Tag Archives: Psychology

Arabs Together: Disunited

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Credits to “Getty Images”

How many times have we heard the word “unity”? For me, I have heard all kinds of it. “Christians & Muslims are one! we are all the same”, “Arab Unity”, “Egyptians and Syrians are one”… and the list goes on. Now I stop here and think; what if we are not really one? What if unity is not the answer? But then I stop here and think again, is the way you define unity the same way I define mine?

Have you ever thought why the west is so diverse, yet very successful (relatively)? As Arabs, we share culture, religion, history, location and language, yet we still feel so distant. We have focused so much on unity that we left acceptance to rot.

We want people to think like us, to act like us; we even subconsciously shape the people just to fit our views. No wonder why we argue all the time and get defensive when someone opposes our opinion. “If you are not like me, then you have something wrong with your brain” this became the unspoken norm.

We don’t have to be the same, if we were all the same, we would just be an army of robots, always seeing one side of the box. What we really need to do is to learn tolerance. All the people killing each other on the streets are just a bunch of ideas competing to dominate, screaming to be heard.

I believe that the greatest strength we have is our diversity. All we need to do is accept each other, with our flaws, imperfections and different perspectives. We don’t have to agree we just have to understand. We don’t have to judge, we just have to listen. But that’s just what I believe, and I could be wrong.

Moufti 

 

 

 

 

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7 Steps Towards Change

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I don’t take credit for this image

I miss being here so much. I have been writing a lot lately, but it all goes to the magazine, its things that unfortunately I can’t post here. Lately everything has been falling apart; nothing seems to be in place. Every time things start to be back in place, something just happens. My life is witnessing a very high rate of turn over. People/Things just keep going in and out of my life. I don’t think bitching about things will get anything better, so I’d rather spend that time working on alternatives.

Today, I realized that change happens gradually. One day you wake up frustrated and you think things got to change. You do your best, and then you realize your best was not enough to make that major change that you expected in your life.

The only way you can realize change is by looking backwards and I quote Steve Jobs here, “connecting the dots”. Today I look at my life and say, wow…things have really changed. 2-3 years ago I was just a completely different guy, someone who has very little resemblance with the man I am today. I am glad I am the man I am today, I am glad I have worked on changing and I slowly did.

Now my life is collapsing again because I have stopped changing. I see this as a wake-up call. There is no going back, there is no staying still, our life is collapsing behind us and the only way to escape is by running forward.

 But how do we know that we have changed? It’s the social mirror, it’s how the people respond to us, the feedback we get. So if you really change, but the people still treat you the same, wouldn’t that make you feel like the same old you?

Now many people (including myself) struggled with that. You try change, but everything around you is still the same. The thought of giving up slowly grows in your mind.

On a side note, the social mirror is the most realistic distortion of reality. It includes the people who we trust the most. It has our close friends and even our family. Those are the people who we get our feedback from; those are the people who reflect our change. But how come they don’t give us the right feedback?

Many of us tend to think that everyone sees the world the same way we do. We expect that they see we have changed the same way we see that we have changed. This gap between what we expect and what they see is what I call “the distorted reality”.

 What we fail to realize is that this gap keeps getting smaller by time, and this is why we can only see change when we look back. This is why many people just quit changing. Because they just cant see any progress going right now.

People who surround us gradually adapt to our change, just like we-subconsciously- slowly adapt to theirs’. So how can you replace that broken social mirror to see your own change?

First, you have to reach peace with yourself. You must be dedicated enough that you really want to change your life.

Second, try seeing change as a form of improvement. Many people start worrying as soon as they hear the word “change”. They just fear losing “their self” a long the way.

Third, to change, you don’t need to change who you truly are. You don’t need to change your values; you just need to find them and align them with your habits.

 Fourth, differentiate between your values and your habits. Your values are the core beliefs that you have, while the habits are the implications of those values.

Usually we have a large gap between our values and our habits, and the whole point of change, is realigning the habits with the values.

 For instance, if “not judging other people” is one of my core values. But when a close friend of mine is sharing a personal story, I interrupt them with my advice and how I see things, instead of really trying to understand them. Then my habits would not be aligned with my values.

Fifth, make a written list of your values and core beliefs. Don’t worry, as you get to change, you will get to know yourself better, so you can add/remove a few items from that list.

Sixth, that list will be your new mirror. You can always juxtapose this list against your daily habits. Every day, wake up and look at your list of values, how close are you to that list? Do you treat the people in a way that aligns with your values? Do you treat yourself in a way that aligns with your values? 

