We are not Islands
by Nadia S*, Counsellor, Psychologist, Scientist.



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“I am a psychologist. In Psychology as it stands today, there is a broad consensus that we are individuals, islands really, connected by senses, words and actions.

“Now with the work of psychologists like Miligram, this Island hypothesis has actually come under assault, we have opened up to the idea that a deep interaction exists, we have seen our hormones influence each other, in Miligram’s seminal experiments it was seen that when women live together their cycles can synchronise. We are influenced by each other’s pheromones. Also, in the related field of evolutionary biology we see how relatedness or unrelatedness of DNA, influences the way we act or react. So family does influence each other. The way dogs and humans interrelate has a lot to do with DNA according to some reports.

“We are separate Islands, with some trade happening, is what psychologists, broadly believe. But are we principally islands? Or are we densely interconnected beings living under the illusion of separateness? Are we really countries on one continent? Separated not by reality, but ways of existence, by conventions that separate Iran from Iraq?

“Now if you are talking to someone, you may feel for them, you may feel happy or sad when they do. You may empathise. But can it be that you feel something and my heart starts beating wildly? Is it possible that you, 3 rooms away are anguished and I without any cues go through a depression? Can you feel the burdens of strangers, the rages of passers-by?

“I would like you to consider the answer ‘Yes’. And as proof I am not going to quote Miligram or call on Jung. I am going to call on Me.

“Now, Tarun & Celia are spiritualists, founders of Devadhara Healing, but in my mind they are psychic scientists. They are not people who ask you to believe in what they believe, instead they ask you to examine the reality and vastness of your own experience, test it, ratify it and then come to your own unique conclusions.

“I have been doing a series of infrequent sessions, scattered across the years with them, of course intertwined with numerous other psychological workshops with many in my field.

“There were three triggers which catapulted me into a state that I will relate to you. One a deep, very relaxing, wonderfully enriching session with Tarun and Celia where I went to my core self… the other was a gestalt workshop. Now gestalt theory is a psychological approach which argues that we are parts of fields of consciousness and behaviour. In a sense it is the very antithesis of the Island theory of individuality that orthodox psychology clings on to. The third trigger has been the years of listening to children as a school counsellor… I guess my ear of empathy has grown.  

“Now this reasonable tone of mine is going to change, it is the one you would have encountered if you are in a counselling session with me, or meet me as a colleague, or at home, for I am the sensible one. I am about to immerse you in a state of openness I experienced, with great vividity for 3 weeks… and now post a session with Tarun & Celia, with far greater control.

“Here’s how I blurted it out to Tarun & Celia, when they showed me in a session how to take control of the experience.

“Sometimes it is hard for me to go into the street. It’s overwhelming. Everybody’s feelings, I am alive to them. Unspoken, unshown on faces, sometimes hidden even from them.

“After I left you guys last month, I felt as if something had unknotted. Little did I realise that it was much more. That the drawbridges that separate me from the world have fallen. Then I went to this gestalt workshop and the doors really opened up.

“Coming here, I was walking past someone, a stranger, I didn’t even notice him, then I felt a tearing on my shoulder, I look closer and realise I have felt a passerby’s feelings. To my trained eye the cues were there, the head is down, the walk sluggish, but this is very different from the times when I listen to someone in a session, I don’t just observe it, I feel it, for a while I carried his burdens weigh on my shoulders.

“Later, riding in an auto, I suddenly feel a deep unbearable sadness. It stifles my chest. Awhile later the auto-driver starts talking about a heartbreak. My heart was beating with his pain. He was facing away from me. He was actually till then just a khaki brown shirted man… I hadn’t really paid too much attention to him…  

“A secret web has opened, I am connected to everything, everyone, everywhere. I feel your pain. I experience your pain. But this not just abstract. You feel sad? My heart twists like a tormented beast.

“It hit hardest when I was in my room, when without warning I felt like a ton of bricks were crushing me. A door open closes outside, I hear footsteps, I think of my brother clattering down the stairs. The feeling vanishes miraculoously. Later my brother says courtship anguish had dragged him down. I was feeling my brother’s feelings from another room. I didn’t even know he was there. I didn’t know he was feeling sad. But my heart felt it.

“After 3 weeks of being the beating heart for the whole world, I went to, Tarun & Celia. First they helped put barriers up so the experience becomes manageable, I can choose to open up or shut things down. Basically devices that act like border checkposts. Secondly, more importantly they helped me treasure the knowledge that there are bridges between me and the world.

“I am writing this piece because by writing it I begin to understand the kind of world my experience illuminates and really because it is a gift, and it is not mine alone… it is ours…

“As of today I have not absorbed the experience sufficiently to map the degree of interconnectedness… Are we gestalts? Are we interconnected mangroves of mind? Are we people with in-built transmission towers, that will take years to arrive…

“I write this really, because as Tarun & Celia remind me that it is a precious gift. ‘How is having everyone’s feeling in your heart a gift?’ you may ask.  ‘Well, yes’, initially when flooded by all the world’s pain I asked myself the very same question. The precious gift is this – You & I are not alone. We are not islands, there are bridges between you and the world. Now there are times when you will feel alone, when you may feel no one knows what you are going through. That’s not true, sometimes whether I like it or not, I do. I hear the feelings tucked deep away. And if I can hear it, so can the gestalt self, the vaster consciousness I believe is God. Yes, we are connected, so your pain bleeds through to someone, your anguish is heard.

“In everyone’s life, there have been hours, days, months, years when life shows its darkest face. Times when there is no one around, no help, no support… I believe if in your darkest hour you remember you are connected, {if not to God, for you may not believe in such a thing, but to greater mankind at least}, then someone will listen… the universe will respond…

“Now you may say that just because someone hears doesn’t mean help will arrive. Very true. But as a psychologist who has dealt with thousands of children and adults, I can say this, first and foremost a counsellor is a listener, the very act of having someone listening to you has a remarkable effect on the mind.  If you talk and think to yourself no one is listening, and if you talk and know someone hears, there is a vast difference. That is the real basis of counselling. Someone listens. And so here is one more face of the gift. Whether you talk or no, verbalise it or no, whether you are in the Gobi desert or Antractica… someone listens… someone knows… someone cares… 

You also may wish to read Oneness in Real Life. A socratean session of Kanak with Tarun...





  Painting: Cosmic Lovers By Tarun Cherian. Image Copyright reserved.  
  * Due to obvious professional compulsions, counsellor, psychologist, scientist wishes to write under the pseudonym, Nadia S.