Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Real home of man is where he has dignity"

HE is a Punjabi to the core, but his Punjab does not stretch from Amritsar to Chandigarh or from Lahore to the banks of the Yamuna. For Amarjit Chandan the leading Punjabi poet and former Naxalite, the entire world is Punjab. In one of his poems he says 'not five but hundreds of rivers flow in my Punjab'. His poems have appeared in The Independent, the Poetry Review, The Critical Quarterly, Race Today, Artrage, Bazaar, Papirus, (Turkey), and Erisma (Greece). They have been translated into English, Turkish and Greek. He was awarded Young Writer Fellowship by the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1980.

Before moving to the UK, Chandan was a correspondent for the Bombay-based Economic and Political Weekly. In the UK he was the assistant editor of the Punjabi weekly Des Pardes , and later the founder-editor of the monthly magazine Shakti. Since 1986 he has been working as coordinator, translator and interpreting unit, London Borough of Haringey. He has also worked for the BBC. Chandan was in Chandigarh on his way to Lahore for the release of his book Guthali, a collection of 101 poems. He spoke to Kuldip Dhiman about his poetry and his past.

Even in your self-imposed exile, you haven't forgotten the nuances of the Punjabi language. This must have been difficult.

I think, feel, and dream in Punjabi. My language is my real home, my last retreat. I feel most secure, and at one with my own self in my ma boli.Freud says it is not possible to return to the womb. My poems bear witness that the return is possible through the ma boli, mother language. But sadly, we are losing our language, and this loss has been a severe blow to me. I may sound a bit paradoxical when I talk about language. Memories have been the recurrent theme in my recent poems, but what are memories? They are slow-motion images that come back in sonic codes. If I find my memories tormenting how can I feel secure in my mother language? And in one of my recent poems,I expressed the desire to go beyond language, and feel free and be silent forever.

Poetry that is written for a cause is in danger of becoming propaganda. How did you manage to save your work from becoming a mere rhetoric of Naxalism?

I had this artistic concern from the very beginning. It saved my work from becoming mere propaganda.Most people remember me for my association with Dastavej, the magazine that I edited during my Naxal days. Although a lot of poems by other Naxal poets were published in Dastavej, I never lowered my literary standards. I have always tried to break taboos in my poems. I have written about sex, I have written a poem about the time I was conceived, No subject is a taboo for me, but I try not to cross the limits of decency. Love and compassion is the main theme in my poetry.

People who turned to the Naxalite movement were usually from the lower rungs of society. You were born in Nairobi into a middle class family, what drove you to become a Naxalite?

In my younger days my heart was aflame with an uncontrollable revolutionary zeal. I joined this movement as it was a raging fad in those days to be a leftist. Can you imagine a youth carrying a very crude gun made of a bicycle handle? Quite often it killed the user rather than the target. Symbolically, Naxalism was a suicidal movement; it was never a people's movement. It was a movement of murder and martyrdom.

Why didn't you opt for other democratic means instead of opting for Naxalism.

It is a historical problem associated with the Punjabi youth that compels them to take to violence. There seems to be a pattern of violence, especially in the present century, that keeps repeating itself every 20 or 25 years. There was the Gadhar movement, and then there was the Babbar movement, then Bhagat Singh, then Udham Singh, then Partition, followed by the Naxalite Movement. In the 80s it was the Khalistani movement. It is vicious cycle, and I have tried to examine this in my essay Shaheedi da Romance — The Romance of Martyrdom. Our blood is imbued with martyrdom. If you listen to the Sikh ardaas that is repeated every day so many times; it is a crash course in Sikh history. How the Sikhs suffered, how they died, and how you too can become a martyr, a shaheed. Sometimes ago I wrote a poem that said "youth is the time to enjoy life", a critic wrote back saying, "no, it is the time to die". That sums up the psyche of the Punjabi youth.

Naxalism thrived among the tribal people of Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Most of your foot soldiers were uneducated. Did they really understand Marx, or the cause they were dying for?

You can't teach theories or philosophies to the common man. We told them a few basic things such as we must fight against oppression by the use of violence; that was enough. But now I realise, violence for the sake of violence doesn't solve any problems. Violence may be necessary in certain circumstances, but violence shouldn't be your guiding philosophy.

The tribal people were uneducated and backward, but people like you were well-educated and politically aware. Didn't you ever try to question the oppressive methods of Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ceaucescu?

No. The quest for martyrdom makes you an extreme individualist. You are possessed by the revolutionary zeal. You cease to be a rational being. A rational being will never murder a fellow human being. A rational being will never commit suicide.

At the age when most young men fall in love, you took to revolutionary ways. Being a poet, didn't you ever surrender your heart to anyone?

No. I did fancy some girls but my love was never reciprocated.I have never experienced this sort of relationship with a Punjabi girl, and I miss that. To talk with your beloved in your own language is a totally different experience.Even the silences speak in Punjabi.

You were very close to your parents, especially your mother. Didn't she ever try to stop you or goad you to mend your ways?

No, she was too naive politically. She didn't know what communism was, what Naxalism was. But she knew I was into something that would get me into trouble. I know she suffered a lot because of me. She used to cry all the time, and I really feel sorry for her. She used to often taunt me: "If you think you are so brave, then why are you hiding from the police?' or she would say, 'My son has become a saadh (a saint)." I have written so many poems about my father and mother. I think, they were the only true friends I have ever had. Their love, I now realise, was totally unconditional and selfless. I feel terribly sorry for having hurt them.

You have dedicated some of your poems to Kavi Puran Singh.

He is my role model, and I think he is greatest poet of this century. A disciple of Swami Ramtirath, he was a great humanist inspired by Gurbani, Sufism, Vedanta, and Buddhism.

On the one hand you had a saintly figure for a guru, and on the other you indulge in this extreme leftist movement. Would Kavi Puran Singh have approved of your ways?

No he wouldn't have. I know I may be holding contradictory views and philosophies. You see, man is made of contradictions. There are so many beings in the mind that vie with one other to take hold of you; that to dominate your psyche from time to time. I have written a poem about it called — A man with ten shadows.

Some people call you a post-modernist poet.

They don't know what they are talking about. I really feel uneasy when somebody calls me a post-modernist. I want to make it absolutely clear through this interview that I am not a post-modernist poet. The post-modernist ideology says that history is dead, class system is dead — everything is finished. It is all humbug. My work is being misinterpreted and misused by some vested interests in America who are using my name for their own convenience.

Once you have been brought up under the influence of a certain ideology, it takes tremendous courage to give it up and admit that you were wrong all along. You must have done a lot of soul-searching.

Thanks very much. Please tell my ex-comrades about it. Nobody dares to think why this dream of Utopia has failed. There must have been something terribly wrong. The system was rejected not by a tiny section, but by millions. Recently I got hold of a book by Maxim Gorky, titled Untimely Thoughts. These essays were written in 1918, and he says that the Bolsheviks don't know the soul of the people. What I am writing now, Gorky had already written in 1918. It was an eye-opener for me. But people with closed minds do not want to read that book.

Don't your ex-comrades accuse you of being a heretic, a renegade?

They dare not look at me in the face and call me a renegade or a heretic. I haven't made any compromises to this day. But look at them: on the one hand, they are enjoying all the benefits offered by the government they call oppressive, authoritarian and corrupt; and on the other hand, they fancy themselves as revolutionaries. I am not afraid of questions. I even question myself in my poems. Even Marx said we must doubt everything. And these blind followers of his ideology don't doubt anything.

These guys say their ideology is scientific. Now, if an experiment fails, what does the scientist do? He conducts another experiment. He does not try to justify his failure, or say that his failed experiment has not failed at all. So, in the true scientific spirit, the Marxists must admit their failure. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

Will this prodigal son ever return?

No, I don't want to come back.I think man is in exile everywhere, and that's his fate. The real home of man is where he has dignity. A place where he can afford to say no without the fear of being punished.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The drive of emotions

Reviewed by Kuldip Dhiman

Emotions Revealed: Understanding Faces and Feelings
by Paul Ekman Phoenix. Pages 282. £ 4.99


THE idea that a person governed by reason alone, and not by the emotions would be more perfect than we are, is an ancient popular belief. As a result, emotions, known variously as "affects", "passions", have not received due attention by philosophers and psychologists. Now modern psychologists are suggesting that emotion and reason are not two opposite things but are two extreme ends of the same spectrum. Some go so far as to say that a person devoid of emotions could not be called a person at all.

In Emotions Revealed: Understanding Face and Feelings, evolutionary psychologist Paul Ekman comes up with compelling arguments in favour of emotions. He bases his work on the suppositions of Charles Darwin who in his 1872 book titled The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals had upturned many of the traditional cherished beliefs about the subject. Like his groundbreaking The Origin of Species, the assumptions of his new book were also met with scepticism and strong disapproval. And things remained so for about a century until Paul Ekman, now a leading authority on the subject, came on the scene.

Ekman, too, originally believed that Darwin had got it wrong when he said emotional expressions were universal features of humans and even animals, although they do get shaped by culture or environment. In the late 50s, Ekman set out to check Darwin's hypothesis through empirical research. The conclusions of the researches were revealing. Darwin was right after all! Emotional displays are similar in all cultures across the globe, albeit there is often a cultural variation. Ekman calls such universal emotions "basic", and his list includes: fear, anger, sadness, joy, surprise, and disgust. Why basic? Because these emotions are essential for our survival. They are experienced almost without awareness, and they last for a fraction of a second. Although rationality is a distinguishing characteristic of humans, in a life-threatening situation, for example, when we are face-to-face with a hungry tiger, if we began thinking rationally and deliberating about the various options that we have of dealing with the situation, we would end up in the tiger's stomach. In such a situation, our internal mechanism decides for us in a milli-second what the course of our action should be. Then, there are other complex emotions too, like guilt, shame, embarrassment, but they are not basic.

Ekman does not merely confirm the Darwinian hypothesis. Over the past 50 years, he has built his own theory based on rigorous field research. Why bother studying emotions? No man is an island, and one of the major pleasures as well as problems of life is our interaction with other members of society. Emotions, as non-verbal language, help us understand the motives and intentions of other persons and convey our intentions and motives to them, so we could have healthier relationships.

