Recently, you’ve heard me talk a lot about self-talk. Previously, it was to help in healing, here. We both know, it isn’t only about healing. It is definitely much more.
Whether we think about it or not; We are definitely thinking. We know that ultimately, what we think is what we end up doing! It is going to affect how we react, to our situations and what we do with our lives.
So, isn’t it wiser to be aware of what we are thinking, to know where we are going?
A lot of our time, we are thinking about things people say to us. In our country, everyone is telling us what we ‘should’ think. If we aren’t careful, we get bullied and pushed around. Then we end up feeling cornered. Much later, we realize, that had we thought the right thoughts at the right time; Perhaps we wouldn’t have taken certain steps which led us to so many gross problems.
Let me tell you about my friend Nazneen, (of course this isn’t her real name!) So,when she got engaged, her fiancé suggested that they get a flat of their own. She said,
‘No, we mustn’t do it, your family will think that I’ve asked you to do this and separated you from your family, even before I’ve arrived!’ Anyhow, when she mentioned this to me, I said,
‘Let him go ahead with it, you know that it was his idea.’ But no, she felt it wouldn’t be right. She didn’t let him go ahead with it. I knew what a joint family looked like. So, she didn’t know what she was talking about. She got married, and went into joint-family. Let me tell you they were a good family – nothing wrong with them – but the girl has to sacrifice her own life for them.
Fast forward twenty five years.
She tells me, ‘Shireen, I wish I had listened to you then. So this is how I spent my life:
Apnee zindagi guzar dee,
…… kissi aur nay!
Prologue to her story: The couple did separate from rest of family, ultimately. Her fiancé had been right, she should have agreed with him. So much of their life’s sufferings could have been avoided.
So, anyhow. Let me go on. I’ve done some research on Self-talk and this is what I’ve come up with:
Four types of thoughts:
- Catastrophizing: This is the typical situation where you end up thinking of the worst thing that can happen. ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What if I face humiliation?’ ‘What if people find out?’ With such thoughts you only immobilize yourself before even beginning a project. Amplifying anxiety and depression in the process.
What to do: A good comeback is ‘so what?’ Also, know that ninety percent of things one is afraid of, don’t happen. If they do, what can you do anyway? Also, be confident,you will be able to manage things whatever happens.
- Blaming: This is very common. Either one blames one’s self for things that were actually out of one’s control. Or, one blames others for what happened to you. It is vital to control your thoughts, otherwise, you will hold yourself responsible for most of the problems in your life, even the ones for which you aren’t responsible. On the other hand, when you keep blaming others for what happens in your own life, then you are putting the responsibility on others too. So, you cannot do anything about it. So, then how can you make a change?
What to do: I would say, ‘just stop it!’ Blaming others means that you can’t do anything about it, nor will you. Blaming one’s self all the time, means that you are going to take responsibility for things you didn’t do either. So, just be balanced. Do what you can, and move on. Give one problem a time constraint, and then get on with your life!
- Rehashing: This is when you keep replaying something awful that happened in the past. Everything that happens in the present somehow triggers an unpleasant memory in the past. So you’ve got to be mindful of it. This scenario is more so in cases of death in the family. You keep replaying the scene again and again. Whereas you need to replay the life of the person in your mind, and celebrate it.
What to do: In other words, you are carrying a lot of ‘baggage’ with you. I’d say, ‘drop it, at once.’ Oooops! I better say this to myself also. A psychologist told me, that one good way to do it is to write it all down once and for all. Then tear it into pieces, and throw it into a river or sea. Other way is (what I do sometimes, if I think it would be of use to you, I publish it in my blog post!) In the case of a death, instead of talking about how the death happened, talk about the person’s life.
- Rehearsing: This is when you are planning something in the future, and keep thinking about it.Visualizing it again and again.
What to do: So, till it happens, there is really no point in dwelling on it. During a painting exhibition of mine, Saeed Akhtar said to me, ‘An idea is nothing till you have executed it. So, do not talk about ideas.’ The same thing Zaheer Salam the country’s largest publications’ owner once said to me, ‘do not talk about an idea, till it is executed!’ So, I’ll just say, ‘stop it!
Other forms of self-talk:
Though the above four points might seem enough, but personally I feel that prayers have a lot to do with self-talk too. Sometimes, you talk to your God, like you talk to yourself. He is all the time a witness to that conversation going on inside, and you often talk to Him too. Since He is apparently silent, you often talk to Him directly too, and let yourself hear this conversation.
So, I think prayers are a beautiful form of self-talk. One can do it often. I’m sure you must have seen how He makes those things ‘happen’ and you have that eureka moment and look up, knowing who was behind it. Since He was the only One who knew about what you had wished for. Subhan Allah!
Your step by step planning of any activity or event, or life situation is itself a methodical and logical way of dealing with issues or situations on your mind. This is very important and can be done in journals or your home management diary or personal file in your laptop – whatever you call it. This too is a type of self-talk.
Just now I spoke to Hajra Mansoor. She has had an elbow fracture a while back. She was on her way home from hospital. When I heard this, I said, ‘I’ll talk later.’ She was fine, and in good mood. Ready to deal about any issue or situation at hand. I was just doing some work on her behalf. So, you see she is unperturbed, and not bothered by ‘small’ roadblocks that life puts on the way.
When Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi were to be chief guest at my book launch and painting exhibition; That day, there was a lot of disturbances on the city roads. Many roads were blocked, and some mullahs had threatened violence and what not. Neither I nor they were perturbed. We went ahead with our function. They calmly found a route to reach the AQS Gallery and came as chief guests.
This is the result of self-talk. When you say to yourself, ‘no matter what happens, I’m going to go ahead with my work.’ And you simply go ahead. You don’t mind that only half the people were able to attend the event. Fine!
Similarly, when my father passed away. I’ve made up my mind, not to grieve for too long. Instead of thinking of the death of my father, I’ve decided to think of his life! How he lived, and what I’ve learnt from it. To celebrate his living, and to give sadqa regularly. This is what I did when my husband passed away too.
Go ahead, do the effective and practical self-talk for yourself, and get yourself out of your situation.
Last important point in self-talk:
When there is a time of deep disturbance in your life, but you have decided to stay within it. Then self-talk will help you get through this also. Just make up your mind to not get damaged by it . Protect yourself from inside. Whatever someone says to you, tell yourself:
‘It is coming from them, I am not going to let it affect me. I will not react, as it is not worth the bother!’ Stay blessed and protect your self through self-talk.
Recently, there has been this killing of 49 Muslims in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. What kind of self-talk was that killer doing? So, you can see how powerful self-talk can be. It can save you and help you save other’s lives. Paradoxically, it can kill others, and will finally get himself killed too.
This is the power of self-talk. So, it has to be curtailed, controlled and used positively. Most illnesses are the result of stress, which can be caused through negative self-talk.
As Wasif Ali Wasif said: ‘problems are not caused by situations, but by what you think about those situations!’ (Mushkilat halaat ki wajah say nahi, bulkeh khayalat ki wajah say hoti hein!)
Had I not done self-talk, today, I’d be in my parents’ home. Now, I’m in my own home. I refused to listen to everyone else, when my husband died. I lived in our own house, even if it meant living here alone, with my young daughter. I faced court cases, lived in a freezing home without gas. I paid every price necessary or unnecessary, finally succeeding in being where I wanted to be. I was clear about following my heart, and doing what I believed in. Self-talk my dear!
Stay blessed and protected by positive use of self-talk. 🙂