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Notes on counselling

Dealing with harmony

Dr. Soumitra Basu


A lack of harmony between the different parts of the being and the skewed nature of the ego impede the efficacy of counselling. A personality development programme that brings in harmony is conducive for counselling.

Counselling is sought in many areas of life but at the end of the day, one remains sceptical about its general efficacy. Perhaps one of the main reasons why counselling fails to deliver according to expectations is the lack of harmony in the individual. There is a lack of harmony between the different planes of the being. There is a lack of harmony between the thoughts, emotions and the bodily habits. The mind might be inspired to study but the body might come up with a headache. One might be emotionally involved in a relationship but the mind might have doubts. Moreover, the ego, which as the surface personality tries to balance our ideas, emotions and habits, is itself skewed towards one part of the being at the expense of others and cannot effectuate a real harmony; in fact, the ego itself seems to be a harbinger of disharmony.

The lack of harmony in the being results in a lack of receptivity as well as a distortion of whatever is received. Thus a counselling therapy aims to address a particular plane of the being but a disharmony in the whole being renders intervention at a single part to be not as effective as expected. A middle-aged executive has been advised to go jogging every morning to lift up his moods but during jogging his mind continues to brood on apprehensions and fears so that at the end very little is achieved. A fourteen-year-old boy was brought because his relationship with a girl from his peer group was taking away his prime time in studies. Moreover he had cut himself off from his own parents as well as the rest of his peer group not only physically but also symbolically as he had stopped all participation in sports to devote more time to his relationship. Such a background of disharmony can neither produce stability and consistency in an isolated area of functioning nor can be conducive to benefit from counselling sessions that focus on relationships. The ideal approach would be to allow such a subject to first focus on oneself to develop a modicum of harmony in one’s own being so that one can be ready to benefit from counselling sessions.

The disharmony in human nature is not a secondary feature of personality but the raison d’être of ill-health and disease. Sri Aurobindo (1) states, albeit unequivocally:

“Human life and mind are neither in tune with Nature like the animals nor with Spirit – it is disturbed, incoherent, conflicting with itself, without harmony and balance. We can then regard it as diseased, if not itself a disease.” (p. 499)

A module of counselling that emerges from the framework of a consciousness-based approach needs therefore an optimal poise of harmony for counselling to be effective; a disorganised state will not be able to receive or benefit any counselling intervention. It therefore follows that a personality development programme is a necessary prelude to counselling. However a superficial programme of personality growth that revolves around the ego tries to achieve harmony by eulogising the ego, tries to motivate by aggrandising the attributes of the ego, tries to aspire by inculcating a burning desire of the ego to be aggressively successful.

In an integral approach to personal growth, the harmony has to be established simul-taneously at different levels, between the different parts of the surface personality, between the outer being and inner being. But the most important task is to gradually replace the ego which is the nodus of disharmony by the inmost soul-principle or Psychic Being. It is around this ego-surpassing fourth dimensional principle that the discordant parts of the being can be effectively integrated to impart a real harmony.

Obviously, a real ego-surpassing harmony is sought through a lifetime of work in the sphere of personal growth and a typical counselling session for a pressing problem cannot wait for that to be fully achieved. However recognition of the need of harmony and the establishment of a modicum of harmony can start to make counselling a progressively effective tool.

One can start working by effecting a balance between the body and mind by a judicious development of the different parts of the being. A mind too much preoccupied with intellectual pursuits or indulging in ruminating, repetitive thoughts needs to be balanced with adequate physical exercises. But such an endeavour may not necessarily foster harmony as the mind may go on brooding during the physical exercise. As a result one does not get the full benefit of the exercise nor does it help to develop the body-consciousness. Unless the mind and the body are synchronised, there is little benefit accrued from physical exercise. That is why one of the effective ways in which the mind and body are synchronised is to select those physical exercises where the mind and body have to act in unison with equal concentration (such as tennis).

The next step in establishing harmony is to consciously develop the inner being or subliminal personality so as to balance the discordance in the outer being or surface personality. One needs to cultivate the poise of silence, immobility and inaction and to invoke peace into the system to counter the turbulence of the surface personality. A poise of inner silence can support a life of vibrant outer activity without making the subject susceptible to stress-linked illnesses.

The final harmony is established when one surpasses the ego to come into experiential contact with the inner essence epitomised in the soul-principle or Psychic Being. The Psychic Being is the harbinger of integration and harmony that allows one to progress along the hierarchy of consciousness.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 22. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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