Dear Dr. Sohail,
I appreciate you reaching out to people in mental distress through this venture. I wanted to get your opinion on some of the life struggles I am sure many of my fellow human beings are going through too. I feel I have a disease which medical science has not formally recognized yet.
Dr. Sohail, since I was born I have felt this never ending competition to be better than others. My parents wanted me to sing poems to others so they can demonstrate how intelligent/smart their child was. Then in the competitive environment of schools and university, I realized that being witty and one of the top achievers lead to respect, recognition, admiration, trust, preferential treatment, and the label of a successful person. You can probably relate this with your own experience, you probably would have less friends and admirers, and a not so pretty life partner if you weren’t a doctor.
Then in the job hunt, one has to prove in job interviews that you are better than other candidates, sadly, one person’s success can lead to another’s failure. At work, politics are at play too.
Then there is a competitive comparison of cars, houses, frequency of international vacation, clothes, even Christmas trees. Then when you are old, looking good and healthy requires a healthy budget and a retirement savings plan. It’s a never ending cycle.
Dr. Sohail, I am sick of this human mental conditioning where every one is in this race of moving up the ladder to get love, admiration, respect, and preferential treatment. I am sure no one will even give weight to your opinion if they think you are not skilled or qualified, depending on society’s definition of being qualified. Survival of the fittest is a curse for humanity.
Dr. Sohail, what I can do to find mental peace? I don’t want to just speak intelligently at social gatherings and demonstrate that I “know it all” to get respect.
Thanks for reading my lengthy message.
Standard not so special human being
Dear Human Being,
Like all human beings you are a special human being. My wise friend, Bette Davis reminds me periodically, “There are so many people in this materialistic world who climb the corporate ladder all their lives and when they reach the top they realize they have been climbing the wrong ladder”!
When children grow, they absorb the values of their families, communities and cultures and with the passage of time they internalize many of those values as they are exposed to this social, religious and cultural conditioning. In the 21st century many people have absorbed the middle class values that define their success, such as, big houses and big cars, big boats and big cottages. In many parts of the Western world it has become the norm, the dream, the ideal.
I do not think becoming the best is a bad thing. It depends on what we want to be best at. For me the best serial killer is different than the best volunteer worker, the best philosopher is different than the best gangster.
Let me give you two examples from Pakistan. I met Jawaid Iqbal Mughal in his death cell. He dreamed of becoming the most famous serial killer in the world and went to the newspaper office to surrender. I am sure to his delight, his picture appeared on the front page of newspapers on January 1st 2000. He became famous or notorious as the most dangerous serial killer of the 20th century as he confessed to killing one hundred children. On the other hand, Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan is most respected because he has the highest number of ambulances in the world which he uses to address the needs of, not only the rich, but the very poor. His service to humanity is valued by all those who want to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Some people have a competitive spirit, others do not. If we want to compare ourselves with others, it might be wise for us to compare ourselves with those who are less privileged than us so that we develop a sense of gratitude, or compare ourselves with those who serve humanity more than us so that we feel inspired. But if we are part of the rat race, then even if we win, we are still just one of the rats.
Eric Fromm, a well respected sociologist, commented that there are two groups of people, some believe in being while others believe in having. In the modern world there are more who believe in having materialistic goods than becoming a better person.
I believe that all of us are born with special gifts and to become a healthy, happy and peaceful Green Zone person, we need to discover our special gifts, share them with our friends, or that group I call, the Family of the Heart, and then find ways to serve our community and humanity. I love to write and do therapy. Writing is my passion and doing therapy is my profession. Both activities make my life meaningful. In my free time, I socialize with my creative friends who love to discuss poetry and philosophy, ideas and ideals, rather than bank accounts and stock markets, big cars and big houses, big boats and big cottages.
If you are serious about your peace of mind then you need to socialize with those who value creativity, cherish spirituality and enjoy serving humanity. Their company will help you in overcoming your childhood conditioning and you will enjoy who you are rather than what you have. Having materialistic things helps us survive comfortably and be less worried about paying the bills, but the most happiness comes when we are surrounded by loved ones, feel passionate about our dreams and create a meaningful life. All of us have a choice of giving special meaning to our lives. So the question is, what will make your life meaningful? And who will support you in that journey. I feel fortunate to have my family and friends to support and inspire me.
I enjoyed your comment about my sweetheart. I will ask her if she chose me because of my degrees or my dreams, my bank account or my personality? I think we are together because we respect and love each other. Khalil Gibran said, “Do not ever think you can guide love, if love finds you worthy, she will guide you.” We both want to make a difference in this world by serving our community through helping people learn more about emotional and relationship wellness. I know her choices in life has been predominantly driven by her idealist personality, rather than the need for monetary gain. When she adopted a three week old baby from Romania in 1990 she was motivated to give a child an opportunity for a better life in Canada rather than becoming rich.
I hope you can create a new dream, make that dream a reality and then find your peace of mind by becoming a successful and peaceful Green Zone Person.