Tag Archives: love

Who Are You?

Who Am I?

I came here to write.
I did, didn’t I..?

Once a year, I escape to this serene place by the Nile River, to soak in the sun, the peaceful Nubian vibes and most of all, to reconnect with myself again after the turmoil of yet another year filled with….
What? I don’t know..

Do you…?

Everytime I come here, hoping to find myself, or do something different, I come across your little secret as well… 

‘Wherever you go, there you are…’

I know you’ve tried to escape too and to no avail.
I know you’ve tried to ‘find’ yourself, set new goals or just tried to make sense of every heartache you’ve been through..
I know the same thoughts haunt you and pull you down every once in a while, and sometimes the time you take away to “heal” is just another form of a numbing technique or a mere distraction from the reality that’s too hard to face.

(Wait, the woman sitting next to me is telling her friend all about her abusive husband and it’s so hard not to eavesdrop! It’s like the universe is conspiring to stop me from writing. Help!)

Yes, you’ll lose focus and be drawn away from your own thoughts, especially when you try to dig deeper into your own soul. Mindfulness is tricky business because you’re asking your brain to go against the current. The brain is wired to think, wander, worry, plan, predict and fixate on perceived signs of threat. It will not miss an opportunity to remind you of your past failures or your doomed unknown future. At some point, your mind will sound like a nagging wife and you’ll be that absent-minded husband trying to drown out her negativity. Instead of bringing your attention to the ‘here and now’, you’ll do anything but. 

It’s happening to me as we speak! What the??
I’m only here for a few days, people! Is it too much to ask of my brain to cooperate and join this little excursion into self development? 

Who Are You?

 
We try to be ourselves, but do we really know who we are?
Who are you?
Not your name or your status or number of followers on instagram.
When you’re not a daughter or a parent or even a doctor saving lives left and right.
When you’re alone with yourself, not doing anything for anyone, and not running around in circles from sunup till sundown.

Who are you underneath everything you portray to the world?

You’ll believe you’re thinking about the answer to the above question, but the truth is, you’re only listening to the same thoughts in your head that completely control you….

“I don’t know who I am..”
“I’m someone who’s been hurt too many times..”
“I’m a good person who’s always been misunderstood…”
“I’m a bad person who shows the world the exact opposite..”
“I’m someone who is scared, anxious, alone, insecure, and/or angry at the world..”
“I’m someone who has everything and yet completely miserable”

If you’re listening to these thoughts in your head, then who is saying them?
Come on, you can’t be talking and listening at the same time, right?
Which one is ‘You’?

You were not born believing those statements, though. Something happened to you somewhere along the line, that made a part of you believe them and another part resist them. Does that make sense?
Perhaps you strive to be in a loving relationship, even though deep down, you know your needs will never be met.

You work hard and plan to better your career, yet something tells you the success you’re craving is absolutely unattainable.

But now, which one are you? The positive, sunny one working towards your dreams, or the doubtful one, sitting in the dark corner with your arms crossed and one eyebrow up?

You’re both…

And I’m not implying you suffer from multiple personality disorders or anything, otherwise with all my different and opposite characteristics I should have been locked up in a mental asylum years ago 🙂

Let me explain…
From birth to the age of seven, your brain functioned very differently from the way it is now. From theta to alpha brainwave patterns, your mind was literally like a sponge, absorbing all kinds of information and filing them away in permanent folders named ‘Core Beliefs’. 

You took mental notes of what a marriage looks like by watching how your parents treated each other.
You figured out if your needs mattered or not, by the way your mom responded to them.
You created a list of behaviors and actions that will get you the most attention, and another one that incites danger, punishment or shame. 

It all started with a story…
“I turned out this way because this and this happened…”
Unfortunately, the stories you learn at such a fragile age have deeper roots into your soul and usually morph into ‘core beliefs’, some of them so powerful you never even consider  questioning them. They become your ‘narrative identity’ and like any great storyteller, as events unfolded, you add heroes, villains, plot twists and challenges to overcome. 


Who you are is what you believe about yourself based on a personal myth you created when your brain wasn’t even developed enough to know which side is up! We believed in tooth fairies and mermaids at that age for God’s sake. (I still do but you know). Actually that’s my point exactly! We are not trained to challenge our core beliefs, which is why I just realized I’ve been asking you the wrong question all along…

Who Do You Want To Be?

In the past, when I was a completely different person, I asked you ‘Who Are You?’ which implies you are this one fixed identity that is unchangeable. No wonder we keep repeating the same old habits and replaying the same limiting beliefs. In an attempt to find who we are, we are confining who we can become. We are so attached to the stories we tell ourselves despite them being destructive, and then try to escape through distractions, work, food, (eavesdropping!), sleep and social media to drown out the pain of a FABLE! It’s the only thing that helps and it’s not helping…

We begin to change our lives when we realize that the stories we tell ourselves are just that: stories. They can change.
(Don’t look at me like that. I swear to Allah they can!)

