Prada reflections

24 12 2014

The_Devil_Wears_Prada_coverWhen I read “Devil Wears Prada” more than 7 years ago, I was enthralled by it. I read chick-lit very rarely and this bestseller by Lauren Weisberger was perhaps one of my first. I was enamored with the fashion industry background and the chilly but bewitching personality of Miranda Presley.  I remember even now the terror of Andy working under her. She endured the intense nerve-wrecking conditions for most part of her one-year tenure, only to tell Miranda to f*** off to her face 2 months before her tenure is up and quit on the most ungraceful terms. The job had not only adversely affected her nerves but also her relationships.

One thing that stuck to me about the climax is that – her long-term boyfriend decides that he had enough and breaks up with her. What I had hard time comprehending and accepting is that – he had been with her for most of the difficult time. He knew how important the job was for her and that she was under the most gruesome and stressful work environment. He also knew that she is not enjoying any of it and was just trying her best to finish her tenure so that she can have a better career after Runway. And just when she breaks down and quits, Alex decides he has had enough and breaks up with her – when she needed him the most.

True that the relationship had been difficult for him. But what’s the point of being in a relationship, if you don’t support your partner in hard times? I feel that the deeper issue is that many people chuck out at the sign of inconvenience. They are so self-centered, if something is troubling their relationship or their partner, they leave without bothering to make efforts to make it work, to repair the relationship. Or it could just be young age. Sigh! I know I shouldn’t be judgmental. I just wish people see it for what it is, feel less entitled and more responsible and grateful.

Recently, I grabbed “Revenge Wears Prada” from the library. It’s not a best seller but I needed something light to experiment with audio book and so I went for it. I felt some parts are really very silly. Maybe it’s because I am listening to it – weird when someone reads aloud or maybe it’s because I’ve grown older and don’t really relate to the characters or maybe it’s really is silly.

books2f-2-webIn this sequel, Andy has got a new boyfriend Max and she is marrying him. She is at least 33. I don’t understand why she feels weird and jittery on her wedding day – as if getting married is akin to losing something valuable. I think I know what it is – it’s “freedom”. Freedom to do whatever you want, freedom to walk out. I can comprehend the feeling of uncertainty or panic by someone who is really young – early twenties or younger, but a 33 year old woman not feeling completely ecstatic about marriage, I call this as “weird”.

One thing that frustrated me even more is “how Andy reacted to the fact that Max had met his ex during his bachelor party”. She is so disturbed by the sudden knowledge that she seriously thinks about cancelling the marriage and taking time out to “think things over”. I found it really stupid of her. She couldn’t trust the man she is marrying, the man with whom she had been living together for about 3 years. No “benefit of doubt” whatsoever. To mistrust the person whom you are going to marry in a few minutes is really pathetic. The whole situation seemed depressingly piteous to me.  She really struggles a lot to overcome her uneasiness. “Stupid woman”. Maybe I’m being very judgmental about this, but I am not able to help it. In fact, I’m surprised by the intensity of my own reaction.

Finally, Andy gets back to her first love -Alex. But where did her earlier realization that “he never really cared for and/or supported her as a career woman” go? It was not addressed at all, when they decided to come back together. Can we hope that the “same story” does not repeat again – “Alex getting upset by the ambitious Andy” ? Who knows!

Gratitude, happiness, and relationships

14 11 2014

Gratitude is another positive emotion that is strongly associated with happiness. Specifically, it boosts happiness, self-worth, social relations and optimism. It lowers negative emotions such as envy, materialism, self-blame etc.

To be grateful means to allow oneself to be placed in the position of a recipient—to feel indebted, aware of one’s dependence on others, and obligated to reciprocate.Above all, Gratitude is a mindset than a single act. The realization that all is gift is freeing, and freedom is the very foundation upon which gratitude is based.

One interesting thing is, gratitude may seem counter-intuitive to us.  “Thinking about oneself is natural, humility is unnatural.” We may have to really fight our narcissist instincts to cultivate gratitude in life, but it’s well worth it.

As eminent psychologist Thomas Gilovich puts it, there are two major enemies of gratitude:

  • The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry or negativity bias, which refers to our tendency to see the things that are holding us back more clearly than that are pushing us forward.
  • Power of adaptation – which refers to our tendency to get used to things and take them for granted.

Practicing gratitude means counting your blessings. Life may not always be just, but you feel grateful for what you have got and move on. Gratitude amplifies the good in our lives – it enables us to notice the good, to reflect more positively on our past. It improves our social lives – because people like grateful people, it enhances pro-social behavior.

