Understanding our vulnerabilities toward achieving stability

I have a question for you if that’s ok. When you mean you recovered, do you mean you understood the root of your depressions and manic states, your bipolar disorder? Was there meaning, trauma in your life that led to that? And do you not suffer from that anymore? I hope these are ok questions to ask you. (E.L.)

My present blogpost is a response to this query from someone. I think it is befitting that I should answer to an earnest question in an honest manner. I am writing this post specifically so that I can share it with others and not have to make the effort again.

In response to the first question, whether I understood the roots of my depressions/mania- Yes indeed. As well as the triggers.

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This dog knows it can get attacked by its fellow dogs, and so it chooses to sit on someone’s wall and jump inside the house, if other dogs came after him. He knew he was vulnerable and kept the distance from the rest of the mongrels. Why not learn from animals?

What our triggers are – are our vulnerabilities. If one can isolate that it is a great victory and the best way to identify that would be a therapeutic dialogue with a therapist who is kind, wise and non-leading. It is not so easy to find such a person and that is the greatest challenge really.

Dear E. suffering is a part of our human destiny- but it does not have to annihilate us completely- we can live with it peacefully, we can make sense of it on a day-to- day basis and we can find better ways to make sense of things, alternative worldviews and conceptualizations.

Let me explain with an example. I currently suffer from a lot of spinal issues- which is quite painful. But I try to not let it affect me all the time in the day. yes some part of the day it certainly pins me down and when I lie down it just comes over me like a flood. I cannot even sit on the computer for any reasonable length of time that a doctoral reseracher would be expected to. And since spine is affected- so are my arms, legs and feet! I could be a ball of pain- but then I decided I cannot let it have the better of me. I cannot NOT do anything. 

SO, I am not going to compete with another phd candidate who can possibly study eight hours a day- but I will certainly try to do my two today and possibly a little more tomorrow, if tomorrow is not the same as today. This is how we build up our mental muscle- you don’t do it in a day. You do not become another person, you just learn to live with yourself a little more peacefully, more centered, greater equipoise. 

I hope you get the picture- if not please feel free to ask further.

(For those who read my blog with any regularity, pardon me I am not able to write however much I may want to thanks to the cold and my bone issues. But hopefully with summer coming soon, the months ahead would be better. Thank you for staying connected)

 

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The power play in university departments

I ought to have written this blog post longer ago, but spinal pain did not permit me to sit at the computer, to last as long as a blog post (naturally the priority is always the emails first of all)

I want to share my dismay at the sheer play of power that I got wind of from a recent dialogue with a graduate student pursuing a masters’ course in psychology in a prominent university in India. As part of the course they are also being offered a six-monthly exposure to counseling (I pray to god, they don’t become counselors after that- it would be a great disaster). As part of that course, they are also invited to undergo their own analysis for the briefest possible span of time. I asked the student how much the time was and who was doing the ‘analysis’.

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I was told that one of their professors, (who is known to me as an academic and not a therapist) listens to their dreams and interprets them. So what follows is the memory of my dialogue with the young scholar, that left me troubled and anguished for many days afterwards, but I will share the reasons of that after the dialogue that I quote. I represent me as M and the student as S.

M: So your teacher went through a dream analysis session with you? And what was the outcome of that?

S: The outcome was nothing specific, he gave me an explanation based on symbols, which he said were universal symbols, and which were part of his repertoire.

M: By talking to him, did some clarity emerge in the picture or put is differently, did you benefit from his dream analysis?

S: Yes mam, I gained some clarity in some respects about the dream?

M: What does that mean? Did it leave some unexplained things as well?

S: Actually it opened up some unexpected parts, which were left unattended to.

M: Really?! But there was no further dialogue with the teacher on them?

I was angered, because an academic who is not an analyst is not supposed to interpret dreams out of context for a student. Just because they have the power to demand from students a certain accountability does not mean they can pry open the lives of their students.

Unfortunately, Indian students are very vulnerable and docile by temperament, more so women. They would never think of raising their voice against this sort of an intrusion, which has no accountability. How can a university professor demand that his students tell him their dreams in a sporadic manner and then leave the dreams with whatever interpretation he knows best? There is nothing universal in dreams, except for the imagery. A dream has to make sense and have relevance for the person who sees the dream.

I remember in years of my own analysis with my therapist, we barely discussed dreams on more than two three occasions. It was never the centrality of our dialogues- if I had a dream that I wanted to talk about we did. There was never a nudge from her to share dreams. But whenever I did, the explanations that emerged were very deep and meaningful. I always felt it had been worthwhile to talk it out with her.

