Photo by Mir Shaani, for The Bicyclist

Becoming Wo-man

I always walked weird in school. All the way up until two months ago. Having an abortion helped me come into my own body as a woman, helped me appreciate my tits and pussy. And I began to sway a bit, lean into the full width of my hips.

But it’s only now, at 29 that I actually want to walk that way.

Dude looks like a lady. 

I mean what do you want to know and why? Why it happened? What happened? How I survived? How I and a few volunteers painstakingly built a brand over 5 years with 1,50,000 rupees by way of funding, with a lead therapist that only has an MA from a cult-y psych school after switching tracks from law, and struggles with alcohol use and codependency?

I’ll tell you what. Goddamn faith. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be in God. But you gotta believe in something. All of this pain boils down to a crisis of meaning. Here’s a shocker. There is no inherent meaning in life. You have to find it for yourself. You have to craft it together, break it down then build it up, copy, steal, whatever.

You need to believe. That you’re here for something. That there’s something only you can say. So that this endless churn at least has some purpose. A broad goal. While you learn to “be.”

I was born a girl child to service kids, my mother, a writer and lifelong learner, my dad, a fighter pilot in the IAF and eternal joker. I was a social introvert, kinda hanging in my room reading all the time but also loving Air Force parties and bouncing, our spin on after parties. I loved the space, I loved the sky, I loved digging holes in the ground with my reluctant yet transfixed sister in tow.

In class 6 I moved to big bad Delhi with scary skirt lengths and dangerously invisible socks. My turn to be transfixed. I adjusted slowly, understanding in time how much I cared about popularity versus individuality, how little attention from boys I could live with, how much of an agony aunt I wanted to remain.

No one sees us, the echoists, and yet y’all would die without us to perform for. More on that later. Y’all are the narcissists by the way. You could potentially bracket us as the borderlines. I’d rather see this whole thing as an internal imbalance of the masculine (narc) and feminine (borderline) energies that tussles with the “external” imbalance of human (masc, mind) and nature (fem, body).

So what happened? It feels like a lifetime ago and I’ve had the great fortune to process it repeatedly during my Masters and recovery. So to me the nuts and bolts of it are besides the point.

I went to the best law school in the country, indulged in an abusive relationship for 5 years, broke up, lived my slut life, didn’t process the break up or development sector disillusionment, smoked pot every day, fell in limerence with an emotionally unavailable dude and crash landed into a 8 week in-bed depression.

That was the first time. I knew enough to know that the depression was actually an existential crisis, perhaps even a crisis of the self. Who am I? What am I here for? What is the meaning of karma, why should I believe in it? What about M theory? How does that fit in? Why haven’t quantum physicists cracked this yet if they’re so goddamn smart?

All of this took to my MA through about 1.5 years of pure recovery and exploration.

When it started I was badly hung up on limerence-dude, had stopped enjoying working for a pakoda-worshipping NGO, however wide the exposure, and was basically numb and sluggish on ganja. I’m lucky I didn’t experience ganja psychosis, hallucinations on top of all that suicidal ideation would have made me jump.

[Trigger warning]

If you want to kill yourself by the way, please find a painless way to do it. There aren’t really any. There, saved you some research.

Look I’m not being flippant, and there are serious situations in which I think suicidal is absolutely rational (take me to court bitches), but most of the time I think it’s extreme despair + your brain stopped being your friend months ago.

And that kind of despair comes from not being ourselves. I was not myself. I was Aqseer Sodhi she of the grades, drive, focus, and agony aunt skills. I had a tough time picking a dish off of a Big Chill menu. I had no sense of style that I could call my own. I had never kissed a boy.

School girl Aqseer saw life as a series of milestones to achieve. And was climbing that ladder, reading a lot and petting dogs along the way. School girl Aqseer, hell, college girl Aqseer didn’t have a thing for cats. Adult Aqseer is a mama with two.

So what I do to recover and how can you?

Firstly, take your time. If your body-mind has revolted and you’re seriously ill right now, take the OPPORTUNITY to break down. You will only get to who you are if you break down your false self completely. Or let it.

Secondly, pay attention to your unconscious mind. What are you dreaming? What are you day-dreaming about? What patterns repeat in your life over and over, unbidden yet comfortably numb? What calls you, almost indiscernible, but in the Insta stories you’re drawn to, the heroes you can’t stop raving about?

