Tag Archives: Integral Self Therapy

Dr Shyam K Bhat MD is a
Psychiatrist and Integrative
Medicine specialist.

He is board certified in
Psychiatry, Internal
Medicine, and
Psychosomatic Medicine,
with additional certification
in clinical hypnosis


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You Are Neo

“You take the blue pill. The story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe…whatever you want to believe.

“You take the red pill, and you will see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember. All I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

– Paraphrased from the movie The Matrix

You’ve seen the now classic scene (and if you haven’t then you should watch it at least twice before returning to this article): Morpheus offers Neo a choice – either see the truth for all its discomfort, or continue to live in the constructed unreal dream world of the machines, where you are enslaved so much that you don’t even know it.

The fact is that many of us live life by taking the equivalent of the blue pill. We don’t want to see the truth, because the truth is not familiar.

And so we continue to live a life that is not really free, except we don’t even know it.

But we always know the truth in our hearts. We know the direction we should take. We know our potential. We may be too scared to break free, but deep down we always know.

Now, I am not suggesting that following your dreams always has to be an upheaval. The greatest revolutions are often the quietest. Some people say, “there are no good role models,” or “we really don’t have good teachers.

But in fact, any event in your life is a teaching. The more uncomfortable or troubled you are by the event, the bigger the lesson that life is trying to teach you.

So when you face a difficulty, remember this – you are in the classroom of life. When you learn that lesson, the discomfort will stop.

But the problem is that because of the discomfort involved, you may be tempted to ignore the issue. You may do one of many things to prevent the full realization of the issue. Some common ways people do this are by –

a) Completely ignoring the issue. “What, me worry?”

b) Playing the victim. “What to do, I am like this only.”

c) Becoming angry with someone else. “It’s all your/their/her/his fault!”

d) Becoming angry with life. “Life is horrible, it’s so unfair! There’s no point living!”

These are all variants of the blue pill. Ignorance is not always bliss. Instead, be bold and chose self-awareness. Here’s how to do this. Say to yourself –

a) I am okay just the way I am. I am not perfect, but no human being is, and that’s okay.

b) Even though I am okay just the way I am, I can always learn and improve myself.

c) I can learn by deepening my understanding, of my motivations and feelings, and thoughts and others.

It’s a practice of course. It doesn’t happen as easily as Neo swallowing the red pill. But your awareness will grow until you are free, of all internal inhibitions and self-imposed external ones.
Your freedom will reflect in increased joy, energy, motivation, and happiness.


(From my Blog on Coolage.in)

You Are a Flowing River

“Don’t push the river; it flows by itself” Fritz Perls

The self is fluid, and constantly changing, said learned Eastern philosophers of yore. Your thoughts come and go, emotions change, and although you think of yourself as the same person across time, actually you are never the same. In fact, in some ways, you have no self at all.

Now, this may sound nihilistic to many people. But, as it happens, embracing the fluidity of your identity is a direct path to bliss and happiness. And as a psychiatrist, I see these philosophical concepts being played out in numerous ways in many of my patients.

Consider Lalit, for instance. In his mid-40s, he has been contemplating resigning from his job and starting a business for a long while now. But he is scared and his fear paralyses him, stopping him from taking the decisive step. The risk of failure and the intense responsibility of the change is frightening because Lalit’s sense of self cannot shoulder such a responsibility or deal with so much risk.

He has become so used to living and working under the umbrella of an organisation that he cannot, emotionally, embrace the idea of himself as an entrepreneur striking out on his own. His real self is crying for freedom, but his current self-concept does not allow for so much autonomy. Consequently (and not surprisingly), this yearning is suppressed as Lalit continues to toil at a job, imprisoned by his current identity and the fear of losing it. But if Lalit were willing to experience his real self, which is unthreatened by more conventional definitions of failure and success, he would be free to pursue his destiny.

Remember, your authentic, deepest, abiding self does not disintegrate when circumstances change. Your real self is life-affirming, secure, resilient and flexible — it is an experience, not an intellectual construct.

When you find yourself, you will not find an object. You will not find something that you can point to and say, “This is who I am.” When you find yourself, you will find a flowing river.



From My Column in Outlook Business. All case histories are composites, and details changed.

Kill Your Darlings

William Faulkner famously advised writers to edit fearlessly, to remove particularly those sentences that they loved.  Faulkner knew that the narrative and cohesiveness of a novel is ruined by sentences that are incongruent, no matter how beautifully written.

Kill your darlings, he said.  If Faulkner were a psychiatrist, he would have said the same thing in psychotherapy.

The goal of all growth oriented therapies is to help people become more truly themselves, to be free of neuroses and worries, inhibitions and self-defeating behaviors.

We are usually unaware of how our mind conspires to trap us in old patterns of being and behaving; having looked through the same cloudy lenses for so long, we mistakenly think that the imperfections we see are of the world, not our perception.

To see the world clearly, we have to fearlessly question even our most closely held belief about ourselves and the world. We have to be willing to let go of old beliefs and assumptions, even those that we hold dearly.  This is why a lot of spiritual exploration occurs during times of crisis and confusion. Also, spiritual exploration can easily throw a person into a vortex of existential confusion.

So examine your beliefs with courage, gentleness and compassion.

As part of a meditative exercise, begin to challenge your assumptions, even some long standing ones. For example, what is your definition of success?  When was the last time you examined your assumptions about material success?   If you redefined it radically, what would that do to your life choices, and to the evolving narrative of your life?

Or, what are your assumptions about what you can or cannot do?  What if you were completely wrong about the limitations you have set for yourself?

Some self-definitions keep us comfortable but stagnant.

When we let go of these assumptions and definitions, we are free to become ourselves. When we kill our darlings, our story begins to flow again.

(From my column in Outlook Business)

The Clearing

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.


In order to change unhealthy behaviour, we have to first acknowledge to ourselves that the behaviour is unhealthy.

We have to say to ourselves, “What I have been doing all along is hurting me, or those around me.” This can be frightening, because to acknowledge that we have been wrong is to see the past as a wasteland of unfulfilled dreams.

Consider Santosh, who has been irritable and impatient all his life. He has alienated many people; his employees, his wife and children live in fear of him. Occasionally, when he pauses long enough to see the fear and discomfort in his family’s eyes, this awareness becomes overwhelming.

If Santosh’s sub-conscious could speak, it would say, “If the past is bad, and I cannot change, then the future will be bad as well. Therefore, if I see my behaviour as bad, then my past and my future will seem like a waste. That is too scary a realisation, and so the only thing I can do is to conclude that my behaviour is not harmful.”

Without knowing it, the frightening awareness of his dysfunctional behaviour was quickly buried under the many layers of his mind.

It may seem like there is no solution to this, but there is a way to cut through this vicious cycle and break through the paralysis of fear: by accepting. Acceptance means that we do not judge ourselves — we stop assigning values of “right” or “wrong” to ourselves, instead we examine our behaviour objectively by remembering, “It is my behaviour that is wrong, not who I am.”

When we see through the clear eyes of acceptance, we can embrace every aspect of our personality and then, without judgement, fear or self-criticism, we can let go of behaviour that is not serving our purpose


Note: As always, cases are composites (using facts from multiple cases, with all names and identifiers changed)

(From my column in Outlook Business)