Monthly Archives: September 2017

Episode 2: Acting Out As A Self Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanism

 

Episode Two: ‘Acting Out’ As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

“So can you tell me what happened the night of the robbery?” I asked Hamza after the small talk was over.

“I already told the investigators everything I know” Hamza spoke very quickly. He started tapping his right foot uncontrollably with beads of sweat sliding down his forehead.

“Do you mind telling me again?”

“I dunno much. I was in my room the whole time”

“So you never seen the guests? Or had dinner with the family?” I asked, checking my notes and police reports to see if he was getting his story straight.

“No.”

“What else did you do that night?”

“Nothing special, I was downstairs in my room all night” Hamza stiffened his shoulders and rubbed his nose. “I was asleep”

“You told the police you saw your friend’s mom Sameera go upstairs around dessert time.”

“Yeah?”

“Did you?”

“I woke up hungry. I stepped out of my room, called Alffie to get me some food. Then I saw Aunt Sameera sneak upstairs”

“Alffie is Alfred. The butler, correct?”

“Yeah”

“So what else were you doing in your room that whole time?”

“I told you! I slept and played video games” Hamza frowned, pressing his fingers to his temples.

“Oh, I don’t think you’ve mentioned that. What game were you playing?”

“Ummm Avengers?” Hamza stuttered.

“Is that the same game where you chase the dragon?” I looked him straight in his doped, Hazelnut eyes.

 

“I don’t know what that means” Hamza’s palms were sweating at this point, too.
Dangerous memories flashed before his eyes so vividly I could hear his heart pound against his chest.

 

A couple of months ago

 

“Dude this is good stuff” Hamza slurred.

“I told you” His friend winked.

“Honey did you remember to…”

“Mommmmmm! I told you a hundred times, don’t charge into my room without knocking!” Hamza roared.

“I’m sorry baby I didn’t mean to…. Oh, what’s that smoke?” Amy sniffed the air.

“Nothing it’s a chemistry project for school, now get out!”

“Do you need any help?”

“No Mom! Just go now so we can finish our project.”

That same night, Hamza allegedly ‘borrowed’ the keys to his mom’s Maserati, went for a midnight cruise with his friend and ended up being arrested.

“Mom! I’m dying! You gotta get me outta this joint” Hamza wailed. He was allowed one phone call, so naturally he called the only person who usually gets him out of such troubles scot-free.


“Officer, may I have a word with you please” Amy asked elegantly.


Within half an hour, the police report was shredded in exchange for a locked black brief case, and Amy was back home, tucking her son in bed as if nothing had happened.

She made him promise to quit and to never ever breathe a word about this to a soul, especially his father.

 

 

“Seriously lady, what’s that supposed to mean?” Hamza asked me again, his voice shaking this time.

“I think you know what it means” I replied calmly.

As if this was his cue to blow up, Hamza rose to his feet, his anger boiling up like lava, and his eyes blood red.

“Please sit down. We’re not done here”

“Oh you bet we are!” Hamza stormed up to his room yelling and cursing, stopping momentarily to grab a crystal vase and slam it against the wall.

 

That same evening

 

“How rude! I swear if I had spoken to my parents that way, or any grown up for that matter, I would have been buried alive. With poisonous rats. In a dungeon.” Jenna, my assistant remarked.

“I know. Our parents had zero tolerance for disrespect. You can’t totally blame Hamza for his behavior though, he obviously doesn’t know any better” I said.

“Don’t defend that spoiled brat” Jenna spit out.

“I’m not. I’m completely appalled by his behavior, too. But I can’t help thinking his anger and acting out are just another form of self defense mechanism”

“Like how? He’s also separated from reality and lives in a far-off, ‘Angry Bird’ world?” Jenna joked.

“No” I laughed. “When we’re physically attacked, we fight back with all our might. The same goes for emotional attacks. When someone hurts our feelings, they tap into our innermost insecurities and fears. They make us feel exposed and helpless, so we rage and act out. If you think about it, for some people, expressing anger is a symbol for regaining a sense of power and control.”

