Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Games are sets of ulterior unconscious transactions which are played by the couple which always ends up with each person experiencing negative, uncomfortable and familiar feelings. They are characteristically repetitive and will always contain with an element of confusion and surprise. These games in a couple can get very destructive to the relationship however the couple is unable to disengage from the same without feeling a loss of intimacy. Paradoxical as it may sound, although the outcome of these games is negative, the process re-establishes feelings of love and intimacy which in turn helps them to e entrenched in the relationship. Ironically these unconscious attempts to get close to your partner are the very thing that takes you away from the partner. If you ask any couple about their repetitive arguments, you will be surprised to hear that both the partners know exactly how the conversation will proceed, including the partners responses and yet they have been unable to resolve these conflicts. Often these conflicts are high stakes games and involve intense emotions of anger, fear and lonely, occasionally ending up disastrously for both or one. No one wins in this game, both are losers.

The emotions experienced by each partner are linked with their assumptions which in turn will be directly linked to a childhood experience/event where they made a decision about themselves, others and the world around them. Underneath these decisions / life game roles will be unresolved and deep rooted feelings from childhood -eg anger that no one heard them as a child; sadness that they didn't feel important as a child; fear that their parents would leave/overwhelm them. Part of the process of couple’s therapy will be to grieve and let go of these unmet childhood needs. During the stress of game playing these assumptions about reality are perceived as facts in the minds of each person in the couple, even though they are not facts. Seeing a couple’s counsellor will minimize the game playing between you and your partner, as becoming aware of the games you play is the first step to stopping the games.

Therefore game playing in couples also confirms our game role. According to Stephen Karpman there are 3 game roles- Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. In the Drama Triangle game we can alternate between game roles, but people usually have a preferred life position game role, where they experience familiar feelings which reinforce how they see themselves, others and the world. These life position game roles are fixed during childhood and continue to operate unconsciously until one is made aware of and one chooses a different response that will benefit him/ her.

For example the Victim concludes 'poor me, as usual no one cares about me'(feeling familiar feelings of helplessness); the Rescuer concludes 'I just tried to help them ' (feeling familiar feelings of confusion and not being appreciated)and the Persecutor concludes 'I'll show them '(feeling familiar feelings of blaming, anger and self righteousness).

All 3 game roles involve someone not taking responsibility for themselves eg the Victim looks for a partner to take responsibility for them ; the Rescuer seeks out a Victim to take care of but fails to attend to their own needs as well as minimising the Victim's ability to look after themselves while the Persecutor shifts responsibility by blaming their partner for the difficulties in their life.

Here are some common—albeit negative—games many couples unwittingly play with each other:
Argumentative and oppositional. Some people tend to be argumentative and oppositional, picking on their partners to get a rise out of them. One or both parties are driven to turmoil, so there is often a battle going on in the relationship, and things are frequently on edge and volatile. Your mate—who knows every hot button you have—intentionally pushes your buttons, and does so on a regular basis. Frequently, what is really going on is that one person needs reassurance or calming—and asks for it in the seemingly contradictory way of being contentious and oppositional.
2. Complaining a lot. Some people are experts at picking out the most negative thoughts possible and staying focused on them for prolonged periods of time. If ten good things and one bad thing happen, most of their thoughts are focused on the bad thing. These people complain, disagree, find fault or undermine their partner, and are anxious a lot. Few people are drawn closer to people who are negative, complaining or filled with anxious thoughts. Therefore, many who unknowingly play this game end up isolated, lonely, depressed and even more negative.
3. It’s your fault. The person reasons that s/he has little, if anything, to do with the problems in the relationship. Any problem is, therefore, the other person’s fault.
4. I’m going to blame you for the same things you blame me for. In this game, one person blames the other for the very things s/he does. For example, if your spouse complains that you do not listen to him/her, you deny it and say that s/he does not listen to you. Whenever someone has a complaint or criticism, the other adopts the complaint as his/her own.
5. Fighting as foreplay. In this game there is an intense fight, then a period of making up. The swing of emotions is quick and dramatic. One minute, you are fighting, thinking about divorce and ready to leave, the next moment you are making mad passionate love. This is because the fight creates adrenaline and is stimulating. Once stimulated, you are ready for love.
6. You owe me. I do so much for you and/or our family. You do considerably less. You are therefore indebted to me, and whenever I decide to call your debt due, you must perform to my satisfaction. But perhaps I will prefer not to call the debt due—so I can always have something to hold over your head.
7. Guess. Guess how I feel, what’s important to me, what will make me happy, what will make me unhappy.
8. I call the shots. I decide what we’re going to do, and if you cross me, there will be hell to pay. Therefore, don’t ever cross me. I am stronger than you.

