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“Love and Work”- 24 July 2016.

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 17:36

Good mental health signifies the twin capacities to love and work. A critical factor of declining mental health is the decline in the capacity to love and to work. Severe mental illness can be evaluated with the dysfunctions in the areas of love and the areas of work. Dysfunctions are not absolute but graded into types of dysfunctions and levels of severity.

Sigmund Freud the famous psychologist wrote: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” Freud defined it by saying that the twin capacities of human beings that define their humanness are the capacity to work to your fullest potential and the capacity to love another. These concerns are the two pillars which form the foundation of a distinctly human and meaningful and purposeful life. The two questions that need to be answered are what connect the two have and a more controversial question is what is primary and what is secondary. Freud said the goal of psychotherapy is to help a patient develop his capacity to love and to work to his fullest capacity and potential. The twin themes of love and work are primary to some of the most influential theories of psychological well-being and healthy functioning. This was stated by many famous psychologists such as Eric Erickson, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Psychologists and philosophers since ages in their search for truth and meaning of humanness have dug deep into these questions and have arrived at some definitions.

According to ancient Hindu thought ‘interpersonal relationships’ are the central pivot on which life revolves. The famous writer on Hindu mythology Devdutt Pattnaik, cannot emphasise this point enough. From the time we are born in a family we start learning to connect and make bonds with parents and significant others. The quality of these bonds define our personality to a large extent and also our future endeavours and hence destiny. According to the ancient Hindu thought the basis of human life is the relationship that we form with others and the world. Hindus’ give equal importance to the five elements of nature, such as, air, water, earth, fire and sky; animals, plants and humans and have respect for all equally. This is so because it is understood that everything and anything on the Earth and cosmos is important and has significance for our healthy survival. The basis of any relationship is the emotional connect with others through love, respect, empathy and rational, value based thinking and attitudes. This relationship with others is again primarily based on how we relate to ourselves and how we define our sense of self and self esteem. This positive and healthy relationship with self gives rise to the ability to get attached to others and things. This primary function of attachment then leads to the second and equally important function of being fully productive in a meaningful way leading to achievement and success.

In discussing the productive character Erich Fromm, an eminent psychologist, said that ‘the capacity for procreation of species is common to both animals and man but the capacity for material production is specific to man. Man is not only a rational and social animal he can also be defined as a producing animal capable of transforming the material which he finds at hand using his reason and imagination. Not only can he produce he must produce in order to live’. Material production however is the most frequent symbol for productiveness as an aspect of character. The productive orientation of personality refers to a fundamental attitude of relatedness in all realms of human experience. It covers mental emotional and sensory responses to others to oneself and to things. Fromm believed that ‘productiveness is man’s ability to use his powers and to realise the potentialities inherent in him’. This is exactly what Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk said a century ago! He said that the potentialities are within us and we need to manifest them through our hard work and with love and compassion for fellow human being. Fromm said that it is further implied that humans must be free and not dependent on others and he should be guided by reason since he can make use of his powers only if he knows what they are. Productiveness means that he experiences himself as the embodiment of his powers and becomes a fully developed character which should be the aim of human development.


Human beings have tremendous potential and tremendous energy to achieve what they aspire for. How many people are able to do that and fulfil their selves is anyone’s guess. A large amount of human resource goes waste through senseless irrational and meaningless activity. People who are driven by anxiety and the ghosts of their mind indulge is wasteful actions. People driven by negative passions, such as dependency, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, are also expending huge amounts of energy in useless pursuits. A sick mind loses its capacity to reach its full potential as it shrinks itself and circumscribes its true nature. A destructive mind indulges in sadism, masochism thus damaging self and others in relation. On the other hand a matured and fully productive human individual would lead his life in a different way. To say this may be highly controversial as in a complex world nothing is simple and easy to define as all bright and dark shades coexist.

“Aggression, Deceit and Destruction”- 10 July 2016.