 

“Please tell me this is against Islamic teachings or I’m gonna cry in my coffee.”

 

“Of course it is. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised us to never get angry, because anger is from Satan. There’s no ‘power’ in it at all. He also said.

 

“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” https://sunnah.com/bukhari/78/141

 

“What about those who stuff their anger inside but retaliate with the scary silent treatment instead?”

“That’s being passively aggressive, which is another type of self defense. These people will shut down completely to escape dealing with the problem, but their eyes…. ho-ho… if looks could kill!”

 

“Yes! YES! These are exactly my mom’s moves. Her eyes widen, her breath sharpens and her nostrils open up. She’d be silent alright but her piercing look could make a grown man pee his pants! I swear if there’s a country named ‘Passive Aggression’, my mom would be their queen! Beating us up would have been more merciful”

“Aggression rarely solves anything, Jenna. Neither does passive aggression. Those who can anger you that much evidently have control over you. Their words must have affected you in one way or another, especially if they threaten to touch any feelings of fear, guilt or hurt you’ve been harboring deep inside”

“Okay I need to remember this for the future. Might come in handy when I’m bragging to my friends about my Psychological powers” Jenna winked.

“You’re such a child”

“I’m serious. Ughh where’s my notepad. I gotta to write this down.”

“It’s in the alphabets. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H… so F, G, H is Fear, Guilt and Hurt”

“Who’s the child now?” Jenna teased.

“You know, acting out is the self defense mechanism children use when they don’t get what they want. They throw tantrums at Toy stores and scream at the top of their lungs when it’s time to leave the playground because many of them haven’t developed adequate skills to deal with emotional pain yet. And believe it or not, some of them never really develop any as they grow older, so whenever they feel threatened, even adults will behave like children and act out.”

“Hmmmm so Hamza feels threatened. Why is that? Doesn’t seem like his feelings got hurt. He must be scared or feeling guilty” Jenna smirked.

“That’s a possibility yes…”

“Oh come on! The answers are staring you in the eyes. Hamza obviously did it. Yesterday when his mom offered him money, he said no. Which teenager says ‘no’ to money?”

I tapped my pen on the desk, contemplating Jenna’s words silently. She had a point, but was it valid enough to accuse the son?

“Do the math. He was defensive, agitated, rude and sweaty. Oh and RICH! It’s definitely him”

“Look who’s jumping to conclusions. Awwwhhh I’m so proud” I teased.

“AND he’s trying to make his mom’s friend Sameera look like the main suspect. I mean, was there any proof she went upstairs right before the necklace disappeared?”

“Actually….. There was…..”

 

To be continued….

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 Author’s Commentary

I read somewhere that putting a mirror behind the salesperson at the store will stop customers from getting angry. They wouldn’t want to watch themselves behave in an aggressive manner. It’s unsightly. You know why? Because the jig is up! Anger isn’t perceived as a sign of power anymore, it’s a sign of weakness. We’re old enough to realize it’s just a cover up; a smoke screen to hide the pain we feel. Besides we all know the famous hadith, right?

“The strong man is not the good wrestler; but the strong man is he who controls himself when he is angry.” https://sunnah.com/urn/2054430

Nonetheless, anger isn’t the problem. The word ‘when’ in this hadith proves it’s a common emotion, for it serves as a signal something is horribly wrong, and you need to do something about it. And you know what we do since we’re absolute geniuses loool? We ‘act out’ the destructive feelings of anger instead of actually fixing the problem, and so inevitably we end up back in square one. When someone’s words for example makes you feel threatened or guilty, all the voices in your head clobber you with different takes on the situation:

“Sara’s getting on my nerves again”

“I know she probably doesn’t mean it but still”

“Sara is always taking advantage of my kindness.”

