The Basic Skill of Communication!!

I was thinking the other day that being a human, in our own capacity what is the most difficult thing to do for us. And it turns out just today that its to listen.

P. S. i love the way in which which nature answers our thoughts.

To listen and not to answer technically goes against the human nature, for all our behaviors are a product of a stimulus response mechanism as explained by Thorndike and Skinner in their S-R Theories. That every human behavior is a reaction to some input from the environment. So if someone talks to us we respond back by talking.

One of the greatest challenges in my training for becoming a clinical psychology has been the struggle to control the impulse to respond by words and to replace my words with non-verbal responses. Beck’s concept of warmth and genuineness are not achieved without the verbal and non-verbal connotations of your attentive listening. So a ‘psychologist has to be a good listener’ is a very misunderstood and mis-quoted term for listening means actually listening and not responding to the verbal stimuli rather responding to the concern behind what has been said.

In our everyday communication if we start responding to the concerns and emotions rather than the words, i guess more than half a conflicts and arguments can be avoided. Relationships are built and broken with words because when in distress we are not aware of the words that we are using but these words do matter a lot in the long run. So being cognizant to what the person is saying and what we are retorting in should matter a lot.

So my communication motto; LISTEN TO THE EMOTIONS and not the words!!!


The Mircales, we call the people of Peshawar


12th January 2015, a day in Peshawar that felt as cold as the North Pole but was warmed in an instance by the high spirits of Peshawarities. This day was about to mark the resilience and determination of the people of Peshawar and so held great importance for us; the residents. The children of Army Public School Boys, Warsak Road Peshawar were coming back to the school after a month of that heinous attack that shook our entire nation to the core.

Since the day of this attack, people have been questioning the resilience of the people of Peshawar. This city has been in the line of fire since a few years, and has been one of the worst hit cities after the infamous 9/11 attacks.  Social scientists and health workers have been surprised at the way this city bounces back, they have called these people dead, sensitized to trauma, unconcerned with the pain, and it hurt every time to hear this, because making claims from miles apart and being here, experiencing is a very different story. I am glad to be a part of this important day to be witness to the strength of my people.

The day was marked by presumptions but I was relieved to see the turn out at the school. The parents and children came in as the time of the assembly approached, they came in a way that showed that they owned the place, they owned the casualties, the injured, and the incident. They owned it all, they knew it was their grief and they knew that they have to rise above it.

The green uniform shone bright in the cold day and carried the message of strength with it. I kept on looking at them and couldn’t help but think that people of Peshawar are a miracle for they are made to fall again and again but they rise even higher than before. Their strength is in their resilience, in their will to not bow down.

Today I saw the bereaved mothers, who have lost their sons, smiling and I saw the mothers, who had their children safe in front of them, crying their hearts out. And when I asked them how was this happening, their answers made me think on how are they at peace with themselves. The bereaved mothers said that we smile because even though we have lost a child, we have so many safe in front of us, these are all our children; the crying mothers said we cry for the loss of these mothers. I felt at a loss of words for we don’t see this display of emotion too often and look at these people, they own each other’s loss and pain, I don’t know exactly how highly admirable this is but I know that we are not a dead nation, we are not a lost nation, and we have not been sensitized to trauma.

We hurt and we feel, and we go past all that is bleak;

We ache and we scorn, and this is how we mourn;

We smile and we own, and this is how we Pashtoons are known!!!

Resilience and Strength

The concepts of resilience and sensitivity, pessimism and optimism, hurt and strength, feeling and being stone hearted; have become too mingled up for us Pakisanis since last Tuesday (16-12-14). The terrorists have taken away many innocent lives but along with that they have invoked many things in us as well (I am not going through any more details of how they did it, we all know it and would remember it till our last breath).

The most important question that is being asked here again and again is that are we resilient or have we grown insensitive. The debate sounds really convincing as it is backed by the emotional arguments but if we look at the definition of resilience, it goes like “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity” and “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” (Google). So it won’t be fair to call it insensitivity, or would it be?

