Tag Archives: family

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

Day 23: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY TWENTY-THREE: The Best Parents Are Promoted To Grandparents.

For some of us, grandparents are like the fun version of parents, without the whole ‘if you live under my roof you gotta follow my rules’ kind of thing.
They’re the ones who spoil and pamper you.
And they totally believed you when you pretended to be sick just to skip school.
They’re the ones who, if they hear you haven’t had lunch yet, will bring out food enough to feed a whole village.
Three times a day.
For five years.
And there will still be leftovers looool

 

Food

 

Besides, kids know grandparents are awesome, mainly because their own parents can’t go over their word, so they’ll abuse the system without an ounce of guilt. I remember one time I was very stern about depriving my daughter of her favorite things during her time out. By mid day she was like “Okay THAT’S IT! I’m calling Granma!”

I don’t know what your relationship with your grandparents is like.
If they’re still alive or have passed away.
If you’re estranged or living in the same building.
If you talk every day or once a year
I only know one thing…
Those who have managed to stay close to their grandparents, have found the key to better health, wealth and joy…
Listen to this

Anas reported the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying :
“Anyone who is pleased that his sustenance is expanded and his age extended should do kindness to his near relatives.” (Sahih)
Today’s act of kindness is towards those who have raised the people who’ve raised you.
The wise gems whose memory you’ll never forget…
Your grandparents…

 

Beginners Level:

Don’t be a tagalong.
Take the initiative to call your grandparents just to ask about them and show them you care.
What’s wrong?

You have nothing to say?
They’ll keep you on the phone for hours?

They’re awkward? Short Tempered? Tell the same story over and over again?
They tease you in front of the whole family about the time when you were still a toddler and ran outside with no diapers?

Whatever it is, they deserve your love and care. They deserve the courtesy of being highly regarded and appreciated.

Hey, hey… don’t make a face!
I’m serious.
This isn’t textbook talk or playback lecturing

Listen to this:

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly” (Al- Tirmidhi)

And you’re one of us….
We’re on the same team. So go call your grandparents
NOW!
(Sorry that came out louder than I intended looool)

Advanced Level:

You know the drill
We go a step higher, which means instead of calling you should go visit.
Alone!
Let them know you mean it and give them some quality time
Because amidst the repetitive stories, there’s a lot of wisdom and treasures of life long experiences. There’s laughter and jokes and nostalgic beautiful memories…
Amidst the awkwardness, there’s lots of duas from the heart and warm hugs…
And amidst the age gaps, there are showers of blessings pouring down on you because of your pure intention to please Allah…

And don’t forget the food.
Ahhhhhh the food looool

 

Ramadan Kareem
Are you guys as tired as I am?
I need the ‘hang in there’ motivational speech loool
Anyways, see you tomorrow inshAllah (I hope!)

 

Lilly S. Mohsen
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Seven: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY SEVEN: When You Make Your Parents Smile

 

And then we became parents…
And we realized how unbelievably hard it all is.
Oh my God, who knew it took so much energy to be strict? (I honestly thought my parents enjoyed having all this power, but it turns out, it’s not as fun as I thought!)
Who knew it was the hardest thing in the world to say ‘no’ to something your kids’ really wished for?

We thought they didn’t understand our struggles, when the truth is, they worked so hard to make sure we never felt theirs..
We wanted them to set us free. We didn’t know they were the glue holding our pieces together.
We didn’t consider it ‘sacrifice’ until we grew up and felt the need to put our kids’ needs before our own.
And when we finally stepped into the outside world, and took the separate journeys we couldn’t wait to start on, we realized no one can or will ever love us the way our parents do.

No one will pause his or her life to ease your pain the way your parents would.

You know what I’m doing right now?
Holding my head, while my imaginary friends compete on whom can remember the most touching childhood stories and yell them out the loudest!
(In case you’re new to the blog, my imaginary friends are all the voices in my head giving me ideas for my writings. They’re chatter boxes, they all talk at the same time and eat a lot and look funny, and some of them are real weirdos, but I love them all from the bottom of my heart LOL)

Do you remember any memories from your childhood?
Whether they were flashes of picnics, your dad running behind you trying to hit you with a shoe, your mom hugging you or punishing you or lecturing you, believe me, they’re all streams from the same river: love.

That’s what I learnt after so many years of feeling misunderstood or even oppressed at times (sorry mom and dad, it’s Ramadan and I gotta be 100% honest). I learnt that parents do it differently, but the goal is always the same: they want you to be the best version of yourself. They want to protect you and even though they don’t always do it so gracefully, they just desperately want you to learn from their mistakes and spare you the pain of what they’ve faced in life.

