Islamic Spirituality and Mental Well-Being by Zohair Abdul-Rahman

Caught myself on article above from Yaqeen Institute. Zohair mainly analyze the psycho-spiritual effect of this hadith narration:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي عَبْدُكَ، ابْنُ عَبْدِكَ، ابْنُ أَمَتِكَ، نَاصِيَتِي بِيَدِكَ، مَاضٍ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤُكَ، أَسْأَلُكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ سَمَّيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ، أَوْ أَنْزَلْتَهُ فِي كِتَابِكَ، أَوْ عَلَّمْتَهُ أَحَدًا مِنْ خَلْقِكَ، أَوِ اسْتَأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الْغَيْبِ عِنْدَكَ، أَنْ تَجْعَلَ الْقُرْآنَ رَبِيعَ قَلْبِي، وَنُورَ صَدْرِي، وَجَلَاءَ حُزْنِي، وَذَهَابَ هَمِّي

The Prophet ṣallAllāhu ‘alayhi wa salam said, “Whoever is afflicted with grief or anxiety, then he should pray with these words, ‘Oh Allāh, certainly I am your slave, the son of your male slave and the son of your female slave. My forehead is in Your Hand. Your Judgment upon me is assured and Your Decree concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name that you have named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You, to make the Qurān the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the banisher of my sadness and the reliever of my distress.’

Quite a long read, I know. So here’s some notable excerpt for you (ugh, no, us):

Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 AH) explains, “The past can never be changed or corrected with sadness [ḥuzn], but rather with contentment [riḍā], gratitude [ḥamd], patience [ṣabr], a firm belief in destiny [imān bil qadar] and the verbal recognition that everything occurs by the Decree of God [qaddarAllāhu wa mā shā wa fa’l].”
(Ibn al-Qayyim, Zād al-M’aād, vol 2. p. 325.)

Unlike other notions of prayer that are often reduced to mere incantations or wish lists, du’aā is much more profound. In fact, many of the most powerful du’aās in the Qurān do not even contain a request to God. Instead, they are humbling expressions of truth in response to trial and tribulation.

For instance, when the Prophet Ayyūb was afflicted with severe disease and poverty he called out, “Indeed, adversity has touched me and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Qurān, 21:83.)

As the Qurān mentions (referring to 57:20), everything in life that we are attached to will eventually leave us. Once they “turn yellow,” we may find ourselves frozen in time. Our conception of ourselves can be so anchored to this world that when it fades, we can lose ourselves. Our attachment to God is meant to be central and our ultimate anchor in life. When we submit and surrender to God, we become content with what we have lost and free ourselves from our own psychological slavery.

The Islāmic tradition sees hardship and adversity as opportunities for establishing absolute dependency on God, submitting to Him, learning truth, and building virtue. It is important for us to realize the profound psychological insight our tradition has and extract this timeless guidance for all to benefit.

Why Behavioral Economics Is Cool, and I’m Not

Here. An interesting article contrasting behavioral economics and psychology.  Read, people, read!

When people think of economists, they picture smart people crunching numbers. When they think of psychology, they picture Sigmund Freud lying on a couch telling them they failed a driving test because they failed to kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers. (If you object to that, don’t worry; you’re in denial.)

Man’s Search For Meaning oleh Viktor E. Frankl

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

Pernah dengar nama Viktor E. Frankl? (Aku penasaran bagaimana cara membaca nama belakangnya itu. ‘Frang-kel’?) Dia banyak dikenal sebagai pencetus logotherapy, terapi berbasis makna. Di beberapa sumber dikutip bahwa logotherapy-nya Frankl ini adalah the third school of Viennesse psychotherapy (setelah psikoanalisis-nya Freud dan individual psychology-nya Adler).

Frankl sendiri adalah seorang yahudi yang berprofesi sebagai psikiater. Pada masa Perang Dunia II ia beserta seluruh keluarganya menjadi tahanan di kamp konsentrasi Nazi. Dalam kerasnya kehidupan di dalam kamp Frankl menyaksikan bagaimana manusia dapat bertahan hidup, atau justru menyerah sama sekali. Sepertinya dari pengalaman inilah ia kemudian merumuskan sudut pandang baru terhadap manusia.

Freud memandang bahwa manusia selalu mencari kesenangan (pleasure). Adler memandang bahwa manusia selalu mencari kekuasaan (power). Frankl justru memandang bahwa manusia selalu mencari makna (meaning).

Man’s Search For Meaning adalah buku karya Frankl yang nuansanya cukup ringan. Buku ini terdiri atas tiga bagian. Bagian pertama, yang berjudul Experiences in a Concentration Camp, memenuhi lebih dari setengah keseluruhan buku. Sebagaimana judulnya, di sini Frankl menceritakan pengalaman dan perenungan mengenai kehidupannya di dalam kamp. Bagian pertama ini paling ringan dan ‘menyentuh’ dibanding bagian lainnya. Bagian kedua, berjudul Logotherapy in a Nutshell, menjelaskan secara ringkas mengenai logotherapy. Penjelasan lebih dalam soal logotherapy dapat ditemukan di buku Frankl yang lain, The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. Berikutnya bagian ketiga yang berjudul The Case for a Tragic Optimism. Bagian singkat ini disarikan dari kuliah yang disampaikan Frankl pada Third World Congress of Logotherapy di Jerman tahun 1983.

Menurutku buku ini enak sekali untuk dibaca. Memuaskan. Aromanya eksistensialis dan rendah hati.

If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.

Frankl juga menurutku berhasil menunjukkan celah psikoanalisis-nya Freud, seperti ini:

Sigmund Freud once asserted, “Let one attempt to expose a number of the most diverse people uniformly to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appear the uniform expression of the one unstilled urge.”

Thank heaven, Sigmund Freud was spared knowing the concentration camps from the inside.

There, the ‘individual differences’ did not ‘blur’ but, on the contrary, people became more different; people unmasked themselves, both the swine and the saints.

Yang ini juga jadi sudut pandang baru yang menarik bagiku:

Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.

Kalian bisa meminjam buku ini padaku, tapi pastikan benar-benar membaca, menjaga, dan mengembalikannya ya. Maklum, yang satu ini kudapat dari perjalanan yang jauh. :)

Mind Bukan Brain

Dewasa ini semakin banyak beredar artikel dan akun twitter beraroma psikologi populer. Salah satu hal ‘menarik’ yang dibawa-bawa dalam topik ini adalah soal otak. Akun @KampusPsikologi menulis begini:

Saat naksir seseorang, otak kita akan menutupi kekurangan orang itu dan membuat kita melihat dia sebagai sosok yang sempurna.

Kerja otak akan lebih aktif saat seseorang berdoa atau beribadah.

Setiap detik, transaksi pikiran manusia ada 40.000.000 informasi tetapi hanya 40 informasi yang sampai ke otak sadar kita.

Woo :o Haha

Ah, sebenarnya aku sendiri justru tidak menyukai penjelasan otak-otakan seperti itu. Rasanya.. materialis dan reduksionis.

Nah, berikut ini adalah sebuah artikel menarik oleh David Brooks yang diteruskan oleh seorang teman kepadaku, terjudul Beyond The Brain. Aku menyukainya. Cobalah membacanya juga. :)

It’s a pattern as old as time. Somebody makes an important scientific breakthrough, which explains a piece of the world. But then people get caught up in the excitement of this breakthrough and try to use it to explain everything.

This is what’s happening right now with neuroscience. The field is obviously incredibly important and exciting. From personal experience, I can tell you that you get captivated by it and sometimes go off to extremes, as if understanding the brain is the solution to understanding all thought and behavior.

This is happening at two levels. At the lowbrow level, there are the conference circuit neuro-mappers. These are people who take pretty brain-scan images and claim they can use them to predict what product somebody will buy, what party they will vote for, whether they are lying or not or whether a criminal should be held responsible for his crime.

At the highbrow end, there are scholars and theorists that some have called the “nothing buttists.” Human beings are nothing but neurons, they assert. Once we understand the brain well enough, we will be able to understand behavior. We will see the chain of physical causations that determine actions. We will see that many behaviors like addiction are nothing more than brain diseases. We will see that people don’t really possess free will; their actions are caused by material processes emerging directly out of nature. Neuroscience will replace psychology and other fields as the way to understand action.

These two forms of extremism are refuted by the same reality. The brain is not the mind. It is probably impossible to look at a map of brain activity and predict or even understand the emotions, reactions, hopes and desires of the mind.

The first basic problem is that regions of the brain handle a wide variety of different tasks. As Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld explained in their compelling and highly readable book, “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience,” you put somebody in an fMRI machine and see that the amygdala or the insula lights up during certain activities. But the amygdala lights up during fear, happiness, novelty, anger or sexual arousal (at least in women). The insula plays a role in processing trust, insight, empathy, aversion and disbelief. So what are you really looking at?

Then there is the problem that one activity is usually distributed over many different places in the brain. In his book, “Brain Imaging,” the Yale biophysicist Robert Shulman notes that we have this useful concept, “working memory,” but the activity described by this concept is widely distributed across at least 30 regions of the brain. Furthermore, there appears to be no dispersed pattern of activation that we can look at and say, “That person is experiencing hatred.”

Then there is the problem that one action can arise out of many different brain states and the same event can trigger many different brain reactions. As the eminent psychologist Jerome Kagan has argued, you may order the same salad, but your brain activity will look different, depending on whether you are drunk or sober, alert or tired.

Then, as Kagan also notes, there is the problem of meaning. A glass of water may be more meaningful to you when you are dying of thirst than when you are not. Your lover means more than your friend. It’s as hard to study neurons and understand the flavors of meaning as it is to study Shakespeare’s spelling and understand the passions aroused by Macbeth.

Finally, there is the problem of agency, the problem that bedevils all methods that mimic physics to predict human behavior. People are smokers one day but quit the next. People can change their brains in unique and unpredictable ways by shifting the patterns of their attention.

What Satel and Lilienfeld call “neurocentrism” is an effort to take the indeterminacy of life and reduce it to measurable, scientific categories.

Right now we are compelled to rely on different disciplines to try to understand behavior on multiple levels, with inherent tensions between them. Some people want to reduce that ambiguity by making one discipline all-explaining. They want to eliminate the confusing ambiguity of human freedom by reducing everything to material determinism.

But that is the form of intellectual utopianism that always leads to error. An important task these days is to harvest the exciting gains made by science and data while understanding the limits of science and data. The next time somebody tells you what a brain scan says, be a little skeptical. The brain is not the mind.