Monthly Archives: September 2017

Episode 5: Reaction Formation As A Self Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanism

Self defense mechanism

 

 

Episode Five: Reaction Formation As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

 

“Thank you for meeting with me Alfred. I won’t take up too much of your time, I just have a couple of questions about the night Mrs. Zahir’s necklace went missing” I said.

“Of course” Alfred, the butler, replied with a quick nod.

“In the earlier investigations, you said you went upstairs right after dessert was served, correct?”

“Mrs Zahir needed ice for her rash. I had no choice. I was only doing my job” Alfred went pale and his hands were shaking.

“Calm down. I’m just confirming the information with you.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve just been around long enough to know the unprivileged always serve as everyone else’s scapegoats….”

 

A couple of months ago….

“What are you, deaf?” Mohanad snapped. “I said Scottish smoked salmon. This is clearly Norwegian”

“I will have it replaced right away, Mr. Zahir” Alfred replied with courtesy, even though he was burning inside.

“Rich people are arrogant sick freaks. What difference does it make Scottish or Norwegian? They’re both stinky pink fish!” Alfred slammed the plate on the counter top when he walked into the kitchen.

Giselle, the housekeeper, didn’t say anything. She gulped down the unwanted food, straightened out her apron and then stood at the sink to wash the dishes.

“He’s taking out his anger on me like he always does. We’re lucky we’re not like those people. Their lifestyle is so pretentious and toxic. They have everything they want and they’re not even happy. Take Mr. Zahir, he’s always grumpy, right? And Mrs Zahir is popping pills all day to relax. But people like you and me Giselle, we sleep peacefully coz our conscious is clear.”

“So you wouldn’t want to be in Mr. Zahir’s shoes?” Giselle asked with one eyebrow up.

“Of course not. I hate this exaggeration and fakeness. I’d rather lead an honest simple life, than sit by the pool smoking cigars all day and crying coz my drink doesn’t have an umbrella in it!” Alfred spit out bitterly.

“I’ve worked for many rich families. They’re not all bad” Giselle shrugged.

“Money is a curse I tell you, a CURSE! It turns people into monsters. Wealthy people are everything that’s wrong with this world. They’re bloodsucker. They exploit the poor for their hard-earned money and then pat themselves on the back when they give their leftovers to charity!”

Alfred went back to his room after making sure everyone was sleeping. He looked at the suits he was supposed to take to the dry cleaners for Mr. Zahir, put one on, and sat down to eat a plate of salmon and caviar. He followed his little weekly tradition with lighting up one of his boss’s expensive cigars, while looking at pictures of Mr. Zahir’s Ferrari.

“I hate myself..”, he sighed….

 

 

“So how long have you been working for the Zahirs?”

“About six months now.”

“How’s your experience so far?”

“I can’t complain. They’re fine people. I hope to stay working here for years to come.”

“I heard you got married recently.” I told Alfred, watching his facial expression slowly.

“What does this have to do with anything?” He panicked.

“Well, I spoke to your wife earlier this morning. She’s under the impression you’ll quit your job in a couple of weeks and move permanently to South Africa. She said you plan to buy a house by the beach. Is this true?”

There was a long awkward silence. I could sense the poor butler’s inner struggle and embarrassment at being caught in a lie. He obviously had no intention of working for the Zahirs’ ‘for years to come’.

“We’re still thinking about it….” Alfred finally said after clearing his throat a couple of times.

“Well it does sound like a good plan. You must have a lot of money saved on the side”

 

 

Later that day

“He’s totally busted. So what did he say?” Jenna, my eager assistant asked curiously.

“He said he wasn’t planning on serving rich people for the rest of his life. He was ready to do something meaningful for a change.” I replied as I stared out of my office’s window.

“Did you notice his antagonism towards wealthy people? Is that a ‘communism’ defense mechanism?” Jenna joked.

“No” I laughed. “He’s using Reaction Formation as a self defense mechanism”

“Sounds like something we learn in Chemistry class.”

“Except this mechanism is used when there’s no chemistry between the heart and the mind. It makes people appear the opposite of what they actually are. Like Alfred, he criticizes rich people and yet deep down he wishes to be one of them.”

