Crash & Burn

“I swear to god; I will kill myself!” she cried whilst holding a sharp knife to her wrist.

“Mom, please! Don’t behave like this! Sambhalo apne aap ko!” screamed Vikas frantically. He couldn’t believe how quickly things had spiralled out of his control. At the outset, he had been so sure that he would be able to handle this well. He had been so sure that he would be able to get through to his mother. Little did he know that he hardly knew his own mother and how inaccessible she had become, surrounded thickly by her own grief and sorrow.

“Don’t you dare tell me what to do! You have betrayed me all along! I trusted you so much, I thought you would listen to me!”

Hair unkempt, dupatta having slipped down onto the floor, tears streaming endlessly down her face, the frail and tiny woman shivered as she screamed each word. It did not seem as though her son had confessed that there was a girl he was in love with and wanted to marry, it seemed as though he had proposed to disown her. To her, perhaps, there was simply no difference between the two.

“Mom, please calm down! You’re really scaring me! At least try to understand what I’m saying. I’m your son!” Vikas screamed the last three words in a desperate attempt to make his mother understand.

She let the knife linger at her wrist a for a few more seconds before her knees gave in and she fell down on the floor, the knife slipping away from her hand with a loud clunk. She immediately started sobbing like a baby and held her head between her palms. Vikas slowly walked towards her and sat down next to her. He grasped her hand and said, “I’m sorry mom, I know I have hurt you. I know a lot of things have come as a shock to you. I lied and that is hurting you the most. But you must understand why I did it. I did it because I knew this is how you would take it. I cannot see you like this”

“T-t-hen wh-why dd-id you-u d-do it a-at all?” she asked in between sobs.

Vikas sighed, “I’m in love, mom. I don’t think that’s a crime. I do have the right to choose my life partner, don’t I?”

Although tears continued to stream down her face, she took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself down and said, “You’re doing your masters right now. Don’t you realize how much pain your parents have taken to be able to provide you with such excellent education? How much money we have invested in it, so that you can make a good life? How can you even think of marriage right now? All these things are a distraction!”

“Whose talking about marriage mom? All her family is suggesting is an engagement so that the commitment is final from both sides. We can get married whenever we want. I will focus on my career and so will she. This will validate the relationship, that’s all. Besides, I’m not a baby. I’m 25 years old. You do realize that we both have already committed to each other, don’t you?”

At this point, her temper rose and she said in a raised voice, “So is that my fault? Did you ask me before committing? Why should I bear the punishment and pain of something that I didn’t decide?!”

“That is not the point!” said Vikas in a slightly irritated voice, “I just told you that I have the right to choose my life partner. We fell in love. We didn’t decide to, it just happened. That does not mean that it will ruin my career or I will not be able to make a good life. We lived together when we were in US, mom. I think that speaks a lot for itself”

“You should be ashamed of yourself. How could you do that? How could you take such a step without thinking twice?” she asked as she suddenly got up, “Is that what I have taught you? Didn’t you think about the family’s respect? About us?”

“I know that it sounds wrong to you, but what I’m trying to say is that we were able to take that step because we are so sure about our future. There is no doubt in our minds that we will marry each other one day. It was not a casual deal; it was a mark of our commitment. Please try to understand that”

Once again, she shook her head and said in any icy tone, “No, I don’t want to know. This engagement is not possible. We didn’t send you abroad to do all this. How can you get engaged to someone without even getting a job? Without standing on your own legs? I cannot allow you to make a commitment like that without having a financial backbone!”

“What does my financial backbone have to do with this? I’m not being asked to financially support her or spend money on her in anyway. Honestly, she wouldn’t ask for that even when we’re married! The commitment is already there and has been there for the past one year! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! Her family got to know that we lived together in US, they know that both of us have to go back again, so if we went as an engaged couple it will simply make them feel reassured. Come to think of it, it should be reassuring to you as well! Would you want me to lie to you again?”