But look at this blatant misuse of a teacher’s power in the classroom. Of course he did not publicly hear the student out, but nevertheless when he was not an analyst, did not know what all it takes to unearth the symbolism inherent in a dream, by simply interpreting it in some universal way, he just showed for once again the patriarchal nature of our education system…where the souls of students can be cut open without due regard to their humanity and suffering, without a qualm or a guilt as to what pandora’s box you are opening up for them. SHAME ON HIGHER EDUCATION in India. Will we ever become sensitive towards our fellow human beings?

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.

New pathways that teach as they grow, in teacher training

Between me and Poonam ji, we have been talking about music in education for over five years, from the time I founded the Hansadhwani foundation. At that time I lived in Faridabad and it seemed very taxing to come to Delhi University and teach anyone. Perhaps my own expertise in music seemed so far apart from the rudimentary level one would have to teach beginners, it proved an additional deterrent. I was of course keen even then, but health did not permit me to drive down nearly 50 kilometers and then teach and return home.

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What I find most interesting about teacher training is that students who come are all future teachers and I believe that the best inputs ought to be given to them. Naturally I place a great emphasis on learning to play a basic instrument, like the harmonium.

Life of course does not offer easy solutions at any stage so once I decided to bite the bullet, the home had shifted to Goa! Now how much more easier would that be than Faridabad? I suppose we do not do things unless pushed to the limits of our means, the same manner students in India do not study till the exam is just round the corner, which is not a good model for sustaining any knowledge.

Anyhow, since Poonam-ji had called me a few months ago on the phone, and we were also recently in touch for some other reason, I thought it would be proper that I should inform her that I would be in Delhi and possibly she wanted me to do something for her. When I sent her the message, she put in touch with me Monica Gupta, who is also an educational psychologist, teaching in the education department of Gargi College. Thereafter, between me and Monica, we worked out a mechanism of offering this music in education as a training to students in eight colleges of Delhi University, which are running the bachelor of elementary education program, called the B.El. Ed. I am sharing this background with students who are part of this, so that they know that what we are doing together has a history and the efforts of many people involved and being the first group of learners, it is in their hands now, how the whole program is sustained and carried forward in the months and years ahead.

We cannot afford in music any attitude of postponing till the last minute, because it does not work that way. If I hear you singing once at any time, it immediately tells me whether you have been working on your music or not. So this is what we all have to guard against, or else the initial enthusiasm of all of us would start waning after the first set of workshops itself. Girls I hope you are listening- I need to be as enthused as you. My enthusiasm is a mathematical function of your inputs and efforts now. I am writing this as an introduction to all that I write below, to illustrate that though this can work at some levels, sporadic, exam-oriented work cannot be effective at the level of the arts. Certainly not music among them, even if it may work in crafts or colouring based media.

In the span of time that has elapsed from the first time we spoke about it, so much has changed personally and professionally. So now, all this work is not being done as part of the Hansadhwani Foundation any longer but towards the new entity, which is currently being formulated in the area of applied musicology, a part of Hamsadhwani Enterprises.

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We did a musical improvisation and every learner individually shared her improvisation with me, and while I played on the harmonium they sang along, to understand what the meaning of improvisation is. This is the first step towards musical creativity!

At Hamsadhwani, we have come to a point where we are going to work in training of future teachers with ideas from actual classical music, to give them skills that they can use music as tools for pedagogy in their own teaching later on. It is a complex thing to say the least, because music is NOT the goal of this process, but a form of learning. And yet for any new set of ideas to go into the learner one would expect a certain, concerted, regular engagement with the ideas over and over again, so that they become fluid in one’s mind.

This is the beginning, personally of the second arm of my work in applied musicology. The first of course is research in music therapy, which has been ongoing for the last decade and a half nearly, with advocacy, workshops, lectures done in myriad clinical -teaching and service organizations. This brings me to Music in Education as opposed to Music as education.

Here is the first set of workshops done in Delhi, RRCEE-(an acronym for Regional Resource Center for Elementary Education) an educational organization that works in primary education, where students from seven colleges, all within the Delhi University, were invited to partIMG-20150911-WA0011icipate. I am just trying to capture the moment before it is lost, via photographs and inviting all concerned people- students, teachers and the team at RRCEE to leave their impressions, observations, thoughts, ideas, criticisms and reflections about the workshops as we all experienced them. I want everything to be visible to everyone, to read and think about.

This is the space for students, who participated in the workshops to think aloud in, so that all may see what their friends are thinking, about our collective experiences- which have been in many a musical domain…from learning musical notes, to understanding the taal of classical music with particular reference to one taal- the 16-matra,, teen taal, musical notation, khyal, Raga Bhairav, riyaaz and so forth.

I am especially grateful to the girls who come from different musical traditions, of Carnatic and Western orientation, to attempt to fit in. Rest assured, I will extend the best possible help I can.

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Caregivers can change outcomes in mental illnesses

Having seen the outcomes of many recovery stories and even non-recovery ones, the one thing that becomes clear is that if assisted positively and non-intrusively, many people can recover even from serious mental illnesses.

