• 17 Aug
    Aparna Kanmani

    Open letter to a friend who lost a loved one

    Consoling a friend

     

    From being my partner in crime to acting like an over protective sister, you have always been by my side. I've known you for several years now and I have always admired the bold and strong woman that you are. You have inspired me to be better in ways I cannot imagine and it is the same strength and optimism that makes me believe that you can take care of yourself too. I believe you have the strength and the potential to cope up with the stress that surrounds you and rise above them with flying colors, just like you always have. Whenever I think of you, I picture a happy and excited soul looking forward to explore every new venture through your journey.

    However, this time, I am not so sure. You are keeping your wings clutched to yourself and dragging your feet to take even a tiny step. The sorrows are slowly pulling you down from your best and making each day harder for you to get through. You are quieter than before trying to tape your shattered pieces together. I just want you to know that it is not easy for me to see you this way, either. Each day I wish for you to have a normal day, where you work with enough motivation, constantly planning your schedules in your head, and cherish every drop of sweat that you shed. I miss you being you.

    I know life is not the same as before, and the changes might be too tough to adjust through. There might be times when you are sitting on your swing with the headphones singing the melody of a soothing flute, but the same joy may not sink in for you. When you have a lip smacking scrumptious meal ready, the empty chair at the dining table might not feel so pleasing. When you leave for work in a hustle and just step back for a moment to wave the usual 'bye', that vacant spot might leave you heavy-hearted. I'm sorry that things are changing and you are having to deal with them all by yourself, but I also know that you are strong enough to get through it. It is too big a deal to simply say, “it's going to be alright”, for I know it will take time. I have faith that time will heal but I hope the healing occurs as soon as possible.

    I understand that times are rough and that nothing can replace what you have lost. I probably don't even know completely how it would exactly feel to step into your shoes. But remember, I love you too much to let go. You know I'm just a call away and I would do anything to make sure that you are fine. I am there, whether or not you need me. Sometimes, solitude can sulk you down, so cry it out if you need to, vent till you cannot anymore but find a way to express what you feel. Bottling the erupting emotions won't last long, sweetie!

    What you need now is more than just a tight hug, more than just a shoulder to cry, more than just an eat out to break the stress and I've always been there for you. But this time, somehow I cannot figure out what can comfort you. If only I could do something to make the day easier and lighter for you, I would. For it hurts to see you bursting out in frustration for things that don't matter, it hurts to know how you have been crying your nights alone under the blanket, and it hurts to learn that you don't find spirit in the life you lead. But I'm not here to watch depression gulp you down. No way!

    I know it is easier said than done, but please, make an effort. Take that small step to bring a smile to yourself. Stop by a beach once in a while on the way to work, take deep breaths in the refreshing morning fogs, walk a mile with your favorite song on loop, talk to the child next door who babbles in an adorable manner, listen to the raindrops trickle down your roof, or feel the warm shower calm your senses to a state of trance. Do anything that will give you some peace of mind, and I hope it calms your chaos. 

    Life is too unpredictable and there is not one thing I can do make your sorrow vanish instantly, for I know it doesn't work that way. The void that you feel cannot be filled with the patches of comfort. I am not saying it's going to be easy, but it is necessary. It is the best you can do for yourself and those around you. While you wait for time to loosen the reins, keep the child in you alive. Look around and let the reality sink into you. Brace yourself and move forward towards the goals that challenge you. You will find a new YOU ahead.

    While countless well-wishers buzz around you passing free advice, I do not want to end up being lost among them. However, I share the common goal, to see you smile from your heart again. I may not be able to stop the downpour, but I will always join you for a walk in the rain.

    Whatever happens, life must go on, for even the one who loved you the most, beyond anything in this world, would have said the same thing.

     

    With love,

    One who can't stand to see you depressed

  • 15 Aug
    Reshma Venugopal

    Why do teens have an obsession over fashion?

