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Mother and Daughter - 09 Feb 2011

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 00:00

The mother daughter relationship is a dynamic and complex one –not easy to define. It goes through various stages as both grow up and mature in age and thought. The relationship goes through good and rough periods of love and hate as they struggle with their respective lives and between themselves. Thus they could experience periods of strong bonding and periods of loneliness and loss with minimum communication. They would connect and disconnect many a times through life stages. The maturity of the mother and her strength of character would ultimately count the most and benefit both of them as they withstand the test of time and emerge wiser and happier.

For the mother she may expect her daughter to imbibe her values and be a replica of herself. This is a narcissistic need for most parents- to see their children as a reflection of themselves. It could be a tremendous source of pride and happiness for the mother to see, even if a little bit, her own image in her daughter. It is not uncommon to hear of mother’s boasting that ‘she is just like me’ or stating with dismay that ‘she is just not one bit like me’. This could sound like a rejection to the girl and sometimes it could be a statement of emotional rejection or  distancing by the mother of her daughter. The mother is responsible in nurturing certain personality traits in her little girl as she works hard on her towards the fulfillment of her aims. She may be responsible for breeding traits of dependency or independence, to be a good wife or a career woman or a mix of both. She will help define issues of social etiquettes and manners, romance and sexuality norms and expect her girl to follow them. She will naturally try to pass on her own set of behaviors (however neurotic or immature) regarding concerns of femininity, family relationships, marriage, motherhood and service towards males and elders in the family. She may succeed partly or fairly well or may not at all if the daughter turns out to be a rebel!

For the tiny little girl the mother acts as a role model initially but as she grows up and gets into her teens and her peer group influence she will get into conflict with her. As her thoughts and values change she begins to question her mother and her teachings bringing great pain and sorrow to the mother. She may then begin to find her own loved mother outdated and out of tune with the times. Adolescence is a period when most daughters might just ‘hate’ their mothers in some way or the other. A teenage daughter might perceive her mother as someone who is ontrolling, dominating, unsympathetic and hateful. She may think that ‘she just does not understand anything and all she wants to do is control’. One girl narrated how she would find her  mother terribly irritating as she would keep track of her movements via mobile calls! ‘Has she reached college, when is she coming home, why is she late, who is she friendly with, why is she wasting time with friends, what is the need to have ice-cream every day’ and so on and so forth. She may begin to clash over a host of issues ranging from traditional rituals to rights, from social friendships to networking, family values, dress codes to everything.

For a young girl it is important that her mother tries to understand her and stand by her during her inner struggle for identity and autonomy. A daughter’s sense of self image and self esteem would come from the reflections made by the mother. A mother’s disparaging remarks could impact her psyche, however temporarily, but it would certainly drive a wedge between them. The thought that ‘my mother disapproves of me’ would be internally very hurting and demeaning. It would impact the self confidence of the young girl. An approving mother would instill confidence in the girl. Between the two extremes of either criticizing or approving the girl, the mother could disapprove of the ways of the girl but still go along with her and stand by her in her journey of inner struggle. This balance in thought and behavior of the mother would go a long way in winning the trust of the girl and building a good level of communication. Such an atmosphere of trust and openness would help the daughter immensely by helping her find and define her own sense of womanhood and femininity which the mother should graciously accept even if it is different from that of her own. That is what is expected of a matured and wise mother.

Published in The Hitavada - Womens World Persona For 9 Feb 2011

Last Updated ( Monday, 07 March 2011 09:43 )

Avoid co-rumination as a strategy for stress - 26 Jan 2011

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Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 26 January 2011 00:00

Women are more prone to depression than men is a fact we all know. One of the reasons could be the coping strategies women use to solve their problems. Studies show that men use their partners to discuss their problems and find solutions whereas women use their female friends to share and solve problems. This strategy helps in building friendships and stronger bonds between women which men do relatively in less degree. This coping strategy of sharing problems with friends if done excessively and obsessively can in fact become detrimental to health is what psychologists are researching on. A relatively newly coined term co-rumination is being studied among various age group populations of children, adolescents and adults and gender differences are being found! Girls from the age of fourteen upwards begin to co-ruminate more than boys say psychologists.

