​”COPING OR GIVING UP” – THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Few months back on my birthday a friend sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I kept those flowers by the window, the sun shining on it and as I was admiring those lovely, fresh flowers, I was reminded that the petals would eventually wither and dry up.

Desperately to capture the beautiful moment that I was having with the fading momento, I tried to take a picture on my mobile. But the result was just a cheap imitation. And it hit me that grief is inextricably tied to love. This was a very small loss but the message was clear, ‘Love exists with the shadow of impending loss’.

The eventuality of loss always exists when we feel love – either for a person, a thing, or an experience. But sometimes people are overcome with the fear of the expected loss and try to protect themselves from the pain by holding onto the moments or  avoiding conflicts at all cost, trying to make sure the relationship stays positive. However since they are no longer open or connected, eventually the love dies.

Sometimes people defend against the feared or expected pain from loss by staying emotionally distant from people. They might even keep their lives small and controllable. But this leaves them feeling cut off from an important part of themselves that is curious, wants to explore and grow, or even has a hidden passion. As a result, they remain stifled and feel empty or dead inside.

Loss can take many forms like separation, divorce, moving to distant relationships, death, disability, chronic illness, some of which are more devastating than others making our lives feel upended. Indeed, loss forces us to confront psychological challenges.

In his book ‘Loss and Trauma: Walking on Broken Bones’, Guy Winch, Ph.D. and Licensed Psychologist, mentions about five psychological challenges due to loss.

1.  Overcoming Paralyzing Emotional Pain

The most immediate challenge we face in case of a loss, is that of excruciating and paralyzing emotional pain. The initial pain is so severe we might be in shock and feel as though in a haze, trapped in a terrible alternate reality from which we cannot escape. We might lose the ability to think straight or even to function in the most basic ways. The one thing that helps diminish the pain is time. Therefore, our challenge is to find ways to simply get through those first terrible hours, days, and weeks. Once the initial shock begins to fade away and the new realities set in, we face our second challenge.

2.  Adjusting to Changes in Our Daily Lives:

Grief and loss can change almost every aspect of our daily routines. We might no longer have a partner to share feelings or having to restrain ourselves to do the most basic tasks. To recover we face the challenge of coming to terms with the changes that are forced upon us. Only then can we begin the process of finding new ways of living and adjusting to the physical lacuna connected to the emotional loss.

3.  Reformulating Our Identities: 

Sometimes grief and loss can impact our very sense of identity. We might feel as if the person we once were is lost and that the person facing us in the mirror is a stranger. We might have defined ourselves by our career but lost our job (or retired), we might have defined ourselves by being the fun couple but lost our partner, or we might have defined ourselves by our physical fitness but become disabled in an accident. To recover we face the challenge of reexamining and redefining who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we want others to view us. We have to reconstruct our identities and come to peace with our new selves and our new lives.

4. Reconstructing Our Relationships: 

It is common for people to respond to profound loss by withdrawing into themselves. We might try to hold on to a deceased loved one by talking to them in our mind. At times, we might avoid other people, as they remind us of our loss. After failing out of college we might lose touch with classmates. Unfortunately, sickness and disability often make others uncomfortable and make them withdraw from us. To recover we face the challenge of reconnecting to those who remain and forming new connections that reflect the new realities of our situation.

5. Adjusting Our Belief Systems: 

Trying to make sense of our experiences in life is a compelling human drive. Although some of us articulate it more clearly than others, we each have our perception on how the world works; a unique set of beliefs and assumptions through which we view the world and our place in it. Loss and grief can challenge these basic assumptions and make us question everything we thought we knew. We’re flooded with doubts and questions, the simplest and most compelling of which is often simply—why? Our challenge is to find ways to make sense of what happened and adjust our belief systems accordingly. And to thrive, we must discover a new purpose to drive our existence.

Now that we have identified the challenges with remedies, we need to implement these to reformulate our lives. Face the loss instead of ignoring or denying it.  Thus, avoid self medication with alcohol or other drugs, or escapism through excessive sleep, internet use, or any other maladaptive habit that makes you vulnerable to addiction or depression.

It’s also important to talk and share your feelings with other people as it helps our mind to process the loss and often allows us to come to terms with it sooner than if we kept our feelings bottled up. Of course, it is important not to overdo these conversations as one runs the two-prong risk of wallowing in the misery and causing other people to feel compassion fatigue.

Take an inventory of the blessings you have and the various parts of your life that you can feel genuine gratitude for.  This helps to refocus the mind on what one has rather than dwelling on what one lost.

As per Clifford N Lazarus, Ph.D., Clinical Director, Lazarus Institute, distracting yourself by keeping busy with enjoyable activities you can [still] do not only helps in moving towards acceptance of the loss but it will also ward off deepening sadness because of a process called “behavioral activation” which has been shown to effectively treat depression.