Vikas was feeling drained. Their conversation was simply going in circles. She was looking at what had happened in the past and what he proposed should happen in future as two disconnected events that were both crimes in her head. She simply wasn’t trying to understand that the natural progression of any relationship is to take a step forward, especially when the two involved are on the same page. He had hoped that she would at least understand, if not respect, his decision. But he had not even been able to get past the ‘acceptance’ stage.

Living together under one roof is an accepted norm overseas. In India, however, it’s a blasphemous idea, enough to make the immediate society shudder. So naturally when their parents found out, all hell broke loose. Her parents, however, came to the conclusion that if they had to be living together then might as well make the commitment official. “Let us feel safe and not unsure all the time”, was their argument.

Vikas had been apprehensive when that happened. He knew his mom would not take it well, but he also knew that he wanted to spend his life with that woman because she made him happy. She made him feel content. He had given her his word and he would keep it. It was the thought of her that gave him strength in difficult situations.

“My decision is final Vikas. If you want to be with that girl, you leave my house. I will never see your face again. You can do whatever you wish to with your life. I am already dead inside, so what’s the difference? How does it matter to you, whether I live or die?”

Tears started streaming down her face again as she continued to mumble to herself. Vikas realized that there was no point in trying to talk to her right now, he would have to try again later when she was saner and more mature. He took a deep breath and said, “We’ll talk about this later mom. Why don’t you have dinner and sleep?”

“I don’t want to eat anything. I won’t eat until you give up on this crazy idea!”

And with that, she got up and went inside her room, banging the door behind her.

Vikas sat there staring after his mom, trying to blink away some of the tears that were threatening to roll down his face. He was caught in a situation where he had no idea what to do. He wished his mother would stop reacting in such a childish way and using threats to manipulate him. He felt stuck and helpless. If he were honest to himself, deep down in his heart he knew what the permanent solution was. But he also knew that it would take a lot of courage to put it on the table. At that moment, his phone rang. He wiped a lone tear off his cheek and picked it up, “Hi Dad”

“Hi beta, is everything okay?”

Vikas let out a sigh, “No Dad. Nothing is okay. When are you back?”

“In about 10 minutes”

“Okay dad. I need to talk to you about something”

Vikas kept the phone down and tried to arrange his scattered thoughts. If he could convince his father, then he would be one step closer. It would be tough, but doing the right thing was never easy.

15 minutes later, when his father had arrived and had had his customary cup of coffee, Vikas sat across from him at the dining table and said, “Papa, we need to discuss Mom’s state of mind”

His father let out a defeated sigh and said, “Beta you know how she is. I have tried to channel her thoughts in the positive direction time and again, but she simply doesn’t want to. She is mentally very weak”

“Papa you can’t find a solution unless you identify the problem. The way she is right now is not something that has happened overnight. It’s the accumulated effect of all the years she has spent feeling wronged and cheated by everyone around her. She has started looking at herself like a victim in every situation Papa. Can’t you see what is happening here? It’s gotten to a point where she has started to threaten suicide!”

Vikas was trembling as he spoke. They had become so used to his mother whining and complaining all the time that they had accepted it as a part of who she was. “That’s just how she is”, was their usual refrain. They either tried to avoid triggering her or architected their behaviour to suit her wishes. They never really tried to tackle the root of the problem. This situation, however, was one too many for him to handle. It was neither avoidable nor designable. They would have to look at it for what it was and take a small step towards finding a permanent solution instead of band-aid ones.

“I know why you are suddenly saying all this. It’s because you don’t want to lose that girl”

Vikas shook his head lightly and said, “That’s a part of the reason, Papa. But mom’s behaviour has been raising red flags for a while and you know it. Do you think she has a problem with the engagement? No! she thinks that she will lose me in some way if that happens. She’s insecure and that’s why she’s lashing out. This is her fear talking, not her. She is trying to keep me clutched to her chest in whatever way possible. She will behave like a child, threaten suicide, will stop eating – anything to avoid facing that fear. And I can assure you that her passive-aggressive side will come out tomorrow in the form of depression and silent treatment”

His father processed what he said for a while and said, “So what are you suggesting?”

