On Trustfully Submitting

May 8, 2020 at 9:15 AMMay (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Uncategorized)

“I din’t understand the intensity of these matters earlier,” he said as we walked towards the parking area. “In fact, I dint even consider these problems as real ones”.

I had recieved a call from him that morning asking to meet “immediately”. There was urgency and anxiety in his voice. I asked him to brief me about the matter of concern and promised to meet him soon. I wanted him to brief me not just because it would unburden his heart slightly, but also because I wanted to be able to think through the matter, in the time between the phone call and us meeting.

A family member of his was going through severe distress, and the psychological stress had begun to impact every other aspect of their life. He felt a clinical intervention was necessary and had called me.

Though not a mental health professional, I have been quite vocal about my own mental health issues, as a personal battle against the stigamtization of mental health matters. For over a decade and a half now, ever since I began to speak of my issues openly in public and social media platforms, I have had people speaking to me about their issues and at times seeking my suggestion. Knowing my limitation in the scheme of things, I have patiently listened to them and guided them to meantal health professionals and tried my level best to be a support to them till they sail through the rough tides.

This time too, like earlier, I listened patiently and then suggested him that his family member be taken to a particular Doctor, who I know, for therapy. He agreed and we went to the hospital to take an appointment. The particulr Doctor wasnt available that day and the Social Worker who was in conversation with us suggested another Doctor. We politely refused because we felt a lady Doctor would be better since the person in distress was a teenage girl, who we assumed would be more comfortable speaking with a lady Doctor. We got an appointmet for the next day and we were walking towards the parking space when he said till couple of years ago he never considered mental health issues as real issues at all.

“Once a classmate of mine spoke to me about she undergoing depression,” he began to recollect an incident from two years ago. The classmate, he said, spoke at length about the way depression fractured her day to day being and living and functioning. Listening to it all he, who was a staunch believer and practicing Muslim, had told his classmate, “It is all because our generation has deviated from the spiritual path,” and went on to say that the psychological issues were unreal and the distress was brought upon oneself by a non-spiritual path of life. Not stopping with that he continued to say, “The solution is in submission to the Almighty”. The classmate lost her cool and gave him a piece of his mind which he now recollected before me laughingly, the laugh being at himself. “Now my perspective has changed and I understand things better,” he told me. I smiled and hugged him before we dispersed.

His words, originally told to his classmate and recollected before me after two years, saying, “The solution is in submission to the Almighty” kept playing in my mind with a small edit. I just couldnt ignore the words, “The solution is in submission.” In a strange way this edited sentence threw light on something important.

It was in the year 2004 that I first walked to a Psychiatrist seeking help. I was a naive teenager back then. From then on till about 2016, when I finally decided never to take any medical/ clinical help, I was consulting psychiatrist regularly and for a long period was also on medication. In 2016 when I finally decided to never take any medical/ clinical help, it was largely because I felt they were all ineffective. I could see in retrospect that over a decade of these interventions had changed nothing significantly for me. Calling medication as “life jackets” which only keep us afloat but do not take to the shore, I decided to “work on myself”. I rejected the “life jacket” hoping to learn how to swim and carry myself to the shore.

Since then I have been discussing this matter with many friends and those concerned with the issue of mental health, and surprisingly have found many people echoing the same: therapy being ineffective. That would drive the discussion into a different direction of how the world order is at fault and the pharmaceutical mafia which believes a patient healed is a customer lost, etc etc. All valid observations and commentaries which strengthened our beliefs and antagonized the system at large, the health care system and its methods too. But in between these I kept seeing some people benift from therapy. Most of them were those who had consulted me and had been guided to a therapist by me. This added to my frustration because I was not finding any healing/ solution while those who I was guiding, were finding a way out and thanking me for helping them. Along with adding to my frustration these made me ask why is it that some were able to benifit from therapy while some of us were not. The question only angered me and frustrated me further. But I could find no answer. In a strange way the words, “The solution is in submission” (minus the last part, “to the Almighty”) made me find an answer or rather see what is at the heart of the problem, or rather what appeared now to me as the heart of the problem.

