Tag Archives: forgive yourself

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

Self Defense Mechanisms Explained

‘Who Are You Defending?’
Prologue

 

August 29th, 2017
Originally Published on Productive Muslim

 

I’ve missed you all soooooooooo much!
Ahh it feels good to be back!

 

Defense Mechanism

Self Defense Mechanisms Explained

Now, before diving into this upcoming thriller series dealing with the psychology of ‘Self Defense Mechanisms’, let me ask you this; what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Psychotherapy’?

 

Crazy ‘psycho-babbling’ nerds with thick reading glasses and big hair?

A clinic with a ‘Chaise Longue’ for patients to lie on?
Paying someone to dictate the ‘common sense’ you already know?

 

I hate to burst the stereotype bubble we’ve all lived in at one point or another, but there’s so much more to psychology and some of it has nothing to do with common sense….

 

For example, it’s common sense to think people who sleep a lot are lazy bums, right? But therapists will tell you they’re obviously sad..

People who laugh at silly things are lonely deep inside…
Those who seem selfish are only seeking more love and acceptance…

There’s a lot of things about the human nature that don’t make sense, and one of those is the bizarre way we all use ‘self defense mechanisms’ to guard ourselves from hurtful feelings:

Someone criticizes the way you dress and instead of acknowledging you’re hurt, you retaliate with giving him or her the silent treatment for a good week and a half.

Your husband’s boss yells at him for no reason, and instead of admitting he feels humiliated he comes home and snaps at you coz the chicken isn’t ‘crispy’ enough!

We lose someone we love, and instead of grieving properly, we go into hibernation mode away from the world.

You see, we all want to shield ourselves from pain, but as this series will demonstrate, sometimes those same defense mechanisms we use for protection are in fact what cause us the most pain in the long run. Through the coming episodes, you’ll see yourself or someone you care about in one of the characters, and realize that perhaps it’s us who cage ourselves in a loop of endless suffering.

But now what does learning about ‘Defense Mechanisms’ have to do with Islam or Productivity?

Good question! You should come backstage where all the action takes place. The PM Team works overtime to make sure the writers stay focused on the website goals, and for that we are very grateful. (Why? You think writers give editors a hard time? No! We’re lovely easygoing people, and not at all stubborn loool).

Throughout my years of being a therapist I’ve come to realize there’s two types of people:

  • Those who are in therapy to learn how to deal with the past
  • Those who are in therapy to learn how to deal with those who need to be in therapy!

 

The bottom line is, deep down, we all want to change someone or something. We have this perfect colorful image of what life should be like and our expectations are feeding our frustration. We forget that life is supposed to be difficult, and this excruciating inner struggle is part of our journey.

 

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves”

(Surat Ar Rad, Verse 1, Holy Qur’an)

Yet we use ‘self-defense’ mechanisms like denial, isolation and aggression to avoid the attacks of a guilty conscious. To steer away from uncertainty, loneliness, shame, fear, doubt, anxiety or any other kind of emotional pain inflicted upon us by others or by our own doings. And the more we resist and run away from these ugly feelings, the more we suffer, because change in itself isn’t painful, it’s the resistance to change that hurts the most.
And the first step is to acknowledge the problem. Throughout the upcoming series, locate which ‘self-defense mechanism’ is hindering you (or your loved ones) from growing, and instead of ignoring it, purify it. Don’t shove the dirt under the couch and pretend it’s gone. Clean it out.

“And by the soul and He who proportioned it
And inspired it with discernment of its wickedness and its righteousness
He has succeeded who purifies it
And he has failed who instills it with corruption”

(Surat Ash-Shams, Verses 7-10, Holy Qur’an)

Our Most Merciful Lord doesn’t expect perfection. He expects progress. He expects us to try harder, to learn from our mistakes and supplicate for His help. But when we defend our faults and always give excuses for our slipups, how will we ever change? We’ll keep falling, sinning, and fighting back in vain. We will keep judging, criticizing and hating others if we refuse to understand their dark sides and take their hands towards the light.

‘Nothing changes if nothing changes’.

We’ll keep seeing Muslims trolling each other, best friends becoming enemies, marriages falling apart, teenagers talking back to their parents, and a ton of toxic relationships every where we go.

