Job Posting: Admin Assistant – Bay Area, CA

Job title Office Manager (35-40 hrs/week) – Bay Area
Reports to Clinical Director

Job purpose
The purpose of this role is to fulfill the duties essential to the management of the day-to-day operations of a non-profit mental health clinic, training and research institute at the forefront of advancing the professional practice of spiritually integrated psychotherapy.  This role requires a self-motivated, independent individual who has basic familiarity with mental health and Islamic concepts and theology.

Duties and responsibilities

  • Office management, including budgeting, vendor relationships, furnishings and expenses
  • Supervise administrative assistant’s reception duties for the three Bay Area offices
  • Manage compliance with EMR and billing practices
  • Lead intake procedures for speaking, training and consultancy requests
  • Assist staff complete medical insurance reimbursement and benefit claims
  • Supervise scheduling of meetings, speaking engagements and travel for staff and guest speakers
  • Event planning and coordination for trainings, seminars and conferences
  • Managing and initiating contracts with community agencies and invoicing
  • Onboarding and offboarding of interns, trainees and volunteers
  • Coordinate staff and volunteer time management
  • Work on special projects i.e. fundraising, educational workshops, etc.
  • Coordinating/Managing volunteer/non-clinical intern program

Qualifications and Skills

  • Minimum Associates Degree – Preferred Bachelor’s Degree
  • Proficiency in MS Word, MS Excel and MS Outlook a must
  • Experience with medical billing, submission of claims and setting office policies and procedures
  • Familiarity with Islamic theology, customs, rituals and rules
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to plan, prioritize and organize multiple staff and diverse projects
  • Punctual, with attention to detail
  • 2 years office or project management experience in a clinical setting preferred
  • social media/marketing management and training a plus

Working conditions

  • 6-8 hrs/day over 5 or 6 days/week, professional office setting, relaxed business casual attire
  • Shared administrative office in the Santa Clara office, move to a new Union City office later this year
  • Routinely use standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers & filing cabinets

Salary

$38,000–43,000  (gross annual  pay, commensurate with experience)

EMAIL RESUME AND CV TO: Rania Awaad – rawaad@khalilcenter.com and cc caadmin@khalilcenter.com

Application Deadline and Start Date Application deadline: July 15th, 2017

Start date: August 1st, 2017

Approved by:

 

Clinical Director & Executive Director
Date approved:  05/20/2017

Job Posting: Office Manager – Bay Area, CA

Job title Office Manager (35-40 hrs/week) – Bay Area
Reports to Clinical Director


Job purpose

The purpose of this role is to fulfill the duties essential to the management of the day-to-day operations of a non-profit mental health clinic, training and research institute at the forefront of advancing the professional practice of spiritually integrated psychotherapy.  This role requires a self-motivated, independent individual who has basic familiarity with mental health and Islamic concepts and theology.

Duties and responsibilities

  • Office management, including budgeting, vendor relationships, furnishings and expenses
  • Supervise administrative assistant’s reception duties for the three Bay Area offices
  • Manage compliance with EMR and billing practices
  • Lead intake procedures for speaking, training and consultancy requests
  • Assist staff complete medical insurance reimbursement and benefit claims
  • Supervise scheduling of meetings, speaking engagements and travel for staff and guest speakers
  • Event planning and coordination for trainings, seminars and conferences
  • Managing and initiating contracts with community agencies and invoicing
  • Onboarding and offboarding of interns, trainees and volunteers
  • Coordinate staff and volunteer time management
  • Work on special projects i.e. fundraising, educational workshops, etc.
  • Coordinating/Managing volunteer/non-clinical intern program

Qualifications and Skills

  • Minimum Associates Degree – Preferred Bachelor’s Degree
  • Proficiency in MS Word, MS Excel and MS Outlook a must
  • Experience with medical billing, submission of claims and setting office policies and procedures
  • Familiarity with Islamic theology, customs, rituals and rules
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to plan, prioritize and organize multiple staff and diverse projects
  • Punctual, with attention to detail
  • 2 years office or project management experience in a clinical setting preferred
  • social media/marketing management and training a plus

Working conditions

  • 6-8 hrs/day over 5 or 6 days/week, professional office setting, relaxed business casual attire
  • Shared administrative office in the Santa Clara office, move to a new Union City office later this year
  • Routinely use standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers & filing cabinets

Salary

$38,000-43,000  (gross annual  pay, commensurate with experience)

EMAIL RESUME AND COVER LETTER TO: Rania Awaad: rawaad@khalilcenter.com and cc caadmin@khalilcenter.com

Application Deadline and Start Date Application deadline: July 15th, 2017

Start date: August 1st, 2017

Approved by:

 

Clinical Director & Executive Director
Date approved:  05/20/2017

The Four Benefits of Cultivating Self-Awareness

By Sister Heba el-Haddad

‘Al-Dunya’ is an Arabic word that is very frequently used to describe the temporal world that hosts our lives here on earth. Upon taking a closer look, the word dunya stems from the root word  دنو  d-w-n or  دني d-n-y, which means ‘the nearer’ or ‘the lower.’  This word has been mentioned in the Qur’an as ‘Al-hayaat al dunya’ because it is ‘nearer’ to us than the akhirah (the afterlife); it is our current existence, and that which we are most familiar with. However, it is also lowly in nature, greatly superficial in comparison to the life of the hereafter and is a place that contains all objects of desire for the human nafs or carnal soul.  Essentially, Al-Dunya is a mere transition to the afterlife that is both fleeting and knows neither stability nor permanence. The human soul temporarily resides in this world, which aims to test us by the constant bombardment of messages about who we should be, what we should look like, and the manner in which we should live. As a result, it becomes crucial to re-assess who we are and what we desire out of life to maintain a clear direction and focus on that which truly matters.

