We know that there are many shades of madness. We also know that there are levels and degrees of madness. While we believe what the famous Sigmund Freud stated that ‘we are all neurotic to some extent’, we know that most of us are not stark mad. But we would like to state clearly that the art and science of psychology and psychotherapy is not about treating madness but about treating neurosis, which we all suffer from, in lesser or greater extent. This is a reality and the sooner recognised the better for society and humanity.
I loved the Hindi movie named ‘Dear Zindagi’, starring the suave Shahrukh Khan and petite Alia Bhatt. Besides the superb acting displayed by them, the theme was endearing and won my heart. It focuses on the process of counselling/therapy of her repressed conflict with her parents in childhood and how it impacts her adult relationships with her family and friends. With regular sessions she gains insight into her emotional turmoil and regains her normalcy with her parents and friends. That the ‘dimaag ka doctor’/ counsellor is a friendly chap who does not appear scary at all and thus gives mental health its due share in Bollywood. Hindi cinema comes of age with this film as far as mental disturbance/neurosis is concerned and redeems the damage done by earlier movies which have depicted mental illness in a very distorted and poor light. The earlier movies have always shown cases of ‘severe psychosis’ and the stark/horrifying images of mad people behaving abnormally has got stuck in our minds. ‘Dear Zindagi’ promotes counselling by saying, ‘everyone needs a ‘dimaag ka doctor’!! How true! At some point we all need some sight and insight into our problems, our behaviour and our mind.
The stigma against mental health and mental illness is huge even today when the facts and figures of illness are rising. It makes us wonder if people ever read a little bit of psychology and ever try to understand the workings of their own minds. Do people ever question their stereotypical thinking and ever find little time to reflect on their own behaviour and attitudes? Are we a thinking population or a closed-minded society who continues to believe in the old fashioned solutions to ‘modern day’ problems? When times change we need to change ourselves too besides changing our dresses, addresses and mobiles. When knowledge in any field expands the domain of understanding, we need to make use of that science for the betterment of our lives. The rise in life-style diseases such as chronic hypertension, diabetes, cardiac complications, migraines, are stress related which arises in the mind and causes damage to the body but we agree to treat the body and not the mind where it originates from! If a disease travels from my mind to my body, we look for physical solutions to the malady and not mental solutions! That is called ‘beating around the bush’ where the problem never gets resolved. We are ready to accept physical/medical medications but hesitate to visit a counsellor. We are ready to spend thousands on medical investigations but not a hundred on a ‘talking cure’ or a ‘speaking therapy’ without medicines. This illogical logic defies me! Only when the disease reaches the mind in a gross way and makes the individual dysfunctional in terms of work and family life do they come for psychological help. The damage done is huge by then.
Stigma reduces the likelihood of clients seeking early interventions and might want to postpone and delay timely help. Stigma also leads to premature discontinuation of the treatment when the cure is not even half way. Stigma is due to myths and wrong notions that society has about mental disturbances. It can be removed only when we make ourselves aware and educate ourselves of the developments and progress made in psychological sciences. The quality of the services in mental care has improved tremendously and has been nothing short of a ‘revolution’. Many therapeutic methodologies are available that offer relief and cure for your emotional disturbances.
‘Everyone is not mad’ but I restate that ‘everyone is neurotic to some extent’. Let us elaborate on this with some examples. Anuj lives in anxiety and mild depression and that reduces his capacity to love and work. He feels drained of energy and lives in fears that affect his mind in many ways. He is afraid of ‘falling ill with some dreadful disease’ and lives in this dread. He frequents the doctor who declares him physically fit and gets tired of saying so umpteen times. Anagh lives on a short fuse and is ready to fly into a rage on seemingly inconsequential issues. His wife, children and family is afraid of him as well as tired of him. Neeti is obsessed with cleanliness and washes and cleans several times a day. She likes to keep the house spic and clean and proper at all times and hence disapproves of the members relaxing/sprawling on the sofa or the bed. Ananya is devastated because her boyfriend betrayed her and ditched her for her good friend. She is depressed and losing her interest in career. Swapnil is addicted to his mobile and social media and cannot control his habits in spite of academic slow-downs and failures. He must spend four to five hours on the social media or playing games. This is the latest addiction and a new nightmare of parents with teenagers.
This is not ‘madness’ you would agree, but it is ‘neurosis’ for sure where conscious / unconscious emotional conflicts and dilemmas disturb your quality of life and living. It decreases your functionality in work and love, and leads to a discontented, unhappy mind. It spoils the atmosphere at home and work and has a spiralling effect all around. The ‘neurosis’ spreads across the social environment – until you check it consciously with simple / non-medical techniques called ‘counselling and psychotherapy’.