They (the terrorists) have shaken us so badly that we have this enormous overflow of emotions and this outburst of emotions is natural but the point of concern is that we don’t even know what to do with all these emotions. They seem to have been pent up for so long. It is moments like these in which the real form of our expression comes out; i see all these comments on social media where people are making all sorts of points, blaming one party or another, shaming institutions and individuals, EXPRESSING ANGER in one direction or the other. And then i just look at my people, people of Peshawar, they are hurt but they are not handicapped, they are angry but they are not violent, they are staggering but they are not stopping. And their not stopping, for me is their resilience, their starting of the normal life is their strength for me. I came to Peshawar last Friday and i saw the deserted roads but on the very next day the roads and bazaars took up pace and the humdrum was back, the city seemed alive. They mourned and then carried on with life, this is resilience for me. Not being afraid and the ability to control the anger is resilience for me.

The incident would not and should not be forgotten but is holding it tightly benefiting us in anyway? I am just concerned as to how to give space to those parents and children of the teachers to hold their lost loved one’s in their hearts, i want to give them the space to sow their love in their hearts, i want them to have time to care for and flourish that love so that it heals them. Emotions are like tiny bursts of fire works…..if we direct them too close to earth, we might burn our hands or hurt others in the surroundings, but if we carry them high and strong they light up the sky.

Yes the incidence is very horrendous to say the least, yes it was our children, yes it was inhuman; but living in this geographical and political mess, we have suffered much and there is no surety of this ending soon so the point is that how are we taking it all, how is it affecting our ‘self’, how is it changing or chiseling our inner being.

It is a moment for self-growth, we hold a strong religious belief in fate and concepts of life and death. And we also know the fate of the zalim (cruel) and mazlum (sufferer). So this moment has been given to us to process our own self and make meanings for ourselves, times like this change our perspectives of life so lets just look inwards and build a stronger self rather than just crying over what’s lost. People do horrible things to others, the innocent have to suffer, human life is loosing its worth….think over these things and see what they mean to you, if we make peace with our emotions, the anger is automatically replaced by rational reasoning……..

Helping the Victims

The resilient Pakistani’s are trying to get in term with the heinous act of terrorism that hit too close to our hearts and souls. A lot has been lost but much is left to save. Trauma always hits us out of the blue and numbs as to the soul; the real pain starts after the trauma passes and the numbness wears off. but here the important consideration is that do the survivors and affectees need help now or do we have to hold on to our impulse to help them?

Since yesterday i have been getting these invites to join groups to go on with the psychological rehabilitation of the victims and their families; and the treatment of those who have developed PTSD. It made me think that isn’t it too early to jump in at this time? And how do we know who got PTSD, because its too soon to diagnose. And what are we going to help them with, like what is the plan? I discussed with my colleagues and supervisor; here is my understanding on this issue now and i want all the professionals to consider this before jumping in to help.

Whenever we are struck by trauma, an immediate normal human experience would include Post-traumatic stress (not disorder) as the people are terrorized, they are afraid for the loss of life or property, they are under the adrenaline fight and flight response where they are unable to process the experience in a rational manner. After the stress wears off, people start feeling grief; grief is a normal response to loss and it is multifaceted, it has emotional, physical, behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual affects. People go through this natural process to come to terms with the loss that they have experienced, it is a process through which people try to normalize the trauma and to move on with their life. Grief has five stages, and everyone passes through these stages on their own pace and this DOES NOT determine if they have developed a pathology. The stages are:

  1. Denial —— here the person is unable to accept what has happened and they would deny by saying something like “No this can’t happen to me”.
  2. Anger —– here the person experiences extreme anger on why they had to suffer, why did they loose. “Why me?” “What have i done wrong?”
  3. Bargaining ——- in this stage the person starts absorbing that he/she has suffered a loss and he/she would like to get the loved one back by giving up anything; statements like “Why didn’t i die in his place?” “Please God take all that i have but give me my kid back”
  4. Depression —– in this stage the sadness actually sinks in and the person realizes that they have lost it and they can not get it back by any way now. This is the stage of silent mourning.
  5. Acceptance —— finally the person reaches the stage of acceptance, where they learn that the trauma has happened and they have to live without the loved one now.