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Thursday, 14 July 2016 11:58

Aniket poked a sharpened pencil into the nose of his bench mate who started bleeding. Another day he pulled out the scissors from his pocket and cut the shirt sleeve of his class mate. Yet another day he swam underwater in the pool towards a school fellow and started a fight by pulling off his pants. Finally he was packed off home for counselling. What could have made a ten year old child aggressive ‘without traces of remorse’ as his teachers described him?

A bunch of teens hatched a plan to break into their parent’s home, to steal gold ornaments and sell them in the market for money. One kid stole two ‘mangal-sutra’s’ of his mother and sold it. Another stole the almirah keys from his mothers bag, and took whatever he could. For such teens telling lies is commonplace without a blink. These were teens from economically well to do homes so what was the necessity?

Amit had broken many things at home, be it the TV, the mobile, the watch and even tore his books. In rage one day he hammered his cycle and threw it away and walked home. He would run away from school and play with his friends. He tried drugs and smoking and alcohol. His gang was being noticed by the police gradually for breaking rules.

Such behaviours by children and adolescents are commonly seen in psychological clinics and are categorised as conduct disorders. Such patterns of behaviour over a period of time if persist lead to delinquency and criminalisation. The percentage of such disorders could vary from 1 percent to 8 percent in different areas in India. They can start at any age and can be seen in pre-primary children too. If such behaviours continue through adolescence they are likely to extend to adulthood too and are resistant to change. Early interventions in childhood show good results as the stressor can be identified and removed.

Sunil was a single child of his divorced mother who was supported by her brothers. She confided her anxieties and sorrows to the tender minded teenager not knowing the effects it would have on him. She moaned the fact that they had less money than her brothers and that his children were better off than her own son. She worried for his future and his college education. The boy began stealing money from the home of his relatives. He gradually robbed them of big amounts and stashed away the cash. He did not use it or indulge in it, ‘he was saving it for future’, he said. He was regularly telling lies to his mother for many things especially his studies and his other activities. His mother was made to realise how she was damaging the mind of the child unknowingly.

Poverty can be a significant factor in conduct disorders besides other factors such as, broken families, chronic family strife and conflict, prevalence of domestic violence, child abuse, drugs and alcohol addiction in homes, prevalence of mental illness among a parent, and many more such reasons. Emotional upsets, depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder is associated with bad conduct. Conduct disorders may have masked depression behind it.

Aniket (mentioned above) was being physically abused by his father quite regularly. There was severe conflict between parents and the father was a violent fellow who brutally beat up his wife and son. He did not mind using weapons like belts, rods, hot iron, cigarette butts while milder forms like slapping, hitting, boxing was commonplace.

A research study mentions that boys were 4.58% more prone to conduct disorders compared to girls. Also it was found that boys are likely to manifest their emotional problems through aggressive and destructive behaviour whereas girls would do it through deceit, lying and getting pregnant. Children from broken homes or dysfunctional homes suffer emotionally which need to be addressed by a caring adult. If a parent in crisis cannot handle their own emotional issues they naturally care less for the child. Since they are so embroiled in their own minds they are deficient parents to their children.

Another common phenomena happening among divorced or separated parents is the poisoning of the tender mind of the child against the warring spouse. Since majority are women who take custody of the children in case of separation, many Indian mothers paint a horrendous image of the father and damage the child. The parent (mother or father) is a significant person in the growth of the child. Healthy growth occurs when the child values, respects and loves the parent and is assured that he is the centre of love for his parents. Destroying that image of a good loving parent is shattering for the child and hence unfair, unjust and almost criminal if I mean use the term. An angry spouse does it with vengeance. Many such children are deprived of the love of their fathers who are equally starved emotionally. A young separated father agonised over the fact ‘if I die tomorrow my child will live forever with a bad image of me and will never know the truth. My wife does not allow me to meet my kids and they might think I don’t care nor love them’.


To save children from decay, as the first shades of bad behaviour emerge know that the child is either less disciplined or is ‘emotionally hurting’ and needs loads of understanding, care and love.

“Doing good to others”- 26 June 2016.

