. The important thing is that traditions of antiquity have methods to evoke experiences of kundalini (and kundalini -like experiences, including among the natives, the medicine men/shamans and among those who are not averse to a little intoxication via natural opiates. Also recall in this context the issue of drug induced psychosis) and they are meant to be done under the watchful guidance of those who know. But are such knowing guides really so accessible? I have seen many ‘spiritual masters’ who talk about Shaktipat, or about kundalini yoga and whatnot quite laughable, rest assured. Anyways this is not to lampoon anyone. The idea that I am coming to is that there is something called- kundalini, [2]the serpent power, said to lie dormant in every person, at the base of their spine in a form of a coiled serpent (I am not going to give an explanation but hints about many things- read more if you want to). I am not going to get into the debate about whether there is something like kundalini or not, because it does not matter to me. I really do not care about kundalini, as much as I do not care about the electricity coming into my home. If it is an asset to me, I like to honor its presence, when it goes off, then I have something to worry about.

In some cases, this kundalini ‘wakes up spontaneously’- and it runs through the spine in an upward direction. (Even if you do not believe this, just keep reading.) It is a very powerful energy and can unsettle everything in a person- for there is no explanation what happened, how it happened, where the trigger came from and what it means, how one has to behave now, who to talk to. If, of a powerful enough dimension- it may lead to psychosis- then you see all those ‘symptoms’ called grandiosity, running helter-skelter, flight of imagination, racing thoughts, inability to focus and …(please read DSM if you like). But this term ‘psychosis’ is the terminology of psychiatry- based on the outwardly visible ‘symptoms’.

What happens in reality is this- (okay this is self experience speaking now)- a powerful electrical current becomes present in the body, and it keeps the body in a faint vibration, like a hum; just a little more powerful than the one that you may experience upon being intoxicated. Now what happens with alcohol is that after awhile the intoxication comes down and the person is ‘restored’ to normalcy, whatever it had to be. But in case of kundalini/psychotic upheaval the sensation does not get over- it just stays. It makes a person ‘extroverted’, happy, as though intoxicated, carefree and of course expansive- one wants to share this strange sort of ‘happiness’ with others, but does not know how to say it, in what words and whether they cannot see it as well.

Remember this is the so-called divine potential unleashed in a person who is not ready for it; just like a wire that suddenly has a huge voltage passing through it, but was not expecting it. I must refer you to the writing of Swami Rama here, in particular when he refers to the similarity between the manic and the mystic (Book: Yoga and Psychotherapy, Himalayan Institute)

Religious traditions train their neophytes in various ways and by severe disciplines for any such process to happen- by training their mind, senses, body and thought processes. But awakening the kundalini is not considered necessary by any stretch of imagination, among the truly spiritual. The training of the mind for action without reward is considered more important. (If interested please read Kundalini- by Gopi Krishna). On the other hand, you may be aware that there are several unscrupulous people who want to use the ‘divine’ potential in ‘ugly’ ways- the tantriks etc.

The issue of kundalini that I understood finally is that kundalini is the cosmic consciousness lying inside everyone – a coiled serpent, at the base of the spine. So psychosis is nothing but the spontaneous awakening of the divine potential and a person coming to understand that though s/he is a body , there is also a bigger picture- s/he is also a fragment of the divine. That makes initially (or permanently) people go berserk- because they can see their cosmic potential and believe that –I am god/Jesus/the Saviour etc etc (aham brahmasmi).  We in India know that Aham Brahmasmi comes from the Upanishads, into our traditions. In other words the Upanishads are testimony that though man is a mirror of a cosmic maker, yet there is a path of knowledge and virtue that needs to be followed in order to truly awaken the cosmic potential. Now the Upanishads are the highest knowledge of the Indian civilization that is agnostic or perhaps predates religion. There is no religion in the vedic age- but nature worship. So the human is one with his natural element and through that expresses every aspect of life. Moving away from nature, if you can connect the dots, moves people from their natural and easy selves to their unnatural/cosmetic/dis-eased selves!

