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    Counsel on what it really means to love yourself

    IF you’ve been putting off that date with your psychiatrist on your romantic goals (read: woes) — this may be exactly what you need. We sat down with Vijay Nagaswami, psychiatrist, author and the city’s go-to relationship expert for a session on self-love and enhancing relationships all round.

    PS: Stretch out on a couch before reading for the full experience.

    What’s a good activity to try to feel significant and loved in the absence of a significant other?
    Not having a significant other impacts one’s sense of belonging. So, getting involved in organised group activities will, while not compensating for the lack of a partner, facilitate a sense of belonging. Joining a trekking club, a theatre group, a Zumba class, a book club, an environmentalist group, or whatever catches one’s fancy, may help.

    Have you seen any patterns with couples in the run up to V-Day?
    Unfortunately, yes. All our senses are barraged by the media in the lead up V-Day, which has now come to be almost an annual appraisal of how much one loves one’s partner and vice-versa. As a result, pressure mounts to be creative in the expression of one’s love. The way I see it, expressing love creatively and dramatically once a year, hardly cuts it. Expressing love through the year works much better.

    The phrase Love Yourself has been doing the rounds quite a bit and more so after the recent Justin Bieber song. Can you break it down for us — in actionable steps that go beyond a day at the spa or new car? T
    hat’s right. It has become a buzzword, a catchphrase, something you tell someone who’s feeling down in the dumps. However, what the term refers to is ‘Value Yourself’. If we are mindful of our positive qualities, not in denial of our negative qualities and are able to appreciate that we bring value to our work and relationships in very unique and distinctive ways, then we begin to value ourselves.

    Do men and women experience loneliness differently?
    Loneliness feels the same to both genders, but men and women might deal with it in different ways. Typically, men tend to externalise their responses and women tend to internalise them. Social and cultural factors also play a role. For example, in our country men may find it easier to go out alone to the movies or go to a bar alone and get drunk or have a onenight stand, but women may find this less doable.

    Both genders tend to use a few common defense mechanisms: distraction, fantasy, displacement and rarely, sublimation, by doing charitable acts. Also, loneliness often results in high-risk online behaviour.

    — Sonali Shenoy

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