Shut Down Your Mind, it needs to Rest

In this century, we have seen an overload of devices and appliances to keep ourselves mentally occupied. It is clear that we have to live with this and our new ‘normal’ consists of devices which tell us how to ‘shut off’ too.

The eyes tell us when it is all too much. By the end of the day, my eyes begin to water if I have been looking at the screen for too long. People complain of flashing images from the day when they are trying to sleep. As a professional, it tells me that this person has had too much exposure to stimuli and needs to take a break and repair the self. A break needs to incorporate play and peace. Beach holidays, mountains etc provide us with those precious spaces which take us away from everyday hassle. But simple things can help:

  1. If your eyes and head are beginning to ache, just make the room dark and close your eyes. If you are outside of your home, carry an eye mask like the one you get on flights.
  2. Take a walk. Look at the things around you. If I walk in London, I look at people’s front gardens, how they have made little landscapes. There are lovely little old places to look at. Let your mind wander and think about these things in the present. Try not to think of your problems. If you are looking at the things (in a seeing but unseeing manner) around you but thinking of your problems, it is not being mindful.
  3. If you have a garden, take a little walk and weed it, tend it, put in some fresh soil, fertiliser. The natural world helps to ease the troubles of the artificial one. Just as a phone, a watch, a clock needs to be recharged every now and then, we need recharging. Sounds cliched, but it needs emphasis.
  4. We are just as hardworking even though we are not machines. Children too need to rest and be allowed to do their own thing. Parents who become restless if their child is ‘just playing’ have not understood the great achievements of play which children are achieving. They are learning to master their confusion about separation and loss when they throw away and find their toys. They are venting their anger on unsuspecting teddy bears when they break and soil them-grappling with their own despair and frustration.

If they seem to languidly lie down and doodle away, it is their way of soothing themselves tand recharging. If they are troubling each other, they need something to do. That is the one time when a parent’s intervention is necessary.

Sleep disorders -My Experience

Layers, cream and cake

For someone who has always slept well, I have experienced sleeplessness early this year. For some time, I would get up in the middle of the night, having slept two hours or sometimes not at all. This was before COVID.

Layered cake and our inner world

This is how I see what happened : Between the layers of this cake there is a buffer cream layer. We have these soft layers between our senses and the real world. This layer allows us to tune out at the end of the day, put away all the unfinished work, conversations, toxicity etc and relax. If we work too hard, the cream layer thins and the hard layers rub against each other. There is no cream layer which allows one to tune out the toxic, unfinished elements of the day. Please note, this cake metaphor is not for academics and colleagues. Only for those who want to understand it without fuss.

Meditation for sleep disorders

We live in a matrix-not quite as manic as the films of that name (on the other hand, maybe we do) but a loosely connected inter consciousness. If there is a ripple in the collective, it affects us. One can see how this happens. If there is chaos in the matrix, it reaches us and affects us-deeply, especially if our cream layers (ref cake) have worn down already. The soothing quality of being in a wellbeing group buttresses the formation of the cream layer and it can bring back to some extent, the buffer against shock and chaos. if you indulge in wellbeing activities, your thoughts begin to be preoccupied by the wellbeing group-by the soothing qualities that trained instructors and facilitators provide. Slowly, this filters into the different mental layers and you move from flight and fight responses to more nurturing ones.

Supplements and tonics

In my childhood, doctors routinely prescribed supplements. I was given iron tonic for what must have been ‘restless leg syndrome’ in those days. It solved the problem. Nowadays, one goes to a nutritionist. I believe supplements can work as anti depressants when depressiveness is in its early stages or there is an up and down mood swing. It is my experience. In my experience, shutting out all sensory stimuli such as television, appliances, phones etc can help concentration and retrieve that precious buffer/cream layer and soothe overworked, tired minds.

Also, as we grow older, we become less ‘wired up’ within our bodies, according to doctors (see healthline) and more depleted, especially in our extremities. Over the counter tonics and supplements are a harmless way to take care of these issues. Do study them. Individual research and customising treatment for yourself is all the norm now.