The question of who we are can cover such a broad category of facts, as each individual is deeply unique, beautiful in their natural state and flawed in equally varying ways. There are no two individuals that look exactly alike, and each person lives in a way that is unique to them according to their own upbringing, faith, knowledge, culture and life experiences. Living in such a vast world that tends to pull one in many competing directions and presents many temptations for the nafs, it becomes incumbent to cultivate a level of self-awareness for the sake of one’s emotional health and spiritual survival.  We’re all composed of countless layers of the self, and by increasing our level of self-awareness, we progress in our journey of understanding why we behave the way we do and what drives our fears, hopes and motivations. Mentioned in this article are four benefits of cultivating self-awareness which are: knowing ourselves in order to better know Allah, self-awareness strengthens our resilience, the relationship between self-awareness and humility and self-awareness in relation to habit formation.

  1. Know Yourself So That You May Come to Know Allah (swt)

    It is stated in Islamic tradition: ‘Whosoever knows himself knows his Lord.”

This hadith implies that gaining knowledge about oneself leads to knowledge about Allah (swt). But how are these two types of knowledge connected? By studying ourselves, our abilities, the way in which our bodies function and the manner in which we are molded and designed, this knowledge combined redirects our attention back to the existence of a supreme Creator: The Fashioner, The Originator, and The Giver of Life. By coming to terms with our weaknesses as fallible beings, we realize the need for reliance on The Most Strong, The Omnipotent The Able. By being aware of our weaknesses, we can work on them in order to gain closeness to Allah (swt) and avoid incurring sins as a result of that awareness. An example of how knowledge of our weaknesses can help us do just that is an individual who is aware of their weakness to temptations of the use of substances. Avoiding friends who use substances and encourage it and places which may trigger that temptation can help strengthen one’s resolve and ability to abstain from it altogether. Similarly, by being aware of our strengths we can capitalize on them and use them in order to positively impact our surroundings and loved ones and gain closeness to Allah (swt) and His pleasure. An individual who is very tech savvy and is skilled in creating apps decides to create an app to help blind individuals connect with someone who is blessed with the gift of sight through the use of video chat to help guide them around their homes and assist them with small day-to-day tasks. Through the culmination of knowledge of our weaknesses and strengths, it becomes increasingly evident that in no way shape or form did we have anything to do with our own creation. All signs embedded within ourselves and in our surroundings redirect us back to a higher supreme being whose existence is undeniable.

  1. Self-Awareness strengthens The Muscle of Resiliency

On average, human beings have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day, which translates to one thought per second! The large majority of these thoughts are the same ones on replay in our minds each day and a whopping 80 percent of those thoughts are negative in nature. Due to the brain being inclined to focus more attention on the negative experiences or circumstances in life, a term that is often referred to as negative attribution bias, during your toughest and darkest moments, your mind will do an amazing job of convincing you of a multitude of things. You may repeatedly have thoughts that tell you that you aren’t good enough to succeed in your business endeavors, that you’re not worthy of a good spouse, that you’ll never reach your weight loss goal and that you’re a horrible parent, and the list is endless. You may start to firmly believe that you’re weak and incapable of fulfilling your lifelong dreams and aspirations and you may even be fooled into thinking that your thoughts are concrete facts. Thoughts surface from many different sources including but not limited to what we repeatedly have been exposed to: people, upbringing, books, faith, social media, movies, or music. Regardless of how firmly rooted these ‘facts’ become in your mind, with some deep analysis of your past, you’ll realize that the only real facts that are worthy of your attention are that you’ve survived greater struggles, endured greater pain and became progressively resilient as a result. Having a great propensity towards being forgetful, a lack of self-awareness may inadvertently lead us to lose sight of all the internal battles we’ve won irrespective of how small and how much progress we’ve made in our respective journeys.  Self-awareness will engender a greater degree of accurate self-perception and reflection which leads to better accountability (muhasabah) and which can allow you to conquer the mind’s inclination to focus on the negative. Perhaps nothing is more empowering than knowing that you don’t have to believe every thought that crosses your mind; that your thoughts aren’t facts; and that by questioning your thoughts, you can essentially revolutionize the entire process of how you think. Every thought is not automatically worthy of being entertained and you can practice mindfulness in regards to which thoughts you feed and respond to, for they will be the ones that have power over you.

  1. The Relationship Between Self-Awareness & Humility

Although we have a negative attribution bias, we also have what may seem to be a contradictory tendency known as a self-serving bias. The self-serving bias is a tendency to perceive ourselves in an overly favorable way and is ultimately designed to protect our self-esteem. In order to guide ourselves to a more accurate form of self-awareness, it’s essential to balance our lowliness and fallibility with our potential for greatness. Those who are in touch with both ends of this spectrum and balance them well are often identified as confident yet humble individuals due to not losing sight of both sides. Contributing to our potential greatness, humans enjoy complex cognitive faculties, free will, and language and comprehension abilities to name just a few. These combined abilities contributed to the emergence of many extraordinary inventions, innovative discoveries and incredible achievements which can pave the way to a state of delusion and loss of touch with our own fallibility. Cultivating self-awareness teaches that, similar to Newton’s law of gravity, what goes up in life must eventually come down.  Allah (swt) states in the Qur’an a similar concept reflected in this verse “…for man was created weak”[4:28]. At times, we can feel great surges of strength and soar in life and shortly thereafter encounter crashing moments of despair. We live in a world of contrasts. We have strengths as well as weaknesses- some strengths are present from birth and others are acquired through hard work and practice. Some weaknesses are beyond our control and some harmful practices or habits that we adopt and engage in by choice render us weaker as a result. We’re unable to fully understand happiness until we’ve known sadness and we can’t fully appreciate ease until we’ve experienced hardship. It’s these contrasting experiences that teach us the beautiful concept of humility; and within the depths of humility one can feel a greater connection and closeness to The Creator. Despite the many advantages of humility, this virtue isn’t always viewed as a strength depending on the context it’s framed in.

Humility in relation to the field of leadership, for example, is often perceived as a form of weakness; especially in a competitive cut throat culture where over confidence and power are glorified and frequently rewarded.  In an article by Morris, Brotheridge & Urbanski (2005), leaders who embodied high levels of humility were found to have higher levels of self-awareness, openness and transcendence: the three dimensions of humility identified by the authors. Leaders with high levels of humility had a higher probability of forming supportive relationships with their employees, presented a socialized power motivation, and had the overall greater good of the company in mind which led them to thrive collectively. A research study by Collins (2001) provided evidence for the importance of humility in leadership.  Collins discovered that Level 5 leadership led companies had continuously high performance; meaning that these leaders had a combination of humility and strong personal will. The tide of leadership is slowly turning due to researchers shedding light on the great benefits humility stemming from leadership brings to the workplace.