Monday, February 27, 2012


In all societies, it is the children who are most vulnerable and therefore most at risk. Parental anxieties are usually two fold, one is about losing their child and the other is about sexual abuse. However parents themselves are in a dilemma to deal with this and often feel helpless and dismiss it off. The important thing is to realize that your anxieties are not unfounded. This is quite evident in India. Consider the facts given below:
• The national average rate for crimes against children was 2.3 per 100,000 people; In Madhya Pradesh 18.4% of all crimes were crimes against children; Delhi, 13.6%
• Kidnapping and Abduction cases represent 40.3% of crimes against children
• Rape cases represent 20.5% of crimes against children
• The states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra accounted for35.2% of child rape cases.
• 8.9% of all rape victims (women and children) were girls under the age of 14 (p.83)
• In 97.3% of all (22,172) rape cases, offenders were known to the victims (family members, relatives, neighbours)

Two glaring factors are that kidnaping and sexual abuse constitute majority amongst the crimes against children, confirming general anxieties experienced by parents. But what parents do not know is that this is often because children are uninformed of what to do in a given situation. Although it is primary concern of parents, parents themselves are not sure whether their concern is justified or not. Well the statistics atleast clears off that confusion. Secondly parents do not want to unnecessarily inhibit or alarm their children, often not knowing how to broach the uncomfortable subject. Well, can you imagine how uncomfortable or confused a child may feel when he/ she sense something amiss. Infact often we feed to our children ‘parents know the best’ or ‘you will not understand as you are a kid’. Information, if provided in a right manner can be the best defense that you could provide for the child. Remember self-help is always the fastest in such situations.
So here are some eye openers for you parents, children are much attuned to their emotions and often ‘sense’ danger although they may not have reasoning behind it. If you as parents have developed an environment where in the child is able to convey his or her feelings with complete trust that you will listen and empathize then the child is likely to warn you. This is especially true in case of sexual abuse as revealed in the statistics most offenders of sexual abuse are often known members or people who have access to the children. However children are unable to protect themselves or inform their parents in advance because they haven’t been taught to think on their feet in a novel situation like this, its never been discussed. Or because they are scared that the parents will either dismiss their concerns or get angry at them, especially if the person concerned is someone known to the family and it so appears that the parents trust them around their children. Children are not taught to trust their own emotions of discomfort, something that begins in little things like ‘you will not feel hungry, you must eat when its time to eat’ or ‘you don’t know whats good for you, we have much more life experience than you’. These messages convey the message to the children that they should not trust their feeling but must rely on the judgment of the parents. Often these abuses continue for a long period of time as children feel responsible for what happened to them and come under threat or black mail of the offender, unable to stop further abuse.

Parents therefore need to talk to their children about their emotions and give them respect in day to day situations. Parents also need to convey trust to their child by informing them in advance that they will at least get a listening ear no matter what the situation or who they are talking about. They also need to help child differentiate between good touch and bad touch and also about who is a stranger and who is not. Often in cases of kidnapping the kidnapper stalks the child for a while and the child may even see you talk to the stranger. They are unable to differentiate between acquaintance and strangers.

Younger children may get alarmed if spoken to directly so parents can use the help of various non direct tactics such as stories or role plays to broach the topic. Parenting sessions with a therapist also helps parents discuss ways in which the child can be approached taking the individual personality of the child into consideration. Schools having an active counseling department also have such talks / workshops with their students.

That such great numbers of children in India continue to be victimized by crime is a pointed reminder that we have not fulfilled our duties as protectors and caregivers. Taking care of the above mentioned solutions can go a long way to protect our children.