That’s pretty much the gist of it.

Since there’s no way you can repay them, Day Seven’s act of kindness is just a humble attempt to make your parents smile from the heart.

And I know some of you have said goodbye to one or both of their parents, and my words are bringing you more grief than gratitude. I know nothing I say can soothe the pain of losing a loved one, but I hope you’ll still put the effort to make them smile up in heaven. Just coz you don’t see them, doesn’t mean you can’t make them happy. One of the great three things we leave behind when we depart this world is a pious son or daughter making du’aa for us. That could be you this Ramadan.

And when you meet in paradise inshAllah, they’ll thank you from their hearts (you know after all the scary parts of Judgment day are over and we’re all chilling in our rose-covered palaces, by our rainbow pools, eating chocolate and NOT gaining weight!)

Beginners Level:

Say something nice to your parents. Something to make them feel all their efforts didn’t go in vain. I wouldn’t mind if you add a warm embrace to that and ‘hand-kissing’ and a little gift with a sentimental card. I really wouldn’t mind at all LOL

Advanced Level:

Make a special Iftar for them and treat them like guests of honor for the night.
Spend quality time with your parents and show them the love and care they have invested in you all these years.
I’m not gonna quote verses from the Holy Qur’an or Prophetic Hadiths about the importance of taking good care of your parents. You know them all I’m sure. So go do it from the heart…
And please tell them I say “Ramadan Kareem”

 

All my love
See you tomorrow inshAllah

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Three: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY THREE

 

Raise your hand if you’ve had a ‘tougher-than-expected’ day today.

I know I’ll probably sound like a HORRIBLE mom, but for real, I have a son that can easily be nominated for the ‘Best Human Version Of A Headache’ award.

You guys remember him, right? I kinda whine about him and his autism a lot. But I shouldn’t whine in this blessed month. I should embrace his condition and accept it for what it is. I guess we tend to be short-tempered when we’re fasting, even though the whole point of this deprivation is to learn and practice ‘beautiful patience’.

Alright I’m switching to positive mode now.

He’s not that bad, he’s actually really funny when you get to know him. So today about two hours before Maghreb, and after telling him over and over how super proud I was that he’d been fasting the WHOLE day, he opens the fridge, takes out a yogurt cup and rips it open.

“Whoa, Yasseen it’s not time for Iftar yet!”
“I know”
“Ummm you’re not gonna eat that, are you?’

“Of course! How else can I continue fasting without having a snack in the middle of the day, ha?”
“Makes sense. Would you like some grapes with that?”
“What? Mom, NO! I’m FASTING! Just the yoghurt thanks”

But enough about us. How was your day?
Ready for your next challenge?
Well, here it comes…

FullSizeRender

 

Family isn’t just one thing, it’s EVERYTHING!
Family is the place where you’ll love and feel loved no matter what happens. It’s the circle of trust. The warm hug shielding us from all the craziness and despair. Oh my Lord, please keep my family safe for me. I love them all so much. I wish I could praise them one by one and tell you all about their awesomeness and quirks, but it’s almost time for my daily reality show named ‘Battles of the Bedtime’ and I need all my energy to knock the kids down LOL.

Okay so your act of kindness for Day 3 is to make a ‘priceless memory’ with a beloved family member.

Beginners Level:

Ask one of your close family members this question: ‘How can I make your day better?’
And then actually DO what they ask.
Married men must choose their wives for this exercise. (Not optional)
The rest of you guys can pick whomever you want, no problem LOL.

Advanced Level:

Who doesn’t love surprises? Sometimes it feels good to get what you want without even asking for it.

So for the advanced level, make an educated guess about what would make them happy and do it without asking. It could be helping with chores, playing a game with the kids, baking a favorite dessert… Okay I should stop giving you ideas coz I’m sure you guys know your family better.

 

What did I do?

I’m still a rookie with this whole Ramadan-goals thing so I’m realistically practicing the beginners level at least for week one inshAllah.
I asked my daughter when she came back from school (cross eyed and parched after a long day of fasting) what I could do to make her day better.

“I’ve been dreaming of donuts all day. But I don’t think coffee shops even sell donuts in Ramadan. You know what, forget it”

That wasn’t the problem really. I think it was more the ‘embarrassment’ than the ‘scarcity’ that I had troubles with. We live in a Muslim country, girl! I mean imagine the awkwardness.