That’s your gut (fem, body). Follow it. It’s the only thing that will get you out of your hijacked, screaming mind alive. Tell you what. Believe in your gut. Fuck god. Find your gut and believe it. That’s your god anyway, that’s your lost femininity, your disavowed femininity, your sunken compass. Find it and follow it.

Get to some place quiet. I had to run to Vipassana. I just had to. One of the best decisions of my life. Absolute gamechanger. I had quiet to think. To feel the insides of my mind. I had my first recallable dream in 20+ years, after having a vision of following a monk up the hill to a monastery, and a weird experience of dream paralysis that essentially shut off communication between my unconscious and conscious mind for that long.

[Trigger warning]

I may have been raped. That would explain a lot. The transformation from geeky kid to slutty goddess, my rejection of my weak femininity that let me be violated in this way, the overcompensation, the rage that never goes and may never leave.

Get yourself a psychiatrist. Take a friend or family member, wait in line, show up. Eat your meds. I went off twice. Trust me, don’t. Yea it’s a placebo, whatever it is, it’s a tool to check in with yourself and give yourself things to do at designated times of the day. Let go of some control. Eventually you’ll realize that you have none, there is none to be had.

Eat your meds and don’t go off. Titrate, get your blood tests, meet your idiot shrink that never told you to expect those side effects.

Go to workshops. Try them all. I tried theta healing, arts therapy workshops, masculinity femininity workshops, there are a lot more now.

Go on a trip. Solo trip. Be in nature. Put your phone on flight for a week and witness the world carrying on without you. Yea, it really does go on without you. Take comfort in your smallness. Your irrelevance.

Use a process of elimination to slowly chisel away to the core of your being. Use the opportunity of your death bed to rule out a career flipping burgers in Texas, or being a Yoga teacher in the Maldives or whatever empty dreams occupy your purposeless mind.

Slowly, you will find your purpose. And it’s really about your voice. What are you hear to say? What’s your Greta Thunberg potential? You have it, or you wouldn’t be here. You would be dead already. Something is not letting you hurt yourself that bad, and you are a detective with an unfinished assignment.

Along the way, give up on figuring it out. Read Rumi. Wonder at the meaning of be-ing. What could it possibly mean?

Still on your meds?

Okay great. Now let’s start figuring out what you like in bed. Really there are two reasons to live – sex and food. Bacchus told you so, you never listened. I am a Saturn ruled ambitious as hell entrepreneur workaholic and I will tell you that no achievement means anything unless you got people to share it with.

It’s kinda nice for that person to be someone you also get to bump uglies with and cook for or be fed by.

And that’s it yo. Let me know how it goes. Write about it!


Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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My piece on recovering from depression for the 1st time

And so I decided to focus on the PROCESS that I loved engaging in for its own sake. I started paying close attention to what I genuinely enjoyed doing. And that slow process of self discovery has lead me to — dance, vocal lessons, photography and healing practices. 

If you’re not happy, do something about it. Create your reality, don’t wait for life to happen to you. Read all of the below. And get in touch if you want to talk. 

Originally published on Thought Catalog, May 2, 2014 here.

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#curated – how to stop being a narc magnet

“Narcissists are attracted to the following quality’s:

Poor or non existent boundaries




People pleasers and/or people who have a tendency to give other’s the benefit of the doubt

Strong, independent types

Those with high power careers/money

Anyone who will reflect well on them in the eye’s of others

Did the last 3 surprise you?

There’s a misconception that something has to be “wrong” with you to attract a narcissist.

What are “good” and “bad” quality’s is a matter of perception.”

More at

Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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aaina therapy presence satori

Divine Union

The last five days I have seen angel numbers everywhere. Example – 1111, 2222, 4444, 8888, 9999 and a whopping 7 7777; all on license plates. That’s how Archangel Raphael talks to us healers, in numbers and through his colour, incidentally my lifelong favourite, bottle green.

So I kept asking myself, fresh from vacation in Malpe, feeling solitudanal and pragmatic about my prospects in love, what were the angels trying to tell me?

I have been preoccupied with the idea of union, that is the perfect balance of masculine and feminine energies, or transcending duality in a dual world, for years now.

2015, Elephant Journal would not stop talking about twin flames and the initiation number on the spiritual path – 11:11. MAKE A WISH they said, CALL IN YOUR TWIN, they said.

At the time I was depressed for the second time, recouping at home in Gandhinagar. One day pa and I were sitting out on the swing and I saw 11:11 on his digital watch.