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Thursday, 14 July 2016 11:56

As we heard Khusroo Poacha, about his new social venture called “sewa kitchens”, which feeds meals free of cost to the relatives of indoor patients of various hospitals, through crowd-funding, the audience was uplifted and enthused with the noble deed. Each one felt happy about what Khusroo was doing and wanted to chip in one way or the other. It was like people were charged out of their lazy moods and wanting to go join him. It was not pity for the poor that was being talked about, neither was it sympathy for the down trodden. Perhaps it was empathy, it was compassion. Besides that, there was no desire of any gain or publicity but just the thought of ‘doing good to others’- feel good factor for one’s own self and soul. People like Khusroo Poacha are ‘change makers’ who spread good workable ideas and are few.

But there are hundreds like Mr. Singh who donated a good sum of two lakh rupees for the welfare of the specially-abled children. All he wanted was a plaque in the hall with his father’s name engraved. Mrs. Arora helped the poor employees of her family business and expected them to be dutiful and loyal to them in return. Mr. X constructed a few low cost homes for the poor and handed it over to them and got huge media publicity for his act time and again. He made good mileage out of it. Some people may do it for small personal gains such as earning a good name, fame, status and respect in society. No monetary benefits surely but an enlargement of the ego, a sense of pride perhaps. Such people are 'charity givers’.

We all know about the larger than life story about Baba Amte, a rich handsome intelligent advocate who left his good practice at a prime age to crusade for the leprosy affected persons in Anandawan, Warora. He helped them rehabilitate their lives with respect and dignity. His story draws a tear from every eye when told. Such people do not work for awards or rewards which naturally keep coming in as their work gets recognised. Such people never had any other intentions, selfish or otherwise, but to serve the needy by setting aside their selfish egos. Mother Theresa, Kailash Satyarthi and Yousafzai Malala are some examples of selfless service. Such people find a noble cause to work for and make it their life and business. Such people are ‘missionaries’ and ‘live for others’.

‘Regular volunteerism’ is one such activity where a large population is engaged in on a regular basis, in ‘seva’ in the Gurudwara, temple, blind school, orphanage or any other NGO of choice. The Rama Krishna Mission has a large number of dedicated volunteers serving in different projects.

About two decades ago Martin Seligman, a Psychologist, gained fame by spearheading the movement on Positive Psychology. According to him true happiness lies in adding meaning and purpose to one’s life and that goal may be different for each person as they define themselves. He stated that sensory pleasures that people seek are material and hence transient in nature and do not give lasting happiness. Through the use of exhaustive questionnaires, Seligman found that the most satisfied, upbeat people were those who had discovered and exploited their unique combination of “signature strengths,” such as humanity, temperance and persistence.

Tal Ben Shahar the most sought after Psychologist at Harvard University opines that ‘happiness leads to success’ and not as thought of earlier that ‘success leads to happiness’. He turned the issue on its head by saying so! So if the ultimate goal of mankind is happiness we need to know what gives us meaning, purpose and happiness. Westerners begin to realise that money and wealth do not lead to happiness. People like Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey give away huge chunks of their wealth for public good.

The Hindu philosophy however always believed that it is not wealth that brings happiness and peace but our attitude to possessions. We are not asked to renounce wealth but rather our sense of possession. Centuries ago the spiritual text of Hinduism named Vedanta stated that happiness can be achieved through ‘Dharma’ which can be defined in hundreds of ways but essentially means eternal law, duty, conduct, morality and righteousness. Each person has a ‘dharma’ towards family, society, the world and all living things. ‘Dharma’ also talks of detachment from material possessions and living at a spiritual level of enlightenment. It is hence the aware and realised ‘self’ that imbibes this value and transcends above ego to connect with the larger humanity. Swami Vivekananda, the monk who created the order of Rama Krishna Mission said “service to humanity is service to God”.

As the world becomes more materialistic, egocentric and callous, we need to get back to fundamental values, beliefs and truths and pursue them with a dogged purpose. Martin Seligman’s famous quote is – ‘‘Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” The people who have made ‘doing good to others’ their business are the ones who have enlightened their minds with the emotion of ‘seva’ or service and are on the path to happiness.

