boundary pic

“Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices” -Gerard Manley Hopkins

Relationships are most fruitful when they contribute to the growth of  a better self.  For relationships to survive, specific boundaries  need to be consciously set up. These boundaries should be  like the ring on your finger, not to tight (rigid) neither to loose (diffused) but just comfortable for yourself and the other person.

There are times when we agree to do some job for someone, even though when we do not have enough time, we do not protest against jokes made on us, thinking that we might lose the friend if we did, or we do not let the other person know what we want /do not want due to lack of assertiveness. All these happen when effective boundaries are absent.

A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person, a clear place where ‘you ‘begin and the other ends. Such a dividing  line  communicate  specifically ,what we want and want we do not. They do not control anyone else but only ourselves. The purpose of setting boundaries is to take care of our self and our  relationships . A complete  lack of boundaries or diffused ones , may indicate that we do not have a strong identity or are enmeshed with someone else (Cleantis 2017). life without  boundaries is nothing but chaos, and bound to be dissatisfying.The worst is we are taken for granted.

  • Why is boundary setting so difficult?
  • We are social animals. We all fear rejections from fellow human beings. Hence we “bear up’’ with others on several occasions, even at the cost of self-respect. Lack of respect for someone might ultimately destroy the relationship, altogether. In spite of this, we are in  constant  need for validation and acceptance from others, and in the process, we often drift into a sea of other people’s feelings needs and opinion
  • Oftentimes, we are unable to set effective boundaries because a)   We feel guilty about taking care of our own needs. “Sacrificing “ our needs for others is more acceptable and even encouraged in some society.   b)  We care too much about what other people think and feel, and are afraid of consequences. The idea that people would only love and accept us if we are affirmative all the time, or in sync with others, is deep rooted.. This is called “contingent sense of self-worth”   .c)   We are afraid of shattering our self-image of being “good and obedient” . All the above 3 factors stem place from the same place – our “beliefs “or “scripts” that we have created in childhood. However, without setting boundaries we damage the very relationship that we are trying to protect. Brene Brown found that without boundaries we become resentful apathetic and less compassionate in relationships. Robert Frost said, “ good fences make good neighbors” .
·       Allow for individuality

·       Brings out the persons best quality

·       Accepts Endings

·       Experiences openness to change

·       Invites growth in the partner

·       Experiences true intimacy

·       Finds pleasure in giving and receiving

·       Does not try to change partner

·       Does not try to control partner

·       Accepts limitation of self and partner

·       Does not seek unconditional love

·       Has individual high self-esteem

·       Trusts the memory of the partner

·       Expresses feelings spontaneously

·       Welcomes affection and closeness

·       Believes in equality

·       Feeling consumed in the relationship

·       Extremely afraid to let go

·       Excessive fear of risk or change

·       Little individual growth

·       Few truly intimate experiences

·       Playing mind games

·       Trying to get something by giving

·       Trying to change people

·       Needing others to feel secure and happy

·       Refusing to commit

·       Repeatedly experience of negative feelings

·       Being afraid of affection and closeness

·       Cares with excessive detachment

·       Frequent playing of “power games”.

·       Looking to others for self-worth.

  • To get over “the disease to please” we need to set boundaries.Do start setting simple but definite boundaries in a neutral tone. The following steps can be followed in reaching this goal
  • Self Awareness for clarifying personal boundaries to yourself first-   The first step in setting a boundary is clarifying your personal boundaries to yourself . our emotions and thoughts serve as a kind of compass to where boundary lines need to be drawn, says therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks. We also need to tap into what we value and examine our non-negotiables. This is applicable in all facets of our individual lives -whether that’s about maintaining a weekend hobby, or spending time with a friend. To hone in on your specific values, Hacker recommends asking yourself questions such as “what is important to me? what are my needs? Am I always striving for personal satisfaction and happiness ?. Find out and pay special attention to situations, when you feel hurt repeatedly,  undergo loss of energy,  or your needs are not met. Then there are times when you feel exhausted due to over functioning and taking in too much of responsibilities. These are the times when you have to protect your self-respect, your right to privacy and peace. First create the boundaries in your inner mind- for example-:” people may nor criticize my height, weight or complexion” or “I have a right to some quiet time in the family”, or ” I need to protect my time and energy’. It is perfectly alright to say “no” to meaningless socialization or switch off gadgets for an hour every day. Make a list of such situations in your life following a through reflection. Such boundaries are a part and parcel of each and every personal as well as professional relationships.
  • The act of boundary setting, communicate your boundaries- The boundaries can be psychological, emotional or even physical. Use simple direct language while setting boundaries.  For about a week keep a log of how many times you said: “yes” to something that is not your absolute ‘Yes” . This list will help you to build awareness.. Make a list of 5 things you would like to say “no” to and start by thinking about these questions.. Do not be aggressive, but be polite and firm. For example –“my phone call times are between 8 pm and 9 pm, kindly stick to it”.or “Even though the organization is important for me, I am unable to give voluntary service at the moment, please.” or ” You need to help me in the household work as well, as we are both working parents” .or to a teen—“I cannot give you money beyond my budget. You need to spend the money responsibly “
  • Do not defend, debate, over explain giving too many reasons, as such an action might lead to manipulation and bargaining from the other side. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request. Back up your boundaries with actions, and stay strong.
  • Strengthen your internal boundaries- In cases where we have weak internal boundaries, other frontiers become fragile.. An internal boundary is like an invisible shield that prevents you from taking in a comment without checking it out first. For example, when someone accuses you of being selfish and rude, stop and consider the statement before taking it in and reacting to it. Simply ask yourself “how much of this is true for me”.Do I need to do anything about it? If you are keeping quiet, absorb everything that others say about you, or trying to avoid confrontations then you end up weakening the internal boundaries.
  • Deal effectively with guilt and co-dependent behaviour-    Cheryl Richarson says that guilt is the most common obstacle faced when we try to take care of ourselves, by making ourselves the priority. It is ok to say no or to back out of a commitment if it suits you. Tell people that your priorities have changed.
  • Co-dependence does not refer to all caring behaviour or feelings, but only those that are excessive to an unhealthy degree. One of the distinctions that healthy empathy and caregiving is a conscious choice, whereas for co-dependents the actions are compulsive. The Co dependent person is not able to balance other demands on them and their own needs. .This is often a disease of lost self. Research says that co-dependence often leads to one person being abusive or in control. Such a behaviour supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or underachievement Codependents often find themselves in relationships where the primary role is that of rescuer, supporter, or confidante. These helpers are often dependent on the other person’s poor functioning to satisfy their own emotional needs. Co dependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, also romantic relationships. An over whelming desire for acceptance and affection, with low self-esteem, is a consistent personality pattern in co-dependents. Hence setting boundaries becomes next to impossible for codependents,. They go for extreme sacrifices to satisfy others in a relationship, .There is a degree of unhealthy clinginess and needy behaviour. A parent can also be codependent towards their children. generally, a parent who takes care of their own needs emotional and physical in a healthy way are better care givers. Anyone can become co-dependent. Some research suggests that emotionally abused parents  or neglecting parents, in their teens are more likely to encounter codependent   relationships

