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Sushama Kirtikar

“Just as it is impossible for man to develop as man in isolation, so it is impossible for man in isolation to produce a human environment … Homo sapiens are always, and in the same measure, homo socius,” proclaim sociologists Berger and Luckmann (1966). In short, “Man is a social animal,” as Charles Darwin put so succinctly.

You guessed right, it is time to shift the ‘social self’ of the wheel of wellness in front of us and assay its import. Empirical research shows that human existence has always thrived within the context of some sort of order; otherwise, it would have been thrown into utter chaos. This order is possible because of ‘society,’ which inherently implies social connections with each other.

So, how does this affect us in our daily lives? If society is managing fairly well on its own, then why do we have to contribute in some fashion or garner enough resources to develop our social self? This is akin to saying if nature is thriving grandly on its own, then why do we have to meddle with environmental protection? Just as progress is rapidly gouging at nature, similarly man is capable of eroding his own social connections through neglect, oversight, rashness, haste and such.

First, we start with the foundation of the family unit. What do we bring to the family as a son, a mother, a husband or a daughter in law? If we do not feel good about ourselves at this rudimentary stage, we need not look further. If there is damage done to any familial relationship, however unintentional, we must begin to repair it, in a New York minute, as they say! This is where many of us get stuck for years to come, without any resolve in sight. A shaky foundation bodes danger to the entire structure. Damage control is of the utmost importance.

Next, we look at ourselves in the workplace, as it represents the walls of our social structure. Surprised? Consider the fact that this is where most of us spend majority of our day. How do we relate to our bosses, peers, and subordinates? Am I curt to my assistant? Do you take your co-worker in the next cubicle for granted? Managers have to ‘manage’ the rest of the employees; co-workers have to learn to relate to one another with the least friction possible. There is no dearth of reading material on industrial psychology, group performance and organizational science. It is up to us to apply it to ourselves with panache.

‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’ Skating on this trite expression, let us see how we fare in the department of friendship. It is analogous to the columns and beams of our social dwelling. How do we see the hand that is extended in friendship: Is it giving, taking, supporting or encouraging? Is it a mutual meeting of hands? Acquaintances we have aplenty. They are the nails that hold the bulwark of our social life securely fastened. It suits us to be respectful of them and not be blasé about them. Otherwise, life happens and a good friend fades away.

Finally, we have to take a moment to examine the roof of our dynamic roost, which is a metaphor for our role in the community at large: neighborhood clubs, places of worship, cultural associations and social events. Are we willing to invest time to participate and engage with others so as to receive as well as offer the full benefit of each other’s presence? This is what ultimately provides a sanctuary to all of us. It is silly to wait for someone else to step in and take on these roles. After all is said and done, it is up to each one of us.

All these roles are essentials of the edifice called ‘society’; you and me, arms linked with enough sway and give to allow for settling of the structure. It is vital to take stock of the entire passel of relationships we cultivate in our lives and how they all coalesce as a composite of our social self.

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

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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.


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

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