But like any language, the language of emotions is not perfect, for there is some degree of ambiguity in the expression of emotions. Besides, just as we are all not perfect users of our verbal language, most of us are not experts in the language of emotions. We may feel and show the right emotion, Ekman explains, but at the wrong intensity, e.g., to worry was justified, but we overreacted and got terrified. Or we might feel the appropriate emotion but show it the wrong way; e.g., our anger was justified, but resorting to the silent treatment was counterproductive.

There is an interesting section at the end of the book where looking at various photographs the reader could judge how good he or she is at judging other people's facial expressions.

Can we alter or change our inappropriate emotional reactions: wrong intensity and wrong way of expressing them? Ekman says we can, and this is the key to leading a fuller and happier life in harmony with others and ourselves.

It sounds paradoxical, but by regulating our emotional nature, we would behave more rationally and not be mere "slaves of the passions".

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Adolescents need support and challenge"

Interview by Kuldip Dhiman

An abridged list of his qualifications, achievements, and work experience might fill up an entire page of this newspaper. Professor Reed Larson, Chairperson of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois, did his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 1979. The Significance of Solitude in Adolescents' Lives was title of his thesis, and his advisor was the American- Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihlyi, with whom he co-authored Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years. Larson's book Divergent Realities: Emotional Lives of Mothers, Fathers, and Adolescent was written in collaboration with Maryse H. Richards, Associate Professor of Psychology at Loyola University.Most families have problems with growing children, and Larson remembers one woman who said, "If you claim to have gotten through your child's adolescence without problems, you're lying." The Professor seems to practice what he preaches, because he is happily married, and is a sensitive father of two children. Larson is currently on Fulbright Research Fellowship "Cultural Change and Adolescents' Daily Experience in Northern Indian Families" at Government Home Science College, Chandigarh. He talked about his work in an exclusive interview with Kuldip Dhiman. Excerpts:

Adolescents may feel very happy one moment and utterly dejected in another, much to the bewilderment of others, especially their parents. Though they themselves have gone through this phase, why don't they understand the problems of their children?

First of all, the interesting thing is that it is not adults alone who have stereotypes about adolescents; adolescents themselves have stereotypes. They have an image of the period they are going through as being emotional, awkward, being moody, being somewhat wild. And perhaps there is something to it. Aristotle said that youth "are heated by nature as drunken men by wine." Confucius felt that adolescence is the time when one's humours are full.

Is it something to worry about?

Not really. Part of the issue is that every society faces the challenge about how to train their young ones to become adults. So this transition from childhood to adulthood is a universal problem. Adolescents have the bodies of adults but in someway they have the emotions, and motivations of younger people.

Teenagers complain that no one tries to understand them; especially their near and dear ones.

Part of the reason is that adults have very busy lives. They are not patient enough to slow down, or to make an effort to understand what the new generation is experiencing. As a result of the many changes in adolescents' lives, the communication between parent and child often diminishes, and conflict increases. Even at home, parents and children often have discrepant views of the family. They have different perceptions of their family's rules and values. At this age, adolescents become less willing to automatically accept their parents' ways of seeing things, and parents are often slow to adjust. A breach opens between the generations. When this breach widens it can have troubling consequences for both sides.

Do boys and girls go through the adolescence experience differently?

There is a lot of overlap. Girls are somewhat more likely to turn their anxieties inwards, so they are more often depressed. Boys, in contrast, are more likely to turn their emotions outwards — they lash out at their parents, they might use drugs or weapons.

For girls, the situation gets more complicated with the arrival of puberty. They are under pressure to do well at school and they might even have to do a lot of household chores. They also begin to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Are girls equipped to handle so many things at the same time?

Yes, adolescence is a very difficult time, especially for girls. Many children might have serious psychological problems. One theory is that it is biology. We can talk about biology in terms of two types of causes: one is the old hypothesis about hormones. Biology has a direct effect on your emotions and on your behaviour. But the research on that has not been very supportive.

Now, if you are a young girl, and if you are suddenly shapely; you have people looking at you, whistling at you. You may still be not that far from childhood, and yet might have young men kind of leering at you, and expressing sexual desire. In the United States there is a very high pressure on good looks, especially if you are a girl. Most boys are into body-building these days, and a lot of them are using steroids to make their bodies look like that of of Sylvester Stallone. I don't know India very well, but my initial impression is that there is a lot of stress associated with trying to do well in exams.

Research suggests that it is a kind of pile-up: A child can deal with puberty, a child can deal with exams, but when you have everything happening at once, and your parents are also adding on to the pressure, then you have four of five things hitting you at the same time. That is when kids begin to think about suicide, get depressed, or react in dangerous ways by using drugs or violence. I must stress, the majority of the kids handle adolescence quite well.

In a family, only one child might turn out to be the 'black sheep'. On the other hand, often a deprived child might be quite normal than the one who has got all the love and attention.

Well, that is a real hard issue in developmental psychology: Why do two siblings turn out differently? I don't know if we have answers to that, but there is a fair amount of data suggesting that part of it is genetics. Now, siblings share 50 per cent of the genes, but there is the 50 per cent that they don't share. So one child might inherit a bit more introspectiveness, or a little more extroversion, or a little more anti social personality. But parents shouldn't give up.

There may be things you can do to redirect those impulses, but there is only so much the parents may be able to do in terms of altering the child's basic temperament. Researchers are also pointing to how even in the same family, children may experience different environments. The family, often, decides which child is the most likely black sheep, and that magnifies what may initially have been a small difference. And if everyone in the family treats you as a black sheep, you become a black sheep. So partly it is genetics, and partly it is the family environment.

Moreover, there are children who might be from an environment that is not supportive, but they do really well. When you study such people, you will often find that there was somebody who cared about them — an aunt, an uncle, or a teacher. We call it resilience — the ability to survive harsh circumstances.

As they enter adolescence, why do most children tend to spend a lot of time behind locked rooms?

My research suggests that it could be good for the children , it is healthy for them to have time off by themselves, it makes them feel better afterwards. It is also a way of experiencing separation from their parents. When adolescence play music very loudly, it is not as if they are saying 'I hate you'; it is a way of saying 'I have different tastes'. These are mild ways of asserting oneself. But in some families kids need to try harder because their parents are so overbearing. Such children often end up doing something more extreme.

But solitude is like a potent medicine for teens that is good in limited doses, but it can be deleterious in larger ones. Solitude then, is often "down time" for teenagers, but this can be healthy. After a long day in which their emotions are played upon by peers, teachers, and family members, it is a measured period to reflect, regroup, and explore.

It is generally believed that children get spoilt because parents are too strict, but there are many children who say they got spoilt because their parents were not strict enough: 'They should have beaten me when I smoked my first cigarette. They didn't care at all'.

There are two separate things: one is firmness, and the other is closeness. Now, they are not opposites.You can be firm with your children, at the same time be close and responsive. There is a kind of middle ground between being strict authoritarian versus being libertarian and not caring about your children. As a developmental psychologist, I see there is development of sequence.

What parents need to do is to adjust their explanations according to the child's readiness. At a younger age you don't let them leave the house on their own and let them go wherever they want to. But as they get older you may relax the rule a little. You might let them go out, but tell them to come back before it gets dark, or maybe they need to call from their friends' house. You give them challenges to take responsibilities for themselves, but you don't give them total freedom. You have got to decide how firm to be. It might be different for every child. You may have one child that really needs tighter reins than another child who is responsible at an early age. What is really helpful is to explain why you have a rule.

Your mentor Dr Csikszent-mihalyi talks about 'the flow experience', that is when a person becomes one with the activity and forgets everything else. Can't we harness this 'flow experience' to channel adolescents' negative emotions into positive ones?

A large body of research indicates that children and adolescents in our society develop maturity when they receive a combination of support and challenge from their parents. Support means that parents respect and pay attention to adolescents' feelings, needs, and the organisation of their emotional lives. In the healthier families we studied, parents were more often available to their children to discuss the breaking events of the day, whether in person or by phone. Many parents spoke not of solving problems of their adolescents, but of helping them think about alternative courses of action.

Challenging an adolescent means that parents push the child to the edge of (but not beyond) his or her capabilities. This includes encouraging the adolescent to see parents' and siblings' sides of interactions. Children need to be given the language to talk about their feelings and other people's feelings at an early age. Adolescents should not be allowed to dump their feelings on their parents, nor let others take household responsibilities that should be theirs. When parents set limits, they should explain them and help teens understand their reasoning. In healthier parent-child relationships there is an ongoing dialogue about what is reasonable, healthy, and safe for all parties involved.

Families need to make a little time to listen to each other. I think time is getting in short supply in modern society. There are lots of chapattis to be cooked, there are lots of movies to be watched, and lots of other things to be done. We are becoming more and more "time-poor."

But I think we have to somehow create time to talk to each other, when the TV is turned off, and we have the time to listen to what the child has to say, and the child has the chance to hear sympathetically what your life is like. We don't do enough of that. In India, I think, Sundays are mainly for families, and we must maintain that. And TV is not all evil. We find in our data that in India and as well as in the United States, TV is a kind of family activity. A great measure of family time is TV time, and that may be better than nothing. TV is a kind of lowest common denominator. There isn't much interactions, or real understanding while watching TV, but it provides a chance for people to be together. It would be nice if there were additional ways. We wish families had more quality time together.

“Globalisation hits both rich and poor”

Inter view with Goran Therborn by Kuldip Dhiman
"Why has globalisation become such a dirty word? Is there a way to live with it and make the best of it?

Globalisation simply means that social activities and social consciousness has a worldwide reach. It is not a new phenomenon, and we just can't wish it away. It is a continual process which has been going on for thousands of years in the form of continual intermingling of races, cultures and religions; in form of wars, trade and commerce, mass-migration and so on. These days, we tend to overemphasise the economic aspect of globalisation, but it has other dimensions like political and cultural dimensions, which are equally important.

 This worldwide reach could be both good and bad depending on what we are looking at. Take global human rights. This is a concept that is becoming more universal these days. Everybody would recognise it as a positive global process.

We should remember that globalisation is not considered negative everywhere. If you went to South-East Asia, they would talk about it in more positive terms. Sure, some people have been badly affected by globalisation. There are those who are facing unemployment because of IMF programmes. Certainly they have a good reason to be angry. In poorer countries, globalisation is an option and offers hope, but it is also true that it has a tendency to widen that gap between the have and the have-nots. This causes distrust and unrest. Demonstrations against globalisation should be seen as protests against the arrogance of organisations like the IMF which claim that globalisation will bring benefits to everybody. They ignore the fact that this has not been happening in some cases, and they are not willing to accept this. It is this neo-colonial arrogance that sparks off demonstrations.

