Sangeeta is a 43 years old housewife whose only child, a 12-year-old boy with intellectual disability is attending Jai Vakeel School for Children in Need of Special Care, run by The Research Society (TRS). Sangeeta’s husband is bed ridden with paralysis. Reasons for her referral included agitated behavior, occasional anger outbursts and stress that she was experiencing.

I saw Sangeeta for 7 sessions over six weeks. We worked on externalizing feelings of frustration and the anger outbursts, and gradually moved toward building an alternative or preferred story that supported her values, dreams, and hopes.

Once a comfortable rapport was built between us, I asked her some of the following externalizing questions to help her view herself as an entity separate from her problems. These questions also helped me understand the nature of the problems she was responding to.

  • How do you feel when anger comes to you?
  • What happens before it comes to you?
  • If you were to give it a name, by what name would you like to call it?
  • What does it look like? Does it have any color?
  • Are there any particular situations when it comes to you more?

Sangeeta said that when anger came to her, she felt like hitting her head, her eyes became red, and she felt as if sparks were coming out from her head as it happens when one rubs two stones against each other. She decided to call this a big “Kala Vaner” (black monkey). She said it comes to her while dealing with her bed-ridden husband, when relatives visit her, sometimes when working with her handicapped child, and when on roads.

I then began asking questions to find out the effects of “Kala Vaner” on her.

  • What happens when “Kala Vaner” comes to you?
  • What does “Kala Vaner” make you do?
  • Does it have any effect on your relationshipswith husband/ relatives?
  • When it visits you, do good or bad things happen?

She described that whenever “Kala Vaner” came to her, she spoke rudely to her husband or relatives, sometimes used bad words, banged vessels, and locked herself in her room, often leading to the family not eating their meal. She said that the atmosphere becomes tense and nothing good happens.

As the sessions progressed, I asked her about the position she would like to take in view of all the effects of “Kala Vaner”.

  • Are you happy when “Kala Vaner” comes to you?
  • Do you want it to be with you?
  • Why do you think it should go away from your life?
  • Are there any times/situations when “Kala Vaner” does not come to you?
  • Was there any situation when you were able to resist “Kala Vaner” coming to you?

Sangeeta said she was not happy when “Kala Vaner” came to her as her health would affected by his arrival – she would get a headache and develop acidity. Feelings of regret would come to her especially when her husband would not eat. She was willing to bring about a change in her life and expressed her confidence that she can do it.

This was a breakthrough point and gave me an opportunity to ask why she wanted to bring about the change and what it would mean to her. Her values, sense of responsibility of looking after husband, her child, and teachings of her father surfaced. Somewhere along the course, her dreams and hopes of being well groomed and looking good, as she was in the past, also surfaced.

While reauthoring and developing preferred stories, Sangeeta mentioned her skills and hobbies of cooking, playing sports, swimming, driving, and enjoying music. While talking about these unique outcomes, she said she wanted to replace “Kala Vaner” with “Swatcha Mann” (clean mind).

By the end of 3-4 sessions Sangeeta reported improved relationships with her husband, her sister-in-law and her brother. She reported that her husband commented about a change in her nature, she was able to make him do his exercises without getting irritated, and he now even disclosed a few financial matters that he never did in the past. She called over her sister-in-law of her own accord and was able to keep “Kala Vaner” away at that time.

We further discussed the steps she took that helped reduce the intensity of “Kala Vaner”. She made time for an appointment at the beauty parlor, a treat that made her feel good and one that she had not given herself in a long time. Her friends also noticed and commented on a positive change in her way of communicating and being more social. She could also do an important pending Government task because of “Swatcha Mann”.

As a counselor, I felt that “externalizing” helped her separate the problem from herself and then carry out activities to address them. All along I was a facilitator, de-centered but influential, discussing the position she wanted to take to “re-author” her problem story and highlighting the “unique outcomes”, while Sangeeta shaped her own “preferred story” based on her values, dreams and hopes.

-Amita Shah

Clinical Psychologist, Jai Vakeel School for Children in Need of Special Care

Participant, Community Mental Health Training Program (CMHTP)

Amita Shah
Amita Shah
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