Listen to me….
Do you believe you’re incapable of finding love because you’ve never felt loved for who you truly are?
Do you think this is all you could be because you’ve failed to change your bad habits in the past?
Have you done way to many sins that you’ve deemed yourself ‘unforgiven’?
Do you give but feel too ‘undeserving’ to receive?
Do you have ‘trust issues’, ‘anger issues’, ‘daddy issues’, ‘health issues’ or any other ‘issues’ obstructing you from living the life you dream of?
Have you lied to your loved ones so much that you can’t look them in the eye anymore..?
Have you disappointed and pushed away the one person whom you believed could have made you ridiculously happy?

Are you scared your partner will reject you because you aren’t able to give them what they need?

Have you failed and are terrified to fail again?

Good..
Now we’re talking…

To Wait Or Create?

We live in a world that’s getting weirder by the minute…

Everything is changing so fast and spiraling out of control that the concept of ‘logical thinking’ doesn’t make sense anymore.
If logic was the only defining factor, we wouldn’t be suffering because of our internalized myths. Our lives would go according to plan and there wouldn’t be any unexpected surprises to steer us away.

We don’t know why some people died in the pandemic and some didn’t..

We don’t know why some people were born into poor families and some into rich..

Logic is not the driving force in any equation. Emotions are!
In fact, studies show that emotions drive 80% of your decision making. I mean, how many times did you do something out of character because you were angry, excited or scared? What crazy things did you do for love? How many life goals did you dodge because of fear, shame or insecurity?

If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to realize your dreams and be who you’re meant to be, trust me you’ll be waiting for a long longggggg time….

If you’re basing your actions on the results you want to achieve, like be more healthy, be in a relationship, lose weight, make more money and all the other life goals we’re conditioned to seek, you’ll fall into a dangerous ‘double-sided sword’ logic loop. And soon you’ll find logical reasons why you can’t succeed…
“The economy is bad”
“I don’t have time to workout”
“Marriage is hard”
“I’ll never find the right person”
Your core beliefs will kick in to have a little ‘negative thinking’ party, and so the story you’ve been telling yourself continues…

Don’t base who you are and your successes on results, because that’s out of your control. Base it on your effort, because that’s all anyone can do….

You’ll be judged in the Hereafter based on your intentions and your effort, not the result…
The same with life in this world. If you’re always scared to mess up, you’ll never try. Failing is the only path to success.
That’s how you learn, reassess and later perfect.

Who you are is not based on what you’ve achieved…
It’s what you believe about yourself

The actions you take and the consistent effort you put regardless of the outcome

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather he looks at your hearts and actions.” (Muslim)

( Yay! I can’t believe I found this Hadith. It says it all)

Your heart….
It’s beautiful and it’s changeable.
Whatever you believe in your heart, you can certainly acquire and achieve through the right actions
Good intentions are not enough
Logical, calculated practices are not enough
You need both….
You need a desired feeling to be your ultimate goal

And the actions to get you there….

And in this journey, with all its transformational ups and downs that’s when you’ll become….
Who you truly are…

All my Love,
Lilly S. Mohsen

BETRAYED..

Have you ever been lied to by someone you trusted more than yourself?
Have you ever been so disappointed in a loved one, that you don’t believe anyone anymore?
Have you ever been betrayed by someone you’re reliant on? Someone who promised to always make you feel safe?

If your answer is yes, then I’m so sorry…
I’m so extremely sorry you had to experience such excruciating pain. I know what that feels like and I wouldn’t wish it upon my enemy, let alone my beloved readers.

If your answer is yes, come sit here beside me, and let me soothe your pain, coz chances are, the one who hurt you has lost the ability to heal you, and that alone is an agonizing realization.


What you’re going through right now is called ‘Betrayal Trauma’, like other forms of trauma, this one is especially damaging, for it shakes the core of your most solid belief systems, and can have long term impact on your mental and physical health. You probably can’t help but look back at the relationship you once cherished and wonder if it was all a lie. Not only does the person you trusted suddenly become unrecognizable and completely untrustworthy, you also starting questioning if you could trust yourself and your own judgement.
Don’t let anyone, including yourself, undermine what you’re going through. The pain is real and amongst the common effects of betrayal trauma are:

Physical Symptoms like panic attacks, continuous crying episodes, insomnia, vomiting, hair loss, rashes, acne breakouts and weight fluctuations.

Emotional Dysfunction including a whole array of emotions like anger, depression, anxiety, shame, suicidal thoughts and helplessness.

Cognitive Symptoms like extreme intrusive thoughts, obsessive behavior and shame, sadly resulting in an altered definition of love and trust..

Have any of these hit a chord?
Again.. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I have this deep need to keep apologizing. Maybe it’s coz I know that you might have never received a proper apology from your betrayer, or maybe because I truly feel your pain and I know it’s not fair you’re left to deal with the damage alone.
Like a hit and run, except this one happens over the years in slow motion and the one driving the car is your beloved parent, partner, sibling or friend..

So now that you know the effects, let me walk you through the phases of what happens when you find out you’ve been lied to. I know, it’s like watching a horror movie, but I promise, the ending will hopefully be pleasant and soothing.