“Do you guys sell donuts?’
“You mean Konafa”
“No I mean donuts”

Salesperson looks me up and down with disgust like I belong to the ‘Kuffar’ group or something. You literally feel like you’ve violated the sanctity of the Holy month if you don’t constantly crave Eastern food. (I don’t know if Western Muslims have that problem though)

Anyways, I got her a dozen and she was so happy, and utterly touched by the gesture.
Was it a ‘priceless memory’? I ‘Donut’ know LOL

I just ruined the moment, didn’t I?

Oh well, I’ll go die now.

See you guys tomorrow.

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

Final Episode: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Ted Talk

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office
Final Episode: Feel Your Life Purpose

 

A few years later…

February 3rd, 2016
San Diego, California
Ted Talk Conference: Ideas Worth Spreading

(Applause)

Zahra stood tall on the red-carpeted stage and said, “When I asked my sister-in-law about the upside of me being blind, she said “I can now roll my eyes at you anytime I want”’

The audience laughed.

“It’s strange really. My nickname had always been ‘Supa’ as in ‘Super girl’. My loved ones believed I’d accomplish something big one day and become an influencer. Only they didn’t know my journey to becoming an international motivational speaker and a best-selling author would start AFTER losing my eyesight. The night I got nominated to give a Ted Talk my husband, who is also my publisher, planned a secret celebration dinner and invited the whole town. I had no idea what was happening. Before introducing me to the curator, who was amongst the hundred invitees, my husband said “Honey, guess who this is!”

Zahra froze with a funny, puzzled look on her face.
I’m as blind as a bat. How would I know?”

The crowd cracked up laughing again, including her husband Ali, who was backstage watching her like a hawk. Ali laughed from the heart even though he had practically memorized his wife’s speech since he was the one helping her practice it for the past two weeks.

You’re probably thinking ‘wow, this blind girl is making jokes about her own disability, she must be really strong. Believe me, I wasn’t at first. A couple of years ago I lost my sight in a car accident and lost my faith along with it. I was angry at the world. I completely broke down. I broke things, broke up with my fiancé and then felt my heart break into a million pieces. I’ve been broken for a long time. I refused to learn how to deal with my disability. I steamed out on anyone who tried to help, and those who came to soothe me became my worst enemies. ‘What did they know about my struggle?’ I fumed. It was a constant nightmare I was sure I’d never wake up from. Try finding your way around the house blindfolded. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? Instead of leaving my room, I’d enter the closet. I’d spill drinks on the floor and slip on my own mess. I bumped into walls, broke glass bottles and used shaving cream on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste! Living in darkness became the reality of my life and I couldn’t accept it. I’m sure my therapist would have horror stories to tell you about my anger; she was practically my punching bag. It was a slow, tiring progress. And even though deep down I knew I wasn’t ready, I thought perhaps getting married would lessen my pain and speed up the process of moving on.”

 Sitting with the vast audience at the conference, I watched Zahra on stage and felt the tears of joy slowly roll down my face. I was very proud of her. She had come a long way in her therapy. Screaming, crying and talking about her feelings made them by time become less overwhelming and less upsetting. She owned her story. She realized losing her sight wasn’t her choice, but dealing with it was. And that was her first step to healing….

“I ran out on my wedding.” Zahra confessed. “I couldn’t actually ‘run’ anywhere, I just hid under the bed for an hour before my best friend found me…”

And sitting in the front row with her husband, Salma was genuinely proud of ‘Supa’ too. Seeing her on stage inspiring thousands of people truly warmed her heart. Zahra wasn’t only her life long best friend; she was also her beloved sister-in-law. Salma smiled at her husband Omar, who smiled back warmly, patted her very pregnant belly and whispered the words ‘I love you’, before turning his attention back to his twin sister whose presence lit up the stage.

 

“I was scared of marriage. I didn’t think I was good enough because of my disability. You know we all think we have big problems until we compare them with bigger problems. When you face your biggest fear, your small fears kind of fade out. I remember when my biggest fear was leaving home and being responsible for a house and a family of my own. This fear dimmed completely when I lost my sight. It felt like a death sentence, I thought nothing worse could ever happen to me, until I learned my fiancé got into an accident and almost died. My blindness didn’t seem like that huge of a problem anymore when I thought of losing the love of my life, even if I couldn’t see him, I just couldn’t imagine living in a world where he didn’t exist. I suddenly reclaimed all my strength and willpower and sent him a letter begging him to push through. I asked my sister-in-law to write it for me because I trust her…….. Blindly!”

Aisha laughed out loud. She came to the conference with her husband and her friends Lola, Sara and Helen, who, like her, were all wearing the Hijab proudly now, too. Aisha was working on acquiring a degree in marriage counseling to help struggling couples the same way her marriage counselor helped her and Ibrahim fix their relationship before suggesting they go on a second a honeymoon and thanks to Allah her life with him had been happy and peaceful ever since.

