Tag Archives: mystery

Episode 6: Fantasy and Conversion As Self Defense Mechanisms

Defense Mechanism

Self defense mechanisms

 

“And then what happened?” I asked Giselle, the housekeeper.

“After dessert, Alfred said madam needed to see me at once. When I went upstairs she yelled and said she never asked for me. She went off to see her guests, and I stayed behind to straighten out before following her down.”

“Did you see her diamond necklace?”

“No! I mean I did. After she was done yelling, she asked me to get her a cup of water. I saw her put the necklace on the dresser, but when I came back, it was gone and so was madam.” Giselle replied. Her eyes began to twitch suddenly and I could see beads of sweat sliding down her forehead.

“So tell me, who’s your favorite member out of the Zahir family? I won’t tell anyone I promise.” I smiled.

“I like them all equally” Giselle lied. She closed her eyes for a brief moment and drew in a long, deep breath.

 

The night of the dinner party….

“You look yellow, hon. You okay?” Alfred asked Giselle when she walked into the kitchen, only she stumbled helplessly to the ground before she could even reply.

“This isn’t the first time this happens” Alfred said as he handed her a cup of water after she regained consciousness an hour later. “You’ve been fainting a lot lately. You should probably ask Mrs Zahir to take you to the doctor.”

“I asked her once but then she had an appointment to get her brows shaped and I guess after that she forgot all about it.” Giselle whispered weakly.

“Then ask Mr. Zahir or Hamza. Lazy bums! They’re the reason you’re so overworked and exhausted, the least they could do is treat you with some kindness.”

“It’s no big deal. I’ll get some rest and be as good as new in the morning.”

She made Alfred promise not to disturb her sleep. He agreed and told her to holler if she needed anything then went off to finish his work, leaving Giselle to relive the same dream she’s been dreaming about for the past three years:

One day the Zahir’s will have a huge party for their affluent friends, and when it was over, Giselle would sneak outside for fresh air. One of the male invitees will come back looking for his keys. Not knowing who she was, they’ll get to talking, fall in love, and later when she confesses she’s only a housekeeper he’ll love her even more. They’d soon get married and live happily ever after and of course if the Zahirs by that time end up bankrupt, living in a dumpster behind Giselle’s palace, well that would just be gravy.

 

“Giselle?” I tapped her lightly on the shoulder.

“Oh sorry, I must have dazed off for a second.” Giselle cleared her throat.

“What were you thinking about?”

“Nothing. I don’t know why I remembered that story, Cinderella”

“Maybe you relate to her at times when you feel you’re not being treated very kindly?”

“Or maybe I’m waiting for my fairy godmother to appear with a magic wand.”

I smiled at her and there was a sudden awkward moment of silence.

“Anyways, so I hear you’ve been having some health problems”

“Dizziness, numbness… nothing major.” Giselle fidgeted nervously with her apron strings.

“Alfred mentioned something about the night the necklace went missing. Something he hadn’t mentioned in the earlier investigation with the police.”

“What? What did he say?” Giselle went snow white pale.

“When suspicion moved on to him, he was impelled to tell the whole story about the incident of you passing out that night. You evidently went to rest in your room and when he came back to check on you, your window was open and you were nowhere to be found.”

“I ummmm… I was just….. ummmm…. Oh I’m so sorry ma’am. I don’t think I can do this, I’m feeling so…” Giselle held her head and then crumbled to the floor like a house of sand.

“Help!”

 

Later that evening…

“She’s faking it! I know she is” Jenna, my keen assistant, slammed the desk a little too hard.

“Why would you assume that?” I asked with one eyebrow up.

“Duh! It’s crystal clear. She’s the thief and she’s using her illness as a distraction defense mechanism”

“I must admit you’re really talented in solving mysteries, Jenna!”

“Oh my God, really?”

“Ah NO!” I laughed. “She’s not faking the illness, she’s unconsciously using conversion as a self defense mechanism.”

“Before you elaborate let’s just recap real quick. Amy is dissociating in La La Land. Hamza is the angry bird always acting out. Sameera projects her insecurities unto others and her husband Nader displaces his feelings unto innocent victims. Who else? Yes Alfred is two faced.”