This is it, I thought. This is the sign I asked for, that it’s okay to go back to Delhi and finish my damn masters. So I trudged back, to a small hostel room in a highly regulated Air Force hostel.

What followed is a long journey of coming into union with myself that involved an abusive relationship, a helluva lot of substance use, a truly awful period of recovery from codependency, and the beginnings of a relationship with my true desire.

A week before this long awaited vacation, I got an Enso symbol tattooed on my chest. I felt whole. Complete. In union with myself, able to let my wrist fall if it wanted, and punch if it needed.

Five days ago I started seeing angel numbers again after months, and today I believe I am in union with my twin.
BUTT – it’s not a concept I found useful to get hung up on. Soulmate, twin, karmic, karmic twin whatever. Love is love.

I am still learning to stop identifying with the struggles from my past, chiefly with attachment anxiety and codependency. But he tells me to shut up and let him do things his way

And because I trust in the divine, I will trust us with this, and whatever happens, will, and we’ll be fine, me, myself and I.

Aqseer (Iqra) Sodhi
Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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My opinion on suicide prevention in the Times of India

However, Aqseer Sodhi, a psychotherapist who provides counselling through her organization Aaina, opined that these institutional centres did not fully serve the youngsters.

Read more here.

Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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Conducting listening circles at JGLS

We conducted listening circles at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), after participating in  an active listening training organized by Aaina.[1]

There were 2 listening circles with 8 people each per circle. Each circle had 4 to 5 participants who were completely new to the space and felt satisfied after they left the circle. They said that their expectations were fulfilled, they felt restored and that they could breathe after a long time. Here, I share how I conducted this circle and what helped me end it successfully.


A listening circle is a safe space where people congregate to hear and be heard, at its most basic level. It involves a different way of meeting each other than we are used to. The focus is on hearing each other and being heard, not achieving anything or finding solutions. Everyone sits around in a circle and takes turns speaking about anything at all they feel like talking about at the moment. We take turns by passing around a ‘talking object’ – a water bottle, a pillow, a pencil pouch. Whoever has the talking object speaks and passes it on to the next person when they are done. One does not necessarily have to speak when it’s their turn, one could choose to stay quiet. In the process of speaking and listening, we only attempt to validate each other’s experiences, if at all we want to respond to each other.[2] The idea of a listening circle is to create a space free of judgment, advice and any negative consequences for speaking one’s truth.[3]


I was able to build my capacity to listen. I learned that listening just means having the ability to be present and letting the other person feel whatever they are feeling. I felt capable to cultivate a safe space to enable myself and others to share and feel heard. I learned that there was more to listening than just saying something back and responding for the sake of it. I moved beyond that binary and realized silence could also be listening. The warmth and the aura you give away matters. I now know what to consciously do and not do. I felt empowered having met people so different to me and yet going through similar things. It gave me hope and I wanted to take this forward individually and collectively so more people get to feel this way. I now actively know what I have to look out for.

A participant said, “the first thing that I realized here was the beauty of listening. As too, how much power ‘listening’ can hold, how it makes you feel so wanted. And, with this same feeling, I want to build my capacity to listen even further. I learned how eye contacts can also talk and so can silence.”

Another participant said, “I feel motivated to continue this legacy. In this isolated law school, a place that can really make you feel inadequate and lonely, it’s really important for me to at least take a step to ensure that I can be someone’s listener and make them feel better.”

Another one said, “I learned that a conversation doesn’t always have to be two people speaking. Listening is actually more important because if you don’t know what the other person is saying, you can’t continue the conversation.”


Since, it is our college and our people, we know the environment they live in. Here, as soon as they come, we make them feel like they are in a different place which is completely separate from the world outside that room. They feel comfortable with themselves and the place. They feel like they belong and nobody would judge them. It is a place where one can let loose and forget about their inhibitions.[4] There is no need to put up a strong face for the world. There is no need to impress the world. 

I look into their eyes when they are speaking. I nod while listening to them. I keep remembering what I had learnt from the workshop that I was a part of. I remember the vibe of the conductor and try to deduce certain characteristics from that. If I get tired of listening and nodding, then – to come back to the present, I look into their eyes again. I disconnect from my thoughts and I cancel any other noises. It sounds like a lot of work, but while listening to them, I make us the same person.[5] I give in to my body and let my heart take the lead. I give my body more importance than my mind. 