” Thus personal boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves as individuals in relationships, ” Says    Psychotherapist Deborah Hecker. “they protect our sense of personal identity and help guard against being overwhelmed by the demands of others. Contrary to the long-held belief that two people “complete” each other, relationships are healthier and more sustainable when each person maintains their own identity while the partnership is built on mutual respect, trust, and growth. No wonder in a broken relationship we find one person saying ” I sacrificed so much for him/her, did everything to make him /her happy, but then why did he leave me”. ? The answer is in the above process probably a sense of identity which is crucial for mutual respect is lost.” .Once we get into the habit of setting boundaries, life becomes easier, the relationship becomes more enjoyable, and we are happier in our journey to self-actualization. When we put ourselves first, we are completely available to others without anger or resentment.


1 )  “Co-Dependent no more “- by Melody Beattie

2) “On the importance of setting boundaries “-

3)  ” Build and preserve Boundaries’ -Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S (Psych  Central )


pic burnout

Parenting is a journey with the destination unknown. It is rather more appropriate to say that there is no destination in parenting, as once a parent, biological or otherwise, we remain so for life. Parenting is also a process of mutual learning and growth.  The greatest challenge in parenting,  is to change the pattern of communication and interaction in accordance with the age of development of the child. In care giving, instructing and guiding a child, a parent has to remember that each child has to paint his life with his own colors. Hence one has to be cautious not to take his paint brush away.

Getting the opportunity to parent a child is considered to be one of the greatest blessings. Consequently, we do not acknowledge the shadow that lurks below the lamp. Yes, parenting can be stressful. At times we are unable to deal with the everyday stress, to maintain a balance between the risks and the resources and thus fall a prey to the phenomenon called “burnout”.  Research published in Frontiers in Psychology examined parenting burnout.   Parenting burnout is defined as a unique and context-specific syndrome resulting from enduring exposure to chronic parenting stress. The primary symptoms are overwhelming exhaustion relating to one’s role as a parent.  The term burnout was first introduced by the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, who defined it as a loss of motivation, growing sense of emotional depletion and cynicism. “Burnout “ is now recognized as a legitimate medical condition and has been given its code ( Z73.0-burnout state of vital exhaustion) in  American ICD 10. Many symptoms of burnout overlap with symptoms of depression
Maslach Burnout Inventory has been cited widely.This scale evaluates burnout based on 3 key stress responses a) an overwhelming sense of exhaustion b) feelings of cynicism and detachment c) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. A high demand situation , low control , and effort –reward imbalance  are often the risk factors for mental and physical health. There is evidence that burnout can alter the neural circuitry, causing a vicious cycle of neurological dysfunction often involving memory, attention and emotional regulation.Stress,  in a goal-oriented activity, like parenting , is unavoidable but burnout is not.

Parenting, calls for a lot of changes in one’s life. It does affect one’s system as a parent juggles one’s own needs and demands with those of the child. A child can create a crisis anytime- they can get sick, have accidents,  throw tantrums, lose things, have adolescence issues etc.The list is never-ending. Thus as a parent, you need to hone your problem-solving skills, rather than getting emotionally hyped up,. The most challenging part of the untold story is that the issues tend to change from one age level to the next. Richard Gunderman, a professor of philosophy described incremental burnout as “the accumulation of hundreds or thousands of disappointments each one hardly noticeable on its own”.
There are some parenting that is particularly at risk for burnout-

Parenting children with special needs -When you are parenting a child with developmental disorders like autism ADHD , or mental subnormality you know that the greatest challenge as well as relief comes from accepting the disorder and looking for whatever help is available. Children with untreated psychiatric issues( anxiety depression and psychosis) also create enormous stress to the family.Most of these parents hide such stress as they often feel that “things are going to be alright someday, magically ”and thus goes into burnout ultimately.

