CBT and Islam
In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), we learn how to break out of vicious cycles of negative thoughts, negative behaviors, and negative emotions.
The way to do that is to change one's thoughts, behaviors, and emotions from negative to positive. When we stop anxiety, fear, and negativity, we can substitute them with positive thinking. The best way to engender positivity is to have positive short term, medium term, and long term goals. An example of short term goal might be to wake up on time in the mornings, that of medium term goal might be to develop a habit of writing a daily journal, while that of long term might be to become an international journalist.
When we have positive goals and a systematic program to achieve them, we can break the negative vicious cycle and go into a positive cycle of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. There are two ways to break out of a negative cycle - through changing our thoughts or through changing our behaviour. The result of which is a natural uplift in our emotions.
It is important to have the right intention to do those good deeds that lead to positive goals. If the intention is selfish or insincere, mental health issues will persist in the patient. Only when we do good deeds and pursue worthy goals for holistic good in the right way (rather than pursue personal goals in an incorrect manner), i.e. what we call "the pleasure of God alone", can we truly break out of our mental health disposition.
Care needs to be taken that the process of breaking the negative CBT cycle is done in a balanced, gradual, organic, and well thought out manner, otherwise it is easy to fall back on negative patterns, with cyclic episodes of negative vicious cycle in an unorganized, unsystematic, and sudden manner, we end up observing bipolar symptoms in patients, with cyclic episodes of mania and depression. So proper planning, deep thought, and organization, free from insincere influences are essential to break out of the vicious cycle. Thus, social boundaries our important for recovery.
One way to ensure that the bipolar characteristics do not manifest themselves in the patient on breaking the negative vicious cycle is to do good deeds and to set goals based on SINCERITY (genuine holistic good done for the sake of God), as mentioned earlier, pursuing them in a gradual and organized manner free from insincere negative influences.
We are all familiar with what "sincerity" means. We are sincere to our friend if we do or say things with their best intent, but we are sincere to our greatest benefactor, God, when we do things primarily for His pleasure, not caring whether our actions might displease His creation if it means that those actions will please Him. "Sincerity" means doing things with the best intentions for the holistic good that God wants from us.
When good deeds lack Sincerity our breaking out of the negative CBT vicious cycle might not be successful and we can relapse into negativity. So proper planning, organization, with SINCERE good deeds, sincere short, medium, and long term goals, with the best of intentions, keep strict boundaries in terms of negative influences is needed to successfully come out of our mental health symptoms to become a better version of ourselves, God Willingly.
Our world is full of paradoxes of our perceived realities. Perceived realities depend on several factors based on what we consume -- our media, education, social upbringing, role models, our social circles, organized religion, our food, etc. We hear so many voices around us and form our perspective of life. Nevertheless, there is another voice - the voice of our innate nature. Yes, the conscience that God instilled in each of us with the precognition of all realities we will ever experience. Yet He did not leave us blind and wandering to uncover our inner light of guidance. He sent spiritual guidance through the Scriptures He revealed to His chosen Messengers, all of whom are our teachers to discover and live the life worth living that is unique for each of us, through learning, personal observation, and self development based on natural principles of success common to all humanity.
In our contemporary world our dialectics (concepts that seem the opposite but may be true at the same time) define us. Centuries of decay, decline, waning, and waxing of the Islamic World since the Mongol sacking of Baghdad when Muslims lost essence of faith-inspired intellectual and spiritual pursuits in favor of false pride in cultural heritage - customs, language, cuisine, arts, history, and traditions, without practicing the same principles of human success that made their forefathers great. Thus faith gave way to cultural decadence, stagnation, and capitulation in the form of centuries of European colonization of the Muslim world.
Christian work ethic, although based on a false belief system of human divinity, trumped the decadence of non-practicing Muslim lethargy. A people raised on baked potatoes and beans, reciting Shakespeare's sonnets, who love to camp in the open countryside for recreation were able to mesmerize a Muslim population relishing their biryanis and kababs, reciting works of Saadi and Mutanabbi, reclining on opulent cushions and carpets. It was a classic transfer of power from a stagnant civilization that had reached its zenith, and forsaken the principles of human success that Ibn Khaldun eloquently describes his Muqaddimah. A vigorous people practicing a distorted faith, glorifying a Spartan lifestyle, were able to displace a people who gave up their practice of their true faith for the love of luxurious living.
