Channel: Yasmin Mogahed
Yasmin Mogahed discusses ways in which we sabotage our own happiness.
25, 12, 2017
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hearing a story something I read a few years ago that always stuck with me. And it was a story about a man. This is a true story. It was actually a news article. It was a man who went to the dentist because he was in a lot of pain. And it was excruciating pain. And when he went to the dentist, the dentist told him that he had an infection. But this man didn't have insurance. And unlike Canada, in the US, health insurance is quite expensive. And so the man was prescribed two medications. One medication was an antibiotic, which was going to actually address the infection itself. The second medication was a painkiller. And that was going to take away the pain or numb the pain. But of
course, doesn't address the infection. Well, he could only afford one of the medications. And so the medication that he chose was the painkiller. And the reason he did that was because he just didn't want to feel the pain anymore. He wanted it to be numb. And so what happened is he took the painkiller, but not the antibiotic, he didn't treat the actual infection, he only treated the pain, he only numb the pain. And what happened to this particular individual is that the infection spread. So although he was numbing the pain, the infection spread, and it ended up going to his brain and it killed him. And so he died of this infection. Now, why did this stick with me so much? Because I
felt like it was an analogy, it was a metaphor of how we are with our emotional and psychological pains, that oftentimes we have these emotional pains, we have these psychological pains, and all we want to do is treat the symptoms, we want to numb the pain, we don't necessarily go to the root of the pain, the cause of the pain. We live in a world right now, where there's so many different ways to numb our pain, so many different ways to to numb our emptiness, because there's something missing in our lives, we feel that at a global level. And so what happened is, because it wasn't the actual root cause was not addressed. He ended up dying of that ailment. Okay, now, we in our lives, we face
trials, we face difficulties. And Allah subhanaw taala has put this thing called pain in us. And the purpose that pain serves. It's not meant to last forever. It's not meant to hurt us. But pain actually serves a purpose. And the purpose that pain serves, is as an indication that there's something we need to change. It's it's almost like a wake up call, right? If a person has a heart condition, how are they going to know they have a heart condition? People don't don't see inside their chests, you can't see your heart, you can't see that your arteries are clogged. So how does a person know that they have a heart condition? And the answer is, the only way that they know they
have a heart condition is because of the severe chest pain that they feel.
So chest pain becomes a an indicator that pain itself is an indicator that you need to go to the doctor and you need to sort this out. So it's telling you it's motivating you to make a change. Pain serves a purpose. And that is that it indicates to us that there's something we need to change, there's something going wrong that we need to address, and we cannot continue to ignore it. Because continuing to ignore it doesn't make it go away. A person may continue to take painkillers for their chest pain, but it isn't going to solve their problem. They have to go and address the actual issue. Many of us are suffering. We are suffering at a at a personal level, we're suffering at a collective
level and a global level. But oftentimes, we just work on treating the symptoms, right? There's so many ways to numb ourselves. Yes, there's drugs and alcohol. And now we have new tools, social media, etc. We have we have this constant stimulation now. Where it's it's almost just numbing us. So we don't have to think so we don't have to feel anymore. So we can just distract ourselves. And of course, there's every episode of every show ever invented on Netflix, etc. And you can just kind of binge watch now, right? And these are all different ways that we numb ourselves. But we haven't addressed the actual issue. And what is that issue? What are some of the things that we are
suffering from? Why do we suffer at a very deep level?
And I'm going to I'm going to list five reasons why I believe that we suffer five reasons how or five ways in which we sell
sabotage our own happiness. And that is the first is that we starve ourselves spiritually. So what happens to a body when it starves? So what happens when you physically starve yourself? Well, you're gonna feel pain. First of all, you start to feel the pain in your stomach. And eventually you will get sick and weak, and eventually you will die if you starve yourself for long enough. So physically, when you starve yourself, you feel that the effects it's the same thing spiritually, that when you starve yourself spiritually, you will feel the effects. How do we starve ourselves physically or spiritually,
the way in which we starve ourselves spiritually, is that we do not take in the the spiritual oxygen that is necessary to state sustain ourselves. And that spiritual oxygen is the vicar of Allah subhanaw taala, having a loss in our lives, remembering a lot, a lot, that that remembrance of Allah is the oxygen and the food and the water of our souls. And when a person is deprived of that, first and foremost through the law,
when a person is deprived of that type of oxygen,
that type of food, then they suffer spiritually. And that spiritual suffering manifests itself in different ways in our lives, through different types of emotional suffering and psychological suffering.
And so when we neglect the remembrance of Allah,
either Salah or the book of Allah, or the God that the prophets I send them had, has prescribed for us, when we start to turn our back on those things. It's like turning your back on oxygen. It's like turning your back on food and water, you suffer internally. You suffer spiritually.
And there's another thing that we're doing that that's that's making us suffer spiritually. And that is just like, the body needs to be cleaned. The soul and the heart also needs to be cleaned. Because we're told by the prophets, I send them that the heart is like anything, it rusts sometimes it gets, you know, every time we we commit a sin, a black spot is put on our hearts. And if that spot is not is not clean, it remains and then the next time we commit a sin, another black spot, until the heart becomes covered with this dirt covered with these black spots. Can you imagine a person who says, You know, I don't need to take a shower today, because I did that last October? Can you imagine what
would happen? You know, no one would be able to be near that person. Right? And why is that because because the dirt and the sweat on that individual would be so intense that they would actually Reek. And this is what happens to a person's soul and a person's heart that is not cleansed through a stick fod and Toba. That repentance is the way in which we cleanse our hearts. If a person is not regularly making his default, the prophets I seldom used to make his default 100 times a day in one narration, and he is the Prophet sallallahu sallam. So if we're not regularly cleaning our hearts to his default, and Toba, then it's like a person who isn't taking a shower regularly. A person who
takes a shower once a year or only does it in Ramadan, right, what's gonna happen to that person, they're gonna become very, very dirty and very sick. And that's what happens to the heart, the spiritual heart when it is not regularly cleansed. And so it must be fed, you must be oxygenated through the remembrance of Allah through Salah, and it must also be cleansed, through its default and Toba.
Now, the second reason that I believe we aren't we suffer deeply. And the second way in which we sabotage our happiness, is by the way, we focus on things by the type of focus that we have in our lives. Something that I always emphasize is this principle, what you focus on growth, what you focus on grows, when you're the type of person who's always focused on negative things, problems, what's going wrong, what you don't have, then such a person is going to have a negative outlook, and that negativity is actually going to grow, and it's going to affect them psychologically and spiritually. And this has everything to do simply with the focus. And I love using this example, there was this
picture I saw very illustrated right at the top it had a little boy, and this little boy is holding, holding one slice of cake. And he's so happy and then underneath is another
Picture of another boy. And he's holding an entire cake. But there's one slice missing. And he said,
What is the difference between the two boys? The difference between the two is simply one thing. And that is their focus. One of them is focused on what they have that one slice, and one is focused on what they don't have that one slice. And ironically, which one has more cake?
The bottom one who's sad actually has more slices of cake. But because His focus is on what's missing, he's actually in a negative state, he said. And so what you see here through this illustration, is that it's about our focus. What do we choose to focus on in our lives? Do we focus on on problems? Do we focus on negativity? Do we focus on the things that hurt us? The people that hurt us, and then repeated in our minds over and over and over all the different things that they did to us? Do we focus on the things we don't have? And that other people have? Or do we focus on what we have, and what is positive in our lives, this is completely our choice. Every single
individual has both good and bad in their life. This is a promise of Allah subhanaw taala. He says in my little studio.