Seventh, make a promise not to your family, not your friends but to yourself; that you will do your best to improve, even if the whole world will try to prove you otherwise.

Finally, be patient, be truthful with yourself and know that we are all imperfect humans. We make mistakes, we learn and we grow; it is part of our lives and human nature.

Moufti 

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The Truth

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   I don’t believe in Politics, I don’t believe in chanting “freedom”; I mean, why would I go ask someone, a human just like me to give me freedom? Politicians only have the power that we give to them, and it seems we gave them too much. Its all like a movie, where everyone is doing role play; politicians play the roles of rulers, while we play roles of servants; but we played the roles for so long, that it became a self fulfilling prophecy.

   I believe in the need for a government, I believe in capitalism within equal chances. I don’t believe in good will, I only believe in systems, I only trust in institutions. Politicians are servants, servants guided by their self-interest, but why do we blame them? It’s us who are still playing the roles.

   I don’t believe in democracy, I believe in the day when there is no poverty. I don’t believe in equality, but I believe in justice. I don’t believe in punishment, but I believe in incentives. I don’t believe in promises, but I believe in history; I believe what I trust, and I trust what I sense.

    If you think that a politician will fulfill your dreams, think again. If you think politicians are initially evil, think again. If you think power won’t corrupt you, you might be right; but if you think power wont corrupt those around you, think again.

   Different people want different things, everyone believes in someone, and everyone think they are right; so does that make them all right? Or all wrong? Does it even matter? People fail, Humans are imperfect, we expect so much out of those in control, but we forgot, they are humans, humans just like us.

   All empires fail, and absolute empires fail absolutely. Eternity doesn’t exist, not in this life; time can’t be bought, and it will never change. The more we know, the more we realize that we don’t. The more we invent things to make our lives easier, the more we make our lives complicated. The more we have, the more we need.

   We are 7 billion people, each one has a different life, a different look, a different perception, we all think life revolves around us, guess what, you are not special. We all know the truth, and the truth is not absolute, it’s a 7 billion truth.

   If you believe in someone’s good will, well wait till they run out of options. If you believe people are evil, well wait till you meet yourself. If you believe that after reading this, your life will change, it won’t. If your seeking freedom outside, you will remain forever lost.

 

Make sure that you write your own story.

 Moufti

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Deep Down A Lion

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(Ivanovic 2008) credits to National Geographic 

Deep down in the woods, lived just another lion, a lion that is not in possession of any skill making him substantially better that the other ordinary lions; just another lion trying to survive in a world were competition is fierce. He was born within laws of the jungle, where the fittest survives, and his options were not so many. His utmost pleasure is in exploring the unknown, but his knowledge of other lands was limited by the horizon, as far as his eyesight could reach. All what he knows about the distant lands was what he heard from the other lions, but he only trusts in what he could see. Every day he stood on top of a cliff, where his toes slightly extended from the edge, he wanted to see as far as he could, but he was afraid of falling into the sea, he feared the unknown.

This lion had a secret, a secret that he kept away from all the other lions; he grew up in a place where the greatest virtue was obedience, a place where all the other lions conformed to those of greater strength, a place where disagreement was punished, a place where acceptance was wrong, but judgment was righteous; he secretly knew deep down inside, that he was a rebel.

All the other animals feared him; after all, they were just potential victims, but none of them knew of his struggles, none of them thought of his reasons; they only saw what they wanted to see, just another lion.

One day, the lion wanted to learn of the other lands, he shared his thoughts with other lions, so they warned him that he will lose all the great things that he owns, they accused him of treason, because he took all the good he has for granted, and they told him he will lose his high status hierarchy as a lion.

On the next day, he woke up earlier than any other lion, he walked towards the cliff like any other day, and he slowly placed his feet at the edge; he looked towards the sky, as the young sunlight reflected across his eyes, and he thought of everything he owns and every single memory he had at this place; he wanted to be free, but his freedom came at the cost of losing all what’s in his possession; he turned back, he walked away, then he ran as fast as he can towards the edge, and he took a leap of faith.

No one knows what happened to the lion after he went into the unknown; all what we know for sure, is that deep down inside, he hoped to find what he was looking for, he hoped to find freedom as he pictured it. Every lion views freedom in a different way, but not all the lions are willing to let go.

