You are responsible for your recovery (from mental illness)

You will probably think I am unkind to even suggest this. But the truth is that nobody can bring change to your life, if you won’t. Just like no outsider can bring development in another country, nobody can bring progress to another group,  neither can anyone bring change in your life- even if they be your parents or anyone else close to you. You have to free yourself from the ghoul of mental illness. Be assured that others have trod the path, you are not alone.

The human mind is an interesting,  powerful device, and there is nothing that it cannot learn or unlearn. Even if there are behaviours that you have come to be  attached to, which you identify as inherent to your personality and sense of who you are, if they are not doing you good, you need to change them. Not because I am saying so- because getting rid of something that is not working for you, is only going to make you happier.

If you look all around the world, people who have overcome their severe disabling conditions are not weak people, who were attached to their disabled selves. They have taken their disabling conditions to be a part of their lives and lived lives accordingly, without being overwhelmed by disability forever. I am sure you would agree with me if I mention the names of Hellen Keller and Stephen Hawking. Perhaps on would think their disabilities have been big enough to incapacitate the average person’s mind into inaction. But that did not stop them. These are the role models one needs to look upto.

Trust me, I have always worked by looking up at role models- people whose stories I could see reflected in my own, and in whose struggles I felt I could find a resonance. I have found immense courage and will to survive by looking at others, especially those who suffer. Take heart and look at others. You will see more faces like mine, of those who have recovered.

Only when you believe that you too want to recover, will you take the next step – to plan how the recovery will happen. Recovery is always a slow process. You cannot be impatient about it, as you will have to muster many sorts of inner and outer resources, filter them over time to see what is working and what is not and remain consistently involved with them. I do not think anything can stop you from recovering. That is a promise from someone who has been there, done that.

However, before I conclude this little writing I must share with you, that nobody can recover without the support of outsiders of the circle. We cannot see where we are going wrong, or even if we can, we often do not know how to change it, because we are so accustomed to behaving in ways that we have always known. For that we need suitable others.

Since the mind is capable of learning and adapting, it can adapt to new behaviours. But what those behaviours could be, is not what we may know. That is where, counselors and therapists come in: to help you steer your path. If I did not have a therapist may be I would never have recovered myself. Whether or not I could be in regular counseling with her, whatever she advised me, I followed meticulously, because I valued her presence in my life immensely. Without outsiders we will make progress, but at a rate which may take decades to recover.

Choose sensibly therefore.

Therapy is not common sense- trust me

If everything could be achieved by common sense communication, then people would easily learn a few skills and resolve all their problems. But that rarely happens.  A vast array of problems start from communications, but to solve those problems we cannot often fall back on our own communication skills or abilities only.

People, particularly in India, often have a mistaken notion that someone who is therapist/counselor is talking from common sense and giving advice based on their intelligence. Yes, I agree, it seems like that, but reality is that is never the case. Let me start by saying that whoever has whatever level of intelligence, they have reached there in a complex distillation of ideas, study, immersion and of course years of work in the field.

I am giving this prelude to a recent encounter with a family that I want to talk about. It was the brother who approached me through a social network, upon seeing my work in mental health in some way. He asked me a few things and over time that set the ball rolling. His concern was for his older sister, a woman in her early thirties, who had been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. In due course when I traveled to Delhi, they came nearly 300 kms to meet me, all the way from UP.

The woman, let us call her Sarita, came energetically and seemed charged with ideas, and full of enthusiasm and verve. I could see she was excited, and ‘high’ in some way. I would not want to see this ‘high’ as a psychotic high but there was a case of being sure of one’s self, and a bit of grandiosity- what would be seen as the classical ‘symptoms’ of a disturbance in the psychological wellbeing of a person. However, I never want to look at people through the lens of pathology or illness and therefore despite seeing the ‘symptoms’, which were truly subtle, I noticed her emotional fragility, anger and inner disturbance. After all I am not a peer for nothing, if I cannot discern how subtle the emotional fabric is.

At the end of the dialogue, which lasted a good two hours, I figured that the young lady had come to take a clean chit from me, that she did not have a mental illness and therefore did not require medication. Of course, I do not believe that anyone requires medication. But to move away from that stage where you do not have to take medication, you have to be cognizant  enough to move into the behavioural domain. I mean to say, that certain behaviours of those who are classified ‘mentally ill’ is ‘not normal’ by the standards of those around them. That is why they are taken to a professional- psychiatrist, therapist or counselor, or any other doctor.

