“Being Proactive”- 4 August 2018.

She was feeling totally trapped in her fairly new in-laws family- no escape from the situation seemed visible to her. Her friends gave her suggestions and she would strike it down by saying ‘no, but how will this work’. She seemed caught in her own web of confusions and dilemmas. Of course the situation was not ideal and never is generally for anyone. We all feel circumscribed by this and that. But a reactive person will wallow in self pity, feel hopeless and helpless, get depressed and fall sick. A reactive person is unable to find a way out, is unwilling to exert herself/himself, is pessimistic in outlook and focuses on the negatives in the situation. She blocks out the positive aspects, is unable to perceive the possibilities and seize the opportunities.

We have great stories of great people who make the best use of whatever situation they are in and elevate themselves. When in jail during the Quit India movement during the British Raj, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru took to writing the fabulous and famous classic ‘The Discovery of India’. He also penned the famous ‘Letters from a Father to a Daughter’ in the lockup to his 10 year old daughter who was in a boarding school. Family life cannot be worse than a prison- many women who feel trapped at home may think otherwise for they have not been to a lockup or a prison.

The same could be the story of many in the workplace who feel trapped in wrong and oppressive environments. The stories of the first IPS woman officer Kiran Bedi are enough inspiration for creating magic in difficult situations and sort of ‘punishment postings’ for her. When she was transferred as IG-Prisons (Inspector General-Prisons), she took charge of Tihar jail, one of the maximum security prisons and densely inhabited with 10,000 inmates- she had the capability to convert it into a challenge and an opportunity to do some good there. And what a miracle she performed – she converted the Tihar prison to a sort of Tihar Ashram. She was awarded with the prestigious Magsaysay Award for her brilliant work which was recognised worldwide.

Both the above examples are stories of being proactive, being responsible for your life and the choices that you make in difficult situations. It’s in direct contrast to being reactive and the feeling of being trapped and helpless. It speaks of taking up the struggle in a positive light and making the best possible use of the time and situation. Instead of allowing things to happen to you, you work towards making things happen the way you want it. It is an active and assertive approach to life in contrast to being a passive recipient of how things happen to you and treats you.

Rashi was born with a physical handicap and realised soon enough that she would not be to live a ‘normal’ life like her peers. She accepted the fact that marriage was not something life would offer and nor would she be able to have children which is a necessity in marriages. So at a young age in her teens she had made up her mind to study hard, make a good career and be independent –on her own feet. She would not rely on anyone, even her parents and family. She did just that- be an achiever and a successful entrepreneur. She lives with respect, dignity and pride in herself. She was proactive and responsible for self and never allowed herself the luxury to feel pity and depression. She lived life on her own terms and stood tall in spite of being handicapped!

It is a sort of weakness of the ego that sits down to cry and feel hopeless. It is a crisis of the mechanism of the psychological ‘ego’ or self that maintains itself in balance with the external and internal reality. It is a healthy ego that aligns itself with the harsh truth of life and makes adjustments to successfully adapt itself to it. It needs many good values and attitudes that build a positive and healthy ego of any person. It needs a practical approach to life with a problem solving attitude instead of living in idealism and fantasy. Many aspects of life are an illusion and can distort our perception if not filtered properly with a clear vision. We need to stop hallucinating about the so called norms of happiness as defined by society and create our own sense of happiness.

Society and our culture can be killing with its expectations and demands upon the human individual and when gullible people internalise the norms they create a problem for themselves. They fall into the trap of ‘need for approval’ and try to live up to the standards of others. They become submissive, passive and reactive, hence becoming depressed and victims of mental illness. Some demands and expectations need to be shrugged off to create new pathways of living. It is healthy to be proactive, responsible, and optimistic in all conditions. However tough and impossible the situation may be the human spirit is tougher and resilient. There is a wealth of inner resources available to individuals- we are not taught to realise it and actualise it in times of need. You may be robbed of everything you have but nobody can rob you of your wealth of creativity and your intelligence which is solely yours to utilise.

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