Phase One: Denial
You’ll refuse to believe it. In fact, you’ll come up with ridiculous excuses to escape facing the ugly reality of what had happened. You might even be grateful to your betrayer or unconsciously treat him or her like nothing happened. It’s what we call ‘betrayal blindness’. Your attachment system is activated and your brain goes into survival mode, working overtime to bury the trauma in a black box and push it far back in your mind where you can’t access it. After all, this person is your safe haven, you can’t afford to suddenly be emotionally homeless, so you hold on tight and pretend everything is okay..

Phase Two: Anger
But the truth is…. Everything is not okay..
Something horrible has happened to you and now the numbness turns to rage. You’ve been deceived. Someone you love and trust has made a fool out of you and if that doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will. The safe haven has been invaded from the inside and your ‘fight’ survival mechanism was bound to kick in.

Phase Three: Bargaining
Did they really betray you?
Maybe they had a good reason? Of course they did, right?
You surely didn’t fall for someone so evil.
She’s your soulmate for God’s sake, give her the benefit of the doubt!
He’s the love of your life, you couldn’t have been so wrong about him!
So you frantically search for answers. You’ll probably have a million questions or become hung up on every little detail you dig for, all the while screaming ‘WHY?’
Why would they repay your love with such cruelty?
Why would they upend your reality so brutally?
What did you ever do to deserve a stab in the back?
What was going through their minds as they lied to so casually?
Your cortisol levels skyrocket as you experience a new set of stress-related symptoms.
It’s a struggle that probably won’t yield any satisfying results, and for that again… I’m so sorry..

Phase Four: Depression
I don’t know how long it will take, but the blazing fire of your anger and anxiety will eventually turn to ashes. You’ll be huddled up in a corner, left with the debris of a relationship you thought was a blessing, but turned out to be your biggest nightmare.
That’s the sad thing about betrayal; it never comes from enemies. Something breaks inside you every time you allow yourself to absorb what happened. It’s the worst kind of pain.
You’ll have to feel it though.. There’s no other way around it..

Phase Five: Acceptance
This is the most difficult phase..
In our mind, acceptance means approval, and it’s why forgiveness seems impossible at times, because it means accepting the unacceptable. But that’s not what I’m asking of you or myself..
I need you to accept what happened. You’ve been betrayed and deceived
Accept it..
You’ve been failed and let down..
Accept it..
You’ve lost something you thought you could never lose.
Accept your new reality, because resisting it won’t change anything.
Accept there’s evil in this world, and accept that some people can do very bad things, even to the ones closest to them.
Accept the shame, humiliation and defeat. It will help you reach out for support, be it therapy or emotional support from loved ones, which is exactly what you need to heal.

But Now What..?
Now your life has temporarily changed and that’s okay..
Dealing with the aftermath of betrayal trauma can be an isolating experience but please don’t succumb to it. Take your time to regain your strength, and learn your lessons
There’s a beautiful Hadith that I somehow chose to ignore in the past, but in fact it’s the ultimate shield against betrayal and deceit…

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: Love your beloved moderately, perhaps he becomes hated to you someday. And hate whom you hate moderately, perhaps he becomes your beloved someday
(Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, 1997)

You’ve loved. You’ve lost and now it’s time to dust yourself off and start anew.
Just as long as you remember to not carry this huge burden on your back as you walk away. What happened was not your fault.
Please read that again: What happened was NOT your fault. There is absolutely no excuse for betrayal, cheating or deceit. So leave that baggage behind for your betrayer to carry, and trust that Allah doesn’t let sins go unpunished, especially when the sin harms and scars one of His innocent slaves.
It might not be the solace you’re seeking and it doesn’t fix what was broken. I just know that feeling broken isn’t the end of your story.
It’s a new beginning..
And don’t ever think God will let you walk it alone…

Okay so I was just about to commence with my grand finale about hope and love but someone just stopped me to ask a question
“Yes?”
“What if your betrayer shows remorse? Asks for forgiveness or another chance? Do you still walk away and never look back?”

*Awkward silence

Do you?
Well, I guess that’s another story for another article
Stay tuned….

Lilly S. Mohsen

The End to a New Beginning

2020 has been a seriously tough year, hasn’t it?
I mean, a couple of years ago, if someone had done a movie about a petrifying worldwide pandemic with multiple waves and prison-like lockdowns, we would’ve probably called it ‘tasteless science fiction’. And yet here we are, watching our loved ones fall victims to this stupid virus, and praying we’re not its next target.
Could this be the worst nightmare Planet Earth has seen yet?
And if it is, can someone wake us up please?

P For Pause

It’s kind of like someone pulled the emergency brakes on our fast-paced lives and we’re still stunned from the sudden halt. My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones along the way, and those who’ve taken a medical, financial or mental fall. I swear my heart hurts as I write this; trying to grasp each and every one of your stories. I myself have suffered from severe Discus protrusion, so not only am I locked up at home, I’m locked up inside my body, with only my eyes going back and forth, like a cartoon character in the dark. It’s like a double pause. But you know what, it’s okay. I’ve had a lot of time to think, to learn and contemplate (with the help of lots of (legal) drugs). I’m basically listening to audio books, lectures, watching Turkish Series, dipping stuff in chocolate sauce (remind me to give you the recipe, it’s beyond heavenly!) and trying to manage the pain. All the while thinking: when will this end? How can we possibly recover from this year’s traumatizing wounds?