And the most important thing to remember is that recovering from grief and loss takes time. So think well, act well but give it enough time.

Also remember that there’s no way around experiencing loss. Living is definitely accompanied by risks of choosing to explore new territory and making yourself vulnerable. The raw experience of being in the moment with a deep sense of connection with people and things you love can be both exhilarating as well as putting you at risk for a deeply painful loss. But it also represents opportunities for personal growth and living life fully.

“Live life and accept loss”

Treasure what you lose and look forward to what you have.

​VALIANT TEARS

I hear the waves crashing inside me

as they push me to the edge,

amidst the thunderstorms raging in my mind

and aroma of sea salt and moonlit lilies

a doorway opens to the chasm of quiescence

that I was not meant to confront;

And as I wonder what lies beneath

those shining blue sapphires,

the string of ocean flows out of the ravines

caressing my cheeks with the salty brine

soothing and rocking my demons to sleep,

as the sailing anguish on the high seas

meanders it’s way towards the shore;

Those tiny shaking fingers cup the moonlit pearls

slowly waning through the night

into the hushed up dawn.

Just a moment of tranquility

and an aura of accedence,

a silver lining on those hovering clouds

as the ocean of no-thingness

replenishes its unfathomed abyss

with intolerable ocean of dolour again.

GASLIGHTING – COERCION OF REALITY

Iteration of a lie often attains the status of perceived veracity.

The other day a cousin of mine was searching for the car keys, when her husband immediately confronted her saying “You always forget to keep the car keys at the right place, Neelam“. Switching on her defence mode my cousin reacted but retracted when she was reminded how she keeps forgetting things all the time. I had observed her backing off especially when she is told that she doesn’t remember things.  Neelam was excellent in academics and always remembers all the songs just by listening to once. I found it hard to believe that she actually has a problem with her memory. Later when I came across the concept of Gaslighting everything about Neelam’s constant retraction to any confrontation zoomed in.

The ‘Illusory truth effect’ or ‘Gaslighting’ is a form of psychological abuse where information is contorted to favour the abuser or information is falsified with the intent of making the victims doubt their perception and memory.

Basically Gaslighting is a form of blame shifting tactic used to mess with your perception of reality, making you constantly doubt your experiences by persistent lying, misdirection, contradiction and denial. It’s an attempt to undermine and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs and understanding of reality. The term is derived from a play (1938)by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight where the husband tries to manipulate his wife’s sanity by causing her to question her reality.

This emotional abuse can happen to anyone but mostly occurs in personal relationships or workplace where the victim is constantly blamed and undergoes the make believe experiences, doubting their logic and rationale. In a subtle form Gaslighting creates a power dynamics in the relationship where the abuser blame shifts with microaggression. However there are severe cases of dominance, mind control and psychological exploits too.

Preston Ni (M.S.B.A) in his book “How to Successfully handle Gaslighters & stop Psychological bullying” has described the variations in stages of Gaslighting.

1. Fibbing and exaggerating the reality to put the victim on the defensive and iterate those lies constantly to control your percept.

“You’re oversensitive.”

“How would you know when you never remember things correctly.”

Constant use of such phrases is a red flag.

2. When challenged the abuser escalates refuting evidences and misdirecting with denial and blames.

Why do you always have to bring this up?”

I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

Such statements of dismissal are again red flags.

3. The insecurity and anxiety instilled helps the abuser to gain control on the victim. Over the time this wears out the victim to debilitate and question  reality.

4. When you bring up the hurtful behavior, the abuser turns the table to play victim making it seem that you are harming the abuser by even bringing it up.

“Why am I always the bad guy?”

“I’m the one who’s actually hurting now.”

Abuser uses phrases like these conditioning you to mistrust your experiences.

5. Occasionally the abuser would treat you to positive reinforcements to keep you reigned in and you would end up contemplating, “May be they aren’t that bad.

With this temporary mildness tactic the abuser tries to reinforce a codependent controlled relationship.

Gaslighting as you can see is a form of coercion,  instilling fear, doubt and insecurity in the victim resulting in augmentation of power and personal gain of the abuser. So, how can the victim identify Gaslighting. To answer this let’s rewind to the statements mentioned above. With every reaction of blame, if you question the validity of your perception and memories you are being Gaslit. If people in your life are constantly accusing you of being sensitive and telling you that you never remember a thing, you are probably experiencing Gaslighting. When you express your hurt and are ignored or reverse blamed, the red flag of Gaslighting pops.

So, how can you address the situation and get out of this abuse. Well the hardest part is realizing and accepting the warning signs of Gaslighting. Spot out the people in your life who forces you to experience this abuse by noting their behavioral pattern. Always remember manipulation and abuse always has a pattern and trigger points. Realize those moments and don’t give in to the blame.  Trust your Instincts and experiences and most importantly trust yourself.