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In that hour of hiding under the bed on my wedding day, I realized I was only pretending to be in the acceptance phase, when in reality I was still swinging back and forth between denial and depression. I wasn’t ready to start a new page yet, and to my surprise, Ali, my fiancé was very understanding and promised to wait till I was. We called off the wedding, I went back to blind school and started therapy full time. And Ali waited for me for two years…. Because….” Zahra’s voice crackled and she couldn’t help her tears. “In his heart he believed only I could make him happy. He didn’t care about my disability. He said it made him love me even more.” Zahra smiled and wiped her tears as the crowed applauded her while ‘awwwwing’ and ‘ohhhhhing’’ sentimentally. “Yeah, he’s not always that romantic though. Just so you know, we got married last summer, and since then, whenever he wants to get back at me during an argument, he simply rearranges the furniture!”

 

(Audience laughter)

“You know, life is hard. This is an inevitable truth. It’s once you accept this truth that life ceases to be hard. And it’s when I accepted my destiny, that my blindness stopped being a ‘disability’. Everyone has problems, and God never burdens us with more than we can endure. There were probably seven thousand things I could do before losing my sight. And now maybe that number has gone down to three thousand! But I’m motivated to do more now than I ever was when my eyes were functioning. The only reason life throws horrific traumas our way is because there’s an area that needs to grow. God took away my ability to see, but gave me the will to achieve so much more with all my other senses. He gave me ‘insight instead of sight’ and it was a blessing in disguise. It was also the title of my first book. And I hear it sold over 15 million copies!” Zahra smiled while the audience applauded her again.

“In Islam we have six pillars of faith; belief in one God, His angels, His holy books, His prophets, belief in the Last Day and belief in destiny (Preordainment). We skim through them and say we believe, but do we? To trust God in the light of day is easy, we can all do it. But to trust Him in the pit of darkness… that is true faith. Even if bad things happen, you must believe it’s God’s will and it’s always for the best. You must believe He’s protecting you from something worse. Losing my sight is a blessing compared to being completely paralyzed. Being paralyzed is a blessing compared to losing your loved one in war. And you know what’s so much worse than any trial you can think of? Do you know what is the scariest calamity that can happen in this life? It’s losing one’s faith and dying a disbeliever…. I believe every other problem and hardship pales in comparison.

 

We are only as blind as we want to be.
Our Lord says: ‘Indeed
It is not the eyes that go blind, but it is the hearts, within the chests, that go blind”
(Surat Al Hajj, ayah 46, Holy Qur’an)

So many people still have their eyesight intact, but do they really see the truth? Do they really notice the miracles around them and look at life from different perspectives? Does sight count when there is no insight?” Zahra asked. “They say ‘love is blind’ but I disagree. Anger is blind. Hate is blind. Bitterness, envy and despair are blind. Hopelessness is blind. But love is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps us strong. My love for my Lord and my unwavering faith in His promise is what helps me get through the day, because even in the worst of times, I remind myself whatever He wills is good.” Zahra said.

 

“In one of my therapy sessions, I was asked about whom I would trade my life with. And after much contemplation I answered ‘no one’. I really wouldn’t want to trade with anyone. I’m where I’m supposed to be…and I’m finally happy. May the Lord give us the wisdom to accept the things we can’t change (which isn’t easy) and may He fill our hearts with love, faith and light…. Amen. Thank you….”

  

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

Episode Six: Inside The Therapist’s office

Office

Episode Six: Feel The Truth

The Whole Story

 

 

Six months earlier…

 “SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” Everyone yelled when Zahra, the bride-to-be walked in. Salma had invited all the girls to celebrate her best friend Supa’s engagement to Ali, the hottest bachelor of the year.

“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eye lashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now.” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduleAllah”.
Salma forced a smile on her face even though she was seething with jealously; she literally thought her envy might emit a sizzling sound. But then again, she was positively sure none of them would notice the green eyed monster she’d been harboring deep into her soul for weeks. Salma covered it up so well. She’s throwing a party for Zahra! Would a jealous friend do that?

Oh if only they knew…

Zahra’s eldest brother Ibrahim and his wife Aisha waited in the car with Omar, Zahra’s twin brother, for the bride and her best friend to come down. They were all invited to the groom’s house for dinner, Ali, who also happened to be one of Omar’s friends.

 

Sitting in the backseat of the car between Salma and Omar, Zahra couldn’t help bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Ibrahim is married. I’m engaged. It’s your turn now, Omar!” She winked at her twin.

“Oh now I know why they call you Supa, coz you’re ‘Super Delusional’.” Omar mocked. “I’m happy for you Zoe, but just so you know, don’t go expecting to hear any wedding bells in my future.”