Co-rumination means focusing excessively on problems and negative feelings with friends without solving the problem. It means that you dwell on the problems and feelings repeatedly with your friends and keep recalling the bad memories without a solution. This leads to internalising the problems which results in anxiety, depression and general stress symptoms. This becomes a bad coping strategy instead in spite of the good trade off in increasing the bonds of friendship. Studies show that co-rumination results in increase in stress hormone cortisol and activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Women bond better with other women and thus create good social support networks which is important for them to live happier lives. Women like to share and indulge in ‘self disclosure’ to create relationships. Sharing and communicating positive experiences and positive feelings are important and useful. This leads to better social adjustments and friendships. But what needs to be understood is how they communicate and how they resolve problems when they share negative feelings. This has good learning implications for women and their communication patterns. Women should learn healthier coping strategies so that they live healthier and happier lives. Experts are talking of the abuse of social networking sites like ‘Facebook’ and mobile text messaging which is being overly used for obsessing over problems.

The idea is to find ways and means to solve the problem in the best possible manner leading to better personal and social adjustment. Since women are more emotional they therefore focus more on emotion-focused strategies which involve releasing pent-up emotions and discussing them. Men generally would use problem- focused strategies in trying to deal with their stresses. Problem-focused methods, try to deal with the problem by trying to find out more information about the specific problem and then focuses more on learning new skills to manage them effectively. Studies show that those using problem-focused methods cope better with their stresses since it leads to a perceived better control over their problems whereas emotion-focused methods will lead to a perceived reduction in control.

Women should learn better methods of coping such as distracting oneself into creative activities, managing hostile feelings and converting them to positive ones, praying, exercising, meditating and using systematic relaxation procedures.

Published in The Hitavada - Womens World 26 January 2011

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 January 2011 19:39 )

489 A- A Psychological Perspective - 12 Jan 2011

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Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:00

The law is a very good based on democratic, egalitarian and libertarian principles. The law is based on the assumption of equal rights to both man and woman to live a life of dignity and respect. The woman has equal rights to work to earn her livelihood and enjoy freedom to decide her life. Hence the law is good but it is the attitudes of the people that are troublesome which makes them abuse / misuse the law. It is the attitudes of both the man and the woman that needs to be questioned and put to examination. Wrong/ perverse/ abnormal attitudes of man makes him think that the woman must bring huge dowry, that she must obey him, must follow his rules, must be subordinate to him, must please him by all means possible, must be subservient to his parents, must work or must nor work according to his will, etc. Such attitudes can cause tremendous mental harassment to the woman and then if he also eventually subjects her to violence and abuse to impose his will on her it becomes physical cruelty. In such a case it becomes necessary to evoke the law by the woman.

Wrong/ perverse/abnormal attitudes of woman who think that she can nag/rag him on issues, that it is the sole duty of the man to take care of her, who take the husband for granted to fulfill all her unjust needs and to provide her with all luxuries of life, will take recourse to the law not for justice but to take revenge and to ‘teach him a lesson’ if he goes wrong in some way.

The law should be evoked only when there is continuous violence and mental cruelty of the woman in a marriage and there seems to be no end to it. In other words, the law should be evoked only when all strategies of coping with the situation and resolving the marital crisis between spouses have failed and violence and harassment continues in the marriage.

There are many individual coping strategies that people use to resolve conflict between their partners in marriage and if all efforts fail to give any good results, couples should seek professional help from a psychologist and marriage counselor. This neutral third party psychological intervention becomes a must for two reasons; one is to analyze the marital crisis from all angles and identify the causes for conflict between the partners and two, is to find appropriate remedies for the same by planning regular sessions of individual therapy, couple therapy and family sessions. In the majority of cases violence and abuse stops as the counseling and the negotiation process proceeds. In some cases where there is non-compliance to the process of counseling and where violence re-erupts and continues, the couple should be separated and asked to live in different homes. If there is no headway in reconciliation between the couple and the violence continues, divorce should be recommended to the couple. If that too fails as a solution to be agreed by both parties, the law of IPC 498 A can be evoked as the last resort to save lives and further abuse. The reasons for violence and abuse in a marital situation can be various.

It is important for people to know the different reasons for marital conflict and discord. Marital discord can be due to the following reasons -
a. Incompatibility or different personalities or differences in opinions in major areas of life.
b. Unmet physical and emotional needs of either of the spouses.
c. Too high expectations from either side, about life style, money, sex, children.
d. Infidelity or extra marital affairs by either side.
e. Physical cruelty like violence, rape, abuse, etc
f. Mental cruelty like demands for money, harassment on various issues by in-laws in daily routine household matters, continuous hurting comments and  questioning etc.
g. Personality disorders like histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc.
h. Psychological / psychiatric disturbances in any of the spouse like Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder etc.

