In several conversations, almost everyone would have used the “I am…” phrase to describe themselves and explain their actions. One would have said something like, “I did that because I am like that”, “I am an angry kind of individual”, “I am a soft person”, “I am an aggressive person”, “I am a charitable individual”, and so on and so forth. People tend to classify their behaviour and tell others this is how they are.

People have a right to be the way they want to be. There is no stopping that. Of course, being a certain way does have its good and bad consequences, but that’s a different topic altogether.

This post is about the usage of the “I Am…” phrase itself – the “I Am…” syndrome as I’ve called it.

When one says “I am…” such and such type of person, does it really mean that the person will or has to behave always in the manner he or she has described? Is this personality really true and is it permanent?

People define a character, a behavioural pattern for themselves, and then get attached to it. If someone loses his or her temper, that person finds it easy to do it again, and again, and again. Soon it becomes a habit and the person classifies himself or herself as a short-tempered person. Once a person has done this self-classification, the world repeats it. It goes the other way round too. Observing a person’s repeated behaviour pattern, people classify him or her, as say, an angry person, and soon the person starts asserting that he or she is an angry person.

But that’s just a notion the person carries. A man may get sad due to a tragedy (say some loved one’s death). If people around him keep repeating to him that he is sad, and he does so to himself too – he ends up adopting sadness as his nature. He starts associating his sadness with everything around him. He gets struck with the “I Am..” (sad) syndrome. It’s a state of mind, a disease. There is really no permanence in the feeling. People are born and people die, that’s how the world works. People encounter tragedies and if one looks around, one can find many people going through equal or larger difficulties. But when a person decides that he or she is sad and is going to be sad, the syndrome has struck. The “I Am…” statement is repeated again and again till it becomes easy to be that way.

The “I Am…” syndrome works for any behavioural pattern, sadness, aggression, happiness, humorous, etc. It’s not necessarily to do with the negative sentiments. People exhibit the “I Am…” syndrome very often when they are unable to justify an action. They just say, “I am like that.”

For a person who wants to be successful and at peace, the effort begins with oneself. The fight over oneself includes getting rid of the “I Am…’ syndrome. It is possible most of time. With awareness and practice, eventually in every situation a person can think and act, not as per an older defined behavioural pattern but as per the demands of the situation. This is both required and conducive for a happy life and healthy relationships. Dealing with an undisciplined employee for example required sternness while dealing with a heartbroken friend needs patience. It would be meaningless to do the reverse just because one says “I Am…” patient or “I Am…” stern and uses the same behaviour in every situation.

I fight against this disease every day. It’s easy to get back into the confines of the “I Am…” syndrome rather that to overcome it every time. But every time I win, I feel extremely motivated and positive and I’m sure anyone who wins over this disease would too.

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Subhash Iyer

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