Navigating Friendships when you’re the ‘Helper Type”

Fuse
Feeling lost in empathy land?
Reflecting on this past week, conversations with therapist/helpers/social worker types of friends across genders:
Seems like there’s a pattern in the lives of these folks (including me) of being a kind of one-sided emotional sink for our friends. People from our communities seek us out for our listening/ empathic skills and look to us for advice about their lives on love, parenting, grief, sex etc. This is wonderful. Being generous with our time in community is a gift to this world. But there’s also a whole negative aspect to this- and that is, this one sidedness. While I understand that empathic listening or solution finding might not be a strength for many, a reciprocal give and take of care is absolutely essential in relationship.These past few years, I’ve had to say goodbye to many such one sided friendships. It took a while to learn how to compassionately communicate the problem to my friends and let myself not be guilty for distancing myself from friends who did not understand.

Here are some tips if you find yourself in a similar position:

– Is someone that reaches out to you only about themselves really your “friend”? Have you defined for yourself what friendship is?

– Notice in yourself the tendency to reply to cries of help immediately. Before replying, ask – what is my intention with this person? Then, wait atleast 20 minutes before you reply.

PROCESS TIP:

If your friend seems to be not receptive to your help and you’ve spent 10 minutes of your day talking or texting with them, about their problem, ask them what exactly they are looking for, from you. If they communicate what they need and you can offer it, do it. Then let them know a bit about yourself.
Talk about your feelings, your thoughts.

Notice their response. Did they reciprocate? Did they ask about you? Did the conversation become about your day/your feelings/your relationship stuff too?

– If not, scroll back to your communication with this friend and check, have they been asking about you this past month at all? Is this a habit for them to reach out to you spontaneously, talk, seek help and say goodbye, without ever checking in on you? How does that make you feel? Have you enabled them to depend on you as their emotional sink?

– Often people will assume that the ‘helper type’ is strong and doesn’t need anything in return. The assumption is that if they need help they will ask. But I know, for a fact, we don’t ask. Due to our own childhood stuff, we have trouble asking/ we ask out of pent up resentment and then explode/snap. So, ask yourself- what blocks you from asking for support in return? If the answer is that this friend isn’t able to provide you the support you need too, then why are they your friend?

– Creating better dynamics for yourself will make space for you to welcome people who truly care about you too. Trust me, there are people like that out there and they can only come into your life, if you allow yourself the care and respect that you deserve.

 

Mental Health includes Sexual Health

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Credit: AgentsofIshq

Of Millenial Couples in Therapy

It is such an interesting phenomenon, in my couples and family therapy work, to see more and more women (25-40 years of age), across cultures, mostly middle-class, voicing their struggles in their relationships, pushing their partners to show up better, seeking therapy, earning more than their (male) partners at work, and overall having SO much ambition and drive, while more and more men in that age group are struggling with questions like- what is my passion? What is an empowered masculinity today, and how should I show up? The wiser men are seeking help, the not so wise ones are participating in the buildup of slowly exploding pressure cooker. We are really heading toward an overall crisis in relationship durability, if we don’t invest in our growth, maturity and development urgently. Catch the train!

April- Month of Pleasure Activism

Why are you so scared of prioritizing yourself? Why am I so intimidated about putting myself first? Why do we shame self-pleasure, self-love and self-advocacy as a society as if it the opposite of being in relationship? Isn’t it the most selfish thing, to enter relationships with hungry, desperate, unmet needs which are so focused on what YOU can give ME? Love me, kiss me, make me feel good, tell me I’m amazing, help me heal my trauma, make me feel less alone, me, me, me, me. We all do this to each other, in one way or the other, and wait for someone to come along to make ourselves feel whole again because we think only someone else can make us feel pleasure. And we mask this self-directedness with words like care, concern, friendship and “love”. We normalize sucking the life out of each other.
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However, it’s so rare for us to say to our own beautiful, chaotic, desperate and needy selves:
Yes, I’ll love you even when everyone pushes against you.
Yes, I’ll pleasure you well and discover what makes you tick instead of waiting for a person to bless me with time/attention.
Yes, I’ll make you feel whole because you deserve it, for you are worthy of it as you are. Giving yourself pleasure, respect and compassion are not some award-winning instagram-documenting worthy acts. They are everyday acts of strengthening your friendship with your OWN self.
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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healing from assault is a process of rediscovering the self. Having good, pleasureable sex is also a process of self-discovery. There’s no one who will show up at your doorstep to rescue you from your pain. A healthy relationship will support you as you evolve in your own friendship with yourself. Cheers.