Vikas continued, “Look this situation seems to be the problem now, but it’s not. Today it’s the woman I love and tomorrow it will be my career choice, later my decision to buy a house or how to raise my kid. No matter what it is, she will react in the same manner. Except that it’s getting increasingly worse. She has no faith in either of us. She thinks if I don’t walk the path the way she wants me to, I won’t be successful in life. If you don’t comply with her wishes, her old age is doomed. She needs professional help. She needs someone who can make her face the fact that the real problem is inside her and so is the solution. She needs to stop expecting other people to fill the voids in her life”

“Are you suggesting that we put her in a mental hospital?” asked his father curtly.

“No, papa. And I’m not suggesting that she’s ‘mental’ either. All I’m saying is that her behaviour is alarming and scary, and we should get her some professional help. We can start with counselling sessions in either group or personal. Trust me, finding identification is a huge step in the healing process. Later, if it works, we can try suggesting something she can get involved in and commit her time and space to”

“You know she will never agree”

“I know, which is why we need to give her a dose of her own medicine and show her the mirror. We will suggest this idea to her and get it done the way she would get it done if it was her idea. Refuse to eat. Refuse to talk. Refuse to go to work. Keep complaining about everything. Tell her how dead you feel inside, how people in your life have used you. Be passive-aggressive. I will do the same. At some point, maybe a day, a week or a month later, she will realize what we are trying to put across. She will realize why we are suggesting this. She will accept it herself, Papa” said Vikas earnestly.

His father drummed his fingers lightly on the table and said, “Are you sure this will work?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that we need to do something drastic to get her to see what she is doing to herself and this family”

His father let out a sigh and said, “Okay then. Let’s do this. I am with you”

Vikas smiled and said, “Thanks Papa. We need to do this as a team”

His father smiled and nodded, “Yes we do. And what about this situation? Will you go ahead with the engagement?”

“Yes I will. If we want to find a permanent solution, we need to stop enabling her by giving in to her blackmail. There are healthy boundaries in every relationship, and its high time I defined them. If we do this together, I’m sure we can get through to her”

“Okay, beta. I trust you” his father said with a smile before patting his shoulder twice. Vikas smiled back and let out a sigh of relief. That’s one level down, he thought to himself. He picked up his phone and messaged her:

Baby, we will get engaged. I am happy this happened, because I could finally find the courage to do something I should have done long ago. I love you : )

 

 

 

She got up with a jerk and wildly looked around. She was in her bed, in her room, in her house. She quickly checked her phone for any messages. It reflected nothing but the time: 9:30. She opened her whatsapp contact list and scrolled down to V. She was still blocked by Vikas. It had been 7 days since they split because his mother threatened suicide and he couldn’t take a stand against her. She spent each day dreaming the same dream and waking up expecting the message she so badly wanted to read. But reality offered her nothing but the same disappointment every day.

She sank her head back into her pillow and let a tear roll down the side of her face. They were happy and content. If only he had done the right thing instead of the easy one. If only he had tried to fight the problem instead of giving into manipulation. If only he didn’t let her go so easily. If only.

All she had now, were her dreams that crashed and burned every single morning, taking a piece of her with them in the flames.

Chasing life – Short story I Part 1

As a psychology student, some themes have always fascinated me. Suicide happens to be one of them. What fascinates me more than the deed itself is that how difficult it is to understand how someone is feeling internally by his/her outward behavior. Sometimes it’s almost as if our inner and outer self are two different personalities.