If globalisation means that the rich countries exploit the poor ones, why do we see most of the protests coming from the rich countries?

Yes, this is an interesting point. Although we see protests from the US pressure groups, there have also been serious anti-IMF riots in many Third World countries, and other mass movements against what has been seen as a sell-out of the country. The latest case was Bolivia last autumn, where the President had to flee to Miami.

Throughout its history, the US has seen provincial trade. The competition from countries like Japan is worrying many Americans. So it is not only the poor whose jobs are threatened, but also the rich. Hence they resent globalisation. One very important and interesting aspect of globalisation is the emerging form of new radical youth culture. It does not really know what kind of future society it wants, but is very hostile to the neo-liberal economic paradigm. These young people are not as insular as the earlier generations, and that is perhaps because of the television, and other mass media. They are more aware of not only their own rights, but also of the rights of the unfortunate multitude of peoples around the world. They have a much more international outlook. They believe everyone has a right to live. That's why we saw so many war protests against the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions recently.

The negative aspect of globalisation does not seem to have manifested itself in the Scandinavian countries. How have they managed to avoid it?

Scandinavian countries have managed rather well. Latest ranking by the management body organising the World Economic Forum in Davos shows that Sweden and Finland are on top of global competitiveness. Scandinavian countries have shown that high dependence on world trade and a competitive capitalistic enterprise can be combined with an egalitarian distribution of income, and social welfare healthcare and general equality. It appears that an open economy is not necessarily unequal.

How do you see the world 25 years from now?

I guess what we can say is that India and China will play a much larger role in the world. Another important factor would be the success or failure of the European Union. So far it has emerged as a major player but with the emergence of other significant players, we can't be sure how the EU will fare.


The rishi from Germany

Kuldip Dhiman

Arthur Schopenhauer
by Thomas Mann. Rupa. Pages 162. Rs 150.

So long as we are given up to the throng of desires with its constant hopes and fears we never obtain lasting happiness or peace.

THIS might look like a translation of a Vedic or Buddhist verse, but these are the words of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the German philosopher who took off from where the other great system builder Immanuel Kant left. Although some of Schopenhauer's philosophy is similar to Indian philosophy, he discovered the latter after he had more or less formulated his own worldview.

The Living Thoughts of Schopenhauer by Thomas Mann, a Nobel Laureate himself, is a short book that contains the essence of the great philosopher's work along with the author's own interpretation of it. It is, however, not clear if this is also the original title of the book since its printing history, which could be extremely valuable to the serious reader, is not given. Written in an academic style, the book will prove very useful to an advanced student of philosophy, but not to someone who is new to the subject. It is not a Schopenhauer-made-easy kind of book. Mann presumes that the reader is familiar with the philosophic and historical context in which he wrote.

Schopenhauer believed that anyone who wished to understand him, would have to first understand the works of Kant and Plato. Both talk about the phenomenal world and the 'other' world. The true reality lies beyond the phenomenon, though we might call it 'Idea' or 'Das Ding an sich.'


What he took, writes Mann, was the 'idea' and the 'Ding an sich'. But with the latter he did something very bold, even scarcely permissible— he named it and also defined it. He called it the Will. The Will is the ultimate and absolute. It is the irreducible, primeval principle of being, the source of all phenomena, the begetter, the impelling force producing the whole visible world and all life.

Schopenhauer regards the body as an appearance whose reality exists in the will. The will is not subject to space and time and the categories of Kant. All knowledge is foreign to the will, it is something independent of knowledge; it is entirely original and absolute. The will, this 'in-itself-ness' of things, writes Mann, exists outside time and space and causality, demands objectivation, which occurs in such a way that its original unity becomes a multiplicity. Schopenhauer called it principium individuationis — the principle of individuality.

Schopenhauer made valuable contribution to Ethics and Aesthetics as well. According to him, like art, virtue is not a thing to be learned. Just as a man cannot become an artist by having explained to him the essence of the creative state, so he cannot shun evil and ensue good by instruction. The will cannot be 'taught' because it is free and absolute.

Schopenhauer took a bleak view of life, or so it seems. Pain is positive, he says, and pleasure is negative as happiness is nothing but the absence of pain. What causes our suffering is our willing. If we gave up the will we might experience the ultimate bliss, the state of nothingness, or Nirvana. 

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Wrong action is worse than inaction"

BORN on August 15, 1930 in Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu, little Natarajan was a fearless boy who caught poisonous snakes with his bare hands. He had the guts to take on the burly class bully and cut him down to size. After his studies he became a journalist and contributed to important national papers, but all of a sudden he joined the Indian Air Force. A chance meeting with Swami Chinmayananda in 1952 changed his life, and he became Swami. Chinmayananda's disciple. Ten years later Natarajan renounced the world and came to be known as Swami Dayananda. He has established centres for vedic studies in Rishikesh, Coimbatore, and Pennsylvania, Ontario, Rio de Janeiro, and New South Wales. Swami Dayananda spoke to Kuldip Dhiman and summed up his message thus: "The problem is you, and the solution is also you."

Most of us know that there is something called Vedanta, which has the answers to our problems. However, not many really know what it is.

Vedanta means that which is at the end of the Vedas. At the end of each Veda, there is a section called the Vedanta. This section deals with reality. Upanishads are the subject matter of the Vedas. Upa indicates Sameepa or upasameepa — the nearest. The nearest to you is you alone. In fact the nearest to you is the one you want to know and want to be; it is not different from you — it is your self. The reason for all our suffering is ignorance about ourselves. So the knowledge of the self that frees you from all vagueness, doubt, and misery is called Upani or Brahma vidya. It is this self-knowledge that makes ignorance disappear, finally leading us to moksha or liberation.

Adwaita and Dwaita are the two main schools of Vedantic philosophy. Since you are a proponent of Adwaita Vedanta, could you explain to us the difference between the two?

You might add another one to the list — it is called Visishta Adwaita — qualified Dualism. Dwaita or Dualism says that I am different from you, the world is different from you, and we are limited in power, knowledge, everything. So there must be one Lord who must be limitless. Because I am different from Him, how can there be an equation between the Lord and myself? Now, to understand Dwaitam you don't have to study Vedanta. Dwaitam is a matter of belief. But God cannot be a matter of belief. He has to be understood. If you say 'I believe in God' I might ask "On what basis do you believe in Him?' There is no basis for belief at all, for if your belief has a basis, then it no longer remains a belief: It becomes understanding! Belief is not based on knowledge, and so it can always be shaken. Knowledge, on the other hand, cannot be shaken. Even if a million people say that fire is cold, you will not accept it, because the fact that fire is hot is knowledge, not belief. The second school, Vishista Adwaita, says you are not the Lord, but a part of Him. For example, a wave is a part of the ocean but it is not the ocean. This situation, in my opinion, is worse that the first one. Earlier, at least I had an identity, no matter how insignificant, but now I have become an insignificant part of the ocean; I have become a mere attribute, a nonentity.

Therefore, the Adwaita Vedanta that is Non-Dualism says eka vigyanena sarva vigyatam bhavati — through the knowledge of one thing everything is understood. To say energy is energy, matter is matter, gold is gold, silver is silver — you don't have to know physics. But to say that all matter and energy is one, you require a lot of physics. Let's go back to the wave-ocean analogy. Dwaita philosopher says a wave is a wave and an ocean is an ocean, and because they are different there can be no equation between them. Vishista Adwaita says, the wave is not different from the ocean, but a part of it, and without the ocean the wave cannot exist.

All right, suppose I touch a wave, am I not automatically touching the ocean? I can say I am touching the wave, or I can also say I am touching the ocean. But if I want to touch the ocean what do you think I would do?Wouldn't I touch the nearest wave and say I am touching the ocean?Why? Because the wave and the ocean are basically the same thing. Hence, there is something else that is the wave as well as the ocean — it is water. This is Adwaita — the wave and the ocean, that is you and the Lord are one. In other words — You are Brahma.

It is generally believed action without expectation of results is the core of Vedanta and the Bhagavadgita. Do you support this view?

No. Thanks to inexperienced commentators and translators, this is a misinterpretation of the message. Whenever we perform an action, it is but natural for us to expect a desired result. Only a mad man will perform an action without expecting a desired result. So we must definitely have an end in mind when we perform any action; it is a different matter that the end might not turn out to be what we originally wanted. For example you want to catch a bus. The action to be done is to cross the road and catch a bus. But there can be various results of your action. You might cross the road and catch a bus: the result matches your expectation, and you are happy. The second possibility is that you cross the road and a friend might give you a lift in his air-conditioned car: here the result is far above your expectation: you are extremely happy. There is another possibility however.

While crossing the road you might get knocked down by a vehicle and land in a hospital with broken limbs: here the result is totally different from what you expected, and you are miserable. Hence, unlike animals, although you have the choice to act according to your conscience, the result might not be necessarily the one you originally desired. The relationship between an action and its results is governed by the laws of nature. We can attempt to understand these laws but we can never change them.

Is wrong action better than no action?

Not at all. You have to first understand the difference between karma, that is action; vikarma, that is wrong action; and akarma, that is inaction. Just because you don't act, it doesn't mean you are inactive. There is an expression — naishkarmya — that is I am free from action, but this is different from being idle. You might think that by not doing anything you might become free of action. Not doing anything is also action, as long as you have this feeling that you are doing something, or not doing something for that matter. You must understand that you are not the doer. Only atma is inactive; it doesn't perform action. Inaction is never suggested in the Bhagavadgita. Sri Krishna says let there not be any kind of attachment with the results that are the outcome of action or even inaction, that's all — this is the real meaning of being free from action. It does not mean you do any mindless act and claim that you did it and are now ready to accept the result without attachment.

The difference between you and an animal is that you have a conscientious mind that can decide whether an action is good or bad. If you stand behind a donkey, it might feel like kicking you. The donkey will kick you without having any compunction whether the act of kicking you is good or bad. It is up to you whether you wish to be a donkey or a human being.

