As a psychotherapist, I meet so many people everyday who have lost their dreams. They look and feel sad. When I interview them I find out they have no goals, no passions and no dreams. They do not live, they just exist. The more I get to know them and hear their stories, the more I realize that they had dreams as children and as teenagers. They wanted to become scientists and artists, poets and philosophers, musicians and athletes, teachers and professors, reformers and revolutionaries but they did not find parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and principals, neighbors and ministers, who believed in their dreams. They did not find good role models and became involved in the struggles and responsibilities of day to day life. Sadly, they lost their dreams on the way. They work hard just to pay for the basics. They work too much and play too little.

Many people come to see us as they have heard of the Green Zone Philosophy. They want help to get over their sadness and lead a happy, healthy and peaceful life that we call Green Zone Living. After introducing them to Green Zone Therapy, I share with them that according to Green Zone Philosophy, there are three parts to the personality:

  1. Natural Self
  2. Conditioned Self
  3. Creative Self

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My cousin, Nauroz Arif, is an admirer of the Green Zone Philosophy. Since introducing it to his family a few years ago, they have regular Green Zone family meetings which they start with a discussion about our weekly Blog. His sons have grown older and developed a keen interest in philosophy and psychology, art and literature, so they want my opinion about Nihilism. Therefore, this Blog is dedicated to Nauroz and his wife, Nighat and their sons, Sarosh, Aazar and Rumi.

Nihilism is a philosophy that became popular in the last couple of centuries. A number of philosophers including Soren Kierkegaard, Frederick Nietzsche and Jean Paul Sartre played a significant role in the development of this philosophy. These philosophers challenged different religious traditions and declared, life is meaningless. I found it quite interesting that some existentialists believed that life is meaningless but not worthless.

            In my clinical practice, I have met many men and women who suffered from existential depression as they believed their life was meaningless. Through therapy, many were helped to discover their own unique meaning in life. I encourage them to read one of my essays titled, Creating a Meaningful Life, which is this week’s Blog. I hope Nauroz and his family find my essay thought provoking and meaningful.

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It is always so wonderful to meet people who are kind and caring. Being compassionate is one of the best qualities any human being can have. Some people care for their own family or community, while there are others who care for the whole humanity. If caring is noble, whether it is for one’s family or community or the whole humanity, then how can someone care too much?

In my clinical practice I have met so many men and women who suffer because they care too much. Some worry a lot about their family. Others become preoccupied with the sick and the disabled in their community. While there are still others who ruminate about all those who are the victims of violence and war. When they see violent crimes on television, they experience sleepless nights, as they cannot get those images out of their minds.

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What is the difference between SELF-ESTEEM and ‘OTHER-ESTEEM’?

The more I worked with people who struggled with emotional and relationship problems the more I became aware of the close relationship between self-esteem and mental health.

Over the years I have gradually developed the concept of other-esteem that is intimately connected with self-esteem. In my opinion, self-esteem is that part of esteem that a person creates himself or herself. On the other hand, other-esteem is that esteem that depends on others.

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If after learning to find Green Zone time in the day, people want to further pursue the Green Zone Philosophy and create a Green Zone Lifestyle, we suggest that they follow three roads.

The first road is of Creating which they follow by developing their Creative Self and create things that they enjoy.

The second road is of Sharing. After they have developed their creations, we ask them to share their creations with others,  a circle of friends, that we call the Family of the Heart. In that process, they make new friends and develop meaningful relationships with those people who have similar interests, passions and dreams. For us, it is a circle of honest and sincere friends that we meet on a regular basis and share our passions and dreams.

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To create peaceful Green Zone Relationships, I ask people to make a list of all their male and female relationships in their personal, social and professional lives and then ask themselves in which Zone do each of these relationships live? In many cases people are pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised with what they find.

Let me share with you my own surprises. A few years ago when I was developing the Green Zone concepts, I made a list of all my friends, which resulted in two surprises. The first surprise was that I had 19 male friends and 20 female friends. My second surprise was that 80% of my male friends were from the East and 80% of my female friends were from the West.

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THE EMOTIONAL RAINCOAT – One Secret to Dealing with Red Zone Situations

Even after we recognize Yellow and Red Zone people and situations, it is not always possible to avoid them.  Sometimes we are forced to deal with those difficult situations and challenging people. One of the secrets to deal with these stressful challenges is the Green Zone Concept called the Emotional Raincoat. The Emotional Raincoat is like going into the scorching sun,  wearing sun screen. It is the mental, and often times, practical preparation to deal with stressful situations.

Let me explain it with a personal example. There was a time when I would get very stressed when I was struck in Toronto traffic on my way to an engagement. I do not like being late. I think it is disrespectful. So I asked myself, how could I create an Emotional Raincoat to protect myself from the Red Zone traffic and not feel embarrassed if I am late. After a lot of reflection I came up with these solutions. The first solution was that I called my friends before I left home so that they knew that I had left on time. They reassured me that it was okay if I was a few minutes late. The second solution was that I bought a few of my favorite music CDs, like Kenny Rogers, Gipsy Kings, Kenny G and some Indian Classical music, so that if I am stuck in traffic, I could hear that calming music and stay in my peaceful Green Zone. Those things acted like my Emotional Raincoat for that Red Zone problem. So the idea is that for each Yellow or Red Zone situation we need to create an Emotional Raincoat. Once that Raincoat is created, then we can relax in that situation.

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Knowing your Emotional Zones! THE THREE Rs


People often ask about navigating emotionally from one Zone to the other and how to spend more and more time in their Green Zone. One of the ideas we use is a Green Zone concept we call “the 3Rs“. Let me explain it.

The first R is Recognizing, that is learning to be aware of our Emotional Zones and social triggers. We first need to recognize the changes in our Emotional Zones, that is, noticing that we have moved from our Green Zone  into the Yellow or Red Zone. Then we need to recognize the person or situation that pushed us out of our Green Zone .

The second R is Recovering. When we are pushed to our Yellow or Red Zone, we need to find ways to recover or come back to our peaceful Green Zone.

The third R is Restraining. After we become aware of our triggers (people or situations) we need to find ways to deal with our triggers in a healthy way so that we can prevent ourselves from falling back to our Yellow or Red Zone.

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A Special Human Being asks Dr. Sohail about the Secrets to Successful Living

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.


Dr. Sohail

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Sophia asks about New Year’s Resolutions

Dr. Sohail, I wish I could say that I have been successful over the years with keeping my New Year’s Resolutions but I find it so frustrating when I make resolutions with my friends and family, only to be disappointed  in a few weeks when my enthusiasm diminishes. As the New Year approaches, I am thinking that I will not make any resolutions as this seems to not work for me. Is there a way I can approach it so that I have more likelihood of success?

Happy New Year!


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