This is going to be a 3 part story at best, depending on how the second part shapes up. Please leave feedback, it’s highly valued.
Part 1

The campus was very impressive. In a society full of stigmas and notions about mental disorders, this institution was a sign of rebellion and belief. Most people would say that it was unwise for someone to invest so much money in a place that would cure diseases that half the country didn’t even believe existed. There were so many more pressing problems – cancer, for one. Malaria, AIDS, TB and endless other deadly diseases. Then there was the lack of emergency units, even in the metropolitan cities. But despite this, someone had decided that Major depressive disorder was just as alarming a problem as suicide itself.

It had a different wing for every major disorder (or umbrella of disorders) – Depression, Panic and anxiety, Personality disorders, Mood disorders and Psychotic and dissociative disorders. Then there was a suicide and addiction wing. Probably more crowded that every other wing put together. The addiction wing was also the only one that was partly funded by the government, so it wasn’t as expensive as everything else.

I was one of the interns who was offered the opportunity to come here every day for a week and interact with patients from a wing of my choice. We were a group of 8 interns. Our hospital felt that our work and insight was a little better than the others. So here we were.

Although I had planned on selecting the Psychotic dissociative disorders wing, mainly because I had a lot of interest in Dissociative Identity Disorder, I decided on going for the suicide wing at the last moment. I don’t know why I did that, I had been planning on interacting with a DID patient ever since I had been told I’d be coming here. Maybe it was because I saw an extremely cheerful patient as soon as I entered and wondered whether she was being discharged, only to later see her being escorted into the suicide wing by two nurses. I had always imagined suicidal people to be depressed, dismal and miserable. Like they couldn’t wait for a chance to step over the line and end it. It seems like no one, not even the students of psychology, are free from the clutches of stereotyping.

As I walked into the wing, I saw all sorts of people going about their daily routine. Some were there truly to get rid of their suicidal tendencies and get better. Usually suicidal tendencies stem from somewhere, mostly from depression but there can be other causes too. Not everyone who commits suicide (or attempts it) is depressed. Some with bipolar disorder may attempt suicide during one of their manic stages believing it to be an act of extreme grandeur. Thanks to ancient literature, suicide has a certain amount of heroic romanticism attached to it. Some others may just be in a terrible mess and can’t find the resources to cope with it. Some may just have attempted it in the heat of the moment. However, once the root cause presents itself, most of these patients are reassigned to the respective wings or prescribed outpatient counselling.

Some patients were also admitted by their families, who had been witness to so many false alarms that they simply could not leave it to fate anymore. Some of those families were there, and their worried faces had only one thing to say – “We don’t know what to do anymore”.

Those patients didn’t want to be here. They just wanted out, and wanted to exit this life. They would probably be the most ardent advocates of euthanasia that you would ever come across. But having been admitted without any choice, they did everything they could to either 1) commit suicide within these walls or 2) find a way to escape. The second part included behaving either too well or too bad. The doctors however, were far too experienced to let their act fool them.

As I walked further on, I saw that girl once again. She was sitting in her room reading her book. On the outset, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with her. She seemed so normal, for the lack of a better word. Her room, luckily, was right in front of the central garden, so she was free to go out for a walk anytime she wanted. Her room looked pretty organized as well, at least, her side of the room did. I really wanted to talk to her, to know how she had landed up here. But first I needed to go meet the wing head, Dr. Mohan Raathi.

He was a renowned psychologist in the city. I had heard from a lot of people that he his method of therapy wasn’t just limited to deep breathing and yoga, but an actual in depth analysis of each patient’s problems and history. I walked into his office to find him scribbling something in a notebook. I knocked lightly at his office door. He looked up and nodded.

“Ah yes, you’re an intern from the hospital aren’t you? Yes, the dean told me some of you would be coming”

I smiled and nodded, “Yes, I’m Neeti. I would like to interact with some of your patients here. Get some practical experience..a reality check..”

He smiled back, “If only our education system could look beyond the books, right?”