The  single parenting-  This group has to deal with multiple issues in the name of  parenting, a job, managing home, financial issues, as well as the psycho social aspects of being single. Unless they keep a daily routine and take some time off alone, they are prone to parenting stress. These group probably suffers from maximum guilt when they fail to perform like a “hero”. These parents are often very anxious or too relaxed,  usually found in extremes

Parenting in a disturbed household—If the home atmosphere is psychologically disturbed, parenting becomes a tough job. Often families with an alcoholic father , a wayward mother, marital discord/ power struggle in parents, a large family in a crowded space, family debts and legal issues, fall into this category. Uncongenial home atmosphere, thus leads to a lot of psycho social and behavioral issues in the child, very often, due to inconsistent discipline.

Parenting  the teens – As the teens start to test their boundaries by breaking all the boundaries that you have has set, you suddenly find parenting too strenuous. The best method here is the change the communication pattern with your child. Re frame your expectations about the child , to readjust yourself with his/her new found freedom. Do not be afraid of consequences of his experimentation, at this stage .If the foundation of a house is strong you need not fear the storm. Positive communication and nonjudgmental positive regard for the teen are the two key factors. Be firm but gentle in your disciplining strategies. Do support the child but at the same time have well-defined boundaries.

Parenting young adults– when the time comes to fly the nest, many parents, suffer from “empty nest Syndrome”.  They often feel let down by there own children, once they are removed naturally from the top position of the priority lists of their children. Very often these parents need a life style change to adjust and to keep themselves engaged.A clear communication of their expectations from the young adults regarding frequency of calls , schedules of visits and shared responsibilities, is very effective.

Parenting under psychiatric conditions– when a parent herself /himself is suffering from untreated mood disorder, personality disorder or obsessional anxiety in his need to be the “perfect” parent the children are affected on the rebound.

Parenting Twin children— This can be overwhelming.Please get as much help as you get from grandparents, babysitters, your partner, friends and from almost everyone.! Escape the grind once in a while without feeling guilty like going for a party or picnic or movie. Never compare your twin.

Parenting adoptive children—learn about parenting when you decide to adopt. Attend Parenting effectiveness training (PET)so that your decision to be a parent is well planned and not taken on an impulse. The challenge is when and how to tell the child about his/her adoption If you are lost on this, take professional help. It is best to disclose it before he /her reaches teens.

Long distance parenting—A number of parents are unable to stay with their child 24/7 due to the nature of their jobs , separation from spouse etc. Here the ideal strategy would be scheduled regular talks. Listen more , instruct less. Do stand your ground with rules and boundaries. Communicate with co parent and plan . It is best to remember that you have divorced your partner not your child’s parent. Be present even when you are not, physically. They should be able to talk to you  if something goes wrong, .You are not in any competition with your spouse on parenting. It is very often natural for the child to show a preference for the parent he/she is living with. Do not hold it against him/her. It is often the child ‘s “comfort zone ” rather than the amount of love for the parents.  Let him /her grow up to understand and accept the his realities and bond with both the parents differently.

Dealing with parenting stressPreventive measures often goes a long way in keeping parenting burnout at bay
Here are some guidelines to follow–

1) Accept Individual differences– Every child is born into this word with his/ her own potentials. As parents, we need to bring out those potentials through emotional connection and education. Hence do not compare one child with another, even if they are siblings. This is extremely harmful for the self-esteem of the child.
2) Keep your expectations realistic—Parental expectations are a cause of a lot of stress. He needs to be an IAS officer because his/father or mother is one while he wants to be a painter, causes bitterness between the child and his parents often scaring the relationship for ever. Let him choose his life goals and stand by them. That is the only way both the child and the parent can be proud of each other. In teen parenting expect a rough phase, academic year loss, or loss of time due to infatuation, complaints from school. Remember you need to have complete trust in your child for him to learn his lessons from the wrong decisions. You need patience. Wisdom always comes through experience or applying acquired knowledge to experience, hence can never be forced or handed down. Then what is the struggle about? You can talk about your experiences and suggestions. If you have a good emotional connection with your child in the pre-teen years, he may then consider some of your suggestions. We do not take suggestions from people we do not like or cannot connect with However never offer suggestions to a teen without explaining them. Teens do not comply with ‘blanket’ instructions.Sometimes you have to keep quite and let the teen hit the rock bottom before he turns around. This is probably the most trying time. But remember the saying “this too shall pass’’. Avoid conflict and unrest at all cost.
3) Keep time for self reflection on your parenting skills– the ability to recapture parenting experience think about them, and evaluate them is crucial to handling parenting stress. Ask your child if he /she wants anything improved in the interaction. No harm on this. Talk to friends, keep a journal or attend parenting training events, read up on the problem you are facing. Keep your boundaries strong and firm for “Self Care “ . The more you sacrifice for a child the more you will consciously or unconsciously hate parenting.

