Dear Son,

Today I want to educate you about your feelings and emotions. There are eight feelings you may experience in your life and you need to be aware and learn to manage it all your life [Anger, Sadness, Fear, Envy, joy, love, guilt & shame].  As and when it comes learn to acknowledge, identify, accept experience and slowly exhaust it. You may not find people to share the feelings you experience always so just be with it and let it go.

 

Anger

Remember my child anger is a normal emotion. Anger is energy, pure anger is love. You will get angry at people whom you love. Malicious anger is unhealthy and can be showered at any one following an unpleasant interaction.  It is a grossly misunderstood emotion. Anger is a positive emotion, aggression is a negative state. So often we teach our daughters to swallow our anger and be peaceful. We tell them learn to be calm; you will go to your husband’s home and so learn to bite your tongue but never get angry. So wrong we are when we give such Gyan.

When you shout on the road, it is aggression, when you yell at your parents it is aggression. So identify the sensations in the body as you get angry, your heart may beat faster and you may get uncomfortable inside your chest e.t.c. Let it come and slowly let it go. You may yet express yourself in an angry tone once in a while. If you experience anger very often inside ask yourself if you sleep well, eat well or are you stressed or disturbed in your life. This needs help. If you block your anger it undergoes a chemical reaction. It gets converted into ‘resentment’. Resentment is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting someone else to die. So often we fret and fume at resentment at someone and share, ‘I can’t stand you’, where the other person is comfortable and you in distress.

If you are unaware of your resentment it gets converted into ‘hostility ‘and this is dangerous. Here physical changes may happen. Your arteries may slowly become thinner and bad cholesterol may get deposited on their walls. Those who experience a lot of hostility are prone to heart attacks. Hate, rage and thoughts of revenge may follow. Accept your anger and do not attempt to deny or control it in life. The more you hug your anger, the more peaceful you will be. Is it not true that you will get angry at us or your brother/sister than your neighboring uncle or auntie because you love us? But do not misunderstand me my child, throwing or breaking things is aggression. 

Whenever you get angry at us or any one, learn to share it as it is. For e.g., ‘mom I am very angry at you for criticizing me in public.’ When you do not experience or express it will explode later. This feeling may get converted into an adjective if you do not pay attention and then hurl negative adjectives at others. This destroys you more than the one you hurl at. For e.g., you may shout at your father and say, ‘you are a useless father.’ This could have been avoided if you had simply expressed it in a pure form.

At times some children tell me that they do not experience the freedom to share in this manner at home. I tell them to try, as sharing a feeling sows a seed in the other person’s heart where he too may express what s/he feels. This increases bonding and love. Some who get very aggressive may not have paid attention to their anger from within. Sad boys and girls can also become very aggressive. When the sadness is healed aggression may vanish. When you are excessively scared also you may get frustrated and become loud and unreasonable. Here again go behind the behavior you will identify the feeling. At times anger gets converted into a negative adjective or into sarcasm. Those who are very sarcastic or use negative adjectives all the time lose focus in life and also lose their meaning in life. They are never able to express their fullest potential and suffer a lot of frustration across their life.

Remember my child behind every behavior there may be a story and behind a story there may be many stories. See around my child, successful people harness the anger like electricity and that helps increase their resolve and determination. Mahatma Gandhi discovered the philosophy of ‘Satyagraha’ after being humiliated by the British in South Africa. A great cricketer after being hit by a bouncer gets angry. This anger helps him to improve his concentration and he deals with a similar ball effectively. But when a cricketer gets rattled or allows the anger to overpower him he gets out to the next ball. And on a bad day in your life if you have forgotten what I have said and unreasonably explode remember to go to a quiet place and introspect. Do not be harsh on yourself. Every explosion is learning. The more you learn the more you will accept yourself and others as they are. Unattended anger will make you irritable all the time and the mind body orchestra will break. Anger when blocked hurts the body and causes harm. 

When anger is locked you will become ‘phatkal’ and ‘Muphat.’ This happens because your thalamus, hypothalamus and amydgaloid takes charge of the emotion and reacts. The vivek buddhi centre, i.e. the prefrontal cortex is not involved. Here you will lose friends and will be lonely. Never be proud of your violence. You may have seen and heard stories of family members killing each other or others. These are people who have never paid attention to their anger building in small doses or they have been unwell.

Yoga or Vippassana heals aggression. Exercise can dissolve it. Helping others converts it into great energy. If your anger is repetitive go and see a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist…….So my dear child as you sleep today remember when we get angry at you once in a while, it is just pure love…………

love

 

Daddy

 

...........................................................................................................................