“Right”

“You just need to fill out this form, my assistant will manage the rest. Then you can go ahead and meet the patients”

“Alright, sure”

After finishing up the form, I thanked him and exited his office. At once, I walked back to that girl’s room and knocked. She looked up at me and to my surprise, smiled.

“Yes?”

“Hi, I’m Neeti. I’m a psychology intern. I’m here to interact with you, understand your story”

She kept smiling at me and said, “Okay. But there is nothing to understand, really. I don’t belong here. I’m not suicidal at all”

That’s what I had thought too, the first time I saw her. She had looked reasonably happy and positive – definitely not the type of person who was suicidal. But then, how did she end up here?

She seemed to read my mind, and said, “I have been put here by my family. As filmy as it may sound, but the truth is that my dad died and left me all his property. My mother left us when I was a kid. I don’t know where she is now. My relatives were expecting something too, but he didn’t leave a dime to their name. The only way they can get all the property to themselves is by proving my insanity. Well, that didn’t happen as all the psychiatrists gave a positive report on all accounts. So their last option was to prove me suicidal. I’m just waiting for the compulsory 30 days to end before this drama stops and I can go back home”

She ended her story there and there was silence. It did sound extremely filmy, and normally I would have disregarded it as just another attempt to fool the authorities to let her out, but I simply couldn’t ignore my gut that said that this one was actually true. Some part of me kept telling me she didn’t belong here. Maybe it was the same instinct that had always made me stand out.

I finally decided to end the silence, “So..you’re saying you’ve never attempted suicide in your life?”

No, I haven’t”

“But you need to present some proof to the authorities before they can admit you. They can’t just admit you on someone’s word”

“Well.., this one day I was at home and everyone was out. I was having a terrible headache. It was almost blinding. I went to my bua’s room and rummaged around for some OTC pills. I found a container that said ‘For headache’ and took 2 pills. But those were not headache pills. She used to keep her anti-psychotic medication in that container. Apparently it was very strong. Although it wasn’t lethal enough to harm me in any way, it gave them an excuse to admit me here”

I stared at her, looking for any tells. But there weren’t any. She stared resolutely back at me, almost like daring me to find any sign that she was lying. I didn’t know what to think. I had walked in here expecting to hear an extra-ordinary tale of some serious disorder like Bipolar or borderline, and had come across a possibly healthy person who her family had conspired against.

“When were you admitted in this wing?”, I asked

“It’s been 10 days. I haven’t seen a more depressing place in my life. I wish I could help these people in some way”

At this point I suddenly realized that I had not even asked her name. I was so engrossed in figuring out the puzzle that I didn’t even realize that she wasn’t an experiment. I mentally frowned at myself and immediately said, “Sorry, I didn’t even ask what your name was..”

She gave a bittersweet smile and said, “It’s okay. I’m Smita”

“It’s nice to meet you, Smita. I can’t say if I believe you completely, but I don’t think you’re lying either”

She nodded, “It’s nice to hear that. I haven’t heard that a lot”

“Well, I should get going. But I’ll come meet you again tomorrow, if that’s okay with you”

“Sure. I’m sick of people looking at me like I’m some sort of a weakling. It would be nice to have a normal conversation for once”

I smiled at her, “I know what that feels like. I’ve had people look at me like a retard half my life”

She laughed lightly as I got up. I said bye to her and exited her room. I don’t understand. Her story sounds far fetched but it didn’t seem like she was lying at all. There was so much plight in her voice. With these thoughts swirling in my head, I walked back towards Dr. Mohan’s office. I had to see her file. I knocked for the second time at his door. He looked up and beckoned me in.

“Doctor, I’ve just visited a patient named Smita. Would it be possible for you to show me her file?”

He sighed, “I’ll have to ask her family. If they’re okay with it, I’ll give it to you. But..” he paused, “Dr. Neeti, what has she been telling you?”

