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“Frustrated Aggressive males”- 30 April 2017.

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 09 May 2017 22:53

A woman M complained that her neighbour in her residential building, Mr. PC, harassed and bullied her whenever he could get a chance. If she ever attempted to say ‘hello’, he would bark at her and say ‘how dare you say so’! If she tried to give some suggestions in the maintenance of the building it was misconstrued and she was told ‘not to dare to advise him as he knew everything’. If she stood her ground she was threatened with ‘dire consequences’ and statements such as ‘see what I do to you’, ‘you will not know where to run’, ‘madam mind your business’, ‘get your IQ checked’, ‘are you mentally sick’, and all such intimidating statements had become common place. She was victimised no doubt, for reasons best known to him. Even if she was polite and matter of fact she was sure to get a nasty response. This was a classic case of a ‘frustrated aggressive male” (FAM).

Witness another interesting scene. A couple was travelling in a train. In that compartment there were all males and she was the only female. Incidentally, almost all men were gazing at her for whatever reasons known only to them. The fall-out was ridiculous and absurd to say the least. The husband of the woman began to get angry with his wife and began to blame her for the attention that the males were giving her!! It was not her fault at all! It sounded comic to us but for the woman it was tragic and traumatic. She defended herself but he was adamant. This is another case of the frustrated aggressive male (FAM), where he blamed her for his rising anger within against the other men. As he could not direct his anger against them he targeted his wife instead. He was also unaware of his real source of anger.

In psychology it is called a defence mechanism named ‘displacement’. We tend to ‘displace’ our inner hostilities and suppressed anger against the perceived weaker person and commit unjustified aggression. It is a mental health issue as it is an unconscious process of aggression routed through the repression and suppression of emotions related to other issues of childhood. Thus innocent people become ‘scapegoats’ of such frustrated aggressive males.  Anger and violence are not the same. Anger is a normal and justified emotion which is felt when one gets insulted, humiliated or bullied with no provocation, whatsoever. Every person with angry feelings, may not engage in violent acts, which may be verbal or physical. Aggression which is retaliatory and defensive is understandable but aggression which is unprovoked is mostly unconscious. Besides ‘displacement’ it could also spring from strong negative cultural and social prejudices and belief systems against specific groups, such as, women, low caste groups, poor people and children too.

A glaring example from history may explain the point. When Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out from the train in South Africa, in spite of him holding a valid ticket, it was a case of white supremacy, called racism. Gandhi spent the entire night on the cold chilly platform, full of anger, trying to understand his deep sense of anguish and how he should manage his emotions and what should he do with it. He resolved the anguish in a creative way by launching the ‘Quit India movement’ on his return to India. He had had enough of the racist aggression he realised. He vowed to take recourse to a non-violent resistance and curb explicit violence. But everyone is not Gandhi and hence not as enlightened as he to use civilised responses and behaviour.

Just like Gandhi’s experience of racism, as women, most of us experience ‘chauvinism and misogyny’. We experience ‘male supremacy and patriarchy’. We experience ‘discrimination and sexism’. These violent acts are based on social cultural beliefs of male superiority which is perpetrated by faulty parental training and upbringing which does not teach control and discipline. Although times are changing and men are being groomed differently, where overt violence is being looked down upon and curbed through pro-woman acts of law, the fact remains that a significant percentage of ‘FAM’s’ do exist.

When men take recourse to violence the first thing that goes out is the sense of ‘human dignity’. The dignity of the aggressor is also damaged as he appears to others as an irrational and uncouth person who cannot control his impulses. He is under-socialised as he thinks of himself in superior terms but actually behaves in an inferior manner. He thinks with false sense of pride that he can prove his superiority with his might of shouting down and dominating the other. His attacks are aimed at the dignity of the other person whom he considers inferior to himself. Thus his attitudes towards his own self, attitudes towards the others, his perceptions about the world and life in general are skewed up and many times beyond rational discussions. This forms the basis of his psychological personality and mental condition, which he reflects in his behaviour at home and in society.

Men may justify aggression as part of natural instincts. But as part of the process of evolution the refinement of the mind and spirit has to go on in a conscious way. Efforts have to be made to get better as a human being where we can uphold good values of equality, justice, dignity and good living. There is no justification for aggressive behaviour if directed against women, children and the weak – it is a weakness of self, a remnant of animalism within us.

