Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Photo credit: elana's pantry / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: elana’s pantry / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Kulsum was happily preparing dinner, when her mother-in-law stepped in and said: “Why have you made this roll? Hamza had this at your mother’s place, and he detests it like anything. You should take care of his likes; and yes, don’t make lots of chicken, it is very expensive, and I don’t have money for such lavish spending!” She finally concluded with this.

Her voice trailing off, she could hardly say ‘yes’ in low tone, pushing away the tears, as she moved to put chicken back into the freezer, her eyes giving away to her downheartedness.

Kulsum was often bombarded with filthy, hurtful words and had begun to question her own worth and self-image.

Many of us have felt this way at some point in our lives – because of a spouse, a sibling, a coworker, or any other family member/ person, from whom we cannot detach; hence, we find ourselves in a fix.

Such situations are as damaging to your psychological well-being, as cholesterol is for heart patients. A negative person will hit you hard with destructive words and sarcasm, using his/her uncanny ability to push your buttons to an extent of explosion. You will find yourself devastated, irritable and in wrath of anger – often, dealing with such feelings is like chewing more than you can digest.

You are doing harm to your own self and giving more power to the person, who can control you in any way he/she pleases – by pushing your red buttons and taking advantage of your reaction.

The following tips will help you deal with stressful situations:

  • First and foremost, try to calm yourself down.
  • Secondly, it is alright to have ill-feelings about your own worth and compatibility; however, you need to tell yourself on regular basis that you are capable to deal with it, without letting such feelings enter your emotional station, alter your synapses and burn your nerve cells. No one can make you feel inferior or sad, unless you allow them to do so.
  • Make Dua for the person, who has caused you pain.
  • Stay close to Allah (swt) by engaging in frequent remembrance of Him.
  • Offer prayers regularly to sooth your nerves and to regulate your fury.
  • Consider the offender as ill and try to understand the reason behind his/her negative attitude: it might be because of any underlying complex or any childhood deprivation and/or any harsh circumstance.
  • Upon finding yourself in a stuck up situation, ponder over the Ayah, which states that Allah (swt) does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear; and feel yourself blessed, as Allah (swt) tests those, who are dear to Him, in order to increase their status.

May Allah (swt) grant all of us wisdom to turn the thrown lemons into lemonade and enjoy our lives to the fullest by pleasing Allah (swt) and obeying His commandments. We are only responsible for what we do. Allah (swt) is there to question the offenders and hold them accountable, if not here, then on the Day of Judgment, Insha’Allah.

How to Combat a Delicate Situation

which_way[1]In many a circumstances, it so happens that a situation arises when a person responsible finds himself unable to overcome a grave problem. A delicate situation comes across the normal working of a person suddenly, and the person facing it, after repeated efforts, thinks that the doors to its solution are all closed. He then gets disappointed and abandons his further efforts, leaving the problem in a status-quo position that may cause further harm. However, one must not succumb to the problem. One should keep striving to locate the solutions because accepting challenges and solving problems are characteristic of boldness. Any problem, as delicate as it may be, can ultimately be overcome, with the condition that certain qualifications are met.

These qualifications are precisely described below:

1. Awareness of the Problem

Persons coming across a grave situation must be fully aware of its exact nature. The one who is unaware of what the problem is will obviously fail to find a way out of it. This qualification is the basic key to success. This is the awareness of the issue that leads the person to start in the right direction.

2. Confidence

The second quality attributed to combating the problem is the confidence of the person concerned. It is natural that confidence plays a pivotal role in confronting the issue. In its absence no success is guaranteed. But confidence of course is itself the outcome of a sound knowledge and experience. If someone possesses sufficient knowledge and experience, he must not get frightened with the gravity of the issue.

3. Observing the Rules of the Game

While attempting to solve the troubles, one must observe the entire prescribed rules of the game. That is, the person must be fully aware of where to commence from and in which direction to proceed. The formulae, principles, tools, and timings all must be kept in mind while resolving the complicated issue. Which formula to be picked first and where to hammer the last are the perquisites of success. An untimely step or a miscalculation may further develop fouls and complications.

4. Slow and Controlled Speed

Slow and steady progress toward the solution of a situation generates fruitful results. Hasty and superseding behaviour may ruin the entire effort. As complicated as the problem is, the caution should be made for its correction accordingly. People perceive commonly that since they possess all the qualities required, they therefore must hurry. Such a worried or over-confident conduct may ruin the entire labour, gaining nothing out of it.

5. Competent Team

A person determined to combat the grievance must also possess a competent team. If the members of his team are sub-graded or poorly experienced, the efforts may not materialize. An incompetent person may even spoil the whole of the team leader’s efforts. Principle of the division of work should likewise be applied in this respect.

With these qualifications as the basic tools, any delicate and mishandled situation may well be tackled wisely.

Psychology of Gheebah, Sorrow and Envy

tumblr_md0m4qVITd1qil46jo1_1280Have you ever tried to find out why, even after working so hard to avoid backbiting or thinking negatively about a situation, we bump into the same thoughts again and again? Are you struggling to leave your habit of negative thinking or trying to look towards the brighter side of the situation? Our reasoning behind events and relationship issues are from automatic thoughts, habits of thinking that come to us so effortlessly and we start assuming they come from outside our own mind.

