The human mind is the most complex system in living creatures. It is the source of all human thoughts and behaviours. Although we cannot notice the mind, everything we do, think, feel and say is determined by the functioning of the mind. Our external behaviours are influenced by our mind too. Psychologists have been emphasising understanding the human mind in order to comprehend behavioural problems of human beings so that we can overcome those successfully, and enjoy a meaningful life. In this regard, the book 'Mon O Manosikata' (Understanding the Mind) is a timely initiative by Dr. Mehtab Khanam, a noted psychologist, counsellor and Professor at the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, University of Dhaka. The book is divided into eight main sections containing a total of 63 short essays/articles written by the author that were published earlier in the leading Bangla dailies.
The essays related to 'Conjugal Life' are discussed in the first section of the book. Needless to say that 'love' is the most important ingredient in husband-wife relationship in conjugal life. But 'Can love alone play the central role in sustainable conjugal relationship? The author attempts to answer this critical question in the introductory chapter. Here she mentions a ground-breaking research work conducted by Michael Gurian, an American author, social philosopher and a marriage and family counsellor. Based on his two decades of neurobiological research, Gurian explores that romantic relationship between a husband and a wife fluctuates at different stages in life. He has made a profound statement about the role of men in modern culture, and suggests a way for men and women to thrive together in what he calls "intimate separateness." The brain, Gurian argues, doesn't just seek more intimacy; it also seeks less intimacy at different times. Mental preparation before marriage is very crucial to successful conjugal lives. Mehtab Khanam urges introducing 'Pre-marital Counselling' which, she believes, can be an effective strategy in maintaining healthy relationship in a conjugal life.
The second section of the book focuses on the topics related to children's healthy growth and development. Children, in general, tend to grow up to be a lot like their parents. Parents play the key role in how their children emerge finally in terms of personality. If they do a good job of parenting, it means children also get a lot of good things from them. The author assumes that parents with strong self-esteem tend to instill in their children sharper sense of self esteem. For example, parents who succeed in education tend to have children who meet and even surpass their parents' accomplishments. And while it is true that children of divorced families are more likely to divorce, it is also true that children of happily married parents tend to find the same happiness in adult relationships.
Understanding the child is one of the most important things that one should learn as a parent. Parents need to bear in mind that each child has a unique personality-related trait that remains consistent throughout their lives. However, Dr. Khanam observes, being a responsible parent is difficult --- especially in these days when parents spend more time working rather than being with their kids. Understanding the child, hence, can be an effective way of becoming successful in the art of parenting.
The next section of the book examines the issues related to emotional and mental health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships. They can keep problems in perspective. The author emphasises why we should take care of our mind. Many of us spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy - not to mention money - taking care of our bodies, and trying to keep ourselves looking and feeling our best. But when it comes to the mind, less attention is paid. Taking care of the mind can come as an afterthought, and often we think of the mind as something outside of our own control. Research states time and again that the way you take care of yourself is related to how long you live and how happy you are. Those who take care of their physical and mental health needs are much happier.
The fourth section focuses on the topics related to women's self-reliance and development. Mehtab Khanam observes that in many families girls are not treated with due respect which ultimately exerts a negative impact on families as well as communities. She urges that parents should impart social skills to their daughters which can help develop self-esteem among the girls. Essays related to 'Education, Attitude and Self-development' are discussed in the fifth chapter of the book. Research shows that positive attitude towards education is one of the most important factors in predicting academic success. The author believes that positive attitude to learning is not something we are born with; it needs time and efforts to be developed and nurtured.
The next chapter examines the topics related to 'Interpersonal Relationship' which is very important for both mental and physical health. Research works support the idea that if we have strong, caring relationships with the family and friends, we are more likely to be healthy and live longer. Interpersonal relationship requires utmost efforts to nurture and maintain it. This chapter also covers an important topic named 'Generation Gap'. Generation gap is the main reason today why parents and children are moving away from each other. As we all know, the overall environment has changed, so has the life-style. These factors also change the mind of children. Today's generations do not like others to interfere in any of their personal matters; they don't like parents ordering them, and even if they try and tell them what's wrong for them. In that case, they are likely to misbehave with their parents. The question then arises as to what is the reason behind all these developments. Are the parents at fault or is it prompted by generation gap? Generation gap, the author believes, is basically created by the people themselves. They hardly talk to their children and share their points of views with them. The issue at stake is, are the parents so busy with their work and jobs that they do not have time for their families and their children? Unfortunately, they realise it when it is too late and a huge distance is created between the kids and the parents. The problem of generation gap can be easily solved. It is essential that parents give more freedom to their children so that they can express themselves. Whereas children should remember that freedom is not something to be over-indulged in.
Section seven of the book discusses the essays related to 'Mental Health Awareness and the Role of Counselling'. Mental health problems are on the rise worldwide. The author urges introducing mental health counselling service through telephone or mobile. She also believes that professional counsellors understand the principles of human development, psychology and mental health issues, and they can establish effective helping relationships with people from diverse cultures. The last section of the book focuses on the issues related to 'Responsible Citizens and Social Obligations'. Every person has a duty to be a responsible citizen. But unfortunately, not everyone takes this role seriously. The author hopes that we use our conscience and avoid unhealthy social practices for the betterment of our families as well as communities.
Professor Mehtab Khanam uses many case studies and real life stories in her book which make the essays lively and easily understandable. The author deserves appreciation for her dedication and efforts to produce this very informative and useful book.
S. M. Rayhanul Islam is an independent researcher.
Mon O Manosikata (Understanding the Mind)
by Mehtab Khanam
Published by the University Press Limited (UPL), 2010
Pages: 264, ISBN: 978-984-8815-67-0