4) Avoid Helicopter parenting—Helicopter parenting refers to a style of parents who are over-focused on their children,  typically over functional, taking too much responsibility for the children’s experiences of successes and failures. It is “over-parenting”. These parents live in the fear of consequences and go a long way to prevent unhappiness, struggles and hardships which are actually the greatest teachers. As a result the children develop over dependence on parents , lacks self confidence, and develop poor social and life skills, necessary for adjustment in the adult life. They are found to remain emotionally “ a child” through out their lives. Such parenting style often develops due to peer pressure (looking at other over-involved parents) overcompensation, if a child is lost before the present one, or if the parent himself or herself felt unloved as a child, or due to anxiety of an obsessional nature, based on what “might happen” to the child if the parent cannot control the child’s thoughts words or actions

5) Allow others to take responsibility for your child at times..Social environment is extremely crucial in the development of the child. When a flower does not bloom we check its environment rather than blaming the flower. Whatever goes in the child’s brain is reflected in his behavior. whatever the parents tell the child, becomes his inner voice. Do not be too possessive about him, he belongs to another generation. he needs to learn from his relatives, siblings, friends social agents and even strangers. Allow him the experience. As Tagore said—“don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time ‘’.

6) Avoid trying to be the perfect parent—There is no magic formula for parenting. What works with one child may not work with the other. Learn to live a balanced life. Take a sabbatical if the stress becomes too high.There is no one called the perfect parent. Every parent is right on some counts and wrong in the other on the parenting job. It is because of the “rights ‘and “wrongs’ of parenting, every personality is so unique , so varied. You need not be the perfect parent instead try to be a “good enough parent”. According to James Lehman ‘good enough parents’    consistently care for their children and do not try to be perfect. They  pro active rather than reactive.

7) Recognize and focus on the positive– when parents come to my clinic with behavioral problems of their children, I happen to start my conversation by asking for 3 compliments that they can pay to their children. Most of the parents keep thinking on this, as if I had asked them a question from some the books of quantum physics!  You child may have a long list of problems, but make it a point to write down what is going right with him/her. Reflect the positively back to him/her by telling him /her what you found.The fact that recognition and responsibility are the two of the greatest motivators hold true for our children as well.

8) Hold on to your “ME” time tightly- if you need to provide consistent love to your children then you need to take care of yourself consistently too, both mentally and physically. Develop a hobby do not give up the reading time at night, or your job. The baby shall adjust to your schedule.

Parenting can be a joyful experience, beyond measure, when we engage adequately with the child. Its all about connections and not about corrections. Let us avoid all the 3 pathological categories of parenting– –The disconnect parent, the over-committed parent and the exhausted parent. Let your personality unfold, as your child unfolds his /her’ s under your care. It is best to “be all that you want your child to be “.


Placeholder ImageEvery relationship is as unique as the individuals involved. No two relationships can be compared. Some relationships define us, some  become a part of our social  identities like the marriage, and some other exist to serve as an  emotional anchor in the form of intimate relationship with or without social sanctions. No matter what kind of relationships we enjoy , all   healthy relationships are meant to contribute to the individual growth and betterment . The best one brings out the best feelings in us.

A healthy relationship should ideally have all the 3 components of love according to Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love- Intimacy (companionship and trust) Passion (romance and sexual attraction) and commitment ( that is being in the relationship  by  one ‘s  choice)  . If there is an imbalance in the above 3 components the relationships often runs a risk of falling apart. For example if there is only  passion and intimacy without any  commitment to take the relationship forward, it remains as romantic love and nothing beyond  or say  if there is commitment and intimacy without sexual passion it would be restricted to  companionate  love . Complete love according to Professor Sternberg happens only when all the three components are present. Signs of imbalance   often seeps into the relationship slowly, in the   form  power play , disrespecting each other ,  withholding affection and attention, failed communication  or in the form of  “learned helplessness” . Most importantly, there is a miss match of expectations and aspirations in the partners.  Incompatible personality traits bring in boredom and loneliness and thus fuel the   need for other forms of happiness and excitement.

Irrespective of the reasons for a relationship falling apart, whenever it does, there is a period of intense emotional pain , disillusionment and grief that naturally follows. In 2011 ,a theory guided fMRI (Functional Magnetic resonance imaging )study showed that the human  brain indicated activity in the same region as when they were experimenting with physical pain. Hence the expression “love hurts” is probably neurobiologically  true.  The  human brain thus processes relationship breakups in the same region as physical pain to include regions like insula and anterior cingulate cortex. Romantic breakups do not cause actual physical pain rather the brain signals that both are important events to pay attention to . This is because from  an evolutionary point of view, social rejection inherent in break ups could mean a threat to our survival, for our early ancestors. This helps us understand the intensity of emotional pain that a person goes through in  a break up.

It is to be noted that  how resilient we are, post  break up, depends on the quality of relationship we  have shared  with ourselves, prior to  and during the ongoing relationship. It is often considered  a guideline , that one  is ready for a particular relationship only when one can  can survive without it. This means that one should maintain a high self esteem along   self care / self development and financial independence  while in the relationship and not use it like a crutch. Maintaining space and individual identities and preferences makes a relationship mature beyond years. Kahlil Gibran in his book ,The prophet” had expressed it aptly ” Let there be spaces in your togetherness ,and let the winds of the heavens dance between you”.