These stages like i said take their own time and any individual might remain in one or the other for varying amount of time and it is TOTALLY NORMAL reaction to trauma.

Here onward some people might linger on with some reminiscent of the depressive stage and have a deeply engraved effect on their cognition which might change their world view in a way that they develop certain behaviors to avoid the trauma, and slightest cues give them extreme distress (re-experiencing) bringing back all the memories. This leads to dysfunction and maladjustment in everyday life and finally the person can be diagnosed with a Post Traumatic Stress DISORDER (PTSD). And researches prove that in general, in any event there are only 15-20% of people who have a tendency to develop PTSD.

So i would strongly suggest that we need to let people experience grief as they want to before jumping in with our treatments. And during this time we need to plan, train, and prepare; before we go out in the field. We all want to help i know, i feel the same but this would be serving myself and not those suffering people because they might not be in need of it yet.

Losing a generation

Yesterday was the worst nightmare for everyone who belongs to Pakistan or rather i would say anyone in the world who is connected to humanity by even a frail thread. More than a 100 students, children, minor little children were massacred barbarically along with their teachers on their school premises by some armed inhuman beings, in the name of revenge. They were martyred because their fathers are fighting the war on terror, they payed for an act of protecting masses within their motherland as well as a major chunk of the world. Their precious blood was spilled for every bloody reason that their fathers never imagined would happen to their children, they had left them here for safety while they took charge at the borders. It kills me to think of how many mothers might have died in the last one night and for how long would they carry their corpses to go through this life.

My beautiful city Peshawar has payed the worst price for all that has happened. It is a place that we call home, it is a place that warms up our hearts and these hell of monsters have tried to harm its integrity once again but this time the brutality is beyond grasp of any sane the human mind. I am hurting like all my country men and women, i am frustrated at these events, and i am afraid for all the people i love. Being far from home, there is this urge to look at my loved ones, to touch them and ensure that they are fine and safe just the way i left them. We have never felt this unsafe, we the people of Pakistan are a very resilient nation, and i know we would survive this one too but i am thinking about our children, the coming generations.

The cognitive behavioral psychology, talks about the role of schemas (the belief patterns that determine our outlook on life) in our behaviors and the appraisal of the events around us. Once a schema forms, it becomes the glass through which we would view everything around us. Mal-adaptive schemas lead us to dysfunctional behaviors and these are usually formed through early learning or a traumatic event, in a few people that leads to mental illness and syndromes. My question here is that what do we do with an entire generation that grows up with a schema of “vulnerability to harm”? What do we do if they have a strong world view of “world is a dangerous place” “People are all hurtful”? How do we deal with these children if they learn that “Human life has no value”? I mean WHAT????

It is happening to us right here in front of our eyes and we are not even able to tell them that it is not true because now they are experiencing it first hand on their own. How many children would we treat? How many schemas can we unearth-en? How many mothers would be secure about sending their children out for anything?

These thoughts are taking the best of me and this pain is way too much to be silently contained. I pray for all the parents who lost their precious gems yesterday, we all know that they are in a much better place. I pray the parents have the courage to bear this extreme loss. May Allah be with us all…Ameen

The strongest bond of Love.

Aristotle said that “Man is by nature a social animal”, we are born into this world in a web of relationships and we add to this web as we grow older. We cannot survive alone in this world so on every stage of our life we form bonds, get into relationships, sometimes with the same people again and again; and at times with new people on every step. The first ever relationship that we form is with the parents to whom we are born, we depend on them for our survival for a considerable time, till we find our peers who lead us towards discovering the secrets of the world and open new perspectives that were so far hidden from us. As we grow older, we discover the forbidden fruit of young love and form deeper relationships that make us emotionally vulnerable and at the stake of another person; at times these relationships continue and at others they break, tearing us badly.