Each one of these professionals acts in accordance with their  training. A psychiatrist believes that the ‘symptoms’ are due to a chemical imbalance and if the proper chemical is given, the person will become ‘normal’ or ‘fine’. Psychologists come with various kinds of training but they are mostly informed by the same set of principles as psychiatrists, especially those who go through clinical psychology courses.

I have a diploma in counseling. But more significantly also a lived- illness/recovery experience, to fall back on.  I fall back on my lived experience based knowledge pretty regularly to understand the suffering of others. People, like me, often work in the domain of social psychology and self experience puts my knowledge at an altogether different level. I am not arrogant about it, but trying to capture the difference. Just imagine a dentist who has never known a toothache. How can they understand the pain of a patient? Contrast that with a dentist who has had dental caries, been through root canal treatment, got a tooth extracted in teenage and has two cavities. How much more the latter would know about the suffering of their patient?

The Story I was referring to…

Coming back to Sarita’s story. After one set of dialogues the duo went back. There was a lot of friction with the father and that seemed to be a dominant motif that emerged. The younger brother played the balancing role in the family. Sarita was happy that I was willing to look at her beyond the psychiatric label of schizophrenia. After that assurance, she was sure that she did not need any medication, which in any case, she had been flushing down the commode.

A few days later, she befriended me on the social network, and I noticed a sudden spike in her activity. In a way Facebook serves me very well, especially for watching what is going on in the lives of those I counsel or generally engage with, because it warns me if something is going wrong. (I recently also caught another friend getting into the spiral of PTSD, and warned her, told her to go to sleep calmly for a few days. It seems she tided over that. She her admitted to all the ‘symptoms’ that I had seen, which made me raise the question with her in the first place). I found her trailing me on every forum and posting her own posts there, by joining a whole lot of fora where I was involved. I found this a very unusual behaviour and I asked her brother, if everything was ok.

He informed me that things were not good and Sarita was too excited about a certain new thing in her life. She was going on talking about it to everyone, in a manner which raised suspicion about her. I told him, to tell her to talk to me, if she would like to. She did, through a facebook or WhatsApp message! In what way can a professional help a client via a message?

Few days later, on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day, I sent a message to her brother again, hoping all was well. It wasn’t. Sarita was clearly ‘high’ by now and aggressive, offensive and charging her family, particularly father, with all sorts of things. All my exchange happened with the younger brother alone, via messages only. When it seemed she would not be interested in counseling, I told him to seek recourse to psychiatry, which I inevitably know, would forcefully drug her, sedate her and possibly give her ECT. I shudder to think of that!

The brother understood what the way out was, since the sister was unwilling to talk to me, or seek any insights into her life, or have any other way, but her own. She left a job that I had encouraged her brother to help her hold on to, because she wanted to float her own entrepreneurial venture. I told him how to win her over take up the government job, as she was adamant, that it was beneath her dignity to do so.

Upon my recommendation, the brother took her to the psychiatrist and sure enough, the forcible drugging, the sedation and the ECTs followed suit. Families will never know how they become the chief arm of psychiatric coercion and the biggest reason why people become permanently disable due to mental health conditions, that they can easily recover from. What could I have done in this case, even if the brother trusted me completely to guide them? If the person who needs to talk to me, and understand the situation does not understand it herself, what recourse can the family take?

My advice to any family would come from two options. One is the biomedical way, which is often forcible and therapy/counseling. The latter is difficult, and requires patience. No matter what medication they take, if you do not want to incapacitate your loved one for the rest of their life, they will have to seek therapeutic guidance and support, to deal with their situation/s. If you forcibly medicate them or give them ECT (which should be made illegal immediately), you are actually infringing on their human rights. Yes, you got it right- it is a human rights violation, which you are committing within your own home, with your own loved one. Sorry to say that, if it hurts your sense of justice, but I cannot fool you or me about this.

How could therapeutic work have proceeded after the first meeting with Sarita?

Ideally the first meeting is where anyone assesses a situation. You hear the two points of view or sometimes even one person, if they have come alone. First meeting or even a few meetings should be the ground that people have to understand one another. Entering into therapy is entering into a relationship and both people need to know another. Would you not like to know who your therapist is after all?

In family counseling it is always better to listen to everyone and talk to everyone concerned, because ultimately everyone in the family is impacted by one person’s condition, whatever it is. Narrative therapy goes even a step further to include even the next level of people, and open dialogues mean involving even the kinsmen!

