There is a saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t out to get you.”
Sometimes when we feel deeply uncomfortable, or even subtly uncomfortable, instead of trying to push these feelings away, it might help to look at them in the light of day. God gave us feelings for a reason. A peaceful person cannot be ruled by emotions, but also cannot ignore them.
Recently I complained to my doctor of panic attacks and she prescribed me Xanex. I found that it didn’t do anything for my panic, but just made me feel sluggish. I wondered if this sluggishness might actually inhibit me from an appropriate reaction to a real and present danger. I did some research about Xanex and found that it is a medication for the treatment of unpredictable and inexplicable panic attacks. It occurred to me that this was not an accurate description of my condition. I have every reason to feel anxious! I’m a woman with four children going through the last stages of my second divorce. Of course I’m a nervous wreck! I got rid of the Xanex and started making some new friends. A lot of times the negativity in our lives is best cured by finding some new positive things to do:
On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junaadah, and Abu ‘Abd-ir-Rahmaan Mu’aadh bin Jabal (r) that the Messenger of Allaah (s) said:
“Have Taqwa (Fear) of Allah wherever you may be, and follow up a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it out, and behave well towards the people.”
(related by at-Tirmidhee)
Another feeling that sometimes rules me is rage, even though I know the Prophet (s) said, “Do not become angry.” But when you think about US drones killing children in Pakistan, or the Black American political activists from the 70’s dying in prison one by one, or you think about someone who borrowed money from you and refused to pay you back, how can you not be angry?
I once heard a wise Jewish criminal defense lawyer say, “If I judged other people’s actions by what I would do, I would go crazy.” We may not agree with injustice, but we do have to develop a certain emotional detachment in order to effectively fight the injustices day after day, decade after decade. We have to develop strategies for getting the results that we want. Sometimes that requires making a clear statement. Other times the goal requires keeping silent and letting the other party come to the conclusion you want. You don’t always have to tell people everything that you are thinking.
One thing that I have learned from reading pop psychology books is that whatever condition you are ruled by on a conscious level is usually not the true issue. Especially if you are obsessing within a certain mental state, most likely this is a cover-up of your true emotion. For example, grief is a genuine emotion but depression is a mental condition. Fear can be a legitimate emotion, but anxiety is a mental condition. Usually we cling to a mental condition to avoid confronting our true emotion. Very often, the truth is exactly the opposite of our mental condition! It is useful to meditate occasionally when we are feeling overpowered by a mental condition, to determine the actual emotion we are afraid of respecting.
It’s easy to find examples of this from everyday life: a juvenile delinquent sets fires out of a constant feeling of anger, but in therapy he admits that he is in truth deeply sad that his father abandoned him. In order to heal, he may need to go through a grieving period where he could mourn his loss and forgive his father.
A housewife is debilitated by depression to the extent that she can no longer eat. But deep down she is truly angry at her husband for not desiring her, and she is doing this hunger strike to see if he would notice or care. She is suppressing her desires because she is unable to own her personal anger at feeling rejected. By remaining depressed, she mutes the healthy part of her brain that wants and desires good for herself. Whether it’s a sandwich or a man’s affection, she will eventually have to learn how to visualize what she wants and then learn to do what she has to do to attain her goals.
“…Allah guides him who seeks His good pleasure to paths of peace and safety. He brings them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guides them unto a straight path.”
A lot of the Muslim world as well as a greater part of the entire world seems to be trapped in various negative mental conditions that are paralyzing progress. There is a tendency to react predictably, protesting each affront as it occurs, rather than addressing patterns of events effectively. Albert Einstein said that you can never solve a problem on the same level as it occurs. Problem solving requires some intuitive leaps. On a global level, Muslims and all people who care about promoting the Good in this world probably need to work through a psychological process of coming to terms with grief, anger, depression, low self-esteem and anxiety, before they can truly succeed in righting wrongs. We need to learn a sense of detachment to worldly affairs that will enable us to have a vision. Once we have a vision, other things start will start falling into place and our path will become clear.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com