When  the break up becomes inevitable, how resilient we would be will also depend on the type of break up we have had. 1) Mutual break up-is the most peaceful one. 2) The circumstantial breakup- when the environment around will not permit the relationship. The recovery time is shortened because of the excuse to blame others. 3 ) The Ultimatum breakup- conflicts that lead to ultimatums-like to change religion for marriage etc  of lead to estrangement. .This kind of break up leads to a lot of anger and resentment., and gives a lot of relief from the stalemate once the relationship breaks. 4) Cheating  break up– this causes a lot of emotional pain and a blow to the self esteem. People feel most rejected in cheating as they take it to be a personal rejection rather than understanding that the relationship formed by both are rejected due to reasons. It takes a lot of time to regain faith and love again 4 ) The blind side Break up– the partner suddenly stops all communication and contact. This is very traumatic as this leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It chips away the ability to trust.

Moving on after the relationship has ended is one of the hardest things to do, and often done best with reflection, social support and professional help. Unless there is a closure , which seals all hopes of getting back the relationship the way it was, the dilemma of hope stops us from moving on or interferes with our new relationships. Lack of a proper closure leads to long term depression , guilt feelings due to unresolved issues, and unnecessary emotional baggage.Sometime this waiting period for a closure leads to a wastage of time and valuable energy, before one wakes up to the truth of it all.

The followings steps can be followed for closure and resilience after breakup. However please note that you have to choose your own right time to move on. All the steps may not be possible to execute at one go.

1 )  Plan a closure to set yourself free – Emotional closure is more significant than a legal or a social one. It brings about the acceptance of the reality beyond the  illusive hope of  a revival. Fix a meeting with your ex partner  in person in a semi public /quiet place. Decide what you would  to say as  the reasons for the break up. Refrain from saying anything hurtful in the last meeting. Thank the person for the good memories you shared. If you are on the other side, ask for a meeting to discuss issues /breakup one last time for a dignified closure. Do not keep hanging on to the half  belief  that everything   will be fine someday .Break up over  letters phone calls, text messages  etc are only for long distance relationships or when the partners lack  the courage to face the reality or have inadequate social skills.

2)  Maintain Physical separation- avoid sharing the same space. Move out. .If you have to live in the same space and the ex moves out , change the placement of furniture or renovate the space before carrying on living there.  This should reduce the memory load. Avoid keeping in touch with his/her close friends or relatives to rekindle sparks. If you have a child in between , always  hold meetings in public/ social spaces or go with your friends / new partner for the meeting .

3) Write a letter to your ex but do not post it—this is healing as you will no longer hold on to the negativity after this. Writing   will also give you a perspective. Crying to let out the pent up emotions also helps to accept situation

4 )Delete him /her on all  social media platforms- Social media often creates an illusion of closeness. If one is having  constant  virtual access to one ‘s  ex it  might serve as the slim thread of connection that bounds one to the past  hindering  one’s ability to fully separate. Social media searches can be obsessional and addicting as the craving to get a glimpse of ex increases. We must remember that when in love, the hormones and the neurochemicals  that are secreted to give us the feelings of attachment calm and comfort  namely oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins are the same as those released when one is addicted to drugs. Hence the craving for past love is very real and painful. One needs to be prepared to handle the craving through adequate socialization , physical activities, changing the daily schedule,  psychotherapy  and medication , if depressed mood and obsessive rumination persists.

5)  Delete or block his /her number- .make the recovery process easy for both, so that you do not participate in the “on off “game. Deleting at times seems too final, but truly needed at the initial stage of break up, at least in the first 8 weeks. This action seals off the strings connecting both for moving on freely.

6) Do not seek a rebound relationship. Start dating when you feel ready and have learnt your lessons upon reflecting.  It  is important to stay single until one  has  learnt what one needed to learn from the beak up. Let us remember that  the greatest challenge that drives us  to rebound relationships are loss of self worth and anxiety of being alone. Deal with these negative emotions unless you want to carry them over to another relationship, and   make the same mistakes from  the emotional baggage .

7) Invest in social support-to get over the fear of being alone, be spontaneous to accept social events, get connected to old friends. Be firm on not bringing up your past with friends .  This will help you to focus on your present time, as well as help you to cope with the fears about the future

8)  Move on–Holding  on to the memories and hopes of a closed relationship is like holding on to a dead body.  Honor the decision taken. Respect your past moments spent with your ex, no matter how bad the break up was.   Do accept that there was a time  limit to the relationship. Do not make you life miserable by playing  the ‘victim role”  or the  “blame game”. Trying  on a revenge, talking ill about your ex partner lowers your dignity more than your ex- partners. Moreover does he /she deserve so much of your time and attention after its all over ? We know that respect does come before love.

When you date again, do mention your past but avoid details. Sharing intricate and intimate  details of the past relationship affects the new one .Talking  and sharing on it might also  lead to fresh longings and regrets, thus  best avoided. Do deal with your past emotions yourself, without burdening others, particularly your new partner . This is maturity and not dishonesty.  Follow the process of resilience to emerge vibrant and strong  in no time. We do know what does not kill us  makes us  stronger.

9) Keep a gratitude journal- It is difficult to feel grateful and depressed at the same time. Thus focusing on what you are grateful for is a way of tricking your brain into thinking that everything is going to be fine and that there is no danger.

10)  Practice Generosity–be generous with others .Take away the unhealthy focus on self.  This will also help you to deal with “what others are thinking and talking about me “  symptoms .This will help you to transfer your thinking from victimization to empowerment.

