Life - With a little help from friends
by Suma Varughese
If we can go to doctors to help us heal from physical ailments, there is absolutely no reason why we should not go to those who can help us heal from our emotional and mental issues, says Suma Varughese
The Sathe family was sitting around the dining table enjoying an after-dinner conversation. The topic veered to the stresses and strains of modern life and how pressured young people were these days. “Dad,” said Avijit, “My friend Gopal is going through such a rough patch. His father is an alcoholic and keeps creating a ruckus in the house. I think on occasion he has even got violent. Gopal is so disturbed that he cannot even concentrate on his studies. He keeps talking about dropping out. Once or twice he even mentioned suicide. How can one help him?”
“Gopal must go to a good counselor,” said Dad immediately. ”He needs to find a safe place where he can talk about all that he is going through and be guided to arrive at a solution that will work for him.”
”But Dad,” said Avijit, “No one wants to go to counsellors. Everyone thinks you are a mental case if you go to a counsellor.”
“Do you know something?” said Mom. “There was a time when I was going through total burn-out. I felt directionless. My creative juices were not working. My relationship with your Dad was going through a rough patch - oh, yes, that happens. No relationship is a cakewalk,” she added when she saw the youngsters exchange uncomfortable looks at each other, “so I went to a therapist. If I had not done that, I don’t think I could have survived. My therapist literally saved my life!”
Dad added, “I just don’t understand the logic. If you come down with malaria or typhoid, no one thinks twice about going to a doctor or even going to hospital. But no matter what dire mental and emotional stresses we endure, we think it is below our dignity to seek outside help. But life is a very difficult affair and the human psyche is very, very fragile. Is it better to suffer and endure unimaginable pain or is it better to go to an expert who can help us heal? Just like Mom, I too have taken professional help when I needed to and am proud I did it.”
The children looked a little askance, not quite sure if these confessions elevated their parents in their eyes or reduced them.
“Dad, you have helped so many people deal with their issues. How come you could not help yourself?” asked Alka, disappointedly.
“No matter how good I may be at helping others, I still do not have the capacity to look at my own situation with the kind of objectivity I would look at other people’s problems. I am still as likely as anyone else to get sucked into my anger or sense of injury. I need an outsider to help me look at my situation objectively,” said Dad.
“Yes, but going to a counselor and having to share the deepest parts of our personal life is scary,” said Nisha.
“I understand that it is scary and no one likes to be vulnerable, but a good counselor will be able to put you at ease really fast. He or she understands people and knows what the person is going through because of having worked with so many people. And best of all, you will be able to come out of the situation so much faster and better,” said Dad.
“Dad, one of my friends was going through a bad depression. None of us even knew it. We just thought she was a really quiet person,” said Nisha. "Then one day when we were alone she told me that she had lost interest in living and that she felt as if there was no one inside her. I felt so bad for her. So I suggested that she go to a therapist and she said that she was afraid she would be put in a mental asylum if she did go.”
“Poor girl,” said Ajoba compassionately, “Who knows how many thousands of people like her must be there in the world, unable or unwilling to take a step to help themselves because they are so afraid or so ashamed.”
He added, “Things have never been very good when it comes to mental health because people have been very afraid of facing it, but at least there was the traditional resort of going to a guru or a wise man. The guru would tell them to feed cows or birds for a certain amount of time, or go on a pilgrimage or do some seva and they would get cured. Gurus, when they are good, have always been masters of human psychology and know exactly what is to be done to eliminate the blockages at the emotional, mental or physical level. The blockages can be at the karmic level too, and the little acts of propitiation will help there.”
Mom said, “Right now, the world itself is going through so many emotional and mental disturbances that there is a commensurate increase in therapies. And there are many which do not even require that we go to a counsellor. Therapies like EFT can help us work on our own issues and there is also Bach Flower Remedy, which is just a gentle potion made of the essence of flowers, which you have to take like a homoeopathic pill. Many people have healed from it.”
“But I guess the bottomline is,” said Dad, “that we stop seeing emotional or mental disturbances as something too shameful to talk about or to seek help for. There is nothing wrong with not being able to cope with life when it gets stressful. We need to be willing to ask for help.”
He turned to Avijit, “Would your friend Gopal be comfortable talking to me? I have met him a few times here, have I not? He seemed like a very nice boy.”
Avijit’s eyes brightened. “Yes, Dad, I think he would. I often share about the things we talk about and how we solve our problems and he keeps telling me how lucky I am to have parents like you guys.”
He turned to give his friend a call, then came back and hugged both his parents somewhat awkwardly, “Thanks for telling us that you have both been for therapy. It’s made it easier for me to accept it as something normal people can go to and benefit from. It’s not just for basket cases.”
His parents laughed. “No, it’s not just for basket cases,” agreed his mother.
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