So why does it not happen more often? The one likely thing that comes to mind is that mental illness triggers off due to some contribution from the family environments- like it or not. Perhaps this is the most difficult idea to digest.  But if we can stomach it, and be willing to reflect upon what they could have done or wrongly so, then many things can change.

With this in mind, I work in therapy with people- I mean families, and with the same idea, I decided I ought to reach out to a wider number of people. But instead of choosing to keep the knowledge offered as part of the course, only a function of my own knowledge, why not spread the net wider and bring in many others, who have been working in mental health with a similar or same commitment as me, and trying to diminish the burden of human suffering, wherever possible.

With this idea as a background I decided to do two things- first of all create a framework of ideas and then a resource base of ‘experts’. Honestly speaking, perhaps neither of these ‘experts’ would claim themselves to be as such, and this is not to judge their knowledge and represent it in the same way as the positivist tradition does- for measuring expertise by degrees and professions. My only basis for classifying them as ‘experts’ is the number of years they have been working in the field and the orientation they carry- recovery and rehabilitation from mental illnesses.

As yet this orientation has not gained salience in India, unlike some Western countries- and therefore these people have not been seen as such either. But I hope with this course now in the public domain, more people will recognize the reality that mental illnesses can be a thing of the past, if more people take heart, families change their attitudes and supportive behaviours. This is one of the key advantages of being in relatively poorer countries- that our family systems are quite intact. So why not assist them in augmenting what is already present, rather than aping Western models and walk towards our own annihilation via their pharma enterprises.

Here is the first Caregivers’ Online Course, that I have been referring to as part of this blog post. And I feel relieved at last to have come to this clearing- there is so much water under the bridge, from making the website, to getting the experts to collaborate, structure, and now the next challenge- to ensure its viability and efficacy.

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.

Time for a new generation of therapists

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For many years the idea for the next generation of therapists had been crystallizing in my mind, especially because repeatedly I could see that those coming with any form of university based training, were really not working for those requiring help of a serious nature. They came with their fixed ideas and notions, clearly etched in their minds, from a few years of study of ‘abnormal’ psychology, or other allied disciplines. They were reinforcing the idea of a ‘lack’ that these seemingly ‘ill’ or ‘deficient’ people had.

I was extremely troubled in my own one or two meetings with two clinical psychologists; never met either a second time- they were extremely silly, presumptuous, immature, bookish, notional and altogether feeble in their arguments. Then I had a long stint with my own Jungian analyst, for a span of almost a decade. It was a great thing, but did not help me recover from bipolar disorder- though it successfully showed me where I was lacking, where the grey areas of my life were and where I needed to look, in case I wanted to solve my dilemmas.

It was a span of twenty years for me to discover social constructionism- and to read the books that had to be imported from the US, before I would shake off the yoke of psychiatric nomenclature and stop defining myself as ‘bipolar’. It is almost a lifetime, come to think of it. But even then, when I wrote my first article about myself, I kept it within the confines of research- for I wanted to be sure I had a framework in which to analyze my narrative and not just another attempt at drawing attention to myself, which people with lived experiences of illnesses often end up doing, by representing the very thing they get out to rebel against.

It was more and more digging into the work of social construction, and in fact almost around the fag end of writing my book, that I encountered the idea of collaborative practices and that was the start of another new road. And by the time I discovered emancipatory epistemology, I was convinced that the ‘survivor’ or the ‘user’ tag was not for me. I believe that I have accomplished my reclaiming of myself in a significant way due to developing the ability to reject the labeling handed down by psychiatry, and that is an aspect of linguistics, not psychiatry! I had nothing against the label, in fact even enjoyed feelign that being bipolar made me more gifted and talented (which it did) but then to see that it incapacitated me so severely was certainly not the best thing to happen. And that was the disordered part of the game- painful, full of anxiety, suffering and endless melancholia.

What makes the new therapist?

New therapists are those who will come with these lived experiences of real suffering; which could be suffering due to illness, war, rape, divorce, or any other human or natural calamity. They ought to have seen suffering at close quarters, which would make them comprehend the nature of suffering in a universal way. This is the starting point of the new therapists- self experience, and not university degrees.

The new therapists will not confined to certain disciplines- but graduates, post graduates of most (preferably social sciences) disciplines, with a strong flair for communication, empathy for human beings, ability to write well and comprehend writing/research. But more importantly these would be people who want to put themselves through the discipline and rigour of understanding their own mind, and going beyond their verbal and social entrapment, determined to change the course of their lives by changing what is holding them back from growth and then be willing to do what it takes to develop an ability for reflexivity, collaborative action, linguistic transformation and critical abilities about everything that is prevalent in human society at present.

What are desirable attributes of such therapists?