In the subsequent meetings, one sets an agenda for action and a modus operandi. No therapy work cannot get over in one, two or three meetings. Often it takes many a meeting with clients, for someone to truly understand where the roots of suffering lie in their life.

In Sarita’s case, this could have happened-

  1. Sarita could stay in touch with me and talk to me, not more than once in two-three weeks. That would really help us understand what is going on in her life, which causes her frustrations and anguish, and which periodically boils up as temper tantrums and then accusations against her parents.
  2. The way to deal with any behavioural issue is to address the behaviour directly. I increasingly prefer to bring families into dialogues early, so that whatever we are talking with one person, could be known to others who would help in accomplishing the goals of that one person. Often family communications are deeply fractious due to forcible handling of psychiatric crises. Families need help with talking to one another gently, without causing further rifts.
  3. Ultimately, it is Sarita’s journey towards her individuation and she needs to understand that whatever expressions she has to express her anger, frustration and moods is not working with others around. She would have to develop a more reasonable and non-threatening communication which does not make her family and herself a social nuisance and laughing stock. Part of the anguish of her brother stems from this responsibility towards his parents and neighbours.
  4. Any journey towards finding one’s balance takes time. Most will not even attempt it in their lifetime. Only the ones who are deeply fractured seem the most appropriate ones to require a therapeutic dialogue. In reality everyone needs help, support and guidance.
  5. Equally as much as Sarita, her family needs the support, help and collaboration. That is why family therapy is the need of the hour, not individual therapy.
  6. Assuming that a client like Sarita would speak with me once a month, it will easily take her between two -three years to understand her issues in a more clear way. Though it may seem a lot, but what is two/three years compared to a life of psychiatric medication and who knows how much disability due to them? I must add here, that every meeting between a therapist and their client, has long term effects. So though once a month may seem very small a time, in reality it has a long lasting effect, almost like a butterfly effect, which touches many chords in their lives.
  7. In family therapy literature, it is said that within 20 sessions, most outcomes of a long term nature, would emerge. I agree with this. (In due course if we can create reflecting teams, that would be even more empowering and faster). 20 sessions can happen over a couple of years…is that not truly remarkable? I am not sure India is ready for it yet! Sad, but this is what I am seeing from multiple families.

What follows are some general ideas about therapy-

  1. Till those who are given mental illness diagnosis do not feel the need to seek help to change their outcomes, no change can happen with a dialogue between any member of their family and a counselor, like me. I have seen many a person in a family wanting to bring their loved ones for counseling, but find that they do not have enough trust between one another, to accomplish that!  It is truly sad for them.
  2. Therapy is not a day long affair. It is a reflection on our lives and how we have come a long way, with our behaviours. Therapy does not mean I am a therapist and you are a patient. Therapy is your attempt to heal yourself through dialogue and understanding that emerges from it, by learning to look at your life in a more balanced, philosophical and calmer way.
  3. Therapy means someone is helping you change your behaviour and assisting you become what you always wanted to- by holding your hand, while you gain that wisdom. It is not about guiding you at all. It is about letting you become the expert in your own life. But until you want to change your behaviour, nothing about your life can ever change.

Losing sight of your Self

A few days ago a friend left a message saying he wanted to talk, over the chat box of fb. After a little effort of a few days we got together to talk. He suffered and I could see that, but having known him for a couple of years I could not connect the dots- though I never under-estimate anyone’s ability for suffering.

I sensed there was a dejection of the spirit and a pressure which probably had built over a long time, especially seeing one’s peers well established by a certain age and him struggling with holding on to a job. I think there are many people who need to find the groove they fit into before they can be in the groove for long enough- and for some that may be a difficult road to try out several grooves before you land up in the right one.

I have been seeing him for a long time and this is the sense I always got from him- that he was in search of the right groove, which would fit into his soul and unlock potential lying within, making him happy and feel fulfilled. The reality of life is a very funny thing. It seldom offers such linear solutions- so we have to constantly find our balance and adjust with whatever we have in our hands- that is what is called ‘compromise’! ALAS!

Anyhow, while counseling I look at everyone as someone who has momentarily lost sight of who they are, or is unaware of who they are in general. But with those who are in depressions, I particularly see that they have reduced themselves to self-hurting talk, that goes on inside ceaselessly. Instead of he telling me how he was feeling, I offered this  perspective –

I think you are feeling very overwhelmed by what you are faced with in a new job and also seeing yourself viz.a. viz, your peers and classmates and thinking they are all doing so well, while you are still searching for the right job. And possibly all the past hurt is also accumulated and giving you an overall sense of failure, that seems too large to handle. Plus in the new job that you are, you feel pressured to rise upto the levels of expectations others have of you and you fear you cannot deliver.