    TV shows and Fashion

    If you ever end up going to the mall, maybe to a restaurant, I can bet that you will find at least two-three teenagers with ripped jeans. I am also sure, that your parent probably commented on it, made fun of it, or just got angry about it. You also try your level best to explain to your parents about the concept of ripped jeans. Granted, the only thing you can really say about it is that “It’s cool”. This battle of explaining fashion trends and the concepts behind it will always continue. From ripped jeans to ripped t-shirts (thank you Kanye West), there is always going to be a disagreement between teenagers who are obsessed with keeping up with trends, and the older generation. So, if you are a teenager and often wonder why you unnecessarily buy clothes and other accessories; or if you are an older person who is tired of wondering why teenagers waste their money on these things, then here are some psychological reasons why.

     

    • Social media

     Almost 80% of the teenage population is on either or all of these sites and is using it as a platform to be recognized by the world. Bandura (1977) had pointed out that by mere observation, individuals can learn or imitate value, attitudes, and skills. Which is how teenagers get so obsessed as they want to look a certain way for the world by imitating what is in trend. 

    Social media logos

    • Confidence boost

    While many people struggle in overcoming their shyness, there are others who love to be noticed. Being noticed boosts their confidence level because they feel that the more trendy and good looking they are, more people will notice, and hence make them feel good.

    confidence

     

    • Celebrity influence

    We all want to be someone we are not because we do not see the bad side of a celebrity. We tend to envy them and mostly wish we had their lives. Celebrity influences play a huge role in controlling teen fashion sense. For example, the famous makeup mogul and one of the daughters of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kylie Jenner, has been setting trends since she was 17 or 16. Now every teenage girl wants to have her famous lip-kit or her fashion sense of wearing track pants and heels.

    It’s like, “If I wear that outside, people will give me dirty looks, but if Kylie does it, then it is probably super classy and stylish.” That is the general attitude of teenagers when it comes to celebrity influences.

    Kylie Jenner in tracks

     

    • Brands and peer influence

    Studies have shown that obsession over fashion trends increases in high school when everyone is waiting for a chance to feel attractive and desirable. This causes a stiff competition and an unnecessary need to try to keep up with trends.

    If you don’t follow them, then you will not be considered important or worth it. This, in turn, leads to lower self-confidence, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. And who wants to be in that boat? At this point, it won’t matter how painful that tattoo would be, or how ridiculous your torn jeans look, you just want to be a part of the cool group and you will end up doing anything for that.

    Moreover, most teens identify themselves through brands. Brands are also chosen based on what their peers are into, which gives them the chance to "Fit in". What teens don’t see with all of this is that they tend to not see the worth in things, and end up spending more than necessary.

    clothing brand names

     

    So how can this obsession become unhealthy?

    Being trendy and fashionable is quite normal and in many ways, it boosts confidence and self-esteem. Thus, we don't discourage 'being trendy'. However, it gets unhealthy when it starts affecting you and your daily life. It gets unhealthy when you wake up in the morning and spend two hours deciding what to wear to school or college. It gets unhealthy when you spend on things which are not necessary for you and you sacrifice your funds for clothes than other important things. Like anything else, there needs to be a limit and here are some ways you can improve yourself or your teenager if they have these issues.

    • Be more aware of how much you need. Maybe keep a log book with all the times you have purchased.Try and keep specific occasions for shopping, instead of buying stuff every time you go out, try to limit yourself. Maybe buy something once in 6 months?
    • Try to buy clothes that never go obsolete. This way you would not need to keep buying things.
    • Try to keep yourself occupied and take part in activities that don’t need all of your attention on your looks. Maybe take part in swimming, or sports, which would require a uniform.
    • Try to donate your old clothes. Because it is worse to hoard your old clothes than it is to keep buying more and more.

     

    There you go everyone, here are some tips for curbing down that fashion obsession. No, there is nothing wrong in trying to stay in the trend and being fashionable, but let’s remember to keep it all in check and under control.