Now, you know the difference between inaction and being free from action. Inaction is not anyway better than action, but wrong action is definitely worse than inaction; wrong action amounts to sin. Inaction will not amount to sin, but it might create conditions conducive to doing wrong action. Inaction is, therefore, dangerous, but wrong action is the danger produced by inaction.

Why is humanity in such a miserable state?

That is because all the time every human being feels that he is inadequate, deficient, or incomplete, and all his life his main pursuit is to become adequate, or complete. He tries to achieve this goal through artha — security and kama — worldly pleasures. However, any gain that comes as a result of effort is not absolute. Every gain of security through effort involves a concomitant loss. The gain obtained is always negated by the time and effort expended, by the responsibility assumed, by some other thing sacrificed. For instance, when I buy a large house, the pleasure and security I gain are negated by the money spent, the debt incurred, the cleaning staff required, the fear of income tax authorities; all of which take away something from the feeling of adequacy and comfort that I sought before buying the house.

Remember, an inadequate person remains an inadequate person even after gaining a desired object. Even if you become a sanyasi it does not help, because earlier you were a miserable king, now you are a miserable beggar. So, one does not become complete by either gaining something, or even by giving up something. Therefore, a brahmanah or enlightened person is the one who recognises that what he really wants is a drastic change in himself; not a situational change. This realisation brings a certain nirveda — dispassion towards security towards his former pursuits and then he becomes ready to seek moksha or liberation directly.

Remember, an inadequate person remains an inadequate person even after gaining a desired object. Even if you become a sanyasi it does not help, because earlier you were a miserable king, now you are a miserable beggar. So, one does not become complete by either gaining something, or even by giving up something. Therefore, a brahmanah or enlightened person is the one who recognises that what he really wants is a drastic change in himself; not a situational change. This realisation brings a certain nirveda — dispassion towards security towards his former pursuits and then he becomes ready to seek moksha or liberation directly.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mortal Thoughts: Suicide

Suicide is a taboo; it is a subject that most of us avoid discussing although some humans and even some animals are known to end their lives for no apparent reason. Instead of brushing the subject aside and ignoring it, it is time we gave it a close look. By understanding it we might save lives, writes Kuldip Dhiman

IF you have finally made the drastic decision of ending your life, your reasons must be serious indeed. Your family life is in a mess, your career has come to an end, you have lost in love, you are in a very embarrassing situation like an unwanted pregnancy before marriage, or blackmail. And you now see only one way out of your present situation.

But in life, we often tend to take the easy option, and that's quiet natural for humans, so if you think suicide is the easy way out, fine, go ahead, but what if there is an easier way out?


One thing is for sure, you are not mentally ill or insane, because then you perhaps wouldn't be reading this. The majority of individuals who commit suicide do not have a diagnosable mental illness. They are people just like you and I who at a particular time are feeling isolated, desperately unhappy and alone.

Suicidal thoughts and actions may be the result of life's stresses and losses that the individual feels they just can't cope with.

In your case, no doubt something very serious has happened, but the chances are that you won't actually kill yourself, because most of us harbour suicidal thoughts. Sigmund Freud called it the secret death wish. He believed that all of us are born with "Eros", the life instinct which refers to joy, happiness, and "Thanatos", the death instinct which refers to sadism, aggression, and even self-destruction. Before Freud, Durkheim, in his 'manifesto' of 1895 Suicide put forward the hypothesis that, when social conditions fail to provide people with the necessary social goals and or rules at the appropriate levels of intensity their socio-psychological health is impaired, and the most vulnerable among them commit suicide.

But is there any point in telling you all this if you have already decided to commit suicide. Of course, it is quite likely that you did not make this decision all of a sudden. Your suicidal thoughts might have grown over the years as you grappled with the problems of life. Contrary to the popular opinion, whoever made this world, did not make it for us to lead a comfortable existence. Our problems begin right at the moment of our birth and continue to torment us until our last breath. Yet, most of us get along with life and even love it, while only a few of us decide to end it. Why?

Mortal thoughts, which most of us have, progress to fatal thoughts somewhat like this: In the beginning we just have a passive suicidal wish— we say things like, "O! I wish I were dead." As life progresses it might become an active wish. We begin to say things like, "I wish I were somehow killed". At this stage we knowingly or unknowingly put ourselves in dangerous situations such as walking into traffic, we repeatedly hurt ourselves accidentally, or we might take up dangerous pastimes such as rock climbing, motor racing sky diving, and so on. Now the ideator, that is the person who is having ideas about suicide, is under more risk but the situation can still be saved. If we do not turn back, then our passive suicidal wish has a great chance of becoming suicidal wish and we start saying things like, "I wish I could kill myself". And finally this might leads to a suicidal intent: "One day I am going to kill myself." The good news is that most of us do not make it to this stage, but if we have reached this stage then matters must be taken seriously.

What drives people to suicide

When misery and pain exceed the ability to bear it, an attempt to end one's life might follow. It is a time when you feel you have reached a dead end; you feel there are no options left; there is no way out of your suffering. In the vast majority of cases the ideator would choose differently if they were not in great distress and were able to evaluate their options objectively. But these unfortunate people are unable to think rationally as they could be suffering from a number of conditions, such as depression, stress, or a prolonged illness. But although most of us are in such situations in our lives, not all of us commit suicide. The answer to this is that most of us have this tremendous ability to survive, to find solutions, and society has developed ways and means to deal with hard times.

The stress or trauma generated by a given event will vary from person to person depending on their background and how they were taught to deal with that particular stressor. Some people are more or less vulnerable to particular stressful events, and some people may find certain events stressful which others would see as a positive experience. The presence of multiple risk factors does not necessarily imply that a person will become suicidal.

Depression: The No 1 killer

Depression illnesses are total-body illnesses that affect a person's thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical health and appearance, and affect all areas of a person's life such as home, work, social life and so on. Depression could last for months and even years. What actually causes depression is a much debated topic, and there are different views on the subject. We might consider some recent views. The cognitive-behavioural view says that a person becomes depressed when they believe that they no longer have any control over the reinforcers in their lives, and second when they believe that they themselves are responsible for this situation.

The biological view has two strands: the genetic and the biochemical. The genetic view suggests that some people have a predisposition towards depression. In the biochemical view, the evidence suggests that the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine may be the cause of depression. A word of caution: genetics is a much misunderstood science. Most of us are under the impression that if there is a gene in us that let's say leads one to commit murder, then one day we will commit a murder. This view is totally wrong. All that genetics says is that in certain circumstances, we are susceptible to committing murder, but we may never commit a murder in spite of the presence of that gene. Such a situation may never arise, and even if it did, our upbringing and our values might prevent us from doing the act. Similarly, if there is a gene for depression in our body that we might have inherited from our parents, it does not necessarily follow that we will end up being depressed.

Warning signals

Depression can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, and if it is left untreated for a long time it might then lead to a suicidal intent. But as depression is a taboo subject, most of us never admit we are victims of it, as a result mild depression could become chronic and fatal. Most people are very good at hiding depression or disguising it. However, it is possible to detect it and even prevent it although the ideator may not know that they have a treatable illness.

Drug abuse and alcohol

Depression coupled with drug abuse or alcohol could prove to be very dangerous. Most people take to drugs or alcohol in order to escape depression, but this does not help. Actually it becomes a vicious cycle: you are depressed, you take a drug. The drug might elevate you so long as its effect lasts, but after it you are more depressed than before. Now you take the drug again in a bigger dose, and this is followed by a bigger depression, and this goes on ad infinitum.

Prevention is the key

You can survive suicidal feelings by either finding a way to reduce your pain, or by finding a way to increase your coping resources.

The other way to avoid reaching a suicidal condition is by not getting it into it at all. Persons having high-stress jobs such as army intelligence, might do well by curbing the tendency to accept free gifts from strangers, and by living within their means. If you are in business or politics, it would be better to keep away from the underworld. If you live beyond your means, the chances of your taking huge loans or accepting bribe are more. Do not invest all your life's savings in a venture that promises a quick buck.

Parents could refrain from making careless remarks to adolescents, and especially to the girl child. It is not uncommon in India to remind the girl that again and again that she is a burden on the family. If you have school-going children be very careful on the day the results are announced. Don't threaten the child that if they do badly in the exam, the consequences would be dire. It is often the fear of punishment and the humiliation that might follow that makes students take the extreme step. We should avoid making careless and rude remarks to our relations or friends at home and at work. Imagine your day beginning with your parents or your spouse saying something nasty to you, and when you reach office your colleagues are equally rude to you, and this goes on day after day.

Unmarried girls in love are at high risk on the suicide chart. Don't trust your romantic instincts too much. First of all, avoid an unwanted pregnancy before marriage as it is still not acceptable in our society, but if you have become pregnant, do something before it is too late. Don't use your pregnancy as a lever to force the man in your life to marry you. It is pointless in the long run. When love is lost, the feeling is terrible, and you think you will never recover from the shock, but the fact is most of us do recover, and often wonder why we were so blind in love.

Our reasons for disappointment with our life could be many, such as no job satisfaction, setback to our career, death of a loved one, failure in love, an accident that has left us handicapped, or loneliness and old age. In most cases crisis could be avoided by finding a purpose in life. Religious activity, social work, philanthropic work, or an engaging hobby might well avert a suicidal action.

How to help someone who is suicidal

It is quite possible that you are not suicidal yourself, but you suspect someone you know is. Could they be helped? Sure, but this is a very tricky job to do. It would depend how close you are to the person. If you are very close, then perhaps you could ask a direct question, "Are you thinking of suicide?" If you are not very close to a person but yet care about them, then the approach has to be more subtle and indirect as the ideator is not likely to accept that fact that he or she has suicidal thoughts. Listen actively to what the person is saying to you. Remain calm and do not judge what you are being told. Do not advise the person not to feel the way they are, and don't tell them they are wrong. Reassure the person that there is help for their problems and reassure them that they are not "bad" or "stupid" because they are thinking about suicide. Help the person break down their problems into more manageable pieces. It is easier to deal with one problem at a time. Emphasise that there are ways other than suicide to solve problems.

You could encourage them to take help anonymously from various agencies that counsel people round the clock. Advise the person to speak to other close family members or friends. Do not promise them anything you can't do or you will lose their trust forever. Suggest that the person see a doctor for a complete physical check-up. Although there are many things that family and friends can do to help, there may be underlying medical problems that require professional intervention. The doctor can also refer patients to a psychiatrist, if necessary. Seeing a psychiatrist does not mean you are mad.