 

“Unlock your mind though travelling”- 16 April 2017.

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 09 May 2017 22:51

Veena’s fear of heights and nervous excitement was contagious when she held her breath as the gondola at Langkawi islands slowly climbed up the thick rain forest mountains at a gradient of 45 degrees- the world’s second steepest ride, to the peaks at 950 meters! The green canopy was breath-taking and so were the fearful thoughts of mortality as she counted her moments! Shekhar said, it was his dream to see the bullet train of Japan which he did one year and fitted into his memory for life. On his travels he likes to take random rides on the local metro to observe the average citizens, to visit the shopping malls, to eat in the local restaurant, the local market to get a feel of the heart of the city, besides the popular tourist destinations which are a must see! He enjoys every moment like a child! Meghna overcame her fear of heights and of the deep ocean when she was pushed into a parasailing ride at a ripe age of sixty! Her mental parachute also opened as she went up and up into the air at a height of 150 meters effortlessly. Rehan advised his aunt, ‘there is no age-bar for sports and merry-go-rounds and it would be better late than never’! Thirteen year old Shriangi says with joy that ‘she loves travelling and has already visited 17 countries with her parents’. She likes to taste different foods, loves to see different types of cultures, their language, and know about people and take pictures’. She states off-hand that ‘if my career of architecture does not take off by way of not getting admission in a good school, I would take to photography and travel’! What would you say to that thought process – that she is too matured for her age or that the affects of travelling with a proper perspective speaks aloud as she makes mental calculations of her future goals and ambitions!

Clarke Quay on the sidewalks of Marina, Singapore, was bustling with people. The streets were packed with rows of restaurants with facilities of sit-in and sit-outs of different countries. We choose one Mexican joint for a change and sat down on high stools. The noise from the neighbourhood was deafening but contagious. There was loud and cheery merriment in the air as if it was a ‘mela’. We enjoyed the ambience of the open air street and ate heartily. It seemed the people were venting out their suppressed emotions accumulated from the daily grind! The quiet calming boat-ride in the Marina prior to it was such a terrific contrast to this hustle bustle. The Marina Bay Gardens was a technological marvel, unthinkable and unimaginable, straight out of the fantasy of films! The Universal studio amusement park of Singapore was also a gigantic fun filled jamboree of variety of rides and 3D animated experiences that was cathartic I would say! You can shout and scream to your hearts delight and as the roller coaster rides scare the daylights out of you! You forget yourself, your ego and your identity surely.

The value of these amusement parks cannot be undermined for the kids. When the social systems are in order and people are law abiding and believe in following the rules and life is generally hard and tough, you need legitimate outlets. In a developed country, the points of catharsis are also well planned thoughtfully and well demarcated and are absolutely essential for release and de-stressing. A city that cares for its people would need to build clean open spaces for loitering, fun filled amusement parks, clean green gardens, museums show-casing heritage, sanctuaries and the lot. Absence of such spaces would destroy the mental health of citizens as they would display abnormal behaviour on the roads and other public places where they should generally be rule abiding. In the absence of sensible spaces there is all round display of nonsensical behaviour.
Besides the mental reprieve and de-stressing during travel, there is a fair amount of mental growth by way of different experiences and adjustments. Travelling is like reading a book with all your five senses. Besides it being a sensory delight it is also a psychological one. It improves your mental well being and pushes up your immunity immensely. Travel forces you to be flexible as there is a fair amount of uncertainties that come your way. A landslide in a hill station in India disrupted our journey for days and the kids burst into tears at the news. Patience follows as you wait for nature to calm down and become friendly. Travelling at regular intervals is likely to interrupt your habitual patterns of thoughts and belief systems and assumptions of life as you closely watch different populations across the world and how they manage their life. Life in the hills and mountains are tough and fraught with dangers, while the islands are a different game of life altogether.
Psychological studies on the benefits of travel state that extended travel impacts personality changes and three traits out of the ‘Big Five’ traits increase with travel experiences. They mention factors such as ‘openness to experiences’, ‘agreeableness’, and ‘emotional stability’ which are major gains. Of courses travelling with the right perspectives cannot be undermined. Travel as a learning experience and travel just for its sake are two different shades of the mental parachute. You either open it up or just safe land into your ancient habitual cocoon.

