Rescripting Negative Thoughts
Ever since Rula was a young girl, she thrived in close relationships—mostly because she lacked connection at home with her parents. Her parents fought all the time and were consumed with their own issues, leading her to seek out connection with her peers at school. Her first close relationship was with a best friend in elementary school. The friendship lasted 7 years until her friend slowly began distancing herself from Rula as she fell in with a different crowd at school. The same thing happened frequently in her other friendships: Rula became very close to friends quickly and trusted them wholeheartedly, but the relationship always ended with Rula feeling confused, needy, and unwanted. As Rula got older she also noticed the same patterns as she was trying to get married.
Rula would put ads on matrimonial sites and put her all into trying to make things work, but nothing ever materialized. In fact, sometimes Rula felt like she was being used or taken advantage of. Relationships for Rula seemed like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole—everything felt forced, and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make relationships work long-term. As all of Rula’s friends got married, she increasingly felt alone and unworthy. Eventually Rula also began to feel this way in her relationship with Allah She would pray and desperately make du’aa to Allah for things she wanted, but she felt disconnected in that relationship as well. Rula wondered: Was He ignoring her? Did He not care about her? Was her constant du’aa annoying and pestering Him? She didn’t understand why her prayers were unanswered when she tried so hard to connect with Allah. In the same way Rula felt rejected by everyone else in her life she also asked herself,
“Does Allah hate me too?”
"What is happening to me?"
When we experience love and fulfilment in relationships, we feel secure in how we see ourselves and relate to the world around us. Kindness, vulnerability, and loyalty are some of the best parts of our inner selves, and when we share those qualities with the people closest to us, it makes us feel good to receive those gifts in return. On the contrary, when we put a tremendous amount of effort into trying to make a relationship work and do not have the same affection and love reciprocated, we experience a great deal of emotional upheaval.
Feeling rejected is probably one of the most painful experiences in life and studies indicate that the neural pathway of rejection in the brain is the same as physical pain. In other words, if you feel like you are in physical pain when someone puts you down, treats you badly, or invalidates you, it’s because you are. When you experience rejection repeatedly, whether by the same person over and over or by many different people, it is not unusual to internalize the heartache and wonder if there is something wrong with you. You might ask yourself:
“Why am I so unlovable?”
“What is it about me that no matter how hard I try it never works?”
“How come what I do is never good enough?”
Suffering rejection by family and friends can also spill over from your interpersonal relationships into faith and spirituality. When you are trying your best and believe Allah has the power to help you but are not seeing the results you want, then you might start to wonder if there is a disconnect. You might question if Allah likes you, or if He is ignoring you like others in your life. Or perhaps you might consider that you are so unworthy that Allah will abandon you as well.
The thought that Allah, the Owner and Controller of the whole universe, dislikes you feels catastrophic for a Muslim. When a family member or friend hates you, you can attempt to try to smooth things out directly in person, but how can you do that with Allah? You cannot see Him or talk to Him face-to-face to assess the situation. He is so powerful, and you may feel so small.
Also, what are the implications of being hated by Allah? If He hates you, will you be rejected by Him and His creation in this dunya and in the akhira? Does that mean nothing in your life and the Hereafter will work out for you?
Understanding your thoughts and emotions Meaningful relationships are undoubtedly an integral part of life, and everyone experiences interpersonal conflict every once in a while, but why is it that some people struggle much more in maintaining relationships than others? Difficulties can involve patterns of intense connection followed by a huge falling-out, ongoing fighting, or perpetual fear of being alone and abandoned. Unstable relationships feel like coming home to find out that the locks have been unexpectedly changed; they cause a tremendous amount of stress because they involve people we love, trust, and expect to be there consistently.
If you struggle with relationships, it’s important to look at three elements of your life:
- How you view the world;
- How you view yourself;
- How you value yourself in relation to others.
Cognitive perceptions of the world
When a relationship falls apart or doesn’t go as planned, you want to know why. You might contemplate: “What did I do wrong for this relationship to not work out?” or “Is there something wrong with me that I can’t keep a good friend or get married?” Trying to answer these questions is a way for your brain to sort through and process all the information. It’s a way of synthesizing thoughts and emotions by trying to make sense of what feels like a puzzle with many missing pieces.
During these reflective times, it can be easy to go down a slippery slope in terms of making negative associations with things around you. Places, people, and things that are neutral might begin to appear negative or bad because of the difficult circumstances you are in.
This is because the feelings we have on the inside colour how we see ourselves, our environment, and the people around us. If you are not feeling good about yourself, you might begin to think others don’t like you as well. Similarly, if you are feeling pessimistic about life, then how you experience circumstances around you will also reflect that.
“I feel ugly so therefore I must be.”
“I feel like nobody loves me and so I must be unlovable.”
“I feel like everyone hates me—I need to close myself off and protect myself from the world.”
“Everyone hates me, so Allah must hate me too.”
“Bad things keep happening to me—this is Allah’s way of showing me that He is upset with me.”
“My sins are so big that Allah just wishes bad for me.”
"So have they not travelled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears with which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts that are within the breasts." (22:46)
Changing your mind, body, and heart
During times of distress, it might feel like it’s impossible to change oneself and how one relates to others but with awareness, insight, and dedication, it is possible to change. In order to address emotional reasoning about yourself and the world, you will need to rectify three areas: how you view yourself, how you view others in relation to yourself, and how you view Allah in relation to yourself. Transforming how you see yourself If you feel empty, lonely, and negative about who you are, this may not just stem from lack of self-esteem but could also be from a lack of a sense of self.
When someone knows who they are as a person, has strong connections to others, has passion, drive, and purpose, then life feels full and worth living. A lack of sense of self leads to the opposite—when a person doesn’t really know who they areas an individual, their mood, purpose, and goals can drastically fluctuate with their changing circumstances. Our sense of self develops during childhood when there is a heavy dependence on our parents to take care of us and help us navigate the world. In healthy homes, a parent’s love, time, and attention
Dependency thought: I feel that others need to make decisions for me because I always make mistakes and don’t know what I’m doing.
Cognitive restructuring: Everyone errs, not just me—and it’s not like I make mistakes often. Besides, how will I learn if I don’t make mistakes?
Independence Affirmation: I’m capable of making good decisions on my own. If you would like to take this process one step further, follow the affirmation with real-life evidence to support your statement. This may not be possible in all scenarios, but it is good practice when applicable.
Example: I once bought a laptop on my own that I really liked. I read reviews online, did Istikhara prayer and bought it with nobody helping me—and it turned out to be a good decision.
For individuals who are highly dependent on others, psychotherapy is usually the best course of action but if you just have dependency tendencies, assessing how you rely on others too much and shifting your thoughts might be enough to empower yourself to a healthier way of thinking. Transforming your relationship with Allah. The long-term effects of assuming that Allah doesn’t like you can be dire. Thinking that Allah hates you creates a barrier between having love for Him, wanting to do good deeds, seeking
If you are feeling that Allah hates you, it’s not too late to change that. Know that He has never abandoned you and has always been there, although perhaps you may have distanced yourself from Him. Begin by spending time with yourself and reflecting on how you got to this point in the first place. Thoughts often don’t happen spontaneously—most of the time they are planted and become stronger over time. Go back in time and think about when you first started to feel this way.
If all your thoughts seem jumbled up, try writing them down.
Write a narrative of what led you to feel that Allah جل جلاله hates you.
Highlight your feelings in red and then the facts in green. Is your narrative mostly emotion or facts? Are there parts of your story you thought were true but were based on emotion?
Remember, just because you feel something doesn’t make it true.
Another exercise to help identify where your feeling that Allah hates you came from is a free association technique. Write on top of a piece of paper: “I think Allah جل جلاله hates me because…” followed by all the reasons you can think of. Write as many reasons as you can.
Once you have identified all the reasons you feel that Allah hates you, begin to replace the emotional reasoning with facts. Cross out the unhealthy thoughts and replace them with healthy ones.
If you’ve made mistakes in assuming that Allah hates you in the past, ask Him to forgive you and try to start over on a new page. Don’t let guilt cloud the newfound hope that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth doesn’t hate you. Feel how liberating it is to understand that
The One who has power over all things wants what is best for you. Instead of focusing on weaknesses in your relationship with Allah in the past, refocus your energy on doing things that Allah loves in the present. How wonderful is it that Allah tells us directly in the Qur’an how to seek closeness to Him so that He loves us even more:
"...Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves." (2:222)
"And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good." (2:195)
Shortened excerpt from Your Lord Has Not Forsaken You - Najwa Awad & Sarah Sultan
Through all the numbness or pain you may feel, and all the hardships you experience, Allah is still there for you. This book is a guide to understanding trauma and its far-reaching effects on the body, mind, and soul.
With that understanding in place, we can recognize how it leads to cognitive biases and doubts around faith—and then begin to grow beyond these roadblocks and find contentment.
9781847742209 - PB