Madlen Algafari: Bulgarians Start to Realize Mental Health is Important

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | December 25, 2002, Wednesday // 00:00
Madlen Algafari: Bulgarians Start to Realize Mental Health is Important

Madlen Algafari is one of Bulgaria's most prominent psychoanalysts. She has graduated with a degree in psychology at the Sofia University and then mastered analytical psycotherapy with Prof. D-r Waldo Bernasconi in Switzerland. Since 1996, she works as psycotherapist in Sofia handling mainly cases of bulimia and anorexia.

Madlen Algafari met Milena Dinkova from novinite.com.

Q: Does Christmas help people forget their worries?

A: It very much depends on the character of everyone. There are people who really feel worse at Christmas. Their gloomy thoughts seem even darker when others are happy and enjoy the celebrations. Their loneliness feels overwhelming when others get together. And if you are broke, that feels worse when you have to do the Christmas shopping. As a matter of fact, fall and winter worsen depressions and Christmas may seem as a torture when you feel blue. Others feel just the reverse emotions. They see the holiday as a relief of life's burden. Usually, the most excited are people who cannot easily get rid of stress and who cannot celebrate in their every day life - those who cannot make a holiday of a simple occasion.

Q: What is your approach to "Christmas depressions?"

A: The most important thing is to think positively. There is always a good side to any situation in our life. However, people are not always aware of that. The psychoanalyst makes people think! The psychoanalyst can see this good side of the situation and can make the patient realize it. Sometimes, it you have to be quite imaginative to find the good side of things. What comes to me now is the most simple example of positive thinking but illustrates my point well. Imagine it's Christmas and your friends don't call. It seem they have completely forgotten about you. You may think how bad this is but you can also think that those, let's say, three who have not forgotten to call, are actually your true friend. So, this is a wonderful opportunity to test your relationships and realize who is sincere and who is not.

Q: Religions and mystic schools preach that giving is better than taking. They say that giving pays back in a very positive form. Do you think charity can heal?

A: This is not just a religious belief. It is a universal truth but it takes wisdom and experience to understand. And yes - I think that charity might help in that sense. But it's not just charity. If you start to vibrate at a "positive frequency," you will find yourself attract positive people and things will start happen for you. Here is an example! If I do you good, you will feel satisfaction that you will wish to prolong. So, you will need me and you will want to keep me beside you. The only way to keep me is to do me good in return. So, that's the way it works. And it works the same way even before you have turned your thoughts into action. Bulgarians say "Think white and you will get white: think black and black will come after you." This is because thoughts, words and action are the different "physical conditions" of the same thing.

Q: So, what do you wish people for the New Year?

A: To be able to listen to the voice of their nature. Common sense is a good thing but suppressed nature can have its revenge. I wish people to manage a balance between common sense and emotions... And we don't have to forget sexuality as it is very important component in that balance.

Q: Are there nations who enjoy more harmonious psyche than others?

A: Civilization is the antonym of healthy mind. People who live in uncivilized communities enjoy the most harmonious selves. On the contrary, the most developed societies have the most troubled members. As civilization advances, we find ourselves alienated from the animal in us. I mean "animal" in the good sense - wild animals don't suffer neuroses or psychoses. The more ethical, religious and behavioral rules we adhere to, the more our true nature is suppressed. I don't mean that we have to rebel against all these rules. But the problem is that we follow them without consideration. We apply the rules to any occasion. That may cause serious problems. For example, you ought not shout to people in the tram but you can go to the mountain to shout out your anger. Or you ought not go around naked but you can strip for your partner. And if you just cannot do that - there is a serious problem. I don't call for anarchy - I just want people to think before they apply all these rules that torment them. There are thousands of these rules! They say I should not argue but if I don't how will I make myself heard. They say I should not beg - but if I don't how will I get the things I want. They say I should not seduce - but if I don't how will I make people respond to my wishes. The important thing is to figure out in what cases it is appropriate to apply the rules and in what it is not. We have to train ourselves to do that.

Q: How common is depression in civilized societies?

A: I don't want to speak of depression as a medical condition. I want to focus on what all of us feel sometimes - we often feel gloomy and unnerved. That doesn't mean that more and more people need medical treatment but it means that we get more prone to be stuck in our moods. Depression is the opposite of aggression. And when psychologists say aggression they mean positive things as willingness to stand up for yourself, capability to make decisions and produce new ideas, willingness to take chances. If I have a problem, I have to face it, to figure out a solution and to fight for the good outcome. If you don't do that (no matter for what reason), there is a problem, there is the depression. People can't solve their problems if they don't act. Complaining does not help. Yes, you can relive your soul by speaking to a friend or a specialist but that is OK only if you take to action afterwards. If you sit there whining, the problems are only to get worse. If you pull yourself together and make just a tiny step towards the solution, you will feel the positive results of that step very soon.

Q: What do you think is the best way to relax? Do you think it's better to stay active with a sport or it is better to indulge a rest at home?

A: That is something that everybody should decide on their own. But what I really recommend is to REST - no matter how. Activity phase should be followed by a phase of rest. Human organism adheres to the pendulum principal. If you get quality rest, you will be fit for greater achievements at work. The important thing is that you do something that you enjoy in order to relax - you may chose a sport, you may go to bars and clubs, you may listen to music. What matters is that your soul feels at home.

Q: Do Bulgarians pay more attention to their mental health recently?

A: Yes, things start to change. Patients have reserved my hours till March and my colleagues witness the same thing. You know, attitudes are changing and Bulgarians realize that seeing a psychoanalyst is not a shame or disgrace. Many people get to understand that it is the same thing with bodily pain. If your body hurts, you go to doctor. So, if your soul hurts, why not seeing a specialist, too.

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