Coming back to the easy way out mentioned in the beginning. They say better the devil you know than the one you don't. No doubt life is bad, full of misery and hardships, but at least we know how bad it is. There is no guarantee that by ending your life your problems will end because we don't know what happens after death. It is quite possible that after death we go to a better place full of bliss, but it is equally possible that we go to a place that is worse than we are in, and there is also this possibility that everything ends when we die. So is the chance worth taking? Isn't it better to come to terms with the situation and turn our miserable life into a wonderful one.



DR Jack Kevorkian has become infamous for advocating planned death for terminally ill patients. He has been dubbed Dr Death by the media, thus giving the impression that he is a blood-thirsty mass murderer. Though he has assisted about 130 people to end their lives, it would be wrong to bracket him with criminals. We must try to understand what the controversial doctor and the others who have similar views are trying to say.

All he says is that when a person is so ill that nothing can help reduce their suffering, assisted suicide should be allowed. This sounds terrible, but the same was the case with abortion until yesterday.

In his 1991 book, Prescription: Medicide, Kevorkian, described an encounter that served as an awakening for him: "The patient was a helplessly immobile woman of middle age, her entire body jaundiced to an intense yellow-brown, skin stretched paper-thin over a fluid-filled abdomen swollen to four or five times normal size. The rest of her was an emaciated skeleton: sagging, discolored skin covered her bones like a cheap, wrinkled frock. . . . The poor wretch stared up at me with yellow eyeballs sunken in their atrophic sockets. . . it seemed as though she was pleading for help and death at the same time. Out of sheer empathy alone I could have helped her die with satisfaction. From that moment on, I was sure that doctor-assisted euthanasia and suicide are and always were ethical, no matter what anyone says or thinks."

Dr Kevorkian then went on to invent the "Thanaton" a Greek word that means "death machine". He experimented with many methods of killing people and in the end concluded that lethal injection was probably the most tolerable method on a subjective level. He wrote that it was time "for a society obsessed with planned birth to consider diverting some of its attention and energy from an overriding concern with longevity of life at all costs to the snowballing need for a rational stance on planned death".

Dr Kevorkian provoked the authorities to arrest him as he wanted his message to reach the masses. He is in prison these days for helping a man suffering from ALS to die, and for giving a lethal injection to Thomas York, the tape of which was shown live on TV. This forced the police to arrest him. He is by no means alone in this campaign for what is called voluntary euthanasia.



Many selves within the self

A favourite of thriller writers and suspense filmmakers, Multiple Personality Disorder, now renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder, is supposed to be a fairly common result of severe trauma suffered in early childhood, most typically extreme, repeated physical, or emotional abuse,
writes Kuldip Dhiman

THE young girl was just reading a book in the meadows when, all of a sudden, she fainted. A few hours later, her parents were shocked to learn that she had gone blind and deaf. Hearing returned suddenly after about five weeks, and sight a few more weeks hence. Three months on, when the girl appeared to be completely normal, she continued to lie abed long after her usual time. Then she awoke at once and "as far as acquired knowledge was concerned, her condition was precisely that of a new-born infant". But she differed from an infant as her faculty of acquiring knowledge was that of a grownup. After five weeks in this condition, Mary Reynolds, the girl we are talking about, woke again in her former state, remembering nothing of her life in the intervening weeks. As the time passed, she continued to alternate between the two states of existence. In a similar case, Thomas Hanna, a young and respectable clergyman of good education, fell unconscious as the result of a heavy fall. He too started behaving like an infant, and later began to alternate between the two personalities.


In yet another mysterious case, Leonie, a dull-witted, melancholy, child, under hypnosis, revealed a secondary personality who called herself Leontine. "She knew Leonie and commanded all Leonie's memories but she denied that she was the same person. Leontine, an extrovert full of life, was inclined to despise Leonie." When hypnotism was deepened, there emerged a third personality called Leonore, who had all the memories of Leonie and Leontine. She was a serious and intelligent girl who looked upon both Leonie and Leontine as inferior beings.

What we just encountered are cases of a psychological problem called multiple personalty disorder. Although these cases were first reported in the mid-nineteenth century, they were brought back to popular imagination by Corbett H. Thigpen's famous book and later the film The Three Faces of Eve (1957) based on it. Interest in such cases was further enhanced by Sybil a book which portrays a true story of a woman, Dorsett Flora, who had 16 separate personalities most of whom did not know or remember any of the others. One of the personalities called Victoria Antoinette Scharleau was a very confident, sophisticated attractive blonde. Another named Mike Dorsett thought she was a male builder and carpenter.

A favourite of thriller writers and suspense film makers, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)), is supposed to be a fairly common result of a severe trauma suffered in early childhood, most typically extreme, repeated physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Women suffer from the disorder between three and nine times more frequently than do men, probably because they are a lot more prone to abuse as children and adolescents. The woman in The Three Faces of Eve, was forced by her mother to kiss a dead body.

Recognising dissociation

Dissociative disorder might develop with the victim experiencing depression, mood swings, suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders, such as insomnia, night terrors, and sleep walking, panic attacks and phobias like flashbacks, reactions to stimuli or "triggers". Others signs are alcohol and drug abuse, auditory and visual hallucinations, and eating disorders. In addition, those who suffer from dissociative disorder can experience headaches, amnesia, time loss, trances, and out-of-body experiences. Some might have a tendency toward self-persecution, self-sabotage, and might inflict violence upon themselves and even others.

The patient can have two or more identities, called sub-personalities or alters (alternative personality), one of which often appears more than the others and for this reason is called primary personality, or the host personality. The change from one personality to another is often sudden and dramatic.

Dissociation is a mental process that produces a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. At the time when a person is dissociating, certain information is not associated with other information as it normally would be. For example, during a traumatic experience, a person may dissociate the memory of the place and circumstances of the trauma from his ongoing memory, resulting in a temporary mental escape from the fear and pain of the trauma. This results in a memory gap surrounding the experience. Because of this, people who frequently dissociate often find their senses of personal history and identity affected.

Psychologists believe that dissociation could range from mild to the severe. Most of us do have mild dissociative experiences when we daydream, or get ourselves lost in an interesting book or film, and thus lose touch with a conscious awareness of our immediate surroundings. Extreme cases, may result in serious impairment or inability to function and yet some people may continue to hold responsible jobs and go about their lives appearing quite normal to their relations and friends.

It is difficult to diagnose Dissociative Disorder because its symptoms very closely resemble other disorders like 'fugue' and 'somnambulance'. For example, in fugue, those who suffer from memory disorder, often become amnesiac to such an extent that they forget much of their past lives and take up a new name, occupation, and a way of living without an awareness about who they were previously. In somnambulism, on the other hand, a person may go through complex performances while asleep, without being aware of what he is doing or remembering about it after he awakens. A more severe form of dissociation could lead to a multiple personality, in which there are two or more personalties, each of which is so well developed and integrated as to have a relatively unified, and stable life of its own.

Various types of dissociations, psychologists say, might shade into each other by imperceptible degrees and it is quite possible that a case of somnambulism may, by improper handling, develop into a case of multiple personality, and conversely, by proper treatment may develop instead into a normal integrated individual.

Self-defence and escape

According to psychologists Taylor and Martin, multiple personality, like ordinary personality, is a psychological product in which the individual's native capacities and past and present circumstances have led to the development of at least one disparate, protective role that is fairly well integrated within itself. It is protective, in that within it the individual can escape from some of his stresses, and so can feel more comfortable than he does feel otherwise. This protective role is disparate, finally, in that it is more or less opposed to, and separate from the rest of the individual's total mental makeup.

For instance, when faced with overwhelmingly traumatic situations from which there is no physical escape, a child may resort to "going away" in his or her head. This ability is typically used by children as an extremely effective defence mechanism against acute physical and emotional pain. By this dissociative process, thoughts, feelings, memories, and perceptions of the traumatic experiences can be separated off psychologically, allowing the child to function as if the trauma had not occurred.

In adopting new personalities, an individual might take on one or more roles moulded by experience. This might happen either passively or actively, consciously or unconsciously. Passively, a role may come from out of the past, or from a living example, or from verbal or other suggestion. Actively, the sufferer may select or synthesise a role from his various observations and thoughts. Although it is usually so, it is not necessary that the new role be in total contrast to usual personality.

Often, even after the traumatic circumstances are long past, the left-over pattern of defensive dissociation remains. Chronic defensive dissociation may lead to serious dysfunction in work, social, and daily activities. Repeated dissociation may result in a series of separate entities, or mental states, which may eventually take on identities of their own. These entities may become the internal "personality states," of a dissociative person. Alternating between these states of consciousness is described as "switching."

Generally, different alters may relate to each other in one of three different ways:

Mutually amnesiac - when the sub-personalities have no awareness of the others.

Mutually cognisant - when each personality is aware of the others.

One-way cognisant- when one personality knows of the second, or the third or the fourth, but the second will have no awareness of the first.

The most common of the three is the one-way amnesiac. The way in which the sub-personalities relate to each other can be varied. They may hear each other, talk to each other, get along well or argue non-stop.

Can MPD be cured?

Being a very rare disorder, the very existence of dissociation is in doubt. But those who have done work on the subject say that dissociative disorders are highly responsive to individual psychotherapy, as well as to a range of other treatment modalities, including medication, hypnotherapy, and adjunctive therapies such as art or movement therapy. The course of treatment is long-term, intensive, and invariably painful, as it generally involves remembering and reclaiming the dissociated traumatic experiences. Nevertheless, individuals with this disorder have been successfully treated by therapists of all professional backgrounds.

What the sceptics say

There are many who ask whether multiple personality disorder really exists. Researchers tell us that the symptoms attributed to it are as genuine as hysterical paralysis and seizures. But the sceptics say that: multiple dissociation, like hystero-epilepsy, is actually created by therapists themselves. Dissociation became popular after the appearance of several best-selling books and movies. It is often based on the crudest form of suggestion. How this could be done is shown in An introduction to MPD by Stephen E. Buie, who says that:

"It may happen that an alter personality will reveal itself to you during this (assessment) process, but more likely it will not. So you may have to elicit an alter... You can begin by indirect (sic) questioning such as, 'Have you ever felt like another part of you does things that you can't control?' If she gives positive or ambiguous responses ask for specific examples. You are trying to develop a picture of what the alter personality is like. . . . At this point you may ask the host personality, "Does this set of feelings have a name?". . . . Often the host personality will not know. You can then focus upon a particular event or set of behaviors. 'Can I talk to the part of you that is taking those long drives in the country?'"