By ensuring that I feel this too. When I give off this aura, everybody around me feels the same. I feel that the person you are communicating with, reciprocates your vibe.[6]

We know that one person treats another the same way they are being treated, consequently, I make sure I let loose of myself, for them to be able to relax and let themselves be vulnerable for that hour of their life.


Three S’s that I keep in mind are – speaking slowly, speaking warmly, speaking from the heart. It is important to keep in mind that one is not just a part of the circle, but also conducting it. I do this by giving directions and by being emotionally defenseless and unguarded. The point is to make the circle – a space where one can empathize. 

During the session, we pass a talking object. But, we keep it slow. As a facilitator, I make certain that nobody feels obligated to talk. We are used to talking in law school, therefore silence is precious for us. At times, I sit silently with the talking object for a while, to make the environment calm. 

The message that we send across is also drafted in a way that the recipients feel like they would want to come here to be in touch with themselves – to feel connected with themselves. This message helps them to be connected to a space which is important to them. This place is for them and they feel this through our approach towards it. 


I keep myself in touch with these feelings and pointers by reading the posts that are put up by psychologists. I try to retain the importance of authenticity and I keep applying the principles of listening every day. 


One might feel that they are not equipped to facilitate these circles as they are not trained, psychologists. They would not know what to do if a situation got exceptionally stern and the sharer needed medical support. For this, the facilitator should keep contact numbers of psychologists, who would be willing to help the participants of the circle.[7] The facilitator can also make a list as per the fee that is charged by these psychologists, for the convenience of the participants. However, one should keep in mind that the aim of the listening circle is to be present for one another. A study conducted by Dr. Lissa Rankin shows that more people die of loneliness than drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes combined. Hence, being available to listen to another person is the objective.[8]

The participants are also expecting to be heard and feel safe. One need not be a psychologist to lend a kind ear. A subreddit[9] has also been started by Aaina, where it is creating a community – a healthy village if you will, in which no one’s invisible. The community watches out for each other.On this page too, the participants are from different backgrounds, unrelated to psychology. However, they feel comfortable and wish to authentically share on the platform because they know that they are being heard.[10]They know that there is someone who will tell them that, “it is going to be okay”.[11]


One of our participants said that she could “just be there and understand others without feeling the need to overtly object and speak for the sake of speaking”.

Another participant said, “listening is one skill we’ve all lost touch with. In this world, where everyone is eager to speak, to be loud enough, I found my safe space, in the listening circle. I was finally heard. My feelings, my beliefs, my opinions were finally listened too. And I didn’t feel like a burden on someone when I shared my story, as if people were forced to listen to me, instead I was made to feel like I can go on talking, for whatever it was that was bothering me, that of buried inside of me. Through this art of listening, I heard myself too, a voice that I never paid attention too.”

We are very thankful to everybody who shared and listened at our circles.

Sukirti Agrawal
Sukirti is a student at the JGLS and a talented facilitator in the making.  

Book an appointment with Aqseer at More on psychotherapy with her here.


[2]Mary Robinson, ‘Don’t Go Exhausted Trying to Fix It All: Learning Boundaries As A “Fixer”’

[3]To read more on non-judgement refer to ‘Grounded Spirituality’ by Jeff Brown

[4]Karla McLaren, ‘The Gifts of Shame’

[5]Filiz Telek, ‘Presence Sessions’ – http://

[6]David Schwartz, ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’


[8]Lissa Rankin, ‘Mind Over Medicine’; to get a summary of the experiment refer to ‘’


[10]Francis Weller, ‘The Wild Edge of Sorrow’

[11]Jeff Brown, ‘An Uncommon Bond’

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Meera bhav is the cure for your attachment woe

I remember being extremely keen on worship as a child. I’d rope my sister into some peepal tree worshipping scheme, or be picking up hibiscus flowers for my work-in-progress altar. I also had a brass bell that I loved the look and feel of.

I was a kid full of joy, growing up on Air Force bases, happily playing in the mud and riding my cycle around the campus. Moving to Delhi flipped this idyllic vision on its head and suddenly I was unattractive, awkward village bumpkin in a school full of too-short skirts.

From then on, life wasn’t about the fun thing I could do, but about being an outsider trying my best not to further alienate myself.

I have talked a fair bit about what our first six years do for our attachment styles. But perhaps it’s important also to acknowledge the role that our adolescent years play in shaping our romantic destinies.