In the mouse, we use raw despite many people's a mistranslation does not mean after hardship is ease. This particular area says in number one grocery store, which means that indeed with along with the hardship is many eases. And so the hardship and the ease actually come together, every single individual has both in their life at any given point. There is no individual in the world, and I stress in the world, who has it only bad. No one, no one no matter how hard their life is, has it only bad. Similarly, no one no matter how good their life is, hasn't only good. Everyone has both good and bad in their lives. And the question becomes what do you focus on.
And that is a choice you make and what you focus on grows. And so it starts to actually become bigger and bigger in your life. And in your psychology, and it affects your state very, very intensely. They say that one of the most effective treatments
for being down is just keeping a gratitude journal.
Writing down every day, three to five things that you're grateful for, has actually been shown in studies to improve to even treat depression to help treat symptoms of depression. And this has to do with just shifting our focus.
Another thing that happens with this focus is a lot of times we become stuck in the past. This is one of the weaknesses that we have is that sometimes we become obsessed with the past, and we get stuck there. And we can't move on. And we can't let go. This is another problem that we have in our focus, which actually sabotages our happiness in the present and in the future, because we get fixated on the past. And we are not able to let go or to or to move on. You know, as they say the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.
The past is intended to teach us lessons. But it is not intended to be our residence. We're not supposed to stay there. We're not supposed to get stuck there. We're supposed to learn and move on. Get the tools and move on and keep going keep moving in your life. We have to be a people of movement. We cannot be a people of despair. We cannot be a people who remain fixated and stuck in the past, we have to be a people who move forward a people of progress.
Number three of how we sabotage our own happiness. We are way, way, way too hard on ourselves.
Oftentimes, we beat ourselves up in a way that we would never do to others. Let me explain what I mean by this. Oftentimes I have seen this pattern again and again and again, is that often we have a lot of compassion for others. We show mercy and compassion for others. When a close friend makes a mistake.
We can we can be forgiving, perhaps we can tell them as long as
Mistake isn't wronging us of course, then we are so forgiving. But if the if the friend slips does something she regrets, we can we can talk to her and be compassionate and, and and have empathy often Yeah. But when we slip, when we make a mistake, we take out the whip, we are so easy to beat ourselves up. And one exercise I often ask people to do is imagine that the type of self talk that we have, the way we talk to ourselves when we make a mistake, imagine for a moment, if you talk to your closest friend like that, or your spouse, or your sister, or your brother in the same way that you talk to yourself, what would happen to that relationship?
Pretty much it would be destroyed. Because the kinds of things that we say to ourselves when we're beating ourselves up, if we were to utter that to a friend when they slip, that relationship would be over. And this is how we sabotage our own self esteem and our own relationship with ourselves. In our own self respect, we have to have more self compassion.
of how we, why we suffer and how we sabotage our own happiness. And that is
we spend a lot of time throughout our day throughout our week throughout our life, sipping on poison, sipping on poison, what do I mean? The types of environments that we put ourselves in the types of things that we are constantly exposed to, on our social media. These are small little sips of poison. And what do I mean by that? Well, there's a large range of this type of poison, on one end are the things that are just blatantly hot, all the things that we look at the things that we see that are blatantly hot on that, of course, is the highest level of poison for the heart, to look at the huddle
to take that input in. That's poison. That's one one side of the spectrum. That's, that's clearly hot on the clearly vulgar type of types of things that in decencies, that you can see on online or in the media taking that in is like drinking poison. But then there's, you know, something sort of in the gray area in the middle, where it isn't necessarily blatantly harm. But it's also not healthy either. And that is the
the obsession, the ultimate obsession with things like appearances, we have become more and more in this culture in this society. And with the boom of social media, we've become obsessed with appearances, obsessed with what people look like what they're wearing, you know, we have a filter for everything to make us appear perfect. And so there's this new obsession with appearing perfect of how I look to others. And so what happens is, although there's nothing wrong about following these things, constantly getting this input in our social media, necessarily, it may not be wrong. But what it is doing is it's shifting our focus of what matters most. See, you can follow all the
