At times life brings us to junctures that jostle us in ways we never expect. We find ourselves forced to make choices that were never a part of ‘the plan’. These are the most painful yet poignant moments in our journey that we look back upon in acknowledgment of becoming who we are today.
At these junctures, we are offered different aids. There is prayer, elderly guidance, self-help books or psychotherapy. All these are accepted in our society, except psychotherapy, which is often viewed as unsettling. Therapy is stigmatized in India, and so is the person seeking it. But do we pause and ponder on why the person chose psychotherapy? Why does a relationship with the unknown ‘Other’ – the psychotherapist – become the most fulfilling relationship of all?
Ria, a 28-year-old professional, she was experiencing a challenging life. Even though she considered her life as ordinary and herself as happy, challenges in her personal and professional life had started building up for her.
In battling all this, she continued to describe herself as a woman marching towards her dreams of success and happiness every day. But suddenly, one day, Ria cracked and fell. The smiling, talkative Ria turned withdrawn and stoic.
She could sense that she was feeling happiness, but she could not connect with it for more than a few seconds. She could feel the urge to scream, but instead steady tears seemed to roll down her cheeks.
What happened next was something that Ria had never imagined. In the cosmopolitan city of Delhi, she realized she had no one to talk to – not because she did not have friends and family, but because she wondered how would they understand her voiceless state when she had no words to fill the void.
They all seemed too sane for such sentimentality.
Everyone around her would say, “sabki life main problems hoti hai” (everyone has troubles in their lives). She knew that she didn’t disregard “sabki problems” (everyone’s problems) but no matter how hard she tried, she was unable to trivialize her problems. She persistently helped herself for months by talking with friends, seeking spiritual guidance and even trying her self-help books. Finally, she determined that she could not hold it all anymore inside. And this is when her journey towards her Self began. Knowing that she had people who loved her, but could not help her garner meaning of the crises she was experiencing, she sought professional help.
She finally met a therapist and cried. She cried and cried and cried.
The pristine space of therapy brought her inwardly close to experiences she once dismissed as meaningless.
An unconscious suppression of her own feelings over the years and chastising them under the aura of striving to be a perfect daughter, a perfect friend and a perfect partner, Ria had lost her own Self.
The ever available presence of the therapist and her commitment to her mental wellness enabled her to comprehend what the rational mind could not understand. Her tears were not a sign of her weakness. They embodied her sadness. She was mourning the anguish she had experienced so subtly and unconsciously that words could hardly express.
Therapy was her “me” space. Ria understood that she was the protagonist of her story and the baton that she very often handed over to others was finally returning to herself. She began to hear her own voice and measure the depth of her own needs.
Her therapist had now become a partner in her journey that she could refer to, seek assistance from, but the journey was her own. She realized that the therapy is not a crutch to temporarily balance oneself on, but is rather an antidote for the self by the Self. Even though she had forgotten a lot of what had happened in her past, something profound had been etched in her and the space of therapy enabled her to connect with the missed and misunderstood emotions.
Ria started to nurture herself—she acknowledged, accepted and attended to her feelings of love, envy, forgiveness, anger, joy and gratitude. The capacity to build upon her strengths while simultaneously acknowledging and accepting her limitations liberated her. The junctures that she often found herself standing at became stepping stones towards new pathways.
As she embraced herself, she found she had so much to offer, so much love, so much hope.
*Personal details in this story have been altered to protect the privacy of the client. Also, a longer version of this article can be found at http://lifepositive.com/
Sugandh Gupta is an organizational psychologist and independent researcher working with social and corporate spaces. A wanderlust, she articulates her experiences in poetry and writing. Currently, she is researching the language of mental health in India.