No relationship is forever. Hence we are all destined to go through some form of break up or other. There is a debate regarding being “friends” with your Ex Lover. A study shows that if two people have had a higher level of commitment in the relationship they are more likely to remain friends at some point of time after sufficient time has elapsed post  break up. If  you decide to be friends , at all, please do so when you are yourself ready to move on in life, so that you can keep your expectations to a minimum level. In such cases do have mutually agreed boundaries to avoid another heart break or  chances of hurting each other.  However this can only  be achieved by a very small proportion of people, as it involves forgiving oneself as well as the ex partner. Most ultimately slips into the same loop , all over again  If you have had an abusive  ex  – partner or had a nasty breakup involving the law or authorities /external agencies  , its better not to remain  in touch at all.

Let us keep ourselves realistically ready with the principles of resilience. After all as Alfred Lord Tennyson said  ‘ tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. Life will go on. Bonding will happen to nourish our being and breakup will happen in order  teach  us invaluable  lessons in life.



Tara was counting days. Durgapuja was just 7 days away. She wasn’t particularly a religious person, but Durgapuja meant going home. It was thus the time for the much awaited break from the humdrum hostel life of a National Law University which included comfort food and most importantly a time to meet her old friends, relatives and her mother- Ms. Aanya Sen.

Tara had an ambivalent relationship with her mother. She loved being around her charming and successful mother but could also get in a fierce argument on issues they differed. Tara was nineteen and Aanya Sen, her mother was still an enigma to her. She was a qualified architect working for a renowned firm in Kolkata and was considered to be an alpha woman by many. Tara always admired her grit and determination in whatever she did. She could be an emotional mother at one point of time, and a dispassionate professional in the next. Tara often wondered how she could play such myriad of roles. She was thinking of  home standing near the big banyan tree, in the sprawling campus, when she saw her best friend running towards her with a cell phone in hand. In a split second she realized, that she had kept her own cell phone on silence mode last night. Udita was quite breathless which revealed how fast she had walked down or nearly ran   to get her. ‘Tara there is call for you’ she said on reaching the shade of the tree under which Tara often enjoys her early morning tea. Tara took the phone and on the other side was her father- ‘Tara you need to come home as soon as possible. I have already mailed you the flight tickets. Your mother is seriously ill’ and the phone got disconnected. Suddenly Tara felt empty inside, she did not know what to do. She ran towards the main building of her hostel to get ready to leave.

When she reached her Salt Lake home in the afternoon, she found that it was all over. Tara had lost the woman she adored the most. Tara had lost her mother. Aanya reportedly had succumbed to a massive heart attack. Tara was too shocked to shed tears. She just turned motionless when her maternal uncle Ranabir hugged her to console her.  She was slowly led to the room where her mother lay peacefully as if she knew that Tara would come to her at any cost . She glanced at her father who sat on a chair nearby motionless, surrounded by relatives and a few friends.

By the time the funeral got over it was 1 AM already. Tara felt tired but not sleepy at all her mind kept racing. She remembered various   events and anecdotes involving   her mother.  Some of the close relatives were still there, talking to her father sitting in the living room. They talked about how efficient and kind hearted Aanya was, and the kind of lady who possessed both good looks and brain. Mr. Sen, Tara’s father, had always been an introvert quite opposite to her vivacious mother.  He kept listening to the relatives patiently, without much input. Tara was quite lost in her own thoughts, it  was then that the father called Tara and handed her the ‘keys’ of the almirah that belonged to the deceased mother. It was an old almirah made of teak wood handed down from her grandmother. Aanya had been very fond of that piece of furniture. She had maintained it well and had polished it just a few months back. It looked almost new. However she had always refrained from giving permission to anyone to open her almirah. She would always do the needful and keep the keys in her handbag even when she traveled for work. She maintained that it was her personal space. If there is no space in the relationship then it’s not love, it’s actually power play -disguised mistrust, Aanya used to say.  Everyone including Tara and Mr. Sen had respected the privacy of the almirah. However ironically, today Tara was asked to open the almirah and hand over some important papers for insurance claims, account transfer etc. “There is no hurry Tara, you hand them over when you can in a few days. I  want you to open the almirah as she had suggested once, over an evening cup of tea” her father said. “Honey let only Tara handle my almirah if ever I am not there or were to fall sick” she had said.  “Why are there some secrets inside?” Mr. Sen had asked in a jest, and both of them had shared a laugh on that. He had too much of faith in his wife to probe further.

Tara could not wait. She wanted to open the almirah at once, and have a peek. In spite of feeling sad and tired, she felt restless. She felt that it was possibly the only element in the house which could get her closest to the feeling called “Ma” currently. She excused herself went to the other room where the almirah was kept and closed the door behind her. She wanted to be alone.