 

 My dear Daddy,

 

I saw the letter you had written to me on ‘anger’ published in the Loksatta. It took me back to memory lanes and I remember too what you told to me about ‘sadness’. Today at 19 I remember the tears that flowed when I had a bad fall in the bathroom and you had said ‘tears’ are normal and they are liberating while holding me in your arms. ‘Pain in the mind or the body gives rise to tears’ you had said. God is always wise and has provided two big tear glands under our eyes. Then why do people get so uncomfortable when others cry? ‘Why do they rush to stop others from crying, ‘I had asked. And you had replied, ‘Do we stop people from laughing and so why should we stop people from crying. They are two poles and both are important’ you had smilingly retorted. And your best sentence was, ‘Those who cry without shame can laugh beautifully. Those who accept sadness can love without fear and shame and experience joy to the fullest.’ I also read in school the famous letter written by Abraham Lincoln to his son’s teacher where he says, ‘Teach my son not to be ashamed of his tears.’ I have always heard the famous sentence a million times from you that, ‘Sadness is a positive emotion and depression is a negative state.’

And you as an adult never feared tears. You were never ashamed to cry in public when your father, my favorite grandfather passed away. In fact I found your friends so uncomfortable at your tears that they did not know what to say or what to do, though many of them were doctors. And you had said that those who are very uncomfortable witnessing other’s tears have not wept for long and blocked them. I had also asked you that during the funeral of our beloved late Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi, his wife Sonia Gandhi was not seen crying and you had shared that postponing tears for a short time is not abnormal. ‘Sonia Gandhi may have cried in privately soon after’, you said stroking my head.  In my school once my teacher broke down crying while teaching. We were shocked and I felt it was so stupid. You poignantly shared that she may have remembered something and I still recall the words that you said. ‘A teacher is better than no teacher, a good teacher is better than any teacher but a NORMAL teacher is better than a good teacher. It is normal to cry spontaneously. ‘This has stuck to my mind and we came to know that she wept because it was her husband’s death anniversary. On that day my lesson was that ‘crying is indeed normal’.

I see my mother and generally mothers crying so easily and fathers rarely crying. I know that crying is not a sign of weakness and the flood has to flow into the sea or the villages around will get drowned, i.e. our body will suffer. Fathers believe that they are strong and macho so they do not cry. And do you remember during our open house in my school days many dads came with grim faces and looked also constipated…….you had remarked that they have forgotten to cry…..those who accept and experience feelings as they come makes one peaceful. I think I can share proudly to my friends that you never looked down upon me whenever I scored less marks. I was sad then but it never broke my spirit because you always had and have a lot of confidence in me. I can see it in your eyes even today.

Remember daddy in the open house so many teachers and mothers openly humiliated their children. Many were jealous of you and told me that they went home and wept incessantly in the bathrooms. How much did they long to weep and put their hands around their parent’s belly? I was lucky and could do it any time and I can still do it today. I can never forget the day when my cousin brother rushed to you to share a break up with his girlfriend. He could never share that with his parents and the sight of his head in your lap with tear filled eyes and you stroking his head is unforgettable. I did the same to my friend recently when he broke up. We all learnt that as friends we can heal a friend in pain and that is normal.

Two years ago you had brought a young boy to our house who was scared to go home as he was suspended in school for copying and wanted to end his life. That moment I realized that fear and sadness can come together along with shame. You called up his parents and consoled them and he stopped crying. Tackling fear also heals sadness. As a teenager we have swinging moods. Sometimes happy and at times low just without reason. When low we love to chill.  We can never be perpetually happy and lows and highs can come and go naturally.  Do you remember once I and my friends were caught in a school picnic by our teachers for flouting rules and you were summoned by the Principal? I had felt very sad and I was not surprised when you asked the Principal to take appropriate action. But what surprised me was that you had said, ‘I am completely against his behavior, please take action but madam yet he is a fantastic child. You have so much belief in me and that fills my eyes with tears of joy, chest with pride and my heart with responsibility. I also know that when angry, people do cry just as little kids cry when they do not get their chocolate. Some men cry publicly and Dhananjay Pillai the erstwhile hockey player never hid his tears of joy and sadness.

You warned me once and also shared that if someone is sad and tearful all the time it is Depression that needs to be treated by a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist immediately.  

 

I need to remind you today in Hindi….” Jo baha gaya woh pani hai, jo rah gaya who zeher hai”.

 

Lots of love,

 

your son      

Author Harish Shetty is renowned psychiatrist.