As a psychologist the main point for us to ponder on deeply relates to the attitudes and the behaviour of both the individuals who get married and the behavior of the family and specially the in- laws. Physical cruelty can be defined by physical violence resulting in physical injury, harm. If there are repeated acts of violence by the husband the behavior becomes criminal and the law can be evoked. The excessive demands for sexual intercourse and for experimental sex which the wife may be unwilling to indulge in may also be placed in this category. Forced sex may lead to assault and rape by the husband.

Mental cruelty is more difficult to define. Continuous verbal abuse of the wife, abusing her parents, asking for money from her parents, not allowing her to do a job, forcing her to comply with everything her in laws ask her to do, arm twisting her to do things their way, no freedom of movement etc can lead to mental harassment of the woman which could lead to psychological distress and illness such as depressions, psychosomatic complaints and hysteria.

Attitudes towards women that need to be challenged-- old attitudes would want the “bahu” to be docile, submissive, take care of domestic duties and care for the parents and also work and earn money but not make her career the top priority. The thought that the wife has secondary position in the family and that the man is primary is rampant in our society. Social attitudes many times condone hitting, beating and shouting at the wife. ‘So what if I beat my wife, so what if I shout at her, so what if she has to do all the work, so what if she has to listen to the in laws’ are common attitudes being expressed by men and society all the time. This type of thinking acts as mental blocks to the concept of equality and freedom for the wife. Such attitudes infringe upon her human rights to live a life of dignity and respect.

The 498A law is based on the assumption that women have equal rights as the man to live a life of dignity. This fact has to be understood by the men and the women not only in its letter but also in its spirit totally before a rational discussion can be done. The law is progressive in thought and spirit but the society’s perverse cultural norms and social practices are still not entirely egalitarian as far as women are concerned. It also means that we have to agree first that the old thinking of the subjugation of women is wrong and that the modern thinking of equality of men and women is right. We have to stand  together first on this basic assumption before we can proceed into the discussion in a proper manner.

A perverse mind will not understand the concept of equality of women and hence will not accept the modern law as valid. In such a case the good law stands condemned by such a category of people.

To repeat, the law needs to be evoked when all other strategies fail to stop the violence and the harassment that makes the life of the woman miserable for normal functioning. Actually, in the case of a marriage that breaks down beyond repair the best solution is separation and then divorce. It is the aggrieved party that would want the divorce and it may happen that the other party declines to agree for divorce for reasons that are emotional and irrational. If this solution also fails to be acceptable to one member the law could be evoked to seek justice. 

It should however be the last resort.

It also has to be understood by women that once the law is evoked, the marriage breaks down further to a point of becoming irretrievable because of the fall out of the law. The police arrests of the husband and his family (if they have been implicated too), the social disgrace and shame, the police and public humiliation all leads to bad feelings and a total breakdown of the bonds of relationship. The ensuing bitterness and hostility between the two opposing parties makes enemies out of them where no further bonding is possible. This is ironic as the very purpose of the law which is to save the woman and settle her back into the family is defeated. Justice comes only in the form of punishment of the erring man and his family. Justice does not come in the form of rehabilitating the woman respectfully in the family. In fact she is most likely to be totally rejected by the family after they have suffered the law.

If the woman is ready for such an ultimate effect of the use of the law she should evoke the law.

However, it is not the law that needs to be condemned but its misuse and hence its improper use. The misuse occurs primarily on the sentiment of seeking revenge and vengeance. A woman who has suffered and felt victimized has the choice to break the marriage and seek divorce. That is the most rational decision to take. However in some cases she may not opt for a rational solution like divorce but may instead decide to evoke the law only for the purpose of seeking revenge and punishing him. Such a thing needs to be condemned in strong words.