  1. Out With The Old, In With The New

It’s an unquestionable fact that we are creatures of habit. Habits are formed through repetition and become so familiar to us that we begin to perform them automatically, without much effort or thought. The more we practice or do something, the more engrained the neural pathways in the brain become. When our habits become so deeply engrained, we become less aware of them to the point where if a friend or loved one were to point them out to us, it may take us by surprise. The habits that we are unaware of are more harmful due to us being oblivious to their impact in our lives or to their impact on others. As difficult as it may be to admit, most of us have at least one bad habit that we dislike about ourselves and wish we could change. But you may tell yourself ‘it’s easier said than done.’ Whether your habit is being chronically late, smoking, being a perfectionist or impulsively overspending; surprisingly, every bad habit serves a purpose in our lives. It may be that certain habits were formed as a result of deeply rooted issues such as resentment towards someone or something, a long history of exposure to trauma, or underlying depression. For example, someone who often struggles with controlling their anger could have assumed the role of caretaker for an elderly loved one for so long and has been in the mode of giving to the point of burnout that any small mishap or problem sets them off. At times, bad habits can help us cope with overwhelming levels of stress, avoiding uncomfortable situations or to merely pass time.  But what makes a habit bad for us? A habit crosses the red line from good to doubtful or bad when it disrupts our daily productivity, robs us of precious time or threatens our emotional, physical and psychological well being. To learn how to replace bad habits with new ones by forming new neural pathways in the brain through a cool process known as neuroplasticity, one must first understand the role that awareness plays in the larger picture. To discern a good habit from the bad, a level of self-awareness and introspection is necessary. Reflection leads to a heightened sense of self-awareness. Self-awareness in turn helps us to decipher bad habits that previously led to patterns of dysfunction, the role these habits played in our lives and how to better replace them with new positive habits. For example, do you dislike your habit of consistently focusing on the negative aspects of your past despite the presence of many positive ones that you should be grateful for? First, try to understand why you’re mentally holding onto these negative thoughts and experiences, and the purpose they serve you. Once you understand why it is you do what you do, it becomes easier to envision being positive and how reflecting on these positive experiences makes you feel. Make it a daily practice to go through this envisioning process. Select your thoughts carefully as you would select your best outfits daily and make it a habit to only focus on the positive aspects of each day. What you choose to focus on is what will grow in your mind. Be mindful of what you pay attention to as it will consume you and manifest in various ways through your actions and life overall.

A ninth century Muslim physician known as Abu Zayd Al-Balkhi often discussed the nature of this life and how it is a home for anxiety, trials, worry and sadness. He highlighted the importance of focusing on positive thoughts in his works and practice; the types of thoughts that are the opposite of those that sustain the psychological disturbance and the importance of making the realization that whatever afflicts the soul could have been worse in nature. By using this train of thought, one can cultivate gratefulness for their current state and develop enough strength to avoid falling into hopelessness and defeat. The concept that our thoughts lead to our emotional states and later influence our actions is as old as Greek philosophy, however, it was Al-Balkhi who developed this concept into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a form of psychotherapy used regularly by psychologists today. It may come as a surprise to many that it took western psychologists close to an entire century to arrive at this approach that Al-Balkhi arrived at in the ninth century! Al-Balkhi also mentions the concept of being self-aware in order to know what one should avoid and what one’s soul can bear. Self-awareness is the first step in ridding oneself of old habits and facilitating the formation of new habits. You can’t change that which you’re not aware of.  And you can’t become a better person without learning from your past behaviors, mistakes, and the present habits that comprise your character.

Al-Balkhi along with tenth century physician Abu Bakr Al-Razi and 11th century scholar Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali all spoke about the importance of seeking out the counsel of a wise person (hakim) in the form of a discussion or counseling in an effort to neutralize problematic habits or to change one’s thoughts and behaviors to the better. Al-Balkhi in specific made mention of this practical approach in his manuscript ‘Sustenance of the Soul’ where he described the importance of having an advisor to oversee one’s actions, to go hand in hand with the internal self-treatment approach which in this case is the positive envisioning process referred to earlier. We may not always be aware of the detrimental habits we adopt as we are unable to see ourselves from an outsider’s perspective and having an advisor or a friend oversee us can help in changing unfavorable habits significantly by merely allowing someone to bring them to our level of consciousness. Seeking therapy can also help in reforming our inner selves and most stubborn habits and can increase one’s quality of life and level of happiness. True contentment lies in gaining knowledge to enlighten our minds and hearts, and the most beneficial form of knowledge originates from knowing oneself.

“Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakens” — Carl Jung

References

Al-Balkhi, A. (2013). Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician. London: The International Institute of Islamic Thought.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t. New York: Harper Business.

Morris, J. A., Brotheridge, C., & Urbanski, J. C. (2005). Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility. Human Relations, 58(10), 1323-1350.

Feeling Overwhelmed with Multiple Demands? Read this….

By Ahmad Jabir Tarin

Throughout life human beings face an array of challenges ranging from family, work, social, spiritual-religious, and other interpersonal stressors. In the midst of the intensity of those challenges a feeling of hopelessness can emerge for many of us. Hopelessness can be described as the overwhelming feeling of dread, gloom and doom where individuals may not see any light at the end of the tunnel to their suffering. This can be exacerbated by stress, defined as: the discrepancy between perceived available resources and the environmental demands placed on an individual.  In other words, when people feel they don’t have enough resources to deal with their demands. This ongoing feeling of inadequacy in meeting such demands can breed pessimism about the ending of their suffering/stress.  Sometimes it can be accompanied by a sense of desperation.

