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Grieving Palestine and Afghanistan? Here’s how to cope:

Grieving Palestine and Afghanistan? Here’s how to cope:

Let’s face it, it’s hard to go on with life as normal. We’re faced with images and videos of genocides and natural disasters all day. We become emotionally attached to people stuck in these harsh conditions who are recording the trials they face on social media and if we’re part of diaspora communities, we’re navigating our emotions and the emotions of others whose families are stuck in such scary situations.

People aren’t sleeping, but finding it difficult to get out of bed. Some are filled with anger, whereas others are filled with sadness. Some are trying to get along with their lives as they try to get out of the quick-sand puddle of grief, whereas others are frozen in guilt.

To understand how we navigate these emotions, we need to understand the emotions and what they represent. Our first emotional reaction to something is a primary emotion, and the secondary emotion comes after we’ve processed the first emotion. However, without emotional training, we risk suppressing the root primary emotion and will feel the secondary emotion straight away.

This means when we’re processing our emotions, we’ll process the secondary emotion to get to the suppressed primary emotion underneath. When we don’t know this is happening, it feels as if you’re falling into a scary black hole of negative emotions that you can’t get out of, when you’re ticking off a list of core emotions that your heart can access when your nervous system feels safe enough to do so.

Anger is one of the most common secondary emotions right now. Underneath anger is often suppressed fear and sadness. You know you’re feeling anger as a secondary emotion when it’s used to numb the pain of feeling other emotions. You feel angry when you don’t want to process the sadness you feel by crying into a pillow or to a friend over the phone.

To liberate yourself from this, you need to process your anger by journaling, speaking to a friend and feeling it heavily. This only works when you do this process to let it go and trust that you’ll feel safe enough to deal with the emotion underneath. Feeling anger for the sake of suppressing it all over again will only create more anger.

This is the same with other secondary emotions such as shame and numbness. Where does this shame come from? Where in your body do you feel numb? If these emotions could speak to you, what do they say?

A good exercise to contain and let it go is to close your eyes and take deep breaths to relax your nervous system. Keep your hand on your belly so you can feel your breathing from the deepest part of your lungs. Then imagine the first emotion that comes to you. What does this emotion look like? Does it have a colour? A shape? A texture? A sound? Familarise yourself with it as a physical entity so you can feel safe dealing with it. Then ask yourself where you can feel this in your body and if it has any messages for you.

When you speak to the emotion as if it’s separate from you, you’re able to understand it from a space of neutrality and it’s not as scary to deal with it because you’re not identifiying with it. You are not the anger, you’re feeling anger. You are not the depression, you’re feeling depression.

Questions to ask:

· What brings you here?

· What are you trying to teach me?

· How do you relate to my childhood?

· When was the first time I felt you?

· How can I process you and set you free from my mind and body?

· What emotions are underneath you?

The most important thing is to use your intuition. Treat these emotions as vulnerable children, because ultimately, they need to be seen, heard and understood so they can leave. This is what it means to process.

You can also visualise the way this emotion looks like and repeat dua as you breathe deeply until you see it get smaller and smaller until it dissolves. Then journal any lessons you got from it. I’d recommend doing both.

Repeat the process for subsequent emotions that come up.

Personally, because I’ve addressed the root cause of my secondary emotions outside of being Palestinian, when something happens, I go straight into the primary emotion of sadness and grief and I am able to process them fast because I’ve been working on my emotional intelligence for years.

The more you process, the more open you become and the easier it is to deal with negative emotions and alchemise them into inspired actions of change.

Awareness is power because once you understand why your mind works the way it does, you can rise above your unconscious patterns and draw new neuropathways that come from a space of safety, abundance and love. By doing this, the way you respond to things will change and subsequently, that transforms your whole life.

It’s not an easy process to start, but once you’ve done it enough, you’ll know how it works.

Why is this important in times of oppression?

To answer this, look at the way you've been feeling and how it has affected your life. We can’t operate in solidarity and assistance with those who need us when we’re not operating at our full capacity. Allah asks us to strive for ihsan, excellence, in everything we do.

How can you possibly fill the cup of others if yours is empty? How can you pray for others if you’re not motivated to pray in the first place? How can you donate if you’re unable to work? How can you comfort others and help them process their emotions if you can’t process your own? What’s the point in advocating if you feel depleted after every interaction and you burn out?

Understand that those who need you are served in the best way when you give them power, not pity. You can only do this if you feel powerful because basic psychology teaches us that you reflect the energy that you internalise. If you’re having a bad morning, it’ll affect the rest of your day. The same principle applies to this.

Use this time as a way to understand yourself better and to access and process the raw, primary feelings that have been stuck inside you since childhood, or maybe even generations.

Allah does not change our condition until we change ourselves, so change yourself through healing with the intention of making you a stronger believer. Allow your heart to soften and open so your action can come from a space of yaqeen, conviction in Allah’s goodness.

Heal in the name of Allah. Process with the intention to get closer to him. Change the world from a space of purity and love.

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