THE THIRD FORCE IN THERAPY
I read this paper at the 1st. Muslim Psychological Conference held at Lahore, 5th.-7th. April 1995.
Dedicated to my father,Muhammad Yusaf Khan Khattak, who taught me about the love of God.
Many forms of therapy have been used for mental distress since the earliest ages, from the very crude to the very sophisticated, from the beneficial to the injurious. Modern Psycho-therapy is based on the Western model. I believe that the increasing reliance on, and the total acceptance of Western thought is drawing the East away from its rich religious and philosophical inheritance. In its' emphasis on objectivity, the West loses a very important aspect which is at the core of the human psyche, i.e., the subjective, close-bonding of Man with God. This bonding comes about through religious belief systems that underlie and connect Man with God, and has always been the most important factor of indigenous psycho-therapy. All types of 'DUM' (special prayer to cure) and 'TAWIZ' (amulet) are an affirmation of the very real role of God in the therapeutic situation.
Religious belief systems support an individual, in the sense of making him more capable of handling stress with the least possible mental distress, through the twin vehicles of 'DUA' and 'TAUBA'. 'Tauba' (to ask for forgiveness) helps alleviate stress by purging one of guilt, and thus the stress engendered by it.
'Dua' (prayer), on the other hand, gives hope of a better tomorrow and courage to go on, in the face of any misfortunes and crises that may arise in the course of life.
In this scientific age one is often made to feel that speaking of God and religion in the scientific context is out of place; as religion and science have been effectively detached from one another by Western Materialism. The fact remains, that in today's world, where we face rampant consumerism, discord and stress at almost every level, from the disintegrating family system to international discord, a closer relationship with God and an acceptance of His Will is more than necessary; it is the crying need of the hour ...... it is our only hope of salvation.
Since the beginning of time, Mankind's intellectual history bears the imprint of his desperate need, and intense search for God. This deep need leads me to assume that it points to a natural connection between the Creator and the created; that is, between God and Man.
Intellectualization, pseudo-sophistication, denial and the scientific desire to get clear cut answers to every question, may lead to doubts concerning God's role in Man's life. These doubts lead to the development of obstructions in the natural connection between the individual and God; eventually, all things spiritual are more and more sidelined in the rat race of a life without God's steadying power.
Blockages are often manifested as psychological symptoms. In the absence of any clear cut symptoms, individuals are found to complain of a dissatisfaction that interferes with their experience and enjoyment of life, their `joie de vivre'. They feel alone and aloof, as though they are spectators rather than participants in their own lives. They feel that their actions are of no consequence, and that anything they did could relieve their feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction and loneliness. This conviction of aloneness, hopelessness, and dissatisfaction results in mental anguish, or what existentialists would call 'angst'.
Such people often come to this state of affairs when they find that their fundamental belief in God, (often, the faith of their childhood), is not reassuring enough, after they have become more educated, sophisticated and have learned the scientific method of discovering the "truth". They sneer at blind faith as the faith of ignorance, little realizing that certain truths are beyond the pale of man's intellect and can only be felt intuitively. The intellect cannot answer metaphysical questions ..... just as we cannot see with our ears and hear with our eyes!
The `God intoxicated' striving of Mankind, from the cave-man onwards, points to the fact that belief is not only an integral part of Man's psyche, but is also a very necessary component of it. It is separate from the intellect; yet, intellectual acceptance is essential in the full development of the God/Man relationship. The less logical and more intuitive right brain, that represents feelings and holistic perceptions may be the area, in my opinion, which is most concerned with this intuitive acceptance and understanding of Man's relationship with, and need of God.
Another factor contributing to Mankind's mental anguish is the constant struggle for control, whether of himself, of others or of situations and relationships. This struggle is, again, a result of the Western scientific model, which encourages the development of an individual ego. It perceives Man as an end unto himself. This view stems from the conviction that there is no higher intellect above Man, and that there is no one but oneself to whom one can turn to, and that it is a form of cowardice to surrender ones' freedom, even to God. According to this belief, Man is alone in the world, and death and extinction is his destiny. On finding that it is not always possible to be in control of everything, all the time, the resulting frustration is eventually directed inward, upon one's self, as under such circumstances one is led to believe that the fault could only lie within.
If the purpose of life is spiritual evolution and development, this can only come about when we yield an integral place to God, in our lives. The quiet resignation of submitting to God's Will, (which, incidently, is the meaning of the word `Islam'), and accepting everything that happens in life as God's Will, is a reflection of an inner strength that develops through a strong bond with God. This inner strength cannot survive, and is not possible, without a firm, complete and unadulterated belief in God's Omnipotence, Justice and Infinite Mercy.
Resignation to God's Will is not the same as Marxian anomie or alienation; in which, feeling helpless, hopeless and alone, one sinks into apathy. Resignation or surrender to God's Will results from a strong belief that help is on hand, and that there is an, as yet, unrecognizable pattern in all that happens in this world. It is dynamic without being turbulent, it is soothing, without being somnolent and it alleviates, instead of adding to stress. This attitude of surrender and resignation to God's Will reflects a surety that everlasting life rather than extinction is Mankind's destiny. Thus, if one does not learn to resign one's self to God's will, stress would eventually leads to frustration, anxiety, and finally, various psychosomatic disorders.
