Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What's the real story beneath your emotions: T2 article dated 10th April 2016

Emotions, when suppressed and not given proper attention, have a funny way of expressing themselves. We are often deceived by them.
To understand our emotions and tackle them, we need to be patient and transparent with our feelings. Our judgements towards these emotions push them to hide behind some 'justified emotion', thus masking the real reason and the real emotion.
Missing somebody may be expressed as anger, sadness as coldness and aloofness, vulnerability as indifference or an I- don't- care attitude. To be able to restore balance and functionality, we need to acknowledge these expressions and allow them to show their true stories, with patience and self- compassion.
Unless we stop judging ourselves and allow ourselves to see our true emotions, it's hard to tackle them without causing self- deception and harm. During this process, doubting and questioning what we already know about ourselves is not a bad idea! Let's understand this with Roshan's example.
Roshan started therapy on the pretext of "helping" Sonia, his wife who was fighting depression, but agreed to continue his sessions with the therapist after realising that, unlike what he thought was the case, he was actually upset about his wife's mental illness. In a later session, he understood that he wasn't really angry with Sonia for not wanting to have a second child. Further, he realised that he felt he had let himself down and blamed himself for choosing somebody who was not like his positive and nurturing mother. Excerpts from the session that followed...

Therapist: Hello Roshan, how are you?
Roshan: I have been thinking about our last session and I am astonished to realise that all my anger toward Sonia is actually my frustration for not being able to give my child a childhood like mine. Since then, I have been introspecting more and my frustration is much less... and I am curious if there is something more to it.
T: Yes, and you also mentioned that you had a lovely childhood, your mother was very nurturing and she raised you single- handedly... 
R: Yes.
T: Tell me more about your mother… 
R: Oh, she is no more… she passed on before my marriage.
T: I am sorry to hear that.
R: Yes, she has been a monumental support in my life.
T: You miss her, don't you?
R: Yes I do, and I also feel guilty too...
T: Guilty for?
R: That I could not take care of her in her last days. I was abroad, studying… ( Pauses, looks teary)
T: I see... I can see that it's very difficult for you to make peace with the fact that you could not be there with your mother in her last days.
R: Yes, I feel I let her down. I feel I let myself down. I feel she deserved more loyalty from me... after all what she did.
T: I see.... Last time you had also said that you feel you have let your mother and yourself down by choosing a partner who is so different from your mother.
R: Yes, I remember that.
T: You wanting to see the exact qualities of your mother in your partner.... Which can be a normal desire and yet in your case your stress on that was great. Could this be your way of being with your mother's shadow?
R: ( Pauses) Possibly! And that's why I feel so frustrated and angry that Sonia is not like her.
Though ours was a love marriage and I was courting Sonia when my mother died, and I knew fully well that Sonia was not like my mother, I only started getting frustrated after our marriage.
T: So you knew that Sonia would be different from your mother.
R: Yes! They are two completely different human beings and it's foolish of me to expect Sonia to transform herself into my mother.
Though she got into depression only after our child was born… you are right. It is my need to have my mother back. I have been thinking and I know that my anger towards Sonia was coming from somewhere else. It makes sense now.
T: We all tell ourselves stories and believe them too. The important thing is being able to recognise them without strongly judging ourselves. How do you feel now?
R: I am speechless but I also feel lighter. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.... I also feel bad for Sonia.
T: I am sure you can figure out how to be more supportive of her, especially when she needs you.

Roshan's guilt of not being there for his mother got turned into a compensatory need to be with a person who would be his mother's substitute, and when his wife was unable to fulfil this criterion due to whatever reason, he got frustrated and angry at himself and his wife. However, he justified his anger with a completely different story.
Being able to discover his actual agenda and cut through his own camouflaged sense of loss, Roshan was slowly able to make peace with his guilt. Eventually he felt a lot lighter and free and was able to be there for his wife.

[ The names and details in the examples have been modified] 

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches. Share your problems with them at 
happinessinc.in@ gmail. com


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