“What a hypocrite!” Jenna put a hand on her hip.

“It does seem that way, but it’s more like repressing socially unacceptable feelings. Some people cover them up and instead, behave in the completely opposite manner.”

“But why?”

“Because fitting in is a basic need, Jenna. And whenever you start feeling you’ll be ridiculed, judged or left out for having different views or emotions, you sometimes ‘self defend’ yourself against this ‘social pain’ by pretending you’re one of the crowd.”

“But why?”

“La Hawl Wala Kowata Ela BiAllah, I just explained.” I laughed. “Like for example, a father who’s emotionally unavailable, will go the extra mile to show he’s overly protective of his kids. Or a man who secretly has homosexual tendencies yet openly and excessively criticizes gays. Or a woman who inwardly despises her colleague might be extremely nice to her in public. This kind of exaggerated behavior is what we call “Reaction Formation’”

“Good luck treating patients who use this weird mechanism” Jenna scoffed.

“There’s usually a deeper and a much more complicated psychological problem beneath the surface of what the ‘Reaction Formaters’ show. Therapy can provide a safe environment for them to explore their contradictions and perhaps get to the bottom of their primary conflict.”

“Maybe Alfred’s primary problem is his inferiority complex. And maybe he stole the necklace to trick his wife into thinking he’s rich and that way he’d feel superior in her eyes.”

“Maybe….”

“Come on! There’s no other explanation. It’s definitely him!”

“There’s one more suspect.” I said slowly.

“Oh you mean the house keeper, Giselle? You gave me the impression she’s as timid as a blushing newborn rabbit.”

“Yes, but I saw her under a different light.”

“How so?”

“She was eavesdropping on us. And it wasn’t the first time….”

 

To be continued…..

 

 

 

Author’s Commentary:

So I couldn’t tell Jenna but I’m gonna tell you guys what I really think, since we’re all friends here. She was right; Reaction Formation is a sort of hypocrisy, but surprisingly it’s an unconscious one. I know I’m not making a lot of sense but go with me coz it’s a very thin line.
When people try to cover up undesirable feelings or opinions, they’re using a self-defense mechanism to protect themselves from social stigma, but when they add contradictory ‘action’, that’s when they become hypocrites.

 

In Islam, they’re allegedly the ones who want both this life and the Hereafter but end up getting neither. They think they’re so smart they can actually deceive Allah, but He knows their real intentions.

 

“(The hypocrites) will call the believers: “Were we not with you?” The believers will reply: “Yes! But you led yourselves into temptations, you looked forward for our destruction; you doubted (in Faith); and you were deceived by false desires, till the Command of Allah came to pass. And the chief deceiver (Satan) deceived you in respect of Allah.” (57:14 Holy Qur’an)

Now I’m going to touch on a very sensitive subject and please forgive me if I don’t do it very eloquently. Some people judge and criticize sinners so forcefully it makes one wonder why they’re so ruthless when our beautiful religion teaches us to be merciful and tolerant of others. Could it be that those same critics have undesirable wishes to sin, too? Could this exaggerated hatred be a sign of using ‘Reaction Formation’ as a self defense mechanism?

If you catch yourself attacking someone’s lifestyle or behavior in a brutal manner, stop, and take a moment to analyze your intentions. Helping others find the right path involves love, compassion and most of all patience….
We all know this:

Through judging we separate, but through understanding we grow stronger…

And it goes both ways…

If someone condemns you in a hurtful way, (and before you get so mad you feel the smoke coming out of your inflamed nostrils) I need you to remember that perhaps it’s more about them than it is about you. Judging others isn’t listed in our job descriptions as Muslims, and so when we take it upon ourselves to become the world’s most infamous critics, it usually has nothing to do with Islam.

So don’t take the hurt to heart, and try to understand when someone deliberately tries to break someone else, it’s usually because they’re already broken inside…

And ‘having mercy on broken hearts and souls’ is definitely on our job descriptions…

See? Right here on the list, in a bold huge font!

 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

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Episode 4: Displacement As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

Defense Mechanism

Self Defense Mechanism

 

Episode Four: Displacement As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

“Mr. Nadir. Thank you for meeting with me. I know you’re a very busy man” I said when I went to question Sameera’s husband the next day. “So can you tell me what happened that night at the dinner party?”

