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DigitalUmmah

Negative/ intrusive thoughts - how to control them

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Salam, Ya Ali (as) Madad, Lanat upon the enemies of the Ahlulbayt (as)

this post/ thread was inspired by sister @hameedeh blog post:

www.shiachat.com/forum/blogs/entry/296-negative-thoughts  

I thought of replying in the comments, but feel that it would be better to discuss in in a separate thread, as this is something I have a lot of experience in dealing with.

we all have negative thoughts. its a natural part of our thoughts process. its easy for people to say "oh just ignore them", or "think about something else" or "just think about happy things", or my personal favourite "people have it worse than you why are you even sad".

let me rebut all these cliche advices by making a simple point - if I say to you "do not think of a kangaroo" - what is the first think you are going to think about? a kangaroo, obviously. similarly. saying "dont think about negative thoughts" will gurantee that the person will think of those exact thoughts.

in order to actually understand negative/ intrusive thoughts, we must first understand how they work.

[PART 1] how our minds work

many of us think of memories or thoughts as flashes that happen on the screen of our mind, like we are sat in a cinema watching the screen. if I ask you to recall a happy memory of your childhood, then it will show up on the screen and we will enjoy it, if i ask you what you ate for breakfast 2 days ago, you will picture it in your mind. so when you are "picturing" a negative thought. it is as though it is being shown on the screen, so all you have to do is "shut your eyes" (so to speak) and the picture will just go away. this is why people think it is so easy to ignore negative thoughts.

I do not like this way of representing it.

instead, let us PROPERLY look at how our brains work.

our minds/ consciousness is always finding patterns and routine in absolutely everything we experience in life. for example when I was in college, as I would walk to the bus stop, I would be reciting the quran and there was this bit near my house where I would always be passing whenever I was reciting surah fateha/ surah ikhlaas. a decade later I was randomly passing that same spot after not walking that route in so many years, and I found myself reciting the surahs without even realising i was doing it, and then it took me a few seconds to realise why. we all have similar things. for example when recalling a memorable night, we naturally play through the memory in order, and we cannot stop ourselves halfway through the memory until it is run.

my point is, instead of seeing our memories/ thoughts as images on a cinema screen, see our thoughts as a ball, travelling downwards on a set of rails:

10387-bigthumbnail.jpg

our brains make the "rails" (i.e. the path that our consciousness travels down) based on how we have created the structure ourselves. once the ball (our conscious) starts "rolling" (i.e. our consciousness is triggered by a negative thought), that ball is not going to stop until either it reaches the end of the tracks, or you pick it up and take it off the rails. saying "oh ignore it" is basically saying "just shut your eyes and hope that this stops the ball". praying is basically trying to blow the ball off the tracks with your breath.

[PART 2] Why do negative thoughts occur

if you notice, negative thoughts occur most when you are comfortable, alone and not thinking about anything in particular. places like when you are in the bath, in bed, on the toilet, driving, walking etc.

this is because negative thoughts are literally the "lowest common denominator" when it comes to tracks - theyre the easiest to access and require the least amount of mental expenditure to roll down. if i asked you to recall the exact order of a maths lesson you took in high school, would you be able to? no.

the thing is, the way our brains are structured, is just like a muscle. the more we focus on a particular area, the stronger that area will become. the more we focus on negative thoughts, the stronger the "rails" and the easier they will be accessed. so I am going to assume that many people here have been heartbroken in their pasts. you constantly replay fantasies in your mind of what you wish you had said/ done, but never got the chance to, yes? do you ever fantasise about getting your final "closure" that you never got in the real world? do you ever find yourself stuck in the same thought loop that you cant shake off?

do you know why you keep getting stuck in this loop? because the rails have no end. your brain is trying to heal you by having the ball come to an end at the end of the rails, but that ending isnt there. so it keeps firing your consciousness along these rails to hope that one day it ends. similar to how amputees feel "phantom pain" in limbs that are not there any more.

[PART 3] Dealing with negative thoughts

Please, please, I beg you, if you are having these thoughts a lot, in the first instance seek professional help immediately. there shouldnt be a stigma with mental health issues. go to your GP and get them to arrange counselling for you with a professional- its free in the NHS anyway! we muslims are idiots. we think that any sort of weakness/ ilness is somehow a shame, so we just suck it up and suffer in silence. you wouldnt be embarrassed if you broke your leg and went to the hospital, why should you be embarrassed about having a mental issue? no one will ever know, its not like it will be published in the newspapers or your local mosque.

failing that, I found that "story telling" sessions really helped our guests the most. this was where they were told about a month before the session to plan a 45 minute talk about themselves to be spoken to in front of a small group, in a closed, non recorded, phones off, non judgemental, strictly confidential group session. no interruptions at all. the floor was theirs.

