The unlearning and relearning of self!

By Purnima Gupta ,Psychotherapist

Mental health is a burning issue today. It is discussed in drawing rooms, at the kitchen tables, in the chai corners, at the street nukkads, and the office spaces. People are aware now that there is something like depression or anxiety. They are also becoming aware that there is a different line of treatment that needs to be followed for such issues. This is a common man's understanding.

But how does a psychologist or a psychotherapist looks at the disorders. Do we also think the same about depression or anxiety? Do we also just talk about what we have been taught in the clinical books about depression or anxiety? How do we treat these problems? How does a psychologist work with an individual to change or alter his thought process? Does it help him managing emotions too? And, a more pertinent question: how is it that when almost all psychologist uses a different approach for treating their clients with depression or anxiety, all of them get better? What actually changes in them? Is it their thinking that changes or the way they feel or the way they deal with the situations?

Through this article, I am trying to answer these few questions.

My understanding about psychotherapy as a modality of treating mental health issues is this: The problem arises when we create an alternative perception about the reality instead of looking at it the way it is. When we read more than what is written in the spaces between the words, in the silences between two situations, and in the gestures made by others.

This alternative perception initially does not create any trouble for us but gradually it turns into a habit and that habit robs us off of our simple, stress-free perception of reality as it is. We start looking for more than the reality can offer to us. This constant quest for more and more hidden meanings to be found out and understood puts an individual in a space where he stops living in the reality and begins living in a space created in his own mind. As the time passes by, the reality just fades away into just a composite of few visual clues trying to make their presence felt to an individual mind, and, the individual feels more and more in control of his life and situations until someone questions his thoughts or behaviors.

This is usually the first time when the individual is shaken out of his perception different than the reality. He wakes up to a world that feels known but different then he has been perceiving it to be. It is the beginning of a sort of tug of war between reality and individual perception. Both are trying to pull the individual?s mind towards their side. As they exert more force on to the mind, the individual starts losing grip on its mind and begins feeling a whirlwind, swayed thought process. To come out of this tug of war, the individual collects all his energy and puts it into this push and pull game between reality and perception. This is the time when the individual appears more sucked into his inner world and disconnected, dissociated from his surroundings. This is when others notice that the individual is not his usual self and they start asking, "Are you okay? Is everything fine? You appear to be lost."

Once more and more people point this out to the individual, he drowns more and more into the ocean of his own internal battle between what is real and what is his perception. At this point, the individual starts losing interest or becomes more jittery and fearful of his future situations because he is not able to associate with any of them. This is the stage where the individual needs another CPU or another human mind to help him unlearn and then relearn the ways of life.

This CPU usually appears in the form of a therapist or a confidante who can stably hold on to the rantings of the individual seeking to sort out his issues. The process of unlearning and then facilitating the relearning process of the individual is not an easy one though. There are times when the individual loses faith in the facilitator or in himself; at other times the process itself does not make any sense to the individual as he has to step into an unknown zone from his usual known and comfortable zone. During such moments, the facilitator has to provide some extra holding to the individual and also guide the individual to slowly develop faith and empathy in himself. Once the process is dealt with patience and empathy for required period of time, the individual starts tying the loose threads between his individual perception and the reality around. Slowly, he makes it there to the world which is around and has various meanings to different human beings and, the beauty is, that all the meanings are beautiful

All individual realities are beautiful because they mirror the beauty that lies within the individual beings. Let us celebrate the beauty that we all have within...!

Purnima Gupta