“Nothing abnormal. Mohanad and Amy insisted on having a dinner party for Sameera’s birthday, so we went to their house, ate, talked and left around midnight.” Nadir said, cracking his knuckles before resting both his palms on his big belly.

“I understand you brought dessert. A lemon meringue pie?”

“Of course I did. It’s my wife’s birthday. I couldn’t walk in empty handed.”

“I heard you got into a huge disagreement with the Bakery’s owner a few weeks back, right after your interrogation to be more specific.”

“It was their fault this whole ordeal happened. I told them NO STRAWBERRIES! How hard is it to follow instructions?”

“But the analysis confirmed it wasn’t the Bakery’s fault.”

“Huh? Still” Nadir shrugged, his face completely flushed.

“So what else did you do that day? Before the party I mean.”

“I went to work. Picked up the pie. Went home, showered, got dressed and then Sameera and I went to dinner….”

 

Three months ago….

“I can’t believe you stayed late at the office tonight. It’s my birthday. Seriously, you’ve reached a whole new level of inconsiderate!” Sameera complained as she strapped on her seat belt.

“I told you, I left the office on time, but there was a line up at the bakery! Damn it, what’s wrong with this stupid Radio?” Nadir yelled as he jolted it angrily a couple of times. 

“And now you’d rather listen to the radio than talk to your wife. Nice!” Sameera crossed her arms. “You know, I never asked you to take me to Paris or buy me diamonds every two and a half seconds like Amy’s husband does. I just want you to show me you care. Once a year!”

“Let’s not forget the fact that Mohanad is a millionaire! Not that we could ever forget, he never fails to rub it in all our faces.” Nadir steered the driving wheel, yelling and cursing other drivers on the road.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to get your wife a decent gift on her birthday.” Sameera protested.

“Am I gonna have to ruin the surprise?”

“Yes, I think you should.”

“Listen, I have a plan, but you gotta keep an open mind okay…?” Nadir smiled wickedly.

 

“Mr. Nadir, you recently bought a lake house, is that correct?” I asked. His wife Sameera tripped when she heard the question, and dropped a glass of the drinks tray she had come to serve. She quickly apologized, cleaned up the mess then hurried out.

“Yes, it was a late birthday gift for Sameera. I’m still paying installment, so I didn’t technically ‘buy’ it yet” Nadir tried to compose himself.

“Well, according to this title in my hand, the amount has been fully paid upfront when you bought the lake house last week.”

Nadir choked on his juice, obviously taken aback by the amount of information I had gathered on his family.

“Back to the dinner party” I continued. “You went to wash your hands in the guest….”

Nadir’s cell rang suddenly, even though he had assured me he put it on mute.

“Sorry, one sec” Nadir raised his index finger. “Hello? What? You locked yourself out? You idiot! I need those documents ASAP! Is it too much to ask for an assistant who ISN’T also a blithering MORON?” Nadir yelled into his phone before hanging up on the poor guy’s face. “I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to postpone this questioning to another time. I gotta go deal with this.”

“That’s okay, I think I got everything I need….”

 

That same evening…

“Lemme guess, he’s using his assistant as a self defense mechanism” Jenna, my eager assisant pointed out over dinner.

“There’s no such thing, hon.” I smiled. “No, he’s using displacement. That’s when some people take out their anger on innocent victims.”

“Like how?”

“Say this husband has had an argument at work with a client. He drives home like a maniac, yelling and cursing and goes all hulk on his helpless wife because the meat loaf is ‘too salty’. Displacement is an unconscious self defense mechanism that shifts frustration on people or objects that are less threatening.”

“Yeah, like my brother. My whole life, I was practically his punching bag. He used to pick a fight with me every time he got detention. It wasn’t my fault his teacher despised him!”

“Probably because expressing his hostile feelings towards his teacher could have gotten him in more trouble. So to protect his inflamed ego, he took it out on you. What are sisters for, ha?” I joked.

“Not this! People who use displacement, they’re just passing the pain on to someone else. Someone who’s innocent and completely clueless. Seriously, how do ‘Displacementers’ sleep at night?”