However, there is an important caveat to the practice of gratitude. More is not always good. Research studies have shown that while recording in the gratitude journal thrice a week boosted  happiness,  recording daily didn’t result in any increase in well-being. So, don’t overdose on gratitude.

An important thing we need to keep in mind while practicing gratitude is that we should not ignore or fail to recognize our own effort and value. Grateful people give credit to others, but not at the expense of acknowledging their own responsibility for their success. They take credit, too. It’s not either/or. 

Research suggests that gratitude is a key ingredient to successful romantic relationships. Sara Algoe’s study found that grateful couples are more satisfied in their relationships and felt closer to each other. Amie Gordon has done some remarkable research on Gratitude in romantic relationships and she defines gratitude in this context as “appreciating not just what your partner does, but who they are as a person”. You just don’t thank the person for the “act” but thank their intention behind the act. She says that gratitude means “thinking about all about your partner’s best traits and remembering why you got into a relationship with them in the first place.”

This is really a profound insight because one of the major problems in long term relationships is that the spark usually fizzles out with time and partners take each other for granted before too long and this results in a kind of disillusionment and/or everyday dissatisfaction, which may introduce new problems. But if we continue to appreciate our partners and be grateful for their presence in our lives, the relationships will continue to bloom.

Couples researchers Philip and Carolyn Cowan have shown that when the partners feel that the division of work in their relationship is unfair, they are more dissatisfied with their marriage and more likely to think they would better off divorced. But Jess Alberts and Angela Trethwey theorized and affirmed that it’s not the division of labor but the expression of gratitude that’s the key to strong and lasting relationship.

Jess Alberts and Angela Trethwey explain how one partner gets stuck with a particular household chore. The first thing is, there is something called “response threshold”, which may be different for each partner. So, the one who has lower response threshold for a task acts earlier on it than the other. Secondly, if a partner is skilled at a particular task, it increases his or her chance to perform the task again. As a result of these phenomena, the partner who does a particular task more frequently is perceived as a specialist and gets stuck with that task. Thus is the pattern set.  The problem here is that the under-performing partner does not feel grateful because, the over-performing partner is just doing his/her job. And this is a sure recipe for resentment and frustration. Given that each partner has different thresholds for different tasks and have different sets of skills, appreciating each other’s effort and contribution  and feeling grateful for each other boosts bonding. So, when the division of labor is unfair, perceiving the efforts of over-performing partner as gifts is important.  This typically makes the other partner feel obligated to reciprocate by offering his or own gifts by contributing more to household tasks.

Amie emphasizes the importance of communicating our appreciation and gratefulness to our partners; just feeling is not sufficient. Because only then it will result in the generosity cycle (That is, one partner’s gratitude can prompt both partners to think and act in ways that convey gratitude to each other and promote commitment to their relationship.) :

Feel grateful -> Work to keep relationship (Express gratitude, show concern, be attentive etc.) ->Partner feels appreciated -> Partner feels grateful

However, practicing gratitude in abusive and/or unhealthy relationships is not good for you.

Part 9 of Science of Happiness Series.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4   Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8

Parenting and happiness

5 11 2014

Does parenting lead to happiness? Can’t give a simple straight answer to this. The relationship between parenting and happiness seems nuanced. Research suggests the following:

  • If purposeful, then parents are happy
  • If parents share the responsibility, both are happier. But if only one takes care of the child, he/she feels stressful and unhappy
  •  Happiness of parents also depends on the temperament of the child
  • When the children are young, parents undergo lot of stress and put in lot of effort leading to being unhappy – less happy than their original set point. But when the children are older, parents report more happiness than non-parents.
  • Older parents are generally happier than young parents (may be having better financial status and maturity enable them to handle and enjoy parenting better)

Different people have different perspectives about “parenting”. Some even think that it is overrated.  In my opinion, getting married and having children are natural courses of life – both evolutionarily and socially. I find it very hard to understand how and when they have become debatable. People are commitment phobic and don’t want to get married. They want to try out all other possible arrangements instead. But I believe nothing proves to be as sustainable as marriage. It is an institution that survived so long. There must be something right about it. Likewise, some people are apprehensive about being parents. Parenting is a huge responsibility. It involves lot of effort, resources, and energy.  But whatever the costs of being in a marriage or  being parents, the benefits far outweigh them. No pain, no gain.