Being a gawky, goody-two-shoes kid in an anachronistic hair-do, I was never the recipient of male attention. This got to the point that I would use this lack of attractiveness as a shield to further my sexual isolation. A boy in my class wanted to say he thought I was the prettiest girl in the room, on a dare, and I interrupted him and said: “ya, you’re going to say Damini is the prettiest.”

I want to say that my first decade on the planet was a blissful and extended pre-mirror stage experience. I say this because my sheltered world out there was benevolent, known, I saw in it what I was taught to see in myself because the two fed into each other.

I was born of and for the Air Force life and until I came to Delhi, it’s like I had never left her womb. Delhi was the first mirror to me of the world out there. The mirror that forced me to see my separation from the world out there. Arguably, the mirror that forced me to begin the process of delayed individuation that I have written painstakingly about before.

Delhi was also, then, questions of faith, questions of identity, of worth. I spent 4 years trying to be a normal girl in senior school in a class with two stunners that everyone crushed on. Then I spent 2 years at a radically different school where my merit and smiling face made me more popular.

In this time, there was no cycling, there was no pagan worship, there was no aimless wandering. There was the real world, and our attempts to make it in that world.

In class 6 I had a prolonged fight with a group of girls that didn’t want to associate with me because I was too much of a Harry Potter geek. Or something.

That experience set me up for a pattern of friendships where I’d invest, then get frightened of being dumped, get panicky and clingy, and get dumped hence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The last of these was in class 12 when I broke up with perhaps the dearest friend I’ve ever had. I took my board exams in a haze of that grief.

So by the time I got to law school, I was seriously starved of attention, acceptance, and admiration. That could also be a reason that when I met my first boyfriend, and once we got close, it was terrifying to let him go even when our relationship had become suffocating and toxic.

Then followed a series of short, intense friends-with-benefits/fuck-buddies/lovers that taught me a lot about sex, my body, relationships, and my needs. Of these, the last was an emotionally abusive relationship where I experienced the most intense limerence of my life.

This piece is about how I worked through the limerence and arrived at Mira bhaav.

After I finally went no-contact on my last boyfriend, I had to exorcise him from my mind every time I thought of him by chanting a paudi from the Jap Ji Saab, which is a foundational prayer for Sikhs.

It was like always being in manual or rather spiritual override. What I want to say to you is that if you’ve struggled with attachment anxiety, you are so used to a state of high arousal that it will be years before you can teach yourself to relax and go with the flow like your hippie neighbor.

And you probably will be unhappy without having someone to crush on, be obsessed with or craft yourself as good enough for.

Here’s a thought.
Become like Mira Bai. Channel your inner Dante and let God be your Beatrice. After all, the oceanic state of pre-existence you seek to regress to with romantic partners is the same oceanic state of bliss that the bhakti or Sufi traditions speak of. Or is the same oceanic state as death.

Toxic boyfriend, invisible but constant benevolence or a botched suicide attempt from your last toxic relationship – you choose.

I’ll be over here training myself to pay attention to the here-and-now every time I think of my current crush. Yes, he’s tall. Spirit is taller.

Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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What to do if you’re married and your sex life sucks

I’ve never been married but I’ve lived with men and struggled with keeping desire alive after the honeymoon phase. I think in a lot of ways, couples in long-distance relationships may have it easier when it comes to pleasuring each other. When you’re up in each others’ face all the time, everyday annoyances and little arguments turn what used to be an erotic charge into a childlike irritation.

I’m going to say I personally do not believe in having one master-bedroom. I think it makes a lot more sense in all possible ways for each partner to have their own bedroom – this allows for breathing room, novelty and two options of ceilings to look at.

Rant done.

Here’s my list of things you can do to unsuck your married/cohabiting sex life.