“The Pleasure and Pain of examinations”- 26 March 2017

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 17:58

Ritu would come home joyous from the examinations. Her parents knowing her, yet, would ask her as to how the exam went, even as they knew the answer. Many times her parents even forgot that she had examinations for she went about her work in a routine manner without fuss and anxiety. She did not remind them either and her parents would be surprised that they were over! They did not realise that it was her exam time for she was a regular student who enjoyed her books and her studies. She was a disciplined child and followed a routine unless she was ill. The reverse was true for her elder sister Shama who felt very anxious about exams and almost fell ill each time the D day arrived! She would suffer stomach aches, nausea, would stop eating food and went on liquid diet. She had to be fed specific diet on exams. She was a regular student too and quite sincere with her work but temperamentally anxious and of average intelligence in academics. She was not prone to hard work and preferred outdoor games and sports to books.

A sports person practices for months and prepares herself for the competition to prove her-self and to win of course. If she does not win a game, she evaluates her performance with the help of her coach, prepares in a better manner for the next one. She however looks forward to the competition for she is raring to go and prove her mettle. She feels a sense of happiness and pleasure in her state of readiness to deliver the final punch. Competing is a pleasant task for it is the culmination of your hard work and practice. After months of practice if a sports person does not compete there is a sense of frustration and incompleteness. Likewise for school or college examinations, which can be taken as a final competition for the years work, students should be looking forward to finishing it off with aplomb. When do examinations become a pain? Everyone knows the routine/standard answer, such as, lack of discipline, hard work and regularity. But there is another aspect to it which needs to be understood. The interest and the passion for the specific task are important for it leads to high motivation. When a sport is chosen of your interest and liking you enjoy the strokes and the time spent on the field. When it is an imposed task the motivation may go down. This can happen with school subjects that are compulsory in nature with no choice and although some subjects may become a pain, some may be a pleasure to the student. Students should try excelling in the ones they love and aim to pass fairly well in the ones they ‘just tolerate’. Many times the boredom and anxiety on a few boring subjects have a ‘spread over’ effect as it extends to all the subjects equally. This needs to identified and checked.

‘It is not easy to fail’, said my wise friend in school. ‘We study 365 days of the year and spend an enormous amount of time in classrooms, it is indeed a tough task to fail’! Students who fail must be really lazy, careless and in-disciplined to fail after studying for a full year of the same books. If a student is attending school and listening to the teacher and revising the lessons learnt the possibility of the fear of exams can be ruled out. All it requires is regularity, we might say simply. But it is at most times not so simple.

Parents and teachers alike create an alarm about examinations giving it a negative connotation. They put tremendous pressure on the kids in the name of exams demanding a spectacular performance in it. Instead of creating an alarm they should inculcate a positive value about examinations and encourage them to look forward to it in a healthy way. Many times the methodology of reading, revising, recalling and reflecting are not taught to students. The lessons are taught and homework is given which is not enough as the perfect methodology of studying well. Just like a sports coach who will teach the various strokes of playing the game well, the teacher too should teach the master strokes of performing well. They should encourage, motivate and coach the students with their weaknesses and strengths as well. We don’t want to care about how big or small the class is, whether there are thirty or sixty students is not the fault of the students. They need to be coached in their specific areas of concern by teachers alike.

 

We are relieved that the experiment of ‘continuous comprehensive evaluation’ (CCE) had been discontinued for we all knew that ‘the no-fail policy’ had failed. It failed to evaluate a child’s performance properly and even if we assume that it did, it did not follow it up with the remedial inputs. The habits of good study practices have to begin as early as six years of age when the child goes to the first Std. We have to begin early if we are to discipline and inculcate good habits of studying and performing in exams. We should not wait for the final examinations and then create a terror about it. That is when it becomes a pain. So beginning early, evaluating and coaching, teaching the methodology of studying and creating a positive value about examinations, will make it a pleasure- something to look forward to. This is when true education creates excellence in mind and spirit.

“Fathering like a Mother”- 25 February 2017.