 

 

 -Moufti

 

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Egyptian Men Don’t Cry

ImageA young boy falls out of his bed and starts to cry out loud. The father approaches his son in an attempt to cease the cries. “Men don’t cry”, shouts the father. At first, the boy may not understand why men shouldn’t cry. I mean, to him what’s the difference between men and women anyway? Slowly the boy is conditioned to be the man who does not cry…  Sometimes human nature strikes with a moment of vulnerability, and boys helplessly cry; however, when boys cry they may hide their tears from the people surrounding them so that they do not look “weak” or “fragile”. Yet, not all boys are ashamed of their tears, tears may be viewed differently, based on culture, tradition and gender schema. In one place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of emotion; in another place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of weakness. For instance, in a country like Egypt, real men ought not to cry. That raises a question, Why are tears dependent on culture and tradition to a large extent? 

From the moment babies are born they are socialized into genders. For example, a baby boy is more likely to receive gifts in the color of blue. While a baby girl is more likely to receive gifts in the color of pink. Does pink or blue have anything to do with enhancing masculinity or femininity? No, but the unspoken consensus among people, is that blue is masculine, pink is feminine.  Apart from biological influence, people shape babies into their “gender schema” of how a boy or a girl should look or act. In other words: putting genes aside, people treat boys differently than girls, so babies are treated according to a certain image inside the people’s head. This image is  “what a certain gender role should be”; the image shapes the babies to act in a certain way that is consistent with the way they are “treated”. Yet, the schemas of how a boy or a girl should act, slightly differs from one society to another. For example in one culture, it is okay for men to wear earrings, while in another culture it is not accepted for men to wear earrings because they may be considered as “feminine”.

 

In Egypt, no one goes to a man who is crying and explicitly tells him that it is not accepted to cry. Crying is one of the unspoken norms of the society. Paradoxically, Egyptians may find it more acceptable to cry for the love of a sports team or patriotism for the nation, than to cry because of the man’s emotional side. Many men cry; however, they may find a lot of trouble to share that with someone else. Even when grown up men want to cry, they may move to a different room so that their family do not see them crying.

Men do have an emotional side, but the way of expression remains to be a choice. As an Egyptian I grew up being conditioned not to cry; therefore, I find crying not an easy task. I am not arguing that all Egyptians should hug, let go of their feelings and start crying. I am just looking at tears from a different perspective.

Moufti

 

 

 

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Easier To Advise…Harder To Improvise

Image“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own” (Coelho 16).This is one of the most paradoxical quotes that I have always tried to uncover. Sometimes we feel like it’s a lot simpler to give good advice to someone, when the situation is not of our own; however, when It’s us who are facing the situation, we feel like we are lost in oblivion. We try to find a way out by thinking in third person view, but we still feel that something is wrong; it’s like there is a mystical force stopping us from making our own decisions smoothly. Our thoughts seem distorted like dark clouds surround them; our sense of rational thinking is present, we acknowledge its existence, but we can’t grasp it; it is just like bubbles floating in the air, we see them, we reach out for them, but once we hold them, they’re gone.

When we think about a situation that is not of our own, we see things from more perspectives; we see the same story, only from different angles. Have you ever noticed that when other people speak to us about their concerns, we tend to give very logical replies? On the contrary, when we think for our own, everything seems to be a little more complicated. Maybe we know others better than we know ourselves? Maybe we don’t care about others, so we think less carefully when the concern is not of our own? Perhaps the previous assumptions are valid; nevertheless, none of them provide a logical reason, because they are based on human nature assumptions. There must be an element that is present when we make decisions of our own, but somehow absent when we give advice, an element that affects our decisions subconsciously, an element that twists our rationality.

This element is the voice inside our head; the voice that wants what we can’t have, the voice that is making us afraid of rejection, the voice that doesn’t know patience and the voice that doesn’t know reason; this voice is the sound of our emotions. We want to follow our heart, but what we don’t realize is that our heart has no sense of direction. When we form an idea about the life of others, we don’t follow our heart, but we follow reason, and avoid exaggeration.

We are always in the pursuit of happiness, we want our decisions to be invincible, but when we try so hard, we lose ourselves along the road and end up over thinking, and thus over-complicating our lives. Life is simpler than what we think; instead of looking for shortcuts, we can sit back and enjoy the journey. So for us to be rational decision makers, do we have to kill our emotions? No, because if we try to stop our feelings, we will end up over thinking; consequently, all we need to do is…“nothing”. Instead of trying hard to make the best decision, we just need to relax, get out of our head and focus on the moment, because only then we are able to see things from all angles, and thus we are able to be rational at all times.