And then it happened…
I came across the following hadith and it’s analysis by one of my favorite Islamic preachers


‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir (May Allah be pleased with him) said:
I asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied,

“Control your tongue,
Let your house be enough for you, and 
Weep for your sins
[At-Tirmidhi].

The Power of Words

At first glance, ‘controlling your tongue’ seems to fall under the gossip/anger category, but looking more closely, I believe there’s another hidden meaning…
It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it and who we say it to. With so much new, conflicting information going around about COVID, it’s hard to tell which is true and which isn’t. The easiest thing to do is ‘forward’ the news on our ‘WhatsApp’ groups and Facebook pages, not realizing the impact they’ll have, and how while one person will shove it aside and go about their day, another will live in even more panic and fear. People have different tolerance levels, so if it’s not a message of reassurance and hope, let’s try to filter out the negatives and control our ‘send button’ urges. Don’t pass over the panic; for some people will literally fall apart.

Save The Best For Inside

‘Let your house be enough for you’ could not hold truer than now, since that’s where we’ll all be for the next couple of weeks. Many of us save the fun, the nice outfits and the high spirits for social gatherings, then go into zombie mode at home and I know that’s only natural. A special someone once told me that being bored with loved ones is actually a sign of comfort. Given my fairytale background, this was a hard pill for me to swallow! I mean, how nice would it be to turn the spark on for those we actually care about the most? I admit it’s kinda easy (and sometimes satisfying) to piss off our family members, since we know them inside out and have the insider tracks to their quirks, but I still believe they’re the ones we create the most beautiful memories with. Out of the whole world, they’ve seen us at our worst and at times like these, they’ve definitely earned our best. So bring out the board games, cuddle in front of the fire place drinking chocolate bombs and laugh till your lungs are about to burst. Dust off your DVD players and watch those old wedding tapes and childhood movies. Try new recipes together, Facetime your friends and relatives. Smile and be creative with your conversations. There’s so much joy hidden inside our households and we’re so oblivious to it coz we’re focused on what’s happening outside. The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships, so bring some love, tenderness, beauty and playfulness home, for in those lie the rightful remedy for all your fears and pain… 


Weep, Love and Pray

They say ‘those who do not weep, do not see’. Do you think that’s true?
I know it might not be particularly fun to be sad, and it totally steps on the point I was trying to make above about finding joy at home, but how else are we supposed to relieve the excruciating stress?
Crying is therapeutic; it’s a sign that pent up emotions are being released, and don’t kid yourself, I know you have A LOT of those inside, especially in these trying times. I don’t mean it in a ‘throw-a-tantrum-every-time-you’re-upset’ kind of way. I think ‘weep for your sins’ is an invitation to look closely at your life journey and feel it to the fullest. We’ve blocked out and taken so much for granted. (I know I did). From the mask-less freedom we had, the sense of security, the hugs and handshakes to the stocked-up aisles at the grocery store. But now we can literally taste the fear of the unknown. Right now, a simple nearby sneeze can send us running for our lives. It does make sense to weep for all the time we wasted on meaningless trivialities. To weep for every hour we spent without dhikr, every day we passed on doing a good deed, and every harsh word we said that might have left a scar in people’s hearts.

Why? Because when you weep for your sins, you’ll take the next step towards self-awareness; recognizing how much you’re in dire need of giving and receiving love. Your sharp edges will melt into soft, tender words, and the practical logician inside of you will see new, dreamy colors. Like right now, my daughter is in the kitchen making snack trays for movie night and my heart is filled with love just staring at her. When was the last time you made eye contact with someone till you quenched their thirst for your attention? Smiled and told them you love them just out of the blues?

It’s amazing how this hadith is divinely crafted for this current pandemic. Resilience and salvation can only be achieved through creative mindfulness. (and a little bit of chocolate sauce* LOL)

I wish you ridiculous amounts of love, joy and laughter, enough to sweep away the dreadful pain of this past year….
I wish you happiness, forgiveness and strong bonds with your loved ones, enough to help you face any difficulty together
I wish you presence, warmth and fulfillment, enough to make you smile from the heart
And most of all, I wish you unwavering faith, serenity and the gift of appreciation…
Enough to let you see how much you’re blessed and how much you’re loved

Happy New Years…

Lilly S. Mohsen

Chocolate Sauce Recipe
(As promised)

Ingredients:

1 Nutella Jar (350 grams)
1 Condensed Milk can (small)
1 Galaxy Milk Chocolate bar (40 grams)
1 Chocolate Milk (200 ml)

Instructions
Mix all ingredients in a pot on low heat till there are no clumps
Turn heat off and voila! A sauce from heaven.
Enjoy 🙂

Why It’s Okay To Give Up When You’re Feeling Down

File Jan 30, 9 04 41 PM.jpeg

 

Why It’s Okay To Give UP
When You’re Feeling DOWN

 

Do you feel like it’s time to give up?

Close your eyes. Rest your head back and tell me honestly…

Are you too tired and too drained to try, when what once looked like the road to happiness has actually turned out to be the road to misery and despair?

We meet people who change our lives forever…
Some people walk away when we need them the most
And some stay no matter how much we burn them with our anger.

