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April 4, 2019

Self Pity and Depression

Reflection by Umm e Maham

We all have a natural desire to feel joy and experience life in a positive way. We are aware that the true expression of life is love, delight and joy. Life is not about darkness, depression, disapproval and sour, stern faces. All of us, who have gone through depression, know that it is not easy to eradicate it; it’s easy to become a victim of depression for life.

Depression is habituated self-pity. Self-pity is a sense of powerlessness and a feeling of being ‘done in’ by life, where we react to the universe as if it’s gone against us and we are completely beaten by it. Depression is like the climate, where the weather is self-pity. 

There are factors in our lives which are beyond our control, but can we do something about this depressed state? We are generally eager to fix our lives and want a ‘breakthrough’ in order to come out of this state. Change of job, new location, leaving or finding a new partner, leaving home and even suicidal thoughts are all results of our strong desire to intervene in the bigger picture of our lives to fix this climate of depression. 

First and foremost, we need to understand that we can’t intervene in the big picture, as its too overwhelming. Rather, we can only change our lives by starting small and taking incremental steps to come out of depression. This small incremental change begins with individual actions, where we focus on the present moment.

Doing the right thing in the moment helps us to eliminate depression over time. 

There is a blood chemistry to depression. A depressed state doesn’t change immediately, just like it takes some time to leave smoking and eliminate the nicotine from our blood. The good news is that we can improve our condition by following a focused approach. Here are a few steps, inspired by Shaykh Ebrahim’s discourse on self-pity and depression: 

  1. Radically challenge your self-pity: The first step towards removing depression is to radically challenge your self-pity the moment it arises in your mind. You have got to assert to yourself that you have more good in your life than bad, which is why you are still alive. If there were more bad things going on in your life than good, you wouldn’t be here. Be on-guard all the time to challenge this assumption of self-pity.
  2. Be grateful: Self-pity says, ‘I have not been given enough’, whereas gratitude tells us ‘I have been given more than my due’. Gratitude is an antidote to self-pity. The more you bring gratitude into your life, the less powerlessness and self-pity you will feel. One action you can take is to surround yourself with people who are grateful and embody gratitude in their lives.
  3. Build your faith: One of the driving forces behind self-pity is a belief that life is a consequence of accidents and all the incidents occurring in our lives are random. This forces hostility in how we operate in the world and compete with others. This is the equivalent of being a non-believer who doesn’t believe in Allah – the inner belief that you or others are in control of your life. If you don’t work on your faith in a rigorous manner, you will keep going back to feelings of hostility, being beaten up by the world, you will keep reacting to external factors and will keep falling into deep depression. Building faith is to believe that it is Allah who is in the driving seat of our lives, that this universe is not arbitrary and has a larger meaning and a perfect design architected by its Creator. When we believe that Allah is the most loving, generous and caring of all and that the universe is a kind one, it takes the pressure off us; we are not driving our lives, rather we just operate with the best intentions and God-gifted abilities.
  4. Reflect and repeat: Journal everyday! Dump your experience of the day in a journal. Don’t write mindlessly, rather reflect in yourself – what was it like to be in my skin today? Did I feel powerful or weak? Did I feel harmony around me or hostility? If there was conflict in my day, how did I feel? Once you have connected with your feelings, ask yourself the reason behind them and challenge your self-pity. Look for things you are grateful for. Has Allah given you more than your due? You will see countless blessings bestowed onto you by Allah. You will realise the kindness you have received from the universe. Be brutally honest with yourself, so you can discover and challenge yourself to rise above this state of self-pity. 

Following these steps isn’t straightforward but is worth it to experience the true expression of life. The falsehood of self-pity will disappear and will be replaced by the light of Truth. You will find that this universe isn’t arbitrary and there is a perfect design, where you are in the custody and protection of a Being who is most loving and caring. You can rest in His Hands.

 

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