“I shouldn’t say anything I might regret”

“If I don’t speak up Sara will think I’m a wimp”

 

My advice? Practice the ‘pause’. Breathe, filter out your thoughts and try to control acting out the ‘unproductive’ ones. You’ll thank me later when you win people over instead of lose them one by one. Prophet Muhammad’s golden words will help you reach the respectful level of ‘emotional strength’, and boy don’t we all need that in this time and age?

Episode 1: Defense Mechanisms Explained

Defense Mechanism

Self Defense Mechanisms

 

Episode One: Using Dissociation As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

 

“If you say ‘calm down’ one more time I swear I’m gonna lose it!” Her husband snapped.
“I don’t know what else to say. I looked everywhere. It’s gone! Now can we please stop fighting about this and go to bed?” Amy cried.

“This necklace is worth 400 thousand dollars. The only thing I’m sure about is I’ll never sleep again till you find it!” her husband roared. “You know what, that’s it, I’m calling the police…”

 

Three months later

His name was Mr. Mohanad Zahir, a very powerful and insanely rich businessman. We met on a Monday morning to discuss the case he had hired me to investigate and by Thursday I was at the Zahir’s posh residence all caught up on the details and ready to commence with evaluating and assessing the witnesses.

“I don’t care how long it takes or how much it’ll cost. I hear you’re one of the best forensic psychologists in the city and I’m counting on you to find out who stole my wife’s diamonds.” Mohanad arched his thick eyebrows, while smoking his expensive cigar, completely ignoring his beautiful, agitated wife.

Detectives and suspicious insurance company investigators have been all over this robbery case for weeks to no avail. Amy wore the diamond necklace to the small and cozy birthday party they had hosted for her best friend three months earlier. Halfway through dinner Amy got the hives and started itching all over. Mortified, she ran upstairs frantically, searching for her antihistamines and naturally took off her jewelry to ice down her burning skin. Careful examination showed there were traces of strawberries in Amy’s dessert; the only food she’s extremely allergic to. There were no signs of breaking and entering that night, nor were there any strange foot or fingerprints besides those of the guests.

“We were all thoroughly interrogated; our friends Sameera and Nadir, our son Hamza, and even our butler and housekeeper, who were the only people present inside the house that night.” Her husband, Mr. Mohanad Zahir added.

“Are you suspecting anyone Mrs Zahir?” I asked Amy.

“She didn’t even want to call the police.” Mohanad said in a hard-to-ignore, sharp tone. “She was as happy as a clam to let the whole thing go unreported. She obviously thinks I crap money for a living.”

A flash of heat went through Amy, tightening her shoulders and flushing her cheeks blood red, yet I could tell she was used to being on the receiving end of her husband’s insults.

“I couldn’t accuse anyone, they’re all practically family” Amy whispered.

“I understand” I nodded. “Mr. Zahir, do you mind me asking why you insisted on hiring a forensic psychologist even though the case had been closed and you already received the insurance money for the stolen jewelry?”
“That’s not the POINT!” Mohanad pounded his fist on the designer Ebony-wood coffee table. “It’s not about the money or the necklace, it’s about the principle. I need to know who would dare steal from me under my watch. Be it who it may, they must pay for their crime.” Mohanad said before getting up. “Excuse me!”

“Sorry about that” Amy apologized quickly when her husband stomped outside angrily to take a phone call. “He’s usually very pleasant. I don’t know what’s gotten into him lately”
“I can tell you think very highly of him”

“He’s a great husband. Generous and supportive, and he’s also a wonderful father” Amy replied, drawing in a long breath with a pursed smile.

She was lying. There was no doubt in my mind about it….


Last year…

“Will you stop whining? I can’t believe you’re still upset about your flower business going belly-up. Of course it did! You know nothing about running a business.” Mohanad said, stuffing another crab puff in his already full mouth.

“Dad…”

“Hamza it’s okay” Amy rested her hand on her son’s arm to stop him from arguing with his father. The three of them were at the lake house for the weekend, supposedly to strengthen the family bond, which at that point was as frail as a yellow autumn leaf.

