The Fibres Of My Pensieve by Anushree Srivastava

There are two kinds of people in this world- one are those who avoid pain and find ways to distract themselves from it, and then there are those who dive into the deepest oceans of pain, let the feeling fill their lungs, and find their way back from rock bottom. Do you ever wonder which one you are?

When I was a young kid reading her way through the Harry Potter series, I had stumbled upon a concept that Rowling described as a ‘Pensieve’. If you have read the book, you’d recollect that the Pensieve was a tool used by the Headmaster, Dumbledore, to pour away his thoughts for keeps. I was enamoured by this idea and wondered why we, as humans, did not have the ability to pour our thoughts into a bowl and revisit them at a later stage. With time, however, I realized that my writing was my Pensieve. Most of my articles are written within a span of 30 minutes because I want a safe space for my thoughts and this is my way of pouring my thoughts into a bowl and watch them swirl aglow before me.

I always believe that we go through lives trying to figure out who we are. As humans, we are a part of a constantly evolving environment and every day that we get to spend in this life teaches us something new about ourselves. But do we register this on a daily basis? I think it is safe to say that on most days, we are way too preoccupied with ‘life’ to understand the many changes that are taking place within us. It is akin to seeing someone after a very long time or, heck, even seeing your own pictures from the past. You notice the differences and realize just how much has changed. It is the same with our emotional growth as well. We don’t realize how every moment that we live is creating its own impression on the very resilient part of our being- our minds.

People often ask me why therapy is a good option for those looking to understand themselves. I have to say that until recently, I never knew the right answer to this question. Having been in therapy myself, my responses to its need would often be defensive more than anything else. I had to justify my reasons for seeking help to understand myself. Little did I know back then that it would be this very tryst with therapy that would slowly give me these answers. As humans, we are endowed with one of the most developed anatomy of a brain and we may not realize this often but this anatomy is complex with folds and barriers alike. This is a true representation of the role played by our brains. What we see factually and in the form of a tangible matter as brain, in an abstract way, we refer to it as the mind. It is our mind that holds the rein to how we feel every moment of every day. 

You know how they say that children should be taught new things while they are still young because its easier for them to learn it all. Have you ever wondered the reasoning behind this? To me, it seems clear that a child is born with a clean slate, despite my very solid beliefs in reincarnation (Hello to you too, Hinduism!). With this clean slate, we have a lot of ground to make impressions. New habits and languages are picked up with ease; something that an adult would struggle to accomplish. As we grow older, everything happening around us, whatever we see, hear, touch, and smell finds its way into our minds. There are impressions created. You can think of these impressions as distinct fibres akin to the ones that Dumbledore would retrieve from his mind. Each fibre is its own memory and as we grow older, these fibres get distorted, twisted, and entangled to form ropes. Our memories are often rewritten as our slates keep getting filled up and characters start to overlap. There comes a point when the distinct fibres become thickened ropes and develop knots. I believe that such moments are characterized by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, and an overwhelmingly directionless mind. 

It was during one such moments that I took the call to see what therapy was all about. I went in with thick ropes of thoughts and feelings, not knowing why my days were filled with solemn melancholy or why I was having difficulty finding meaning in life. In the first few sessions, after I had spoken about the thoughts I felt at the tip of the iceberg, I waited in anticipation for my therapist to give me a solution. I realized that I went to therapy thinking ‘I am paying someone to solve my problems for me’. Isn’t that what most nay-sayers believe anyway? Breaking news, that is as far from the truth as humans are from sprouting wings. I slowly realized that at the outset, there were two people in the room- the therapist and me. However, as the sessions progressed, there was a third person- it was another version of me. I was stepping outside my mind and looking at myself as a third person. I started to notice that anything that I had spoken about thus far was just the pointed end of an iceberg that was rooted in the very  bottom of the ocean. I was looking at myself from another perspective and asking questions like ‘Wait, why did I do that?’ or ‘What did that make me feel?’. You know we think that these are such basic and unnecessary questions. Maybe that’s correct but we still manage to not know the answers. Therapy is not about having someone else find answers to your problems. It is about someone training you to step outside your mind and perceive you from a distance. It is not about understanding what resulted in those ropes; it is, instead, about taking steps to undo the knots and look at each fibre that constituted it. Each fibre has to be felt, acknowledged, processed, and dealt with. 

There is a theory that states that the responses and behaviour of every human are rooted in his childhood. I started to understand this theory better once I was holding each fibre of my being and inspecting it with curiosity. It taught me that I was more complex than I knew and that our subconscious mind registers every little thing right from when we were born with a clean slate. People often go to therapy to get a mental detox of sorts. Therapy is about your interaction with yourself. A good therapist will only ask you the right kinds of questions to get you to the crux of the matter but the dealing with the grief, pain, joy, and resentment is all yours. Unfortunately, there is no amount of money that would allow you to let somebody else feel your pain or experience your journey. 

Once you try to look at yourself as just another person, you start to find meaning in your everyday feelings and reactions. Your slate starts to organize itself and there are multiple moments of sheer clarity that make you go ‘ahhhh, this is why’. Today, I had an epiphany and I realized that I gravitate towards people with depth. While I watch with amusement those who build walls around themselves just so that they wouldn’t feel pain or those who find ways to avoid pain at any cost, I, for one, look for people who understand that the only way to get to the end is through it. With one of the most advanced anatomy, we, as humans, are called social animals for a reason. Our bodies secrete chemicals that dictate our moods and try as we may to run away from the implications, in reality, we are only making the knots tighter and the slate more crowded. It is difficult, yes, but allow yourself to crack the surface of the ocean and hit rock bottom before you inspect each piece of yourself and start to build yourself together again. The pieces may have changed after the healing and you may have to move them around but I assure you one thing- you will be whole again.

There are two kinds of people in this world- one are those who avoid pain and find ways to distract themselves from it, and then there are those who dive into the deepest oceans of pain, let the feeling fill their lungs, and find their way back from rock bottom. Do you ever wonder which one you are?