By Syaura Nashwa (24S03R) and Rachel Toh (24S03I, Peer Helper)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/RIAAUU and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
“Is it possible to suppress negative thoughts? Does it work?”Solemn Samantha
Dear Solemn Samantha,
I’ve seen many just like you. Amidst those frolicking, you’re in a place no one can reach—your mind. It’s hard to block out those voices which bring you down. Harder yet, to suppress them. You wonder why you can’t be as carefree as your friends.
As you prepare for your exams, discouragement clutters your mind. Even when Promos are over, you can’t shake off that feeling of dread and pessimism. Your heart is heavy.
It feels like an imaginary person is hoarding dusty items that should have been thrown out years ago. Living rent-free in your mind, the complicated negative emotions take up headspace as you try your best to untangle them.
However, there are so many things to unpack. How can you do it yourself? Where do you start?
These thoughts sound different to every one of us. Whatever worries plague our day-to-day will be accompanied by a commentator narrating our lives.
That pesky, nosy voice in your head just can’t stop! It feels like everything is going wrong, everything everywhere all at the same time. Your thoughts don’t die down even in the comfort of your own home. In fact, it’s worse.
The solitude and loneliness allow it to echo in the chamber of your mind. That horrible, horrible voice. As you witness on social media others living seemingly perfect and ‘better’ lives than you, you turn against yourself again.
You may ask, “But the things I say about myself are true. What do I do then?” Automatic thoughts are those which appear immediately. Confirmation bias makes you find that evidence to reinforce what you believe in.
If you’re not careful, such thoughts can dictate how you act and look upon the world. You’ll tend to underplay your strengths or excessively compare yourself to the people around you. Little, by little, it will consume your reality.
Internalised negative self-thoughts can be harrowing. It can induce negative emotions, like frustration, anger, sadness, and disappointment. Such feelings, though necessary to process, can be unhelpful to us in the long run. These automatic thoughts don’t seem to like us at all—they belittle us, downplay our achievements, and exacerbate our small doubts and uncertainties.
Adopting a gloomy and cynical outlook on life could have been ingrained into you early on. Perhaps you were taught to be humble to a fault, leading you to minimise your achievements and milestones.
It’s hard to suppress such thoughts, but it’s possible. Suppressing thoughts may be counterintuitive as it is a temporary solution and takes up a lot of energy. Many people slip into rumination—where negative thought patterns become immersive or repetitive—when trying to process their emotions.
However, reframing those thoughts might be a healthier route rather than shutting them down. An interesting experiment that has been done is suppressing the ‘white bears’.
Redirecting our emotions into what matters and what is within our control is a good way to start. It is easier for us to channel those negative thoughts into something productive and address underlying concerns you have.
Negative thoughts make us our worst critics. Like a judge in a high court, you must be fair to yourself. Being honest does not equate to finding flaws in everything you do. It simply means to accept who you are, at your brightest and at your darkest. You deserve every bit of your own compassion.
Practise mindfulness. Observe your thoughts, and explore where they’re coming from. Be patient and gentle with yourself while you do so. Cultivate patience and reflect upon your present circumstances without any self-criticism. Even while you’re doing mundane tasks, make a conscious effort to be there in the moment.
Learn from the past. It stings; it aches. However, you must move on eventually. That’s okay, you can take baby steps! View those embarrassing moments—you finally thought of a comeback in the shower—as learning experiences.
Recognise your achievements. Though you may not have scored an A, you did better than in the previous test. You finished the book you promised you’d read last December. Saying ‘hi’ to acquaintances doesn’t seem like a daunting task anymore.
Surround yourself with positive inner and outer dialogue. Though not ‘suppressing’ per se, you are limiting negativity in your physical space, and eventually your headspace. Comfort and affirm yourself as if you were your own best friend. What would you want to tell someone who’s feeling down? You deserve that care too. You’re no different from any other human being.
Perhaps not at the moment, but you’ll be alright eventually. Trust yourself, and continue believing in yourself. The world may be lonely and cruel, but you must be by your own side!
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset
If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3 – 5 p.m, and Wednesday 11.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our request form at our website https://rafflesinstitution5.wixsite.com/rafflespeerhelpers