Emotional Self-Defense: Tougher than it sounds

We all like to think that we’re strong, that we’re not susceptible to the mind tricks, manipulation and blackmail that are so often employed by prospective sellers, relatives and love interests around us. But the truth is that not even the best of us are completely immune to an emotional attack.

What exactly is an emotional breach? Firstly, we all strive to live with an emotional equilibrium – a state where we want, but not need another person for emotional stability. A state where our decisions and opinions are relatively objective and unbiased, where our selves are in an ideal divide of a 1:1 ratio between social acceptance and individuality. An emotional breach happens, no matter how small, when our opinions and decisions are influenced by someone else’s opinions and decisions, when we start to seek validation for our own actions from someone else, and when our emotional stability starts to depend on someone else.

In today’s world of unlimited options, everyone is trying to sell you something. It may be something as mundane as Colgate toothpaste, to something as complex as emotional security. How does someone sell you something? Not through complex marketing models and intricate advertising plans. That comes later. They simply appeal to the very basic demands of human nature. Take the case of Colgate toothpaste. The very basic demand? The need for dental hygiene. Why? Because the consequences are dire otherwise (as depicted through the rotting teeth animations throughout). Next step – Why colgate? This is where Robert Cialdani’s principles of “Social proof” and “Authority” come in. Social proof says that if something is being pursued by a large number of people, it gains validation (notice the “Bhaarat ki 90% janta ne maana Colgate ka kamaal!”) and Authority says (I’m deriving) that if someone in a position of perceived authority claims something, it must be true (“Bharat ke top dentists ke dwara verified!“)

Selling emotional security offers a far greater challenge. Maslow placed it right in the middle of his pyramid because it’s what we need right after our instinctive needs are satisfied. Our parents and immediate family offer us that security until a certain point of time. We are brought up to believe that parents are going to be a permanent part of our lives until they die, hence it is unfathomable for us to perceive and comprehend the concept of “branching out”. For us, parents and family symbolize safety, security and comfort. But that, in our social context, is an ideal situation. “Perfect parenting” is an utopian concept. There is always some form of dysfunction that exists in every family. It can be abuse (sexual, physical, emotional), addiction, dishonesty, financial co-dependency and unavailability. This dysfunction affects kids in more ways than we can see. What is also does, is create a void, which demands for someone else to come and fill it.

This is where a prospective partner comes in, promises to fill that void and offers the emotional security that was absent previously. When you form a bond with someone not because you want it, but because you need it, it becomes a ‘toxic relationship’. This dependency can then be manipulated by the other person to get you to do what he wants, or lead to abuse in all it’s forms. This is probably what the typical ‘playboys’ or ‘Casanovas’ pry upon – a woman’s need to feel ‘loved’ and ‘special’. They use principles like “liking”, “scarcity”, “reciprocity” and “commitment” to manipulate. At the outset is the ‘charm’ factor which acts as the ice breaker. It attracts you to him, holds your attention. He seems to be smart, handsome and respectful. At first you’re only attracted, but as you let him ease his way into your life, you also provide him the power to affect your decisions. Once you’re hooked, he knows you will do anything to keep him in your life. Because that’s how he’s manipulated your need. That’s how he’s customized his behaviour to fit the vacuum perfectly.

“Scarcity”, as a principle, is used by businessmen to create a sense of urgency among their buyers to buy their product. They send out a message of the product not being available in higher quantities or for too long, which makes the buy invest in it regardless of it’s utility at that time. It is also used by people in an unfair power equation to wield control over the other person. Say, a very popular girl, loved and sought by a lot of guys, gets together with an average looking boy, who isn’t too popular. She can use the “I chose you, even though I could have chosen so many other better looking boys over you. I can just leave right now” card with him to get her way. This makes him feel as though she is a prize he ought to cherish more than anything, or else he will lose her. She’s not ‘available’ for him to be with her when he wants.

This situation can also be viewed from the perspective of the “reciprocity” principle. When a person manipulates you by making you feel like you ‘owe’ them something, it’s known as reciprocity. People in toxic relationships often fall victim to this tactic. In the above mentioned case, the girl is also making the boy feel as though he ‘owes’ her something because she sacrificed other prospective choices for him. This is also most commonly seen in our society in general, especially during weddings. If someone gifts you something expensive at a wedding, you automatically feel ‘indebted’ to return the favour the moment you get a chance.