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Sunday, 19 March 2017 17:40

The four month old baby looked at his Father with askance and an emotion that said ‘where were you, come here fast’, just as he would do with his Mother. This baby did not know the difference between his father and his mother as for all purposes he has two mothers! It was not like a sharing of responsibilities between the two parents but like a joint venture between two active partners with equal responsibilities. The Father did all that the Mother did and more. He massaged the child, bathed him, sang a lullaby at night, played with him, made his baby-feed at correct intervals, worried about his health, nursed him when he caught a cold, kept wake when he cried at night and even cuddled him while asleep. He handled the baby with utmost gentleness, love and care and delight just like a mother would do in a natural way! How many Indian males would play such a role?

This ideal is also an Indian male but reared abroad and tutored by the child care agencies that made regular visits to their home to impart education and training in child-care to both of them. Says Rajan (name changed) the proud loving father of the baby, ‘this mother’s role is much hyped for nothing. It is a real pleasure to nurture a child and how else will he love me dearly if I do not do things for him’! This young fellow is not an unemployed sit-at-home dad while his wife earns the bread, but is an engineer with a degree in business management from the world’s number one school today. He is a business consultant again at an internationally acclaimed consultancy group. He is very tall and handsome too. I asked him if these domestic duties clashed with his profession and he said ‘BAH’! His wife also a post graduate in engineering and gainfully employed shared similar views. She was on a year of maternity leave and he was on a two month paternity leave- he wished he could take more leave.

One of the chief complaints of working women in our country is that ‘men do not like to perform so called ‘womanly tasks’. Besides that, at most times, when there is a new baby at home, men may behave as bad as children as they feel neglected and demand/expect attention of their wives. Some may even compete with their children in seeking attention! This acts as a source of stress for the already stressed out ‘new mother’. The child is considered her ‘whole sole’ responsibility and child-care is an addition to her existing list of chores. Have you heard some husbands say, ‘why can’t you control his crying, I can’t sleep, I am going to the next room’.  The already stressed mother is further blamed for the kid’s natural behaviour and manners. Mothers get reprimanded for every misdemeanour of the kid or for every simple infection that he may catch. So the male theory is that ‘if you take good care of the child, he should never fall ill and should always behave in a proper manner’!!

In a traditional house, where the male earns and the woman cooks, there are no added expectations from the male. The roles are fairly complementary as the demarcations are clear to all with no scope for confusion. The grey areas begin when the woman is gainfully employed. When both are career oriented the dynamics is different. Sharing of domestic chores is essential and how they distribute the chores could be on mutual consent and not ‘imposed’ on the woman unilaterally for it becomes a ‘double duty’ for her. It is grossly unfair, unjust and archaic.

When I tell young aspiring women entrepreneurs to ‘train their husbands in baby-sitting and simple tasks’, they laugh loudly saying ‘MAAM!’ and nod their heads in disbelief and resignation. This is a pathetic state of affairs where youngsters cannot dream of reforming their lives and cannot aim high in career goals for want of empathy and practical support from spouses.

Fathering concerns should be as broad based as mothering where both believe in sharing the pleasant burden of parenting. Parenting starts from the time the wife gets pregnant and the husband empathises with her physical and mental exertions. Some countries insist on husbands being present during child-birth for sensitization and empathy. It is nonsense to say that men do not possess emotional capabilities like sensitivity, love, kindness, gentleness and empathy. It is equally ridiculous to say that men cannot develop and possess ‘womanly skills’ for most professional cooks are men, male nurses are much in demand in other countries, great dress designers are males, the best paediatricians are males. Men can do everything from cooking to cleaning, from nursing to medical care, from sweeping to mopping, all things considered a woman’s domain. Men have every capacity that women have and more. Similarly women have every capability that men display and more. The problem lies in the psycho-social atmosphere called ‘culture’; in the clamouring for ‘sons’ over daughters; in the lop-sided and stereotyped nurturance of sons; in the disrespectful attitudes and mindsets towards women and their roles.

 

If fathers start ‘mothering’ their children, along-with their spouses, whether it is a boy or a girl, the trend will change and set a revolution rolling which no amount of preaching and shouting from podiums on specific occasions, for women’s equality, empowerment and justice will do.

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