The recent suicide pact between a couple who were involved in an illicit relationship threw the entire media into a frenzy. What could have prompted them to take such drastic steps. Were they not aware that this relationship had no future?
Ofcourse they did, but for the moment let us put that aside and look at this in depth. Maybe there is a dichotomy in the evolving social norms and the legal system. The answers to this are not simple and will not be achieved in a short span of time however a thought has the power to bring about change.
Hinduism does not favour illicit relationships and adultery is considered a moral sin. Those who get caught in illicit affair have to face the wrath of the society. These actions, especially for women are rarely forgotten or forgiven. The Indian laws show a gender bias, not surprisingly as many of the laws have their basis on ancient Indian scriptures of Manusmriti. Women are considered property of a man, before marriage that of father and after marriage that of a man. It was believed that a woman will go astray because of her passions if the man is ‘weak’ and unable to control her. Certain customs and rituals such as kanya daan also reflect similar belief system behind the role of a woman.
“Day and night a woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under ones control “– Manusmriti (
It is no wonder that the current Indian law thinks it suitable to punish a man who is involved in an illicit relationship with a woman but the woman goes scot free. As the law stands today, adultery is only committed against the husband of the adulterous woman. A man cannot level an adultery charge against his wife but can do so against the "other man." The Indian law treats wives as their husbands' property and considers adultery is an offence that a man commits by trespassing upon the property (wife) of another. That is why she is not liable as an abettor.
Women cannot be accused of adultery as the law considers the position of a married woman “almost” as a property of her husband, ruled the Supreme Court in a recent judgement.
Let us look a little further into the social structure of marriage. Hinduism believes marriage is obligatory duty and sacrament. Marriage is not meant for sexual pleasure but to perform ones duty and for the purpose of procreation. A couple marries each other because they are soul partners in fulfilling their respective karmas on the way to salvation. This association may span over seven or more lifetimes, and has little to do whether they like each other or are in love with each other. During these life times husband and wife may interchange roles but remain entwined in their destiny to help each other attain salvation. Therefore the couple relationship is essentially the relationship of souls and emotions, lust and love have nothing to do with the union.
For a woman, marriage ends her relationship with her maternal family. It is symbolized by kanya dana where the brides father gives away his daughter and fulfils his karmas. The relationship with her maternal house is then formal and minimal. She also needs to behave in a manner wherein she will be accepted in the husband’s family, therefore marriage is a great stress for a woman. Often women in illicit relationships whether under duress or choice have no support from the maternal side. The societal pressure is tremendous on the partner who is engaging a married woman in an affair, which is punishable by law. Under such social and legal pressures, such relationships have an extremely difficult time ahead.
The issue gets more complicated if either of them have children out of wedlock or children from their respective marriages. The importance of parental fidelity to the psychological well-being of children cannot be underestimated. While an affair is taking place children sense that the parent is expending emotional energy outside the family. As a result the children may become anxious or frightened, or they may sense rejection and feel they have done something wrong. Moreover experts found, such children are prone to have affairs themselves when they marry. The child, eventually, after witnessing the hostile environment at home and the parental animosity resulting from the extra-marital of either of the parents, breaks down under the strain of conflict. The child’s distress may take the form of school related problems, anxiety, depression, bullying, victimization and sometimes even health related illness. This only adds on to the guilt of breaking away from society, family and children.
With the advent of the western influence, where one celebrates valentine’s day emotions such as love in a relationship are given increasing importance. Along with this the financial independence of a woman in today’s world seems to directly clash with the traditional role chalked out for her.
Often in counseling we come across couples struggling with betrayal of their spouse but do not have the strength to go ahead in the relationship. Living with a compromise with the spouse only gets emotionally dragging. There is a deep feeling of hurt and anger, which they individually express in the sessions and resolve them within themselves before they can communicate with each other and give a listening ear. Family and friends are unable to help because they are too close emotionally to either of them. A neutral and objective listening and perspective provided by a non-judgmental therapist goes a long way to accept themselves and the spouse.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why is Sachin still far from 100 not out? Is the psychological self sabotage at play here

While Sachin has dismissed the hundredth 100 as just another century, the Indian diaspora is keenly awaiting this one. And with the over zealous aspirations of 1.2 billion riding high on the bat of this young master, pressure is bound to build on him? Suddenly Sachin is out of form and the runs off the bat have abruptly dried up. In our opinion, we do not believe that the lack of form is at work here but certain certain self sabotaging behaviors are preventing him from achieving the much awaited milestone. In this article we explore the psychological impact of self sabotaging behaviour and how it emanates in daily walks of life.

Consider the following self-sabotaging behaviours which are commonly observed: Why do we wait till the last minute to leave for a place? Why are some people perpetually late for something important that they have really desired? Why do we remain employed in a company although we know we deserve and can get a better job? Why do we repeatedly get into an abusive relationship? We've all seen this in our friends and even, regrettably, in ourselves.

However bizarre as it may seem, we must derive some benefit from these problematic behaviours of ours. These problems may appear maladaptive on surface but if we give it a closer look, we will realize that in some way, we benefit from them. In other words, in some way we are protected by our problems. One can't usually explain the "real" reasons for ones behavior because the reasons are outside of their conscious awareness. So although we may consciously strive for something, it is possible that our unconscious mind works in direct opposition to it, self-sabotaging our resolves leaving us frustrated and helpless.