  1. Please don’t live in the same room. If you must, do not walk around in your altogether or chadi bunain. Unfortunately, desire is a fickle thing and elusiveness appears to be essential to it.
  2. Work on your communication. Mind blasting sex comes from emotional connection as much as physical togetherness. Have you opened up to each other, talked about difficult things like your shadow side, your deepest fears, your soaring dreams? You gotta get into this stuff for a richer sex life.
  3. Figure out how you like it. Take Jaiya’s Erotic Blueprint quiz. You will learn whether your primary blueprint is Energetic, Sensual, Sexual, Kinky or Shapeshifter. Study this blueprint. Don’t let it define you, but do let it give you vocabulary so you can…
  4. Talk about how you like it. No one is a mind-reader, not even your SO. Maybe your man is timid and you want him to take you but you’ve completely whipped him in your everyday life and he’s let you. You need to discuss this for him to be comfortable switching the script in bed. You also have to be able to share your fantasies and kinks with each other. And what sex means to you. Maybe it’s like a sport sometimes, lovemaking sometimes, good old fucking sometimes. Can you be present to each other and tell how y’all want it that day? Are either of you just plain lazy? Does she lay there instead of receiving him with grace and presence? Does he need dirty talk but can’t ask for it?
  5. Embody one end of the sexual polarity. Okay, this is a tough one. Citing Tony Robbins on this. There is a polarity of masculine and feminine energies (not genders) that is essential to sexual magnetism. Think of it like batteries. Two masculine energies will repel. This is why we still see butch and femme lesbians and the equivalent for gay folks. Whoever you are outside the bedroom; in it, you gotta be clear whether you want to fuck or get fucked in a given moment. Of course you switch and roleplay – the tricky part is finding that balance of your masculine and feminine energies internally. Especially with the pressure to be masculine in the world-out-there, it can be easy to lose touch with our femininity. Sometimes we can emasculate or symbolically castrate our partners by not letting them express their masculine, take-charge side. This is fatal to desire.
  6. Explore tantra. No this does not involve offering yourself up to an aghori baba. Tantra is a spiritual sexual practice that slows us down and takes our focus off cumming. It’s part of the left hand path to enlightenment but you don’t have to get into kundalini energy if it’s not your scene. Take the tools that help you. Note that practicing it involves deep breathing, eye contact and a sensuality that can be difficult to bear without…. EMOTIONAL CONNECTION.
  7. Explore kink. It’s a rich, fun area of play that everyone can explore. It helps us release our dark side, and we all have one, in a safe, pleasurable and healthy way. You’re thinking “why would people want to tie each other up, call each other names, and inflict pain?” BDSM is rich with symbolic imagery and fairly obvious sublimation of childhood trauma. I won’t get into that, read Jessica Benjamin’s The Bonds of Love for more. My suggestion is, if you’re shy about dirty talk, start there, and remember it’s symbolic. There’s no need to hulk out.
    Pro-tip – safe words work best when they’re silly and make you both laugh.
  8. Accept that desire takes work to keep alive. Put in that work.
  9. Don’t take it too seriously. If you’re trying new things, being adventurous and vulnerable, one of you is going to fart at some point, or you’ll go dry or limp at just the wrong moment. Chill. Awkward is good. Awkward is real. Laugh it off, cherish your growing intimacy, carry on.
  10. Make your lady cum. Get yourselves some lube. Maybe even a vibrator. Some guys seem threatened by lube and vibes but the thing is, if she can’t cum, it’s about her body. It has little to do with your performance. Maybe she’s got a history of *child sexual abuse.* Maybe she’s super conscious of herself. Don’t take it personally and don’t be threatened. Encourage your partner to do what they need to feel safe and ready for an extremely intimate experience. Oh and for the love of god, please help her cum after you have; I know she doesn’t cum with the same regularity that you do.Aqseer
    Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.
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Check-list to avoid emotional incest

Today I learnt of this term “emotional incest.” I looked it up on Quora to see if it was relevant to blog about – and I saw some questions about whether this “really” was incest because incest is necessarily sexual in nature.

I don’t know and I don’t want to get into that debate. But I’ll tell you why this idea is powerful for me. Recently, at The Health Collective, I wrote about the mother-son dynamic in India, which I now believe is better and more succinctly defined as emotional incest. Briefly, a wife that is emotionally unfulfilled by her husband, who is still wrapped up in his mother, becomes inappropriately reliant on her son, rendering him incapable of intimacy with his wife, thereby keeping us in an infinite seeming loop of inter-generational emotional incest.

What does that look like in practice? It seems harmless enough. A parent asking her child for advice on finances, for reassurance that everything will be okay, for an ear when the in-laws seem relentlessly hostile. But for a growing child, the parent is meant to provide the container, and the parent is meant to find their container in their spouse or friends.

If a parent makes their child a quasi-partner without sexual contact; that would be emotional incest. And that would not let the child grow up with him or herself front and centre of their world. It would not let the child grow up with a strong sense of who he or she truly is. Which would mean an emotionally fragile child that grows up looking to fix other people, put them first, numb themselves, get into physically and sexually abusive relationships – keep looking for themselves and their self-esteem everywhere except the place they lost it. Right under their noses, at home. As to why the word “incest” is powerful for me – it’s as though it is claiming my experience and making its forbidden horror tangible, even to me. The “chee chee” inherent in the word makes me feel that my sense of outrage at having been used as an emotional dumpster that could conveniently be scapegoated as the black sheep of the family has been valid.

