How to stop caring about someone who doesn’t care about you

So you have a friend that you’ve given all of your time and energy to, and she takes you for granted, jerks you around, says she’ll meet you, then cancels. And you think next time will be different, she’s going to realize how important I am to her and treat me with due respect, except you’re stuck in this unfulfilling relational loop.

And let me guess, it’s not just your best friend. This keeps happening to you, with everyone from your family to your friends to your romantic partners. You keep feeling like people take you for granted and want things to change but nothing changes.

Do you want to know why?
Because you are the person that needs to change. Not them. You are codependent, which means that you live for and through other people. Not for yourself. Early on in your life, you learnt that making other people happy was the only way that you got to feel good about yourself. No one taught you better and you haven’t upped your game since then.

Aren’t people trying to tell you something though? Sure it’s not direct, it’s not honest, and they are taking you for granted – but getting the same feedback from multiple people should tell you that you’ve got a problem.

I was like this. As a child my worst fear was that my friends would take me for granted, which was the only thing I felt I was entitled to, i.e. being seen as the always-there friend I prided myself on being. I wanted people to be grateful to have me in their lives because I thought I was a “good” or “easy” friend to have. Not demanding, not loud, but in return, I want your gratitude.

Let me tell you what this kind of attitude does not get you. It does not get you respect. It does not get you authentic relationships. It does not get you fun times. It gets you fear, awkwardness of the bad kind, rejection, blows to your self-esteem

So now what?
If you are struggling with codependency, you are not alone and this is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to make your life better for yourself. And it will not be easy.

The first thing you need to do is get a copy of the book “Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook” by David S Narang. Then sit with it, give yourself about a month to really work through it. Do the writing exercises, do the meditations, do the painful work of recollecting your childhood.

Second thing you need to do is learn to say “no” and learn to set some boundaries. Saying no will cause you a lot of guilt, suck it up. You are retraining your entire way of relating to people, it will hurt a bit. What do I mean by setting boundaries? Decide what is “not okay” for you, communicate it respectfully and lovingly, and do not budge. If being on time is important for you, next time your friend flakes, do not hang around waiting and getting angry, exit the scene.

Third thing you need to understand is that nobody really changes. You will struggle with codependency for the rest of your life, and flaky folks will struggle with being flaky for the rest of their lives. Stop seeing yourself as a superior martyr, accept that you’re flawed and so are your friends.

Fourthly, bring the joy back to being with other people. Stop taking it so seriously. Yes it’s important to be there for people, it’s also important to chill, indulge in some bakchodi, speak up, let them see you for more than your type A personality and mother-hen nature.

Lastly, understand the difference between connection and attachment. Being attached to or chasing someone who breadcrumbs you is a dead giveaway of a preoccupied anxious attachment style. The trouble with attachment is that it feels heavy for everyone involved, like there’s no place to go. In contrast, the idea of connecting is light, it could be cerebral, it could be emotional, there’s more breathing room.

Reimagine your key relationships as connections with plain old human beings, not “boyfriend,” “mother,” etc. See what that looks like for you; now you have a healthy goal to work towards. At the same time, you will have to mourn what you never had with this person and never will have. These relationships do not evolve unless both people do. Mourning what can no longer change or be fixed is integral to the process.

A great tool for this is the Ho’oponopono, a powerful Hawaiian prayer for releasing negative emotions such as resentment, guilt, shame and anger. Try it for the person you are attempting to let go of.

Turn off the lights, keep some tissues handy and take a few deep breaths. Then say the following phrases while visualizing the person you’re detaching from and repeat them until you feel intuitively that you are done.

  1. I am sorry – apologize to them for what you see as your part in the struggle. A number of my clients find it difficult to do this, and understandably so. I find it vital to the process because accepting my part in an interaction also empowers me to change it
  2. Please forgive me
  3. Thank you
  4. I love you

If you feel like crying, embrace it! That’s the whole point of getting into a special space, you have to feel it to heal it. If you decide to do this prayer, know that I’m proud of you. Don’t push yourself too hard with any of this. Baby steps.