India 2018

Folks in Mumbai! I’m visiting in July and currently setting up dates for sexual violence focused, trauma-informed art therapy workshops for:
– survivors of sexual violence (across the gender spectrum)
– artists that may or may not be survivors but are interested in learning about art therapy
– therapists/social workers that are curious about incorporating the arts in their therapeutic practice.

I also want to provide time to anyone in our queer communities struggling with finding a trauma-informed sexual violence focused therapist. If you have friends that would benefit from my work, please connect them to me.

Currently teaching a segment at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai,the lovely Khula Aasmaan, an MIT Media Lab Maker Space in Powai and seeing folks and families impacted by sexual violence who contacted me earlier this year in Mumbai. I have a few dates open, so if you/your organization/your community need therapy work in the arts, gender and mental health spaces, I’m open to setting up dates until this Monday.

Thank you and much love.

Everyday Rape Culture

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White White, Gulp, Choke, 2017, 20 x 20 inches, Mixed media on Silk and Canvas

This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign

SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:

1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.

2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.

3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.

4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.

5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.

6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.

#metoo #rapeculture #smallnotsosmall #littlenotsolittle #arttherapy#dontshutup #accountability #society

I Love Men, I Love Men, I Love Men

I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN.
I am attracted to many men and everyday I meet men who are kind and wonderful. I write this because that’s not enough. Being kind and wonderful and honest IS not enough, today. I want to love more. For that, I need YOU to understand.

This is a triggering time for me. Bangalore, India is my home. A group of women were molested, in masses, on New Year’s eve, on a street I know too well. Bangalore is where I came out as queer and Bangalore is where I found identity as an artist.

But this, this is not about a place.

It is about each time my breasts are pinched on a train, or my ass is groped, be it during the Chicago Cubs rally or in a tightly packed Mumbai local to Churchgate… OR at house parties or in college, with the guy who brought me to some party, or an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand what it means to threaten violence.

It is about each time I have to share the same articles with my male friends, and help them understand, what they don’t understand…,
what it is like to walk down the streets with breasts and a backside.

It is about each time my professors, teachers, mentors, all male, have breached my personal space, hugging me too tight, asking for a kiss after a meal, telling me to “not tell.”

It is about the fact that I can count on my fingers my male friends, who openly identify as feminist. Five, five to be exact.

It is about the fact that I cannot count on my toes and fingers, your toes and fingers, and her toes and fingers, the number of times I have experienced assault and had my female and male friends experience assault through sexual objectification and harassment.

This is not about waking up each time a rape, molestation, sexual assault is reported, and asking, “Now, what should we do?” and going back to our lives earning wages, making art, until the next time, when femininity is attacked, again.

This is not about statistics. Which city is safer. Which city is not the “rape capital”. There is no such thing. Every city, every street, every house is “rape capital”. Why? Because the DAMAGING effects of patriarchy are pervasive. So invisible, so internalized, our fathers get triggered if we bring it up and our male friends call us too sensitive, asking us to forget, to protect, to dress better and not tempt. (Message me if you want to read about this)

I know nothing else but to dedicate my life, my therapy, my work, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting to lessening the damages of the patriarchy. If my posts trigger you, great. If my work triggers you, great. If my life triggers you, great.

I refuse to be exhausted. I refuse to die a death where my voice is unheard and I shall agitate, educate, organize, share, speak, build, argue till my last breath, till women can walk from their house till the grocery store without fear.