Click here :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZYXBYAHhN8

What is Trauma and How We Try to Master It


In one of his earliest essays, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Sigmund Freud discusses the case of a boy, one and a half years old, who develops a game to deal with the trauma that he suffers for the first time when his mother, who he is very attached to, goes away for a prolonged visit and then returns.

He throws the ball over the bed and it goes out of sight. He makes a sound to show his surprise and wonder. After it is found and brought to him, he does an ‘ooo…’ in a delighted way.

Freud is promoting the theory that there is an economic motive involved-the need to restore ‘pleasure’ by which Freud means ‘equilibrium’ in the psychical system which has endured a sudden shock of not seeing his mother for an unpredictable time.

Sigmund Freud

This is how the game helps him to master the trauma of seperation and loss. Says Freud: “..At the outset, he (the boy) was in a passive situation-he was overpowered by the experience; but by repeating it, unpleasurable though it was, as a game, he took on the active part.” 

This observation -deduction has paved the way for the development of the idea of trauma. Not many credit Freud anymore. With new approaches, the original thinker is ‘deleted’. Do read his works. Elegant writer.

From this game, he also deduced that an object thrown away by this child is his/her way of mastering his anger, owning it. If you can imagine that the object/toy stands for mother or father or anyone who he/she is attached to and leaves unexpectedly, causing uncertainty and pain, a child can at least take it out on the object/toy and throw it away or break it. This little boy had heard that his father had to ‘go away to the front’ as it was war time. He would throw the object away and say, ‘go to the fwont!’ In this way, he was able to master, at least in his mind, a situation he had no control over-his father going to war, his mother leaving him for a visit.

Relationships ?

When couples fall in love, sex and passion is not far away. It is present and overwhelming. The test for real wellbeing benefits of the attraction of opposites is when they stay together in the long term, can voice differences which, however unpalatable to the other, demonstrates how you can be flexible, containing of the other. The easier thing for some is to close down when it gets unpleasant. We simply dont like to hang around when things get bad.

Over the years, I feel I have expanded as a human being-the internal process when one comes up against difficulties is to withdraw, like a forget me not, which I sense and work with. It is when I open my thoughts and mind to others and see them as human beings that I really becoming richer as a human being myself. One has to work 24/7 to keep expanding and not contract -against the impulse, the instinct to shrink when things get rough. To see that the circle around us does not shrink.

To sum it up, people gain more depth and personality when they allow themselves to create more space for the other person to be and the other person returns the gesture. The growth of civilisation depends on this give and take. Besides, the face softens and one looks more graceful !

However, when that generously given space is used in a parasitic way- i.e. the other invades and takes over rather than shares in a mutual understanding, the relationship loses the balance which makes the relationship healthy. The  scale becomes lopsided, the see saw weighs more heavily on one side-the person who takes advantage of their partner’s goodness and kindness, does it far too long and there is an end to it. The sweetest of people come apart under this kind of stress.

Enduring couples allow arguments and quarrels and the love and passion that comes in its aftermath, when anger ebbs away. If this anger remains and ferments in a toxic way, perhaps because this is the way the persons involved have seen their parents behave, then the relationship will spiral downwards. Time must be made for increasing wisdom, understanding and kindness for the relationship to go on and encompass children and elders in its folds.

Is your Therapist Mindful?

According to the Wiki, ‘Mindfulness plays a central role in the teaching of Buddhist meditation …described as a calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself, it is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, the practice of which supports analysis resulting in the development of wisdom. The Satipatthana Sutta (Sanskrit) is one of the foremost early texts dealing with mindfulness. A key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative stabilisation must be combined with liberating discernment.

Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.’

How does a therapist incorporate mindfulness?

‘Congruence’ and ‘countertransference’ are concepts that come close to a natural and organic incorporation of mindfulness. Through an inner knowledge of himself/herself and how one is feeling with the client in the present moment, a therapist is able to help the client process difficult feelings in the room.

How does a person incorporate mindfulness in everyday life?

