Tag Archives: religion

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 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 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

Episode 3: Projection As A Self Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanism

Episode Three: Projection As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Last year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not?”

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

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

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

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

“I know honey, that’s why I….”

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

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

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

A little bit more.

Yup, that should do it.

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

 

 

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

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

“No that’s not what I’m saying at….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ummm my husband? Why…?”

 

That same evening

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

“Or it could be random.” I added.

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

“She’s projecting,” I said.

“Eeww like vomiting?”

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

“Elaborate please”

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

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

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

“Yes”

“Really?”

“No”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Exactly”

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

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

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

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

“Who’s Nadir?”

“Sameera’s husband….”

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Author’s Commentary

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

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

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

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

Intense, ha?

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

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

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

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

Or….

You can seek all the help you can….

Whenever you can…

However you can….

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

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

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

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

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 29: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY TWENTY-NINE: Zakat Al Fitr (Eid Charity)

 

Ramadan is coming to an end….
Wait a minute, so does that mean in a day or two, we’ll drink coffee in the morning, no problem?

We’ll have breakfast instead of ‘break-our-fast’

For real??
Oh my God! Did you guys ever try the Eggs Benedict on a muffin topped with smoked salmon? Served with cherry tomatoes and roasted potatoes on the side? Oh yummmm

And fresh pineapple juice…
And grilled cheese sandwiches
Frittatas, bagels and Pita bread with white cheese and olive oil

Red velvet pancakes and Nutella waffles

And our Egyptian Feteer (layered pastry)

And all the other mouth watering foods we love so much
I would like to thank all the items on the food menu for bringing so much joy to our family gatherings, so much love to our hearts and for making our taste buds alive with amazing flavors.
We have missed you so much!
And even though we’ve had our differences before since some of you make us gain weight, we’d like you to know that on days like Eid, you’re completely forgiven because it’s totally 100% worth it. And I promise we’ll try our best not to take you for granted again.

Give it up to all our favorite foods! Let’s have one more round of applause loool.

 
You know, at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) ‘Zakat Al Fitr’ (Ordained charity given at the end of Ramadan) used to be one saa’ of food, or one saa’ of dates, or one saa’ of barley, or one saa’ of raisins. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Given your drooling reactions to the breakfast menu I listed a few seconds ago, it kind of makes sense to give out food to the poor and needy at the end of Ramadan, no?
Yes, you. Did you have a question?

 

What’s a Saa’?

Well, it’s an ancient measuring unit equivalent to about 3 liters

 

Can I give any other type of food? Or even money?

Of course you can give other types of food depending on availability and quality.
Giving food is the ‘sunnah’ and it is the most correct form of charity in this case, but many ‘modern-time’ scholars have agreed that Zakat Al Fitr can also be given out in money and ‘Allah knows best’ (I’ve always wanted to say that but never had a chance! Thank you loool)

 

On whose behalf should a man (or woman) pay Zakat Al Fitr?

Zakaat al-fitr must be given on behalf of all Muslims under your care, young and old, male and female, free and slave. With regard to a fetus, it is not obligatory to give it on his/her behalf according to scholarly consensus, but it would be nice of you to do so, since ‘Uthman Ibn Afan (may Allah be pleased with him) did that.

When should Zakat Al Fitr be given?

Like right  NOW loool!

It’s essential to give the charity before Eid so people would have time to make good use of it.
You don’t have to finish reading this post if you haven’t given out your zakat yet. Go do it like right now please.
(Final deadline? Morning of the first day of Eid, but you better have like a REALLY good excuse!)

 

Who is eligible for Zakat Al Fitr?

  1. The poor
  2. The needy,
  3. Collectors of Zakah,
  4. Reconciliation of hearts (new reverts or people this close to embracing Islam)
  5. Freeing captives / slaves
  6. Debtors
  7. Those fighting for a religious cause or a cause of Allah
  8. The traveler.

 

Why do we pay Zakat Al Fitr anyway?

