The Elavian Dictums

Dr. Shernaz B. Elavia, last Tuesday’s speaker, believes that stress is nothing but an illness, and it can be avoided altogether if we learn to “manage our emotions.” For those grappling with their emotions, she says, “I have certain rules, which I call dictums.” These are the same rules that have been followed by her clients (employees of Air India, Tata Services Ltd, and Johnson & Johnson Ltd, amongst others on an esteemed list of private and public sector companies), who she has served for over 30 years as a consultant and counsellor.

“The first dictum, which will ensure that negativity will not get embedded in the mind, is do not allow factual problems to become emotional problems for yourself and others.” The speaker highlighted her first dictum by sharing a confession once made to her. “One wife, crying, came and told me that her husband wouldn’t say a word when the tea was good, but if it was bad, he made a point to humiliate her in front of all his guests.” By way of this example, the speaker points out the wife’s dilemma: “Why can’t he just tell me the facts? Whether the tea is too sweet, too strong, or has been overboiled.” The couple ended up in a divorce.

The second dictum is as follows: “Do not allow external problems to become internal problems, and your internal problems to become external problems for others.” This dictum has been inspired by all those who have faced their superior’s wrath, and unconsciously set off a chain reaction by passing it on to their juniors. In the words of one of her clients, the fact of the matter comes to light: “Most of the time when my superior gets angry, I get agitated. I then take out my agitation on my spouse, and she goes and fights with my child.” To those guilty of such a blunder, the speaker concludes, “Remember, external problems are bound to happen, but they are temporary.” To assert the impermanence of our problems, she says, “Sometimes we get a simple feedback about our actions, but in our minds we convert it into an emotional issue, instead of accepting the criticism if it applies to us, or ignoring it if it is of no value to our growth.” Therefore, most of the time, because “we get so clouded by our emotions, our ability to reason diminishes.” For that matter, even getting applauded for our achievements can form an emotional dimension over a period of time, “giving rise to a certain ego.” And in this way, those in the field of psychiatry have come to the conclusion = that a human being’s failures and achievements can and do get enmeshed with their personality.

The third dictum, Dr. Shernaz B. Elavia states, “Do not allow the negative aspects of your life to spill over into positive aspects of your life when you are looking at your life and others’.” As for this dictum, here is the example that overflowed from the closed doors of this counsellor’s clinic into her speech: “I was introduced to a young boy, through his teachers and parents, who complained that he was weak in languages without mentioning that he was excellent with his numerical ability and abstract reasoning.” Instead, on solving the puzzle of his weakness’ real cause, the speaker reported, “The child was indeed weak in languages, but had begun to lose interest even in maths and sciences because of being constantly reprimanded about his weakness.”

Lastly, “friends, learn to take many things in your stride.” This was the last dictum, which did not need a clinical case to support it. However, the plights of the wife living with a tea connoisseur for a husband, the child who lost interest in his positives, and the several other nameless clients, could very well be us should we not learn from and practice The Elavian Dictums.