This is precisely the reason why an obese person is unable to stick to the food diet regime. Maybe unconsciously becoming fitter would draw more attention from the opposite sex or make the person more successful than his loved one and thereby lose love of her spouse. Or getting into an abusive relationship is ones way to remain in agreement with the unconscious belief that one is not worthy of love. Or becoming more successful than ones parent will in some way unleash the wrath of the parent who may abandon them. These fears of abandonment or of a loved one getting angry are deeply rooted in one’s childhood experiences and are extremely anxiety provoking. They continue to strongly influence our current behavior unless we bring this conflict into consciousness to be worked on in therapy.

I was approached by a manager at a very senior level for marital counseling. The couple was batting infidelity in their marriage. While his outward behavior seemed very protective and caring towards his wife, his unwarranted affair had a devastating effect on his marriage. During sessions when I enquired about how the affair started and what the other woman meant to him, I was not surprised to hear that she meant nothing to him and that he himself couldn’t justify the need to get into this one night stand and risking his marriage. Worse still he made no effort to hide it from his wife and in fact seemed relieved when she got to know about it. This seemed to fit the bill of the maladaptive behavior perfectly and we looked for further clues on the possible benefits. As we explored the childhood and some of his current behaviours things crystalized further. He was a neglected child and grew up with a feeling of not worthy of love. This feeling remained entrenched in his unconscious although he gained good marks and then went on to become the most successful of all his siblings, taking care to help them settle in life and therefore much adored too. When he got married he started facing difficulties in developing intimacy with his. His wife found him very appropriate however lacking in demonstration of love and affection. She however was deeply in love with him and found his aloofness disturbing. This became an issue when she discovered that he had had a one night stand with a woman. What was disturbing her further was that he could not furbish any justifiable excuse nor did he even attempt to hide the truth from her. It was almost as if he wanted her to find out and thereby punish him by withdrawing her love. This was in line with his unconscious belief that he was not loveable and now he had proven to himself once again that he is not worthy of love.

Sachin Tendulkar too seems to be having this mal adaptive behavior which appears repetitive wherein he gets out just as he is touching his century or when there is tremendous pressure on him to perform. It’s almost as if, if he does meet with the expectations of the country then something terrible will befall on him. If he is successful then maybe he will be abandoned / not loved? Or worse still he will become somehow bigger and stronger than the father whose oedipal complex may still haunt him. It isn’t uncommon to be unable to perform at peak capacity or self-sabotage once life and career to tag the line of one’s unconscious oedipal fears of the opposite sex parent or the belief system of not being good enough/ not loveable/ not worthy of. Our actions are mainly governed by this unconscious dictum and efforts are made to keep it unconscious and seeking more and more proof through experiences that match these beliefs. It is kept unconscious precisely for this reason that it produces anxiety while conscious life experiences seem to fall in line magically with these beliefs.

Most people find the notion that all behavior, no matter how self-destructive, has an adaptive function difficult to grasp. So, how do you go about learning more about the advantages to maintaining your current (purportedly unwanted) situation? A first step is to examine the advantages to maintaining the status quo. To do this, ask yourself the following questions.
Describe a longstanding difficulty with which you have struggled. Describe the ways in which it is maladaptive. How does this difficulty hurt you or hold you back or make you unhappy? What is its impact on your relationships at work, at home, and socially? Ask yourself the following question:

1. Have you attempted to change this difficulty? If not, why not? If so, describe the nature of your efforts?
2. In what ways have your efforts been successful? If they have been unsuccessful, why?
3. In what ways have your efforts been thwarted? How were they sabotaged?

Most people never come to the stage of seeking out professional assistance because they are not aware that they are sabotaging themselves. Those that do seek help often wait until well into adulthood. In life, we all aspire to both conscious and unconscious goals, but often there are psychological barriers that we may cling to and be haunted by, which block our aspirations. Projected envy and terrors of the actual envy of others can block motivations to succeed, when dissociated and/or repressed primal rage intensify the intimidating power of projected hostility and envy, and of perceptions of others as rivalries in areas of competition. Desire can be blocked by oedipal level fears of rivalry and hostile completion, but more primitive and primal fears of abandonment can also be at play, when developmental arrests have taken place in the preoedipal years of separation-individuation and self-integration. How we address these psychological blocks in a clinical situation is critical to helping patients to overcome all their inhibitions and intimidations, as they attempt to motivate themselves to succeed in life.