Once patients have permitted a psychiatrist to "talk to the part. . . that is taking these long drives," they are committed to the idea that they have MPD and must act in ways consistent with this self-image.

What is 'personality' ?

Leave alone understanding multiple personality, we do not even understand what is called a 'normal' personality in the first place. The question of personality, or self is a hotly debated one and although the concept seems simple enough, the issue is a very complicated one indeed. The matter cannot be discussed in detail here, but most of us take it for granted, that a normal person is actually a single unified and consistent self, and that self usually is our body.

"We just assume" says psychologist Charles Tart, "that a given person is relatively consistent with himself, that he constitutes one person with various characteristics, traits, and so on. Thus you call yourself by one name, with the implication that you are indeed one person even though you have a range of moods and feelings. . . we actually have many quite discrete subpersonalities, each of which calls itself "I" when it happens to be activated by appropriate environmental stimuli, but we have no unity of personality at all except in the sense that all the various sub-personalities are associated with the same physical body and name."

If we looked at our own lives, we would realise that there is precious little continuity between our different states of consciousness. Let's say when we are an employee one moment, we have usually forgotten that we were a completely different person, a friend, a student or a parent, a few moments before, and will be yet another person later. We are usually consumed by the personality of the moment. The personalities are isolated from each other by invisible walls of 'unawareness.' Between the many "I's" there are defences or buffers and there is no stage director who remembers and coordinates all of the roles.

It is not surprising, that people from theatre, cinema and politics—who don so many roles and have a split in their public and private images—are likely to be more predisposed to some form of dissociation. A famous heroine of yesteryear who, because of the kinds of tragic roles that she played, had unwittingly created a very traditional image of herself among her fans, although in her real life she was very outgoing. One day, she was at home, smoking and drinking, when someone announced that a reporter was at the door. There was a sudden transformation in her personality, and by the time she was in front of the reporter, she was a very shy traditional Indian woman.

Stars and public personalities aside, almost every one of us suffers from weakly-connected consciousness, and mild dissociation appears to be natural and normal. We only recognise it as a problem in its most extreme forms, where there is total and complete disconnection of the different parts of the self. These are the cases where the different people inhabiting the body are complete strangers to each other.

Having read so far, if you suspect that you yourself or someone you know might be suffering from some form of dissociation, you need not be unduly alarmed, for as social psychologist George H. Mead (1863-1931) put it, "A multiple personality is in a certain sense normal."




Call It Love if You Like


No one seems to know what love is. Some even doubt its existence. Of late love has attracted the attention of a group of people who are supposed to have nothing to do with gentler emotions: the scientists. While poets, writers, and artists have only made wild conjectures about love, scientists and evolutionary psychologists may have grasped the meaning of romantic love, says Kuldip Dhiman

"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love," said Sophocles 2400 years ago. You might forgive Sophocles for saying this, but anyone who ever fell in love might vehemently challenge these words. Far from freeing us from all the worries of life, love quite often does the opposite, the great initial high notwithstanding. In spite of all this, people have been falling in love for ages, and shall continue doing so.

Why do people fall in love? Would it make any difference to the world if no one ever fell in love? And if love is such a wonderful thing, why does it turn sour with time? If love is good for mankind, why does society create obstacles in the path of love?

Poets and writers have for centuries written reams and reams on love, but have so far not given us any insight into it. If anything, they have confused the issue, because being a highly subjective experience; love means different things to different people. We have heard their version for centuries, now let's hear what the scientists have to say about it. But could love ever be understood by the cold logic of science?

In his recent book Emotion: The Science of Sentiment, published by Oxford, Dylan Evans, Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at King's College, London, presents a scientific study of emotions, and also devotes time to an emotion peculiar, as far as we know, to humans: romantic love.


Evans tells us that love is after all not such a metaphysical subject. We fall in love for very practical reasons. Further, if we wish to take romantic love to the lab, so to speak, we would first have to follow the demands of the scientific method. And the first step is to find a basic definition of love. After studying various cultures, anthro-pologists have come up with this working definition of love: a powerful feeling of sexual attraction to a single person, feelings of anguish and longing when the loved one is absent, and intense joy when he or she is present.

Some people may squirm at the very idea of defining love. Love knows no definition, they might say, knows no bounds, has no reasons. Actually love does have its reasons although most of us don't seem to understand them.

But if love is an emotion, how is it different from other emotions like anger, fear etc. Why do we have these emotions in the first place? Wouldn't we be better off without emotions? Not at all. Without emotions, living beings would not have evolved at all. If we did not have the emotion of fear, for instance, we would walk into a fire, walk over cliffs, not run away at the sight of predators. In other words we would not see danger, and, as a result perish. Evolution would never have got going. Perhaps evolution equipped us with emotions so we could survive in the tough battle of survival on this otherwise inhospitable planet.

Apart from the basic emotions like fear, anger, disgust etc. that are necessary for our very survival, we also have some culturally specific emotions that are peculiar to certain cultures. For example, in India, some people appear to be under the spell of spirits, and as a result they behave in a strange way. Similarly, the Gurumbha people of New Guinea get into an emotional state of 'being a wild pig'. When they get into this state, they behave as wild pigs. This emotion is culturally specific, as it is not experienced by peoples of other cultures.

Now, is love a basic emotion or is it a culturally specific emotion? Speaking exclusively to The Tribune, Dylan Evans said: "Many people have argued that romantic love is a culturally specific emotion like 'being a wild pig'. They say it is not seen in many cultures, and most of us would not have fallen in love if we hadn't heard of it. But this view has come under attack these days. After studying various unrelated cultures all over the world, anthropologists found that it was common for people to experience romantic love. They also listed other elements including elaborate courtship gestures such as giving gifts and showing one's love in song and poetry. They then examined the anthropological literature and counted the number of cultures in which this collection of features was described. To their surprise they found that it was described in 90 per cent of the cultures on record."

Developing the point further, Evans says, "Romantic love may not be a culturally specific emotion, but nor is it a basic emotion like fear. The philosopher Paul Griffiths has argued that there are not two kinds of emotion but three. In addition to basic emotions and culturally specific emotions, he claims that there are 'higher cognitive emotions.' This is fine so long as we realise that these categories are not black and white.

"As well as differing from basic emotions in their degree of innateness," believes Evans, "higher cognitive emotions also differ in a number of other ways. They are not so automatic and fast as basic emotions, and nor are they universally associated with a single facial expression. Love is a case in point. Although love at first sight is possible, it is relatively rare. It seems much more common for love to grow gradually over the space of several days. Contrast this with the emotion of fear, which typically overtakes a person in a matter of milliseconds. And, while fear is easily recognisable by its typical facial expression, there is no specific facial expression associated with the emotion of love." This perhaps explains why some of us are incapable or not very good at expressing our love.

The reason Paul Griffiths proposes emotions like love should be called 'higher emotions', is that they involve much more cortical processing (Done by the cerebral cortex: the extensive outer layer of grey matter of the cerebral hemispheres, largely responsible for higher brain functions, including sensation, voluntary muscle movement, thought, reasoning, and memory.) than basic emotions. While basic emotions are largely processed in subcortical structures (the portion of the brain immediately below the cerebral cortex) buried beneath the surface of the brain emotions like love are more associated with areas of the neocortex that is the part of the brain that has expanded most in the past five million years of human evolution, and supports most of our most complex cognitive abilities such as explicit logical analysis. The fact that the higher cognitive emotions are more cortical than the basic emotions means that they are more capable of being influenced by conscious thoughts and this in turn is probably what allow higher cognitive emotions to be more culturally variable than the basic emotions. However, despite their greater cultural variability, the higher cognitive emotions are still universal. Like basic emotions, but unlike culturally specific emotions, the higher cognitive emotions are part of human nature, shaped by our common evolutionary history.

If the main goal of life, as Darwin states, is survival and propagation of our genes, what purpose does love serve? If fear saves us from danger, and anger makes us ready for attack and thus helps us in our survival, love appears to do the opposite. We waste time thinking about our loved one, do all sorts of irrational things, ruin careers, and even commit suicide. Often, after getting the person we love, we realise he or she is not worth it.

"Love may seem irrational," says Evans, "but even its most bizarre aspects may be vital if it is to fulfil its function of helping us obtain a mate for long enough to have and rear children. Here is some of what I say about it in the book: There are lots of other situations in life when it is vital to be able to make credible promises. Robert Frank refers to all these situations as 'commitment problems', and argues that all the higher cognitive emotions solve different kinds of commitment problem. The capacity for guilt solves those commitment problems in which you have to make a credible promise not to cheat.

"Likewise, argues Frank, romantic love solves another kind of commitment problem that in which you have to make a credible promise to remain faithful to one other person. Jack and Jill may consider each other suitable mates, but they will be reluctant to commit themselves to each other unless each is sure that the other will not walk out on them as soon as someone more attractive comes along. The realisation that the other person is in love can provide this assurance. Now, basic emotions like anger and fear are easy to feign, but higher cognitive emotions like guilt, shame and love are extremely hard to feign because we have no control over them. Hence, when we see someone showing these emotions, we normally believe them to be genuine. If Jack commits himself to Jill because of an emotion he did not 'decide' to have (and so cannot decide not to have), an emotion that is reliably indicated by such physiological signals as tachycardia (a rapid heart rate, especially one above 100 beats per minute in an adult) and insomnia, then Jill will be more likely to believe he will stay with her than if he had chosen her after coolly weighing up her good and bad points. 'People who are sensible about love are incapable of it', wrote Douglas Yates."

Alas! life is not that simple. Although higher cognitive emotions are very hard to feign, it is not impossible to feign them. Most men fake them quite successfully to entice a woman into falling in love with them, only to desert her later. The world if full of free riders, who wish to have a woman without the commitment of running a household and raising children.