We all want to change someone or something. Some of us even dream of changing the world. But here’s the thing…

We must stop escaping…

If we’re ever going to change or put an end to this inner struggle

We need to stop attacking and defending…

You’re one series away from finding the peace you’re looking for

The minute you figure out which mechanisms help you reach your goals…

Your journey will make more sense
The minute you stop fearing the darkness…

You’ll find a way to shine a light from within…

 

Who Are You Defending…?

Stay tuned…..

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 21: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY TWENTY-ONE: Forgive Yourself

Ladies and gentlemen…

We have reached the most important part of the month
The stage we’ve all been preparing for…
The master scene of the whole year…
The last ten nights of Ramadan, where the Prophet himself (may peace and blessings be upon him) would stay up all night and wake up his whole household to strive hard in worship (Bukhari and Muslim)

 

Now I’ll relate a little scenario and you guys tell me if it sounds familiar, okay?

Last ten days. I can’t afford to miss on them I really CAN’T!
If I read three chapters a day, I’ll finish the whole Qur’an in these ten days! Not a biggie, ha?”

Two days later…

“Oops I’ve wasted so much time I’m still on chapter four!” Eyes dart left and right “You know what, it’s really the odd nights that count. Yup, I’ll pray hard and worship Allah every second of every minute on those odd nights!
Two days later…

Fine, I’ve wasted more precious time but really, who are we kidding, we both know Laylat Al Qadr is probably on the night of the 27th, right? I’m acing it, watch and see…”

And then the most amazing thing happens…
You sit in worship for the whole night till sunrise.
You finish reading the whole Qur’an, all 604 pages in two hours, and pray 77 Raka’s then go to sleep and get a vivid sign in your dreams, that yes it was Laylat Al Qadr and yes you’ve definitely gotten the reward of 1000 months of worship…. And yes….
You’ve been reborn.
(Probably not what happens at all but I just wanted you guys to have this amazing feeling for a couple of seconds loool)

Because it is an amazing feeling…

For 355 days we’re out and about, unfocused and perhaps living our lives mindlessly.
And then come those ten nights, we find the will and power within us to invest in our eternal lives.

To focus on the unseen part of reality.
To realize these ten nights are precious gifts.
Our prayers won’t make Allah more Magnificent or more Dominant.
It’s us who need them the most. It’s US who need to gather as much good as possible before we check out and pay for our bad deeds. (Oh I just remembered something about bad deeds, but I don’t wanna lose my train of thoughts. Can you please remind me to write about it later? Thanks lool)
Maybe we don’t know it now, but we trust our beloved when he insisted over and over and explained how priceless these last ten nights are.

So do your best.
Do the best you can…

And if you find yourself running away from Allah, instead of running to Him with your fears, hopes and pains, then maybe there’s a reason..
Probably the same reason why many of us don’t make the best out of the best of nights..

Some of us don’t know how to face the Qiblah and stand before Allah, when we can’t even face ourselves with all our faults.

Some of us can’t get closer to Allah, because deep inside, there’s a barrier between our souls and our minds…

Some of us refuse to reap the rewards of those precious nights because we’re so disappointed at our own failures; we feel we deserve nothing in return…

Some of us have an inner anger, like this rage towards the world, and it’s blinding us from reaching out to Allah…

And some of just are just drained and lost…
We don’t know how to move on with the future, when deep down we know we could have done better in the past..
We drag our mistakes with us every where we go; and have no earthly idea of how to put the burden of guilt down on the ground

Some of us can’t make Du’aa..
Can’t focus in prayer and can’t absorb the words of the Holy Qur’an.
And it’s not because we’re shallow
It’s because we’re too immersed in the guilt and pain of the past

There’s no levels here, for you’ll always be a beginner when you’re trying to heal…
It’s time to make peace with your broken pieces…

Promise me…
When you stand before your Lord asking for His forgiveness..
Know for sure that He has already forgiven you there and then
Your past doesn’t define you. It really doesn’t…
Promise you’ll start the special ten nights with renewed hope
It’s the first step to get closer to Almighty Allah
Start a new page with your Lord
And do what He has already done
Forgive….
‘You’….

 

Tonight… all you need to do
Is forgive yourself…
 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen