|No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. — The Buddha|
Something that the Buddha said 2,500 years ago is so relevant even today. In the chaotic lives we lead, what we need most is to be saved from ourselves. There's a plethora of books, movies, talk shows and newspaper columns focusing on things which would make us happy, healthy. We now have more options to ' do' things to be happy, more ways to ' mind' our thoughts to be successful, more diet options than we can explore in a lifetime. In fact, we are being for spoilt for choices. The same choices which are supposed to empower us to choose better and give us freedom, unfortunately, paralyse us. We postpone taking a decision and then often never make it. We know perhaps what would make us happy and what is good for us, but we won't do it, or push it back for another day.
In his ground- breaking book The Paradox of Choices , American psychologist Barry Schwartz says how with more choices we have actually more reasons to doubt the efficacy of a single choice. A part of us always goes back to the other choices, other situations that did not happen.
'Things could have been better' becomes our mantra. We regret, and this regret takes away the happiness we get from the choices we make. Why is it so? Why can't we be happy with our life? Is it possible that we demand too much from life, from ourselves? When we make a choice, we constantly compare the outcome with the ' ideal' outcome that we imagined. Not only does it stop us from fully experiencing our life, it also creates ' had I done that' regret. We are almost hypnotising ourselves to believe that we are not happy because things didn't go as planned because we made poorer choices.
We are constantly synthesising unhappiness inside us and what was once a gentle expectation has now become demand.
One of the pioneers of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Prof Albert Ellis distinguished between demands and expectations. A demand is that which we naturally express as ' must', ' should', ' have to'. We feel devastated, awful when demands are not met.
And we overlook the other factors involved over which we have no control.
We take it as a law that demands need to be fulfilled ' by any means'. On the contrary when we ' expect' something, we feel disappointed if it's not met. It is easier to let go of the expectation and move on.
Distinguish between your demands and your expectations:
Unless you are already enlightened, don't try to convince yourself that you do not have expectations. It's human to expect, and However if this wreaks havoc on your mind and you cannot move on, then it's not an expectation anymore. It has become a demand.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEMAND AND EXPECTATION
Demand: I must succeed no matter what.
I can't even stand the thought of failure.
Expectation: I want to succeed, and I put my best foot forward. If I fail it will be disappointing, but I will try harder.
Demand: Everybody should always respect me. I cannot function when even one person shows disrespect.
Expectation: I expect others to respect me, and it's disturbing when they do not.
But I have no control over others; I can do whatever is doable for me and focus on my activities.
Demand: My daughter should get maximum marks always, no matter what. I feel horrible as a mother if she does not.
Expectation: I wish for my daughter to get excellent marks. It will be disappointing if she doesn't but she can try harder next time. Anyway, she is an excellent painter and a very wellbehaved kid.
Challenge your demand:
Try to counter all your ' must/ should/ have to', especially when they are causing disturbances within you. Make room for the ' if it does not happen' possibility.
It might seem difficult, so be patient with yourself and keep challenging your demands.
Choose to accept yourself as you are. You do not have to prove or establish your selfworth by ' doing', ' achieving' or being ' approved'. Train yourself for ' Unconditional Other Acceptance'. Whatever other people do and however abominably they act, you can always accept them. This does not mean you should not protest when it's necessary. Accept the sinner, not their sins. Try to acknowledge that you can tolerate what you don't like.
You can look beyond the inconvenience of today and perhaps understand that your desires are not what you need , just what you want .
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches.
Share your problems with them at
dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com
Saturday, 22 March 2014
Saturday, 8 March 2014
Humans are supposedly one of the most adaptive species; we all are biologically wired for change. Be it our bodies or our surroundings, change is the only constant. Life gives us enough opportunities to hone our skills to adapt to change — a promotion, a new job, getting married, having a child.
Yet we often find change uncomfortable or difficult. We resist it or shy away from it.
Fear of the 'unknown' grips us and the known devil seems more preferable. We find ourselves stuck in unrewarding relationships, depressing jobs, unsuitable places.
Our comfort zone becomes our cocoon where we find security at the risk of stagnation. Of course this comfort zone gets the better of us eventually; we get bored, we lose our aliveness. So on the one hand, we have this need for security; on the other, as intelligent beings, we need to learn and grow constantly. We need to be on our toes so that we are fully engaged in life and ' present' in every moment. Staying within our comfort zone, we slip into a state of inertia.
Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago pointed out that we need challenges in our life. To feel happy, alive and excited or, as he describes it, to feel 'in the zone' our skill sets and the challenges need to be optimally balanced. Depending on the dynamics between these two components, there are different outcomes. If a challenge is met by the full use of your skill sets, you may feel 'arousal', excitement and 'flow'. When the challenge does not fully engage your skill sets, you may feel 'apathy', 'boredom' and often meaninglessness of life.
When the challenge is greater than your skill sets, it may lead to 'anxiety', ' worry' and stress.
So whether you acknowledge your life as a journey or think it's a hamster wheel or a roller- coaster ride, every now and then try to prepare yourself for change, and embrace change. If you practice being comfortable with change, when you actually face change — which you will sooner or later — you will be better equipped to handle it. Here are six steps to keep in mind...
Change your perception about 'change':
Change is not bad. It's an opportunity to learn. It might exasperate you initially as you are learning new skills, but if you hold on and trust yourself you will master the art and it will be rewarding.
Challenge your comfort zone: Keep a change diary. Every now and then, give yourself new challenges consciously. Pick up a new hobby, learn a language, and set new attainable goals. Make an effort to come out of your comfort zone. For example, if you are shy or introverted, once in a while push yourself to socialise, maybe go for a party even at the risk of feeling awkward. Give yourself a pat on the back for your effort to step out irrespective of the outcome.
Don't fall prey to your mind's avoidance skills to escape change. Negate the excuses consciously and use your decision to come out of your comfort zone and acknowledge change.
Focus on solutions:
Do not allow yourself to feel like a 'victim' of a change. Instead take charge and be proactive to learn the new skills required to adapt to the change. Be a part of the solution. Trust yourself and enjoy this learning period. Learn to relax, learn to let go of old habits. If you have already trained yourself to cope with small changes, you will find it easier to deal with bigger ones. If you have not, then have faith that life has already trained you to be in charge in the face of change.
Take stock of the new situation:
Look at the changed situation in a non- biased manner. Avoid drawing parallels to known situations.
Understand the need of the situation. Let go of your past strategies and rules because they may not be applicable in this new situation.
Be kind to and patient with yourself:
Last and most importantly, be kind and patient to yourself. We all have a different pace to adapt to change.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr.sangbarta@ gmail. com