“First they won’t be bells, they’ll be old women’s shrills’ Zahra laughed. “And secondly, who wouldn’t want to find everlasting love? It’s the best feeling ever. Ibrahim, say something.”

Ibrahim didn’t reply or even smile. He kept on driving silently while Aisha sat next to him in the passenger’s seat, staring at the ‘Oscar’s Best Dressed posts’ on ‘Instagram’, completely detached from the conversation.

“Maybe there’s a special girl out there who might one day change your mind.” Salma fluttered her eyes, desperate to get Omar’s attention. She’s been in love with him since God knows when and yet he barely knew she existed.

“Trust me, she doesn’t exist. Besides, I’m not the marrying type. I’m more of the ‘fun-partying-watch-my-friends-get-hitched-and-shake-my-head-at-their-dubmness’type of guy.” Omar replied.

Salma was fuming, especially when everyone laughed at the stupid insinuation, even Supa! Well, as long as she was happy with Mr. Perfect, what did she care about other people’s feelings? Salma’s jealousy, resentment and anger were bubbling inside her like lava. She had to do something about it before the fire coming out of her ears burns through her Hijab.

“I heard you’re throwing a party for Ali, too” Salma commented. “Copycat!”

“Yeah, the difference is I know how to plan one. You invite a few girls to gossip in your living room. I on the other hand party like a rock star” Omar boasted.

“You mean dancing and drinking till dawn. Isn’t this what you’ve been planning for Ali’s bachelor’s party? Yeah, I definitely can’t compete with you.” Salma smiled wickedly. That should ruin the night she thought.

Omar threw her a dirty look and glanced quickly at his eldest brother Ibrahim, who was on the phone. Thank God he didn’t hear her snide comment. Of course Aisha made an unreadable face and turned away. It was his twin sister Zoe who was shocked and hurt the most.

“Alcohol?” She whispered. “Seriously Omar? I thought we talked about this. Is this how you want your future brother-in-law to start his life with me?”

The twins argued while Salma listened, taming her envy with a liberating conclusion that ‘Supa’ wasn’t that super after all. She had a reputation for having such great motivational and persuasive techniques, that some of their friends predicted Zahra would become one of those famous influencers or inspirational speakers. Yeah right! She couldn’t even get her own brother to believe in God.

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe. You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.”

‘I say it because I love you. Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar yelled.

 

It all happened at the same time

Omar was challenging the great Lord..

Salma was simmering with envy to the point of wishing evil upon her own best friend.

Aisha was disappointed they were almost there. She had secretly asked God to create an excuse big enough to stop them from going to the dinner party, just to spite her mother-in-law.

And Ibrahim, consumed with fear, passion and guilt, while checking his cell, he took his eyes off the road for exactly two seconds. The wrong two seconds.

And then the crash happened and everything went dark..
“Is everyone okay?” Ibrahim panted. The pipes on the truck they rammed into speared through their glass, completely shattering it. Ibrahim could hear the ambulances’ sirens approaching and was relieved to realize that even though the sharp pipes caused some minor injuries, everyone was still breathing.
They had no idea the car crash chose only one victim to pay the price.

“I can’t see anything…” Zahra whimpered.

A week later..
“Mom I don’t care if she’s blind. I love her and I promised her nothing would tear us apart. I know you disagree but it’s my life.”
Ali slammed the door behind him and went to see his beloved Zahra, who was still refusing to meet him. Her parents asked him to stay away and let her move on with her life.
“I’ve been praying day and night for them to agree. They will eventually. They know I can’t live with her.” Ali insisted.
“My daughter is a proud young woman, she’ll never agree to marry a man without his parents’ approval” Zahra’s mom said.
He left the building feeling crushed, got into his car and drove off like a maniac at the speed of lightening. This is when he got into a terrible accident too and was rushed into surgery about two hours later. The plastic surgeon said it might take years before a reconstruction could make him look half normal again.

No one dared tell Zahra about Ali’s accident. She was now at the institution learning how to cope with blindness and trying to adjust to her new life. Although her anger at the world made this ordeal an impossible, endless struggle.

