Saturday, 7 January 2017

Depression vs Gratitude

Why does popular culture glorify and fetishize depression?

Paul Joseph Watson's cultural videos are actually better than his political ones, and tend to get more views and likes. It is always useful to have a cultural critique from someone who has been raised and still lives in that particular culture. What they observe and state carries a certain authenticity that can seldom be matched by an outsider or mere observer.

In this video (warning: some profanity), Watson addresses the deliberate, fabricated epidemic called depression. What used to be defined as mere dissatisfaction with one's life is now seen as a sort of “chemical imbalance” that can be treated by medication. This is corporatism at work again as well as cultural Marxism, because the end game is to create a populace of weak-minded sissies who have little control over their emotions and will thus turn to the state to pass laws and create "safe spaces". A strong victim mentality breeds dependency.

“Depression” is not countered by medication but rather by one's life decisions, according to the video, and this is very true. One has to be responsible and consider the consequences of one's actions and decisions instead of being reckless and irresponsible and expecting others to rectify one's mistakes. 

However, that's not all, especially for believers. Even if you are genuinely depressed, i.e. you have lost a loved one or you suffer from a serious illness, there are ways to overcome it and bring peace into your heart:

1)  Be grateful. Allah says, “If you are grateful, I will increase you.” [Ibrāhīm 14:7] I am sure you have heard this before, so how can you be grateful in a practical sense? One thing you can do is to to write down, every night before you go to bed, ten things that you are grateful for that day. Obviously, there are things that you are grateful for every day, such as your faith, your family, your provision and so forth, but look at the "lesser" things that happen to you every day. Did someone show you kindness today? Did someone smile at you? Did a stranger do you a favour? Think about it. Allah says that He is as His slave thinks of Him, and every day “good things” and “bad things” happen. Therefore, focus on the good things that happen and, Lord willing, you will come to see every day as a good day, and Allah will increase you therein because of your gratitude. Also, I say “good things” and “bad things” because many things turn out to be the opposite after some time has passed. What you think is bad right now might be seen as something wonderful a few months from now, and vice versa.

2) Understand and know that the dunyā, i.e. this worldly life, will always frustrate you and disappoint you. Things will never fall into place just as you want them, e.g. your relationships, your career, your finances etc., and even if they do, it certainly won't last. This sounds negative, but once you understand that this is the nature of the world and therefore you stop seeking happiness and fulfillment from it, that will bring peace and happiness to your heart. Perfection is for the next life.

3) Do dhikr. Again, I'm sure this sounds familiar, so let's look at it practically. Depression and stress are actually caused, or at least exacerbated, by excessive thinking. Imam ʿAbdur Raḥmān ibn al-Jawzī, may Allah have mercy on him, in his book at-Ṭibb ar-Rūḥānī, i.e. spiritual medicine, has a chapter on how to counteract excessive thinking, and the following two chapters deal with ḥuzn (grief) and hamm (anxiety). Grief concerns the past, while anxiety concerns the future, and we seek refuge in Allah from both in our supplications. Imam Ibn al-Jawzī points out that thinking about the past should only involve trying to grasp something beneficial from the past, while thinking about the future should be concerning some future benefit. Thinking about anything else will be harmful and exhaust the body. Grief should only be about one's previous sins so that one does not repeat them, not about worldly things.

Dhikr means remembrance of Allah, but not in the past or in the future but now, in the present. To do dhikr properly, you need to clear your mind, and thus your heart, from excessive, harmful thoughts about the past and the future. You need to come into the present moment and fully appreciate it and experience it. Don't see the present moment as simply a means to an end or an obstacle that needs to be overcome. The moment you have right now is the only time you really have, so embrace it, surrender to it and remember Allah. You can't change the past, so leave it. As for the future, you aren't there yet, so you can't do anything about any future event or situation until it actually becomes the present, and when it does, you will have the resources and wherewithal to deal with it. Put your trust in Allah and have a good opinion of Him. Concentrate on your dhikr and it will be soothing and healing. Allah says,

“...those who believe and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of Allah. Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace.” [ar-Raʿd 13:28]

Stress is often made worse when you are forced to wait for something, for example while stuck in a traffic jam or standing in a queue. You get angry and frustrated, but there's nothing you can do about that situation. Why not just accept it and use that time to do dhikr? Everyone has situations like this every day, so take advantage of them and use them to draw closer to Allah instead of resisting them. Resisting will only make you more stressed and more frustrated, and thus you will suffer. Surrender to the moment and connect with your Lord, and He will bring peace and ease to your heart. Allah says,

“Has not the time arrived for the hearts of those who believe to yield to the remembrance of Allah...” [al-Ḥadīd 57:16]

4) Last but not least, be careful with your “consumption” of news, especially TV news. Mainstream news is by and large sensationalist so that you keep watching all the way through to the commercial break. News broadcasters and newspaper publishers have to play with your emotions and trick you into thinking that what they're telling you is really important and will have some drastic impact on your life. This obviously has the potential to cause undue stress and even depression. For further details, please see the book How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman and Steve Powers.

And with Allah alone is every success.

Related Posts: 
Fatwa on Mental Illness

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