One of the popular tendencies I have noticed lately is that often people want the benefits, without paying the cost. Because the highly individualistic and materialistic western culture, which seems to be gaining popularity all over the world, professes that it’s one’s right to get what one wants and one is entitled to happiness. It defines happiness as pleasure. That’s the reason people want companionship and other benefits of marriage but do not want to deal with the duties and responsibilities it demands of the couple – both towards each other and to the others (family and society in general). People like the laughter of kids but are wary of the difficult process of raising them. Focusing on immediate comfort and short-term goals, people fail to perceive the big picture and envision the long-term gains. The need to understand that happiness is “having a meaningful and purposeful life, rather than just pleasure-seeking” is paramount.

I don’t deny that getting married and/or becoming a parent ultimately comes down to one’s personal choice. There is nothing wrong in choosing not to. But, if you want to be happy in your life, give “marriage” and “parenting” a chance. The results of many scientific studies make a strong case for them.

Please note that I don’t mean to generalize the notions I put forth here. Nevertheless, my opinions are based on some of my observations.

Part 6 of Science of Happiness series.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4     Part 5

Marriage and happiness

29 09 2014

We are evolutionarily, and biologically wired to form social connections. And these social connections boost our well-being. The most important of our relationships are romantic relationships.

Marriage – it’s the cause of much happiness and otherwise too when it doesn’t turn out well. Some studies conclude that married people are happier compared to unmarried people. There is also another recent finding that says that once married but now divorced people are sadder than those who are either married or never married.

The question is – is it the institution or the people? Put in other words, does marriage makes people happy or happy people tend to have good marriages? A research study has shown that on an average it takes 2 years after marriage for people to come back to their baseline level of happiness. Hmm..

Nevertheless, a happy marriage is what most people seek. John Gottman has done a lot of research and conducted several studies trying to figure out the determinants and breakers of marriage stability.  A study conducted by him along with Robert Levenson focused on the communication skills between the couple that affect the marriage. By just watching a 3 -min muted video clipping of a couple chatting, he can predict with about 90% accuracy whether they will stay together after 6 years. Remarkable. Isn’t it? This technique is called thin slicing. He says that how couples interact on a day-to-day basis conveys so much about their relationship. According to him, there are four things, the occurrence of which can predict marriage instability or divorce:

  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Stonewalling
  • Defensiveness

So, what makes a stable and happy marriage?

  • Humor
  • Gratitude
  • Appreciation
  • Forgiveness
  • Emotional disclosure

Now that the wisdom is out in the open, make the best of use of it! 😉

Well, of course, not all problems of a marriage can be solved by these tips but undoubtedly these will definitely help. The first and foremost thing that is essential, before one attempts to apply these invaluable dos and don’ts, is  one’s belief in marriage and the desire to make it work, without which everything becomes pretentious and superficial.

Part 4 of Science of Happiness series.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3

Second Thoughts

4 05 2014


Second Thoughts by Shobhaa De is about a young woman Maya of Kolkata who has just married Ranjan and moved to Mumbai, the city which alluded her. It is about Maya and her insipid marriage.

I wonder about Maya. How she kept her sanity for long with her insensitive and reserved husband. I wonder how she even tolerated him in the first place. Grr… What an MCP! She is treated as little more than a piece of furniture, and this without any, not even a slight inkling of, sense of being wrong or at least inadequate. She can’t make calls without his knowledge and permission, she can’t even use the air conditioner in his absence. God!

May be having fewer expectations and general acceptance of the terms helped. But of course, not so much. Because despite being the typical conservative girl, she found him and the marriage suffocating. She is trapped and vulnerable.

As I think about it, Maya’s life is not an uncommon one. It’s actually the contrary, I guess. None of the events or experiences are extraordinary. Shobhaa De took such a simple and common story and turned it into something beyond entertainment. It provides not just the voyeuristic pleasure of peeking into someone else’s life but also puts forth the injustice of such a life as a matter of fact.

I can say that Maya’s life definitely makes many of us to feel better about our own lives (at least at the outset).

Shaadi Ke Side Effects

6 03 2014

Warning: This is a spoiler!


It’s a decent movie depicting a very real issue in today’s marriages. Well made. Begins with a good and interesting beginning. Takes you through captivating narration until the break. The second half loses its sheen a trifle as it begins but eventually gets better towards the end.

Hmm.. What kind of a cryptic review is this! Phew!!!

Anyways, I have only one point to make about the movie. The urge was too much to resist and hence this unplanned post. 😛

I didn’t really understand why the sensible Mrs. Roy made too much of Mr. Roy’s  secret life. I didn’t understand why didn’t she think about why it happened in the first place? I was disappointed in her.

Whatever Mr. Roy’s intentions were, his response to her mistake/wrong was commendable. He feels that his behavior/absence has made her do it. It may be true or not, but the point is he was thinking about “why she might have done it”.