“Sometimes, as loved ones, it’s our jobs pick up on the ‘not-so-subtle’ clues of displacement and try not to take it personally.” I leveled.

“Or maybe people who ‘displace’ their frustration should stop being so mean and evil!” Jenna crossed her arms.

“Nadir doesn’t seem evil or mean. He takes his anger out on the broken radio or his poor assistant. I think he unconsciously uses displacement because deep down he feels weak and insecure. His wife overpowers him so he needs to overpower someone else.”

“Okay so let’s recap. Amy uses ‘dissociation’ since she lives in La La Land. Her son Hamza acts out in “Angry Bird’ world. Ummm Sameera uses projection to pass her faults onto others and her husband Nadir uses ‘displacement’ as a self defense mechanism, coz he’s a wuss”

“Jenna!” I scolded.

“Sorry but it’s true. And since he obviously feels subdued under Mohanad’s piles of money, perhaps he misplaced his frustration…. Took it out on an innocent object, like I dunno… a diamond necklace?” Jenna’s eyebrows popped up.

“You’re cute.” I laughed. “It does sound plausible. But Nadir isn’t the only frustrated man in this scenario. Someone else is even more intimidated by Mohanad’s wealth.”

“Who?”

“His butler. Alfred….”

 

To be continued

 

 

Author’s Commentary

 

Ahhhhh the prodigy of displacement.

The husband takes his frustration out on the wife (or the other way around I’m sure). The frustrated parent takes it out on the kids. The kids take it out on the timid classmates. And the timid classmates take it out on food. It’s a game called ‘pass the fury ball of rage’; a vicious circle of always hitting on the weakest links, the ones who can’t afford to fight back.

Oh my God you guys, I just realized. We all use displacement somehow and it’s not very nice!

It’s probably the number one reason behind bullying, having unexplained phobias, hundreds of shattered devices, innocent kids in time outs, rebound relationships and even obesity coz of all the binge eating. And you know what, it’s not fair. Defenseless human beings shouldn’t have to pay the price for our personal problems. Especially when they’re the ones keeping us stable. Listen to this Hadith:

Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Seek among your weak ones, for you are given provision and help only because of the weak amongst you.” https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/1/272

I’m not saying you’re not allowed to get frustrated. Of course you are, you’re human. I’m just suggesting instead of using vulnerable targets as punching bags, get an ACTUAL punching bag and you know, knock yourself out. Channel the rage into something more productive like cleaning or running or even screaming into a pillow.

But what if I’m the victim of displacement?’ you ask.

(Oh man! I was secretly hoping you wouldn’t put me in such a predicament by asking that.)

Okay, if you find yourself a target to this specific self defense mechanism, I’m gonna have to ask you to swallow your anger and stay patient. Don’t take it personally because we both know it’s not about you. Try to soothe and understand….

Wouldn’t you want your loved ones to do the same…?

Oh yes, you would!

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

Episode 3: Projection As A Self Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanism

Episode Three: Projection As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

“So how long have you and Amy been friends for?” I asked Sameera.

“Almost twenty years now” She replied with a bitter laugh.

Sameera and her husband lived in little cottage house in the suburbs. I couldn’t help but notice how immaculately organized their living room was. ‘Picture perfect’ were the first two words that came to my mind when I first walked in.

“You must very be close then, right?” I asked.

“Of course we are. What kind of question is that?” She frowned.

“I was only stating the obvious. She hosted your birthday dinner at her house, and from what I hear it was extravagant! Caviar, lobsters, a five tiered cake….” I said.

“That’s Amy. She loves to spend money like it’s going out of style. Especially other people’s money.” Sameera half joked.

 

Last year

“I just love your house. It’s so warm and cozy, like a miniature dollhouse” Amy marveled.

“You sound like a thesaurus coming up with new terms for the word ‘small’. I know it doesn’t compare to your Beverly Hills mansion, but it’s my home and I love it just the way it is, thank you very much.” Sameera snapped.

“Oh my God, I didn’t mean it that way.” Amy gasped.

“It’s fine.” Sameera waved her hand. “Anyways, so I called the girls and we’re all set for tomorrow…”

“Oh Sam, I’m sorry I can’t make it. Mohanad just told me we’re going to Paris tomorrow for this major business conference. He’s gonna be the keynote speaker. I can’t miss it”

“I don’t believe this. Do you know how long I’ve been preparing for your birthday brunch?”