“I know you don’t want to see anyone..”
“See? You think I can ‘see’ anyone? I’m as blind as a bat you idiot!” Zahra snapped at the poor nurse.
“I’m sorry” Zahra’s mom apologized to the nurse. “Please don’t take her tone personally. She’s been through a rough time”
“There’s a woman here to visit, and she’s insisting to meet Ms. Zahra” The nurse continued.
“Who is she?” Zahra asked.
“Her name is Rehana”
Zahra clenched her jaws, and pressed a hand to her throat, feeling her veins about to pop from her suppressed rage. “Mom, give us a minute please.” She hissed. “I need to speak to Rehana alone”

Later that day

“Rehana honey tell me what happened” I ran to hug my friend who had been waiting for me on my porch. She was shivering and sobbing hysterically, I could hardly understand a word she was saying.
“I talked to Ibrahim’s sister” Rehana sniffled.
“You what? Rehana you told me it was all over! You said you had repented and closed that page.” I scolded.
“No Lilly you don’t understand. They got into a car accident and his sister Zahra lost her eyesight. She’s staying in the same special needs institution I volunteer at. I couldn’t not go see her. Especially after what Ibrahim said. He blames me for the accident and for everything that has happened.”

I tried to hide my disappointment and be supportive instead. After all, I wasn’t just her life long friend I was also her therapist now, ever since she finally decided to confess her sin and asked me to help her get back on the straight path.

“Ibrahim thought confessing the truth to his sister would help him clear his conscious. He admitted he got distracted while driving coz I was texting him.” Rehana gasped for breath. “I went to ask Zahra for forgiveness, but she wouldn’t listen. It was horrible.” Rehana sobbed. “Even after I swore I ended it with her brother, she called me the worst names. She said she couldn’t understand how good people like her end up suffering instead of devils like me. She’s right Lilly. She’s so right.”
“She’s angry, Rehana. No one knows what they’d do if they were in her situation.”
“She said she wasn’t gonna suffer the consequences alone, and then threatened to tell my husband and my parents. She said she’ll make sure this scandal follows me everywhere I go, at work and at the institution. She never gave me a chance to explain.” Rehana was shaking uncontrollably I could tell she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Somebody HELPPPP” I cried.

Later that night

“Psych ward? Are you people insane?” I asked the nurse when I went to visit the next day. “Rehana is fine. She’s just a bit stressed out.”
“Doctor’s orders, ma’am.” The bored nurse replied.
“I need to see her”

Rehana was sitting on the floor alone in a dimmed room, barefoot and her hair disarrayed. She looked exactly like the first time I met her in fifth grade sitting in detention outside the principle’s office. She had the kindest heart yet, ever since we were little girls; she always ended up getting herself in trouble.

“It’s over Lilly…” Rehana stared at the wall blankly.
“It’s not honey. Have faith in Allah. He can change the unchangeable. You know that, right?”
“Ibrahim hates me. Zahra hates me. My parents hate me. My husband hates me. And even you hate me..” Rehana bowed her head down in disgrace.
“I don’t hate you Rehana. I love you and I’m gonna help you through this.” I cried.
“It’s too late for me. I don’t deserve Allah’s forgiveness…”
“Please don’t say that. The door to repentance is always open..”
“I know Allah hates me for what I’ve done. Zahra’s right. I am the devil.”
“What happened to Zahra isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s an act of God, and God will never allow bad things to happen unless good comes out of it.” I insisted. “Allah loves us, Rehana.”
“I’ve done so much damage, Lilly. You don’t know how many people I’ve hurt and how many lives I’ve singlehandedly ruined.”
“There’s still time to learn from your mistakes and fix what you broke. Like Omar Ibn Al Khattab said, ‘sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future.’”
Rehana buried her head in her two pale palms. “Lilly, I really loved Ibrahim and I never wanted to hurt him or his family. Promise me you’ll help him fix his life and find happiness. Promise me you’ll help everyone who suffered because of my actions.”
“I’ll try” I replied, desperate to say something soothing.
“I left a letter to my husband asking for his forgiveness, please make sure he gets it” Rehana whispered before sliding out a gun from under the carpet she was sitting on.

Where on Earth would she get a gun in solitary? I wondered silently, my heart pounding so loud, evidently distracting my brain from coming up with a plan.
“Please, don’t” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”
“I wish that were true..” Rehana whispered.
“Noooooooooooooo”

A couple of weeks later

 

“She tried to take her own life?” Zahra repeated the question like an endless tireless echo.

“We stopped her at the last minute. Unfortunately she suffered major deficits and is now in a coma. Doctors don’t think she’ll wake up anytime soon”

I came to see Zahra at the institution, still overwhelmed and heartbroken.

“I can’t believe she tried to kill herself. Why? How can any Muslim do that? I swear I wasn’t gonna say anything. I’d never shame anyone that way. I didn’t mean it. I was just blabbering out of anger, I didn’t mean it.” Zahra slurred.
It took a couple of days for her to absorb the immense impact of her words. She couldn’t eat or sleep; she was practically going insane with remorse.