 Moufti

 

 

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Reflection On Perfection

ImageI remember when I was young; my parents always encouraged me saying, “ You did a great job there, next time you will do even better”, this phrase got me really frustrated at many occasions. Although my parents appreciated my efforts, they always made me feel that my efforts were not enough. It appears that my parents were trying to send me a message. I grew up in a small family that each member gave their best at whatever task they were handling; a family that I saw as somewhat perfectionist. My family was neither discouraging nor extreme; nonetheless, the task of perfecting everything seemed far out of my reach. As I have thought of the reasons why perfection seemed unreachable, I understood the message my parents were trying to communicate.

Each one of us sees perfection in a different way; yet, most of us are in the chase of perfection. Sometimes when we lay down on bed to sleep, we try to picture how our perfect life may look like. We wander with our thoughts and play with them like a kid plays with his puzzle; we search for the missing pieces to make the picture complete; we search for what we need to make our lives perfect.

I was not any different; I wanted a taste of perfection. I tried to think of all the possible ways that I can reflect perfection. I was always disappointed, because my expectations far exceeded my abilities. One day, I realized that I don’t desire to be perfect anymore. I felt grateful, I felt human and I felt that I was complete. In fact, I started to see that our imperfections are simply, beautiful. If our lives were perfect, we would have nothing to live for. Hope is the shadow of our flaws; so, if we have no flaws, we will live without hope, and I doubt the existence of a life without hope.

After my realizations, I have reached a stage of my life were everything seemed neutral. I was neither discouraged because of high expectations, nor encouraged to grow and improve. I started to think, “Okay, what should I do now?” I felt lost; I felt unchallenged. I needed middle ground, where both aspirations and acceptance meet.  I realized something more profound; I started to see a tradeoff. When we don’t care about perfection, we don’t grow and change that much, but we don’t feel bad about it either (because we are in a state of acceptance). On the other hand, when we try to be perfect, we grow and change, but we still feel bad about it (Because we put so much emphasis on our unrealistic expectations). So the optimal situation is when we grow and change while maintaining our state of acceptance.

When archers aim their longbows, they don’t aim directly at their target, rather they aim slightly above it, so that when they shoot, the arrow goes further and hits their target. Notice that the archers’ expectation was their target, not the point where they aimed upwards to reach their target. Same thing with us, if we do efforts slightly above our expectations, we will end up improving at our task.

Not all archers have the same bows; some archers have strong bows that can take their arrows further without much effort, while other archers have weaker bows that require a lot of effort for the arrows to go far; yet, all bows are adjustable. Same thing with us, we are not all born with the same potentials. Yet, some of us make use of what they have better than the others.

If the archers’ target was really far, aiming high may still be not enough for them to get their target, but bear in mind that if the archers aim higher, their arrows will go further than they would have gone if they aimed lower. In different words, doing our best may not be always enough to achieve our goal, but doing our best certainly gets us closer to that goal.

Yes, we can’t achieve ultimate perfection; but we can keep getting closer and closer. Every step we take closer is a step of improvement and growth. If we understand the beauty of imperfection, but at the same time we “make the best out of what we have”, we will end up not only achieving more, but also we will feel great about our achievements and progress. My parents were sending me a message that there is no limit for the steps you can take towards perfection; there is always room for improvement.

Moufti           

            

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Letter To Anger

ImageDear anger,

I write you this letter to inform you that things won’t work between us. It’s not me it’s you. You are always there, waiting for me at the peak. You make me do things that I don’t intend; you make me say things that I don’t mean. You promise me serenity but all you offer is regret. Your existence is beyond justification. Your force is beyond measure.  I wish I could tame you; I wish we could be friends. I understand that you want your freedom; I understand that you want to escape, but I can’t let you, because I may lose my self along the way. Every time you show up, I promise myself that things will be different the next time. I put more locks and I build higher walls, but you always find your way. Sometimes I wish you could just disappear, and then I stop, I think and I realize that we are one. Maybe I am blinded by justifications; maybe it’s my fault. I blame you all the time, but I never try to change. My vision is distorted; my thoughts are hazy. I need more time to think.  Sorry, things won’t work between us. It’s not you it’s me. 