The real test is whether you can dare to get to know yourself better, express yourself freely, occupy space without apologizing for it. Because the day you can do that, you won’t have the time to be preoccupied with whether you are more invested in a relationship or whether the other person is. You’ll just be living life.

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

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Mere Naam

Recently a dear friend told me that he’d just met another man who felt
“The day my mother dies, I’ll also die.”

In this piece, I will attempt to draw parallels between the love of Nirjara and Radhe in Tere Naam, our first attempts at romantic love, and this declaration of a life without mother being unimaginable.

Sudhir Kakar is one of two well-known Indian psychoanalysts (yes, both men) who in the book “The Indians” talks of our Ganesha complex. Viz, an emotionally starved wife relies on her child for succour, who has his head cut off by the patriarch at the suggestion that the latter’s masculinity is now under threat.

Baby Ganesh, wanting his father, needing his mother, goes through life tip-toeing around the former, nourishing the latter; somehow parenting them instead of the other way around.

He finally gets out in the world and has the chance to get some loving, the last he experienced at his mothers’ breast. He watches “Tere Naam” and thinks –
“Well that’s a stupid length to go to, but wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of love, that gives my life meaning?
Surely there’s more to my life than trying to make my parents happy, especially when they’re insatiable in their anxiety…
Any child of theirs could have erased himself for their sake….
But is there anyone to love me for me?”

At a stage before the inevitable quarter life crisis hits, a young Indian is looking to access their true self through another. The media, peer-pressure and our emergent sexuality only accelerate this process and give it a direction our parents aren’t too happy with. They’d rather we find our true selves in a marriage.  

This heady cocktail of our own insecure attachments from childhood, films like “Tere Naam” based on legends like “Laila Majnu” and “Romeo Juliet” have us all getting into incredibly soul sucking relationships where we find ourselves doing anything to keep the other person.

Ring a bell?

Let your parents hate on you for getting into disappointing relationships. And keep making the same mistakes for as long as you need to. Just remember, you also need to mourn the love and protection you didn’t get from your parents to seek a healthy relationship where you’re not looking to complete each other.

Don’t feel guilty, they’re angry at their parents too.

You be the person to live “Mere Naam” rather than “Tere Naam.” Not tere ma ke naam, not tere baap ke naam, and certainly not tere romantic partner ke naam. Mere naam.

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

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On Unravel, the improv show on mental health

Dear Kaivalya Plays,

Congratulations on a fine, heartful attempt at showing us what improv theatre can do for our mental health. The matinee show of Unravel that I attended was about two hours long, with one hour of improv games from behind the fourth wall, and 45 minutes of performance to us, and with our interaction. There were 53 of us in the audience, eight of you in the cast, and four in the crew.  Fittingly, you were the first to perform at LTG Auditorium’s cosy new space.

You wanted to show, and not tell us what improv can do for mental health. You showed us improv games, and you told us your stories. That felt choppy. Like you wanted to keep it light and real simultaneously. I don’t know if your audience left feeling inspired or equipped enough to transfer the lessons from those games into their lives. That’s why I wish you had used the performance space to show us how improv helped you, changed your lives. You, who found yourself bawling 15 minutes into your first therapy session, and you, who watched his father slip into depressive episodes thrice. Hearing your stories made me feel frustration, resonance, sadness and a sense of incompleteness.

Full piece on The Health Collective’s website, here.
Feature Image Courtesy: Kaivalya Plays

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Flirting tips for y’all with anxious attachment

Spoiler alert – don’t flirt.

Because are you capable of it? Not of flirting, of course you can be suggestive and playful and what not, but can you bear to wait?

Especially being a magnet for people with avoidant attachment that will take anywhere between two days to forever to get back to you

…can you bear to wait?