At all these times, whenever there is a bump on the way we always find ourselves back to where we started from; back to the first string of this web that makes our lives. We lean back on our parents because we know that they would be there to hold our back, no matter what goes wrong, no matter how wrong we are, they are always there standing firm to give us a hand.

I often wonder, what are parents made up of like it has to be something too special for they have hearts made of gold that can melt at the sight of their children. They have rules made of steel but they have doors in them that open with a key of love. They have eyes that only emit warmth, and they have forgiveness as their aura for no matter what the children do they endure it just for their happiness. It takes some very precious qualities from the Creator’s treasure to mold parents.

There are times when i can see a bit of them (my parents) in me. Often, people tell me that i resemble my mother, they tell me that i have the confidence of my father. When i look at the mirror i see the green of my mother’s eyes and brown of my father’s in my own hazel eyes, as i am typing (right now) i see the delicate curves of my mother’s fingers and the fullness of my father’s hands in my own. It like i am them, i am an extension of them and in this moment all the relationships that i have ever formed seem so remote because what can be greater than this affinity. And can i imagine how the parents feel about us? Not in a million years i would say.

Parents are precious; they nurture us and protect us like we are their sole treasures but come to think of it, its not them who need us, its us. They don’t come to us for hugs or advice, they don’t depend on us and they don’t need us as their backup. Its us; so why do we ever break them, why do we have to show them that we have moved on (grown up) and we have new bonds that are better than them. We need to keep them close and hold them tightly, for we all have to leave this world but we certainly don’t want to cry in despair for making those eyes cry who only wanted a glimpse of us.

I believe that everything was made with a purpose and parents, above all, were made to be treasured, respected, loved, and adored!!!!

Shams of Tabriz’s 40 Rules of Love

The rules for a fulfilling life.

The Vision

Rule 1

How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.

Rule 2

The path to the Truth is a labour of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

Rule 3

You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true…

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There is this very funny thing called “Pain” that defines most of our lives and glints in the decisions we make for ourselves. I was watching this movie awhile ago and i was left with this eerie feeling by the end because life went on for all of them…..everything was the same, just one person was missing, the one person who brought them all together was no more but everything went on as it was, nothing stopped, i felt sad but then i was smiling because everything went on perfectly.

Most of our life is spent in avoiding this thing called pain; we fear it, we run from it, we ignore it, we find ways to live around it, and we pray that we never come across it. But its always there, every single moment it sits there by our side ready to grip us tightly. It is sharp yet its not swift, it gets a hold of us but seeps in like water; drop by drop but settles only when it fills us to the brim and we can breath no more.

It seems to me that a person is born into this world with a whole heart but in due time life digs into this heart and all these craters are then filled up with pain, to make us whole again. Its funny when we look at it in this way but see the pain never leaves us it is there but still we are all well functioning people. People live no matter how much they loose, they get up no matter how hard they fall, they mend no matter how hard they crack, and they move forward no matter how heavy the shackles are in their feet; and every time you ask them how, they would tell you that pain guided their journey.

Ignorance is a bliss i guess because the more we know and the more we think, the more it disturbs us. People loose their parents and they live, they loose their children and they still live, they loose parts of themselves and still they survive because nature mends them through pain. And as much as i know it; it makes my fear grow stronger, and this fear makes me more positive about the life i have.

I know that i have to cherish those i love while i am still by their side, because i know i am going to cherish them till the moment i take my last breath, but whats the point of cherishing them with the pain stabbing my chest. I would cherish them as much as i can while the pain is nowhere in sight. We all need to make our smiles so contagious that everyone forgets their stabbing pain in our presence…….and we all need to make sure that we don’t dig at any hearts, knowingly so that pain has a hard time finding its way.

