Understanding the Human Mind and Its Effect on Our Behavior

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(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)

The human mind is the most complex machine on Earth. It is the source of all our thoughts and behaviors. Although we cannot observe the mind directly, everything we do, think, feel and say is determined by the functioning of the mind. Our external behaviors are influenced by our mind too. Psychologists have been emphasizing on understanding human mind in order to understand behavioral problems of human being so that we can overcome those problems successfully and enjoy a meaningful life. In this regard, the book “Mon o Manosikata (Understanding the Mind)” is a very timely initiative by Dr. Mehtab Khanam, a noted Psychologist, counselor and Professor at the Department of Educational and Counseling 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 Bengali dailies.

Topics/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 counselor. Based on his two decades of neurobiological research, Gurian explores that romantic relationship between husband and 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 for successful conjugal life. Mehtab Khanam urges for introducing ‘Pre-marital Counseling’ which, she believes, can be an effective strategy to maintain healthy relationship in 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 turn out.  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 good self esteem tend to raise children with more secure 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 trait that remains consistent throughout life. However, Dr. Khanam observes, being a responsible parent is difficult especially in this day and age 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 emotion and mental health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships. They can keep problems in perspective. The author emphasizes on 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 time 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 creates negative impact on family as well as community. She urges that parents should teach social skills to their daughters which can help develop self-esteem among the girls. Topics/essays related to ‘Education, Attitude and Self-development’ are discussed in the fifth chapter of this book. Research shows that positive attitude to 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 effort 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 supports the idea that if we have strong, caring relationships with family and friends, we are more likely to be healthy and live longer. Interpersonal relationship requires the most effort to nurture and maintain. 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 environment has changed, so has the life style and with that changes the mind of children. Today’s generation does not like others interfering in any of their personal matters, they don’t like parents ordering them, and if they try and tell them what’s wrong for them, they are likely to misbehave with their parents. The question arises that, what is the reason behind all these. It is the parents’ mistake or is it cause of the generation gap. Generation gap, the author believes, is basically created by the people themselves. They hardly talk to their children and share their own points of views with the children. The point is that the parents are just so busy with their work and jobs that they do not have time for their family and their children. And they realize it when there has a huge distance 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 about the topics/essays related to ‘Mental Health Awareness and the Role of Counseling’. Mental health problems are in the rise worldwide. The author urges for introducing mental health counseling service through telephone or mobile. She also believes that professional counselors understand principles of human development, psychology, 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 Citizen and Social Obligations’. Every person has a duty to be a responsible citizen. But unfortunately, not everyone takes this responsibility 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 topics/essays lively and easily understandable. The author deserves appreciation for her dedication and efforts to produce this very informative and useful book.

The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: smrayhanulislam@hotmail.com

  • Understanding the Human Mind and Its Effect on Our Behavior
  • Issue 15
  • Book Review
  • S. M. Rayhanul Islam
  • Vol 35

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