The “chee chee” inherent in the word makes me empathize with the depth of my pain, even as it helps me make sense of why no one understood, not even me. The word incest transfers a charge, a bodily sense of violation that would speak for my experience more strongly than “mother-son attachment in a communitarian India.”

I can hear the “this is India not America” brigade gathering itself so let me clarify that as always, I locate my observations in an absolutely flawed patriarchal structure where women are expected to do the impossible. I further accept that our notions of individuality and community are different from Western cultures from which the majority of our diagnostic language emerges.

I have one permanent retort to this argument, which is – “What economy are you raising your kids to function in?” That’s right. A global economy. That’s why you sent us to the best English language schools. And that’s the economy we need to function in, which means that is the global culture we need to function in.

And in that culture, we are required to have boundaries and a strong sense of self. We can have none of these if you pick and choose when what culture applies as per your convenience. It cannot be – go win that debate and speak up in class and get a patent in your name AND beta, will everything be okay? I don’t feel like your dad’s side will ever appreciate me, I’m worried about your brother, on loop.

I’m all for the philosophy “both, and” – i.e. transcending binary or dualistic thinking. But here I point to a practical reality. We learn who we are, whether we are fundamentally good or bad, lovable or not, deserving of respect or not in our first 6 years of life on Earth. If at that time, we learn to put our emotionally incestuous parent before us, it’s going to take a long time to acknowledge what happened, learn what our own emotional landscape is, then begin to speak up and voice our own thoughts and feelings.

So people looking to have kids, here’s my checklist for you to avoid your kid writing about emotional incest 20 years down the line –

  1. Are you happy? Content? Do you know the difference?
  2. Can you regulate your own emotions? Can you self-soothe, i.e. make yourself feel better when you’re in a mood?
  3. Do you have a handle on your temper?
  4. Do you know what triangulation is? Do you promise to be conscious of it when it happens and stop right that minute? Your kid is not your marriage counsellor.
  5. Are your communication skills top-notch? Can you say “no” with kindness and without guilt?
  6. Are you and your partner a team? Do you feel the need to go outside your partnership and discuss your issues with other people rather than each other?

Good luck.

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My piece on individuation for The Health Collective

Extract from the full piece on The Health Collective’s website, here.
Recall that the dyad, or the blissful union of mother and child is broken around age 6 by the child’s ability to perceive the father, the word “no” and language, frequently collapsed and understood as the masculine or paternal principle. This principle sets boundaries and keeps the child safe, whereas the feminine principle nurtures the child, sustains and contains it.

Aqseer-who-is-a-girl is forced into an identification with her mother and in the original love triangle, therefore, she must compete with her mother for her father’s attention. Rather, she must be careful not to upset mother in her bid for her father’s love because there is an unconscious awareness that the difference in her sex organs means she belongs on one side of the camp.

In other words, father/phallus is available in limited supply, mother needs father, daughter needs mother to teach her how to be a woman, daughter will not rock the boat and the forbidden nature of her love for her father will colour that relationship with a tinge of yearning that is caricatured as being a daddy’s girl.

Aqseer-who-is-a-boy is forced into an identification with his father. This means that he has to violently disavow femininity, the breast, the maternal. And anything forbidden is more appealing. I know of a friend who was breastfed until he was 4 and he remembers clearly how his father came in while he was latched on, and he felt a combination of shame and fear at doing something wrong.

The psychic configuration of a triangle is powerful because one person is always the betrayer. There is the dyad of mother and child, father and child and mother and father. At all points, one person is unconsciously perceived as betraying the person in their dyad with the “third.” For instance, a mother might feel that her daughter is betraying her by being closer to her father than the mother. Or a father might feel that the mother is betraying him by giving her child all of her attention.

The long and short of it is that we persist in making biology our destiny and for as long as penis = blue and vagina = pink, we will continue to see mostly mama’s boys and daddy’s girls. And the process will be harder on boys because our culture requires them to disavow femininity to become boys, and then men.

  • Aqseer

Read more at The Health Collective’s website, here.

Book an appointment with me at More on psychotherapy with me here.

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