He agreed this was indeed the case. Of course about the new job I am only quoting his insights, for he felt that the goals were too high for him to acheive and he was closeted inside himself, instead of being able to interact with others around, for that made him feel insecure, as though they would be able to judge his lack of ability- while he of course has the ability. He just forgot this for the inner talk that went on inside him, made him feel like a loser.

And this is what I shared with him then, and my words to any who has momentarily lost sight of who they are-

what you are today is a culmination of all your past. Your past is not just made up of your failures, because even failures are new knowledge. You have a lot of strength, based on which you have been hired in the first place. Do not push yourself but be gentle and remember that what is your current goal, and which unnerves you, is already within your reach- that is why this goal has been set for you by those who hired you. They know you can do it.

Life is not a summary, it is an unfolding, in which we move from the past to the present, integrate the learning from our failures and successes, act in the present and lay foundations for the future. Do not see any of these as though they are complete within themselves.

Of course what I told him, was also in particular said to him, which was that

Even if you are not the way others are, of your age and among your peers, I feel you are on the path of finding an authentic expression of your soul, that is why this confusion, this search for gurus and teachers and new jobs and new colleagues, a certain restlessness. For most people a job that pays and takes care of their bills is all that they want. For ones who want a little more the price is bit unusual- so do not compare yourself with those whose yardsticks of living and measuring success are not determined my your scale.

I asked him how he felt after that. He said, he felt a lot lighter, and his spirits had lifted already!

This is what I work like– to just bring light into the darkness, in which a suffering spirit has encased itself. This entire dialogue happened within 20 minutes, and I knew my dal, that was cooking on the stove, would then burn, so I just pushed him away- but not before I was certain that the psychiatric diagnosis had been laid to rest. There was no depression that needed a cure- just a reminder about the divine that hides within and asks for recognition– a play that I always love.

I also put this under the head of relational leading, for had it not been the trust he had in me, to call me up to seek this insight, i could not have shed this light on the situations around him. His instinct lead him to me, but my instinct about him and his suffering lead him into a ‘clearing’ – the goal of the therapeutic dialogue accomplished for the moment.

Me- the collaborator 🙂

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Empowering everyone- mantra for 2015…onward

I should have written this post longer back, right at the start of the new year. However today is an auspicious day in India and a start can be made right here. This post is about the one significant thing that i have been thinking/planninh for many months in the realm of mental health- the start of a new training program for those having mental illness experiences in their past.

Collaborative Therapy

Of course collaborative therapy is a well honed paradigm of postmodern approaches in family counseling and so forth. I am extending this genre to bring peer support into a more organized format. The basis of this is that experience, research and scores of discussions across the board taught me that counseling, therapy or any form of mediation was really not working with people who were in the profession as ‘professionals’, with degrees the sole arbitrator for the claim. On the other hand I did find that those who had lived perspectives not only made sense to those currently suffering, they could not go beyond offering a little support, which was not tangible, often at considerable personal costs.

So this mode of therapy, that i have been working on myself for the last few years, needs to be shared with others so they can work with further and further people toward helping them deal better with their mental distresses of various sorts. The hope is to train a group between 10-20 in the first batch of learners. It will be across India and anyone is welcome to join from anywhere in the world- there is a course, a method (entailing direct collaborative work to understand how it works), a great amount of writing work, research, study and then reflecting teams- as part of which several people will become part of a learning cohort and after the first year of independent work, everyone will work jointly with one or more others.

Currently I am putting the framework together and I hope to wind that off in a week or so- then comes the time to prepare a syllabus of study- for a two year stretch of time. This blog post is a precursor to the main work that is about to come.

Writing should be meaning making

I have decided to stop all research writing, unless it is really meaning making for many- as a result I am only writing this year what can represent ideas in a serious way- for research has no innate value for me. I have just finished writing a piece about using the arts for mental health and now need to cut it short, to send it to a publication. Plus I have written about the construction of mental illness via the biomedical route and how it is a dominant attribute of medical science that considers itself capable of classifying human suffering as mental illness.

I intend doing a good part of my work in teacher training this year- because my whole focus is preventive mental health for now, and schools are the main site of this intervention. Hope to share more outcomes of that in due course, right on this blog as well, among other things. This is the core mantra for life- and putting this out in the open now onward.

