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The Final Episode: Rationalization As A Self Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanism

Self Defense Mechanism

 

 

“I was surprised to get your call this morning. Are you sure you don’t need more time? It’s only been two weeks since you started on the job.” Mr. Mohanad Zahir asked me when I walked in. He was standing on the terrace, observing his gardeners at work.

“Well, I finally found the last missing piece of the puzzle. Mr. Zahir, I think you’ll need to sit down for this” I replied. “Now before I tell you who it is, can I ask what your next step would be?”

“Justice will take its course for sure.”

“No matter who the culprit may be?” I asked.

“No doubt about it” Mohanad shook his head. “Let me tell you something about me, Miss. I’ve built a whole empire and taken it to unparalleled levels of success. I would’ve never reached as high as I have reached if I was the type to cut corners or compromise my integrity.”

I contemplated on his words for a silent moment. Being the sole heir to the Zahir’s fortune, I knew for a fact he’d inherited the whole empire from his late father. The man was obviously in utter denial.

“You must have inherited this grit and fortitude from your father as well. I hear he was a legend.” I added carefully.

“Is that what you’re insinuating? That I’m just a tag along? That nothing I do on my own will ever be considered ‘legendary’ compared to my father’s achievement?”

Uh-Oh here comes a whole lot of projection

“I know what people are saying behind my back.” Monahad continued. “But I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’ve never allowed myself to live in my dad’s shadow.” Mohanad rested his elbow on knees, then rubbed his forehead while closing his eyes silently.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Just a small headache. I was working late last night and didn’t get much sleep. If you’ll excuse me for one sec.” Mohanad briskly walked to the door and yelled at the top of his lungs. “Alfreddddd. ALFREEEDDDDDD!”

“Sir?” Alfred came running like a headless chicken.

“Advil” Mohanad demanded rudely. And even though within a minute the painkiller was served to him on a gold plated tray next to a tall glass of water, Mohanad still snapped at the poor butler for taking forever, and insulted him for his incompetence. Doesn’t take a genius to see this was conversion and displacement put together.

“You seem very stressed Mr. Zahir” I said.

“I’m fine. I get this sharp pain in my shoulder and splitting headaches every now then.” He declared.

“Do you remember when those symptoms started exactly?”

“No, not that I recall”

“Since your car accident perhaps?” I asked.

“What car accident?” Mohanad panicked. His face suddenly flushed blood red.

“The one you got into last year. Your son Hamza mentioned you’ve been short with him ever since.”

“Oh?”

“He said your were livid about your brand new Maserati getting wrecked, and according to him that was an ‘understatement’”

“What are you getting at?” Mohanad breathed heavily.

“So, it occurred to me, you know when your insurance company denied your claim, that perhaps you would’ve voided the contract with them, but on the contrary, you renewed it.”

Mohanad stared back at me, his eyes wide with horror.

“I guess you forgave them and moved passed it when you realized they were right all along. The accident was a result of your negligence and reckless driving.” I insisted.

“Don’t you dare say NEGLIGENCE! I LOVED THAT CAR!” Mohanad yelled as he grabbed a crystal vase and slammed it against the wall. “That rotten manager tried to make a complete fool out of me. He strung the insurance claim out for months and then practically called me a ‘vulture’ when I tried to retrieve what was rightfully mine.”

“So you stole your wife’s necklace and buried it in the secret garden, and since your family has been their pristine customers for years and years, you knew the insurance company wouldn’t refuse your claim twice in a row,”

“I didn’t steal it, I used it to get my money back.”

“Even if that were justifiable, the insurance money you got for the necklace is way more than the amount you requested for the first settlement check.”

“What about the pain, suffering and anger I had to endure for a whole year? You can’t put a price on that Miss!” Mohanad scoffed. “Can’t you see? They OWED ME every penny.”

“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Zahir. This is rationalization and you know it” I shook my head disapprovingly.

“So what’s gonna happen now?” Mohanad sighed.

Later that evening….

 

“Oh no you DIDN’T” My assistant Jenna said with an exaggerated accent.

“What else was I supposed to do? Like my friend Mr. Zahir says, ‘justice has to take its course’” I smiled.

“Wow! Well he certainly got what he deserved.” Jenna agreed. “But now help me out here. Why would Mohanad go through all this trouble of hiring you? He already got the insurance money so why open the case again?”

“With most insurance policies, even after the expenses have been paid, there’s usually a grace period where either party is allowed to reopen the claim after its been settled. I guess Mohanad tricked everyone by hiring me. Him being so adamant to find the thief is proof enough he didn’t do it, and it would definitely discourage the insurance company from reopening the case and wasting their time and money.” I said.

“And he really convinced himself he wasn’t doing anything wrong!” Jenna screeched.