A common experience of hopelessness can occur when responsibilities begins to pile up leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed/over-exertion or simply fatigue. Stress is designed to be a short term experiential feeling of hypervigilence that is functionally designed to help us increase our level of energy (i.e. increasing more resources) to meet our demands.  However, when it continues for a long period of time, it simply produces exhaustion and can lead to many adverse health problems.  According to research done by Professor Liisa Terrill, she found that background stress i.e., more than 2 demanding tasks such as being a stay at home mother, a student, or employed at the same time significantly increases stress levels for women which could lead to a higher risk for coronary heart disease. For many, it can feel like your psychological resources have been exhausted and you are running out of steam.  This can lead to a desire to want to give up and just let it all slip out of our hands. Feeling that you are stuck in an inescapable situation whereby investing in one area causes other demands to continue to be unmet and your inability to effectively and efficiently multitask all items continuously.

Consider, the sense of personal inadequacy and disappointment one can feel if they always feel like they are never able to keep up.  In fact, according to Steeg et al., in a recent journal published in 2015 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers found that hopelessness is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder leading up to self harm (neglecting self-care due to burnout). It is evident by this that psychological research finds that individuals experiencing emotions of hopelessness have a higher risk of inflicting harm on themselves or those around them, simply looking for an escape to life’s problems.  Most forms of hopelessness can be common and impact us psychologically, but if you start to notice the following signs (clinical), then it might be wise to seek assistance through therapy: trouble sleeping, feeling sad/depressed all the time, no enjoyment, losing interest, lack of hygiene, feeling trapped, despair, or excessive guilt.  As Steeg et al., concluded that the best initiative for caring for individuals with hopeless behavior is therapeutic intervention.

However, for most of us it may never get to that clinical threshold, so here are some therapeutic strategies one can take to overcome this through Spiritual Coping.

A form of coping that can be integrated is Spiritual Coping.  From amongst the many Prophetic discussions in the Islamic tradition, is hopelessness. In fact, consider that anxiety or stress usually centers around the FEAR of what might happen in the future.  That is, if I do not clean up my act or meet the demands of my environment then what will happen?  Usually we have many concerning thoughts/cognitions that accompany this, keep us up at night.  Such as the possibility of not being able to meet our finances, not finishing school, disappointing family members, and the list can go on and on.  One therapeutic tactic is to consider WHAT IF.  That is, SO what if I do not meet a particular demand?  Will it truly be the end of the world?  This cognitive exercise can be combined with, a verse in the Quran regarding an incident of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) and his noble companion Abu Bakr (r) taking shelter in a cave, fleeing from prosecution. In this verse, Allah (s) narrates the response of the Holy Prophet (s), “…Do not be sad, for indeed Allah is with us!” We can understand that there is solace in recognizing that you’re really not alone. There comes a feeling of encouragement and strength that is attained from knowing that Allah provides a way out of the most difficult situations.  This verse also goes to show that at some point the noble companion Abu Bakr (r) had a fear of feeling hopeless in a seemingly difficult situation i.e., being persecuted, but the Holy Prophet’s (s) honored words and presence gave him contentment and ease of mind to know that Allah will protect and care for us.  The reminder comes to help us DE-catastrophize the REAL possibility of what might occur, as we tend to over-exaggerate the negative implications of most events.  This creates a vicious cycle which leads to over-escalation and catastrophizing.

If we take a deeper look at our own lives and the way we perceive things, we can take a step back and focus on our thoughts. We could ask ourselves if we’re approaching the scenario in the right way? Perhaps I am being ineffective in my approach.  This kind of reflection is adaptive or in other words USEFUL.  As opposed to kicking oneself about the outcome or their past actions.   An example of this would be like a person who applies for a new job. They take the appropriate steps to prepare for the job, they prepare their resume, they wear the correct dress, and they have a good interview. But lo and behold, the hiring manager tells you, you did not get the job.

Immediately the first response is to be let down, and internalize the inability to secure that job as a personal fault. So you begin questioning and doubting yourself when in reality it was something you could not have done any better because you tried your best. A better approach would be to sift through what actions you did before the interview, work on a new approach, and with confidence go for another interview. Instead of looking at it as a failure, change your perception of the situation and consider it another opportunity for you to get better at interviews so by the next interview you’ll do even better and hopefully land the job.

Bearing these important concepts and principles in mind, any person feeling hopeless should confide in the knowledge that indeed all difficulties do come to an end. A useful concept that can be practiced is ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This theory outlines the fact that the happiest people and most resilient people in the world are those that have ACCEPTED the reality that life carries with it anxieties and difficulties.  They are not surprised by it and have come to accept this reality. Its about acceptance rather then striving for a life of being worry-free. It is about changing our perceptions and expectations about reality. And that the propagation of pessimistic thoughts tend to lead to an even darker mental state that in turn can be a cause of physical detriment to ones self.

Staying positive is essential to combating hopelessness and having certainty that truly Allah is on my side. It is natural for human beings to feel hopeless during difficult times, however we should be cognizant of the reality of hopelessness. One positive approach one can take is to reach out to their social circles for support, such as a group of friends, colleagues, people at your local gym etc. There is no shame in reaching out during trying times, as it is a normal experience for human beings to experience.  It can drain you and sidetrack you from your goals and objectives in life. Making an effort to defer the sense of hopelessness and instead use that moment as a catalyst to boost oneself both spiritually and physically.

Narrative Therapy: My Muslim Identity and My Allegiance

By: Diba Ataie

“Where are you from?” I was repeatedly questioned, while traveling. My response was always challenged; an insinuation that I was lying. The person I was interacting with was usually unsatisfied with my answer and this led me to feel irritated. Once I expressed my frustration the empathy grew and others were able to relate to me.

This question, which we often face, requires more detailed attention as our US identity grows more complex daily. Our Muslim identity is challenged by the media which often hijacks the narrative of our collective community. Thus, we are once again faced with the eternal paradox in psychology, accept all our parts, only then can we truly change.

The first step is reunification with ourselves – we cannot accept that which we do not know. This journey of self-discovery goes far beyond our phenotypic and geographic legacy; it requires a much deeper cross-analysis. We need to appreciate our complexity in order to serve ourselves holistically and to fully appreciate our humanity.

We must also recognize the danger of external labels that are imposed on Muslims because these labels are destroying our ability to connect with one another. Our perspectives of others are socially constructed and only represent pieces of a puzzle that are needed to create the full image of our identity. This impacts how we see others. Every being on this planet is unique in that they have their own soul, mind, and heart.  