Suffering as mothers

In the past week, i had encounters of different yet similar sorts- both were mothers who communicated and both about their children. The differences are, what I would count, among the superficial, for motherhood is the essential experience that I want to talk about here. They belonged to two different countries, one was a boy’s mother and another a girl, their respective children also nearly a decade apart in age from one another.

Whatever the children were going through is a different story and that is not what I am going to share via this post- but how mothers, since I communicated with mothers in this case, suffer when their children suffer – universally.

Image The child of one of them has been having depression due to drug induced psychosis and the other one is simply not connected to the mother, due to some anger of the past and her own current suffering due to a recent divorce. Both mothers were extremely anguished, and unsure how to live their own lives, with so much of turmoil in the lives of their children. Both were not sure if they could not do more than what they were currently doing and what they could do differently to lessen the suffering of their children, even if the children were not communicating with them.

I said the same thing to them and I want to share with others who read also-” Please remember that you are not responsible for their suffering. It is life, we all suffer, for this or that reason- but to feel responsible for the suffering of your children is to believe that whatever little happiness you have in your current life is undeserved and you need to suffer just because your child suffers.”

Sometimes, when people suffer they are also angry inside them, especially if they see others around them who are not suffering from the same suffering. They want to bring everyone in the ambit of that, because it is not easy to suffer alone and it is difficult to believe that the world outside of oneself is not suffering, while we are. At that time those who suffer become somewhat selfish and want everyone to suffer too. But suffering is a universal phenomenon and everyone suffers, though the nature of suffering may be different.

It may be you encounter a colleague who comes to work very cheerfully, so you would think what would she be suffering from? Possibly she leaves an ailing parent at home and wants to be away for a few hours in an atmosphere which would take her mind off the suffering of her parent, or an in-law who is rude and judgemental.

Mothers feel responsible for their children as long as they keep on feeling that they are mothers and the other a child. Okay yes, that connection can never change, but that does not mean that the child does not have a life of his/her own and does not have to bear the consequences of her/his own actions. We all have to- whether it be a mismatched marriage, or the effects of drugs and alcohol, not studying for exams, or speeding on a road and having an accident. Whatever we do, sooner or later comes back to us.

Mothers ought not to forget that motherhood is only one among the many roles they have to play. They are also humans, also daughters, wives, friends, lovers and many other roles. If we get attached to any one role, how good is that for our own wellbeing? To think that motherhood is the key role that one has to play and if a child is suffering it is a personal failure of the mother, is nothing but ignorance and inviting self-criticism/blame.

Please be kind to yourself mothers, and stop feeling responsible for what you have not done– you have not lived the lives of your children, they have. Let them face the music now- sorry, if it hurts you. But you have to stop being mothers all the time, and start being humans too. Let go of your children as your flesh and blood only- they are creatures of this universe and whatever applies to this universe, in terms of action/reaction, they would have to face it too. Be their support when they come to you, but be not their aprons that they keep rubbing their wet noses, dirty hands or sweat with at all times. They deserve your love but so do you.

The lady in the picture has nothing to do with the content here, but it was a photo lying in my photo-album symbolic of women with children. It is only a symbol, no allusion to anyone and neither is it the picture of any of the two mothers whose communication is what constitutes this post.

Both mothers, incidentally, were very relieved to hear these words from me. And I am quoting this last lines one wrote to me-

Me : I will also take your leave for now, but remember one more thing before I go for now,    that your son is only your biological child but actually is a child of the universe. So you are only to that extent responsible, and you are the ones who are seeing his story unfold the closest. 

You do not own your child, nor are responsible for him. You are a participant in that drama- see it like that, and just as we watch a drama or a movie, we get emotional, entangled so are you, because it is happening closest to you. Do not kill yourself over it

She:  We do, thank you so much Prateeksha… I cry from the wonderful Spirit coming through you to us.  

Upon losing an eye- some possibilities

 

Earlier today I had a communication with someone who lost his eye recently due to a doctor’s error, during or after cataract surgery. He told me that he was extremely anguished for the last nearly ten months, had been weeping now and then, and suffered an immense sense of loss, dejection, loss of hope and will to live. This was added to the loss of faith he experienced in humans as well and a whole lot of anger against the doctor who had performed the surgery. He oscillated between wanting to hit him (being a Punjabi he said he would love to settle scores with the man, ‘expose’ him to others and other revenge if could)

I told him that he was free to seek revenge but be sure to choose his battles carefully because, I believe, that often we do not know who the enemy is. In his case, he has completely lost vision in one eye for something as simple as a cataract surgery gone haywire. I felt sad to hear this, for this is such an ordinary thing, but in every surgical intervention there is a scope for human error which can cost someone dearly, in this case an eye. In a recent case that I know of, a friend’s uncle lost his life (after remaining in coma for nearly ten months), after a surgery as common place as a knee replacement surgery,in one of the biggest hospitals in the vicinity of Delhi.