Our Take on things…

Today i was reminded of my first class of fine arts. When i sat down to make the first ever mono-chromatic live drawing of my life, the teacher placed an apple and some grapes with a bottle perched upon one another and asked us to draw it. The class scattered all around the table with the items and got to work, since it was out first time and first class, nervousness prevailed so we tried to sought help from the practiced hands of our class….in doing so we realized that if we keep on copying their sketch lines we won’t be making the drawing from our respective perspectives it would rather be from their angle.

It seemed like a problem at that time and we all took pains to maintain our own positions and drawing boards in hand we kept on going by trial and error. The end result was a wall full of grapes and apples in different colors and from different angles… showed how different we all were, what colors we chose and what angles we took.

We all have a take on whatever we come across, be it a person walking down the road or a series on tv; we pick, choose, and act upon what grasps our attention. We understand the angle to which first our environment exposes us and secondly the perspective our mind takes on it. It means that our perception is deeply effected by our context, the spectrum through which we view the world and the workings of our mind……the flow of thoughts, the use of specific senses.

The nature of primary delusions……the topic of debate today, is this very same spectrum that is showing us what our mind intends to, with in our own specific context. If i think that people look at me while i am eating because i eat clumsily, it should be so in my context as i might have, at some point in time been clumsy at eating and from there my paradox started  (Delusions of memory) though people might not have not noticed me at all at that point in time. Or it might happen that some parts of our random stream of thoughts is magnified out of the blue (Delusion of intuition) and we come face to face to a very novel idea like i am an extraordinary person as everyone is in awe of me. Or someone might notice a sign as being related to something poles apart, like the chirping of birds and the sound of an airplane may indicate trouble for someone (Delusions of perception).

Human mind is as complex as anything can get because we can neither break it down, nor look for its sequential processes, we can only infer……and the most complicated of all its dynamics is the process of thinking. It is ever continuous, ever complicated, and ever expanding, connecting various threads into its already complicated web of strings. The more i study it, the more i get confused at times but then i try to break down my own thoughts to make new connections to decipher the hidden answers for myself. Angles might be distinct, perspectives might be different, and understanding might vary but the underlying working is the same in all the human minds……we sought at making links between in our new and old knowledge; one incorrect link and a new tangle starts forming.

The Streams of Thoughts

The concept of reality and truth has been very vague long since the conception of the recording of the thoughts of great minds. I add truth to it because truth is often told and seldom seen and whatever is told has to have a tinge of surrealism to it. So the question has always been that what is the actual reality, be it the reality of our existence, anyone’s behavior, any event, or of our own behavioral interactions.

Over the years theorists like the constructivists, noted that we construct our realities ourselves. We sense, perceive, and then derive our own meanings to the reality. Associationists attributed our ability to associate things into meaningful wholes to the understanding of our reality. And then finally the critical theorists who brought in the scientific concepts in understanding the reality.

If we closely observe the way we think, understand, and respond to the people around us, it is surprising to know that we are all stuck in many of these theoretical orientations. We go with the obvious, we make assumptions, and we go with whatever comes first; never going beyond the picture and never giving the other people the benefit of doubt.

We walk out of our homes everyday thinking how people would look at us but we ourselves hardly notice a few people who come head straight towards us. The world is a blurred mirage for most of our senses, like the buzzing of a bee or the ticking of a wall clock that we only notice when everything else becomes too consistent with the surroundings or when someone points it out to you. The human behaviors appear to me with in the same phenomenon, our mind is in a flow a constant coming and going of splashing waves through a dark tunnel, these waves are mostly audible but only visible when they pass through the slight openings of light. It is these slight illuminations that makes us take notice of specific things, and by illumination i do not mean the sudden intellectual awakenings its just a random attentional phase like the accurately distanced street lights on a dark alley.

When the distance between these street lights gets random and we start focusing on the less important, non-significant parts….that is where a totally new stream breaks out. Human mind and conscious gets as complicated as we try to unravel it but this is how i see it……this is how a dysfunctional thought occurs for me 🙂