Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 8, Tuesday February 27, 2007



Interpreter Of Maladies

Hi, I am a 26-year old female. I have two management degrees, which are currently in high demand in the job market. I am passionate about cooking (I took cooking classes & also watch cooking shows on TV regularly), handicrafts, singing, meditation, computing, working out and so on. But the problem is that I cannot concentrate or focus on any one specific thing. I know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. But I cannot focus on the working process. I don't practice anything in reality and when I do start, most of the time I don't complete the task or complete it in the last hour in a very messy way. I always think about what I could have done in the past, the mistakes I have made, people who tried to misguide me or cause me some sort of harm. I find interest in every aspect of life, I believe there is potential in every human being and I cannot be rude to anyone. When I find someone bad I believe his lifestyle or situation has made him that way. And that's not all, I regularly read newspaper articles, watch TV talk shows, travel shows, documentaries, cinemas and think of what can be done and keep on analysing peoples behaviour patterns and their speech. Most of my batch mates or classmates have done something for their careers. For example, either they have already been working for 2-3 years or they have done well in other fields. I see them and keep on thinking about what I could have done had I been in their places or how they have achieved their success, most of the time in a negative pattern. It's not like I am less confident or less attentive, it's just that all I seem to do is think and analyse. I talk less, observe more, and don't rely on people at all. However, I can make friends very easily and also have fun. But I still cannot trust people. I don't want anybody to be very close to me. I have a good sense of intuition depending on my thought process. I think of what people might say or do in the future. I am always very conscious about how people behave and because of this I cannot be myself. And this thinking process is affecting me. I can even sit in a dark room and carry on thinking for hours at a stretch. Please help me.

You are a 26-year old woman with two degrees in a demanding subject and you maintain lots of hobbies and healthy habits. You have portrayed yourself as a well informed, compassionate person with some social maladjustment. It appears that you are a critical self-critique with excessive analytical thoughts. You have also indicated that you are a very sensitive person and have difficulty in trusting people. You are quite aware of your strengths, weaknesses and the masks that you use to hide your real self.

Some contradictory self observations like friendship and mistrust, confidence and procrastination (e.g. “I know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. But I cannot focus on the working process. I don't practice anything in reality and when I do start, most of the time I don't complete the task or complete it in the last hour in a very messy way”) probably tells about different parts in you which are not in harmony. A strong desire to quest the weaker part (could be a control issue too) is also evident here.

Perfectionist people struggle hard to accept their humanly mistakes and weaknesses; they want to excel in every aspect of life (take life as black and white without any grey area at all! It is all or none for them). Moreover perfectionist people tend to set a very highly idealised self-standard and the discrepancy between this idealised self and real self can eventually create a deep sense of dissatisfaction. At times of adversity, this negative self-image gets compounded with further negative feelings and starts reflecting on behaviour. Psychotherapy can help people to resolve these internal conflicts and initiate a process of peaceful reconciliation towards a 'whole person”. It is also important to note that an optimum amount of obsessive traits can drive a person towards self improvement and usually plays an important role in major achievements of life.

You have also revealed your tendency to dwell too much in the past and spend time in brooding. I understand that you are dissatisfied with your thinking process and consider it a deterrent factor to making further progress in life. You have indicated about your trust issues and boundary issues with people. You have neither stated anything about your relationship status nor have you stated anything about your family life. It is important to explore how your trust was broken and what has made you so guarded with all your guns out. Any history of abuse (mental, physical or sexual) or trauma has to be examined.

Obsessive thoughts are characterised by their repetitive nature with or without a desire to resist them. In spite of conscious resistance, obsessive thoughts go in a circle and keep the person totally occupied in the head. This unproductive thinking style eventually leads to functional impairment. It seems to me, your obsessive thinking pattern is slowly taking over you. Although you haven't mentioned about any compulsive behaviour or rituals (e.g. counting, washing, checking) that usually accompany obsessive thoughts to release the tension caused by them, an obsession without compulsion is also not uncommon.

An obsession can be a recurrent and intrusive thought, feeling, idea or sensation. It is usually time consuming and causes marked distress and significant impairment. Intrusive obsessional thoughts without a compulsion are usually aggressive or sexual in nature that is unacceptable to the person. Majority of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has its onset in the mid twenties.