A quiet spot in a busy day is enough to become aware of one’s feelings, who/what triggered them and letting go of their clinging negative properties, like allowing a ship to let go off the harbour. Mindfulness is the important punctuation needed to move from reaction to reflection. Reactions are lively, reflections are calming.

However, sometimes a deeper exploration cannot be embarked on when there is a crisis and life becomes a set of reactions. At such times, an effort at reflecting may stop a spiral of destructive reactions.

Migration, Displacement, Stress

Increasingly, people find themselves having to migrate to other areas of the UK or from one country to another, in order to find jobs that are suitable for them. This migration has a history and goes back to the beginning of the human race and the wandering, nomad that some of us might identify within ourselves has long term ancestors.

Milton Keynes can feel ‘modern’ to the newcomer

Moving to a new city may be an exciting venture. Milton Keynes, for example, attracts quite a migrant population, not just from other countries but from different parts of the country. It has a good success rate in employment and seems on the surface to be a buzzing city with lots to offer to someone who is new here.

The underlying issues that accompany a migration is the loss of a secure base (if there was one before). However big the reward for such movements, the human cost is high. Separation and loss cause the human to regress to some of his/her earliest experiences of loss and the response to such losses.

Our infancy is like this pic. Someone familiar is ‘holding’ us

If you observe a baby who is still at the very earliest stages of life, the eyes constantly find its mother/caregiver because that is how he/she finds an emotional and psychic anchor in the aftermath of the loss of the womb life.

If you observe yourself in a new place, you may find yourself searching in a similar way for familiar things – a McDonalds’ sign, familiar landmarks, a nice smile from someone to make you feel welcome etc. I have often heard talk in the local gym of how friendly everyone is here and how they would not want to be in that other place where no one smiles at the other. 

These are the things which bring relief to the soul that searches for a home where it can feel safe. With the relative feelings of safety come the need to perform and make one’s mark on the environment. The healthy normal human will make a seemingly unfamiliar, even hostile environment into a place they begin to feel at home in.

An ethnic word can bring relief to the homesick

Some people may never make a new place their home because all the goodness is left behind in the place they left to come here.
This is called splitting and projecting goofy shopdness into an idealised place.
Such splitting can occur with people as well. You may often hear stories of how good the previous boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/brother/sister/teacher etc was and how no one can ever take their place now.

Such a splitting harms the experience of the present and the potential to live and enjoy something new in the present.

Counselling/therapy can help to work through the idealised lost experience of someone or something and open up the capacity to live life more deeply and fully.

But the bottomline sometimes is that no two things are the same and we, as living organisms, require some amount of sameness and familiarity in order to feel secure and grow. Letting go of things one cannot have anymore and ushering in the new is an art that may enrich one’s experience of life’s constantly changing parameters.

Depression-Not so Blue ?

The predominant medical view is that depression is a mental disorder and anti depressants and psychotherapy maybe prescribed to manage it.

Depression is characterised by sad mood, the inability to derive pleasure from activities such as seating or sex, and changes in psychomotor, sleeping, and eating patterns.

This may sound all doom and gloom but research is re-evaluating depression and asking some important questions. The unusually large numbers of people who now get diagnosed with depression leads to the question whether it is not a bit of over-diagnosis and can we step away from resorting to medication where possible.

Therapy seems to be a more healthy alternative and can be a good space to take inner rumination to, avoiding too much isolation.

According to an article in the American Psychological Review (2009) ‘The bright side of being blue: Depression as an Adaptation for Analyzing Complex Problems’, the authors (P.Andrews and A. Thomson Jr ) suggest that depression maybe a natural response to help an individual avoid outside stimulus and apply his/her mind to resolving complex inner problems.

They say, ‘Depression is the primary emotional condition for which help is sought. Depressed people often report persistent rumination, which involves analysis, and complex social problems in their lives.

Depressed people may withdraw into an internal state of preoccupation where they seem to ruminate. They may slowly isolate from others and insulate themselves from the outside world.

According to the article, ‘Analysis is often a useful approach for solving complex problems, but it requires slow, sustained processing, so disruption would interfere with problem solving.