These days most of us have to defend our identity at some point. For most, it is not enough that I identify as Muslim-American, but I must prove my allegiance to each end of the hyphen; I am torn between both in a painful tug-of war. Being both Muslim and American seems to be a contradiction to some, but I am a physical manifestation of it. We must all be aware of our underlying perceptions which impact how we see others.

The misrepresentation is, in part, due to the fact that most people only have access to a singular image of Muslims. We must challenge this singular view of Muslims as being dangerous because we are also in danger. This impacts non-Muslims too because they are mistaken as Muslims and stigmatized. In the work I do with youth, I lead them through an activity which asks them to fill in the blanks…”Just because I am Muslim…Does not mean I am…” The counter narratives that emerge allow us to move past binaries and also serve to humanize and represent us in a respectful manner.

How each person identifies is up to only them. In this claim is a freedom that empowers us. It is through learning about all parts of ourselves that we can work towards greater understanding and a more expansive perspective. Who knows next time someone asks us about identity we might challenge their existing ideas by inviting them to hear our own story. Every Muslim has a unique narrative and special relationship with Islam. We may even grow more curious and come to recognize the inherent value of every being.

The Importance of Self Care

By Dr. Sarah Syed

“My kids come first, my family comes first, my job is too busy, I can’t afford it, I don’t have the time.” These are the most common responses heard when someone is recommended to take time for self-care. Many seem to think self-care implies spending money on spa services such as massages or a manicure or an expensive trip somewhere out of town. The truth is that self-care can be anything that helps a person to relax, do something they enjoy, and actually take care of themselves. When we make caring for others a priority over our own health, eventually we inevitably reach a point where we can no longer do well for whatever it is we prioritize.

On an airplane, the safety message reminds you to first put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. This is an example of self-care. According to clinical psychologist Roberto Olivardia, PhD, self-care is essential for achieving goals such as being present for family, engaging fully and empathically with others and staying healthy. Registered nurse Ingrid Kollack wrote in her 2006 publication, “The Concept of Self-Care,” that self care is considered a “primary form of care for patients with chronic conditions who make many day-to-day decisions, or self-manage, their illness.” Kollack believes self care is a partial solution to the global rise in health care costs placed on governments and is a fundamental pillar of health and social care means it is an essential component of a modern health care system governed by bureaucracy and legislation.

Self-care is individual and personal. It is different for everyone but necessary in order to maintain good health. For some, it may be playing with their kids or spending time with friends. For others it could be exercising, gardening, cooking, or painting. Whatever activity is chosen, it needs to be regular and something that is part of your routine, not earned or used as a reward. For Olivardia, self-care is anything “that affirms and strengthens my physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” Something as simple as coloring can be relaxing and give you time to escape your routine. The growing popularity of adult coloring books and mandalas is testament to the increased awareness about the importance of self care. Along with regular daily prayers and reading the Quran, Dhikr is another excellent form of self-care. We know from the Quran that “verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find ease.” Making time for yourself on a routine basis to spend in quiet meditation or reflection can bring you closer to the Almighty and bring peace to your life.

Ultimately, our bodies have rights over us and our health is a trust, an amanah from our Creator. As Muslims, we know we have a duty to be healthy and not consciously do anything that can hurt ourselves or be detrimental. Not taking time to routinely prioritize your health and well-being causes you to not be able to do your best for yourself or others. Self-care allows you to refuel, essentially to refill your own cup so you can pour from it for others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Exercise and Mental Health: A Brief Introduction to the Impact of Exercise Has On Our Minds

Exercise and Mental Health: A Brief Introduction to the Impact of Exercise Has On Our Minds
By Sabaahath Latifi

When we hear terms such as: exercise, gym, or workout, our minds tend to automatically think “thin, size 0, flat tummies, two hours at the gym, etc…” We stress out about how much weight we need to lose to “look good”, which paradoxically enough, could actually lead to an increase in unhealthy behaviors such as avoiding exercise and overeating. When did physical activity become all about our outer self-image?

The way we look can definitely impact the way we feel. When we believe we look “good” our mood is uplifted and we feel confident and happy. But there are so many more benefits of physical activity that seem to have lost value overtime. It is important to remember, that in our fast paced and hectic lives, exercise can be a powerful tool to protect BOTH our physical and mental health.

There is a wealth of research that shows the connection between exercise/increased physical activity, and positive mental health. Several studies have been conducted in which exercise was a component of treatment for depression. These studies yielded positive results; while exercise was not the sole cure for depression, it did help in alleviating depressive symptoms and increasing motivation.

The science behind it:

To keep it very simple: Exercise releases endorphins. This chemical decreases the perception pain, increases positive emotions such as happiness, and produces a “euphoric” feeling which leads to increased motivation and energy.

A Prophetic tradition in Islam reports that:
“No one will be allowed to move from his position on the Day of Judgement until he has been asked how he spent his life, how he used his knowledge, how he earnt and spent his money and in what pursuits he used his health”
Related in Tirmidhi

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged a healthy lifestyle as well. A few popular activities mentioned in the stories from the time of our prophet (SAW) are: swimming, archery, and horseback riding.

These are just a couple of examples that highlight the importance of your overall health, both mental and physical. As Muslims, we believe that our bodies have a right over us. It is in fact an trust (amanah) from Allah. We are responsible to keep ourselves healthy, both physically and emotionally. In fact, these hadiths mention that we are even accountable to Allah for what we do with our health!

What is considered exercise?
The following activities are just a few examples:
– Walking
– Running/jogging
– Any sport
– House cleaning (especially vacuuming and sweeping)
– Bike riding
– Exercise machines (going to the gym, etc…)
– What are some you can think of that are fun, creative, and doable for you?

Basic tips:
– Make exercise a family or group activity: take a buddy with you for your walks or to the gym. Or make it a family activity that you can do with your spouse/kids/siblings, etc…
– Choose an activity you enjoy and that is challenging: Exercise does not have to be tedious! You can be creative with it and make it enjoyable for you.
– Choose something that fits your schedule: Exercise does not have to be time consuming. 20-30 minutes a day can be sufficient.
– Be realistic: listen to your body, go at your pace, and come up a with a plan that can realistically become a daily routine for you.
– Take small steps and increase activity with time. For some people, jumping, head first, into exercise can be detrimental. It can also decrease motivation about working out. Take it slow and increase your activity with time to give your mind, body, and daily schedules the necessary time to adjust.