Thoughts that revolve around past mistakes and dissect human behaviour can be a way to escape reality which demands living in the present moment and solving present problems. We all make mistakes (one thing humans learn from history is that we don't learn from history!); the key to success is probably not making the same mistake too many times. Defocusing on others (by blaming, criticising or analysing) also help us to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions. Living too much in the head by obsessive thinking can also be an automatic defense mechanism of the brain to stop the feelings that start resurfacing when this guard is down.

Biochemical theory of OCD highlights an imbalance of the neurotransmitter, particularly the Serotonin level in brain. Some structural and functional changes in the brain have been found to be correlated to symptom presentation in OCD. Anti-depressants, particularly those that work on the Serotonergic system can alleviate these symptoms to a satisfactory level. Medication should be taken only under a qualified doctor's recommendation and when the overall benefits outweigh the side effects of the particular medicine. Psychotherapy aims at better adjustment to social and occupational life. Isolation is not usually helpful and getting more physical exercise and pursuing hobbies are important. Antidepressant or motivational psychotherapy can help you to overcome the lack of initiative and to get started.

By The Way

Never, Never, Never sleep on wet hair it is vulnerable when wet, and can break easily as you turn on your pillow. Even if it doesn't break, it roughs up the cuticle and makes it look dull. Sleeping on wet hair will also make for impossible knots that will cause further hair breakage when you try to work through them. Furthermore, sleeping on a wet head is nothing but a headache waiting to happen.

Under A Different Sky

By Iffat Nawaz

To the East: revisiting Russia

In the winter the leaves leave trees, in the winter the bears hibernate, in the winter the days get smaller, in the winter we yearn for spring and the winter is when I decided to take a trip this year. Not to a warm place to enjoy the heat but to a cold cold Russia, seeking an experience I wanted to call unique.

The tickets weren't as expensive and the visa wasn't very hard to get. My friends claimed that I was crazy, they asked why not Miami or Mexico. Why not I wondered too…but it wasn't a matter of why not but more a matter of why. And why? Because I wanted to break a boundary in my brain about snow covered lands and their traditions when it gets way below zero degrees outside.

I arrived on a Thursday. Before landing when I looked down to Moscow it looked like what I imagined Siberia to be. Covered in white snow, I had no idea that a plane could land in such conditions. But this is not our good old Washington DC airports, it's Moscow after all, such weather is a daily occurrence, so we landed smoothly and I breezed through customs and hopped on my ride to take me downtown.

The first night I got reacquainted with Moscow, last summer's Moscow and this winter's Moscow wasn't quite the same although it wasn't all that different either. After a very Russian dinner at Café Pushkin of Borsht and Venison, I was ready for the next day.

The next day we set out for the countryside, to a small village 300 kilometers south of Moscow called Spask. My friend who had visited this village before raved about the simplicity and hospitality of this place and it reminded me of Bangladesh, like most things do.

And it was in many ways like our villages of Bangladesh. The house we stayed in was our friend's Dacha or vacation home and it was obvious that their house was the fanciest one around there. The rest of the village was quite modest with one-storied homes and they looked very similar to those of Bangladesh, minus the tin factor. The care-taker Leonad from Ukraine had made sure we had a full spread on the table and we started our night off with yet another great meal and long toasts to each other and to Spask. And as the night aged I realised the Russian interior is just as sugary and warm as the Russian exterior is hard. And I somehow felt at home.

The next day, we rode horses through the forest. I say this with such ease now, but it wasn't so easy for me when I experienced it. With four layers of clothing (yes it is that cold), I had my first real experience of riding a horse through a forest in the snow. I know I call myself a citizen of the world but at that moment I couldn't think anything further than the real fact: that I am a Bangladeshi girl, sheltered and limited with boundaries and at that moment I was here: a place that seems a world away from everything I know, riding on a horse looking at the beauty that this place has to offer. A place I didn't know existed.

Later that night, I had another unique experience. This one was not so cold, it was actually the opposite, very very hot. The Russian Sauna and all its heat, beaten by birch leaves and running outside to stand in the snow right afterwards while someone pours a bucket of cold water all over you, and then running back to warm the body up. It was a therapy that USA would never approve of but in Russia it made complete sense and gave me a great night of sleep.

I returned with fond memories; sure there were inefficiencies, hypocrisies, mock prides, and small stresses here and there. But over all I came back very happy, finding more similarities between souls all over the world with mine. Finding people who I felt like I have met before, because I have-in another place with a different face, and I was assured again the world does have its own uniformity, it's only the distance that plays tricks on us.


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2007 The Daily Star