Monday, January 30, 2012

Letting the waswasa into your head

Worth checking out.  Lot of good articles in her blog for self development mashaAllah.  Super Muslimah Project.  One of her articles:

Found here

Rumination: Letting the Waswasa into Your Head

Looping thoughtsHave you ever caught yourself thinking about your ex-husband or an ex-friend, replaying your relationship? Or had negative thoughts about past events or people you used to know replaying round and round in your head?

It’s something that many of us do to some extent. Thoughts of things that we’ve done or experienced - especially if there are strong emotions connected to the event, such as regret, guilt, anger or embarrassment - just seem to pop into our heads uninvited and assume a life of their own!

There are times when good can come from pondering over an event; it can help you to analyse the event, learn from it and to then be able to move on. But some people get stuck in a loop. I was talking to a friend of mine recently. Her husband left 8 years ago and she said that she was still preoccupied by it. She kept on looping round and round in her head all the things that happened all those years ago, still trying to work out what she did wrong!

Rumination (going over and over things in your head) is a problem experienced by more women than men. We women tend to mull over things and hold onto them, whereas men are more pragmatic thinkers; if they can’t do something about a matter, they tend to move on from it and leave it behind. So why do we keep on doing this and how can we stop?

Shaytan's Waswasa

"And incite whoever you can among them with your voice…" (Surah Al -Israa, 17:64)

Allah warns us in the Qur’an that Shaytan will incite us to stray from the Path. He drops bad thoughts into our minds and then moves on, hoping that we'll pick them up and run with them, turning them into ideas that will harm us, our relationships and our deen.
When this happens to you, you have a choice; you can either choose to dismiss the thoughts, work out whether there is any merit pursuing them or you can let them develop into a massive story, full of twists and turns that sometimes has no connection with reality. You could embroider them so much that they take over your mind, your senses, your emotions, your time and your energy. But in the end, the choice really is yours what you do with those thoughts.

As Ibn Qayyim said: “You should know that the initial stage of every knowledge that is within your choice is your thoughts and notions. These thoughts and notions lead you into fantasies. These fantasies lead towards the will and desire to carry out [those fantasies]. These wills and desires demand the act should be committed. Repeatedly committing these acts causes them to become a habit.” (Al-Fawaid)

There can sometimes be a value in ruminating over something for a short while to understand what happened, so you can learn from the event and then move on, but the problems come when you don’t move on and they develop into something stronger.

Why Re-run Old Movies?

So why do you let yourself keep on re-running those old movies?

Is it because:
  1. You feel that you were so hurt by something that it would be ‘wrong’ to dismiss it from your mind quickly?
  2. You need to remember all the details, just in case the person who hurt you ever comes back into your life one day and then says something that will give you the opportunity to really tell them what you think of them?
  3. You’re feeling down and sorry for yourself and you want remember all the bad things that have ever happened to you to justify your feelings?
You might be laughing at what I’ve just written. But just take a second and think about the last time you caught yourself ruminating, and be honest with yourself as to why you were doing it.

Let’s look at those reasons:
  1. If you were hurt by someone, how does it help you to recover from it to keep on picking at the wound? Where is it written that you have to suffer for a certain period of time after a hurt? Just because other people do, is that the best way to handle it? What is Shaytan hoping you'll do with that thought?
  2. If we look at the death of a loved one - one of the biggest losses most people face - and the way it is marked around the world, we see that there isn’t a standard process of grief that everyone must go through, as it used to be thought. In fact some people respond to grief by laughter, celebration, and bawdiness, in addition to their sadness. This shows that the mourning process is more determined by culture than a natural human response. Likewise if someone has hurt you, you don't have to dwell on it and suffer for a long time.
  3. If someone has hurt you by leaving you and is now moving on with their life or just isn’t showing any sign of feeling guilty or sorry about something they have done, how likely is it that they are going to come back to you and want to talk about an incident that happened, especially if quite some time has passed? Do you think that they even still think about it, never mind remember it?
  4. If you keep on going over the past and rehashing it and remembering all the details, who is still suffering because of it? Not the person who hurt you, certainly; they have moved on and are now having fun. So what benefit are you getting from repeating it over and over again, except for reinforcing your feelings that you have been a victim and have a right to suffer! Is that what you want from your life too? Or do you too want to move on and enjoy your life? And would it really be so bad if they did come back and you couldn't remember all the details and you could actually forgive them? Which position do you think Shaytan is hoping you'll take?
  5. If you’re feeling down or depressed, this is the time that negative thougths most often pop into your head, when you're already feeling weak. But take a second to think; how does reminding yourself of all the sad things that have happened to you in your life help you to recover and get over your depression*? Who is benefitting from you continuing to feel like that? Once you’ve recognised that you’re feeling down, what might be a better way to respond to it?