San Bernardino & Paris Attacks: The Psychology of Fear and its Influence on Social Behavior.

Written By:  Hooman Keshavarzi,  Licensed Psychotherapist and Adjunct Professor of Psychology

Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion.  Fear is really what we are referring to when we say the words stress and anxiety. According to emotion theory, fear contains both functional and dysfunctional expressions just like in all other emotions.  The functional needs of emotions are designed to serve a specific goal that is demanded through the activation of that emotion.  The need fear demands is safety.  Keep this in mind! Safety. When individuals are scared, they respond with either FIGHT or FLIGHT in order to attain safety.  For example, if you encounter a wild animal in a forest, you will likely run away, for your own protection.  If you are attacked, and your safety is jeopardized, then you will FIGHT.  These are primitive instincts that we are programmed to respond with.  In fact, we experience a state of physiological arousal that activates the sympathetic nervous system and increases the production of energy to tackle such stressful situations.  However, there can be a number of limitations of these very useful instinctual needs in modern social settings.

Most importantly, our physiological stress activation responses are designed to overcome more simple and temporary stressors.  However, modern human social interaction has become much more complex.  Over-reliance on primitive instincts can cause us to respond to fearful situations in a maladaptive or unhealthy way.  For example, if a student is asked to give a public presentation in school, then he may fear that his self-concept/self-esteem is in jeopardy.  His fear of negative social evaluation may cause him to either avoid (flight) the presentation by never participating or having a hyper-vigilant (fight) response when forced to present causing him to be too physiologically aroused to adequately deliver his performance.  This is characterized by his trembling, stuttering and having a difficult time articulating himself, due to an elevated heart rate, hyper-ventilation, rush of adrenaline, increased energy, etc.

Now that we understand the basic fundamentals of the emotion of fear, let us examine its role in influencing human psychology in the context of helping us shed some light on the recent social unrest that has been produced by San Bernardino and the Paris tragedies.

First off, it goes without saying that the credible scholars of the Islamic tradition have unanimously rejected any room for the justification of attacks on innocent civilian life.  So then what causes individuals to categorize all Muslims in with the Radicals?  One of the principles to consider is that during times of fear and anxiety, characterized by heightened physiological arousal, there is a greater likelihood of producing false positives in identifying something threatening that may not really be all that threatening.  This false identification combined with the mental/cognitive category of ‘Muslim = dangerous extremist’ is more likely in a state of fear.  Why do we do this?  The answer is that it is a safety response, whereby we are instinctively programmed to err on the side of caution and to respond to situations that could POSSIBLY be threatening, particularly if we have been trained to cognitively believe those items to be dangerous (this is how phobias are formed). For example, if you are in a jungle and you think you see a shape of a lion behind a tree, you are likely to be alarmed, even if you were to later realize that they were just two portions of branches behind the tree that created this false impression.  In fact, you may be alarmed by any movements of the trees.  This is an example of false identification of a threat due to the activation of both the cognitive category of lion and the emotion of intense fear that lead to the misperception of your environment. Therefore, in the lion example we are likely to flee (or make it flee from us: hence modern refugee policies) as we perceive it to be threatening when there is no actual threat like the branches behind the tree. Similarly, we see the strategic overemphasis on the psychological associations of Islam and extremism coupled with the activation of fear.  These are likely to produce false positives thereby increasing generalizations that equate the presence of some threatening Muslims to err on the side of caution and equate all Muslims as potentially dangerous.  This is a useful survival mechanism in primitive settings, as it would be ludicrous to assume an individual lion does not represent the whole genus of lions.  However, when this overgeneralizing tendency is applied to human behavior, it presents itself as a liability.  Of course, lions all behave alike and our cognitive category for lions as threatening is pretty useful.  But, human beings do not all behave similarly and therefore we are prone to lumping people into groups altogether particularly during times of fear.

Additionally, political and social policies tend to capitalize on this emotional vulnerability.  Human beings are more likely to support the infringement upon the human rights of others in the form of attacks, detainment, torture, collective punishment (fight) upon individuals they perceive to be in a threatening category when the emotion of fear is activated.   This is the same rhetoric that allowed the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, establishment of Guantanamo bay and the list can go on.  Focusing back on the present, one may notice a spike in public support for Donald Trump’s racist, categorical attitudes especially after San Bernardino.  Remember I stated above, our primitive instinctual reactions to fear are designed to alleviate a temporary stressor.  Whereas, human groups don’t just disappear.  So human differences are not temporary, rather they are permanent.  Therefore, deporting, murdering or expelling a group of individuals can have a temporary psychological relief; however, dividing human beings actually causes a greater actual threat in the long-term.  That’s because we never actually dealt with the underlying problems. Such is the prevalent attitudes of people today where we see even on a micro level the spike in divorce rates, because people are not invested in solving real human problems.  It’s easier to villianize, avoid or get rid of people.  Such an underlying problem we face today is an absence of appreciating differences in other groups that is not based upon black and white or categorical thinking.

Donald Trump and members of radical Islamist groups have somethings in common.  Among them is that they both preach hate for their counterpart and categorize their foes as enemies belonging to a single unitary category.  When we categorize or label individuals as evil, known as the ‘just world phenomenon’ in psychology, this gives us permission to commit crimes against them because we have degraded them to a lower form of humanity. Where radical Islamists utilize rational gymnastics in justifying the killings of innocent humans despite it being clearly a violation of core Islamic principles, Trump justifies racial discrimination even when it is against the values of American society. The justification of their murder is acceptable as human beings can use this rhetoric to diminish the stress (fear) of guilt that exists in their minds in exchange for perceived ‘righteousness’.  Irrespective of whether the person who is categorizing others be a radical preaching the death of all Americans or Europeans OR Donald Trump calling for forbidding entry of Muslims into the US or proposing discriminant policy of requiring ID badges for Muslims as Hitler did of the Jews in WWII.