This is one of the best shades to live under.


“Overturning parent’s dreams”- 12 June 2016.

Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 22 June 2016 22:29

Aditi scored a high 98 percent in 10 Std Board examinations. Her parents were jubilant and at once decided that she was apt for the IIT (Indian Institute for Technology) and admitted her in the best coaching centre for the same. Less than six months the stress was showing and she had one simple request to make, ‘will someone please explain to my dear parents that I am not fit enough for the IIT. I can do engineering but from a second rank /tier college’. How many parents make the same mistake of equating 10 Std Board marks as the ultimate test of scientific ability is anybody’s guess. As a result children suffer.

The process of deciding the best career is a complex one and becomes more complicated with the intervention of the emotions and expectations of parents. The entire bunch of a dozen girls, from 12 Std, performed poorly in the entrance tests for admission into engineering and medicine - best friends from the same school and all being pressurised by respective parents, to pursue these two ‘star’ courses. The coaching for two long years was a nightmare. But finally, their parents granted them the freedom to choose whatever they liked – some have chosen home science and nutrition, biotechnology, hotel management, fashion designing, architecture, English language, psychology and journalism! How happy they were now they said.

Parents are clearly anxious about their children and their future which springs from love. But the choice of career cannot be based on fear and insecurity. The ‘market value’ and the ‘social prestige’ of a career are supreme it seems. Parents talk of ‘the package’ their child could get at campus placements. For children who are likewise oriented this line of thought is perfect. For they agree to it and that seals their fates.

But there are other segments of brighter kids who are independent thinkers and know themselves better and have a desire to chalk a different path. They have dreams of their own and preferences of their own. In such cases, coercion becomes distressing. They need to be listened to, to know their aspirations and their thought process. All may not be perfect here too but they need proper guidance to pursue their goals. Many times in spite of guidance their minds are clouded by fear that has been transferred and ingrained by parents and eventually in spite of hours of discussion they make the same mistake of choosing what is ‘socially desirable and parent- wise proper’. This means that the mind gets badly prejudiced against certain professions and refuses to open up to the entire range of choices. They succumb to the pressures and surrender - a waste of talent.

A small percentage of parents are truly liberal and free-minded and encourage their children to think on their own about their abilities, their interest areas and to be bold to take independent decisions. One such father knew that his bright daughter was interested in English language and creative writing and gave his full-support to her to proceed with her choice. His dilemma was different – where do I find a good coach or a coaching centre for honing her language ability in Nagpur city? The choices for coaching for other- than- a- handful courses are dismal. The entire city seems to be geared towards filling up the seats for engineering and medicine, a strange scene, we admit.

Parents are under stress to be liberal and democratic to allow their children to make their own choices. They are being bombarded by schools, by teachers and by counsellor alike. So they employ democratic means of ‘brain-washing’ their children. ‘You can choose whatever you like, but...if you get stuck without a job later on then...’ ‘All professions are good but this one is the best, nothing to beat it...’ ‘You will be able to do it easily, so do it now and later maybe you could make a switch for something else...’!

All parents love their children and have good intentions and are willing to spend a fortune to educate them. But that does not seem to be enough and that does not seem to be the best thing to do. With all good intentions a lot of harm is being done to young minds. So what should be the course of action?

The process of making a career choice has to be child-centric. What are at stake are the future and happiness of the child. What are critical are the ability and the interests of the child. An objective assessment of the child’s aptitude helps to understand the natural gifts of the child. Parents should keenly observe the abilities and inclinations at all stages, at middle school, at high school and higher secondary school as well. Children at 99% at high school may drop to 70% at higher secondary level and the only reason for the drop is not necessarily friends and face book. It could be limitations of ability.


Parents need to widen their knowledge and be aware of new careers and opportunities. They should encourage discussions at home, on aptitude, interest and opportunities for various careers early on in life and let the child reach a logical conclusion. Encourage freedom of thought and speech. Have faith in your own children that they can chart their own course. After all the future belongs to them you would agree.

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