The Psychologist, J.V. Brady, gave experimental verification of this view of the development of psychosomatic disorders. He paired two monkeys in an apparatus. In front of each was placed a lever switch. Electrodes capable of delivering shocks were attached to the feet. A learning task was arranged so that if the monkey pressed the lever at the appropriate time, shocks that were otherwise delivered every 20 seconds would not occur. Only one monkey was allowed to prevent the shocks in this fashion and he was designated, the executive monkey. The other monkey was a yoked control, in that, he simultaneously received the same shocks and general treatment as the executive, but his behaviour had no effect on the shocks he received. After about 23 days the executive monkey died of gastric ulcers. The control monkey was found to be in good physical health. Confronted by a client displaying symptoms of a blockage in his or her connection with God, it is vital that the therapist approaches the task gradually, undemandingly and unobtrusively. Although it cannot be seen or measured, the force of God's Love and Mercy is always present in such a situation; working at helping to remove the blocked connection. This Love and Mercy is what I call the Third Force, and it is always present in the therapeutic situation where one is working at eliminating the blocked connection between God and the individual.
It is only when one comes to a full and complete belief in God's omnipotence, a belief that emanates from the very core of ones' being; intellectually, emotionally and psychologically, that it reflects in the easing of the restlessness, 'dis'-ease and psychological symptoms. The only important factor being that this belief must come from within. As a lightening conductor protects a building from being struck, so does the belief in God "earth" or "ground" an individual, thus protecting him from mental disintegration when faced with misfortune and tragedy.
Without a firm belief in God there is no hope, without the rituals of religion there is no direction to hope; together they result in a strength that cannot be defeated by life. Rituals of all religions unite the inner force that strong faith and belief impart; disciplining it, channelizing it and giving it direction.
It is of dire importance to Mankind to restore the discarded or ignored connection with God. When this connection is loosened one loses God; and when one loses God, one loses an integral part of one's Self. Only a complete person can withstand the stresses of life, and only complete faith gives one the courage and the strength to face adversity. Once one is successful in restoring the connection between Man and God, God takes over the therapeutic situation, and helps His tortured and tormented beings to come to terms with themselves and their lives.
Such a philosophy of Man's connection with, and need of, God is close to the doctrines of mysticism. There is a strong pantheistic element in Mysticism. Pantheism is `the doctrine that the Divine is all-inclusive. Man and Nature are not independent of God, but are modes or elements of His being. Its precise significance depends on the initial conceptions of God and independence. In pantheistic thinking there is no place that is not inhabited by God. If God is Omnipresent, then he will have to be present everywhere. Since God speaks of being closer to us than the aorta, it is that kind of closeness or unity that is desired by mystics. The recognition of the nearness of God, and of uniting with Him. A union to the extent that the self eventually dissolves into, and becomes one with The Infinite Being. The individual ego becomes non-existent, it only exists in God. This union is expressed by the mystic's unconditional love for God's creation, as he sees The Creator's hand in each of His creatures. This union does not mean becoming God. The mystic seeks to extinguish his self (fana) in the essence of God. The Self comes between Man and God, as the Self has desires and passions that lead him astray. When the Self ceases to exist as a separate entity, the mystic can glorify in God, single-mindedly. Mansur (the muslim mystic) said 'An'nul Haq' (I am god), and he was brutally punished . In the mystics understanding, he did not claim god-hood, his claim was that he is 'A' reality, not 'THE' Reality. The hand of his Creator was all he could see within himself. The same desire to extinguish the Self as a separate entity is seen in Khusro's persian verse:
'man tu shudam, tu man shudi;
man jan shudam, tu tan shudi.
Ta kas na goyad ba'ad az ein, man deegaram, tu deegari!
(Translation: May it so happen that, I become as you; and you, me. I, the breath, and you the body. So that it can nevermore be said, that you and I are not one.)
Union is the end product of 'FANA', the process by which the soul is gradually isolated from all that is foreign to itself, from all that is not God. He who dies to Self, lives in God. 'Fana', the consummation of this death marks the attainment of 'baqa', or union with the divine life. This does not mean that man becomes God. It merely means that "the inborn qualities of humanity are changed and transmuted by the all-powerful radiance that is shed upon them from the divine Realities". Union with God, would therefore mean a life in which man's will is united with God. There is no concept of the wishes or desires of an 'I' or a 'me'. 'The individual ego is non-existent, it only exists in God'. The Third Force theory is not confined to Muslims alone. God belongs equally to all Mankind. His love and mercy is equal for all His creatures, irrespective of faith or colour. Mysticism exists in all religions, and is the path that most thinkers take when they search for God, with a heart brimming with love. Sufism is Muslim mysticism. A Sufi dedicates his life to the search for, and union with, God. In this search he passes through various states (Hal) and stages (Muqqam). The ultimate aim of which is union with God. During this pilgrimage he encounters various proofs of the special relationship in which he stands to God (Karamat), and if his piety is acceptable he may be successful in winning a glimpse of immortality by passing away from his individual self (fana) into the consciousness of survival in God (Baqa).
In Islam, Sufis have often played the role of a guide or therapist. Anyone who inculcates their approach in his or her dealings with individuals in distress, will be capable of helping people to yield to the Supreme Power. For the mystic, "Thy will be done", is the final and desired end. Conflict between Man's basic need for his connection with God, and the negative influence of scientific over-intellectualization may be found in people of any religion, in any part of the world. I believe that all religions are basically paths to God; therefore, such a therapeutic strategy can be used in any part of the world, for people of any religion.
The therapist, in the Third-Force Therapy, has only has to clear the path leading to God, the rest is taken care of by Him; Who, in His Infinite Mercy cures and protects His beings from distress, once they resign themselves to His care.
A drowning man can only be saved if he relinquishes his struggle to the greater expertise of the lifeguard!
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