different fashion experts. And I'm not up here to say that that's wrong. But what I am saying is that from a psychological perspective, it starts to shift your focus of what matters most. If all that you're looking at every single day is fashion. If all that you're reading about and talking about and thinking about is fashion, then what happens is fashion, capital F becomes one of the most important things to you, it becomes a focal point. And what it's doing is it's it's distracting you from what really matters. What really matters isn't what you look like or what you dress like. It's cool. You want to look a certain way you want to dress a certain way. But what's happened is this
has become a focal point. It has become an absolute obsession. And this is very dangerous spiritually. Because what matters as we know, at the end of the day, ultimately, is not the appearance. It's what's inside, as Allah subhanaw taala teaches us that he doesn't look at our appearances. He looks at our deeds in our heart. And so what's happened is that when we are constantly bombarded with just everything in the media being about looks and about fashion about how
You appear, yeah, and you have to be perfect. And if you're not perfect, then you know, fix it with a filter or fix it with some sort of, you know, surgery, do something to make it perfect. And this, this is what we're constantly bombarded with. That what that does is it takes away from what really matters. And that is affecting us. One of the things that they found in one study, many studies, in fact, is that people who, who are constantly the more than people who use social media more, tend to also be more dissatisfied with their own lives. And the reason for that is simple. It's because you're constantly being exposed to essentially a photoshopped version of another person in their
life. And then you're comparing it to your real life. So you obviously feel that your life and yourself and your family and your spouse and your house and everything like that is, you know, it's it's inferior, because to you you're looking at, you're comparing it to something that appears perfect. And so the more that a person is exposed to that, the more it affects them, not only just does it affect their, their their own happiness with their own life, but it also affects at a spiritual level, your focus on what matters most.
Another way in which we sit poison, is by the type of company that we keep. One thing we have to keep in mind is the prophets. I seldom said that the, your company, when you have good company, it's like entering a perfume shop. And you either come out with perfume or you smell better, that your company has a very profound effect on you. And he said that bad company is like entering a blacksmith shop, you either get burned or you come out smelling bad. And so our company is very, very important to the state and the health of our own hearts.
Be mindful of what you're taking in from your environment, because a lot of us on a regular basis are constantly just sipping on poison. The things we're reading the things we're looking at the things we're listening to the people around us, just the bombardment from every direction.
Another thing I want to warn you against, is this constant focus on bad news. I know there's a lot of bad news. I know there's a lot of bad news. And I am not indicating that we shouldn't be aware, but I am warning you from a psychological and spiritual perspective, that it is very dangerous to make that a focal point. When a person becomes focused on only bad news, you know, like their entire newsfeed is all bad news, bad news, bad news, bad news, this tragedy than that tragedy than literally it will it could potentially never stop. Guess why? Because we now live in an age where we have access to anything that's happening anywhere in the world that can become very overwhelming to
And we have to be mindful of that. And seek a balance in our lives. That this that not to make it a focal point because if you do, it changes the way you see the world. And it starts to really weigh you down. And it can actually paralyze a person psychologically.
Lastly, one of the reasons why we suffer at a deep level, one of the things that we do that sabotages our happiness is that we take things and we love them as we should only love alone. We take something other than Allah as our center of gravity. Whether that thing is our money, or our job, or our status, or our friends, or what people think of us or our spouse, whatever it is, or power, we have a lot of issues when it comes to power and holding on to power. For example, in our massages and our organizations, no one wants to let go. You know, I heard some crazy stories about some
massages where people are trying to like rig elections, weird things, weird things because we don't want to let go of power. When we make something other than a law, our center of gravity. Whether that's our money, our job, our career, our looks, our spouse, our children, even if we take anything other than a law and make it our center of gravity, we suffer at a very, very deep level. Allah subhanaw taala needs to be our center. And when a law is our center, then we find balance.
In life appunto he had Mustafa Ali welcome you know who Rahim
Salam alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh