Sunday, August 19, 2007

Office Spouse'

For an outsider looking at the corporate culture is just like looking at the earth from outer space; everything is serene and there seems to be no reason to suspect otherwise. But as you start zooming in more and more, you get to see people, and their lives.

Professionals, as most of us are, should strictly mean business when it comes to the work environment. Though our basic human nature and the social system we are brought up in ensures that apart from the profession, there are further interactions in the work space. Most of us end up spending close to 10-12 hours or more at work, which means that the effective time to relax the mind is reduced. So some amount of relaxation has to be found within the office space. This interaction is in terms of networking which includes gossiping, chatting etc. As I had discussed in one of my earlier essays, this social interaction in the office, is useful in replenishing the positive energy within us. So, these interactions and friendships in the office space make the job more interesting and comparatively less taxing.

These office friendships become a mutual support mechanism and discuss anything ranging from work to movies to sports, food etc. So when, among these office friendships, comes across an interesting person with whom it feels nice to be with, with whom flirtation is a given, yet the sub layer under currents are attractive, the end result is a bond which is very much a personal life within the professional life. This phenomenon is what I call as office spouses.

Running back to my oldest resource, the Wikipedia, I found some good understanding on the subject. And I club it here with my thoughts and try to bring some sense to the subject.

An office spouse is a co-worker (usually of the opposite sex) with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage; such as, special confidences, loyalties, shared jokes and experiences, and an unusual degree of honesty or openness.

The office spouse is a potentially key relationship when one's actual spouse or boy/girlfriend is not able to understand the nuances of the workplace.

Office spouses are the embodiment of the merging of our personal and professional lives. It is an essentially a platonic relationship which is different from friendship, but has in it what it takes to blossom further. This relationship may or may not result in an extension to the personal life. They might just be present in the office space, or in other scenarios grow into something more special. Not commenting on their chances for the same, I do feel it is one interesting proposition to explore.

So now the question arises, is it a modern phenomenon, or has it been present in earlier times too? Well, I feel the phenomena is not new, but a recognition of its ever increasing presence has been accorded in the recent times with the blurring of the office working hours. Office spouses are the answer to the sense of claustrophobia which sets in due to long working hours. A study in the US mentioned that such relationships may not only make one happier with the job, but also increases the chances of promotions and raises. In 2006, a similar study in the US showed that 32% of respondents in the corporate world had office husbands and office wives. Although no such data is available for India, I do feel the figures might not be that much different.

Some people try to tie down office spouses phenomena as a joke. They make fun of such office couples when they see. Not to blame them for their shortsightedness, I think it is completely a matter of personal choice and liking. One might vehemently deny its sheer existence, but once faced they see light.

Through this essay I am stating a social phenomenon, and in no way propagating them. But, wait a minute, on hindsight, even if I am propagating office spouse’s phenomena, so what? I am writing about it because I see it and see no wrong with it. As mentioned earlier, the sheer support one feels in presence of their office spouses, makes working worthwhile and enjoyable.

I knew two colleagues and realized they shared a special bond. They had respect for
each others likes and dislikes and always used to enjoy their company. They never romantically committed but missed the other one when he/she was on leave or away. They helped each other in their office tasks and ensured the work did not suffer. I never asked them about this relationship, lest I become just like others who winked and smiled when they saw them together, happy in each others company. This was my first brush with the phenomenon of office spouses.

Cinema has off late started to talk about such relationships but being the medium it is and the audience it caters to, most such depictions are frivolous and lack sound understanding. Most of these relationships are often confused as extra-marital. But in fact they are not. There is a very thin line of difference between office spouses and extra-marital relationships. As I said earlier office spouses essentially share a platonic relationship which might or might not grow. So clubbing both these phenomena is wrong.

Having read all this, you must wonder, should you look for office spouse’ or that you haven’t ever felt such connect with anybody, is there something wrong with you? Well, nothing is wrong with you. It is just like love, it might just happen when you least expect it. So don’t mess up with your friends after reading this, and wait for the right moment :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Withdrawal refers to the characteristic signs and symptoms that appear when a drug that causes physical or psychological dependence is regularly used for a long time and then suddenly discontinued or decreased in dosage. Easiest example of this being people leaving smoking, alcohol, and other psychotropic drugs.

Having mentioned what exactly is withdrawal, let us just look at withdrawal in terms of relationships. Now I am in no way saying that a relationship is like a drug, but it does make one physically or psychologically dependent. So when time comes to move on in life, it may result in certain withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is difficult in both cases, be it drugs or human relationships. It is painful and depressing. But where and when exactly do these withdrawal symptoms occur? Are these visible, and if yes, can we observe, and correct the same? This led me to Wikipedia, where I resort for most of my research, and this time I found Withdrawal broken down in to four stages. As complicated as these may sound, they are plausible and one can figure through personal examples whether it is drugs or human relationships.

The first phase is called intrapsychic phase where the individuals involved in a relationship privately evaluate the relationship in terms of its quality and alternatives. Basically this can be referred to as the beginning of disillusionment, although it is more controlled and held in thoughts.

This is followed by the dyadic phase when these thoughts become public, and is characterized by increase in the frequency of conflicts. Here the partners actually shift back and forth between amicable resolution of the conflict issue and complete dissolution of the relationship. This is actually the last point of re-call in a relationship. Beyond this, the relationship is headed for complete withdrawal.

Now comes the social phase when both individuals acknowledge the social repercussions for separating. The social phase is followed by the somewhat aptly called grave dressing phase, involving a more optimistic, and what seems to be a more objective, evaluation and remembrance.