Some people break our hearts into a million pieces
And they don’t even know it…
Other people help us glue the pieces back together
Even when we blame them for everything we’ve been through..

 

We get hurt…
And we hurt back..
And we refuse to let go of what’s making us suffer,
Because sometimes ‘letting go’ isn’t even an option anymore.

Our loved ones become strangers overnight
and somehow everything we thought we knew, collapses right before our eyes.

 

So we struggle with the pain, the failures and the endless obligations
We struggle with guilt, resentment and fear
We struggle with loneliness..
Even when we’re never alone..

Until we reach the breaking point where we……
Stop.
We stop struggling and stop trying and stop feeling our feelings.
We just stop. And give up..

 

And you know what… I’m here to tell you that it’s okay….
You’re allowed to give up when you’re feeling down, and here’s why….

 

That person you’re so in love with, they’re the reason you wake up every morning and the reason you want to be a better ‘you’.

Except even when the ‘love of your life’ doesn’t know you exist, you still hold on to that glimpse of hope….
And you try so hard to be what they want you to be….
All you want is for them to love you back and let you love them..

Precious years of your life are carved away as you hope and wish and dream for the impossible to happen..
Simply because you don’t think it’s ‘impossible’
Actually, you applaud yourself for fighting for your love, and tell yourself one day they’ll value you for who you are…

But the truth is..

There’s nothing romantic about ‘waiting’ for someone to need you as much as you need them.
There’s nothing heroic about fighting for someone who doesn’t understand your worth.
There’s nothing beautiful about convincing someone to love you!

It’s okay to give up and walk away when you realize you’re wasting your time..
It’ll be one of the hardest things you’ll have to do
But eventually you’ll be glad you gave up
One day it’ll stop hurting…
One day you’ll forget to wait for the impossible
And you’ll openly welcome new possibilities…
It’s okay to give up when you’re feeling down
It’s okay to say ‘I can’t do this anymore’
Because when you find yourself stuck in the wrong story
The smart thing to do is ‘leave’..

 

Those difficulties that keep piling up and weighing you down…
All those times you’ve persevered and did more than your best.
Day after day working so hard, with so much love and passion
Night after night planning and anticipating, and praying for success
You’ve invested all your time, energy and effort to make this work.
You’ve sacrificed..
A lot..
More than anyone could ever know..
So much that every breath is a battle
And every disappointment cuts at your heart with a knife
Until you reach a point where you wonder…
“When will it get better? What’s the point?”

But the truth is…

This constant, vicious struggle will soon change who you are
It will take something away from you that you’ll never be able to retrieve..
You’re allowed to be a masterpiece and a mess at the same time
You’re allowed to give up on your need to fix everything and make it all right!
It’s okay to step back and take a moment to breathe
It’s okay to recharge, find what makes you happy and indulge in some ‘self-care’
Because the secret to success is in knowing you can’t know everything
You can’t do everything alone and carry the world on your shoulders
You need to share your joy and sorrow…

You need to help yourself first before you can help others.

Whenever you reach a dead end
And you feel like giving up
Remember these words….

Sometimes we do everything correctly, and still end up losing.
God in His infinite wisdom will deliberately close certain doors in your face
Not to punish you, but to push you in the right direction….
And it’s okay to fall down to your knees, rest your head on the door and just give up for a while

It’s okay to fall…

Eventually you’ll get up…
And your pain will make you more powerful and more determined
You’ll either try again or you’ll take a different pathway
You’ll let go of the wrong person to find the right one…
You’ll give up on an impossible dream to achieve a new amazing one…
You need to fall and give up
Because strength doesn’t come from what you can do
It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t
So take your time to reset
Cry, scream and collapse if you have to..
For perhaps when you feel like you’ve been buried in a dark place
One day, soon enough, you’ll realize

You’ve actually been planted….

 

 

 

Lilly S. Mohsen
Author of Live Your Story: The Art Of Loving, Living and Healing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Muslim Women Feel Oppressed?

Published On Islam Faith
October 2017

 

 

IMG_3417

 

“Why not?”
“Coz I said so!”
“Good one Mom. You should be a lawyer.”

Ahhhh remember the good old teenage years when you died a little bit inside every time you heard one of your friends didn’t have curfews or chores? When they made something called ‘last minute plans’ while your parents needed the exact detailed information of the outing 10 to 12 business days before the actual date?

I distinctly remember asking my friends those same questions that night we were all chilling together. I was on a strict diet at the time, and needed a distraction from the melted chocolate oozing from the center of the giant molten lava cake they had just broken into to.

“No. I didn’t have any rules growing up. My parents let me do whatever I wanted. I’d come home at sunrise and they wouldn’t even ask where I was.” One friend replied.

“You’re so lucky!” We all said.

“Yeah, everyone envied my freedom back then, but you know what I envied them? Feeling protected and cared for. You guys should be grateful for parents who loved you enough to discipline you!”

 

While most of my friends made faces and quickly engaged in a heated debate on the different types of parenting, my mind dazed off like usual and an invisible camera blurred everyone out to zoom in on my thoughts.