“Let him talk. I’m sure failing school three years in a row has given him unparalleled insights on the why’s and how’s of success.” Mohanad scoffed sarcastically.

“He’ll pass this year with flying colors, watch and see” Amy smiled warmly at her teenage son.

“Unless we enroll him in a special school for pot heads, I don’t see that happening. Look at him, he’s stoned in broad day light!” Mohanad yelled.

“I’m not stoned dad, I’m just tired. I was up all night studying” Hamza mumbled.

“I don’t know what’s more infuriating, your drug abuse problem or your failure to come up with a decent lie to cover it up. Looks like he’ll take after your brother, Amy. Congratulations!”

 

 

“So tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?” My question woke Amy up from her painful, silent rumination.

“I grew up in the cutest little town known for making the best cheese on the planet. Wait I’ll get you some!” She bounced on her toes.

“Thank you that’s very sweet, but maybe later” I sat her down gently. “What about your family?” I asked.

“My parents live about two hours away, but still, we talk all the time. I lived a simple life back home. My dad worked day and night to provide us with the bare necessities, yet our home was a haven, believe me. People think money brings happiness but that’s not true. Life is meaningless without those people you love and who love you back.”

“Including your brother?” I smirked.

“What? Of course.” Amy stuttered. “I haven’t seen him in years though.”

“Yeah, that’s what your husband thought, too. Except I found out you took him to Rehab two months ago. And a very expensive one if I may add”

“I do what I can to help my family” Amy whispered.

“I completely understand” I raised both hands. “Your parents must be proud”

“They are. In their eyes, marrying a rich man like Mohanad was my greatest achievement!” Amy’s ocean blue eyes glistened in the light. She fiddled with her diamond ring and then looked up at me with a smile. “Of course I must help them. God gave me so many blessings; a loving successful husband and a perfect son. It’s my way of giving back…”

“Mommmmmmmmm! Where are the stupid keys? I’m late!” Hamza walked in, yelling so loud I think the wall paint cracked.

“Sweet heart please say hello to our guest” Amy seemed a bit embarrassed.

“Yeah whatever” Hamza bobbed his head at me then turned to her. “Where’s your car keys?”

“They’re in my purse honey” Amy handed her son her limited edition Channel purse. He grabbed it rudely to fish the keys out then tossed it on the sofa.

“Umm you’re going out? Do you need some money?” Amy asked.

“No I’m good.” He said before scurrying out.

A moment of awkward silence…

“Giselle” Amy called for the housekeeper, avoiding any sort of eye contact with me.

“Yes, Mrs Zahir”

“A cheese platter for our guest here. You really must try the Chevre!” Amy changed the subject abruptly, yet the unexpressive look on her face said a thousand untold stories.

 

That same evening

“So she wants to make her family look good. Big whoop!” Jenna said. She was my office assistant, a vibrant, cheerful young woman who was very eager to learn all about Psychology.

“No Jenna, Amy is using dissociation as a defense mechanism” I contemplated.

“Dis what?”

“Dissociation. There’s over 30 different types of defense mechanisms the subconscious employs as a protective shield against the ugly truth. Dissociation is one of those types.” I explained.

“’Against the truth’? Isn’t this just a fancy terms for ‘lying’? Why do you make it sound legitimate? ” Jenna asked.

“Because we all do it. Avoiding pain is a natural, basic instinct”

“Okay, so you think Amy isn’t purposely lying, she’s just zoning out?”

“Exactly! Dissociation is separating yourself from reality. It’s a self defense mechanism to things that are too difficult or too painful to process and absorb. Like Amy; her husband is a raging Narcissist and her son is obviously disrespectful towards her, but she’s completely blinded to it.”

“Gimme another example” Jenna put both palms under her chin.

“Hmmmm we see it a lot with children who’ve been abused. Some of them grow up with no recollection of what had happened. They know they’ve been abused but they become masters at detaching from reality, they completely block the horrific incident out.”

