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Sushama Kirtikar
WHEEL OF WELLNESS PART III
By SUSHAMA KIRTIKAR - sushamak@verizon.net

“I need to get a grip, I am losing it….”, “He is bursting with joy….”, “She had a meltdown at work…” The word ‘emotion’ invariably summons confusion in the mind of the reader. It is seen as an allegory for letting loose one’s feelings with wild abandon. On one hand, the ability to feel a profusion of different emotions is our prerogative distinguishing us from other species. On the other hand, emotions are often described as errant states of being that have to be contained within the confines of our mind.

If you remember the wheel of wellness illustrated in the first segment of this series, the ‘emotional self’ is a bona fide segment. A dictionary definition of emotion includes “Complex and usually strong subjective response.” Psychologists dissect emotion into three attributes: physiological arousal (heart racing), behavioral expression (verbal, facial or bodily) and conscious experience (subjective feeling).



Now imagine emotion as being on a continuum. On one end is ‘affect,’ an inner sensation that a person is not cognizant of (you drag your feet into work with drooping shoulders and a frown without knowing why). In the middle is ‘feeling,’ becoming conscious of that inner state (you acknowledge that you are dreading the Monday morning meeting). At the other end is ‘emotion,’ an intensely strong experience and expression of it (you slam your office door, stomp into work and growl at the first greeting, “What’s so good about this morning?”)

Which one would you rather own? Being clueless, being self aware, or being a one man/woman show? The continuum clearly illustrates the point that to seek a healthy balance, the middle path of ‘feeling’ is the most desirable. To walk around like a robot, detached and removed from feelings, deflates our full potential as a human being. To flail our emotions wantonly like a toddler disrupts harmony both within us and around us. Neither extreme is productive. Now look in the mirror and see where you fall on that continuum. A vast majority of Indian Americans seem to walk around expressionless or with flat affect. Heaven forbid anyone finds out what feelings we hold within!

Emotions are known to ‘spill, flow, stream, bubble, burst’ and we have learned to ‘stem, block, mop up’ after them. The fluidity of emotions is a well-known metaphor used in everyday language. Unknowingly, we are describing energy that is flowing generously. When we thwart that energy we do ourselves a disservice. If negative energy stays stagnant, it becomes a cesspool of negativity spawning algae of fear, shame, anger, jealousy, hatred. By dwelling on these feelings, they manifest as full blown emotions. The flip side of the coin is refusing to accept them and staying reticent. By not giving them a voice, we hold on even harder and become wooden. We could be smoldering inside waiting to burst any moment like a hissing, vibrating pressure cooker. It is important to open the valve and release some steam. When we cry, we flush out toxins such as cortisol, a stress-induced hormone. If cortisol levels are elevated dangerously, they could wreak havoc in the body. It is therefore salubrious to identify our feelings, acknowledge them, express them in a healthy manner, without the intent to hurt the other person, and finally release them. The key is not to wallow in them.

True, positive emotions such as joy, ecstasy, hope and love are better tolerated if not even welcomed openly. You have heard it said, ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ It releases built-up tension inside. So, what is wrong with becoming emotional with positive energy? Nothing. Except, it too creates disequilibrium within us. We may partake in a ton of hilarity at a party or a comedy club; we may scream in excitement at a soccer game; we may dance and twirl in the arms of our lover; but eventually we come down-to-earth from this giddy-headed state and resume a normal routine. It is our natural instinct to seek peace and parity. We innately strive for balance.

As a spiritual teacher once advised me, “Step into the feeling of the moment, feel it fully, then step back and walk away from it, let it go.” Undoubtedly, it is easier said than done.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or e-mail at sushamak@verizon.net


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Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran
WRITING A LETTER OF INTENT
By Dr. RAM P. RAMCHARRAN

If you were to unexpectedly die or become incapacitated, that would be shocking for your child. The last thing he or she would need would be for his own medical needs, routines and daily life to be thrown into upheaval as well. You can guard against that by writing a Letter of Intent, providing your child's guardians or care giver with practical information to guide them in making decisions and interacting with your child.

Find below a Sample Letter of Intent for review

This sample gives you an idea of what should be covered in a letter of intent. Your letter would contain far more details than are indicated here. This document is a way of telling people what you want.

To Whom It May Concern:

Re: Our daughter Shanti

Contact the following people if anything should happen to us: Names, addresses, mail and e-mail addresses of other children, extended family, case manager and a close family friend.

Current situation and family life: Shanti is a 13-year-old with autism who lives with her brother and parents. At home, she enjoys reading, playing computer games, cooking, and helping with chores. She enjoys family outings such as hiking, swimming, visiting friends and going to restaurants and movies.

Education: Shanti is included in a regular class at James Madison Middle School with one-to-one support. Her strengths are reading, memory and music. Since she is unable to print by hand, she uses a laptop computer. When class lessons are too complicated, her assistant allows her to access related computer games and programs instead.

Future residence: Shanti would like to someday share an apartment with a roommate. She will likely need a support worker to check in with her daily (or less frequently) to help with activities of daily living, banking, or general support.

Employment: Shanti has a keen interest in animals and cooking, and is skilled with computers. She would probably enjoy working or volunteering at an animal shelter, a pet store, or in the food service industry. Perhaps, she also could find work requiring some computer expertise.

Medical Care: Shanti has no medical challenges. She is seen for a yearly check up by Dr. Raj Shah he is in Tampa, who is familiar with Shanti's strengths and challenges.

Behavior Management: Shanti occasionally pinches and gets teary when she is anxious. The best strategy is to provide her with a written schedule or calendar of what will be happening in the day.

Social: Shanti participates in several community programs, including YMCA sports for kids at the Palm Harbor YMCA on Tuesday’s at 5 p.m., a community cooking class (day, time, location)

Religious/Spiritual Life: Most Sundays, Shanti attends services with us at the Vishnu Mandir Temple. In addition, she occasionally attends youth group social programs for pre-teens and young adults. Guardian and Trustee: Guardians and trustees have been assigned in our wills, which were last updated on Jan. 12, 2005 and are on file with Attorney Barry Smith of Smith and Locke.

Both parents' signatures.

Date

This is just a suggestion of what you should include in the letter of intent. Remember document is what you make of it. You can make it as detail as you like because it explains what you want for your child and this documents shares that vision.

Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran can be reached at ramramcharran@hotmail.com



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