The mid-20th century saw the masters begin to relinquish their colonies physically but they left a system and an elite class of colored master class in Muslim lands who were more "European" than the Europeans. Nationalism -- the curse of the 20th century -- saw Muslim nation states glorify their jahilli past -- thus the Egyptians are proud of their Pharonic civilization, the Lebanese of their Phoenician heritage, as the Shah's countrymen were haughty of Persepolis -- the capital of the Achemenid Empire - before they perished in the dust of the Iranian Revolution. This system of "delegate colonialism" is still so strong that one of its pawns - Pakistan's President Ayub Khan - had to write a book deliberately titled "Friends, Not Masters" to highlight the issue in the 60s.
Fortunately, nationalism and Muslim cultural chauvinism is slowly giving way to a principle-based struggle that involves all of humanity -- independent of a particular culture. This is evident how the Palestinian struggle, a catalyst to unite Muslims globally, was led by nationalistic organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has slowly lost credibility and popularity in face of more genuine Islam-based movements. The emergence of genuine Islam-inspired leadership in Turkey, Pakistan, and Malaysia who are not sellouts to their Western masters is a breeze of fresh hope in terms of the spiritual reawakening of the Muslim world. The lack of Arabic comprehension among their populations is still problematic, as we find the ignorance of nationalism and materialism still cloud the vision of their general population, especially the older generation.
The strange marriage of Islam, nationalism, and material pursuit has created a strange philosophy that is alien to the innate human nature. It is the failure of Islamic thinkers and social architects to lay out a pragmatic contemporary way of life that is aligned with the original Islamic ethos, that we find the paradoxical experiences in contemporary Muslim world. Whereas, the leadership of the emerging non-Arab Muslim world has started to assert its independence of preference for natural principle-based way of life for itself and the world, the Muslim Arab world leadership is still tightly controlled by their masters with perhaps the exception of Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. They still simply carry out social policies architected by Western think tanks for selfish national interests irrespective for the harm they cause to natural principles globally.
In contrast, the West has transformed from its colonial Puritan philosophy to a more secular atheistic outlook in which social policy is based on animal behavior to keep controlling the world masses through consumerism, sexual promiscuities, musical indoctrination, substandard educational policy designed to accept Big Brother world regime, propaganda-based media, and delusional promises of "freedom" in the guise of Western concepts of democracy and liberalism.
If we consider this stage of Western civilization, we realize the paradox we exist in. On the one hand Western religion is irrational and not based on natural human principles of success like Islam. On the other hand, social experimentation has resulted in disasters like the breakup of the family, individualism, alcoholism, substance abuse, sexual deviance, death of morality, relativism, and crass materialism. It is a classic result of dalal -- misguidance, but how can we blame anyone? If we are born as part of the non-Muslim population of the the West, it is perfectly rational to reject religion in favor or atheism, agnosticism, and general spiritual confusion that we see today in the West. How can someone base their beliefs on mental gymnastics of 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 -- with a god being born and dying at a specific epoch in history, for taking away the responsibility of people for the own self development -- as he already died for the mistakes/sins? Thus, how can we follow a religious tradition which opens the door to moral corruption wide open resulting in whole scale misguidance, unless we are open to investigate other religious traditions for the Truth?
Yet the same social Western experiments that have resulted in a dysfunctional human society at home has been propagated globally to the Muslim world through Western stooges in Muslim national leadership. This leaves the common Muslim challenged in our day and age to live consciously based on principles that are intrinsically part of them, but deliberately subverted in the world they live in. Unless, they are ready to live a life free of materialistic love, independent of the overwhelming global social script, and influence of those who wish to use (abuse) them for their own materialistic pursuits, they cannot be true to themselves and their reality. This can be achieved through zuhd, learning, contemplation based on the Quran, and adopting Prophetic methodology for self development and development of others to revert to natural principles of success. When a critical mass of humanity does that, positive change will eventually ensue, God willingly.
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