“Wow! It’s really fascinating how the brain works”

“You’ll be surprised how many of us use dissociation in our everyday lives. Like for example, when a mom knows for sure her child is having troubles at school yet turns a blind eye or give them excuses instead of addressing the core problem.”

“Yeah like those moms who blame the teachers when their kids fail, right?”

“Or it could be mild as daydreaming. Some people just feel detached from their lives; they describe it as watching themselves in a movie. Or when a girl falls in love with the wrong guy and completely blinds herself to ALL the signs proving he’s not the right person for her. Uhmm like some people I know uhmmm” I coughed.

“Fine I get it” Jenna made a face. “Dissociation is basically like living in La La Land; believing in fairy tales and knights in shining armor. What’s so wrong with that?”

“Nothing if you use it properly. Like it’s okay to zombie out during a root canal for example. Trying to focus on things that don’t bring us pain is actually therapeutic. But when you refuse to deal with reality and run away from your problems all together to go live in a perfect, dream world that’s when you’re in trouble. You can’t solve the problem if you don’t see it to start with”

“So how do you cure ‘dissociators’?”

“Therapy works for patients with dissociative disorders. They need help focusing and acknowledging the very painful feelings they’re avoiding. It’s no walk in the park, but without treatment, they’ll spend the rest of their lives carrying the past on their shoulders, getting themselves in more trouble, or accumulating more sins. They eventually suffer from depression, low self-esteem and memory loss.” I explained. “Like Amy, she lives in two separate worlds. She’s created a beautiful bubble to live safely inside, but I have a feeling she’s hiding something. Something awful…”

“You think she stole her own necklace and then convinced herself she didn’t do it?” Jenna gasped.

“It’s too early to say….”

The next day I went to question Hamza, Mr. and Mrs. Zahir’s teenage son.

“Of course! Make yourself at home. ” Amy greeted me cheerfully as if I was an old friend dropping by for a cup of tea, not a crime investigator.

Hamza walked in a few minutes later. A typical teenager in sneakers and a solid black T-shirt. He had his hands in his pockets, with his ripped blue jeans sagging below his waist, and his long wavy hair framing his pale face.

“Remember what your uncle taught you.” Amy whispered in his ear. “How does a fish get caught?”

“He opens his mouth” Hamza whispered back.

 

To be continued….

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

The Author’s Commentary

A certain ‘Dissociator’ popped up in your head, right?

Or perhaps right now you’re in the middle of an ‘out of body’ experience being a spectator and you realize ‘Oh my God, I’m a DISSOCIATORRRRRR!’

You know, Psychology is closely integrated within Islam. Allah did not leave us to our own devices, for even the most complicated, unresolved psychological issues have been discussed in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Like for example, fathers who buried their daughters alive in times of ‘Jahiliyya’ must have been dissociating! They must have completely blocked out the horrendous magnitude of this sickening custom.

Let’s say you’ve committed a sin, and because you have a good heart, you just can’t face the fact you’ve upset Allah. It’s just too painful! So you refuse to feel it and completely block it out. Sometimes dissociation is the reason thieves keep stealing, adulterers keep ‘adultering’ and cheaters keep cheating. They don’t feel guilty about it because they’re detached from their ugly reality. But the angels on our shoulders aren’t detached. Granted the one of the right might get bored sometimes, but the angel on our left is on full gear, writing down everything we’re in denial about. And then we’ll be completely dumbfounded on Judgment Day.
I know it’s unimaginably difficult to accept you’ve sinned, but that’s part of the healing process. Stop running away from your mistakes because sooner or later you’ll collapse. The antidote to dissociation is repentance. And if you know a disscoiator who insists on sinning, make duaa for him or her. These people are not stubborn, they’re not bad people, they’re just weak….
May Allah help us see the truth and guide us to the
right path. Amen

Lilly S. Mohsen