It’s a blessing for us if you’d like to know.
In the past month, there’s no doubt we’ve slipped a couple of times. A little gossiping here, a semi-curse word there.
Rolling your eyes at someone here, and raising your voice during an argument there.
Sheeeshhh some ugly memories are flashing before me loool.

Zakat Al Fitr serves as an eraser. It purifies those who fast in Ramadan from those little sins we hardly notice or can’t control.

 

And oh don’t we all need to be accepted and forgiven…?
Don’t we all need to be heard and loved…?

My dear Greatest Lord…
You’re the One who knows what’s inside our hearts…
and You know we have nothing to purify our souls with…
We own nothing..
Please my Lord…
Don’t believe our moments of despair or anger..
Please don’t believe our arrogance or selfishness..
It’s not who we are..
So please forgive us when we slip..
and love us despite the ugliness and resistance You see from us…

We don’t have anyone else to run to..
We really don’t..

We don’t know anyone who’ll accept us with all our flaws and imperfections and still give us limitless chances..
And still forgive, care and shower us with blessings
No one but You..

My Lord…
Can I ask You a question…?
Have You accepted us…?
Are You proud of us…?
Is there anything we can do or say to gain Your love and pleasure?

Allah…?
Are You happy with us this Ramadan?

I’m begging You…
Don’t let the month go by until You have loved and accepted us…
Until You’ve looked at us with a smile…
Until You’ve made a place for us in the Highest Levels of Jannah, where we get to see Your face…
Amen

 

All my love,

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 25: 30 Good Deeds In Ramadan

 

DAY TWENTY-FIVE: Let It Out Of The Nest!

Not sure where I’m getting this feeling from, but I have this weird hunch you have a confession to make…
Like you’ve been hallucinating about ‘Barbie Dolls’ and ‘Remote Controlled Cars’.
The dolls are cutting their hair (worst nightmare EVER) and screaming at you, while the cars try to run you over.
And then you see yourself covered in multicolored Lego pieces, gasping for air, trying to explain why you’ve kept all those unused toys at home when they could have made so many poor kids ecstatically happy.
You try to justify but no words come out….

 

Okay fine, maybe that’s my ‘very-specific’ terror. But I’m sure you guys can relate to similar nightmares, no?
So in the name of sound sleep, I present to you this day’s act of goodness.

 

All Levels:

 

Even if you don’t have any extra toys to give, you’ll certainly find a lot of items lying around in the house with no goal in life other than taking up much needed space.

 

Need a hint?

 

Those washed jeans from the 80s you know you’ll never wear but, for some mysterious reason, you’re just not ready to part with.
Those outdated antique cell phones? The chargers, gadgets and wires so old you don’t even know what they’re used for anymore?
The books you swear you’ll re-read even though it’s been five years since you’ve actually had time to read a whole book.
Those stuffed animals you cuddled with in 6th Grade! (Seriously? Loool)

 

Someone out there is wishing for the things you don’t use.
Do your yearly nesting now. Give them away and save your souls before the nightmares come creeping in at night and you’re scarred for life loool.

 

Not sure who to give them to?

Well here are some ideas:

 

United Kingdom: http://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/what-happens-to-the-clothes-you-donate/
India: http://irusa.org/india/

 

Singapore: https://www.pergas.org.sg/donate.html

 

USA: http://irusa.org/
https://www.iazf.org/

 

Canada: https://www.charityintelligence.ca/charity-details/501-islamic-relief-canada

 

Egypt: http://resala.org/

 

South Africa: http://www.islamic-relief.org.za/?gclid=CjwKEAjw7J3KBRCxv93Q3KSukXQSJADzFzVSWxrAn2fsoE8hx9_4EbYu3SS4kmwkJN8Ncfwo2434khoC9aLw_wcB

 

China: http://irusa.org/china/

 

Worldwide: http://www.islamic-relief.org/category/appeals/emergencies/syria-crisis-appeal/

 

 

Or you can contact your local mosque. They’ll probably help you out with all the resources and information you need.

 

May you always be a reason to put a smile on some else’s face…
Ramadan Kareem everyone

All my love,

 

Lilly S. Mohsen