We often define ourselves without even knowing. How often do you say ‘I am tired’, ‘I am fat’, ‘I am angry’. Are you really the definition of ‘tired’ or ‘fat’ or ‘angry’? Or are they experiences you are feeling for a short amount of time and that you will eventually overcome? How do small changes in your language, derived from your thoughts, have a big impact on your emotions?

This is the question I put to Sidra Jafri during our second show on ‘Emotional Wellness’ where I wanted to take our viewers on a journey from negative state to positive using Sidra’s tools and techniques.

Sidra explained that ‘every single thought matters’. This is because what we think translates into words which in turn become actions. Actions then become habitual. Everything is a habit. Failing is a habit just as success is a habit. So the first step to overcoming negative thoughts is to become aware of them. Ask yourself: ‘where is this thought or belief coming from?’

According to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the official government therapy, there are common negative thoughts which Sidra and I talked through from her model of the world:

  • 1.       All-or-Nothing
  • 2.       Negative self-labelling
  • 3.       Catastrophizing

 

  • 1.       All-or-Nothing

For example: If I don’t get an A*, and I get anything less than an A*, I am a failure.

Sidra explained that these thoughts are a result of a rigid mind-set. In contrast, a more flexible mind gives you greater freedom, and thus the freedom to achieve lower than a A*, for example, without feeling like a failure.

When you present an idea to the universe such as ‘I want an A*’ this is your wish. If you get it, then you wish has come true. If you do not achieve it, then this is the wish of the universe. However, when I questioned Sidra about this seemingly dissolving responsibility to oneself and handing it over to the universe, she stated that it is not about dissolving responsibility but rather managing expectations.

What about people who do not believe in a higher power or the universe? What do they do in this situation? Sidra feels that rigidity comes from a lack of faith.

To overcome this rigid expectation on yourself, Sidra said: ‘ask who installed this thought in your mind’.

Sidra explained that she received an email from a mother in India saying that her daughter committed suicide because she did so badly on her engineering exam. She had the ‘all-or-nothing’ syndrome so badly that she took her own life. As a consequence, the mother emailing Sidra felt such depression and guilt. So, we should give our children the best possible platform and release them from expectation that can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide.

What about parents who have experienced the burden of expectation from their parents and are consequently in that cycle and passing it on to their children, maybe without knowing? Awareness, Sidra replies. ‘Where did this thought come from?’ Before you ask questions like ‘why haven’t you got that job interview?’ or ‘why haven’t you lost weight?’, and before passing judgement, first of all think about what you are saying. Think before you speak.

  • 2.       Negative self-labelling

We often self-label without even knowing we are doing it, by using the phrase ‘I am’. ‘I am short’; ‘I am ugly’. These are all self-defeating, negative thoughts that consequently create self-defeating negative actions.

How do we change this?

Acknowledge that somebody must have put this thought into your mind. ‘You are’ statements become internalized and become ‘I am’ statements. As a conscious society, Sidra explained, I highly encourage everybody starts becoming conscious of their words.

Instead of saying ‘I am lazy’, say ‘a part of me is lazy’, because being lazy does not completely define you. Instead of saying ‘I am angry or depressed’ say ‘I am going through anger or depression’. You are not these, they are experiences that you are going through right now and will come out of. Also, when you realise it is only a part of you that is depressed or feeling a certain way, you may feel empowered, and that you are controlling the problem rather than it controlling you.

  • 3.       Catastrophizing

This is something I did very recently after experiencing an allergy to nuts. Waking up in the middle of the night, I informed mum quite frantically that I am going to die! Catastrophizing is thinking of the worst-case scenario.

Sidra explains that although, as humans, we love routine, one thing we ironically dislike is monotony. So we create drama.

How do I overcome it?

Ask yourself: ‘am I attention seeking or do I genuinely require some assistance?’

It can be difficult to return to a rational state of being when you’re on the verge of a panic attack though?

Sidra gave me an analogy. A professor is holding a glass of water in his hand. He asks his students: ‘how much does this glass of water weigh?’ His students guess. He replies; ‘no, the weight of the water depends on how long I am holding the glass.’ A panic attack is the final stage of stress. When you are in that stage you cannot do anything, you have to ride that wave. But to prevent getting to that stage, cleanse your emotions every day. Take some time to release the pressures of the day.

After this, Sidra and I discussed how to make these following transitions:

  1. Fear à courage
  2. Regret à acceptance
  3. Anger à love
  4. Victim à victor

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage means accepting yourself with all your fears and still doing the task in question anyway. Take fear with you and do not let it paralyze you but instead let it guide you. Fear is here to keep you safe so it is down to you to acknowledge that you are scared but still going to do it anyway. It is so important to talk to yourself. The more you know yourself, the more you’ll be able to overcome fear, regret, anger and turn from victim to victor.

 

 

We also had a lot of viewers who called in with questions:

Q. How do we stop and control negative thinking?
A.
Every person has a negative thought. If you want to stop negative thinking, you need to find the cause. Why am I angry? What is the reason? Once you understand the root of the problem, you can resolve this emotion. Also, once we change the meaning of the situation, our thoughts immediately change.

Q. I have learnt to have no expectations in life. I believe that God plans everything for us. Is this a good thing though?
A.
I hope this point of view serves you. I believe every human has expectations. Expectation and hope keeps us going when nothing else works. Instead of having no expectation, as it’s a human behaviour, accept yourself as having the expectation and know that it will not always will be met. Be alright with everything in life including the ups and downs, and the yins and yangs.

Q. My son has been in an accident and has been left injured. He is always angry. What can I do?
A.
 It seems to be that your child hasn’t accepted the accident and is therefore angry. The real problem is that life has changed for him. When we don’t accept something such as nature’s intervention, no matter what the question, love is the answer. Tell him that what has happened has happened and we cannot change that. What you can do, however, is ask: ‘how can we make the most of the current situation?’ After going through an accident, people become victims and subconsciously push away those who are trying to help you. Accept, forgive and let it go. Have forgiveness of what happened.

Sidra’s top tip for the show was: ‘stop trying to be perfect because you already are’.