Activating fear in a society may allow for public support of reducing civil liberties and increasing governmental power.  Just as a child who is scared of a bully is likely to hand over responsibility of dealing with that bully to their older sibling, the public is likely to hand over responsibility of dealing with Muslims to their governments.  The long term effects of this, is that it creates a vicious cycle, whereby Muslims are marginalized, victimized and therefore more likely to become aggressive towards their perceived oppressors playing right into the hands of the radicals and reinforcing extremist thinking.

I want to re-highlight a point made above.  During times of fear, individuals are likely to have tunnel vision. This is also due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.  They are only likely to see the immediate cause of the fear and unlikely to examine its origins.  Therefore, when fear is aroused in a nation, they are likely to blame ‘those bad Muslims or radicals’, but unlikely to ask the question of what produced those individuals.  This is known as scapegoating theory, whereby a single group in that society can be blamed, making it more comfortable for society to have a simple explanation for their problems.  It allows individuals to displace their emotions upon a ‘common enemy’.  Ironic is the case that other ethnic minorities jump on the bandwagon of Muslim bashing; we need to look no further than Ben Carson.  Individuals ignore the fact that there are some systematic set of foreign policies and a history that has marginalized certain groups of peoples across the world, engendering intense anger.  The radicals have been effective in helping recruit other radicals by displacing that anger on scapegoating all Americans.  This reality is harder to make sense of, as it requires us to examine our own deficiencies and faults.  This is also harder to reform.  Therefore, the easier solution is to create an oversimplified version of what is going on, that is easily swallowed by a public who is intensely afraid, thereby deferring political and social policy judgments to individuals in positions of power undermining the very essence of a democracy.

On the other hand, American Muslims play into this by attempting to disassociate themselves from religious symbols thereby reinforcing and strengthening the associations between symbols of Islam and extremism.  Again, this produces temporary relief in an effort to avoid being targeted, and creating long-term harm by reinforcing stereotypes.

Anxiety treatments in general work on the principle of engagement or facing the very feared stimulus.  Racism and categorical thinking is also demonstrated to be avoided through contact (known as contact theory), whereby there is non-superficial contact/engagement with the ‘other’ (unlike the typical saying, ‘I have a Muslim friend).  This is true at a micro level and at a macro level.  Therefore, temporary relief needs to be avoided in the interest of long standing solutions.  This means embracing the discomfort and leaning into the anxiety produced by engagement with the Muslim community, instead of marginalizing them, banning their entry (Flight) or fighting them.  The answer for American Muslims is to embrace religious symbols not handing them off to radicals to misrepresent or apologizing for all the crimes that they did not commit.  The reality is, individuals who hate, sacrifice a lot for it.  They are willing to die for hate and their twisted version of truth.  They have allowed their skewed morality and ethics to lean into the discomfort and literally sacrifice their lives for it.  The question remains: What are those who stand for truth and justice willing to give for it?  Until morally upright individuals will be brave enough to sacrifice at least half of the investment of the radicals, hate will prevail and will be continually reinforced in the masses through the propaganda of fear.  We have seen this historically, while different scapegoated groups in our history take turns being the collective whipping board for the problems of a society not ready to take accountability or make significant reforms in policy designed to address the roots of our problems.  The responsibility of leaning into this anxiety rests with each person as they make a choice in deciding whether their higher order morals and humanity will dictate the establishment of their attitudes.  Whether they will enact re-form, or be-formed by fear inducing messages of marginalization that lead to the collective isolation of those whom we don’t quite understand.

Art Therapy in the Muslim Community

Art Therapy in the Muslim Community

By:  Jasiah Latifi

Art therapy has been proven to be effective in reducing stressors, increasing physical and psychological wellness. For those who are facing fatal illness, art therapy has been utilized to help them cope, psychologically and improve their physiology, “there is evidence that art-based interventions are effective in reducing adverse physiological and psychological outcomes… in all 4 areas of creative artistic expression reviewed here, there are clear indications that artistic engagement has significantly positive effects on health.” (Stuckey, Nobel, 2010).  For those who are fated to live their life with a medical or mental illness, art therapy has been around to help them maintain themselves, “…People with cancer maintain a positive identity through engaging in art…” (Reynolds and Prior, 2006), and help them remain members of their communities. Kennett reported that a hospice center in London commissioned art murals to the residents of their facility as a method to integrate their residents as healthy enough to be back into society (Kennett, 2000), a method known to be a part of palliative care, an approach that is designed to help reduce pain, symptoms, and stresses such as physical and mental, in patients diagnosed with a serious illness. People who are diagnosed with an illness, whether it be mental or medical, may find it hard to communicate with those who come to visit them, or it could just as easily be the other way around, where people who come to visit the ill are unable to speak to them. Art helps bridge the gap between these people and help them overcome their inability to converse with one another. To have a conversation, words are just an option, a person can tell their loved ones how much they’re hurting through a picture, just like they could with words, but with art, it may be easier to send the message across, and it may be easier for others to receive the message. Communication is important to be a part of a society, or even a smaller-scale group like family and friends, and whatever words a person is struggling to get out, they can definitely utilize art therapy, and art in general, to speak volumes.

These methods of art therapy have been available to Muslims through artistic expressions that have come to be symbolic of Islamic history. The Muslim Community, for generations have found artistic expressions of their faith to have immense healing properties. It doesn’t just have to be a diagnosable disease or even a calamity that you are in need to work through, but rather to help yourself internally and to expand your spiritual wellness.  Art has been used traditionally in Islamic history as a method of cathartic processing.  It can also be a mode to allow one’s spirit, which contains inherent creativity, to be a mode of inspiration.  To date, calligraphists of the Muslim world sit around with their pupils allowing their spirits to radiate inspiration through the choice of Qur’anic scriptures they compose on paper.  These selections inspire the writer to approach life through a new lens.  The lens that is contained within the messages of the scriptures their hearts select.  Incorporating spirituality further into art therapy, can also further our interest in our religion through this process.  Inspiring greater adherence to the very spiritual codes that we hold dear to us by internalization of that which we compose.  In the book, Using Art Therapy with Diverse Populations, art therapy includes, but isn’t limited to: writing out Quran verses in calligraphy, or creating art of the Ka’ba. The book also mentions that art therapy sessions with members of the Muslim community often include images of the desert, camels, and even dates, all of which we find significant meaning in the stories of Islam, and our experiences with our religion (Prasad, Howie, Kristel, and Kingsley, 2013).