Take another example. If a man has fallen out of love with his wife and wants to end the marriage through divorce the woman may disagree for divorce and may instead resort to punish him through the law by making a false case of violence against her husband. In such cases the specific law of 498 A is being used as a tool by some women to punish, victimize, harass and seek vengeance from the husband. This is a clear case of misuse of the law and needs to be condemned. A point to note for the legal community here would be to realize that when a marriage which has failed beyond redemption, to reject a divorce petition would not serve any purpose. For, when the soul is lost there is no wisdom in trying to keep the shell intact. When there is no ‘marriage’ left in spirit between the couple the stamp of legality on a marriage serves no purpose.

If two people who have been married for some time and now cannot live with each other for some reasons (mentioned above), and if all the strategies of reconciliation including counseling have failed, the best possible solution would be a mutual divorce. This would ensure a peaceful breakup of the marriage with minimum harm to both the parties. When one spouse decides to be vindictive and teach a lesson to the other they take the law into their own hands and make a mess of whole thing.

The marital crisis then becomes a sordid battle which is fought in full public glare and the end result is only further pain, suffering and emotional trauma to all. Such scars may remain for life and mar the personalities of all persons concerned. More so, the children are worst affected, if there are any.

Published in The Hitavada Womens World - 12 January 2011

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 January 2011 20:03 )

Safety First - 29 Dec 2010

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Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 00:00

As the New Year will dawn in a few days, people must be beginning to make their respective lists of new resolutions of one type or the other for the coming months. For all my sisters who have experienced sexual harassment of some sort (I wonder if there is an exception) either at home or at public places, I would implore them to make the first resolution for the year as ‘safety first’. Matured women, mothers, elderly /senior women must all get together to launch an awareness mission of teaching the issue of ‘safety first’ to their daughters, young girls, sisters and women of all ages.

The difference in thought and perception would be that instead of teaching the concept of ‘fear’ to our daughters / young girls’ lets teach them the concept of ‘safety’ and ‘self defence’. We ‘normally’ instil a lot of fear in the minds of girls by saying ‘don’t go there’, ‘don’t do this’, ‘behave properly’, ‘don’t laugh loudly’(only giggling will do), ‘don’t laugh with your mouth open’ and all sorts of restricting refrains. Instead of curbing their natural healthy growth and making mental dwarfs out of them, let’s concentrate on coaching them into methods of self defence. This would generate a new consciousness and rightly so of self confidence, boldness, assertiveness and power. The conservatives would now immediately condemn me for making ‘boys’ out of ‘girls’ by making them aggressive in their approach and behaviour. No, my dear friends, I am not talking of making them into rough aggressive boys as power is never to be misused (do men understand this thought? ) but to be put to good use. The very word self defence means it is to be used for defending oneself when  assaulted or abused. This will drive away the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that women feel when attacked.

I have been regularly writing on coaching girls and women on methods of self defence. As we understand and highlight the fact that females are neither safe at home nor in public, the first thing on every parent’s mind (those who have a girl child) should be self defence. This is becoming an imperative with the deterioration in the cultural ethos. As we, as guardians, encourage our girls for professional and higher education and also encourage them for becoming economically independent by seeking jobs and making careers, the next imperative on their minds should be to teach them self protection methods. The third  item on the agenda then should be teaching the girls’ the art of home making, pickle making, interior decorating and cooking/cleaning. Since multi-tasking has become the norm we must equip our girls in the art of becoming self reliant. They can earn, cook, love, fend and defend for themselves and hence be totally self reliant.

Shalini Malik’s Red Chilli campaign at New Delhi termed ‘mirchi jhonk’ recently launched last month is laudable. We have been hearing gruesome stories of public harassment of women in the capital since quite some time and the aware women had to take some initiative to solve the problem. You cannot rely on the police machinery to provide you protection for every movement of yours and to solve each and every case. It is the duty of every citizen to be alert about one’s own safety, to take all the necessary precautions and also to know some methods of self defence. The Red Chilli campaign is an old but effective
way to ward of sexual offenders. The group has a dedicated team of self defence trainers and counsellors. They have already conducted training camps in schools and colleges. They also run a helpline that women can call in case of emergency. So far they have more than 150 calls on issues ranging from eve teasing, stalking, molestation and domestic violence, says a press release. According to them as many as 18 women are assaulted in some form or the other every hour across India. This is alarming to say the least. The logo of the campaign is very appropriate which says “Stop Becoming Victim”.

Women should march from the state of victimisation to empowerment. That is the precise point I want to make today.

Published in The Hitavada - Womens World 15 Dec 2010

Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 January 2011 20:54 )
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