Understanding TRAUMA: How to deal with cognitive distortion.

We all came to tell ourselves one day: Why nothing is working out for me? Why am I accumulating so many failures? Why me?
Is the reality just as we perceive it or is our brain capable of filtering the good things happening (even so little) and put them aside? Which side of our filter are we nurturing?

In this episode Trauma: Your Lord Has Not Forsaken YouDr. Najwa Awaddetails how our minds can alter the reality (cognitive distortion filtering) and how does it affect us, while proposing to try some techniques.

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Transcription:[…] we’re going to be talking about filtering when bad things seem to be happening back to back and it’s just one trial after another.You might be bogged down with pain and feeling like you’re in a big storm and just can’t seem to get out as one bad thing happens after another .You might start to wonder is there something wrong with me? Why do bad things only happen to me? How is it possible that so many trials can happen to me and not other people?

When you begin to have these questions, then in your mind you start to build up these assumptions or unhealthy ways of thinking and then eventually by sees about how the world work.

When you are internalizing these negative things that happen to you then you begin to look at the world in the same light.

 

Dr. Najwa Awad  continues giving practical examples about how we can overlook the good things in our daily lives to focus on the bad things, to finally have these great little blessing stuck up in our “mind-filter” until it becomes a habit.

She explains a very interesting concept that she calls “self-fulfilling prophecies”.

Transcription:

[…]like a coffee filter all the things go inside but only the negative comes out and over time it really begins to impact mood, it begins to impact productivity because everything around you just seems to be negative.

So one of the really destructive things that filtering does, it builds up these self-fulfilling prophecies.

 

She gives an example of a woman with low self-esteem, who has internally built this filter that says that she is worthless. The way we perceive ourselves will affect the way others perceive us, and then others will act according to it.

A more scientific approach of this phenomenon is explained in the video at 2m39sec describing a study that happened in the 1960s

[…] there was a landmark study done in the 1960s in which teachers were told that certain students in the class were ready to bloom.

They did IQ tests in the eighth year and at the end of the year, they did the same test as well and they found that those people, who were ready to bloom, which actually were just randomly picked, […] significantly did higher on their IQ test and that’s all because the teacher had a different perception of them and nurtured them in a way which helped them bloom.

Now that we can acknowledge that this mind- filtering exists, and how it can affects ourselves and our environment, what are the solutions? How can we train our brain?

Dr. Najwa Awad talks about taking a step back, using reflection, empowering ourselves and trying one simple “tool” as Muslims to help us proportionate our pain called “through the prophet’s awesome eyes”. This tool is most effective if you try to learn about the life, pains and struggles of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) .

Transcription:

 […] how can I take these events in my life that are neutral and how can I turn them into something better? How can I impose myself on the world and make it a better place?

[…]through the prophet’s awesome eyes.

When you’re feeling negative and that everything around you just feels really terrible…what exercise to do in your head? Close your eyes […] if he (our Prophet SAW) was sitting in front of me?

What blessings would he say that I had and he doesn’t?

If you think about it, he had so many traumatic events in his life: he was in poverty, he didn’t have food to eat, and he was persecuted …so when you look at it from that framework what blessing (even through small blessing) do you have that he doesn’t?

When you look at it from that perspective you will reflect and you will see that maybe there are more positive things in your life than you would have thought.

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