If I get him correctly, his eye has lost its vision and is as though closing, but not fully shut…it keeps on having stray tear drops fall from it. If he walks out with his eyes uncovered he said, women look at him twice, just to be sure he is not winking at them. He is NOT, and therefore doubly anguished, for he has to meet their looks of disapproval and possibly distaste.

I want to draw the attention of this gentleman, for I shall be inviting him to read this post later on, that in the times and the culture we live in there is a huge pressure on everyone to look a certain way and we all carry within ourselves images of an IDEAL ME- someone who has a certain desirable size, complexion, hair, height, skin tone and whatnot. These images are regularly suggested to us in the mass media that floods our homes and sensibilities at all times and tells us how to become more popular, beautiful, center of attraction and the apple of everyone’s eye. 

Nobody shares with us how to live in a body that suffers, with families that abuse, or with partners who are violent, alcoholic, parents who are coercive, classmates who are bullies, children who abandon, siblings who do not look back in adversity after a life of parasitic dependence. So how is anyone to find an inner balance when the world is constantly tossing us around. On top of it we are so attached to our own body that even a minor flaw looks like a huge catastrophe, what to mention something that is a new one- it feels like the human itself is completely doomed.

This gentleman feels like that at present and I can completely empathize with him, for nobody deserves to lose an eye in a small incident like this. But the bigger issue is that NOW that he has, how to cope with the trauma and live with it further? How to accept loss of a part of one’s own self, that one is so used to having around, that we never even think about it?

If I could, I would love to say it is all karma and we sooner or later have to deal with what is our due. But I think the karma theory is something that I have discarded, for who can decide who deserves what and whether what we are going through at present is something that we sowed in our past some time. I think we have to remember a few things here and they come from my attitude of rationality, whatever it is.

First is the human error and that every human error is just that– there is no act of deliberation. May be the doctor ought to have waived off the fee after a huge mistake like this, which not only cost someone a loss of an eye, but also a great mental suffering, for which there is no compensation, even if the rest of the costs are covered.

Secondly, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Of course it is human and natural to hit out at the person who has caused the harm, and I would feel the way this gentleman feels, but I also believe that one cannot and ought not to go beyond that, in a way to cause further harm to oneself or another. There is no end to anger for it is a fire that only glows brighter if we tend to it with more anger- one has to break the circle of anger and get out.

Thirdly, I want to re-emphasize the culture and the times we live in are a huge challenge especially because we have so much attachment to our body, instead of thinking it to be a vehicle through which we have to pass through this world, and somewhere or the other breakdowns will happen, overhauling would be required, we will lose hearing ability, chewing ability, ability to walk upright, loss of skin tone, teeth, an organ of the body or a part of it. I am not trying to trivialize someone’s suffering here, but trying to extend the scope of this inquiry to encompass a larger dimension of us- not just remain confined to our body.

All spiritual traditions remind us that we are not just a body, but that the body is an encasement for the soul. So why not believe it when all that we think of about ourselves is what we cannot really own. Can we even own our own stories. Can we admit we made a mistake, even on hindsight? We are extremely fixed in our views, more so about ourselves.

Fourthly, on the way ahead and what I would recommend- every suffering is an invitation to look at some part of life which we have been ignorant about. What are the innumerable ways in which we humans can suffer? Please put yourself in the shoes of someone like this, and see what you have to say to them. I would always say that yes we all have a choice to hit back- but who will it be? So choose your battles, your Kurukshetra carefully. There is a way to go and hit back at the doctor and damage him, his reputation or some other personal side of him. The other is the possibility to see whether this experience, which is actually of a transpersonal dimension, is not an opportunity to awaken the spiritual being within, who can see the suffering of a whole world around and who can now understand so much better the stigma associated with so many conditions.

We all suffer in our lives, for suffering is the one thing that runs common through us, though its outer variation may differ. But suffering can also be transformative in an evolutionary way, if we can find or create the right support systems around. What are the lessons here, that is the learning? Attachment to the past (of the body in particular) and rejection of the current body can only be counter-productive and self damaging. I hope we can all get the better of that, even with this dialogue to shed a little light on the subject.

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