Could these be the silent notions going on in Muslim women’s heads too? Do they die a little bit inside when their non-Muslim friends do what they want while they must adhere to all these Islamic rules and decrees? And most importantly, do women in Islam view themselves as being protected and cherished, or just down right oppressed?

 

The ‘Liberation’ Fixation.

We can argue about it till the cows come home, but unless we agree on what it really means to be ‘liberated’, one of us will end up really pissed.

So I looked it up and the literal meaning of ‘Liberation’ is ‘the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery or oppression’

So far so good?

Now, would you guys allow me to use the veil (hijab) as an example?
Thanks!

Let me just add that modesty isn’t just in the way you dress. It’s an attitude. It’s something pure in the heart that affects the way you dress, think and behave. So if a Muslim woman chooses through the power of free will vested in her to wear the Hijab, even though she’s constantly pressured not to, would you say she’s ‘liberated’ from the social imprisonment and the slavery to ‘popular culture’? Yeah, I think so, too.

Alright, how about a Muslim woman who’s forced by her husband or father to wear the Hijab against her will, even though the Holy Qur’an explicitly says:

“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256 Holy Quran)

And even though Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,

“The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Now this ‘bitter-Hijabi’ woman is clearly suppressed, right?
Of course she is, but can we really blame Islam for it? Is this what God wants Muslims to do, to force each other to do things out of mere oppression? Things they’re probably not going to get rewarded for since it’s not from the heart?

This fixation on female liberation needs to take a more informed form. Are we angry with the Islamic Laws or are we angry with the Muslims who make Islam look bad coz they misinterpret its teachings?

We need to channel this bottled anger at someone people. Let’s make a decision and stick to it. Who’s the real culprit here, Muslims or Islam?

 

Women In The Wild West

While we could argue both sides, many might dismiss the scriptures all together and claim that western culture is the answer, for it is the essence of true liberation.

Well, it really depends on how you look at it.

Take the Hijab again. Some people will equate it with suppression, oppression, depression and all the ugly ‘essions’, while others will simply parallel its modesty with elegance, dignity and poise.

Now that I think about it, for the most part, it does seem like a natural inclination to view ‘modest clothing’ as closely integrated with being ‘classy’. Royalty, respected influencers, businesswomen, professors, educated women whose sole purpose is to make a difference in this world… You’d probably have a hard time imagining them walking down the street wearing hot shorts and cropped tight tank tops accentuating their enormous ‘boob-jobbed’ cleavage, no matter how ‘liberated’ they may feel.

There’s a difference between liberation and dissipation.
Between demanding attention and demanding respect.

And hey, if wearing the veil is viewed as ‘oppressive” then perhaps Christianity and Judaism should go on the list, too. For it’s not just Islam that preaches about the merits of modesty:

 

“For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man” (Corinthians 11:6, Holy Bible) 

 

…”then, that head or hair covering was law for the daughters of Israel” (Sifrei Bamidbar 11)

 

Do We Need To Be Rescued?

I once read this meme that cracked me up for a whole week. (They’re called ‘memes’ right?)

* Hijabi woman breathes *

The rest of the world goes crazy: “You are OPPRESSED, LET US SAVE YOU!”

 

We’ve been brainwashed into thinking Muslims are brainwashed. But now try forcing a proud Hijabi to take her veil off and you’ll be the one in need of saving, you know, before ending up in a wheel chair that you’ll be steering with your tongue LOL.

The truth is, despite the commotion, and the whole ‘Islam-is-violent-and-isn’t-compatible-with-modern-civilization’ shebang, people all over the globe are converting to Islam left and right. Freedom loses its meaning amidst the chaos. When you don’t have a map, some guidelines and a clear destination, you’re just lost. And that’s the point; so many of us are finally eager for logical answers, finally ready to make sense of this confusion we live in. So many of us are tired of feeling lost. We need a stable, ‘unchangeable’ solid ground to stand on; a doctrine that keeps us focused and doesn’t crumble under social pressure.

Islamic rules might seem firm, what with the dress code, the ‘no-drinking’, ‘no gambling’ and ‘no pigs on the dinner table’ thing. Yet the core of every single one of those rules is based on love, the same way devoted parents, who care about your success, will watch you like a hawk and stop you from ruining the life you’re so eager to start living. Because they love you, they won’t always give you what you think you want, but they’ll make sure you strive for what you need. And because they know you so well, and know your weaknesses, they’ll put you on straight path to try and eliminate your struggles as much as possible because they know the following is true…

“To abstain from the enjoyment which is in our power, or to seek distant rather than immediate results, are among the most painful exertions of the human will” N.W. Senior 1836

 

Take that night with my friends for example; do you know how desperately I wanted a piece of that molten cake? I was practically drooling all over it, with my eyes popping out of my head like a cartoon character in love. Do you know how difficult it was to resist the temptation? Probably just as difficult as it is for you to invest in your ‘future self’, whether it is in your health, wealth, career or physical appearance. It’s SO hard, but you do it. You exercise, eat healthy, study and pull an all-nighter to prep for a test or an important meeting. You find the stamina, perseverance and passion to stick to your plan and reach your goals. Psychologists call it ‘Grit’. It’s a choice to progress and succeed and that’s the most liberating choice anyone can make.