I don’t condone Mr. Roy’s actions completely, but it’s obvious that she ignored him all the while after the baby happened. She excluded him from her and the baby. She turned into a mother and forgot to be a wife.

In Little women, when Meg does the same mistake – by engrossing too much into the twins, leaving John lonely, John seeks solace in his guy friends and company.  They quarrel a lot.  But there, Marmee comes to the rescue by pointing out to Meg her folly and reminding her of her priorities.

But in this movie, no such realization happens. Mr. Roy is the only bad guy here.  😦

I wonder how come such an age-old wisdom escapes the filmmakers. Maybe they didn’t want it to be too preachy. But if so, what’s the whole point? In the end I’m confused about what’s the movie is trying to convey – what did Mr. Roy learn??

I would rather have Mr. Roy realize this: that it’s not easy to be a new mom. It’s highly stressful – both physically and emotionally. He should be really patient and understanding, and not abscond at the sign of discomfort.

And what about the last scene??  Didn’t she abhor the exact same act of her husband?? 🙄

I completely agree that the “me time” is essential for everyone. Mrs. Roy needs it just as much as Mr. Roy. She let herself lose in the new responsibility  so much and for so long that sooner or later a time came when she really needed a break – just as Meg did in Little Women.

I am all for the “me time” because it’s rejuvenating. But it can also be had with mutual knowledge. Why the need for secrecy, if not for the extra thrill?  😛 Of course, the former works only when each party is understanding and sensible to the other.

AFTER MARRIAGE EFFECT – Importance of the 1st year

20 12 2012

This article by Suman Sayani, Consultant – Psychologist of Aware Global Hospital and Psycho-Matrix Wellness Concepts has been going viral on Facebook. I found it very realistic and appreciate her effort to educate people.


Marriage is one of the most important event in the life, but its also one of the few events that has the potential to break their “emotional comfort zone” within a few hours to few days. 30-40% ladies in India experience this emotional discomfort within the 1st year of marriage.

Why this happens? 

1. When an indian lady marries, she marries into a family. In great majority of cases she is expected to immediately un-learn and forget all her customs and adopt to new ones. This is wrongly given the excuse called -“adjustment.” It’s absurd but in many cases the expectations for such a change have been since day 1 of marriage. Medically its impossible to forget what has been practiced for 20-plus years in even a year time. But “you need to adjust fast” stuff keeps haunting women day-in and day-out.

2. While she is trying to do this, the already accustomed and emotionally seniors in this new environment. Namely her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law have certain expectations from her.

These expectations sometimes make her feel like a “slave” or “non-unwanted” element of the family. Its unfortunate that people (specially those with orthodox mentality) don’t believe in the concept “before creating expectations, create love. Because love is ever lasting”

3. This conflict of expectations leads to a feeling of sadness and anger. Her only support is her husband…

unfortunately in many cases, the husband decides to keep quiet. The lady starts to feel emotionally cheated by her husband and starts to develop hatred against mother-in-law, sister-in-law.

4. Slowly this negativity becomes a cyclic event which keeps playing in the mind continuously. This leads to

  • Comparison with “perfect life” of others,
  • Guilt of making the wrong choice,
  • Feeling of worthlessness,
  • Uncontrollable anger
  • Bouts of crying for long hours
  • Helplessness.

5. If not able to get a loveable environment, woman feels fearful and lack of “being wanted” …  She tries to either give too much love to change the situation.. Or  develops impulsivity seen as

  • extreme anger,
  • episodes of leaving the house and going to their parents,
  • extreme demand for love,
  • extreme shopping
  • uncontrollable mood swings.

When an women is exposed to such stress for 6 months or more, she starts to develop following physical symptoms due to mental tension –

  • Increase stress leading to physical symptoms– that leads to weight issues, decreased glow on the skin, menstural problems, headaches, sleep problems.
  • Mood swings – with intense episodes of crying and similar intense episodes of anger
  • Decreased love for husband and family members
  • Constantly restless mind
  • Every situation is approached with negativity.
  • Decreased desires and decreased loving
  • Negative image of the husband, thinking he has never been by her side. And he doesn’t deserve her love.
  • Looking for running away from this situation – which leads to nuclear family formation or divorce.

How to help someone battling this?

1. Listening – just listen to them.

2. Talk to the husband, try and help him to be more assertive in his duty towards his wife.

3. Mood swings, sadness and stress needs treatment – consult a good psychiatrist/counselor immediately.

4. Impulsivity can even lead to suicide so first calm her down. If it’s impossible to calm her down, accompany her to a psychiatrist / psychologist help her calm down and then take the decision.