Moufti

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An Egyptian Dream: A Response To Insanity

 Image “ I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter.”(Inception 2010). Sadly, this rings a bell; this rings a bell to most of us, the Egyptians.  In Egypt, our hope is not getting to our destination on time; our hope is to make it, alive. But it doesn’t matter, because if you have a family member who was deceased in a train accident, there is a good chance the government will compensate you with money; money that is nearly enough to buy the latest iPhone. In fact, we should look at the bright side. We have a president that appears in short videos to sooth our agonies. We have hospitals not ready with medicine but ready with broadcasts and tweets to ask for money, volunteers and supplies. We have government officials who refuse to resign or take responsibility, but are humble enough to apologize. The current situation concerning how crisis is being dealt with in Egypt can be described in one word, “insanity”.

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?  Insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting things to change. Every single catastrophe, the one’s responsible think “this time it is going to be different”. As a side note, I have asked myself how vague I was, when I attributed the blame on “the one’s responsible”? I found that my description was too vague and that’s when I realized the actual tragedy.

Heartbreakingly the amount of people who are responsible is indefinite; there are several people who are considered to be responsible. Consequently that brings us to a psychosocial phenomenon titled “Diffusion of responsibility”. Basically, Diffusion Of Responsibility occurs when a person is less likely to assume responsibility for an action when there are others who share the responsibility. In Diffusion Of Responsibility, the individual either assumes that other people are responsible for taking action or assumes that other people have already taken action. In other words, have you ever passed by an accident and made the assumption that somebody else has called for help? In a perfect demonstration of Diffusion Of Responsibility, everyone assumes that the other one has called for help and the ending result would be no one calling for help. I see that this is fairly analogous to the situation in Egypt. The time we start pointing fingers is also the time when we realize that we do not have enough fingers. 

I remember around 7 years ago, my school implemented a method called “ the call chain”. The call chain is a cycle, where each student is accountable to inform another student about class information. Each student had a back-up plan if the person the student was trying to call, did not pick up. If the student did not deliver the message, he or she is responsible for all the other students who did not get the message and that student faces consequences. A call chain system would look something like this:

Teacher → student 1→  student 2→ student 3→ Teacher

Only now I have comprehended the importance of this system. Unlike the Egyptian governmental system; in the call chain, responsibility is not diffused; responsibilities, roles and consequences are explicitly assigned and well explained.

Sometimes individuals don’t want to be liable for failure, so they force the responsibility to be diffused by placing the blame on anything but them. When a person succeeds, he or she attributes that success to their personality; however, when a person fails he or she attributes that failure to the situation. For example, if a beggar approached a man walking on the street and the man decided to give him money. The man’s first thoughts may be “oh! That was kind from me, I am generous because I shared my money with someone who needed it”; however, the man ignored the fact that the beggar asked him for the money several times before he decided to give him the money. Days later the same man goes to a restaurant and the waiter mistakenly forgot to bring him skimmed milk with his coffee, so the man starts shouting at the waiter in anger. After the man calms down his first thoughts may be “ I knew this day was going to be a bad day since the moment I saw that black cat in the morning ” or he may think “everyone was getting on my nerves today and that waiter was not professional so he deserved it anyway”. Contrary to the preceding scenario, the man’s first thoughts were not “ I am ill tempered, that’s why I shouted at the waiter”; the man simply attributed success to his good nature and attributed failure to the surroundings. This response is somewhat similar to the response of the Egyptian government officials, when they succeed they praise themselves and their far-sighted planning, but when they fail they blame it on “the third party”.

In Egypt, one of the major flops is management.  The government provides short-term solutions, rather than preventive measures. What we need is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is a map for continuing procedures under adverse conditions such as a fire, or excessive rain. BCP minimizes risk and saves lives. In other words, it is not only expecting the unexpected, but also having a plan to deal with that “unexpected”.

 We need government officials on the streets doing audits, not in their office all the time doing only paper work. The process of reforming supervision needs to be top-bottom. If the supervisor with the highest rank was doing his job, the worker with the lowest rank will be also doing his job. Just like the call chain, responsibility should be assigned specifically to prevent diffusion. Also the government needs to have incentives of safety and freedom to work efficiently. For example, the government should have a wide time frame to fulfill certain goals, and at the end of that time frame, the government can be judged fairly.

I am not here to judge governments; I am here to raise ideas to be further developed. I dream of the day where we know for sure where the train will take us, a day that we no longer witness insanity; I dream of the day where every Egyptian receives fair education and has equal rights.

 -Moufti

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