The greater issue is that even if the cosmic potential awakens spontaneously, it cannot be utilized unless the person learns to harness it. It is like saying that you have a huge voltage passing through yet you cannot handle the charge- so the body breaks down, the mind breaks down and it causes ‘madness’ . In this case psychiatry enters and says it can handle something that it does not even recognize as such- where are the tools in psychiatry to understand the ‘subtle body’ in which this so-called ‘divine’ potential resides, there is a whole array of nadis, the three dominant ones being ida, pingala and sushamana? I am not accepting anything or rejecting anything. I am simply putting the facts in front, as I have understood in over two decades of my own studies and research.(in fact in Gopi Krishna’s book, there is an explanation about why the wives of Krishna are said to be 16,000 or whatever their number is. That coincides with the number of nadis a person has). I must add that the entire spiritual traditions of India provide subtle and gross references to these things, in different ways. I of course found my anchor in Kabir there, because he was the one master who wrote very clearly about it, without really revealing anything, to those who could not understand. (The more difficult task after the spontaneous awakening is to ‘earth’ the kundalini, otherwise it will make you mad permanently- nobody can handle it. There is a great book in this context- After the ecstasy, the laundry. Please read it in case you have had an experience of this nature. It talks about integrating the knowledge, which is more arduous than one can imagine. It takes years and years, or decades. Even then, there is no guarantee one would learn. In my own case it took me years and repeat incidents of ‘psychosis’ till the time a time came when I would not go into any psychotic breakdowns any more, but simply watch the ‘game’ like a game, and not be ruffled by it, not get hyper in any sense and just accept the polarity of the universe playing within, like the sun and the moon- and carry on my day to day, extremely tough and deliberately solitary life.

Those of you who are aware of the idea that the spiritual traditions recognize that this universe is nothing but consciousness, the human and divine just two aspects of it, will comprehend that there is nothing high or low about it. It simply IS- no judgement. A great amount of work in this realm has been contributed by Stanislav Grof and Cristina Grof- the former being a psychiatrist. What he has done is so remarkable that every psychiatrist needs to at least read it, if not dare to follow. He risked himself by becoming a subject for LSD research and experienced the play of consciousness physically and he writes about that in many books, including The Cosmic Game. Of course the book that I was first introduced to was the Stormy Search for the Self.

Grof could see the continuity in LSD research, the shamanic traditions of the world, psychosis and much else. His wife’s near death experience (NDE) during child birth, brought in the concept of PTSD, and became the reason for her to be involved in the same journey that led in due course to the Holotropic Breathwork technique they created and share internationally.  I also found identical ideas, during years of my own inquiry, in the Sudarshan Kriya, though I found it lacking in depth (which no doubt now it must be gaining due to being investigated in medical departments). There are more such things in every religious practice anywhere, where the focus lies on breath. As we all well know, hatha yoga of course begins there- pranayama is one of the first four tenets; prana- meaning life force energy that is manifest through the breath.

Bringing you back to Psychiatry

If you can see from my writing, the two people who contributed immensely to newer understandings, are Jung and Grof- both psychiatrists by training. Of course both created huge traditions, with thousands following in their ways and me learning from all. The Jungian method lead to the tradition of analytical psychology and Grof- transpersonal psychology.

I am now taking you to a different pole- where you get to see the birth of psychiatry itself! This is a very tricky place, because this is the realm of Charcot and France now- (please read Foucault’s –Madness and Civilization, if interested). Foucault shows how madness is ascribed to people who cannot express their suffering properly by a man, who is a powerful physician, who has a great social standing and prestige, and who has the guile to transform the inability of people to express their suffering coherently. So where they lack language, he puts in his own- he becomes their ‘representative’- his language is his representation of their suffering and in fact nothing but a ‘social representation’[3].

Have you ever noticed how socially marginalized people look up to those who they perceive as having a better social standing/class? They feel helpless and meek in front of them. They dare not oppose what the ‘rich’ say. In such a case if a poor wo/man would go in front of a rich person, and the rich person says, ‘you are an idiot’, the poor wo/man will accept it with resignation that the ‘rich’ man really knows better. (Please put this in the same location as poor and rich countries as well). So a rich man, who has close connect with the nobility goes around telling in his evening parties and soirees all about the patients he saw. (I really recommend you read how he is amused at discovering that ‘hysterial’ women are mostly those who are younger women married to older men. But he does not tell this to anyone- he just knows he has ‘figured out’ the roots of hysteria!!). You may know, like me, that many younger bahus in families, because they are periodically the subject of family oppression, show these signs. I also know this to be true for young girls who are not being allowed to marry the boys of their own choice.  If you marry them with the boys they want to, all ‘symptoms’ will instantly disappear! ( one must listen to Parvez Imam about the film he made in this context- yet another psychiatrist here).