The analytical rumination hypothesis proposes that depression is an evolved response to complex problems, whose function is to minimise disruption and sustain analysis of those problems by (a) giving the triggering problem prioritised access to processing resources, (b) reducing the desire to engage in distracting activities (anhedonia), and (c) producing psychomotor changes that reduce exposure to distracting stimuli.

In other words, the authors suggest that a certain amount of preoccupation and privacy may be required to think about and resolve life’s complex problems, whether it is at the workplace or in domestic life.

As a society we have ensured that workplace meetings be relatively without interruptions and have maximum privacy. This is to encourage a more focused and deeper thinking about workplace issues by avoiding all other distractions.

However, popular ideas which dictate how social and family life should be do not make space for such a condition. The sometimes stereotypical mingling with others is encouraged to fight what is considered an illness and anyone who wants to opt out maybe considered either ‘boring’, a misfit, unwell, antisocial or unpopular.

It is difficult to live with someone who is depressed. Family and close friends begin to feel the pinch of being with someone who is quite unavailable emotionally. They may experience useless, angry and pent up feelings.

According to the authors, depression as it is defined medically, is prevalent in industrialised societies where such a study was held but it also exists in small societies wherever it was possible to conduct such a study.

They go on to say ‘such evidence suggests that much of what is currently classified as depressive disorder represents normal psychological functioning (Horwitz & Wakefield, 2007).

One likely factor contributing to over-diagnosis is that clinically significant impairment is not conclusive evidence of disorder (Spitzer & Wakefield, 1999). Impairment can be caused by biological dysfunction, but it can also be caused by properly functioning stress response mechanisms.’

Though clinical and severe depression over a long period of time is not to be taken lightly, the usual bouts of milder depression maybe seen as a human and natural response to the need for resolving complex issues.

Anxiety-Simple Things to do

Anxiety is a symptom which tells us that something is feeling out of control and/or feeling unsafe. It feels unpleasant and puts brakes on things we would like to do or think about.  The body, mind and heart feel at odds with each other. You can ask yourself three questions:

1.Why am I feeling anxious today? Why do I feel anxious when this or that happens? Just these simple questions can lead to some form of self reflection, a key ‘skill’ in overcoming overwhelming feelings. Starting a dialogue with oneself is one of life’s great achievements. 

2. Is it affecting my body-stomach, head…?

3. Is it affecting my relationships?  

Normal anxiety is inevitable in all our lives, and trying to understand yourself in your own time is a good habit to cultivate. However, too much anxiety begins to cramp your lifestyle. You may find yourself taking lesser risks and avoiding anxiety provoking situations. Some of it is good as it shows a certain sobering self awareness-of what one can do and not do and what to avoid ! 

But if you find your circle of life shrinking and the list of things you can do becoming too restricted, seek help. Talking to a professional or engaging in a group activity where there is a considerate facilitator can be helpful.  At times, anxiety can lead to substance misuse -a false bravado further incited by peer acceptance, can take away anxious feelings for some time. Such debilitating habits may threaten your financial security and from thereon, the fall can be damaging and at times, irretrievable.

Restricting your temptations and not gratifying cravings is something of a ‘muscle’ one builds through life.  Bodies are great things. They adapt to you not having cake just as much as they will adapt to you eating only cake so we do have control !

Taking pleasure in simple things which don’t cost money- a walk in the park, a friendly chat with the neighbour down the road, and having time for a little thought to cherish the interactions you have, even if it is  a small one with the corner shop till worker, can add incrementally to one’s ‘muscle’ for reduction of anxiety. 

In other cases, anxiety is provoked in situations like a much awaited job interview; a driving test; meeting a difficult boss; having difficult relations. Anxiety is not all bad, and with a little care it can be understood and limited. On one hand, increased anxiety tells us that something needs doing; you may be anxious before a driving test, but it may help you to prepare more, see it through and, in fact, make you proportionally elated. On the other hand, your increased anxiety may be telling you that something unpleasant is going to happen. It is a signal to say that we are ‘charged up’ with something, because either the situation demands it or we have ‘sussed out’ internally that we cannot cope with it. For example, people in a fragile state (like those who are convalescing or have been bullied) may find it difficult to even shop in the local market. Everything might feel too much because the mind needs to recover just as much as the body. At times, removing yourself from an unbearable and unbeatable situation can be the only, and perhaps the best, resort.