“I know I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do though”

“Forget it. I always come last with you. What else is new?”

“Ohhhh please I feel horrible as it is. I’ll make it up to you I promise.” Amy sounded genuinely sorry. “To be honest, I don’t really wanna go on this trip, but there’s no way out of it”

“Why not?”

“I’m only excited about the shopping part, but the rest of it… ughhh… I hate those formal events. They’re so boring. And then there’s the after parties with his snooty Parisian friends and I don’t speak a word of French. I sit there nodding and faking smiles till my jaws ache” Amy complained, only trying to make her friend feel better.

“Well, that’s the price you pay for marrying a rich man. Fakeness and plastic surgeries come with the territory. Remember back in college when you only fell for the rich guys? You were voted ‘Most Likely To Marry Well’”, Sameera sighed.

“And you were voted ‘Most Likely To Succeed’” Amy replied.

“But I DID succeed.” Sameera’s tone changed again.

“I know honey, that’s why I….”

“Then what’s with the pity eyes?” Sameera stood up and crossed her arms.

“What pity eyes? I pity myself actually. Did you not hear the ‘jaws ache’ story?”

“There’s more to life than expensive jewelry and Versace dresses, Amy! You know what…. Forget it” Sameera stomped to the kitchen to get something they can both stuff their faces with. Anything to get Amy to stop talking. She looked at the fruit salad she was about to serve, and secretly drizzled it with a teensy bit of strawberry syrup.

A little bit more.

Yup, that should do it.

Amy ended up in the hospital that night with a persistent rash and of course, sadly, she missed her trip.

 

 

“I was going through Amy’s medical reports. Other than the night of your birthday party, the last time she got a similar allergic reaction, was here in your house. Is this correct?” I asked.

“So what are you insinuating? Every time she gets the hives, I must be blamed for it?” Sameera asked. She was trying to keep her cool, but her body language betrayed her, for I could tell she was extremely uncomfortable.

“No that’s not what I’m saying at….”

“You know, opening this case again makes absolutely no sense. Amy didn’t even bat an eye when the necklace got stolen. She genuinely didn’t care, so why do you?”

“Stolen? The investigations were inconclusive. There’s no proof yet the necklace was stolen. Do you have reason to believe it was?” I sneered.

“I just assumed since it was never found…” Sameera stammered.

“I understand” I nodded. “Did you see the necklace after the hives incident?”

“How would that be possible? Amy took it off in her room!”

“Amy’s son Hamza said he saw you go upstairs right after dessert. Is that correct?”

“Umm yes. I needed to wash my hands and the guest bathroom was busy. Ask anyone, I was only gone for like five minutes.” Sameera replied quickly.

I put my pen down and folded my arms, staring back at the restless woman for a silent moment.

“I don’t appreciate your accusatory attitude. I’m a college professor. I think I deserve some respect.”

“I apologize if I’ve offended you in any way. I’m just gathering information, it’s nothing personal.” I said as I got up to leave. “One last question, who was occupying the guest bathroom at the time when you had no option but to go upstairs?”

“Ummm my husband? Why…?”

 

That same evening

“Oh my God they’re in this together!” My assistant Jenna shrieked. “Sameera and her husband planned the whole thing.”

“Or it could be random.” I added.

“There’s nothing random about her attitude. She’s toxic! She takes everything so personally. Only a guilty person would get this defensive”

“She’s projecting,” I said.

“Eeww like vomiting?”

“No” I laughed. “She’s using projection as a defense mechanism.”

“Elaborate please”

“Okay I’ll give you an example since you love them so much. Let’s say you step outside wearing those new designer Cat-eye shades. You know they’re in style but deep down feel insecure about wearing them. If someone so much as looks at you a little longer than they should, instead of admitting you feel weird about the shades, you might get defensive like ‘You don’t like them? Do you know how much they cost? Only A-list celebrities wear these. You obviously know nothing about fashion.”. That’s projection. Get it?”

“Umm no?” Jenna had a legendary puzzled look on her face.