So here we are now- back into real world – where the suffering of someone, coming from a huge history behind it, gets to be given a label of ‘mental illness’. By-the-bye, just in case you do not know, Charcot was also one of the early influences of Freud, who in turn influenced Jung. In other words, they were all looking at human behavior and trying to comprehend the reasons for the so-called ‘abnormal’ behaviours. That is why through psychoanalysis and talk-based interventions their hope was that people would be able to go back into their unconscious mind, where their traumas and suffering lay hidden, and possibly in the presence of a person trained to help, be able to get past those traumas.

Anyways, by the time the DSM came into its third version, this behavior-oriented psychiatry was abandoned in favour of the biomedical view, because now the pharma industry wanted to have a fair share of people’s suffering. So psychiatry became a tool for the pharma industry to ‘sell’ cures that simply were not there- in what manner can psychiatry deal with the suffering of a child whose mother committed suicide at age eight, other than stamp her with a schizophrenia diagnosis at age 17, 19 or 22? I strongly recommend two books[4] at this juncture. Ethan Watters[5] talks about the DSM and how it is ‘sold’ to the world by America and another book called Mad Science- Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs. Both are researched and written in the US.

What happens to people in ‘poor’ countries

The fact of lives in poor countries is that their poverty is not just  chance or destiny ordained by the heavens above. They are the unfortunate bearer of the progress of the rich countries- to the extent that now they are so poor in so many ways that even ‘knowledge’ does not reach them. So if the research that I have quoted above were to happen in India (first of all it cannot happen in India, because the sort of data that has been quoted here, would never be available), it would be kept so ‘hidden’ from the public eye that nobody would know.

There is a ‘culture of silence’ at work in poorer countries- anyone who opposes/questions anything (coming from the dominant West) is marginalized or made to look like an idiot or a threat to society. It is very easy to silence someone by making them ‘invisible’ or ‘inaudible’. Most people would not have access to the sort of books it takes to arrive at any real, paradigm shifting knowledge.

The knowledge that is effectively handed out in our universities and institutions, (especially in departments of psychology etc) is all second hand knowledge that is disseminated from the West, repackaged in Indian syllabi and taught to students as though it is the last word. Students memorize theories and ideas and spit them out in exams and become ‘qualified’ to heal others (naturally I am talking in terms of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists etc). If there is any other form of ideas they are derived from quantitative studies that do not examine the differences, diversities and individual realities of people’s subjective experiences.

Where does that leave anyone?

You may have heard of the story of the blind men looking at the elephant. In case you have forgotten here is a great link to remind its metaphor- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant. The symbolism of this story is so significant that it is used in various parts of the world with minor variations.

What my theme from the beginning of this ‘essay’ has been to share with all of you, those ideas which come from such diverse directions that unless you are aware of them, anyone will take a great amount of time to land there unexpectedly. I have spent nearly 23 years of my life to attain this connectivity, coupled with much writing, dabbling in music, encounters with holy men, wise wo/men, sadhus, monks, academics, ‘ill’ people and whatnot to come to this mental and linguistic ‘clearing’ that I can offer you some of these ideas, in this manner. The rest is for you to see, what interests you, makes sense or not, may be it is all nonsense for some.

In the end it is my hope that given the manner in which I have brought all these divergent ideas into a convergent sort of a frame- where the journey of the aggrieved person is not a mental illness but a quest for wholeness, I hope many would be able to help others who they encounter where they do. And I on my part am getting ready for the next phase of my life- in sharing/teaching the path that I have discovered, so that many more heroes will come, in their various faces, voices and contours and each heroes journey will contribute to the overall good of the world.

Thank you for reading till this point. I offer you another linked piece of my writing that I never really wrote fully, but the theme was identical. Kindly click this link for it – https://www.academia.edu/4923393/Madness_as_Search_for_Authenticity

Last, though not the least- I will be thankful for any feedback/comments, but only on blogposts, where they will last longer, and not on email please.

[1] I invite you to read the myth of the churning of the ocean, from the Hindu tradition, as per my interpretation and relevance to the modern time- http://merakabir.blogspot.in/2009/07/mythology-of-churning.html

[3] Social representation is an idea in social psychology, according to which every one who represents himself or another is making a social representation. The representation of someone’s suffering by another, by changing the language of their suffering, into one’s own (medical or specialized) language is nothing but another such act.

[4] In case anyone of you cares to come by to my home, you can see/read them for yourself.

[5] Here is a blog post that shares a few resources as well- https://inprateeksha.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/making-madness-uniform-and-global-the-american-way/