Image: The Fearless Collective

http://fearlesscollective.tumblr.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefearlesscollective

And please note, dear readers- there is a reason I’m not saying I’ll keep working till EVERYONE can walk safe. I would love that. That would be ideal and that’s what the world must look like. But that’s not the point here. The specific trouble being addressed here is female objectification and assault by male privilege, which is one of the damaging effects of patriarchy.

 

 

Deepening Community

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you living in better conditions”

-Khwaja Shams Al-Din Muhammad

I have been working at a wonderful art library this winter, here in Chicago. As I sort through my regular duties like filing books and organizing information, it has happened a few times, that a burning question on my mind has been answered by a book, that has chanced upon me.

It’ll so happen that I’m thinking about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore, and I’ll be shelving books in one corner of the library- and suddenly, I’ll feel a need to look at the title of a particular, seemingly random book- it’ll shine out to me.

This happened today with this lovely, hazel-orange book called ‘Deepening Community’- Finding Joy in Chaotic Times.

http://www.deepeningcommunity.org/

The author has outlined some wonderful ways of categorizing communities- shallow, fear based, or deep.

In shallow community, one believes- “Take care of yourself- no one else will”

In fear-based community, one believes- “We’ have a greater right to happiness and life, than “they” do. We are stronger when they are weaker.

In deep community, we believe- mutual acts of caring build a sense of belonging. We know and act when neighbors and family are sick. Mutual acts of caring occur often.

I’d love to hear from you- where do these three types of communities show up in your life?

How would you like to be cared for?

Here is a link to the pdf version of the summary of the book: http://tamarackcci.ca/files/deepening_community_finding_joy_together.pdf

 

Light the lamp and there’s radiance

As I think about Art Therapy, Feminism, the new political year in the US and the political turmoil in India…my thoughts lead to this Kabir song I’m sharing:

Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance,
Such a small bundle,
It will bite dust one day,

It will mingle with the mud,
in the temple,

Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance

Who will awaken in the light of this utter turmoil we are facing today? Do I have what it takes to awaken? 

 

 

From the Ajab Shahar Project:

“Guru shatters the pitch darkness, the lamp destroys the utter blackness, says Kabir, urging us to light the lamp in our temple. ‘Jagariya’ – literally ‘one who awakens’ – is the last name of Asariya bhai, and many of the other singers in this mandali. So it’s not surprising that their families have been in the tradition of singing Kabir and other mystic poets for several generations. Kabir is a widely loved nirgun poet of the 15th century, well known for his rude and rough rhetoric, designed to shake us out of our unconscious ways. The song casts a powerful spell as it weaves together the other voices that ‘awaken’ – Devji Asariya Jagariya and Devji Ghabha Jagariya – who are from nearby villages. As the song says, light the lamp and there’s radiance!

Asariya Khima Jagariya has imbibed the tradition of ‘aradhiya bhajan’ from a very young age from his father Khima Bapa and his grandfather. He belongs to Kharoda village in Lakhpat, Kutch in western Gujarat, can be contacted at +91-81411-73115”

Winter Solstice & Relationships

“Buddhism teaches that however passionate two people are at the start of their relationship, over the course of time the intensity of that feeling will fade and change. This is because romantic love is all too often a manifestation of the world of Rapture, which is, by definition, short-lived. The passing of the rapturous phase does not necessarily mean that the couple will have stopped loving each other – although some people think this is what has happened and can get very worried – but that other aspects of the Ten Worlds have come to the fore.

For example, through the rose-tinted spectacles of Rapture, Ms A is beguiled by Mr B’s easy-going charm. But as Rapture fades, as it must, she’s increasingly irritated by what she now sees as his laziness and refusal ever to take a stand on anything. In other words, the tranquility that attracted her has begun to repel her.

It is in this confrontation with the reality of two people living their daily life together that the wisdom of Buddhism once again reveals itself.”
– Soka Gakkai Buddhism

Happy Holidays. Much strength to transform poison into medicine to those who are struggling in relationship, with themselves, their chosen or not chosen families and friends.

This can be a triggering time, please take care of yourselves- if possible, not by isolation but through gaining some new tools on conflict resolution, sharing in community and working through triggers…atleast that’s what helps me.