Book: A Moment of Insight: Universal Lessons Learned from a Psychiatrist’s Couch
Author: Dr. Suvrat Bhargave
BY NAVAMI NAIK*
“How come?” “What now?” “Why me?” If you have ever asked yourself such questions, then Dr. Suvrat Bhargave’s book, A Moment of Insight: Universal Lessons Learned from a Psychiatrist’s Couch, should definitely be on top of your reading list. Raised in Atlanta, Dr Bhargave is an educator, speaker, and board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry.
Through stories about his patients’ struggles and by sharing a closely-guarded secret that deeply impacted his own life, Dr. Bhargave assures us that we are not alone. We have all felt overwhelmed, we have all felt victimized by outside forces that aren’t within our control, we have all second-guessed our relationships and we have all doubted our worth. The good news, he says, is that each of our problems also brings with it the opportunity to solve not just the current problem, but to decipher the most worthwhile questions of life itself. However, for any change to occur, you have to experience a “moment of Insight,” a pivotal shift in perception, a moment of realization in your mind, that a certain way of thinking, feeling, or behaving is no longer working for you.
Written in an easy-to-understand conversational style, each chapter of this book offers practical strategies to not only understand and persevere through challenging dilemmas, but to dig deeper, to value who we are at our core and to live our lives in a more meaningful way. A Moment of Insight: Universal Lessons Learned from a Psychiatrist’s Couch is available on Amazon and Audible.
What prompted you to write this book?
As a psychiatrist, people come to see me when they are going through the most difficult of times. I have the privilege of sitting down with them and sharing their truths. Of witnessing their wisdom as they work through the problems challenging them. I felt that the learning, the wisdom, that occur as a result of these deep, raw and vulnerable discussions are universal life lessons that we can all learn from and had to be passed on.
However, when I was half-way through the book, I had doubts and almost did not complete it. Co-incidentally, one of my children was going through a life crisis at that time and as I talked to him, I realized that what I was saying was everything that I had written in the book. I took that as a sign from God to keep writing. In fact, when I gave my children the manuscript to read, I wrote on it, “If you ever wondered what papa thought, this is what I know. If I ever learn more, I will write another book”.
An interesting feature of your book is that you include chapters that say “Your Insight. Can you explain your idea behind this?
We are all more open to receiving and exchanging information when we relate to one another and are not being preached to. My aim was to make the book relatable, to have a conversation with the reader. Knowing that I wasn’t sitting down with every reader, it was important for me that the book be as interactive as possible.
On the pages titled, “Your Insights” I really wanted my readers to take the time to reflect on their personal thoughts and insights based on what they had read in the previous chapters. I feel so very proud when people come back to me after reading the book and tell me that they have done that and it has helped them. One of my readers said he felt that the book was like a manual for living life. This was very meaningful to me because this book is not only meant for those struggling with mental health issues. This book is about everyday struggles and how to live life purposefully.
An important tool given in your book is identifying our gifts. Can you tell us more about this?
For most of my patients, who they understand themselves to be depends on what they are doing or what is happening in their lives at any given moment. Their identities are tied to the world around them. Thankfully, who we are isn’t as fluid as all that.
One of my own greatest Moments of Insight also involved this notion of “Who am I?” I understood that each one of us is equipped with certain innate qualities or “gifts” and it isn’t that my gifts are better or worse than anyone else’s. I have my gifts and you have yours. These gifts are the core of who you are, and who you are is constant.
Taking the time to get to know your gifts is not as easy as it sounds. It is important to come up with the list without any input from others. The whole point of the endeavor is to find out about yourself, not to find out what others think of you. Once you can answer “Who am I?” you won’t need others to define you. My moment of Insight could finally allow ME to know ME without the burden of perceived opinions.
The cool thing is that once you know what your gifts are, you can live your life in a purposeful way, because the opportunity to use your gifts is everywhere. I was so aware of what I wasn’t doing well that I was missing all the opportunity to use my gifts. Now, I find myself using all my five gifts every day.
Have you had any additional “insight” post publication that you would like you to share?
The additional insight I have gained really comes more in the form of an affirmation, which has been highlighted even more since the book came out. It is important to speak your truth, to be vulnerable, and people are going to hold you when you are being vulnerable. I knew that even before the book came out because I spoke my truth to the person closest to me, my wife Kali, and found value in it. But since the book has been published, I have had even more reason to talk about it and I realize that I am no longer held back like I used to be before. I am not saying that everyone should write a book about their truth or do an interview but if the experiences in your life cause you to feel shame and hold you back then bringing your truth into the light is necessary to move forward.
Yes, you have shared a very difficult personal experience in this book stating that you “fully expected the ramifications”. Can you share the response with us?
It was a cathartic experience to write about it in the book, but it was tough. I was slowly unwrapping the layers of a secret that had been packed away for a long time and it wasn’t easy. Having my experiences written down meant having discussions with my family that I had never thought to have. When we are dreading something, we always think about the worst-case scenario. I expected that the revelations in the book would have ramifications to do with my family, my career and my community.
Every time I thought about having the conversation with my family and friends, it was always a catastrophic event in my head. The reactions of my friends and family were all different from what I had expected, except that there was hurt and I knew that there would be. I knew there would be no way to walk around it because you have to walk through hurt and I knew that the reason there would be hurt is because they love me so much. Honestly, it was hard to see my loved ones so angry, sad and fearful but as I say in my book, there is the opportunity to grow the relationships further when you have these conversations. The reactions of my friends and family have been overwhelmingly positive and incredibly loving and we are actually finding ourselves getting closer as a result. Which is ironic, because my fear would have led me to believe that everything would fall apart.
When I think about community I think about my closest friends who have now become my family but I also mean the community in general. I had to remind myself that part of the reason for writing about my experience was so that we could have these discussions in the open and that anyone else who had gone through the same trauma would see that they are not alone. We, as a community are uncomfortable talking about it and so we are actually perpetuating the consequences of it. However, although the book was released in March this year, the big discussion that I was hoping for within my community has not yet happened. I feel that people are being protective about my feelings and I would like to reassure everyone that I am fine and that I wrote about this because I do want us to talk about it.
Any special message for our readers as they make their resolutions for the new year?
On New Year’s Eve we often make resolutions about being healthier physically, which means eating better and exercising more. Let us also make a promise to ourselves going forward to become more emotionally strong. For some, that will mean addressing whatever is holding them back, for example not feeling good enough or not being able to let go of something. For others, it may mean incorporating practices and routines to flex our emotional muscles, for example things like gratitude journals, mindfulness strategies or meditative practices, or acts of kindness. My hope is that each of us can be mentally as well as physically stronger in 2020.
*Navami Naik is an Atlanta-based public health and communications professional.