Being the mother of a teenage daughter is an exhilarating and unique experience in more ways than one, with its challenges, learnings, adaptations, joys and the inner growth that occurs in the process. Recently I was in discussion with my 15 year old daughter about her choice of subjects and her career options, as I was insisting that she become a doctor.
I have put forward a number of arguments to strengthen my case – such as being a noble profession that heals and cures people, the satisfaction that comes with it and its universal relevance, etc.
After many wireless discussions, my daughter asked me some intriguing questions: “Mom, there are so many doctors who can heal the physical wounds of our body, but who heals the wounds of the spirit? What do we know about the mind and how it works? The heart only pumps the blood, it is the mind alone that contains the emotions? Our mind controls a lot of our physiology and we give it little importance, right, etc. ? »
I was puzzled for a while but gathered myself to explain to her that we have psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors to deal with mental issues, but she had some interesting counter questions. “How many such people are there compared to physician physiologists? Do they have similar access and acceptability? Do they only cure critical ailments or do they also focus on day-to-day well-being of the mind, etc.? »
We ended the conversation inconclusively as I didn’t have all of his questions answered and it got me thinking as I delved into his simple, innocent questions.
It is true that we focus so much on our bodily ailments and healing them but give so little importance to our mind. A simple Google search estimates that there are 1.2 million registered doctors in India, compared to just 9,000 psychiatrists and just 1,000 clinical psychologists. And when compared to our population, the ratio is not even worth mentioning. Being a student of psychology myself, I am aware that psychologists and psychiatrists have a limited presence because they are only consulted in acute cases and even now a large number of people are uncomfortable to them for help/therapy.
Although things have come a long way over the past decade, especially in metropolitan cities with respect to existing social stigma, acceptability among vulnerable demographics is still miles away and mental wellbeing is not certainly not a central concern. So, until and unless someone has a prolonged critical mental problem, no one even considers seeing a psychiatrist or counseling psychologist. For a small physical injury, we immediately rush to a nearby doctor but have nowhere to go for a psychic injury.
The truth is, we can’t even see or feel a mental injury, so how can we ask for help or treatment? Maybe the spirit has more tenacity to heal on its own, so it heals faster. but who knows? Nobody saw it? We all know that with the application of drugs and antibiotics a wound heals within a certain time, but I have not come across any documented research on how the mind heals itself. Understanding the complexities of the human mind is the greatest gray horizon available for the human species to explore and understand.
Doctors and researchers have done a lot of work in this field, but the common man who understands how to heal a physical wound does not even know how to identify/recognize or heal a mental wound/scar. Yes, a lot is written these days about the strength of the mind and its importance as yoga and meditation take center stage in our conversations. Spirituality and wellness of the mind is the new trending way of life across the world with millions of people adopting yoga and meditation as a way of life. From Art of Living to Brahmakumaris to Ikigai, inner peace and healing appeal to young people more than ever, especially in these times of Covid where mental issues are engulfing many.
Countless books are written that promise peace of mind, general well-being and personal growth and many of them are undoubtedly very insightful. The quintessential question still remains unanswered in its entirety. Psychiatrists and psychologists cure disorders and meditation/books etc. pave the way for some mental well-being, but is it enough to heal the mind?
Now, bringing this discussion back to the family home, my 70 year old mother strongly reaffirms that this whole conversation is largely irrelevant as she strongly believes in the value of family ties (especially in the Indian context) and says that everything emotional feeling the support comes from our family.
According to her, these concepts of mental injuries and stress, etc. mean nothing because our loved ones help us through them with comforting conversations, affection and support. I can’t help but agree with her because we were raised in a close and loving family and never had to look outside for anything. Words like tension, stress and boredom have been banned in our household and happy childhood memories are still my greatest strength which makes me more positive than I should be. With this upbringing, I am a strong believer in the magical powers of affection as it can certainly heal all issues of mind, emotions and well-being.
Recently I attended a Cambridge University coaching skills workshop and after all the concepts and jargon I got the simple takeaway – Be a genuine, patient and non-judgmental person, if you have to help someone. The psychological mind is a person’s capacity for self-reflection and a sensitive understanding of the human mind through which effective coaches/mentors help people overcome obstacles and achieve their personal goals. I suppose the overriding idea of universal mental well-being should be to push yourself and others to be the best and happiest version of ourselves.
Family, friends, mentors, coaches, writers, spiritual guru, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. occupy the vast space that deals with the human mind and its nuances. The mental horizon is immense. And there is still so much to explore and understand. Until we know exactly how mental wounds are healed, surely the world needs more mind healers! So explore and accept the mysticism of your mind. Court your healers in your own way, whoever they are – your father, your daughter, a friend or a mentor – and if you can, be a mental healer for someone. The world would surely be a happier place!
The author is an IAS agent, Secretary to the Government of Uttarakhand.