Withdrawal symptoms occur in the Social phase. In human relationships withdrawal is sometimes characterized by confusion among the partners. Common truth about the relationship is seldom resorted to, and mostly conflicts are blamed on to individual hallucinations, although both know what the truth is. In human relationships and other drug abuse situations, this phase is characterized by severe mood swings.

This leads us to the question that is withdrawal mutual or individual. Fact of the matter is it can be both, but I do think, withdrawal is mutual. It is totally dependent on how soon can one reach acceptance of the fact. No doubt break-up can be sudden, but one should here look at the sub-conscious, which already has started observing withdrawal, but is not ready to accept.

But does withdrawal occur suddenly or is it going on under the surface for long. Frankly, I think withdrawal process is going on inside the mind for a long time. The mind is already taking the individuals through the various phases of withdrawal without them even being able to accept. And when this acceptance occurs in the social phase, the mood swings, confusions and so called hallucinations occur.

It is a difficult phase and one needs to be objective in handling such situations. Although I understand, it is easier said than done, but mostly break-up’s go wrong in the transition from the dyadic to the social phase. It is here when all plausible solutions are exhausted and realization dawns that the end is near. Here as a last ditch effort to save what is going out of control that people show withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is sometimes characterized by acute depression also. And soon can become a medical problem. Depression is generally fed by lack or excess of sympathy. So in handling withdrawal around us or for ourselves too, the basic idea should be to make it gradual and mutually least hurting for both the parties.

Withdrawal is a reality and all of us at some stage in life go through it. Be it in relationships or other wise we do feel a sense of withdrawal. One has to realize here that an end is always followed by a new beginning. Even though sometimes we may not see what the source for the new beginning is, just have faith that there is one, and sooner or later we will find it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Social Convection

For long I have had this theory that, everyone we see, meet, or talk actually changes us. In the past, I have tried to explain relationships with this principle, but never has this been proven. This essay is an effort to prove this theory.
Let me start by a small incident to set the mood.
There is an old coffee shop in the city. I was there with a friend having coffee, wearing our tracks and not shaved. We were looking not much out of place due to the presence of some foreigners. But then came, an old gentleman, dressed in a suit and a tie. We heard muffled laughter. Some people including us thought that he looked so much out of place.
Seeing us quip, one of the waiters told us, that in early times, in the elderly gentleman’s times, people used to put a lot of emphasis on dressing up for coffee rendezvous. And he still carried that tradition.
Interesting, as in those times, a good cup of coffee in a respectable restaurant was costly, and dining there was just a once month affair, unlike these days. This sounded plausible, as we saw the elderly gentleman sipping his coffee with so much satisfaction and pride. Soon, I and my friend felt a lot under-dressed in front of the elderly gentleman. He had changed us. This is what I call, Social Convection.
Now let us try and break the concept of social convection into parts. The waiter’s description converted our negative impulses into a positive thought. Others could have ridiculed him further and gone ahead. This further would have created a lot of negative energy.
So are we arriving at a thought that the human brain actually builds up energy? I think, yes!! The human brain does create energy!!
Just consider Newton’s law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A law of physics, but if you apply it to our daily lives it does prove the negative energy theory of the brain. All action we do as a part of our daily routines and professions, takes its toll on us in the form of stress. This stress is actually the reaction, as mentioned by Newton.
The energy thus created is generally negative as it is the outcome of our efforts to complete the tasks at hand. It is a by product of our efforts. And the human brain builds an automatic positive-negative energy balance.
Different people deal with this negative energy build-up in different ways. Some people sleep to relax, some feed this negative energy with more negative energy and get caught in a vicious cycle, while some others use it for a positive outcome.
Let us first take negative use of this negative energy. This is visible in people who crib and subsequently are prone to depression. These people feed this negative energy with more negative energy, thus breaking the positive-negative balance.
Second is through Positive action, creating something, helping someone etc. This visibly reduces the stress. I felt the power of positive action, when I wrote my first story. There was a visible relief as I felt energy leave my body as sweat.
Having said all this about the positive-negative balance, are we saying that maintaining this positive-negative balance is a once a day affair? No, actually we replenish our positive energy resources many times during the day.
If we consider, the fact that most of us take a break during our daily routines and chat with people, eat, smoke, read, write etc., and then we are actually replenishing our energy. The basis of social networking is replenishment of the positive energy to act and perform our daily tasks. This should make most of us happy, who swear by chatting with friends at work :-).
The social interaction is nothing but convection. Consider keeping a glass of hot tea in a room. In some time the tea gets warmer, and then cold. That is because everything around is constituted of particles. The hot particles of the tea cup, pass their heat to the cooler particles present in the air. And soon, the tea is warmer.
The same principle of convection is valid our daily actions. Let us come back to the incident at the coffee shop. Our beliefs and those of others who had laughed were negative energy particles in the room. The waiter’s intervention had soon given way to positive energy particles to replace them. Without us knowing, convection had taken place, and the unknown old gentleman and the waiter, had changed us forever.
As another example, if we are angry, we tend to lose our anger by talking to others. One of my friends came out angry after a meeting. She had been blamed for something which according to her was unjust. She was fuming and came out to speak to the rest of us. By just mere speaking, the anger slowly dissipated and she started to look for a way to get back. This is dissipation of the negative energy to lead to a much better and positive outcome.
Having said all this, I think the idea of positive negative balance in the brain is similar to Yin and Yang. We have to channelize our energies for the good of others and also maintaining sanity and physical balance. And all this will automatically happen through social convection, we just have to channelize to be positive in our approach.
May be through this essay, some particles of my social convection theory have passed on to you. In case, you don’t think so, I think, you need to channelize your energy for a positive outcome and think more :-).