“My heart is gonna explode. I don’t know how to go back to my life as if nothing happened. I’m so angry and hurt I don’t think I can take this anymore.” Zahra cried.

“Rehana gave up the Lord’s endless mercy and submitted to the whispers of Satan. She forgot that He says “No one despairs of Allah’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith” (Holy Quran, 12:87). Her hopelessness affected so many people. Her loved ones will never be the same again and they’ll probably never forgive her. If you give up now… Zahra I don’t know what will happen to them, to Ibrahim, Ali, Omar, Salma, Aisha, your parents, your friends. It will change them. If you fall apart now, you’ll drop their hopes to their ground, shattering their faith and willpower. And like poison, this anger and bitterness will spread around and it won’t end. It will never ever end.”

“This is a huge burden to carry…” Zahra wept softly.
“Life is a test; it’s full of hardships. But we must remember the events that take place during our journey don’t control us, our decision do. And you have a decision to make. This is the tipping point Zahra, whatever you decide today will change everyone’s life forever….”

 

Three months later

“I can’t find Zahra” Aisha panicked; still holding her sister-in-law’s abandoned wedding gown. “I think she ran away”

“How could she possibly run away? She’s BLIND!”

 
To be continued….

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

Episode Five: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

 

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Episode Five: Feel The Power

 

With slumped shoulders and a gloomy look pulling his face down towards the ground, Ibrahim asked,

“Have you ever resented someone so much you actually felt physical pain? It really does eat you up inside. Especially when it’s someone you used to love..”

 

“Oh that’s right, you did the dishes ONCE since we got married. You should be nominated for ‘Husband of the Year’ award” Aisha, Ibrahim’s wife huffed sarcastically.
“I said I’ll do them.” Ibrahim mumbled.
“Really? You mean like right now? Or after you wake up from your three-hour nap in front of the TV?”

All they do is fight. And all she does is find ways to blame, belittle and put him on an endless, tiring guilt-trip. History has a weird way of repeating itself, for he watched his mom do the exact same thing to his dad all throughout his childhood. Ibrahim promised himself he would never allow his wife to disrespect him, but unfortunately, he eventually became his father. And instead of drawing a firm line, he just avoided her completely and drowned himself in work instead.

 

“You hardly leave the office Mr. Ibrahim. When do you sleep?” His secretary Rehana asked with a suggestive smile, leaning forward on his desk.

“I have to double check every one else’s work before giving in the weekly reports” Ibrahim stuttered, his eyes fixed on his computer screen.

“I admire your devotion.” Rehana complimented him as usual.
“You can go home Rehana. It’s getting late”

“Oh if my boss is here then I’m here.” She smiled, pouring him a cup of coffee. “Just let me know if you need anything. Anything at all.”

“Thank you” Ibrahim cleared his throat.

 

“A cup of coffee turned to two then dinner and late night chats and before I knew it…” Ibrahim said in a sad, brittle tone. “I was enjoying the attention. I never thought it would go this far. “

“What are you planning to do now?” I asked.

“I don’t know” Ibrahim drew in a long breath. “Aisha’s nagging and rejection made me lose my mind. I’m not a cheater. This isn’t who I am”

“Do you blame your wife for what happened?” I asked.

“The night of the accident, we were all in the car when Rehana called my cell. I picked up and pretended she was one of my coworkers. She said I must look great in a tux, something Aisha, my own wife, would never say! I hung up quickly, having mixed feelings of love and immense guilt.” Ibrahim confessed.

“And then what happened?” I asked.
“I usually put my cell in the cup holder while I’m driving. I was getting a lot of text messages after I hung up, and I was worried they were from Rehana. I didn’t want Aisha to get suspicious. My cell was beeping non-stop when a semi truck carrying Iron pipes came out of nowhere! I swear I only looked at the phone for exactly two seconds. TWO SECONDS!”

“It must be very difficult for you to relive this memory” I said.

“I ruined my baby sister’s life and wrecked my marriage. I don’t know how to live with what I did. For weeks I haven’t been able to sleep or eat or go to work. I hate myself. I’m a complete mess. I’m so gonna burn in hell.”
“Please don’t say that. Allah is the Forgiver of all sins.”
“I’m not going alone. Aisha will burn in hell with me.” Ibrahim added, totally ignoring my words.
“Are you holding her responsible for what happened too?” I asked.

“Of course I am. I would have never given Rehana a second look if Aisha had taken care of me and made me feel like the man of the house. I was a religious man when I met her. I’ve been a faithful husband for years. I was patient and supportive but she gave me nothing in return. She was always criticizing and making me feel like a failure. Can you really blame me for what I did?”

