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.

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