The therapy room at my internship center felt dim, even with lights. Or was it the sadness of my twelve year old client that made the well lit room darker? It was a particularly enlightening session, more for me than for the client, I dare say! I remember his face when I introduced his favourite cricket metaphor,something I didn’t even know would help me in future sessions. “Do you move your wrist and hit the bat in the same way for every ball thrown at you?” “No!”, he was appalled by the dumbness of this possibility. “Depends on the nature of the ball”, he said, demonstrating how to hit the bat, so holy for him, while hitting a fast ball and then a spin and then some other types I don’t remember the names of, because at this point, my client’s face looked so happy and engaged that I was stuck at thinking how beautifully can your passion change your emotions like a switch! This session was a whole process till we finally reached to “If you decide to move your bat depending upon the ball, can you, in these various situations that trouble you, pause, think and respond in a way the situation asks, because I think if the bat was your behaviour you want to change, you’ve been hitting the bat in the same way for so many different situations”.
Dr. Nadkarni Sir’s voice took over again, bringing me into the here and now. He was talking about the difference between reaction, automatic and extreme in nature, as opposed to a response, which is fairly thought of, appropriate and helpful to the one who is responding and also to the one who receives the response. In ‘Mind Fest 2019’ terminology, I think the axis of response tilts to the cortical and neo-cortical sides. This is exactly what I was trying to communicate to my client, in a very broken language as was able to my inexperienced self, I thought.
Sir was speaking at Majha Katta, an ABP Majha initiative; about coping with various issues that the pandemic is making popup in our lives, or is it? I thought the interview was a model one, slowly working its way up from discussing individual problems, then interpersonal, familial, then on the level of community, the nation and finally as a global unit of solidarity. I urge each and every one to watch the interview, the link of which I am attaching at the close of this blog. Having written that, I see no point in summing up the elixirs of knowledge from this interview, which everyone will receive in the purest form through the interview itself.
I intend to, through this blog, ponder upon as I write and present my personal takeaways and feelings, if it please.
Let us go back a couple of months in time. People were ill, dying, for different reasons albeit. Some were living in abusive families, although not the entire day. Senior citizens were just as lost without any activities to engage themselves with, children just as much bubbling with energy and the population catering to their needs just as stressed (for different reasons), and lost about how to manage the children and the elderly at home. There were people who wished to go home, wishing to escape not the locked down and unfamiliar cities but the feeling that one doesn’t belong in a place. There were people without food, people living alone and feeling lonely too. There was uncertainly and anxiety and maybe depression and all that. It was a different pandemic, I wouldn’t call it the pandemic of unhappiness but that of a ‘lack of optimum happiness or functioning’ maybe.
Now going ahead in time, I am sure this situation will resolve; and hoping that it happens sooner, with the cooperation from fellow citizens of this world, rather than much later. People will still be ill and dying from other manageable diseases, senior citizens will still want to ‘kill’ time rather than utilize it, children will still be….well…the correct adjective here is just children. So children will still be children, adults would still be stressed about finances and work and mundane lives. People will return for work to the familiarly alien cities, there will be hunger, ironically with the availability of food this time, only with less cleanliness, more pollution; thereby adding or making the issue of endangered biodiversity resurface.
All in all, with open shops, air free of this virus in question, busy streets and freedom to travel restored, we will still be locked down. Locked in our brains, lives, communities, nation and the world- all of which could be better places with consistent, resilient and empathetic effort from our side. We, as someone residing in our bodies and living with our thoughts or emotions all the time, paying the consequences of our own behaviours would want to be aware of this trio of thoughts, emotions and behaviour that influences each other. Problems will be different but the uncertainty and anxiety arising out of it will still be the same. Resilience, Pinning short and long term goals, flexibility in executing plans, adjusting gears to maneuvre through life, cultivating the ability to bridge the gap between reaction and response will still be helpful. Working on interpersonal relationships will bring just as much joy. Giving ourselves a cognitive, emotional and behavioural break from the monotony that everyday life throws at our faces will still reduce stress and sooth the being.
Summing the topics discussed in the interview simply goes along way in proving that Sir’s interview wasn’t about the pandemic. It was about principles of sustainable mental health. The pandemic was a trigger, although the most serious one. I would like this interview to be a clarion call for all citizens, for the ordinary faces having extraordinary potential, and importantly for those citizens who are delivering their duties for the nation in administrative roles and in capacities that infer upon them the responsibility of leadership.
The pandemic has given all of us the window to be aware of challenges that won’t change unless we do. The fact that this is a biological threat, directly threatening life has done the job of bringing problems buried deep within the noise of quintessential life to the screaming foreground now. Shouting loudly from this is the opportunity to change as a world for the better.
The interview is no less enlightening than Buddha’s discourse, laying down advisory principles for policymakers, administrators, legislators and world leaders on the macro level on the one hand. On the other hand, it makes the individual aware that they too, have just as much power, when they demonstrate the needs of the hour like empathy and compassion as one face.
The present is a challenge most of us will face only once in our lifetimes. It has brought grave problems. As I see people in atypical situations and special needs battling with it, my heart fills with pain. I am not without empathy to everything that this phase has brought with it, like the debris brought by a sea wave to the seashore.
It is just as important to know that humanity will survive this. But why simply survive, when we can soar?
To watch the full interview of Dr. Anand Nadkarni at Majha Katta, click on: https://youtu.be/Xh4DmcIkXeM