“Escapes Are the Easiest and Temporary Solution to Any Problem” - Pankhuri Soni

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1. Tell us about your background and journey.

I belong to a middle-class Hindu family. I was born and brought up in Delhi only. I have completed my graduation in Applied Psychology from Ambedkar College, Delhi University (2012).

Then I did my Master’s Degree in Psychology (Psychosocial Clinical Studies) from
Ambedkar University (2014). After that I went ahead to earn my M.Phil. degree in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (2019). I am currently working in AIIMS Hospital as a Senior Research Fellow. I also give online counselling and therapy sessions to young adults.

2. What led you to take up this career path?

It was not a pre-decided decision in my life. I was from commerce background till 12th standard. I never liked Commerce in my life so, I wanted to try something new which is different from Maths.

Psychology was not popular at that time but I somehow got interested and decided to opt for it in my graduation. From then onwards, I genuinely got interested in learning psychology and found my passion in the field of mental health.

I realized how interesting and innovative this field is with a lot of untapped potentials to explore specially in a developing country like India.

3. What are some common myths in the society about psychology?

  There are so many myths about psychology are as follows:

  • The most common myth which I have come across is that a person with a psychology background can read another person’s mind just by looking at his/her face. This the most bizarre assumption. I have been asked a couple of times to read people’s minds just because I am studying psychology.

  • It takes time to excel in this field because human nature is very complex to understand. So, one should not expect anything much from a person who is only a graduate in psychology.

  • The second myth could be that a person only deals with mental patients who are fully psychotic which is far from true. There is a whole range of mental illnesses and even the so called “normal” people also need their therapy in their life at some point.

  •  In countries, especially like India there is very little awareness about mental health. There is a stigma associated with any mental illness and people do not want to talk about it let alone seeking help. Any psychiatric problem is considered as either madness or a flaw in their personality. It is very difficult for people to understand the psychiatric illness is just like any other physical illness. A lot of work needs to be done to make people more aware of mental health and also to create health infrastructure to support people suffering from various mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and many more.

  •  Mental illness is not equal to madness as a layman understands it. The category for who is mad and who is normal is not fixed and decided by society and its norms. It is also difficult for people to understand that a person can also recover from his/ her psychiatric illness and functions properly.

4. How can people practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice or a type of meditation that can be done at any time anywhere you want. This is the most powerful technique and most helpful technique especially for those who have concentration problem, depression and anxiety problems.

This technique makes you aware and helps to be more conscious and present in every moment. You have to be present and fully aware of what you are doing like if you are cooking then you can be aware and feel your hands doing each and everything in each and every step.

This technique will help people to stay and witness what is actually happening to them or what is actually they are doing. This allows an immense sense of your being and helps you to connect yourself better.

5. What are your tips for people who want to practice this profession?

 As a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, I would want people to know that it takes almost as much time as any medical professional takes to hone the skill.

In this profession requires a person to go deep into themselves and come to terms with the workings of their own complex emotions and behavior It is a long-term commitment and it comes with immense social responsibility.

This profession requires compassion, sympathy, empathy and care for another person. I would say to those who want to see themselves in this profession that the “care for other” and the “intention to help” is the key which makes this profession different and special from all other professions out there.

6. Is work life balance a myth or reality according to you?

No,I do not think it’s a myth because one can easily manage and make a balance between one’s work life and personal life.

 In this profession as a psychologist some time it could be difficult for us to get distracted or disturbed when we see a person in severe distress for instance if a person is very suicidal then it would be a matter of concern for a psychologist but as a professional one needs to make a balance between one’s professional personal life otherwise one won’t be able to help the patient, e/she ends up merging with their problem which will not allow a psychologist/therapist to see things objectively and clearly.

7. How according to you can one manage stress?

Why anyone feels stress in the first place. The question of managing stress would be the second one. There would be no stress if one has the capacity to deal with problems and this incapacity gives stress.

My answer may look very simple but it can be hard to apply. According to me, the only solution when you face any difficulty in life is to focus all your energy to “stay there wherever you are”. If you do not try to escape or do not try to find solutions for your problem then it will make you see what the problem really is. Any kind of escape will give you temporary solutions or pleasures.

Escapes are the easiest and yet very temporary solution to any problem. These escapes will take you far away from your real problem. If one is really interested in serious engagement with his/her current mental state and problem then one must try to stay with his/her problem and look deeply into themselves objectively without any judgment or escape.

I think this mere process of honest witnessing will lead to a deep and unbiased understanding of you and help you to understand your problem Cleary. I think then there is no need to manage any stress because then there will be no stress at all which you need to manage.

- Pankhuri Soni

Interview By - Akanksha Gupta

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