The role of a mother in her son’s life

We’re all aware of how deeply our parents affect us. All of us are shaped by our childhood, and carry some part of it with us until we die. It is my personal belief that most of our behavioural patterns, traits and flaws can be traced to something or the other in our childhoods. An authoritative environment will yield traits like low self-esteem and shyness for years to come, while an overly casual environment will yield over-confidence, narcissism and recklessness.

This is the reason why parenting is a tougher task than waging war on an entire country with the help of nukes. Every little thing matters, and adds up to what will eventually turn out to be the child’s personality. Trying to be too perfect as parents will make the child wary of ever making a mistake, while being completely irresponsible will mess up the child’s life in numerous ways. Both the father and the mother have to be equal participants in the process of parenting. This article, however, focuses on the unique relationship between that of a mother and her son. It has always been pointed that a man looks at other women the way he looks at his mother. Consequently, he expects the women in his life to live up to the same standard. This is very much true, even when he may not be aware of it consciously. A mother’s influence over her son is so subconsciously ingrained, that it affects the smallest of decisions without either of them even knowing. For example, a son may not like bright colors because he never saw his mother wearing them during his childhood, He may be inclined to follow a particular religious ritual (without knowing why) because he saw his mother doing the same, He may not understand why smoking is proclaimed to be a ‘bad habit’ by everyone else, because his mother smoked too.

A mother also has a deep impact on whether her son grows up to be inherently strong or weak. If a son is brought up by a weak mother, he will tend to be weak, even if he becomes successful career wise. He will always view his mother and consequently himself as a victim. His consistent lack of being decisive, confrontational and courageous will make him identify even more with his mother, and instead of fostering a healthy relationship, it will breed a co-dependent, toxic relationship. On the other hand, if a son if brought up by a strong mother, who knows how and when to set limits to her affection and spoon-feeding, he will grow up to be an independent individual himself.

In the Indian society, men are known to be more inclined to follow their father’s footsteps, mirror his opinions, beliefs and thoughts about world, religion, politics and life. A son born into a businessman’s house will continue the business, a son born to an engineer father will become an engineer, a son born to a father who supports BJP will support the same party. So on and so forth. This may be true, but these are choices that a son is conditioned to make by the family and society in general. A father always wants his son to be 10 times the man he was when his son grows up. It’s natural progression and evolution. However, these are not subconscious decisions. Like mentioned above, a mother’s influence affects the smallest of things in a son’s life.

Specifically in India, where mothers treat their sons like kings and hold them dearer than their own lives, and fathers are not as deeply involved in the day-to-day upbringing, sons tend to mirror their mother’s likes, dislikes and choices much more. This is the reason why an adult son may get caught up between his wife and mother. I have observed that Indian mothers find it hard to let go and accept the fact that their now adult sons are capable of leading separate lives. They cling onto them, because their sons were their only mission and accomplishment. To let go would be to let go of all meaning behind their lives. The consequent effect of this coddling is that the adult son finds it hard to view any relationship in his life objectively. Every relationship in his life gets coloured by his mother’s opinion in some way or the other, just like his relationship with his wife. He might be deeply in love with her and respect her choices, but if his mother’s opinion of her isn’t as good, then he will doubt his own feelings. He needs validation from his mother for everything.

And as heinous as it may sound, most of India’s mistreatment of women (rape, molestation, violence, domestic abuse, eave teasing etc) can be attributed to the women themselves. A mother can be a role model for her son on how he will grow up to treat other women. If she herself lets herself be treated badly in her marriage, then the son may think it’s ‘norm’ for women to be treated second class, and that they encourage it. If the mother doesn’t use negative reinforcement when the son commits a mistake or crosses a boundary, then she ‘enables’ him to think that it’s okay to behave in that way. All these factors and behavioural missteps combine to encourage a man to commit violence against women, and even more alarming, to think that it’s alright.