One does not expect that all the attributes that are desirable in the new generation of therapist would be already present in them and if they are, we would have a way to ascertain that. If they have the attributes already why would they need to go through a training? I think the better response is that certain individuals have certain qualities that can be honed by training, mentoring and partnering with them to help them becoming more at ease within themselves, which in turn would bring around the centering of their energy and foci towards a universality that is desirable for the new generation of therapists.

The following are the traits that would be considered ideal-

  1. Desire to help others
  2. Willingness to learn about what they lack in themselves, by being humble enough to examine their lives in a serious, academic and philosophical way, rather than clinging on to their narratives.
  3. Be willing to enter into a certain disciplined training, and learn how to collaborate with others, and help one another in growing together and fostering relationships as part of a big team.
  4. They may be peer supporters already or may be considering becoming as such.

So these are some of the attributes we would also be looking for when we start inducting the people for the first group of training. Of course it is my hope that most of these would be able to get jobs soon, for they would have so much experience that no graduate or post graduate of any discipline coming from psychology, sociology, social work or clinical psychology would have the breadth of exposure that the emancipatory collaborative therapists would have- plus they would be real therapists.

Feeling like life can bring out the best from everyone, if they want to be their best.

Of course have no doubt about this, this is the most I can offer for the rehabilitation of those with lived experiences: offering employable skills, empowering them and society in a cyclical way- helping in their mainstreaming as best as I can.

Time to move beyond Western models …particularly in Mental health

When western models do not work in the West, to expect that they would work in the non-west is  great ignorance and of course a colonial hangover. The Westerners left, but not before they ensured that the Easterners were so enamored by their culture and civilization that they would forever keep looking at the West for answers to their problems, no matter in what domain. So whatever originates from the West is seen as authentic, more worthwhile and true. That is called colonial hangover and the move to counteract that is post- colonialism, which brings the focus back to one’s own self, via one’s own worldview and not that proffered by the west.

I believe that the poorer nations, who are also in some ways, responsible for the riches of the richer nations, have to craft their own stories, pathways and salvation. Instead we keep looking at the rich nations to resolve problems that were created in the west and then handed out to the rest. Psychiatry is of course, one such dilemma. It was a product of the West, particularly the US and now it dominates the whole scene of mental health in the world. Nobody questions it easily, for the idea does not even occur to most.

However, this western hegemony not only continues in the field of mental health, but also in the field of the non-profits who work in mental health and constantly look at models and support systems from the West to the way to go and on another plane they constantly keep on preaching the same models, another new version of the colonial hangover! The West is a different society, with its own social reality, its affluence and its own structure of society and family. Can we ever learn to go past what the White wo/man is doing, for god sake? Can we ever learn to reclaim our reality and believe that we can offer them solution sometimes and not they all the time?

Time for our own emancipation, our way, our stories, our narratives and our interpretation. Time for the launch of the collaborative therapy. But just before I do that I would like to share with the readers of this blog, a recent paper that I have written in the context of mental health, in which I question the ability of some people to label others as mentally ill. Of course most of my work for now is in the domain of social constructionism, and so is this paper. So here is an excerpt from the paper, which is fully downloadable here-

Power to Label: The Social Construction of Madness

The label of mental illness is a demonizing indictment which gives power to one group [of professionals] over another [patients and caregivers], by way of its ability to pathologize human behavior. What is the basis of this nomenclature and how accurately can it map human distress? Does this categorization serve any purpose besides creating categories that then become ‘treatable’ via pharmaceutical interventions? Does it really end up treating people and help them reclaim their lives in any manner? From a social constructionist perspective this paper offers a critique of the current DSM based knowledge, and questions the hegemony of professionals in dealing with situations beyond their control.

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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/

As the end comes once again…

… new beginnings begin to show.

The road does not end, it merely turns around a corner…

I have not been writing this blog for long (in terms of years)- I mean this is one of my recent blogs. I used to blog a lot once upon a time- it was even therapeutic during a certain phase. There was a time when I was very afraid of the wordpress platform for it baffled me so!

As the year comes to an end, I have just now written a little piece about art advocacy to be used by people who suffer from various mental illnesses, to offer some ideas and recommendations they can use in their lives, via the arts- the performing and visual arts. I am writing another bit for a conference in mental health in which I would be speaking on the subject of whether the labels of mental illness are a useful device and if they really help anyone.

But the most important venture that I hope to  start in the new year, on the subject of mental health is a twosome- one is the counseling, for which my website is almost ready, and the second is the counseling training course that i will offer to people who have themselves lived through mental illnesses. The purpose is to empower them by helping them understand the roots of their own suffering as well as be trained to support others via a proper method of counseling- taken from a merger of post modern collaborative approaches and systems theory. Of course all my work is rooted in social psychology- in which I view human suffering as an outcome of people’s social settings and environments.

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