Again, it all boils down to how it looks from where you’re standing.

If you see life on this earth similar to the one of gold fish, ‘live, die, flush, new one’, nothing Muslims do or believe in would make sense to you or anyone else for the matter. No amount of ‘grit’ or ‘achievements’ will count as significant anyway, right? And like duh, of course they’d seem ‘oppressed’ to say the least (I’d use more colorful language but you know LOL). Except Muslims see a life beyond this life, for they believe in Allah’s promise of a huge reward. They believe in justice and let’s face it, what’s happening in this world is nothing but.

So we resist the pulls and lures of this life and keep our eyes on the goal of attaining paradise in the Hereafter. We persevere with this inner battle between our ‘present self’ and our ‘future self’. We ponder on the amazing words in the Holy Qur’an and revel in its truths no matter how many people try to distort it with lies.

 

Once you approach the Holy Qur’an with the humility to learn and understand, you won’t be able to ‘un-see’ what you see.
You’ll find the truth that will purify and free your soul.
You’ll find the answers you need to reach that ‘inner peace’ you’re yearning for.

Once you believe in something so much that it runs in your veins, you won’t really care what other people think.

You’ll stand up for what you believe in, even if you have to do it alone.

If that’s not the ultimate liberation, well….
I don’t know what is….

 

 

All my love,
Lilly S. Mohsen

Behind The Scenes: Podcast Interview with Lilly S. Mohsen

 

I must say I was truly honored and very humbled to be featured….

 

 

Okay, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do the formal cliche speeches looool. I guess I just don’t have it in my DNA or something. You’ll believe it once you hear that podcast.

But before you do that, let me take you behind the scenes very quickly…

So here I am, snuggled in my beige recliner on a Friday night, waiting eagerly for Mifrah, the lovely host and producer, to start the video call.
I was nervous, to be perfectly honest. Yes I was very excited, but I was also very nervous, because  I suddenly figured my casual style in my writing might come off as ‘tolerably cute’, but in real life, with me giggling out loud and everything, well…. mmmmm… not so much looool.

Anyways, Mifrah is such a natural, she eased me into it, and before I knew it, I was being me, talking about my imaginary friends, my favorite therapy success stories, how people can turn their lives around, and the secrets to finding what makes you ‘special’….

I had plans to go into more details with the ‘behind the scenes’ thing but I just can’t wait this long for you guys to hear the Podcast loool.

I really hope you guys enjoy it….

 

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

P.S.: Opps which reminds me, in the original interview, Mifrah introduces me to the audience, and I make this whole big deal about her forgetting to mention the ‘S’ in Lilly S. Mohsen. I guess she figured how much important it was, so she later went back and corrected it, saying my whole name in the edited version, which makes my whole ‘S’ drama in the recorded portion completely meaningless looool.

Just thought I’d clear that part out, before you think I’m THAT much of a drama queen!

Anyways, without further ado, here it is ….

Enjoy…

 

https://productivemuslim.com/interview-with-lilly-mohsen/

 

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 4: Displacement As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

Defense Mechanism

Self Defense Mechanism

 

Episode Four: Displacement As A Self Defense Mechanism

 

“Mr. Nadir. Thank you for meeting with me. I know you’re a very busy man” I said when I went to question Sameera’s husband the next day. “So can you tell me what happened that night at the dinner party?”

“Nothing abnormal. Mohanad and Amy insisted on having a dinner party for Sameera’s birthday, so we went to their house, ate, talked and left around midnight.” Nadir said, cracking his knuckles before resting both his palms on his big belly.

“I understand you brought dessert. A lemon meringue pie?”

“Of course I did. It’s my wife’s birthday. I couldn’t walk in empty handed.”

“I heard you got into a huge disagreement with the Bakery’s owner a few weeks back, right after your interrogation to be more specific.”

“It was their fault this whole ordeal happened. I told them NO STRAWBERRIES! How hard is it to follow instructions?”

“But the analysis confirmed it wasn’t the Bakery’s fault.”

“Huh? Still” Nadir shrugged, his face completely flushed.

“So what else did you do that day? Before the party I mean.”

“I went to work. Picked up the pie. Went home, showered, got dressed and then Sameera and I went to dinner….”

 

Three months ago….

“I can’t believe you stayed late at the office tonight. It’s my birthday. Seriously, you’ve reached a whole new level of inconsiderate!” Sameera complained as she strapped on her seat belt.

“I told you, I left the office on time, but there was a line up at the bakery! Damn it, what’s wrong with this stupid Radio?” Nadir yelled as he jolted it angrily a couple of times. 

“And now you’d rather listen to the radio than talk to your wife. Nice!” Sameera crossed her arms. “You know, I never asked you to take me to Paris or buy me diamonds every two and a half seconds like Amy’s husband does. I just want you to show me you care. Once a year!”

“Let’s not forget the fact that Mohanad is a millionaire! Not that we could ever forget, he never fails to rub it in all our faces.” Nadir steered the driving wheel, yelling and cursing other drivers on the road.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to get your wife a decent gift on her birthday.” Sameera protested.

“Am I gonna have to ruin the surprise?”