  • 14 Aug
    Shruti Gupta Delhi

    Seven decades of Indian Mentality

    Exactly 70 years ago, when the clock struck 12, the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, made the famous speech ‘Tryst with Destiny’.

    tryst with destiny

    In the very famous speech, he spoke of the emergence of India as a new and independent nation. After all the revolts that had taken place for independence, Nehru spoke of India he dreamt of. As an independent nation, he entrusted us with a few responsibilities.

     

    “That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.”

     

    It’s been seven decades, but have we been able to do even a little bit of what had been asked of us?

    India is now a developing country, but how forward are we in terms of mental and political scenario, I do not know. Sure, there has been an advancement in technology. In fact, we cannot do without it, and it is precisely due to this tech, that we know that it is not really accessible to all.

    India has changed, both politically and in terms of mentality. Of course, that is true, otherwise, we would have been living under the Congress till today. The fact that there is another political party except for the INC and the BJP clears the state of liberty in the political scenario. We do elect our leaders with all our faith entrusted to them, but fortunately or unfortunately, things don’t go the way we like. We live in a place where we elect our leaders, but the leaders choose otherwise, just as it happened in Bihar. It seems to me that gradually as the elections have been taking place, one party is taking over the whole country. While this might not be true, we cannot deny the fact either. Are we then, deceiving ourselves to be a part of a democratic country?

     governing parties in India

    On this day, I can’t help but think of the times when we struggled the most and when we felt the most helpless. Demonetization is exactly what I am talking about. In the past seven decades of independence, that was the time when I felt vulnerable as a citizen of the country. Though for the better, many of the citizens had their hands tied because who knew what rule could be brought about by the government? Digitization of money and the idea of the cashless economy seems innovative, and a great reform to curb corruption, but the many loopholes that exist in this system including illiteracy, unawareness and the lack of access to technology and the internet, resolve the purpose behind it. 

    We, as the citizens of the country, have the right to elect our leaders. We, the citizens of the country, however, do not have the right to oppose the decisions of our leaders. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code states homosexuality to be an offense because it is against the order of nature. In a country as diverse as India, not only this is ridiculous but also shameful. It is sick to think that something as natural as love can be against nature. The stigmatization of the term has led people to believe that it is an illness, and homosexuals to believe that they are not worthy of living in the society and hence giving up their lives. Living in the 21st century, this act has led me to believe that no matter how much we advance, we can never really modernize, mostly because of our backward thinking.

    homosexuality in India

    If this prevails, how are we as a nation shaping up to be?

    Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.”

    Nehru spoke of peace in the India he had dreamt of. Unfortunately, peace is the last thing that can be witnessed at present-day.

    In a country where humans are killed over religion, even when each religion prohibits killing, I only find religious unrest. In a country where people are tagged and arrested for voicing their opinion, I find political unrest. If ‘intolerant’ is the word we have to use, why is it only synonymised with a negative trail of thoughts? To ensure peace we must be able to listen to what others have to say and understand it before reacting to it violently without a second thought. It won’t be wrong to say that if Gandhi were alive, he would have been extremely disappointed in all of us. Peace, is not merely what we need to impose, it is something because of which we are forever indebted to all the freedom fighters who chose peace as their way of living, and that’s why, we must intend peace, to repay our debt to those because of whom we are residing in an independent nation.

    Seven decades, and I am not entirely convinced with regard to the change in the nation. There is a revolutionary wave coming about, and it seems that positive changes are yet to be made. Until then, however, we must keep doing what we are and try to bring better changes in the society.

    Jai Hind!

     

     

  • 14 Aug
    Sanjna Verma

    Lucky charms really work

    superstitions

     

    Friday the 13th” in the Western context, or sneezing before leaving the house in the Indian context, we are surrounded by a huge variety of superstitions. According to Wikipedia “Superstition is any belief or practice which is irrational that is, it arises from ignorance, a misunderstanding of science or causality, a positive belief in fate or magic, or fear of that which is unknown.”