Moving on to the Next Chapter

I read a very powerful statement the other day that epitomises the problems that occur due to rumination. It said: “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one!” How true is that?

If we keep on rehashing the past, how can we ever move on with the future? It’s like trying to drive a car while looking in the rear-view mirror! There’s a reason why the rear-view mirror is only a fraction of the size of the windscreen; it’s because we only occasionally need to look at what’s behind us. What we really need to do is to spend more time looking forward and concentrating on what’s in front of us.

Next week, I’ll be looking at a whole series of things that you can do to move on and break the cycle, some of which helped my friend to stop ruminating over her husband. In the meantime, if you’d like to share some of the things that have worked for you, let us know below.

Alternatively, if you need some help and support sooner than that, ask for a free consultation and we can discuss how I can help you though coaching.

*I'm not referring to clinical depression here, although some of the techniques I'll talk about next week can also help those who are clinically depressed too.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

An update...and importance of placing trust in Allah (swt)

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog.  Thought I should give an update. 

I have been talking to a brother.  It has been one black hole filled with confusion.  One after another there has been obstacles, from my side, from parents side and then from his side.  Oh don’t forget the third party.  And yet somehow, one after another each obstacle passed.  I prayed istekhara, and keep praying to Allah to take him away if he isn’t the one.  But he isn’t gone yet.  Things are very uncertain right now.  The whole thing started out me being very negative, then I became positive, and now I am just neutral, I want to see where this goes.  My family and friends were also negative at the beginning, maybe because of how I was feeling at the beginning, and then somehow they became positive as well once they found out more about him.  He was positive in the beginning, but something I said made him unsure.  I understand why, and I understand his views, his feelings and his perspective, but I do not regret saying it.  According to Islam, it is my right, and he should know that if he is going to come in.  Maybe some day I will write about it, when there is an ending.  Right now, the ending is unclear.  He is coming to visit me soon inshaAllah.  So I am waiting.  My family is also waiting.  Let’s see what happens.

A note: If third party gets involved, they should really learn to differentiate between their reaction, and the reaction of the two people who all this is about.  They cause a lot of miscommunication, and bring in more confusion.  But Alhamdulillah.

Besides marriage something else has been on my mind.  SubhanAllah, marriage is the least of my worries right now.  2012 is a really big year for me and my family.  A lot has to happen, or the thing I fear and the thing we have been trying to avoid for the past 14 years will come true.  Sometimes when I think about it, I feel like a huge burden has been placed on top of me, I feel constricted and suffocated. 

Then I turn to Allah (swt) in prayers and supplication, and he lightens my burden.  I can breathe again alhamdulillah.  When I think about it, I see a mountain that I don’t know how to move.  But when I remember the power of Allah (swt), I realize the smallness of the mountain.  I remind myself of all the times that Allah (swt) has saved me before when I had given up hope.  I know whatever happens will happen for the best.  I just have to be patient and push to my limits.  Allah (swt) is most merciful, the most loving.  He blessed me with this situation so I can turn to him, and increase my iman alhamdulillah.  So I can realize how powerless and weak I am, and how powerful he is.  I know whatever happens in the end will happen for the best, whether I see that couple of years down the line, or in the hereafter, so why should I worry? 