“Yes, I think you should.”

“Listen, I have a plan, but you gotta keep an open mind okay…?” Nadir smiled wickedly.

 

“Mr. Nadir, you recently bought a lake house, is that correct?” I asked. His wife Sameera tripped when she heard the question, and dropped a glass of the drinks tray she had come to serve. She quickly apologized, cleaned up the mess then hurried out.

“Yes, it was a late birthday gift for Sameera. I’m still paying installment, so I didn’t technically ‘buy’ it yet” Nadir tried to compose himself.

“Well, according to this title in my hand, the amount has been fully paid upfront when you bought the lake house last week.”

Nadir choked on his juice, obviously taken aback by the amount of information I had gathered on his family.

“Back to the dinner party” I continued. “You went to wash your hands in the guest….”

Nadir’s cell rang suddenly, even though he had assured me he put it on mute.

“Sorry, one sec” Nadir raised his index finger. “Hello? What? You locked yourself out? You idiot! I need those documents ASAP! Is it too much to ask for an assistant who ISN’T also a blithering MORON?” Nadir yelled into his phone before hanging up on the poor guy’s face. “I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to postpone this questioning to another time. I gotta go deal with this.”

“That’s okay, I think I got everything I need….”

 

That same evening…

“Lemme guess, he’s using his assistant as a self defense mechanism” Jenna, my eager assisant pointed out over dinner.

“There’s no such thing, hon.” I smiled. “No, he’s using displacement. That’s when some people take out their anger on innocent victims.”

“Like how?”

“Say this husband has had an argument at work with a client. He drives home like a maniac, yelling and cursing and goes all hulk on his helpless wife because the meat loaf is ‘too salty’. Displacement is an unconscious self defense mechanism that shifts frustration on people or objects that are less threatening.”

“Yeah, like my brother. My whole life, I was practically his punching bag. He used to pick a fight with me every time he got detention. It wasn’t my fault his teacher despised him!”

“Probably because expressing his hostile feelings towards his teacher could have gotten him in more trouble. So to protect his inflamed ego, he took it out on you. What are sisters for, ha?” I joked.

“Not this! People who use displacement, they’re just passing the pain on to someone else. Someone who’s innocent and completely clueless. Seriously, how do ‘Displacementers’ sleep at night?”

“Sometimes, as loved ones, it’s our jobs pick up on the ‘not-so-subtle’ clues of displacement and try not to take it personally.” I leveled.

“Or maybe people who ‘displace’ their frustration should stop being so mean and evil!” Jenna crossed her arms.

“Nadir doesn’t seem evil or mean. He takes his anger out on the broken radio or his poor assistant. I think he unconsciously uses displacement because deep down he feels weak and insecure. His wife overpowers him so he needs to overpower someone else.”

“Okay so let’s recap. Amy uses ‘dissociation’ since she lives in La La Land. Her son Hamza acts out in “Angry Bird’ world. Ummm Sameera uses projection to pass her faults onto others and her husband Nadir uses ‘displacement’ as a self defense mechanism, coz he’s a wuss”

“Jenna!” I scolded.

“Sorry but it’s true. And since he obviously feels subdued under Mohanad’s piles of money, perhaps he misplaced his frustration…. Took it out on an innocent object, like I dunno… a diamond necklace?” Jenna’s eyebrows popped up.

“You’re cute.” I laughed. “It does sound plausible. But Nadir isn’t the only frustrated man in this scenario. Someone else is even more intimidated by Mohanad’s wealth.”

“Who?”

“His butler. Alfred….”

 

To be continued

 

 

Author’s Commentary

 

Ahhhhh the prodigy of displacement.

The husband takes his frustration out on the wife (or the other way around I’m sure). The frustrated parent takes it out on the kids. The kids take it out on the timid classmates. And the timid classmates take it out on food. It’s a game called ‘pass the fury ball of rage’; a vicious circle of always hitting on the weakest links, the ones who can’t afford to fight back.

Oh my God you guys, I just realized. We all use displacement somehow and it’s not very nice!

It’s probably the number one reason behind bullying, having unexplained phobias, hundreds of shattered devices, innocent kids in time outs, rebound relationships and even obesity coz of all the binge eating. And you know what, it’s not fair. Defenseless human beings shouldn’t have to pay the price for our personal problems. Especially when they’re the ones keeping us stable. Listen to this Hadith:

Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Seek among your weak ones, for you are given provision and help only because of the weak amongst you.” https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/1/272

I’m not saying you’re not allowed to get frustrated. Of course you are, you’re human. I’m just suggesting instead of using vulnerable targets as punching bags, get an ACTUAL punching bag and you know, knock yourself out. Channel the rage into something more productive like cleaning or running or even screaming into a pillow.

But what if I’m the victim of displacement?’ you ask.

(Oh man! I was secretly hoping you wouldn’t put me in such a predicament by asking that.)

Okay, if you find yourself a target to this specific self defense mechanism, I’m gonna have to ask you to swallow your anger and stay patient. Don’t take it personally because we both know it’s not about you. Try to soothe and understand….

Wouldn’t you want your loved ones to do the same…?

Oh yes, you would!

 

Lilly S. Mohsen