She turned the keys and the twin door opened, soundlessly. A sweet spicy smell, of “Red –Door” her mother’s favorite perfume filled the air.  She took a deep breath. It was reassuring to be able to smell the perfume once again, yet   painful .Tara felt a certain heaviness in her heart, but could not shed tears.  She touched the purple Zari sari which her mother had let her wear   once, during a fashion competition in school, telling her that it very special to her since it belonged to her grandmother. Three generations of women wearing the same sari, even if it is for once, is truly magical! Tara was the runners up on that event. She had then decided that purple was her color. Tara felt for the first time since morning, helpless.  Only if she could see her one more time!  She   gathered herself and open the safe of the almirah which contained papers and some files. It was then she noticed the medium sized red diary with golden border. She turned the first page she was surprised to see her own baby photograph clipped inside—it was written- “Motherhood is a glorious journey in search of meaning in the cycle of life.” She turned the next page, it was like a chronicle without the dates. She turned the third then the forth page of the dairy. On the 5 Th page Aanya had expressed her happiness in being able to sponsor a lady in an old age home. Tara was transfixed. Nobody, in the family knew about this. Why? Didn’t Anaya trust her loved ones enough to share?  She closed the diary and kept it back. Took the important papers out and kept them on a table nearby. She thought for a moment and then again took the diary out. She opened the middle page, where Aanya had `written about her soul mate: She called him “her home” The writing was almost poetic about how he made Aanya a better person, and all about her feelings regarding him. Tara’s pulse started to race fast, was Aanya having an affair? Aanya was seemingly happily married in spite of her many men friends.  She had always shouldered and shared all the responsibilities of the family with her father.  Then who is this soul mate? Tara’s father? Or someone else? Or was just a fragment of her imagination? But who will answer that, now? Tara decided to discuss this with Aanya’ s best friend Anupama aunty when she has the time. Then she stopped in her thoughts and asked herself why does she want to find it out? What is the use of it at all?  Just let it be, she decided. This time she felt betrayed. In another page Anaya writes “I feel tremendously guilty about not stopping my car, when I saw a dog getting run over and in pain while going to office today.” in another page her mother writes “I could not bear it and was truly jealous when Anita got the award instead of me for the project on which I worked really hard. It’s so unfair.” Such feelings made Aanya more humane, and it was quite inconsistent with the image of the superwoman that Aanya always portrayed to the world. It made Tara feel that her mom was a human being after all , beyond being a wife, mother, an architect or a friend . She flipped some of the pages, and turned to the last page where she wrote the names of all those she was thankful  for . It included some family members’ some names she knew and some   names she did not know at all. It is those unknown names that made her curious. Did mom know that she is doing to die? Some kind of premonition?  She remembered her mother quoting Sigmund Freud saying “the goal of all life is death”. “Tara dear, accept death as you would   accept life”, she used to say. “Tara now closed the diary. Kept it back once and for all.  Tara did not need to know more   from the red book. She had rediscovered her mother as a woman, capable of myriad roles, like Durga. .Tara could understand clearly what her mother wanted to convey–how she had followed her heart without needing endorsements. How she kept a balance between meeting the responsibilities of everyday life as well as respecting her personal wishes and desires.  Tara felt gown up, overnight. Her mother used to say “Tara Nobody can make you feel anything. You   choose the feelings that you feel. Accordingly you become a glass half empty or a glass half full person” . As Tara she remembered her mother’s words, she felt betrayed no more. Yes her mothered had been her greatest strength and shall always remain so in spirits.

It was 4 am already. People in Kolkata were listening to the beautiful hymns of Mahalaya. Devi Durga is symbolical of the conflict between the good and the evil in us   and the ultimate win of the good over the evil is celebrated.  Tara   could sleep only for a couple of hours.  She came out of her room  to find f the house was full of people .She had to leave for college the day after and then she would be back after applying for leave and finishing some important project work given to her. She would certainly be there for the last rites, in a few days.    She did not want to go but she remembered her mom’s sense of duty   and responsibility.  Perhaps the best way you can teach your children is by being yourself   whatever   you want them to be, Tara thought.  She said a polite hello to all. Her father had always been a very emotionally   controlled   person . He and Ranabir uncle managed the guests quite well. Tara had decided to hand over the keys of her mom’s almirah to her father. She started packing her bag. Suddenly a thought crossed her   mind. She stealthily got up and went to the almirah of her mother. She took the red diary out and kept it in her hand bag. She would read the whole diary in peace once in the hostel room, she thought.

Returning to the university campus this time, was like a “homecoming” for Tara. Everyone was there Udita, Usha, Preeti, Devashis and even the shy guy Vivek she secretly liked. They had all come down to her room to comfort her and share her sorrow.  It was when Udita hugged her tight that Tara finally burst into tears. She sobbed like a baby, holding her friend tight.  A little later, after lunch Vivek gifted her a brand new book by her favorite author. She smiled for the first time after the loss. They made her feel better, more effectively than the tearful family members back home. She had just recognized that the love and care of her friends bestowed on her during her crisis was nothing less than those of a family member. Tara felt connected to the universe. Possible it was her turn now to start to keep a diary suddenly it dawned on her that life was beautiful because of death.

That day she had somehow could manage to attend two of her classes. In the evening she asked Udita and Vivek if they could go on a walk with her which they readily agreed to. Tara went out carrying the red golden bordered diary in her hands. They walked silently to the river bank nearby.  Tara stood motionless for a while and then slowly threw the diary into the water. She felt that through this act she had freed her mother forever. Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown. She had learnt some lessons in the most unusual way.  Her mother shall continue to live in her thoughts words and deeds. She did not need the diary anymore. Tara slowly smiled while reminiscing about the famous poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye-

“Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand wind that blow .I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight ion ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die.”


‘Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, simply doesn’t know where to go shopping!’— this famous quote of American actor Bo Derek will definitely find many takers in the major cities of India with ‘globalized’ shopping malls. Kolkata in particular has undergone a tremendous transformation in its shopping scenario since the advent of the first mall The Forum on Elgin Road. Since then, our Kolkatans have learnt to shop in style and comfort without the associated guilt feelings and habitual bargaining.