    These are some of the reasons due to which people may hold irrational beliefs:

    • The superstitions which have been developed have been prevalent since ancient times much before the development of modern sciences. Unfortunately, even science with all the modern developments has not found any justification towards such superstitions. So they are passed on from generation to generation.
    • Such beliefs are formed because of lack of explanation about the causal factor which led to a certain event. Let's explicate the superstition of sneezing. If a car passes by and splashes water all over your clothes. Your parents or grandparents will blame it on the sneeze you had before you left the house. 

    Those were negative superstitions. Now I will talk about the belief of keeping lucky charms with us. We usually think of keeping lucky charms in terms of amulets or a small idol of God along with us or carrying a lucky pen or pencil during our exams. Even sportspersons like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods wore a particular clothing for their important matches.

     
    file5731235020947

     

    How Positive are these Superstitious Beliefs?

    Positive superstitions include keeping a lucky charm with themselves for performing a certain task. A research was published in Psychological Science which was conducted by Damisch et.al (2010) wherein he noticed whether crossing one’s finger will increase in motor or mental performance of the child.

    In one experiment participants (28 participants) who were told that the ball they were about to throw was ‘lucky’, showed an increase in the performance of the individual in terms of throwing the ball at a longer distance. In two experiments in which one experiment was of memory testing and other was based on putting the blocks in the right order. Again it was seen that those participants who had their lucky charm along with them showed better task performance than those who did not have their lucky charms.

    This explains as to how the lucky charms can help towards raising one’s confidence level and self-efficacy levels which help them towards accomplishing their goals and striving hard to achieve them.

    mithali raj

    Certain rituals followed before any event also act as a motivator towards keeping calm and performing well. For example, we all must have seen Indian cricketer Mithali Raj reading a book before she went to bat. This, she claimed helped her relax her mind as she went to play. Such rituals turn out to be important as having a relaxed mind will help us focus more on the task at hand and strategies during the game.

     Negative Dependence

    Superstitions are generally known for this factor which is over-dependence or negative-dependence. It is because in ancient time's people hardly had any knowledge about the reasoning behind certain phenomenon. Example- In India, we have this belief of not cutting our nails at night. This might have an evolutionary basis. During ancient times, there was hardly any electricity in the houses due to which there was nil amount of visibility. Now after several years, it has evolved into a superstition that cutting nails at night leads to a disaster.

    black cat

    A prominent example can be as to how a black cat crossing a street is treated as something ominous. One cannot cross the area on which the black act has put its feet on. If a person urgently needs to go to the loo and the washroom is a few steps ahead. But no, he cannot go from there as a black cat had crossed that area. So now either the person needs to find another washroom or he should take the longer route towards the place in such a way he does not cross the area where the black cat had crossed. Isn’t it inadequate? The person needs to hold because a black cat walked through there. In fact, it does not even know how ominous its path is.

    On a Tuesday you notice that your nails have grown quite a bit. You have a PT period tomorrow in school and that teacher is very particular towards such things. You take a nail-cutter and are about to cut your nails until your mother comes and reminds you that it is ominous to cut your nails on this day of the week. Even cutting nails on a particular day can become a turning point in your future.

    This leads us to a conclusion that superstitions which encourage us to do well or work hard are not bad but such superstitions which hamper our daily lives and do not have any clear reason either are not worthy to be followed.

    Also, the present day society will begin to think ill of you as they are more educated and aware of these things.

  • 13 Aug
    Richa S Karthikeyan

    Buddhism and Psychology

    Buddhism is one of the major global religions with an interesting history and philosophy of life. Many believe that Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains evident injustice and inequality in the world, and it provides a way of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness. Buddha has taught and written many scriptures, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be presented by the Four Noble Truths.

    Buddha idol in a peaceful environment

    The four noble truths told by Buddha are:

    1. Suffering exists

    The viewpoint is that life consists of suffering and dissatisfaction. This suffering is called dukkha. Humans are imperfect, as is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death. This means you are never able to keep permanently what you strive for. Happy moments pass by, and soon we all will too.