 

“That’s not for me to decide. We all think we have good reasons for the bad things we do. Allah, the Greatest Judge of All has the final say. He is the One who knows what’s in our hearts.” I said.

“Did Aisha say anything to you? Do you think she knows?”

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” I joked.

“I want you to know I ended things with Rehana a long time ago.” Ibrahim sniffed then rubbed his nose. “I blocked her and deleted all our chats.”

“Then why are you so worried?’ I asked.

 

“You’re lying. I can tell from your voice” Zahra said, her back towards her eldest brother. “You’re still seeing her aren’t you?”

“Only once since the accident. I had to end things face to face.” Ibrahim confessed.

“You said you were gonna end it the last time I caught you both at the office, and that was months ago. How could you do this Ibrahim?”

Ibrahim chose to remain silent. He didn’t wanna argue with Zahra or try to explain his reasons for cheating. She had already been through enough heartache.

 

“I’m sorry Zoe. I think I fell in love with her.”

“She’s MARRIED!” Zahra yelled, throwing her head back and her arms in the air. “I didn’t tell anyone because I believed you were sorry. I believed you woke up and repented. But I guess the only reason you apologized is because you got caught or because you were in trouble. You know who you remind me of? People in the hellfire begging Allah to take them back to their previous lives so they can do good, except Allah knows they would surely repeat the same mistakes.”

“I guess I deserve that..” Ibrahim wiped his tears. It’s true, Zahra had been keeping his secret for a long time, but it didn’t change the fact he had fell from grace with his baby sister after so many times of repeatedly assuring her the affair was over when it really wasn’t.

“What are you gonna say to your Lord on Judgment Day?” Zahrah asked, her back towards her brother, refusing to look at him.

“Zahrah please stop. I’m not the coward you think I am. I had my reasons and Allah is Merciful. He forgives sins”

 

Ibrahim, if our near-death experience didn’t serve as a wake up call for you, I don’t know what will. Do you know why belief in Judgment Day is an essential pillar of faith? Because even if you worship Allah alone, and believe in His angels, books and prophets, you have to remember you’ll be held accountable for your choices. You’ll stand before ‘Al-Jabbar’ alone! Do you think He will accept your apology just because you got caught? Or accept your excuses just because you’re in pain? We are all in pain Ibrahim.”

Zahrah finally turned around to face him, which made Ibrahim weaken to his knees. He took one look at her, fell to the ground and sobbed hysterically, asking her over and over to forgive him.

“I left feeling ashamed of myself. Her words shook me to the core. She said she will forgive me once I end it completely. I can’t believe I’ve ruined Zahrah’s life and she is still considering giving me another chance. I don’t understand how she can find it in her heart to forgive me.” Ibrahim’s eyes welled up.
“First you need to forgive yourself”
“How was I so blinded? What happened made me realize I was never really in love with Rehana, I just craved the attention and the way she made me feel. How was that need greater than my fear of Judgment Day?”

“This is what happens when we close our hearts and run away from our feelings. Instead of resolving them, we cover them up and give ourselves excuses, and this temporary relief becomes an addiction that furthermore numbs our hearts. We choose to become victims when things don’t go our way, and sometimes we lose faith by seeking revenge or deciding to follow our whims. We become selfish when giving doesn’t pay off. Believing in Judgment Day is the fifth pillar of faith, and its essence is in believing you’ll be accountable for your actions, regardless of what others have done. This unwavering belief gives you self-confidence, strength and willpower. It puts an end to the helplessness you feel. It lets you own up to your own successes and failures. I’m sorry Ibrahim, but you can’t blame Aisha’s nagging for your cheating, that’s like blaming the person who created chocolate for your weight gain!”

“The worst part is I miss Rehana sometimes and that’s why I feel so guilty. She won’t return my calls. I have no idea where she is. It’s like she fell off the top of the Earth” Ibrahim sighed.

I closed his file and took a deep calming breath. “That’s the only way to avoid temptation. Cut off the ropes bonding you to the sin completely. Perhaps that’s what she tried to do. Try doing the same Ibrahim. I know it won’t be easy. I advise you to ask Allah to help you get through this. Ask Him to take her out of your system. Ask for forgiveness and work on fixing your marriage before it’s too late..”

Ibrahim left feeling weary yet hopeful, and promised he would try. I looked at his file and all the other files of my current patients. They all told the same story so differently.

I suddenly couldn’t hold back my tears.
They had no idea it was Zahra who blamed herself the most.
They had no idea she carried more guilt than all of their remorse put together..
And what killed me the most, is that my patients had no idea of my true identity..
To be continued…

Lilly S. Mohsen