Many times it is difficult to gust out on your abuser owing to the fact that they are family. But be strong, voice your concern and actively affirm your memory and experiences. Don’t allow to be manipulated. Self affirmation is very critical while learning to trust yourself again.

Your own sense of truth can only bring you back to your reality in those moments of manipulation. Your feelings are valid and you have every right to react to things that hurt you. Remember that you are worthy and capable of being able to trust and find yourself again.

Quote of the day

Truth is an elusive version of stipulations with perceived reasonings, unless aberrated and then becomes a lie.

MARITAL RAPE – BREACH OF FREEDOM TO CONSENT

Anita was taking time today to finish her chores before going to bed. She was dead tired, body sored due to menses. But she was also petrified anticipating the horrific sexual intercourse she was forced to go through daily, even during her menstrual cycle. She had sought refuge in her mother few days back, but was shocked when her mother asked her to comply quietly. “It’s the duty of the wife to please her husband, it’s custom dear” – this statement itself defies the so called “sanctity” of marriage.

Marital rape befalls when a husband forces intercourse on wife either by threat or by taking advantage of her inability to consent. Then just like any other domestic violence why is marital rape not punishable by law in our country? Whether a stranger, a known person or a family member commits it, rape is RAPE!

Like Anita, many women go through marital rape naming the social and religious customs or so called obligation towards husband. Marriage has become a leeway to force sex in such cases. The role of wife in India is still perceived as a homemaker and having intercourse a “duty”. Apart from the fact that women in India still strive for self sufficiency that shoves many to live in physical and emotional distress.

Although rape has strict and specific laws enforced, the boundaries are blurred when it comes to marital sex. Despite many law commissions and new legislation such heinous act of coercion is not yet termed as criminal offence in India, the reason why it’s one of the most under reported crime.

Marital relationship’s so called “sacrosanct” status has become a taboo. Our society is unable to concede to grievous criminal offences occurring inside the boundaries of the institution of marriage. Marital rape is no less traumatic for the victim and to make matters worse, she has to cohabit with the abuser. It is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of a human being. However many women still accept and justify this assault as deference. This ignorance makes it even more imperative to provide legal protection to women against marital rape.

Apart from judicial awakening we primarily need to generate awareness to curtail ignorance regarding this domestic coercion. “Amends begins at home”, we need to change the patriarchal social norms and teach our children to discern and differentiate between adjustment to situations and complying to offences. No one should accede to any form of abuse from anyone.

Most countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa have amended and abolished marital rape exemptions from the legal texts. It’s not only our legal but also social responsibility to come out of embedded cultural and religious stereotypes and bring changes in our social values. The legal system needs to eradicate the myth of “conjugal rights” in its books. Every step we take today towards changing the mindset will definitely diminish nescience and pave the path towards appreciating the fundamental right to freedom.

CHEATING – AN URGE OR AN OPTION

A Case Study

I have been in an unhappy marriage for five years now. My husband has been cheating on me since one year. Initially he did try to hide his transgressions by lying about his whereabouts. Our altercations hit high charts and eventually he admitted to cheating on me.

Why and how did this happen? Where did I go wrong? Will our marriage ever work?

I have been contemplating over these questions ever since, trying to rationalize my husband’s indiscretions. Being a student of science my first approach to any problem that knocks, is to go for a root cause analysis. And look what it reveals!

My husband might have been dishonest for a year, but I have been disingenuous since the commencement of our marriage. I have always pretended to relinquish his behavior and prevaricate through the situations. Our arguments have been the result of frustrations due to lack of communication.

So what are the primary reasons for lying and cheating in a relationship? If lying is fabricating the truth, cheating is deceiving the essence of the relationship and straying away. We all try to escape from boredom and lingering circumstances. Are fibbing and infidelity the actual solutions to this issue?

Most people fail to understand that being dishonest and committing adultery are just one of the options to escape situations. How about engaging in fruitful activities or actually addressing the matter with your significant other.

Digging deeper does unveil factors like lack of experience in a committed relationship could be one of the reasons for being mendacious. Sometimes the partner doesn’t understand the consequences of being deceptive. A feeling of insecurity owing to age, money, smartness or physical attributes is also linked to cheating. In such cases seeking external validation becomes more important than confronting the matter at hand. Another reason could be unrealistic whims and fancies of a partner that might lead to dissatisfaction, resulting in unfaithful behavior. Also succumbing to limerence and impulsive attractions leads to oversight of a meaningful connection.

As we skim through the reasons of indiscretions, we can find zillions of them. Regardless of the actual causes of cheating, there are always options available on grabs, like couple counselling, taking up hobbies and an honest discussion with your partner. 

I hope the articles which are going to be published subsequently throughout the week might throw some more light on the various reasons of lying and cheating in relationships. But to conclude, always remember that you always have a choice to not lie and cheat, than to compromise your integrity and give up on a meant to be relationship.