    2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires

    The cause of suffering is called samudaya or tanha. It is the desire to have and control things, such as craving for sensual pleasures. For example, if you desire money or fame, you will surely suffer disappointment and perhaps even cause suffering for others. 

    Attachment to material things creates suffering because attachments are fleeting and loss is inevitable. Thus suffering will necessarily follow.

    3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases

    The end to suffering is called nirodha. It is achieving Nirvana or liberation, which is the final freedom from suffering. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation, and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. It is to attain dispassion.

    Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, and ideas. It is difficult for all of us to comprehend, who have not attained it.

    4. Eightfold path

    There are eight attitudes or paths you must follow to find freedom from suffering. These are the "right" or correct things to do in your life:

    1. Right view
    2. Right intention
    3. Right speech
    4. Right action
    5. Right livelihood
    6. Right effort
    7. Right mindfulness
    8. Right concentration

    This is the way to reach Nirvana.

    Buddha’s diagnosis of suffering or dukkha, that is part of life and human existence rings absolutely true to me, some people might have a different view of it.
    They may present few arguments to support their own point. Here I am explaining a reasonable perspective of these teachings.

    As given by the first two noble truths suffering is an inevitable part of our lives. As we are on earth, we are bound to face challenges and problems.

    The reasons are:

    • I agree with the first and second Noble Truths that our sufferings are inevitable in human life and are due to our attachment or clinginess to the things and the people. For example, if my child has to appear in an exam, I would have an expectation that her result should come as in a certain way. And for that expectation, I would have some anxiety. Here, As I am expecting a kind of result, I am already attached to that result even before it has actually happened. If my child's result comes as I expected then I would be happy, but if the result is not as expected then I might have the feeling like, “why that happened?” or I may cling to this feeling and blame myself or my child. Then, further, if I keep on clinging to this feeling, it might result in low confidence and apprehensions in mind of my child or myself about her performance, which can become the reason for my sufferings or Dhukkha.
    • Buddha's teaching also tells us about the way of eliminating these sufferings. If we detach ourselves from the output or results of our actions, then we can lessen these sufferings. It does not say that we should not work or do not seek pleasure, in fact in Buddhism, our Karma(our ideas and actions), is our  Dharma, means our foremost duty. But we can choose to avoid or handle any negative emotion effectively with right view, right action and right effort (eightfold path).
    • If we go back to the example, looking mindfully (as per the Buddha's teachings) to the whole situation like Socratic thinking, which is used in many psychotherapies, we can acknowledge that the situation can be handled effectively to learn the lesson from the mistakes and improving further. In the example, as we can see, I am not realizing at that time, the impermanence of the situation and may keep suffering due to it. I am not realizing that this result is just a small part of her life and even its effect can be as I choose it to be. One option can be that I keep brooding over it again and again, and keep suffering or another option can be that I learn a lesson from our mistakes and try to improve, in short making this small failure ladder for future successes.

     

    Also, in my opinion, Buddha’s teachings are not a rebellion of science and reason, but they run parallel to it and beyond. To support this, two more reasons from my side are:

    • Buddha's teachings came into the time when humans were not hunters but were already settled into modern civilizations in cities and villages. At that time our e The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. evolutionary emotions like rage and anxiety, did not serve the same purpose as in the forest or hunters' groups. To manage such emotions in those times and after that, humans needed some guidance to handle these feelings. So, that they should not become the cause of our own sufferings. These teachings are necessary to guide us more as the technology is advancing. In this era of the virtual world, spirituality can only give us an anchor to hold our emotions steady.
    • Buddha’s teachings not only guided us in our daily life but also had a purpose of liberating or enlightening us. Which was never on evolution’s agenda. This enlightenment can provide us with absolute happiness, not in this birth but in every all rebirths and ultimately we can achieve liberation.

     

    Thus, I completely find this diagnosis of suffering and liberation given by four noble truths as true. The concepts put forward by Buddha are not Religiously aimed. Following them would just make us a better person, leading a peaceful life in this world of chaos.

     

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