We can take this process of art therapy and help those ourselves and members of our community, by showing them that art isn’t just drawing rainbows and puppies, but rather by incorporating our deen into a process that can be a source of lowering ones inhibitions and anxieties. If conducted according to psychological bases, art therapy can be useful for many who struggle with the challenges of indecision and worries of life.  Through their art, one can learn to let one’s spirit, which has a capacity for divine intuition, lead.  For the Prophet (saaw) said, “be mindful of the believer, for verily he sees with the Light of God.”  Those who are suffering from either physical or psychological stress in the Muslim community can be reintegrated into the community by doing as those mentioned in the hospice center in London. However, for the Muslim there is a focus on creating art surrounding the history of their Muslim predecessors, or creating pieces that revolve around Quranic verses. Those who struggle with worldly troubles can pick up a their wooden piece, soak it up with ink and find an ayah or a hadith that speaks to them thereby putting their inner being onto a sheet of paper. Art Therapy is more than just about finding out what is wrong from a picture that you drew. The actual process of creating a piece of art in itself is therapeutic, and by incorporating our religion and spirituality into our pieces we can develop ourselves to become better Muslims, and improve our spirituality.

 

Social Phobia – Fear of Judgement?

Social Phobia

By: Fahad Khan

Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, it is characterized by strong feelings of being judged by others and being embarrassed.

Wait… I have these feelings all the time. Do I have this disorder?

Having feelings of being judged or being embarrassed is normal to everyone, especially Muslims. Every time we go out in public, or in specific areas (airports), we feel as if we are constantly being judged and we feel embarrassed. However, it is considered a disorder when these feelings become disruptive to our daily functioning and are caused by uncommon issues. For example, if you are afraid of wiping your nose in public, and you let it run after sneezing, that’s not normal. Being a Muslim and having anxiety over going in an airport or an airplane is normal and understandable due to societal stigmas. If you are at a point where you avoid going to these places and it disrupts your other areas of life, then you may be suffering with the disorder.

What are some symptoms of Social Phobia?

Some of the more common symptoms of Social Phobia include:

  • Anxiety over being with others and having a hard time talking to them
  • Being very self-conscious in front of others
  • Feelings of embarrassment
  • Afraid of being judged by others
  • Excessive worry about events with other people
  • Staying away from public places
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Experiencing physical and/or physiological symptoms around others (blushing, sweating, nausea, and raised heart rate etc.)

What causes Social Phobia?

Although the exact source of this problem has not been discovered, it may occur due to several factors. Social Anxiety Disorder can run in families giving it a genetic cause. It can also be prevalent in certain types of personalities. Lastly, it can occur due to past or current events. For Muslims, 9/11 can be attributed to Social Phobia.

Can it be treated?

Yes. The symptoms of Social Phobia can be managed with medications. Furthermore, psychotherapy can be most helpful in finding the origin of the problem and dealing with symptoms caused through the usage of exposure. Exposure is gradual in the context of uncovering the underlying origins and helping affirm positive opposite behaviors.  In any case, contact a professional if you believe that you have this problem.

What is the Islamic perspective on this issue?

Since I’m not an Islamic scholar, I can only present my professional opinion as Muslim therapist accustomed to utilizing Islamic concepts in therapeutic settings (Khalil Center). Social Phobia develops due to personal beliefs and practices formed over time. Working on it at a personal level can cure it. For instance, if you are suffering with Social Phobia, YOU have feelings of being judged by others, YOU are embarrassed of others, and YOU keep away from others etc. Increased self-awareness and mindfulness can EMPOWER YOU to become more aware of yourself and deal better with these symptoms.  Increased self-awareness can also allow you to understand the origin of some of your thought patterns and how they MAY or MAY NOT be conducive to your current level of functioning.  Awareness is the first pathway toward relief and change.

As Muslims, our belief is that Allah (SWT) is the one who will judge us. Muslims are encouraged not to judge others in any way, shape, or form. On the other hand, Islam is a collectivistic tradition and does emphasize the development of communal social norms.  As human beings, we are social animals and this element of being social, allows us to follow rules, establish order and avoid anarchy.  If people never worried about others appraisals of them, this would create chaos for humanity.  Some may say, ‘well others shouldn’t judge’, but the reality is:  as human beings it can be hard to be mindful of Allah’s presence at all times, therefore, social norms/company and the fear of their evaluation of you can be reinforcer for change.  It might not be a bad thing to change DUE to other’s evaluations, IF, you also subscribe to that belief/value yourself as a Muslim. For example, some Muslims are afraid of drinking alcohol in public due to fears of being judged. Well, this Muslim may think twice  before indulging in an impulsive desire in the moment if they live in a community where that is not socially acceptable.

HOWEVER: you may do something, which is lawful in Islam but may still feel the anxiety in public. This is a case where the public norm has been corrupted and is against the fitrah (natural human norms).  This is where the FEAR of others, although a healthy concept in its appropriate context can become maladaptive OR disorderly.

In that case, you have no other recourse but to firmly put your trust in only being judged by Allah (SWT) and no one else. This can help tip the balance back toward a healthy degree.  Certainly, social support in the form of good Muslim company who can reinforce and strengthen your resolve can help.  For example, if a Muslim is afraid of expressing necessary religious symbols in public where it may not be ‘popular’ to do so,  she/he should affirm her/his belief that she/he is doing so to follow the commandment of Allah (SWT) and that only He alone will judge her/him or reward her/him for their commitment. It is harder said than done but as existential psychologists say, ‘lean into the anxiety’ and face it head on!  This may be the pathway to your wilayah (friendship status with Allah).

Notes:

**Please be advised that presentation of suggested personal interventions are just used as an example and there are more comprehensive approaches that can offered in the therapeutic context.

**Minor additions were made by Hooman Keshavarzi