“Jenna!”

“Fine. Alfred uses ‘Reaction Formation’. Now tell me about Giselle’s defense mechanism.’

“It’s called conversion because you convert your anxieties and internal emotional conflicts into physical symptoms. Like in Giselle’s case, she blocks out those feelings that bothering her, and since feelings don’t go anywhere, they’re released in a different form, like dizziness, coughing or in some extreme cases they can cause temporary blindness and even paralysis.”

“Why would anyone use this destructive mechanism?!” Jenna gasped.

“People don’t choose self defense mechanism from the menu of the day. It’s involuntary.”

“So how do you treat that?”

“Distraction always works, and of course explaining the concept can help them try to face their feelings instead of converting it. But you know, that’s not the only self defense mechanism Giselle’s using. I think she’s retreating into a fantasy to avoid coping with her hardships. She feeds off her imagination of a dream that’ll probably never come true.”

“Oh come on. We all do the ‘fantasy’ thing. Almost everyone I know is waiting for something that will never happen, yet they wouldn’t go around stealing diamonds to make their dreams come true.” Jenna said. “Or would they…..?”

 

The next day….

“I hope you’re feeling better” I said as I sat Giselle down for another talk.

“I am, thank you ma’am” She hesitated.

We talked for a quite some time, in which she was determined to remain vague and unyielding, so I had no choice but to bluff to take a short detour.

“Giselle I’m trying to help you here. I have witnesses who can testify they saw you sneak out of your window in the middle of the night, wearing one of Mrs. Zahir’s expensive gowns.” I fibbed.

“It wasn’t Mrs. Zahir’s it was mine. I bought that dress with my own money” Giselle steamed out. She fell silent for a moment, her eyes doubling twice their size as she realized she had just semi-confessed to a crime.

“Did you sneak out to hide the necklace?” I asked straightforwardly.

“No! I swear. I’m not a thief. I only stepped outside to sit in the swing in the garden. I do that sometimes.” Giselle cried. “I just…. For a couple of minutes I get to be me, not the docile housekeeper everyone uses as a punching bag.”

“Giselle, why didn’t you mention any of this to the police in the first investigation? Now that your story doesn’t add up, I’m afraid you’ve become a prime suspect.”

“I was scared to lose my job. I’m the sole provider to my family back home. I didn’t know what would happen to them if I had told the truth.”

“What truth are you talking about?”

“I saw someone that night coming out of the secret garden. He didn’t see me, but I definitely saw him.”

“Who was it?” I asked.

 

To be continued in the last episode….

 

Author’s Commentary

I’d give anything to see the look on your guys’ faces right about now.

Anyways so ‘Fantasy’…. Sounds like a cool defense mechanism, no?

I mean we’ve all been there, believing ourselves to be undercover agents, lost members of the royal family or convincing ourselves we have super powers. (Wait, or is that just that me?!)

It’s okay to use wild imagination as crutches to get us through a tough time, but only as a temporary solution. Waiting for something that’s never gonna happen and revolving your life around it is self-abuse (trust me, I should know). At some point we all must draw the line between positive thinking and complete avoidance. We must learn to merge reality with dreams instead of having to choose only one to sink in. You get what I mean?

As for conversion, I also think it’s an even harsher form of self abuse, since your body pays the price for your heart’s fear of facing ugly emotions, and that’s just not fair. Listen to this:

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He who is deprived of tenderly feelings is in fact deprived of good.” (https://sunnah.com/muslim/45/97)

You can’t give what you don’t have, and if you have no mercy on yourself how on earth would you feel it for others? If you can’t handle your own emotions how will you ever help anyone else deal with theirs?

Conversion is basically the refusal to feel your feelings and letting it take a toll on your health instead.

You don’t cry it out… so you get a severe headache.
You don’t deal with guilt, so you get heart and chest pains.
You won’t absorb the frustration, so your shoulders stiffen up.
What you block out comes back in a different form…
And I wish…
Oh I really wish you wouldn’t do that to yourself anymore…
Be mindful and don’t try to escape your problems
Once you accept what’s happening, you’ll finally be ready to change it.
Your life will finally come to life….

 

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