Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 18, 2008

Depression and Muslims (part 2)

Update: I wanted to clarify that being aggressive and assertive is not limited to arguing. One can be assertive by merely ignoring rude people. The goal is to be confident and get into that +1 category.
Assertive + Confident = People can say ANYTHING to you and it will not matter–you see praise and insults as being equal.

This is a continuation of the previous discussion due to some afterthoughts.

As I was reading up on this topic a few things came to mind that need to be clarified. There are people who are depressed simply because their lives are spiritually dead–i.e. the non-Muslims or not-so-practicing Muslims. The discussion I am having here is in regards to Muslims in general, practicing and even not-so-practicing Muslims to some extent. So keep that in mind.

When psychotherapists treat patients there is a unique dynamic at work. Consider what will happen to the depressed patient if they have to move and leave their shrink? For this reason there needs to be a little more independence on part of the patient as it is, right off the start, a dependent relationship–something common to depressives.

At the heart of all depressives is the value of self-worth and self-confidence. This makes total sense in light of kufr–a Muslim recognizes that he has some worth because he has a God that has commanded him to call out to Him, something that God wants from us so powerfully that he chose to command it, not ask for it.

But for the depressed Muslim, the have not identified that they are indeed quite unique being a worshiper of the One True God. They will look elsewhere at times, looking for approval from others. They will often praise others and ‘suck-up’ to others and by doing this they get pleasure/peace. The person being praised has no idea that the person in front of them is depressed. And so when someone goes and criticizes the depressive, they take it very deeply and see it as confirmation to their suspicions: they are weak, inadequate and lack any worth at all.

There is also a weak element of community and love in the world of depressive. Their depression will all of a sudden be ‘cured’ when they are around people who they love but once they get into an argument with this person or their loved one says something insulting or critical to the depressive–they crack again.

It needs to be understood that people are in three categories and this is almost their ‘default’ state:

1) The person who thinks they are +1 compared to everyone. These people are confident, proud sometimes even arrogant. (I would put myself in this category đŸ˜‰ )
2) The person who thinks they are 0 compared to everyone. They think this because they think everyone else is 0 as well so it’s almost an attempt at equality. They are usually conformed and what you would call ‘average’.
3) The person who thinks they are -1 compared to everyone. They think they are less than everyone else. Everyone is either a 0 or +1 to them and so they think they are -1. This is the depressive trapped in a world of feeling below everyone.

So what is the treatment usually for the depressive?

Therapists usually have a few goals when they treat depressives. To them it is important that they point out the achievements of the depressive, to show how they are indeed worth more than they think and push them to the level of being normal as I mentioned above (keep in mind most people are category 2, and not 1 so naturally 2 is seen as the most realistic goal). Depressives lack any hint of aggression and assertiveness. They are not fighters and it would a joke to see them make ji-had (I had to throw that in there, but I think the absence of ji-had may play a role). Naturally, therapists try to bring out the aggressive aspects of depressives something which is not easy.

My advice to depressives would be learn to get aggressive and assertive. Engage in arguments just for the hell of it. Assert yourself, disagree with others and fight back. If someone insults you, you hit back twice as hard instantly. Take up martial arts or start working out–things which involve a community of people and build confidence.

The next post will be about a little known Islamic perspective on this topic, Insha Allah.
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.

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