Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Hurdle Race

I remember watching the hurdle race when I was in school.The hurdlers knew well their limitations and knowing also the consequences of a bad fall,they did not attempt the impossible.I not being the sporty kind,watched from the sidelines.

That was school.Adult life is different.We have to participate in many races.We cannot sit comfortably in shade and watch others sweat it out.And we also do not like the idea of others winning prizes while we are left bereft.Whether because of a dire need or spurred by the hope of winning prizes at the end of the race; we are slowly inveigled into joining many races and jumping over steep hurdles.

The hurdles in adult life are invisible but no less daunting.Joy overflows when we clear a hurdle.If we fall and scrape our knees we just smear an ointment and carry on.The problem begins when we scrape our spirits;when we allow a failure to define us,to fill our waking hours and steal our sleep.That is the time to sit up and cogitate.Was it necessary to cross that hurdle?Was the hurdle too high?Were we in the wrong race altogether?How important was it for us to jump over that hurdle and win that race?

If failing a race makes us despondent and miserable,clearing every successive hurdle and winning much awaited laurels too can sometimes have a negative fallout.

Some of us get so involved in running races and proving our worth that we do not pause to consider whether all those races are absolutely essential for us.This fact does need consideration because while we are running a hard race we have to put many other issues on the back burner and some of them might be equally important for our health and happiness.

If we go overboard with crossing hurdles and gathering prizes,nemesis may not be far behind.It might come in the form of physical exhaustion for one,physical or mental disease for another,and a broken home or relationships for the third one.

Take a look at what Dr Joseph Maroon,a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says in his book"Square One:A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life" :

"I've had rather impressive success [and] cataclysmic failure personally," Maroon says. "I was intent on becoming the very best that I could in terms of my profession, neurosurgery. I worked extremely diligently. It became an all-encompassing pursuit for me in my life … with success, societal approval, writing papers, going to national meetings … Soon after becoming chief of neurosurgery at a major university hospital, I [cracked]. My father died, my wife and children left me, I had to quit my profession as a neurosurgeon due to the overwhelming stress … all within one week … The next week, I [was] helping my mother run a rather dilapidated truck stop left to her by my father in Wheeling, West Virginia, living on a farm. One day I was doing brain surgery and [the next] literally filling up 18-wheelers and flipping hamburgers in a rundown truck stop. It was a great fall. It was kind of like an Icarian metaphor of flying too near the sun. I got scorched and I plummeted into the sea — a sea of depression."

Personal advancement is a driving force of life but it should not be confused with a greed for name,fame and wealth.When our stamina is at it's peak it is possible to wear out our bodies to any extent.Our body and mind do give subtle signals that they are being abused but we ignore those signals.In this way we defy the very objective for which we labored so hard-a happy wholesome life.

The quote by Dr Maroon taken from

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Intrusive/Obsessive Thoughts

Our thoughts shape our moods.We generally try to channelize them in the right avenues but sometimes they run amok and invade our minds again and again,defying all efforts to control them.These are known as intrusive or obsessive thoughts.

Intrusive thoughts are mental symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder.They come in the form of worries,fears,doubts or premonitions.Some common examples are-'Did I switch off the stove?','I hope I don't meet with an accident, 'I hope 'A' is not up to some hanky-panky' etc etc.

Some of them like the ones listed above, are quite inconsequential and therefore less intimidating.But sexual,incestuous,blasphemous or violent thoughts are very distressing because they are uncharacteristic and immoral in nature.They generate a lot of shame,guilt and fear. A person going through this turmoil feels as if he is losing control over himself.It makes him very jittery.

Suppose every time you go for a walk pop comes a thought that you might fall down.You take care and that is that.But if you have a weird thought of having sex with a stranger you begin to fear your own self.You may even stop going out,be fearful of meeting persons of the opposite sex,or remind yourself to not look below their faces if at all you meet them.

Naturally all this multiplies your anxiety manifold.Remember,anxiety was what started the thoughts in the first place.Now the thoughts are augmenting your anxiety.Sadly,anxiety is self sustaining.So what is the way out?

It is best to have a medical checkup in the first place as certain diseases or even the side effects of certain medicines can cause anxiety or depression.

One's style of functioning too requires scrutiny.Those who are overly anxious about things,live apprehensively,fret too much about the future, are more anxious than others.

In order to get rid of these thoughts it is essential to understand how they get fixated.As long as an obsessive thought is trivial you don't pay much heed,but when it signifies moral degradation you sit up and take notice.You analyze that thought,search for it's root and explore your own behavior for any sort of inkling.In this way you entrench it well and proper.Proceeding further,if you alter your behavior to somehow avert that thought,then it becomes a notable part of your routine.The brain learns through repetition-is it any wonder then that this kind of thought persecutes you more than any other?

Eradicating obsessive thoughts is difficult but not impossible.Target your anxiety which is the root cause of these thoughts.Identify the factors which are making you anxious, and try to remove them.

Getting rid of intrusive thoughts May take time but even as you live with them you can do a few things to ease your mind.

Just remember that these thoughts are mere symptoms of anxiety and not a reflection of your character or personality.You are not a pervert or a weakling.The fact that these thoughts come without your bidding and clash with your principles does not mean that you are going crazy or have lost control over your mind.

Don't attach any importance to them,just flick them away like an irritating fly.Don't alter your behavior on account of them.

Desist from analysing them or ferreting for their cause.

If you think you are the vilest person on earth because no one else has such
thoughts,you are wrong.People don't discuss such thoughts with anyone else,just as you don't.Moreover the very fact that you abhor these thoughts signifies that you are in no way responsible for them.

The mind can only hold one thought at a time.If you want to abolish an unwanted thought substitute it with a positive one.Choose a tagline which clicks with you.There are many ways of distracting your mind from unwanted thoughts.You can choose the ones you like from this post.Eventually the menace will lose its force.  

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cognitive Distortion--The Should Statements

Cognitive distortions as we all know,are faulty perceptions of reality--either lopsided,exaggerated,or totally false.Our perceptions harden into beliefs and govern,not only our behavior but also our emotions.wrong perception of people,events or our own selves can therefore push us in the wrong direction.To a large extent these distortions are responsible for the feelings of unease or discontent which often spoil our moods.

The 'should statements'-commands emanating from inside us,which tell us what we should or shouldn't do-form one such segment.Some of us have very strict codes of conduct for self as well as others.If after a perfectly reasonable act,your mind tells you that you should not have done that,then it is your 'should distortion' on the job.

For example if I rebuff someone who has been annoying me since long and subsequently feel that I should not have done this,then instead of feeling good about having asserted myself and secured myself from future annoyance,I feel guilty.

Take the case of someone who is hard-pressed to meet a deadline but is repeatedly distracted by a thought that he ought to have finished that task earlier.Imagine his stress in such a situation.To an extent the should thoughts remind us of our obligations,but if unjustified or ill-timed,they could become a pain in the neck.

Sometimes these notions also prompt us to pass strictures on others' behavior,thereby courting their ill-will and straining the relationships.

Whichever way we look at it,the shoulds burden us with unnecessary guilt,anger ,frustration, and anxiety.If we repeatedly tell ourselves,'I should have done this','I ought not to have done that', 'I must do this',then we are only gathering dark clouds over our minds.We cannot thrive in such an atmosphere.

It is not difficult to get rid of this tendency.Just identify at the very initial stage, thoughts containing words like should, must,and ought.Contradict them again and again and these checks and controls will vanish into thin air.