When the aspiring Muslim woman encounters a situation at family or home, she is often trapped into a myriad of cognitive distortions that lead her to backbite, envy or compare herself to others. 

Recently, faced with an interpersonal conflict, I realized that a venomous self-critic resides inside me which blurs my vision of reality and takes me far away from the purpose which is to please Allah (swt). The Muslimah today can be sensitive and at times very anxious. She undoubtedly has to fulfil many responsibilities at home and in the society. The Muslimah, in her struggle, tends to think negatively about situations, relationships and especially about her own self. At heart, the Muslim girl or woman is emotional and yet very strong.

When the aspiring Muslim woman encounters a situation at family or home, she is often trapped into a myriad of cognitive distortions that lead her to backbite, envy or compare herself to others. This is common especially when the vulnerable Muslimah has to deal with multiple family issues and handle the household chores to her best.

The theory of cognitive distortions has its roots in the work of Aaron Beck and David Burns. They highlighted the errors in our perceptions that we continually make, if we don’t identify them. To actualize the essence of a true Muslimah, a woman has to challenge the erroneous thought patterns so that she can identify the unintentional harm that she is doing to herself and others. Our Deen has all the required remedies for perceptual distortions however, we just need to identify where we lack.

We want the other person to change to suit our peace of mind. In fact, our peace of mind is rooted in the remembrance of Allah and a very strong connection with Deen.

Following are some selected cognitive distortions as outlined in the work of David Burns, that I felt can be applied to the day-to-day contradictory  situations that we face  causing us to automatically start thinking negatively without consciously choosing to do so.

  • Filtering: This means magnifying the negative aspects in a situation or a relationship, leaving out all the positive aspects. For example, in a family gathering, some far relative from the in laws makes a cynical remark over one’s appearance; we automatically start thinking bad about her, without knowing the person completely and without considering their positive aspects.
  • Polarized Thinking: This is the either/or thinking style. We think in yes or no terms, without understanding the situation holistically. We might become so fond of perfection in our kitchen cleaning, that a minor stain somewhere will disappoint us to the point that we start considering it as a malfunction in kitchen cleaning. The kitchen is either all clean or not clean at all; this will disappoint us, affect our habits and the entire day will be spent struggling with a bad mood.
  • Personalization: In the pursuit of comparison of our work, our homes and ourselves with others, we tend to see ourselves as the cause of a situation at odds. For instance, when we consider ourselves responsible for an unhealthy external event such as a guest with digestive trouble; we automatically start thinking that something was wrong in our cooking or food. Such thoughts do occur normally, and they need to be challenged otherwise they might develop into core negative backgrounds that we think alongside. Control Fallacy: One part of control fallacy is that we feel helpless or externally controlled. We try to displace the uneasiness of an event on someone else, feeling controlled. For instance, saying something like “I can’t help it if the dessert doesn’t taste good; I was busy working for mother-in-law, she is so demanding!”
  • Blaming: This has become so common and it can ruin the tranquillity of many relationships especially between parents and children or husband and wife. For instance, a mother might yell on her child, “Your disobedience to me makes me feel so miserable!” We should make a note to ourselves that Allah (swt) has given us free will and control to manage our emotional reactions.
  • Shoulds: Shoulds are the most dangerous of all distortions; the kind which can ruin one’s very own mental health. Let’s say, in a cultured gathering, we automatically start saying to our sister how the sister should have spoken, should have covered herself and what not. This way, we get trapped in the tunnel of Gheebah and don’t realize that we are indirectly eating the flesh of our Muslim fraternity.
  • Fallacy of Change: This is also one of our distorted perceptions and values. We believe that we can make the other person change. Have you ever wondered why? This is because, we believe inside without much toil in our mind that for our happiness and sorrow, we are dependent on these people. We want the other person to change to suit our peace of mind. In fact, our peace of mind is rooted in the remembrance of Allah and a very strong connection with Deen.

If we commence to identify these modes of thinking, we can gain the balance between mind, body and soul. Hazy, negative thinking prevents us from getting closer to Allah and seeking His pleasure and love. Also, we should pause and reflect over the signs around us to abstain from negative thinking and break the shackles of anxiety, hopelessness and lack of enthusiasm to completely delve into this beautiful Deen. Consider the following quotes and Ayahs whenever you feel you’re again dripping into that same old mode of thinking again.

  • Yasmin Mogahed: “If you want to kill something, neglect it. It happens in both good and bad. Neglect a relationship, it dies. Neglect your Iman, it dies. But the same principal applies when you want to kill something like a thought or a desire. Neglect it, it dies.”
  • Al-Mutanabbi:“Don’t receive what time brings except with indifference, as long as your soul is a companion for your body, whatever you are happy with is fleeting, and sadness revives not lost loved ones.” (Don’t be Sad, Aid-al Qarni, IIPH).
  • Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright). (Al-Araf 7:201)
  • …..and never give up hope of Allah’s Mercy. Certainly no one despairs of Allah’s Mercy, except the people who disbelieve. (Yusuf 12:87)
  • The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend (Fussilat 41:34)
  • Say: “O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (Az-Zumar 39:53)
  • Say: “Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Maula (Lord, Helper and Protector).” And in Allah let the believers put their trust (At-Taubah 9:51)

For a daily reminder, you can ponder over the following Hadeeth:

On the authority Of Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al- Ashari, The Messenger (sa) said: “Purity is half of faith. Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and Subhana’Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.” (Muslim)