So let’s say some aspect of a relationship didn’t work out. There was a misunderstanding or a falling out with someone. Someone wronged you. Some hurtful words were spoken. There may have been a parting of ways – a divorce, or you are still in touch, but still disturbed and hurt by what happened.
You know that you should move on but somehow… it still feels raw.
You are afraid to visit some places, because you know it will provoke certain memories. You avoid certain friends for the same reason. Even browsing through social media is like walking in an emotional minefield. Time has passed, but you can’t seem to close the chapter.
OUR TRUE OPPRESSORS
Even if we have been wronged, most of the real oppression comes from ourselves. How? We may have been hurt once, but when we keep allowing our thoughts to relive the various incidents of pain, heartbreak and injustice that has been done to us, we keep victimising ourselves afresh.
We may not realize it, but when we replay the unpleasant incident – whether by talking, thinking or writing about it, we are re-opening our wounds. Instead of healing, we are creating bigger injuries and more scars. Each recollection hurts us afresh; like physical wounds, emotional ones can also become poisonous and infected.
Nobody benefits from this. The one who has wronged us will not feel our anguish, and are probably oblivious to the pain they caused in the first place. However, it is not the wrongdoer to be blamed if three years later, we are still crying over The Big Fight, or The Final Argument, or The Incident.
So we may have been betrayed, cheated, lied to. We may have had our hearts crushed. Such is life. People are not perfect and they are bound to create emotional injuries to one other. The Qur’an repeatedly tells us that we were created as a trial for each other. But the truth is, the oppression of others to us is multiplied many times over by our own oppression to ourselves. This happens when we keep dwelling on the details of such ugliness, and spilling fresh tears by recollecting things which are best forgotten. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the continuing hurt.
This behaviour is unhealthy. Numerous people post their traumatic experiences and personal scandals on blogs or Facebook, articulating their pain to the public under the banner of “artistic license”. Others do it under the pretext of appearing strong, to convince others that they have moved on, when in reality, a person who has moved on is always silent about the past. There are yet others who claim they have buried the past but in reality are digging into it every day with their bare hands. Worse, there is usually a generous measure of backbiting in the process, transferring a good amount, if not all, their good deeds to the wrongdoer in the eyes of God.
As a result, many people deny themselves a second chance at happiness, punishing themselves and rebuffing others – “I was hurt before, I will never get married again”, “This person lied to me, I will never trust anyone again” and other variations of the same theme.
Studies have been conducted into the power of repeating ideas of people inside themselves. These studies found that one of the most powerful factors of the people who lose themselves – jail, psychological meltdowns, suicide – is not the original trauma which happened to them, but is the amount of re-enactment of the incident in their minds. They generate the drama of their suffering internally, over and over again, until they believe and live out what they repeat. This internal replaying leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy ranging from victimisation to hatred that will influence future behaviour and relationships.
If we relive this drama by ourselves, we are the ones who generate the distress; and this leads to emotional paralysis. Soon we will find our time, the prime of our lives, beauty, finances and intelligence wasted – simply because we are stuck in a self imposed emotional stalemate.
This is the real killer, when we destroy ourselves by our own hands. An example is when a woman loses a man she loves (or vice versa). When Allah gives her a better man, she cannot love him. Why? She is so preoccupied and pained by her previous experience, that she cannot let go. She clings to the baggage of her past to the point that she loses her own present, no matter how beautiful it may be. These studies conclude that the majority of people lose themselves and their future, not through a negative or sad incident, but through the amount of internal repetition of such incidents. Now imagine if this is how one deals with all the sad incidents of life – the tragedy is multiplied and amplified to the point that all the collective incidents become the core of the person’s existence.
This is why for some people, it takes the smallest trigger – a venue, a word, a meal – for all these painful memories to come flooding back and for everything to fall apart. It is because the memories never left in the first place.
What is the point, apart from the emotional prison and misery that will continue to shatter your heart? Why do you do this to yourself?
Where is the Islam in such an approach to life?
WHAT IS OUR GOAL?
Sometimes, when certain wrongs have been committed, there are various means of recourse. In matters of personal property for example, one can claim rights against the wrongdoer through the proper channels. In matters of the heart, such remedies are not so obvious.
The believer knows that every act of injustice will be rewarded accordingly by Allah. From an action which hurts one’s feelings, to the stealing of another’s property, all will have to account to Allah for their actions on earth. There is even retribution for intangible wrongs such as emotional hurt, where the damage cannot be calculated in terms we understand. However, the believer knows that when they have been denied their justice on earth, they can still stake a claim against the wrongdoer in the next life.
If you believe in this, then entrust your emotional affairs to Allah, and let Him deal with the wrongdoer. If you have faith in Allah’s justice, you do not have to monitor the situation to assess the results, but simply trust that Allah will deal with the one who wronged you. A true believer has no time to recount bygone incidents like a broken record.
GETTING OVER IT
I am not saying that you should be a superhuman with no feelings. Hurt is a very real feeling, and it can cut deep. Emotional wounds take time to heal. However, what we should avoid doing is to continuously nurture the pain. We should confront the incident, but we should not dwell on the hurt. Islam is about moderation, including emotional moderation. One cannot mourn forever.
As a Muslim, the first thing we should do is to say “Alhamdulillah”. No matter the degree of pain or how broken we feel, there is a higher wisdom in it. Whatever the incident, it would not have happened without the will of Allah.
Instead of complaining and questioning His divine decree, we should question ourselves. There are a multitude of reasons why things happen. Sometimes, personal catastrophes are necessary for our personal growth. In others, it is Allah’s way of removing someone harmful from our lives. And in others, it could also be a call for deep introspection, to examine where we ourselves went wrong. After all, are we so perfect that we have done no wrong or hurt others, deliberately or by mistake?
The bottom line, however, is that the situation should make us reflect and move closer towards Allah.