I went to a lecture yesterday, and subhanAllah, I kept thinking this lectures is about me and my family.  Allah (swt) is so loving, that earlier that day when I prayed to him, he answered my prayers, he answered what course of action I should take, he told me the words I needed to hear through this lecture.  The topic was about “importance of placing trust in Allah (swt)”.  The things that the speaker spoke about, the example he used, were examples that could be about us.  One thing he said that stuck out was, if we are to look at our difficulties, we will not find any difficulty that the prophet (sas) hasn’t gone through.  SubhanAllah, so whenever we are going through something, let’s look at the life of the prophet, and see how he dealt with it.  Allah (swt) never places a burden on us that we can’t handle.  And he tests us to purify us.  So when something happens, let’s speak to him before we speak to our friends or family.  Let’s say innalillahi wa innailaihi rajioon.  Let’s say alhamdulillah before we can complain.  Let’s accept our situation, our tests, let’s accept that everything is from Allah (swt).  And use our tests, our difficulties, the challenges he places in front of us to rise above and get closer to him, inshaAllah.  

laa hawla wa la quwata illah billahil alyul azeem.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dear self...

Assalamu alaykum,

Life is full of tests.  Our main goal in life is to please Allah (swt) and use all the resources he has given us to please him, to pass his tests and get closer to him. 

We all want marriage.  We want that friend, that soul-mate, who will be there with us so we don’t have to be alone.  But what is the point of getting married if it makes us distant from Allah (swt).  Allah (swt) knows us best, more than we know ourselves.  Although we want something really bad, it might be bad for us in the long run.

Being in a bad marriage is much worst than being single, isn’t it?  Our main goal should be to please Allah (swt), to enter Jannah.  Although we want that path to be easy, and strive with our loved ones by our side, but if Allah (swt) has ordained singlehood to be the path to jannah, then so be it.  ALhamdulillah for whatever that happens. 

If we get married, alhamdulillah.  We can strive to please Allah (swt) through marriage.  We can work to be good wives and mothers because there is so much reward in it.   But again Allah (swt) knows us best.  Maybe we would’ve failed the test of marriage.  Maybe the test of single life is much easier for us to pass than marriage would’ve been. 

Or maybe marriage would’ve distracted us from Allah (swt).  Maybe we would’ve been so in love with our husbands that we would’ve become distant from Allah. 

It is okay to want marriage, make dua for it in tahajjut, but know that marriage isn’t everything.  Allah (swt) knows best, he has written different way to jannah for different people.  It is okay to seek marriage, but if your intentions aren’t right, the marriage market can feel like a battle field.  Having to deal with rejecting others, being rejected, emotions, parents, it can leave you feeling drained and depressed and make you want to not go back.  But sisters, if your heart is in the right place, then you will learn to say alhamdulillah after every experience.  With every prospect, you know you are getting closer to Allah (swt).  Every time it doesn’t work out with someone, you get to make the dua “oh Allah, replace what I have lost with someone better”.  “Oh Allah, every time I get hurt, make me rise in status in your eyes”.

Don’t complain to anyone but Allah. 

Pain is inevitable.  No one can run from it.  But make your pain count for something.  If you get hurt, and became ungrateful and become more distant from Allah, what was the point of it all?  Make your pain count for something, make it worth it.  Use your pain to get closer to Allah (swt).  Because otherwise, you are in a lose-lose situation.  You are getting hurt in this life, and you are losing in the eyes of Allah.  But if you set your priorities right, then yes you might get hurt, but you know in the end, victory is yours.  You know you will win at the end.  And when you do, you won’t care about all the times you have cried and been hurt.

Have a back up plan.  Being single has its advantages too.  Make a commitment to stay grateful no matter what happens.  Who else would you need if you have Allah (swt) and yourself?  Take Allah (swt) and yourself as your best friend.  If you have these two, you will need no one else. 

It is a short journey.  Life will end soon, but your soul will live forever.  What you do today determines how your life is in the hereafter.  Everyone has their own tests in life, their own struggles.  Strive to gain Allah (swt)’s pleasure through whatever path Allah (swt) has chosen for you.  This does not mean stop trying to get married, or stop wanting to get married.  However this means don’t keep the condition of having your desires fulfilled.  We may plan, but Allah (swt)’s plans are better than our plans.  Strive your utmost, and if it is good for you, he will give it to you.  But if he knows this to not be good for you, he will give you something else in return.  Your effort will not go to waste, so what do you have to worry for.  May Allah (swt) make all of our path to Jannah easy for us.  Ameen.