people found that having to organise their thoughts for a 45 minute talk about something really really helped them a lot. if you have someone that can be your ears for a silent 45 minutes, then please reach out to them.

failing this, the best way to "lift the ball" off the rails is to focus on the "now". really concentrate on your inside - your breathing, your pulse, the feel of your skin. then move externally - focus on your surroundings, what can you smell, what can you taste, touch, hear and so on. this is better than "ignoring" as you are actively shifting your counsciousness away from the rails. it is not a great solution, but it is better than being told "oh just ignore those thoughts"

with duas for all of your success. please please understand that you are never alone.

 

 

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1 hour ago, sara2015 said:

Great information! I notice many Muslims suffer from depression or other mental heath disorders and they are reluctant to seek professional help. It is a shame, this need to be changed.

Indeed. for boys they are told to "man up", while girls are told that from marriage they basically are owned by their husbands. mental illness is often seen as some sort of blemish on the quality of the "blood" of the family, its disgraceful. curry smelling eugenics.

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18 minutes ago, DigitalUmmah said:

Indeed. for boys they are told to "man up", while girls are told that from marriage they basically are owned by their husbands.

I have a different opinion about this comment of yours; I think this is unfortunately a norm in our culture and not Islam. Islam is all about equality, peace and goodness. People are taught and brainwashed into this way kind of mindset. Our scholars must up-date their brains and teach real Islam to people. 

 

Peace!

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45 minutes ago, DigitalUmmah said:

Indeed. for boys they are told to "man up", while girls are told that from marriage they basically are owned by their husbands. mental illness is often seen as some sort of blemish on the quality of the "blood" of the family, its disgraceful. curry smelling eugenics.

Salam

Thank you for the great topic!

This controlling thoughts can also go deeper for those who really want to block any kind of negative thoughts not only depression.

It could be critisizim of someone, thinking of your self to be superior  in your mind, lustful images that pop up etc.

Quran:

Renounce outward sins and the ***inward ones*** Indeed those who commit sins shall be requited for what they used to commit. (6:121)

Imam Ali (a)

I sat watchful at the gate of my mind and let no one in inside except Allah .

****

Have you watched the animation from Pixar , Inside out , it shows in the full movie, what you mentioned regarding the ball on the rail.

If you have not watched it.I highly recommend it, as it shows what you said.

This is the trailer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=seMwpP0yeu4

 

 

 

Edited by certainclarity

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This is a very interesting Hadith in regards to your topic, which would  need a lot of mental training to be in this state, as we would have to be very careful not be able to hold any negative thoughts in our mind:

Imam Jafar Sadiq (a):

The reality of Taqwa is this, that if you have to ***expose what’s in your mind, place it on a tray and take it to the market then you should not be ashamed of a single item you have displayed. ***

 

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15 hours ago, certainclarity said:

Have you watched the animation from Pixar , Inside out , it shows in the full movie, what you mentioned regarding the ball on the rail.

If you have not watched it.I highly recommend it, as it shows what you said.

This is the trailer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=seMwpP0yeu4

hey ive seen that! although It does mention the "ball on rails" i think it oversimplifies the mind too much - and it also shows memories as being "scenes on a screen" even though they are stored in the balls. 

in my example, the ball represents ones actual complete consciousness and focus. so right now my "ball" is rolling along the tracks which make me remember the steps to create this report that I am working on, and has just "jumped" to a new set of rails to think about posting on shiachat. 

I did enjoy the film though, it was a good way to explain to kids that growing up is all about feeling complicated emotions

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This is indeed an excellent topic :)!!

This reminded me of the lectures of Brother Khalil Jaffer: 'The end of negative suffering'

 

The comparison you made with the rail and ball makes sense. You mentioned that once the ball is on the rail, pick it up and take it off the rails. How can you make sure that the ball never goes on the track  If it doesn't go on the rail, then there are no negative thoughts.

18 hours ago, certainclarity said:

Salam

Thank you for the great topic!

This controlling thoughts can also go deeper for those who really want to block any kind of negative thoughts not only depression.

It could be critisizim of someone, thinking of your self to be superior  in your mind, lustful images that pop up etc.

Quran:

Renounce outward sins and the ***inward ones*** Indeed those who commit sins shall be requited for what they used to commit. (6:121)

Imam Ali (a)

I sat watchful at the gate of my mind and let no one in inside except Allah .

****

Have you watched the animation from Pixar , Inside out , it shows in the full movie, what you mentioned regarding the ball on the rail.