‘Money’ is a major parameter used to judge others in our society, especially North India. It plays a major role in defining someone’s opinion of you, in deciding the power equation between two people and consequently their behaviours. If someone lends you a large amount of money, you automatically become indebted to that person, not just financially, but in every way possible. The word ‘No’ is pushed out of the relationship. The dowry system is a prominent example of reciprocity. Ours being a patriarchal society, getting the daughter married is much more important than getting the son married. Hence the girl’s family feels indebted to the boy’s family for being so generous to them. The dowry system worked for as long as it did simply because of the unbalanced social (and power) equation. Not to mention that it still does not flourish, but under other names like “gifts” and “help”.

This is how emotional breaches happen. Every single time a decision you take is even slightly influenced, you have lost your emotional equilibrium. The key step to defending yourself against such breaches, is recognizing the manipulation from the word go. If someone is constantly harping on about how much he does for you, he is manipulating you. The technique of PROI (Prediction, recognition, observation and Intuition) is extremely helpful in strengthening emotional self-defence. Your insight and judgement needs to be strong enough for you to predict X’s behaviour, recognize the harmful and manipulative elements, observe the behavioural patterns and pay attention to your instincts. One of the major mistakes people make while either buying a product or buying someone’s offer of ‘love’ is ignore instincts. If you feel, in your gut, that something isn’t right – it probably isn’t.

At the end, I would like to reiterate that everyone is trying to sell you something. It’s up to you to recognize whether you want it or not.

Reasons I could get married to a pizza

I had always thought that sleeping was my first and true love. I have happily indulged in over-sleeping for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, sleeping in was something that I dreamed about doing for the rest of my life. I didn’t think anything could beat my love for sleeping. But then, pizza came along and everything changed. It happens to the best of us doesn’t it? We all feel our first relationship is going to be our last, that we will never be able to love someone else as much and notions like ‘first love is true love’ is our mantra. However, as life progresses and we grow up, we realize that’s not true. I, too, have come to a similar realization. Although sleep will always be my first love, pizza is something I can get married to – because that’s how much I love pizza.

1) I can never have enough pizza

Now, really, can you? No matter what kind of pizza it is – simple margherita, loaded with vegetables or just garlic, I will gulp it down like my life depends on it. I love every single type of pizza (in the vegetarian category of course) – but if the world was about to end and all the plants were dead, I would have a chicken pizza too. Survival instincts bro.

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2) It’s the ultimate depression food

Apart from chocolate cake, pizza is my go-to food item every time I feel low. The cheese and the crust are enough to take my mind off my issues for a while. So who doesn’t want a little bit of escapism in their lives? Besides, eating makes you feel sleepy, so you can doze off right after that blissful moment.

3) It’s available easily!

Yes! There are so many pizza outlets out there that it seems like the world will never run out of pizza. There is dominoes, pizza hut, pizza square, pizza corner, chicago pizza, slice of italy, pino’s and many many more. What else do you need to consider a place heaven? Every time you crave food, all you have to do is call your nearest pizza unit and you will be gifted with a delight within half an hour. All other cuisines are not as widely available and/or do not have home delivery service available. Pizza is the king, yo.

4) Cold pizza is just as yummy

If I don’t finish the entire pizza in one night, I just pop in the fridge and eat it for the breakfast the next day. That saves my entire household machinery time, energy and money to make appropriate breakfast for me and I don’t complain either. So everyone’s happy. Plus cold pizza tastes awesome in the morning.

5) Pizza can be made pretty quickly with a few handy ingredients

You don’t necessarily need to make a dough and the perfect toppings to make pizza. You can just use regular bread and use your leftover food like paneer, salads, chopped up carrots and even leftover maggi as toppings, and you will still get a delicious pizza. That’s the beauty of pizza – when it’s excellent, it’s excellent and when it’s average, it’s still pretty damn good!

6) Luna Lovegood loves Pizza

Luna Lovegood is my idol. She is someone who genuinely doesn’t give a fuck about what people think about her. And she loves pizza! How do I know this? Well, prove that she doesn’t šŸ˜‰ And when two of my favorites are combined, what do you get? Yes, a spot on my list!

That was quite random. Well, I’m sleepy.

7) It’s cheap!

Yep, anyone can afford it. It’s the cheapest food there is, apart from vada paav. So if one day you get robbed of your money, have very little left and are hungry, you can still afford a pizza. Pizza doesn’t discriminate. Pizza is for everyone.

And that’s it! If you’re a pizza lover like me, then you’re awesome. If, for some reason, you don’t like pizza, then you have some serious issues, my friend.

 

Sweetest movie of the year

English Vinglish. It has to be the simplest yet the most beautiful film made this year. I had watched it in the theaters twice but I recently also bought the DVD. Watching it alone without any human presenceĀ interferingĀ with my attention made me enjoy it even more. I guess that’s probably because you’re not really worried about time and space at home. You can simply slump in your couch, hang your legs in the air and watch a film. Only suspense and horror films should be watched in a theater.

Anyway, what I love about English Vinglish is that it’s completely unpretentious. It doesn’t try to emotionally manipulate you or try to deliver any strong moral message. It’s a slice of life film where the protagonist could might as well be either you or me. How many times have we come across a relative who really struggles with english and yearns to speak it well? Probably many times. It’s unfortunate that an alien language has become such a major yardstick to judge someone’s personality in our nation now. After all, English is but a foreign language just like Chinese or French or Italian,Ā albeitĀ spoken and accepted more widely. Shashi is a middle class Maharashtrian house wife who, despite being the best mother and the best wife one could hope for, still endures a lot of disrespect (dished out to her by her own family members) due to her lack of english speaking skills. She is also an entrepreneur as she is equivalent to a laddoo manufacturing plant (delicious ones at that) but she is not respected for thatĀ endeavorĀ either. Fed up and infuriated by theirĀ behavior, she sets out to learn english and prove them wrong.

The film itself is like a breath of fresh air that leaves you with a huge smile on your face. Nobody’s aĀ villainĀ here. The husband is not evil, he is simply someone who has fallen prey to the same superficial culture. He doesn’t respect his wife and consequently nor does the daughter. They both do love her, but they don’t value her. She eventually does earn that respect and it’s a heartwarming moment. Shashi is a character one roots for. She may not be heroic but she’s a hero nonetheless. It is the small things that eventually matter, after all.

Sridevi has always been a favorite. Chaalbaaz, Mr. India, Sadma and Lamhe are amazing films. She, along with Madhuri Dixit, are the only two female superstars that India has ever seen. She still commands attention. She completely embodied Shashi. Not once did the shadow of the superstar she had once been cross her eyes. She made Shashi’s turmoil and eventual happiness both equally identifiable. When I watched it in the theater, people clapped when her name came on the screen in the beginning. I must add here that 2012 has been the year of the ladies. Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor (although ‘Heroine’ was a pile of unadulterated horseshit) and Sridevi. All the men can go take a hike now.

Everyone else in the cast was equally good. Special mention to Mehdi Nebbou, oof! what a cutie! Uske saath mera dil bhi toot gaya šŸ˜¦ His relationship with Shashi, pure friendship yet bordering on something more, was poignant. Special mention to Priya Anand, the actress who played Radha. Her character was Shashi’s true friend, the one who supported her throughout her road to self-fulfillment.

Out of the songs, Navrai Majhi is my favorite and always makes me happy. Cinematography is so beautiful that I wanted to board the next plane to US and stay their forever. The cameo by Amitabh was totally FTW! It was a little OTT but heck, who cares. The man was kickass and I loved every bit of it (Band karo yeh gober!!)

I think everyone should watch this film, if you have no reason to watch it, just watch it to feel good about yourself. You are the way you are. Love yourself and everything about yourself. Or just watch it for Sridevi *shrugs* Gauri Shinde is a winner all the way. She’s a very sensitive person and it shows. May you direct many more films!

P.S – Sridevi’s voice is still a bit jarring though. Add to that all the surgeries she’s underwent. Why do people do this to themselves? :scratches head: