It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Professional and Muslim Counselors and Psychotherapists

This is something that I have envisioned since I took my counseling subject in my last university: A professional Muslim counselor cum psychotherapist who specializes in religious issues. No, this is not the typical you-are-depressed-so-you-must-face-God kind of Muslim counselor. This kind of counselor, in my vision, is the one that uses scientific approach (or many of us are keen to call them Western approaches) to solve Islamic religious issues. Let me give you examples:

a) Ali comes to a Muslim counselor because of his issue of concentration in prayers. The counselor uses theories of attention available to help client focus more in prayers. Ali also complains of always finishing up his prayers quickly, sometimes unconsciously, so the counselor thinks of reasons why individuals have troubles "waiting" or doing anything in slow pace. So, perhaps it is something to do with the type of personality (personality A or B), in which an individual with Personality A has problem moving in attentive pace, which is something that prayers require.

b) Halimah sees a Muslim counselor because she realizes her habit of backbiting is getting worse. The counselor analyzes her personality to see if there are underlying factors as to why she needs to gossip. Perhaps Halimah has an envy issue that begins from her lack of self-esteem, which can be covered by her talking bad behind someone's back.

c) Fikri has anger issue and is irascible towards anything wrong, from forgetting to buy a toothpaste, to a noisy neighbor, to a simple joke from a friend. A Muslim counselor that he meets understands that Rasulullah used to ask his people to sit if they are standing, and to lie down if they are sitting when they are angry. This is consistent with the assertion that a person is angrier when the desire to be angry is "entertained", so the counselor uses elements of lowering the angry person's down in many ways before the anger furthers.

These are just several examples (just examples, not scientific at all) of how a Muslim counselor can treat religious issues, or daily issues for that matter without being condescending. By condescending, what I mean is that a lot of Muslim counselors now just resort to "it's haraam" and "it's a sin" and "you must repent" while talking to their clients. I do not say that it is wrong, but before you say that, have you ever taken the steps to understand your clients first?

I hope with the time passing by and a lot of Muslim graduates are aspiring to be psychologists, they would be able to balance between religious and scientific values and practices in what they do. Islam, while can be a mystic religion, is very scientific when it comes to daily life. So, why not we, as professionals, take advantages of the knowledge we learn at school to help people, rather than judging them out of place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One Very Effective Way to Scare Smokers

My father was a smoker. Yeah, I didn't know that until recently when he was back from his Umrah with my mother. We were discussing about smoking and my father nonchalantly told us that he was a pretty heavy smoker when he was younger. Then, it intrigued me, how come is he not now? I mean, he doesn't smoke at all. I was a keen believer that once a smoker, you're forever a smoker. I know, I know, there are successful cases where smokers stop their habits, but to tell you the truth, I never see one in my own life experience.

The story on his success was simple. He experienced an indirect persuasion, an accidental one. My father had a friend who was also a heavy smoker, and they always smoked together. But, one day, his friend caught a sickness that seemed to be very much related to his smoking habit. According to my father, the sickness looked awful and scary. Out of the blue, my father just stopped smoking, fearing that he might get the same sickness.

You see, everyday, smokers are told everyday that smoking is a bad for health. The government even asked cigarette companies in Malaysia to put gruesome pictures that depict the health consequences of smoking. But we can't deny the fact that they don't work. We keep telling our fathers, or brothers, or relatives, or friends, that they could get whatever cancer disease that is associated with smoking. No, they still smoke pretty heavily. So, why did this work on my father but not on all of these folks out there?

I believe it did because a message that is not intended to persuade is actually more persuasive. Compare these sentences:

a) "Don't smoke because you will get lung cancer!"
b) "Oh, I don't know, I'm starting to feel sick now at my lung. Do you think it's because of my smoking?"

The second speaker might not intend to persuade the audience that smoking is bad for health, but my father, who was the listener to his friend saying a sentence resembling the second sentence, felt like he would be about to experience the same thing if he didn't stop smoking. So, in a way, his friend "persuaded" him to stop smoking, without intending it.

Persuasion is a very intriguing subject and we all can see how politicians, media, salesmen, or even ordinary people like us use a wide range of persuasive techniques to get what they want or desire. Maybe I'll do more entries on persuasive techniques if I have the motivation to do so. Persuade me to do so!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Greatly Glad Tidings

This entry is dedicated to my parents returning back from their visit in the Holy Land. Usually when your parents are gone for half a month to a very far place and then they are back, the moment when you are looking at their faces can be elating. But when the time for you to meet them is coupled with some nerve-ridden news, that feeling is intensified.

Let me tell you what happened.

The flight was originally set to arrive in Malaysia at 3.00 p.m. But the night before, my father called me and told us that the arrival would be delayed some hours later. It was fine, because we all were thinking that delays are a normal part of flying. Then, came the next night, we all were set to pick our parents up from the airport. We almost arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 10 p.m. but our father called to tell us that we should just not come yet and hang out somewhere. So, we went to a petrol station nearby that had some kind of little cafe in its speedmart. An hour later, after purchasing and eating foods whose prices were purposely the same with the parking fees at KLIA for several hours (yeah, that's crazy), our father called again and told us the gate was finally opened. We all went out from there and headed to the airport.

After arriving, we waited some more, but by "we" I mean, the other two cars of my sister and my brother. But, the car I was in that belonged to my other sister got lost. From going to the left to park our car inside the airport parking spaces, my sister didn't see the sign and went to the right lane, which was for going back to Kuala Lumpur. We got nervous, especially because we might not be able to get in time to see our father and mother arriving.

Then, we was able to find our way back to KLIA and relieved when our other siblings called us and told us that our parents hadn't arrived yet. So, we waited... and waited and waited, until came the time when our father called us, yet again, to tell us that it was going to be even later because there seemed to be unsettling about the situation inside the arriving gate. Then, we were discussing what we could do to kill time, and our father called again to tell us that all the passengers of that particular flight were all detained because a little big-mouthed birdie told the authority that there was a bomb inside the plane. When our father told us that, it was nerve-breaking and we needed something to soothe our feelings over.

So, not enough with the food consumed at the petrol station, added with our riveting hunger, we decided to kill the time by eating at some nearby place since there was nothing much we could do. After spending a significant amount of time at the restaurant, we decided to get back to the airport and waited for our parents there. We parked at the front gate of the airport and some of us waited in the car and some other waited inside to see the arriving and released passengers. I myself was trying to sleep in the car but the mosquitoes somehow tried to tell me that it was not the right thing to do that time.

Inside the arriving gate, my parents underwent the most annoying investigation and check-up ever. My mother was frustrated to see how it was all handled and confronted one of the police officers and asked why all this, but the officer only replied with a laconic answer that it was all perfunctory. Every bag was searched several times and the number of passengers released upon satisfying condition were moving very slowly.

Then, it was a couple hours later, and we finally saw our parents coming out from Gate 6, the gate where the passengers from that flight and that airplane to come out to. And yes, the feelings were intensified and to finally see our parents' faces were great. I'm glad that everything turns out fine.