Tuesday, March 17, 2009


When I was in school, many terrible things happened during "crucial" (as a kid, the intensity of cruciality just changed) moments of my life... For example, my exams were going on and there was a death in my family.... I was in a school play and I came down with jaundice to lose the lead role... I was in a dance and I was down with fever only to look the worst dancer in the photographs (well, I couldn't back out as it was a day before the actual event)....

So, there are 2 kinds of pains that are inflicted on you:
1. Physical pain which has very definitive means of reaction (give in to disease or fight against it)
2. Mental pain which may seem very abstract to handle, but frankly, has very definitive reactions to it as well (get affected by it or not get affected by it)

Thus, in the examples I mentioned above, I did take definitive actions... I fought physical pain once, I gave in the other time and finally, I did not get affected by the mental stress that a 'death of a loved one' brings with it. But as time went by, I have realised that there are 2 types of mental pains too.

1. Mental pain due to unavoidable circumstances with nothing you can do
2. Mental pain due to material circumstances (like people around, events around etc.)

I always prided myself on how I handled my life in case type 1 came into my life... I could VERY EASILY compartmentalise the pain and handle my responsibilites (as a student, daughter and otherwise)  like I would have done in normal circumstances... For example, the way I handled my exams in event of whole family grieving. 

Handling type 2 of mental pain was also straight forward for me till date. If you ask me, say you are stressed because of a very close friend in need... There is NO WAY in hell can you compartmentalise then... Similarly, say you lose a match (and if luck has its way, its an important one)... It is impossible to avoid the shame, guilt, sadness arising out of this loss... Your friend is in pain, for family member is in the hospital getting a crucial operation done.... These are places where you can make a difference or places where you can have a positive impact by your presence. Till date, I strongly believed that in such cases YOU SHOULD NOT COMPARTMENTALISE!!! So, it's OK if your work gets affected by this pain (in fact, I would go to the extent of procrastinating things if its possible) or if your "enjoyment" gets affected by this thought... (Kindly note, the circumstances which get affected may always not be negative or grave like work related, fulfilling your duty etc. ... They could as well be rosy circumstances like a picnic, a celebration, a festival etc.) Thus were my fundamentals for good 26 years of my life and I functioned well with the stated reactions (ironical in cases where my work DID get affected but you get the point)... 

A recent conversation with a friend shook this belief that I actually hold dear... While knowing that a close friend is in pain, this friend of mine actually compartmentalised things to "have fun"... There is no denying that their bond means something to him but still he could compartmentalize... I couldn't help but ask him, " dont you owe this much to your friend?? dont you think your bond actually deserves this - with lack of any other word - mourning?? dont you feel guilty to have fun when you know this friend is in huge pain??" And his answer surprised me... He said, "I am with a different set of people, in a different context and I ought to make most of it..."

So, im stuck in deciding the actual course of action now (and only because I believe this friend of mine handles things very well)... Is it ok to NOT COMPARTMENTALISE and actually give some importance to things where you can actually make a difference and do something about it.... Or you just COMPARTMENTALISE coz finally, its pain and you need to only deal with it in one way - not get affected and give the context more importance!!! Till date I did the former but now have also burnt my fingers (figuratively)... Should I do the latter or not?? If I do the latter, will I be able to do it, that only time can tell.... 


Viraj Datar said...

it depends from case to case, i think. At times, if the friend is in genuinely grave situation (say due to the friend's family member being in hospital or friend herself being ill), then it may become practically difficult to compartmentalize.

However, if the friend's pain is a creation of circumstantial and also his/her own feelings, then unless you are physically with him/her, there's little you can do, and in that case, compartmentalization may become possible, and if so, people may do it.

Cant really have "one-rule-fits-all" solution to problems in life. In fact, life is all about adapting, moulding and "rolling with the times"

rahulbajaj said...

To me it still is a mystery unsolvable. Compartmentalization, if nothing else, increases the guilt within :( even when you know you are not guilty of anything.