“It’s a self defense mechanism called ‘rationalization’. When we do something against our morals, we sometimes tend to ‘rationalize’ our behavior. We defend our actions by giving excuses or reasons to ourselves, making them more acceptable and making our conscious feel less guilty.”

“I still can’t believe it. All this time we were searching for the thief and he was right there before our eyes!”

“Allah is fair honey. We’ll all eventually pay for our wrongdoing.” I said as I packed my stuff to leave. “That’s a wrap ladies and gentlemen. My work here is done. I can finally go home and slip peacefully into a nice, long coma”

“ORRRRR…. You can put this story to good use and write a thriller series about the different types of self defense mechanisms.” Jenna winked.

“If only you knew….” I laughed as I walked away.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

Author’s Commentary

Any thoughts on why I always get the blues whenever I write the last paragraph of the final episode of any series?

I’m gonna miss Amy! And I’m still worried about Hamza’s future and Sameera’s fixation on the past. And most of all, I’m REALLY gonna miss you guys. I guess I’m not ready to say goodbye yet, and the editors are just going to have to drag me out of here screaming and kicking LOL.

All jokes aside, there’s actually still a lot more to say about ‘self defense mechanisms’. Some of them are really productive too, like those who channel their anger into cleaning (yeah, my best friend does that, and needless to say her house is spotless). Some use humor to lessen the impact of tension or uncomfortable emotions, while others might go out for a run when they’re distressed or beat the hell out of a punching bag. Those are all considered more ‘mature’ types of defense mechanisms, and even though we know that, do most of us reject them in times of despair?

Yes

Does it make us horrible people?

No….

I think our hearts aren’t designed to endure so many struggles. We’re already drained from those inner battles we fight silently. Every. Single. Day. We don’t need new contenders to add salt to the wounds, thank you very much. Because when you’re trapped inside a burning building, no one will blame if you yell or scream or use your boss’s new Armani coat to put out the fire. When you’re trapped inside your fear, insecurities and anxieties, you’ll rationalize your behavior. You’ll give yourself excuses, or snap at someone else, especially if that person tries to expose your weakness at a time when you obviously need every ounce of strength you can muster to survive that invisible inner war no one knows about except you.

But here’s the thing, now that you know what some destructive self-defense mechanisms look like, you’ll have a hard time rationalizing them. Whenever you act out, project, form an extreme reaction, dissociate, slide into denial or fly off to fantasy land, a little part of you will remember this series and a voice in your head will whisper ‘Who are you kidding?’. It will be difficult at first, especially when someone criticizes you, and you have to swallow your anger instead of yell back ‘why don’t you shut your pie hole and take a long hard look in the mirror first, HAAAAAA?!’.

You’ll clench your jaws till your teeth shrink, or lie to yourself and pretend you’re not even hurt. It’ll be like getting hit so hard and yet doing nothing about it, which is, to use the clinical term, a very ‘stupid’ plan. No one is asking you to take more than you can bear, because sooner or later, you’ll collapse to the ground. All I’m saying is don’t keep the pain inside, and don’t pass it on to someone else. Resolve it in a healthy manner. Respectfully stand up for yourself when you feel oppressed, identify your triggers and get down to the core of the problem, or just sit alone with your feelings until they pass through and release into tears. True, rubbing salt on the wound hurts like a son of a gun, but do you know what else the salt does? It purifies it….

So don’t resist the pain and don’t keep it inside either. I’m begging you…

I’ve seen so many loved ones block out their pain, or stuff it deep in their hearts. It changed them. The little specks piled up into poisonous venom eating at their goodness, their kindness and their ability to love and forgive.

And I just can’t watch you do that to yourself, too. I can’t watch you slap a band aid on an infected wound and hope that everything will be okay. The mere fact you’re reading this tells me you have so much potential. And I hope….

Oh I so hope, you’ll break free from the shackles of silent pain. I hope you’ll find it within your ego to stop defending and attacking so you can finally find peace….

Okay I’m getting emotional here, so before I start using humor to mask my emotions let me quote one of the most beautiful du’aa in the history of all du’aas.

 

“Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”” – The Holy Quran 2:286

 

I know you wouldn’t defend yourself unless you feel attacked.

And I know you’re probably thinking ‘she has no idea what I’m going through or what kind of blame, hurt and destruction I’ve had to endure from those who were supposed to protect me.’

You’re right. I don’t.

But I also know we all sink into dark moments….

When we think our hearts will never heal.

When we think there’s no room for us grow; there’s barely room for us to breathe.

When we have no energy to hear ‘constructive’ criticism, not when some of us already feel flawed and inadequate all on our own.

I know all that. And somehow, watching you read this, I feel like I know you too.

And I know you’re better than what you give yourself credit for…

And I know you’re a lot stronger than you think….

 

All my love,

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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