People come for therapy with anxious symptoms and have not thought of the various links to issues which seem apparently random. The job of the therapist is to find these links and facilitate perspective. Maybe in the past one was not ready for an extraordinary situation (illness, bereavement etc), or that it was of such proportions that it bypassed any skills one had to deal with it at the time (for example recession, bereavement, fatal disease, earthquakes). Clients seek therapy for a number of issues that seem sometimes to happen all at once: for eg, father passed away; redundancy; break up of relationship. Such experiences can make you anxious and timid about forthcoming events for a long time. All anticipation of events is experienced with anxiety. 

The death of important figures in one’s life can create grief for years, coupled with anxiety about leaving that internal self isolation. One can never prepare for the loss of someone who you communicated with often and shared your world and took guidance from. One can carry that grievance for a long time, a grievance against life’s treacherous acts of taking away what you cherished the most. 

Facing the prospect of dealing with people (in workplace or socially) who are like the ones who have triggered our anger, despair and helplessness in the past will trigger anxiety in the present. It could be a bullying school mate, a dominant family member, even an abusive person from the past. Not being in touch with such links may create confusion. Sometimes clients say, “I am anxious, but it cannot be just because of …”.  This is a sign of not being in touch with and therefore feeling ‘cut off’ from important but unbearable feelings.  Let your therapist aid you with it.  Friends and family may not be trained for the job.

We are so used to coping with unbearable situations that we don’t realise at times that we are just coping! Last but not least, our health and any negative variance in it, will trigger our deepest anxiety. Google searching helps and hinders this heightened preoccupation with one’s health in the last decade.  It helps to allay silly fears for the healthy and it hinders living life without having to be anxious about silly fears. 

Summing it up, 

1.Grieve well for those who were important but put a boundary and start living again.

2.Complete that driving test but you don’t have to bungy jump (really not very important and certainly not a sample of bravery). 

3.Increase the muscle not to eat cake. The body will adapt.

4. Walk to the corner shop and chat with someone when you are eft by yourself for too long. Cherish the encounter and walk back home with a smile, don’t go in and buy another bottle.

5. Try not to google too much when you have a headache and don’t self diagnose BPD either. Instead, get some fresh air. 

6. And yes, breathe deeply…it does help.

Meditative Method

Like a water lily, grounded, looking upwards

The best method is to let thoughts pass by, without judging them. You are only an observer. You do not have to act on them. You know ‘this is my thought’ but you don’t react. These thoughts might be alarming, disgusting, upsetting…triggering action…it does not matter. They must pass by like an assembly line – where you watch them but don’t exercise restraint or anything to change them. After some time, gaps will occur. Like the glimpse of sky between clouds. These gaps are restful, the result of lack of judgment. It is the free space in which you will feel liberated. Savour the gaps. Enjoy them. They will pass and other thoughts will come – things to do, jobs to get back to.

It is alright now to go back. You have meditated. You will not have to force yourself to make meditation a part of your routine anymore. You can do it anytime, anywhere. It will be an enjoyable restful activity.

At times, you may fall asleep. Some views suggest that it is not meditation. I say that anything that helps you to go into a deep sleep is a good thing. Clearly, your mind and body needed it !

Why is Meditation Difficult ?

Meditation is a part of the concept of mindfulness. Being present and moving from reaction to reflection. 

People have trouble meditating because we are so programmed to structure our thinking through various routines, it is difficult to try something unstructured which feels empty. 

For e.g, if your day is filled with activities it makes you feel you have achieved something – jobs are ticked and done. In this case, meditation becomes another activity to be ticked. What it ought to be is a timelessness-a space where you don’t realise how much time has passed and that you actually did tick a box !

Our minds are hardworking spaces- constantly taking in and processing stimuli from the environment. Meditation is the only way you can rest it, besides sleep of course. Even in sleep, the mind processes difficult emotions which can result in dreams. These dreams when interpreted, can create a way of living which is very satisfying.

Meditation is an unstructured space. An unstructured space is prone to get cluttered up – a bit like the garden shed. Unwanted thoughts, judgments, musings…..these create anxiety and the person finds meditating difficult. If you find yourself forcing a calmness, it is counterproductive. You ought not to be forcing a calm.

What is Psychotherapy ?

Psychotherapy is a process. If you can believe that all living organisms require a cocoon in order to transform into something else, then therapy can be that cocoon. You sit week to week with a psychotherapist who knows what the process is and listens attentively. You pay for it so the process is marked as something that needs to have some achievable results.

Jung wrote extensively of the process of individuation and rebirth. He urged getting rid of moralising and seeing every action as part of a process.  Moralising tends to keep one in a simple, one dimensional compass-it reduces creative ways of thinking about problems.

For e.g, if your spouse cheated on you, you would go into some reactive mode – leave or make charges, file for divorce etc.

On the other hand, you could ask ‘why now?’ which may lead to a better understanding of how someone may have reacted :

  1. for eg, was it the onset of midlife (starting from mid 20s) or
  2. The coming of age of children, the uncomfortable feelings they arouse and the displacement of such feelings onto an outsider.
  3. It could lead to an understanding of how the person’s parents behaved at a similar time-
  4. in a family that lives together, more often than not, we pick up behaviour that is embedded deeply rather than the ‘we must not do this and that’ which we constantly repeat to ourselves.

If my son for eg breaks a plate, the doorbell is ringing and I find out I have lost my wallet I am more likely to behave like my parents than all the taught behaviour of how I must react because the crisis disbands studied ways of thinking. It takes us back to our primitive roots.

Psychotherapy that can bring about change, that punctuation in your attitudes and behaviour if you allow it to.

Love is Alchemy

The idea of changing a base metal into gold, in real life, can only mean the growth of an individual, through the medium of love and acceptance?

Alchemy as some of you must know, was the ancient art of turning base or common metals and substances into gold. Ancient civilisations believed that the elusive substance, also called a universal solvent, would catalyse the components of metals and turn them into gold.

Similarly, there was a great search for the secret elixir of life- which would retain youth.

To date, no one has actually found either of these substances – the universal solvent or the secret elixir. 

Maybe they were looking in the wrong place – a bit like looking all over the house for your keys but they were all the time in your pocket.

The somewhat simple and common key/universal solvent/secret elixir is Love (Lust, Desire, Acceptance (of the dark side of every person) and a bit of Humour. A good formula. Science has proven that falling in love and enjoying a joke releases chemicals and hormones  which can lead to a great sense of well being and enjoyment of life.

People in love eat less, have raging (positively) hormones and consequently look better. People have swung out of depression by falling in love. Better performance at work, increased motivation etc. When they enjoy a joke, they look all the more attractive. Looking better causes an increase in confidence so it is a win-win cyclical situation,one feeding the other.There is some study which proves that people in love show similar brain activity to those who are mentally ill but some of us may agree that love can be quite an enjoyable illness.

Alongwith falling in love one has to be ready for remaining in love with a changing person. Love ought not to be a commodity which you can return to the shop when it no longer quickens your pulse. 

Love, respect, admiration

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
-from 'Dover beach' by Matthew Arnold

Many miracles and transformations have taken place quietly in loving and accepting relationships, after that first rush of attraction and passion. People have left bad habits, achieved more and overcome impossible hurdles through the love and encouragement of their loved ones.

Couples who are married for years and live in a sort of lively marriage which has not become a dead habit, will tell you the secret -it is living and letting live. Being able to challenge each other helps keep narcissistic issues in check and going through ups and downs deepens love and concern over the years. Too much complaining and not caring about the Other leads to lack of empathy and concern. Each person in a relationship needs to try and remain creative, do different projects, encourage each other etc. A person who simply broods for long hours and does not respond to the other will soon bring the relationship to a standstill and worse, take it to a split.