In conclusion, our mothers are a vital part in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether you share a healthy relationship with her or an unhealthy one, whether you are in touch with her or not, she will continue to affect and impact you in a multitude of ways for a very long time.

Why some people need to make others feel guilty to feel better themselves

stress management 001

(That’s my work of art^) Ugly. I know.

We all have different ways of and responses to handling stress. Some of us shout, scream and throw tantrums, others like to recede quietly into their shell and cut themselves off everyone, some start hyperventilating, some blame themselves and/or others. There are different defense mechanisms all of us adopt to adapt to stressful situations (You may recall Frued’s unconscious defense mechanisms at this point) The key aspect of these defense mechanisms is that they’re unconscious reactions to stress and anxiety. An individual does not plan these reactions. They occur based on the individual’s past experiences, environment and upbringing.

One of the personality types that I find highly interesting is the one that I like to call the ‘guilty me-guilty you’ personality type. This is someone who needs to shoulder responsibility in order to feel worthwhile or validated and feels guilty about not doing or contributing anything. But when things get overwhelming and extremely stressful, tends to make someone else feel guilty for not doing as much as he/she is. Their response to stress is transferring the guilt, because they can justify blaming someone else for the stress by telling themselves that they shoulder too much responsibility. It makes them feel both a victim and superior to everyone else. “What is my life about?”, “Why me?”, “My whole life is about handling responsibility. I have no life” and “He/She doesn’t do as much as I do. They are selfish and greedy. I’m the one getting ground in the machine here” It escalates pretty quickly. The fact that the individual had chosen to take up responsibility themselves is lost somewhere in the process of constructing a defense for the ego.

In family structures, this might happen with the breadwinner. It can be the father, mother or their children who work. Families who manage their finances on a monthly basis and pretty much anticipate a heart attack on the 1st of every month are sure to have a member who behaves this way.

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The fact that they have devoted their lives to taking care of their families validates all sorts of behaviors for them. This is most commonly seen in patriarchal Indian families where the father justifies his absence from household matters and disinterest in his children’s lives by dangling the paycheck in front of his wife’s eyes, and that if he were to become more homely they would lose all the comforts that his money has bought. His typical reaction to stress would be to make his wife feel guilty for watching a television serial or taking a nap in the afternoon because after all he cannot afford those luxuries. This sort of emotional abuse can cause a lot of harm, which the abuser may not realize.

This guilt tripping can cause a major dent in the self-esteem of the abused (in this case the wife) They constantly keep trying to please the abuser in order to assuage their own guilt. They try to make their abuser happy by attempting to help out wherever they can or making themselves better in any which way. They ignore their own lives and focus only on making their abuser’s better. They are led to believe that somehow, they can make things better. Their emotional state depends on the emotional state of the abuser. If the abuser is happy, they are happy. This applies to all emotions. But the truth is they cannot help, no one can. This is a never ending road that leads to nowhere except a deeper pool of guilt.

What does one lose in this journey? Self esteem, self worth, confidence and courage.

On the other hand, if the husband were to suddenly find himself devoid of any responsibility, he may start feeling guilty himself for not doing anything, and start looking for excessive responsibility. Basically, people like him thrive on stress and burden. They need it to survive and feel worthwhile, but at the same time project their guilt upon others when things get out of hand. It’s a never ending cycle that is harmful towards all the people involved. An interesting by-product of this personality type is that such people feel they are entitled to whatever they wish to have. Perhaps this response stems from the belief that “I work my ass off and take care of so many people. I go through so much stress everyday. How could I be wrong for demanding this?” In the example mentioned above, the husband might feel that he is entitled to his wife’s attention and time even when she’s busy, because he’s the “important” one in the equation, or that he is entitled to enforce his opinion on his children because he has “experienced so much more”.

Maybe the root cause of this behavior is to feel a sense of entitlement or a sense of worthiness, or maybe both – the end result is destructive for everyone involved. It’s not being pleasant on either side of equation and causes distress and dysfunction at every level.