Be it myself or these other friends and fellow beings who, like me, found therapy ineffective, have all been extremely skeptic in our approach to life. It wouldnt be a coincidence that most of us bred on critical thinking in our humanities education, have had our brains tuned to critique, doubt and counter everything that is presented before us in an almost dismissive manner. If on one side this has enabled us to see things beyond the surface, on the other hand it has divorced us from the ability to arrive at harmony and has created severe trust issues with the world in general. Trained to think critically and dismiss things off, we never were able to invest trust and faith not just in the therapist but also in the process of therapy. To submit, we believed unconsciously, is to become submissive and lose agency. Trained to listen not to understand or comprehend but to find loopholes and tear apart the point made through that loophole, we observed everything uttered by the therapist in suspicion, preparing ourselves with counter-arguments to strike off all that is said. We never let our guards down and allowed ourselves to come in touch with the process of therapy entirely in a healthy manner. To be able to faithfully/ trustfully submit to a process is something that skipped our minds that has been conditioned to take extreme views under the pressure to think critically, which would equate submission to an unequal power structure, hence consider it as something unacceptable. This inability to submit to the process, I would say faithfully/ trustfully submit to the process, is probably what made the  possible effectiveness and success of therapy impossible to a large extent.

While saying this I wouldnt deny the existence of pharmaceutical mafia, poor structure of systems to attend to mental health in this country and extremely narrow approach on the part of practitioners of mental health profession. But it is also true, I have come to believe, that the inability to invest trust has also played a role in the difficulty to outgrow the crisis. To faithfully/ trustfully submit need not mean to blindly submit or submit uncritically. While it is necessary to identify the need of rationality to fight supersition, a point to which blind faith can take us humans, it is also necessary to identify, it appears to me, the limitations or the hurdles that rationality and extreme critical thinking can bring upon our lives.

As much as it is important to be critical, to see through things in a highly hierarchical and profit driven market capitalist world, it is also important to be able to submit, so that we can be touched by a process that could bring us healing or at least enable us to manage things well. The way out, I feel, is in the strange space where there is an interlocking of opposites, where trust and skepticism coexist in a healthy manner and healthy proportion.

When I saw a mind possesed by faith, make way out of it to an extent and embrace a scientific method and process, I felt that may be even the mind obsessed with rationality and skepticism also has to make way out of it and and be able to trust and allow to be touched.

2 Comments

  1. drhadishaikh said,

    Had been in same boat .been there done that .and now threw away those “life jackets” because I thought them as temporary saviours. Well written .loved that submission edit part .

  2. JS said,

    As usual, Samvartha, your post hit home at precisely the right time in precisely the right manner. As a rational-thinking skeptic myself, I am taking a break from therapy despite having found it immensely helpful. I have no intention to quit therapy altogether though and am considering this period as an experiment.

    I agree that skepticism and critical thinking make it very hard to submit to everything your therapist says. In fact, my current hiatus arose from precisely the irritation of having to “accept” what he says and then “perform” and “show results” at the next appointment. I told him so rather inarticulately at my last session in February. He said it was because I was ready to face problems on my own.

    It didn’t make sense to me then. I was far too irritated at the loss of agency and having to adopt someone else’s point of view to things happening in my life to notice that there might be some truth in what he says. But with time, I have realised that I am actually capable of understanding my circumstances accurately and dealing with things by trusting my own intelligence. Despite my stumbling progress, I am enjoying the ability to be with myself and take care of myself.

    I think I was a skeptic since childhood. I always questioned everything, disagreed with most things and from there must have arisen my inclination towards humanities. But I was also more easily conditioned into a socially and morally acceptable version of myself because of a combination of various things like education, class, gender and so on. I am sure many of my psychological gaps arose from the difference between who I was and who I was conditioned to be.

    But the biggest lesson of my rather shaky experiment has been of submission to life’s inherently uncertain and arbitrary nature and hence, complete submission to oneself. It is only through accepting and trusting ourselves (with a healthy combination of submission and skepticism) will a therapist or any other person in our life stand a chance.

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