Mind Over Matter

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The nature versus nurture debate is long-running. Dr. Shefali Batra takes one step towards nurturing with her first book, Teenage Matters. The psychiatrist, counsellor and founder of MINDFRAMES talks to Anindra Siqueira about being an author and more

Dr. Shefali Batra is a psychiatrist, counsellor and the founder of MINDFRAMES, a wellness clinic. She recently finished writing her first book, which was launched in Mumbai by actor Riteish Deshmukh, has also written the foreword. They’ve known each other since they were in their teens, so it’s apt that he helped launch her book, as it focuses on common problems and misgivings that teenagers experience regularly.

The title implies that your book is for teenagers or adolescents, but what can people of other age groups take from the book — we’re all essentially adolescents at heart, right?
Absolutely! We’re all young at heart, but I wouldn’t say that is the real reason adults should read the book. I think that when we’re children, life is just too easy — we’re cared for, we don’t have much of an opinion on most of life’s events and most of our existence seems like it’s on autopilot. It’s only when we turn 12 or13-years-old that life begins to unravel from the ‘perfect’ charade to an ‘imperfect’ reality. And teenagers are struck with the struggle to balance academic responsibility, parental differences, and emotional turmoil. Adults face similar struggles, albeit in different contexts and varied proportions. So, this book would be a good read for teenagers and adolescents as it is addressed to young minds, but I will admit that anyone who is seeking simple solutions to life’s apparently not-so-simple problems can use the tips from this book.

How will your book help teenagers to deal with their problem? And where do adults figure into this?
As the title Teenage Matters emphasises, so teenage matters should not be neglected. The book is addressed to the reader and strikes a memory chord, enabling them to associate things with some similar event their lives. The simple situations and routine examples allow readers to feel as though it’s all been written especially for them. The book offers direction in a friendly manner, especially for adolescents, who often feel lost for direction and are unaware of the right choices. Parents of teenagers can benefit from the book too, because it directs them towards an apposite parenting path for the tumultuous adolescent.

How many of your personal experiences find their way into your book?
I have guided over a few thousand children and adolescents through my practice as a psychiatrist and behavioural consultant in my clinical setting, as well as in schools and self-development workshops. I believe more in the nurture than nature theory of growth, so I would say that my book is very heavily inspired by my personal experiences. Every individual that I have interacted with has had a lesson to offer. Most of all, every child and adolescent I may have interacted with (from the time I was a teenager to today) has been my inspiration to write this book.

Can you tell us a little bit about your wellness clinic MINDFRAMES? Why did you start it; what was your aim?
That’s like asking me about my child, so I love this question! MINDFRAMES is a concept that I devised a decade ago; of wellness in the mind aimed at reframing thinking, to enable a smooth and accomplishing existence. I believe that whether we live 10, 47 or 98 years, life is short. And moments in this life ought not to be wasted on anger, irritability, frustration, contempt, envy, sadness and regret. When I completed my education as a psychiatrist in 2004, I was keen to be someone who not only helped correct pathology, but was also instrumental in preventing it. So, I started MINDFRAMES, to help spread awareness about psychological wellness (and illness). As an online portal of information, MINDFRAMES offers simple accounts of different psychological disorders in user-friendly language. From a clinical standpoint, I offer online, as well as clinic consultations with cognitive, emotive and practical approaches to solving emotional problems. With the same intent, I conduct group seminars, workshops and corporate training — all with the aim of taking psychological wellness to the common man.

What’s the one piece of advice you most value that has had a major impact in your life?
Life is not easy for anyone. A piece of advice that impacted my life, and what I live by even today is that the expectation of perfection is the root of anguish. Imperfections make this world, and when we strive to be the best of who we can be in the midst of them, we can get our life close to perfect.

How much of an influence does your clinical work have on your book?
My clinical work has a significant impact on my book. In fact I would say this is not a book, it is counseling through a book. Addressed directly to the reader, it talks about the events in his or her life and speaks in second person about appropriate ways of thinking, feeling
and behaving.

You launched your book a few months ago. How does it feel to be a published author?
Yes, this is my debut book. I always thought that writing a book was something I had to do one day! Much before it was published I was pondering over my varied emotions: excitement, pride, satisfaction, accomplishment? I wasn't so sure. Now that it’s been a few months post publication, I feel humility towards those who tell me they’re applying it to their life and feel as though it’s written just for them. There are so many accomplished authors that have written life-changing books (I’ve read many of them too); it makes me realise that I have a long way to go and many miles before I sleep. Right now, I feel an eagerness to gain feedback, identify what resonates well with my readers and intend on writing my next book sometime soon!

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