I personally believe that such people need appropriate therapy so that they and their family members can lead a healthier life. Or just shove a couple of SSRIs or Benzos down their throat to make life even simpler. Works for me.

Hog’s head: Siphoning off thoughts to make my head a bit emptier – I

I observe a lot, which ensures that my brain is always overpopulated with thoughts. Most of these thoughts are disconnected and transient – they evaporate or flicker away pretty soon. But nevertheless, they exist, even if it is for a fraction of a second. So I decided to make an attempt at constructing a train of cohesive thoughts – organization out of chaos, basically. Over the past few days, owning to the experiences in my life, I have made a few observations about people who can be functional only when they believe that the world is lined up against them, or when they play the victims.

Lets address the first aspect first – people who believe that everyone is against them in a discriminatory and prejudicial way. To them, every situation is unfair, every individual biased. Believing that people hate them or are against them helps them make the difficult situations a little bit easier. For example, a person experiencing this syndrome (Also known as ‘persecutory delusion’) will categorically believe that the only reason he/she was asked to stay back late for work is because the boss harbors a personal grudge against him/her, or if someone else was chosen over them for a job then it was probably because the management is jealous or afraid of their capability or intelligence. Like I said, these delusional beliefs assuage the feelings of hurt or humiliation that arise out of these situations.

The second aspect – the “victim syndrome” is a complex bit of thought process which leads the person to always consider him/herself as the victim in every situation. They like to believe that they were wronged unjustly in situations that they had no control over. Classic example of people suffering from victim syndrome are domestic abuse survivors. While I have a lot of respect for them to have come out of abusive arrangements, I have to say that they are the prime example of a group of people breeding and perpetuating the victim syndrome. Because they were subjected to abuse for such a long time, and because they for a long time they could not do anything about it – they attribute all the problems in their life to this one particular experience. Lack of independence, excessive crying, not shouldering responsibility of their kids or loved ones, emotionally isolating their kids, emotionally and sometimes physically abusing their kids etc are all symptoms of this syndrome. As someone from the Indian subcontinent, I have come across such women far too many times in life.

People who play the victim love getting sympathy from people. They love it when people mollycoddle them and join them in justifying their actions (as a direct result of the injustice suffered by them) They find it hard to digest that there may have been another solution to the same problem that could have yielded better results. They usually consider themselves to be “helpless” and “without any choice” . Another important characteristic of a chronic victim is the tendency to play the ‘blame game’. Whenever something goes wrong, the victim needs someone to be their scapegoat. When they don’t find someone to blame, they turn into victimizers and victimize other people by unloading or venting on them, They channel all their frustration and anger on someone else whose connection to the problem at hand was probably remote. This is because the idea that they could have done something wrong is just too much for them to assess. Blaming or unloading helps them feel better and less guilty about their mistake.

Another trait that I have observed, while it is not widely published, is that people suffering from victim syndrome usually have anger issues and have trouble letting go of things. Their anger is like a silent volcano that erupts when the inner self can no longer contain it. When something wrong happens with the victim, instead of processing it objectively in their minds and rationally attributing guilt, they keep the incident raw and unprocessed in their mind, automatically blaming someone else or their past experiences. They convince themselves to not think about it. But when such problems keeps occurring over and over again, their resentment gets too much too handle and they burst out in violent ways.

They also have trouble forgiving others and letting grudges go. If you come across someone suffering from victim syndrome and ask him/her to recite some of their worst experiences, they will probably be able to give you a long lecture with rich detail.

Finally, if you know someone who struggles with persecutory delusions or victim syndrome – I know that living with them can be extremely difficult and frustrating, but know that they’re your loved ones and need help. Self victimization is learned process and can be unlearned through a systematic process. But it needs patience and time.

But if you still can’t deal with it, just leave them to their ranting and whining and go watch something awesome like The Amazing Spiderman, or any of the Marvel movies really.