If you have not watched it.I highly recommend it, as it shows what you said.

This is the trailer:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=seMwpP0yeu4

 

 

 

In this lecture Brother Jaffer says that we 'need to watch the thinker' in us. We need to be able to see the thoughts going in and going out. How does one do that? How can you see your thoughts going in and out? I believe that that is the solution to end our negative suffering.

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1 hour ago, Connectors said:

The comparison you made with the rail and ball makes sense. You mentioned that once the ball is on the rail, pick it up and take it off the rails. How can you make sure that the ball never goes on the track  If it doesn't go on the rail, then there are no negative thoughts.

have you ever had a tooth removed in a dentist? you know afterwards, when your tongue touches that soft spot where your tooth used to be, and you get that weird sensation? 

memories are like that. we wont ever be able to "delete" memories so we never think of negative thoughts again, however me must learn to live with them in such a way that they do not affect us the way they currently are. trying to force yourself to believe the lie that the negative thoughts do not exist is absolutely toxic, like ignoring dry rot in a house hoping it will go away itself if you dont draw attention to it

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5 hours ago, DigitalUmmah said:

hey ive seen that! although It does mention the "ball on rails" i think it oversimplifies the mind too much - and it also shows memories as being "scenes on a screen" even though they are stored in the balls. 

in my example, the ball represents ones actual complete consciousness and focus. so right now my "ball" is rolling along the tracks which make me remember the steps to create this report that I am working on, and has just "jumped" to a new set of rails to think about posting on shiachat. 

I did enjoy the film though, it was a good way to explain to kids that growing up is all about feeling complicated emotions

You are correct since the movie was targeted to kids, it tried to simplify it, having said that ,most adults are not even aware of anything as such leave alone how the brain works! lol

There was another older movie called the never ending story . It had three sequels apparently.

It showed the memories are clear balls like you mentioned.

None the less Islam has repeatedly stressed in the Quran the importance of Dhikr/ Remembrance  of Allah at all times within ourselves.

So we can recollect / remember the lost memories of the time of Alaast and beyond that.

Over coming depression thru dhikr of Allah is the least thing it does , and the highest being regarding the state when Allah created us first before we entered this realm.

 

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3 hours ago, Connectors said:

This is indeed an excellent topic :)!!

This reminded me of the lectures of Brother Khalil Jaffer: 'The end of negative suffering'

 

The comparison you made with the rail and ball makes sense. You mentioned that once the ball is on the rail, pick it up and take it off the rails. How can you make sure that the ball never goes on the track  If it doesn't go on the rail, then there are no negative thoughts.

In this lecture Brother Jaffer says that we 'need to watch the thinker' in us. We need to be able to see the thoughts going in and going out. How does one do that? How can you see your thoughts going in and out? I believe that that is the solution to end our negative suffering.

This is a very deep topic. Having said that, this can be eased by practising Zikr.

Unfortunately since our parents never taught us how to think and how to process or not process, we have absorbed and processed and allowed any content in our mind.

Very briefly our true selves is very similar to a CPU, we just need to process what is halal and install an anti virus on our mind , which is Zikr.

If we compare shaytan to virus we can compare Zikr to an anti virus program running one of its abilities.

This is clear for the verse below:

Holy Quran:

Satan has taken hold of them, and so has caused them to forget the remembrance of Allah.These are the partisans of Satan. Indeed, it is Satan’s partisans who are the losers. (58: 19)

****

So if we don't install the anti virus program we will be bombarded by negative thoughts and Sheytan even if we pray 5 times a day , because we are not running the anti virus program at other times.

Have you noticed it's mainly during salat you are bombarded with thoughts trying to distract you from Salat, and all of a sudden you remember where you misplaced your keys and then follow that thought and keep processing it and basically just performed a physical act in prayer , while we drove our car to all over the city in our thoughts ! Lol

This is what shaytan wants to prevent us from achieving:

Salat and Zikr.

Edited by certainclarity

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@certainclarity @Connectors

how relevant to this thread and our posts is this quote from Imam Ali (as)

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words
Watch your words, for they become actions
Watch your actions, for they become habits
Watch your habits, for they become your character
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny"

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29 minutes ago, DigitalUmmah said:

@certainclarity @Connectors

how relevant to this thread and our posts is this quote from Imam Ali (as)

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words
Watch your words, for they become actions
Watch your actions, for they become habits
Watch your habits, for they become your character
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny"

So you can imagine what destiny will a person have whose mind is in the constant state of Zikr and Fikr of Allah's attributes and creations of the heaven and the earth at all times.

I think it would be very hard for anyone to penetrate into such a mind.

 

Edited by certainclarity

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