The game of love gets more complicated because men and women fall in love for different reasons, although these differences are of degree not kind. In the tough battle for survival on this planet, our foraging male ancestors needed to propagate their genes, and they had a better chance if they mated with as many females as possible. In order to do so they had to compete with the other males. Women, on the other hand, invest a lot more than men in a relationship because it is they who get pregnant, and have to look after the resulting offspring for years. Although they might desire more men, but as they can have only one or two children a year, it is pointless to have more partners. Since they did not have safe contraception, women had to be a lot more careful in choosing their partners than men. While men went for quantity, women looked for quality. But generally, women preferred to have one man who was willing to help her in bringing up her offspring, rather than many with no one taking the responsibility of running the household. Men may put a premium on physical attractiveness, but women go for status, wealth intelligence, and the willingness to provide resources. But we must not forget that although quality may be more important to women, they are not entirely monogamous Likewise, men might wish to have more women, but when they think about settling down, they, too, start thinking in terms of quality. All this is predicted by evolutionary theory, and was tested by David Buss in a study of 33 different cultures

It is at this point that matters began to get complicated. Since men were hunters, the better hunters among them often came back with more food than the bad hunters. The females naturally chose them as mates because more food meant personal survival as well as the survival of their future offspring. But what guarantee there was that the man who was offering food would also help in raising children. Women had to find some way of knowing who was sincere in his intentions and who was not. So they waited for the strongest possible man to approach them and propose to them. The only problem was that the strong man often tried to dominate as many women as possible, often deserting the older ones and not caring for the offspring. As humans became more cultured, women realised that the strongest man was not usually the one with the best physique, as wealth and knowledge could also make a physically weaker man very powerful in society. Quick to take a cue, intelligent men developed better ways of demonstrating their love than defeating an opponent in a duel. With time, lengthy courtship rituals developed such as singing romantic songs expressing love in poetry, or exchanging gifts. Some tried to prove their love by not taking care of themselves, not taking care of their health or appearance, harming themselves and even committing suicide. Women took this behaviour as a sign of true love. Why else would someone go through the agony? As a result, only committed men found women and dishonest men were threatened with extinction. Since no one like to be extinct, least so dishonest men, they began to mimic all the symptoms of true love in order to lure women. The story got murkier and murkier and now there is hardly any pointers left to differentiate between the honest and the dishonest. In such a scenario, how can true love prosper, and how could lovers live happily ever after?

In reply, Evans says, "The question whether men and women can live happily ever after can be answered without reference to evolutionary theory, simply by looking at the statistics for divorce. Current divorce rates in western countries of between 33 and 50 per cent do not suggest that lifelong marital happiness is common. On the other hand, the fact that a few couples do manage to stay in love until they die tells us that it is not completely impossible either."

We could produce children and care about our family without being in love. Not many married people are really in love, or whatever love they had is long since dead, but life goes on regardless.

"The idea that we could produce children and care about our family without being in love," says Evans, "is precisely what evolutionary theory calls into question. Could we really be bothered to do all that without a powerful visceral feeling telling us that it was the most important thing in the world? True, love may wane after a few years, but evolutionary theory only requires that it last long enough to have and raise a child to an age at which it can get by on its own - say, about seven years. Could this be the biological explanation of the famous 'seven-year itch'?"

When spurned by a lover, why do some of us (including some animals) never marry, never go for another mate, never get on with life? Some even commit suicide. Is it not against Darwin's laws? It is one thing to emotionally blackmail the other to make them believe that we cannot live without them, but why do some carry out the threat? Why don't we lick our wounds and just find another partner?

"Depression is a mystery for evolutionists whatever its source, whether it is caused by unrequited love or anything else. There are some theories around, but they are still rather speculative."

There are some who talk about love without sex. What purpose does this serve? Is it a mere escape? Married people falling in love for the sake of love is understandable as they can have platonic love with their extramarital partners and sex with their spouses, but what about unmarried lovers?

"Romantic love without sex is, from an evolutionary point of view, an aberration, just like homosexuality. That doesn't mean that there is anything morally wrong with it, since evolutionary theory is not in the business of value-judgements. But it does tell us that our development is very flexible, and can send us down paths that are not in the interests of our genes."

Is it possible to fall in love with more than one person?

"The answer is I don't know. There seems to be a large amount of cultural variation on the issue of monogamy versus polygamy. Where polygamy is allowed, however, it is almost always polygyny (one man with many wives) and almost never polyandry (one woman with many husbands)."

Love does exist, although the concepts, the reasons for falling in love and expectations of men and women may be quite different. Thus the eternal conflict in the battle of the sexes will go on, unless lovers learn to make compromises and learn to respect the fact the other is not necessarily hell.


Understanding the Passions of the Mind

100 Years of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams

The impact of Freud's theories was so far reaching, that the twentieth century could be called the Freudian century. Be it the sciences, the arts, literature, painting, music, or even cocktail conversation, Freudian influence was all-pervasive. He was arguably the first thinker to hold that human behaviour is explicable only in terms of the usually hidden mental processes or states which determine it, writes Kuldip Dhiman.

IT IS A DARK night. The bedroom window opens, and he looks out. To his horror, he sees half a dozen white wolves near the walnut tree just outside the house. The ferocious looking wolves see him. He hears their terrifying howl. Presently they begin to close in. The pack moves closer and closer towards him, but he is unable to move or even scream. In the end he wakes up trembling and sweating in his bed.

To most of us, this is nothing but a meaningless anxiety dream. A case of indigestion, that's all. No cause for alarm. "You are wrong," Schlomo Sigismund, or Siggie, or more famously, Sigmund Freud would have said, dragging at his pipe. The dream just mentioned was the true case of Sergei Pankejeff, the Wolf Man, that Freud handled during the early years of the twentieth century using the technique of free-association that he had developed with his mentor Josef Breuer.


Among the early cases handled by Breuer and Freud, the first one was that of Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936), now famous in psychoanalytic history as Anna O. By describing her traumatic experiences and feelings about them to Breuer she seemed to have got some relief from debilitating symptoms such as partial paralysis and hallucinations. Although Breuer's treatment was not entirely successful, as he and Freud claimed, Anna O eventually overcame her symptoms to become a social worker and leader of the women's movement in Germany. Interestingly, it was Anna O who named the technique of free-association 'talking cure'. Other famous cases are those of Emmy von N, Lucy R, Katharinia, Elisabeth von R, Dora, Earnst Lanzer -the rat man who was tormented by dreams of rats, Sergei Pankejeff - the Wolf man who saw wolves in his dreams, and Little Hans who was terrified of horses.


  Of all these cases, the case of Little Hans, a five-year-old boy, encompasses almost all Freudian concepts: Oedipus complex, castration anxiety, sibling rivalry, defence mechanisms, death wish, fixation and so on. This case was brought to Freud on October 1, 1907.

Hans was the first-born child. His mother was so overprotective that she took Hans wherever she went, even to the toilet. When he was about three years old, he began to show a great interest in that portion of the body that he called 'widdler.' He asked his mother if she had one, she replied, "Yes." As his obsession grew, the only way he differentiated between animate and inanimate objects was to check if they had a 'widdler' or not. When he was barely three-and-half, his mother caught him in the act of self-gratification. Horrified, she threatened him with castration. About this time a girl was born into the family. When Hans asked where she came from, he was told that a stork had brought her. But Hans had a suspicion that his father had something to do with it. As the days went by, he began to wonder if other people and animals had widdlers too, especially if horses had them. He was puzzled when he discovered that his little sister didn't have one - if his mother had one, shouldn't the sister have one too? By the time he was four, he was already showing a great interest in girls between seven and eleven years old. He also was particularly close physically to a little boy, a cousin of his.

One day, Hans saw a horse draw a heavily loaded carriage. This triggered something in him, and he began fantasising about horses. When he was five years old, he woke up one morning in tears. He had seen a dream in which his mother had left him. After a visit to a zoo, his phobia about horses extended giraffes, elephants, and pelicans. He told his father that he saw two giraffes in his room: one big one and the other a crumpled one. Both these giraffes were interpreted by Freud as symbolic representations of the genitals of his father and mother respectively. Why was he afraid of such noble animals as horses and giraffes? The interpretation is simple: big animals have big widdlers! He often saw a falling horse, which Freud interpreted as the boy's dying father as well as his mother in labour.


Before we go further, we must realise that the late nineteenth century was a revolutionary period in the world of science. Charles Darwin had already delivered a severe blow to mankind, especially to the Western world, by suggesting that man had evolved out of apes, and now this bearded pipe-smoking Viennese had delivered the third knockout blow by suggesting that not only our bodies but even our minds have the same urges as animals, that is to say the difference between animals and humans was only of a degree not of kind. Too harsh to accept, and the whole world was scandalised.

The year 1900 saw the publication of Freud's revolutionary book: The Interpretation of Dreams. He was arguably the first thinker to hold that human behaviour is explicable only in terms of the usually hidden mental processes or states which determine it. He suggested that instead of dismissing the general behaviour of humans and of the neurotic as causally meaningless, we should search for an explanation by looking for causes in terms of the mental states of the individual. Hence dreams, careless slips of the tongue, and obsessive actions that are considered inexplicable and irrational, do actually determine our behaviour. Our behaviour, he held, is determined by hidden causes in our mind. Dreams reveal in covert form what would otherwise not be known at all. This gave rise to another uncomfortable question. If all our behaviour is determined by our experiences and memories of the past, do we have any free will at all? Another blow to our notion that we are masters of our own destiny.

What Freud was postulating is that our mind is not consciousness alone as Rene Descartes, the highly influential French philosopher had asserted three hundred years ago. The conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg, the hidden three fourths is the

'unconscious mind' that determines our behaviour, where all our forgotten and suppressed memories lie. The only way to reach the unconscious mind is through hypnosis or free association. Then there are some memories that are not in the conscious, but come to surface if reminded of them, they are said to reside in the preconscious mind. It would be interesting to note here that although the suggestion of mind being conscious, preconscious, and unconscious was new to Western world, these are standard concept in Indian philosophy. In fact according to Indian system mind has not three, but four dimensions: Jagrit avastha (conscious state), Swapna awastha (dream state), Nidra (deep sleep), and Turiya, a state for which there is no word in other languages. Turiya is the ultimate state when the mind is free of time and space. Nirvana, as some might call it.


Later, Freud, taking a cue from Breuer that childhood events could have devastating negative effects upon the individual, shocked the world by asserting that the root to all our later life conflicts lies in our unresolved infantile sexuality the memories of which lie in our unconscious. And it is these unresolved conflicts that determine our behaviour. The child celebrated as the very epitome of innocence by thinkers and poets for centuries was actually full of socially unacceptable drives and desires. We must not forget, that Freud was saying all this in the late Victorian era, when such topics were forbidden even in academic circles. The fact is, even a hundred years on, people in may cultures, including ours, refuse to even discuss the fact that adults, leave alone children, have these natural drives that crave to be satisfied.

To understand Freud, we might keep Little Hans in mind. Could a child of three have sexual fantasies and other basic instincts? And could they lead to mental imbalance later in life? "Yes," said Freud loud and clear. We are born with an innate desire to obtain pleasure from worldly things, and to avoid pain as much as possible. He calls the pleasure principle. But we also know that not all our desires could be fulfilled and we have to make compromises all our lives, this is the reality principal. When we do not get what we desire, we get some sort of vicarious satisfaction by a person or an object that represents what we originally desired.

When the child is born, it is mainly dependent on mother for food that he gets from her breast, and protection that he gets from the warmth of her body. Freud called this the oral stage. During this stage the child forms a very close bond with its mother. As the child undergoes toilet training, the locus of pleasure or energy shifts to the anus, and Freud aptly called it the anal stage. Those who are in the habit of washing their hands frequently, and paying too much attention to cleanliness are said to be suffering from unresolved conflicts of this stage. As the child grows and becomes aware of its private organs, it gets attracted to the parent of the opposite sex. At this stage children begin to see the parent of the same sex as competitor. This gives rise to Oedipus complex in boys, and Electra complex in girls leading to immense feelings of guilt in the child. In the case of boys, as the child is unable to control his attraction towards his mother, he fears severe punishment from his father, thus becoming a victim of 'castration anxiety'. Most children, however, learn to cope with the situation and later learn to identify with the parent of the same sex around the age of five. This is the latency period, in which sexual motivations become much less pronounced until the onset of puberty, when they return with a vengeance.


Since our instincts lead us in one direction, and society leads us in another, there is always this eternal conflict in our minds all our lives. Why do some of us manage to strike a balance while some fail in it? Here Freud comes up with his classic hypothesis of Id, Ego, and Superego. Freud, borrowing Nietzsche's terminology, introduced a new structural concept of the mind in the 1920s, and this does not actually coincide with the distinction among conscious, preconscious, and unconscious that he had used until then. The Id represents all the instinctual desires that need immediate satisfaction. In Freud's own words Id is "the dark, inaccessible part of our personality . . . It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle." As we are forced to live in society, we do not have the freedom to fulfil these instincts. Society gives us security but controls our basic drives. It is the superego that acts as a censor of sorts on behalf of society, and it forbids us to succumb to the wishes of the Id. Thus the superego and Id are in constant conflict, and caught up between this conflict is the Ego. "We are warned by a proverb," wrote Freud, "against serving two m asters at the same time. The poor Ego has things even worse: it serves three severe masters and does what it can to bring their claims and demands into harmony with one another. These claims are always divergent and often seem incompatible. No wonder that the Ego so often fails in its task. Its three tyrannical masters are the external world, the Super-ego and the Id. Freud adds that the Ego, driven by the Id, confined by the Super-ego, repulsed by reality, struggles to master its economic task of bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it; and we can understand how it is that so often we cannot suppress a cry: "Life is not easy!" The Ego is clearly not the master of its own house, but it has to strike a balance. How does it go about it?


In order to achieve a harmonious relationship between the three elements that constitute the mind the infant relies on a number of defence mechanisms. When we push conflicts back into the unconscious instead of finding a solution to them, it is called repression. Most of us on the other hand channel our sexual drives towards social acceptable activities such as painting, music, monetary achievement, military conquest and so on - this is sublimation. When the child fails to progress beyond one of the developmental stages, it is called fixation, and when it returns to one of the earlier stages, it is called regression. All these are devices to cope with the tyrannies of the Id and the superego. Fortunately, most of us cross these formative stages by one way or the other with relatively less damage. Freud tried to show, many mental illnesses such as hysteria, could be traced back to unresolved conflicts experienced during these stages. For instance, homosexuality results from a failure to resolve the conflicts of the Oedipus complex.

Coming back to Little Hans, following Freud it would be easier to understand now that at the root of his phobias was his secret wish to possess his mother, and that of the death of his father and sister. These phobias had arisen because the boy was forced to suppress his libidinal instincts. All this was compounded by his castration complex, this infantile sexuality, and his resentment of his parents for having told him untrue story about the stork. During sessions with Freud, Hans accepted that he would like to see his father dead and marry his mother. This was the culmination of the therapeutic process, and soon the phobias, fantasies, and dreams disappeared. The Oedipus complex had been reconciled.

The impact of Freud's theories was so far reaching, that the twentieth century could be called Freud's century. Be it the sciences, the arts, literature, painting, music, feminism, or even cocktail conversation, Freudian influence was all-pervasive. People either worship Freud or they hate him. But the seeds of dissent were sown quite early when his mentor Breuer parted company, and later Carl Jung and Addler followed suit and formed their own schools of psychology. The other strong challenge came from the behaviorists like J. B. Watson and B F Skinner.

The fundamental mistake Freud made was to insist that psychoanalysis was a science. It is definitely not a science. For a discipline to be declared science, there are certain conditions it must meet. Karl Popper's demarcation of what makes a theory scientific is now widely accepted. He says that every scientific theory must be testable, and, therefore, falsifiable, at least in principle. This means if a theory is incompatible with possible observations, it is scientific; conversely, a theory which is compatible with all possible observations is unscientific. But when we ask about Freud's theory: "What does this theory imply which, if false, would show the whole theory false?", the answer would be "Nothing.", the theory is compatible with every possible state of affairs, and hence cannot be falsified. To Popper, it is unscientific. But if we apply Popper's definition strictly, only pure sciences like physics and chemistry would qualify; botany, zoology, anthropology etc., would lose their scientific status. Why be so harsh to psychoanalysis?

To be fair to him, Freud was not altogether wrong, nor was he altogether right. But even if he is proved altogether wrong, his position does not diminish. We must not forget that it was he who for the first time began to challenge traditional theories of the mind thus giving birth to a new science or whatever one wishes to call it. And he also admitted that all psychoanalysis could do was to replace neurotic unhappiness with ordinary unhappiness.

Having learnt so much about Freud and his methods, how about some analysis about the man himself? Well, he was more close to his mother than his father, and was treated as a prince at home. His relationship with his wife is open to interpretation. There is also an unconfirmed rumour that when he was a little boy, he had a physical relationship with his nanny. Now what do we infer from his past, his impeccable dress sense, and his obsession with cigars? You need not waste time on it because when we smoke a cigar, it is a phallic symbol; when Freud smoked it, it was just a cigar!



In this exclusive response to The Tribune Dr Marc Fonda, a Freud scholar and research fellow at Strategic Programs and Joint Initiatives Programmes Strategiques et Initiatives Conjointes, Ottawa, Canada, says:

FREUD REMAINS extremely relevant 100 years after the publication of the Traumdeutung. In fact, one could argue this from several perspectives, including, his metapsychological categories; the publishing industry built up around psychoanalysis and its derivatives- the adoption of psychoanalytical perspectives in the humanities; the many and continual reactions against Freud and this thoughts; the use

of Freudian concepts and stereotypes in popular culture, and the various developments in psychoanalytic theory since the 1940s. Let's take Metapsychological categories. Since Freud was one of the first people to articulate a modern psychological system, he could be said to have set the metaphors and standards for psychology as a whole. One can find use of or reaction to Freudian metapsychological categories in such diverse areas of psychology as behaviourism, developmental theory (Piaget), and even in contemporary neuropsychology. Adoption of

psychoanalytical perspectives in the humanities is another important development. There are continual reactions against Freud and his thought dealing with such issues as aesthetics, religious studies, or cultural studies, you are sure to eventually experience a round of discussion (even a flame war) over Freud. Most of the time, such discussions are really uninteresting as people vehemently take sides on the debate. Once Freud moved to England in the 1930s, there developed in the UK a new take on psychoanalysis: objects relations theory which

emphasized not the objects of desire but the relationship one has with these objects. This branch of psychoanalysis still current among both psychoanalysts and in feminist psychology or religion. In the 1950s in the USA, there developed another form of psychoanalysis, perhaps best represented by Erich Fromm. During the late 1950s, Jacques Lacan brought his own brand of psychoanalysis to France. Rejecting Freud's work following the Three Essays on Sexuality. This was the beginning of postmodernism and post structuralism in France.




Frederick Crews is the author of: The Memory Wars: Freud's legacy in dispute, and editor of: Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend. Excerpts from his books:

DID FREUD PLUMB the depths of the psyche, as many of his followers assume and still believe or did he just clog our conception of the psyche with a maze of misaligned plumbing, leaving the effluent of his own strange imagination to circulate through our medical and cultural lore? To entertain such an impious question is to consider whether the self-satisfied intelligentsia of our epoch may have been, may still be, no less deluded than were earlier believers in master keys to meaning.

The psychoanalytic movement's anti-empirical features are legion. They include its cult of Freud's personality; its casually anecdotal approach to corroboration; its cavalier dismissal of its most besetting epistemic problem, that of suggestion; its habitual confusion of speculation with fact; its penchant for generalizing from a small number of imperfectly examined instances; its proliferation of theoretical entities bearing no testable referents; its lack of vigilance against self-contradiction; its selective reporting of raw data to fit the latest theoretical enthusiasm; its ambiguities and exit clauses, allowing negative results to be counted as positive ones; its indifference to rival explanations and to mainstream science; its absence of any specified means for preferring one interpretation to another; its insistence that only the initiated are entitled to criticize; its stigmatizing of disagreement as "resistance", along with the corollary that, as Freud put it, all such resistance constitutes "actual evidence in favour of the correctness" of the theory (SE, 13: 180); and its narcissistic faith that, again in Freud's words, "applications of analysis are always confirmations of it as well"

Just where in Freud's Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works can we find the needed evidence to begin authenticating his central claims? The surprising answer is nowhere at all. The entire system of classical psychoanalytic thought rests on nothing more substantial than Freud's word that it is true.