If you can, I’m here to learn.

Personally, I’m going to wait to get so busy I don’t have time to fret, then maybe I can get back in the game.

Until then, banter, go back to the hole you were dug out of. Aqseer

PS – if you don’t know what these terms mean, or you have a sense of your attachment style but would like to take a test and track it over time, check this out.

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

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The gift of goodbye

Ambiguous loss. So there’s a term for this feeling.

They leave behind objects, don’t they. Memories. Sharp ones. The ones that made us feel for the first time in forever.

There’s something compelling about their grandiosity.

“I was a bright poppy in a field”
“I am Jesus Christ superstar”
Bada vakil banunga

I am no different of course. Wanted to be president, am still convinced I have something to say about mental health that no one else can.

Necissism is what I’ve learnt from this slew of co-dependent relationships. Necessary-narcissism. Difficult for a woman in patriarchy, perhaps even more difficult for a man.

How does it feel?
If you’re reading this you already have a nodding acquaintance with the dance between a narcissist and an enabler/co-dependent person.

The narc will idealise you, aka love bombing, then devalue you, thereby reenacting an extremely addictive unconscious dynamic that you have been part of since you were this high. Instead of going to therapy, you are looking to resolve your daddy-mommy-me issues in these draining relationships.

Is there hope for you?

A week ago, I would have said no. The wiring is too deep, you do have a barbed wire around your heart, you and I will never find love.

Dare I hope that all the work has been enough? That I’ve learnt my lessons, that this time will be different? In accepting that there are plus sides to loss [“the process of decay inherent in the act of creation”], I am already in a different reality.

Where I am authentic, self aware and able to use my words. Naturally, I will attract the same. That is precisely what was happening before.

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

If you want to hit reset on your intimate relationships, I highly recommend “Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook”

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Gender based splitting is driving us insane

As the #tenyearchallenge does it’s insipid rounds on Facebook, I sit here looking back on my 19 year old self. I’m happy to report that a 5 year long wade through the darkest aspects of my psyche have allowed me to circle back to my fiery and loving 19 year old self; with some software upgrades.

I remember seething with disappointment when mum sat in her seat while dad went to get popcorn at a movie so long ago, this is the only detail that has stuck. “Fine feminist” I thought to myself. I was physically repulsed by the colour pink, walked like a machine and would dare you to tell me I’m pretty.

I was, and still am, quite masculine. The funny thing is that the only way I could embrace my whole self – femininity included, was through this five year long mental illness.

Why did I need two bouts of tied-to-the-bed depression and two bouts of police station and hospitalisation mania to embrace my biology?

Because being a woman still sucks. What the DSM and ICD call insanity, I call rage at feeling insecure about our embodied selves from before we were born. You think your family’s education somehow sheltered you from the fathoms deep shame of being a woman?

It’s not possible. Centuries of subjugation, aversion, repulsion do not evaporate without a trace even with three generations of the finest convent education. And let’s get real, what “education” are we talking about?

Yet here I am. Whole. In love with being a wo-man. Analytic and compassionate, wild and domestic, light and heavy, realistic yet hopeful. This is not a matrimonial ad, this is a invitation to see yourself and your child as both, and. Not either, or.

She is not either a slut or fit for marriage; he is not either a man or a boy, you are not either a perfect parent or a complete failure.

If you’re scared at the number of kids around you being diagnosed with mental illnesses and personality disorders; I invite you to look at our insane ‘either, or’ thinking and tell me if you aren’t surprised this didn’t start sooner.

Life is not ‘meet your milestones’ or ‘be a failure.’ Life is – here are guideposts that others have lived by. If you want to be more efficient in making your mistakes, here’s the wisdom I can offer. If not, I am here to catch you when you fall. Just don’t fall in the exact same way twice because no one’s got the time.

What does this have to do with the shame of being a woman?
Because you’re either a man or a woman. No?

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

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