“We all have flaws and insecurities, but sometimes they can get too overwhelming, and we find them too painful to deal with. When this happens to you, you might project them onto other people and tell yourself they’re the ones with the flaws, not you. They’re the ones making your life miserable, not you. Instead of facing your shameful, embarrassing or uncomfortable feelings, you pin them on others, making them the villains in your story while you’re the innocent victim. Get it now?”

“Yes”

“Really?”

“No”

“It’s okay, took me a while to fully comprehend it too” I laughed. “I’ll give you examples of different types of projections:

A wife calls her husband ‘uncaring’, ‘insensitive’ and ‘selfish’ when he goes out with his friends. She’s projecting an inner fear of abandonment.

A man says ‘my boss hates me for no reason’ instead of admitting that he’s the one who loathes his boss.

A woman thinks she’s over weight but won’t face that ‘worst female phobia’, so instead she snaps at her loved ones for thinking she’s unattractive, even if they’ve never uttered a word of dismay.

A teenager makes a silly mistake and then gets offended or aggressive when his or her friends jokingly point it out. They’re projecting their insecurities onto other people because deep down they worry they’re not smart enough.

A person is anxious in social situations so they say ‘people are horrible’ instead of admitting to his or her anxiety.

Recognizing our own shortcomings causes pain, and so we use projection to protect ourselves. ‘I’m not envious, they’re envious of me. I’m not ashamed; you’re the one who should feel ashamed. I’m not cheating, you’re the cheater’. Get it?”

 

“I finally get it. So perhaps Sameera is projecting her inner feeling of jealousy from her friend Amy”

“Exactly”

“How do you fix projectors?” Jenna asked and we both laughed at the pun words.

“So projection allows us to throw out our ugly feelings and insecurities onto others, but the thing is, it’s like a boomerang, those feelings will always find a way to come back to us again. A chronic projector will eventually master the victim’s role and be convinced that everyone else is trying to destroy him. That’s no way to live. Unless we learn to put our egos down (and it’s not easy), it’s almost impossible to cure what we refuse to see. Whenever we feel judged, threatened or criticized, we must take a moment to reflect on the words being said as opposed to how we heard them. Swallow our pride instead of believing every comment or piece of advice is an indirect accusation.”

“You gotta admit, it does seem suspicious. Wasn’t it Sameera’s fault Amy got the hives that night? She’s brought dessert to her own birthday dinner and insisted it was strawberry free!”

“No it wasn’t her. It was Nadir.” I said.

“Who’s Nadir?”

“Sameera’s husband….”

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Author’s Commentary

Imagine a projector. Now take out everything you don’t like about yourself, project it on the wall screen, get some popcorn, mingle with the crowd and enjoy the show.
You cease to be the culprit when you’re part of the audience, right?
Instead of dealing with unwanted emotions, you can simply pin them on someone else and walk away. How cool is that?

Actually it’s the opposite of cool. Ask ‘chronic projectors’ and they’ll tell you the whole process of putting innocent people on guilt-trips feels like swallowing burning lava. (Oh I should know!). Sometimes, because we can’t own up to our feelings, we sit on a ‘moral throne’ and judge people instead. Blaming our faults on others and then lecturing them about it is exhausting, and honestly, it makes absolutely no sense.

There’s a far better way to explain this actually. You know what, scratch what I said earlier, because our One and Only Lord has summed it up so eloquently in the Holy Qur’an.

“Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason” (Holy Qur’an, 2:44)

Intense, ha?

And yet we all do it…. and it’s absolutely okay

I’ll tell you a little secret (wait, let me make sure no one is listening. Okay all clear loool)

There was a time when deep down I felt I was failing as a parent. I projected those feelings unto others like there was no tomorrow, until the day Allah took off my blindfold and helped me see….

The questions on the ‘Test of Life’ examination paper might be hard, especially if you know you’ve never done your homework. Now, you can go around telling those who try to help they’re getting it all wrong.

Or….

You can seek all the help you can….

Whenever you can…

However you can….

Because perhaps the time has come for us to reflect instead of project.

Besides, lucky for you and me, the test is an open book….

604 pages filled with beautiful, logical and spiritually fulfilling answers.

May we always be guided by Allah’s words. Amen

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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