A mall offers more than just shopping unlike the good old traditional stores. It packs in food (today an average Kolkatan knows all about Fried Chicken, Tiramisu and Spaghetti), movies (even the latest Hollywood ones), entertainment or just ‘time pass’ — all under the same roof! It is amazing how rapidly the culture of the area around the location of a mall changes — escalating real estate prices, probably a compensation for the traffic jam in the locality. This is a part of the socioeconomic perspective of mall culture.

It has a profound impact on the outlook of the people around, their sense of dressing, food habits, leisure activities etc. The influence is deeper because with the breakdown of the joint family set-up, the nearest mall has become a ‘club like’ place for meeting up without the hassle of hosting people at home. It is amazing how everybody from eight to 80 years can be equally happy here. Hence, the malls have become an image benchmark for the community, particularly for the vulnerable middle class who always suffer from an identity crisis.

The success story of the malls goes back to the 70s when “Pile it high, Sell it cheap” philosophy was introduced by retailing giants like the TESCO and WALMART. Psychological techniques used by the malls include creating the right conditions for the consumers to buy – for example, stocking the products with high margins (maximum gain)at the eye level, positioning own (cheaper products) along with the similar premium brands, and products identified as ‘impulse buys’ are placed at the end so that one would just buy them without much thought, before leaving the store!

The lure of the malls is enhanced by the rise in the women workforce, consumerism and lack of time. For the ‘generation now’ who are always craving for ‘the best’ and ‘more’ the mall is just the place to be. There is also a downside to it as it has lead to a rise in the percentage of compulsive buyers who go shopping in the AC environment to get rid of their depressed mood.

Oniomania, which is the compulsive tendency to shop leads to restless behavior, excess use of plastic money and an impending disaster caused by an out of the budget expenditure. It is difficult to escape the call of the mall which caters to the recreational, the brand loyal as well as the store loyal shoppers alike. The policy of letting everybody roam around aimlessly stems from the psychological view point that the ones who are not buying today, will eventually buy at a later date when exposed to such glitzy items. This has increased the number of demanding teenagers, who want to be updated about the latest, at any cost. This culture has led to people being constantly curious about the latest trends-whether straight hair or curls are in, the ‘must have’ accessories, all learnt by observing the models and pretty women at the malls.

We are not sure whether the malls can replace the traditional bazaars completely, but the malls of Kolkata are definitely here to stay. We may love them or hate them, but we can in no way ignore them!

(Originally published : The Times Of India Kolkata ; Date: Apr 8, 2011 ; Section: Special Report;Page: 39)



With  the advent of  the  age of  technology we have several benefits of  easy connections and quick information. However we are losing a habit that is greatly beneficial to our living, that is the habit of reading . As Bagster, who ran a Bibliopathic institute  years back said,  “A book maybe a stimulant, a sedative, or an irritant or soporific . The point is that it must do something to you and you ought to know what it is” . Due to constant audio -visual  stimulation and daily life stresses our attention span is on the decline . We have difficulty in reading and reflecting as a consequence. Many of us have a library but hardly read, others read only newspapers and magazines and some have given in to the domination of their “monkey brain” and does not read at all.

Books have healing properties. It stimulates imagination , raises the emotional intelligence that comes with identifying with the characters and “‘listening”  to the authors thoughts . This is a powerful  process of growth .If we go back to history King Ramses 11 of Egypt had a special chamber where books were kept with an inscription on the door that said “House of healing for the soul “. Furthermore, Sigmund Freud also always incorporated literature into practice.

In the year 19216 articles published in the Atlantic Monthly, Samuel Carothers defined “Bibliotherapy” as the process of using books to teach those receiving medical care about their conditions.In 1983 the international federation for biblio/poetry therapy was established . Bibliotharapy  thus helped  people solve personal issues through reading ,  after uncovering emotional problems grief anger or life losses. A  list of books ( catering to the individual’s unique problem)  would be suggested to read to get a grip over life.Today , most libraries in U. S have such “prescription books ” for mental health issues like depression, eating disorder and P.T.S.D  Most commonly prescribed books for these purposes are philosophy , poetry  creative non fictions or self-help kind. However it is to be noted that reading fictions proved to be the most beneficial of all, in  bringing about catharsis. This is probably because fictional characters help us to enhance  our ability to emphathize , be more intuitive about feelings  and emotions.  Self reflection that goes on almost simultaneously while we read,  creates new coping skills or makes our reality more acceptable .

The Neuro – psychological aspects of reading is immense. It has proved to enhance memory and concentration and  delay /arrest dementia.People who read have new complex brains with more neural connections.According to researches at Mindlab international university of Sussex reading for about 6 minutes can help to reduce stress level to 68%. The study also found that the participants who read after having stress were more relaxed than the group that tried walking and music for the same purpose. Such are the effects of words and imagination on our brain .Even re -reading a book gives us a new perspective according to our increasing age and life experiences.In 2007 Blake Morrison Goldsmith found out that reading can alleviate pain and mental distress as well. As Virginia Woolf puts it reading a book “splits us into two parts for the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego while promising perpetual union with another mind.”

To cultivate a reading habit, if you have not yet developed one or have lost it, first develop a conscious willingness to read. Do make a list of the books you want to read, and set goals per month or year. This will help you to stay organised. Keep your reading goals achievable to 30 -40 minutes a day and unto 10 to 12  pages a day. Do not rush, its all about soaking in what you read, for the best benefit. Let us remember the words of Somerset Maugham “to acquire the habit of reading is to construct a refuse for yourself from almost all miseries of life.”

Happy reading !