In a society that’s trained us–knowingly or not–to bottle it all up, expressing how we feel especially during difficult times has become next to impossible. Take a selfie here and there, with a smile for the crowd, that makes everyone think we’re fine–we’re happy! Yet, deep inside we’re not.
How many times did we actually want to rant or cry when someone asked how we are but we instead gave that default, “I’m okay”? How often have we tried to convince ourselves that we’re doing good when in fact we’re breaking down? How come everyone’s telling us to keep the faith yet it feels like doing so makes us lose it some more? How long are we going to continue like this?
Deep breathe. Is it really bad to open up about how we feel? Are emotions like sadness, fear or anger so ‘wrong’ that sharing them would ruin us? Are they really a sign of a loss of faith? A sign of despair?
Here’s a beautiful verse to ponder on:
This verse relays what happens to Prophet Jacob [Yaqub] (peace be upon him) upon hearing the news that his dear son, Benjamin, did not return from Egypt despite his other sons’ assurance that they will take care of him and will not allow him to meet the same fate as that of Joseph [Yusuf] (peace be upon him). The setting was too similar that he was reminded of his loss of Joseph whom he also entrusted to his sons. The verse also informs us that Jacob lost his sight because of grief. But, wait, it didn’t just inform us of that. It specifically explains that he lost his sight from grief because he was one who suppressed his emotions.
Amazing, don’t you think? Science today confirms what we’ve been told a thousand years ago about the mind-body connection: how our physical symptoms can actually be of mental or emotional origin. It’s most probably psychosomatic, doctors would say of physical illnesses which are idiopathic–i.e, no known medical or physical cause. No known medical or physical cause, they’d conclude, but then we’d be referred to the psychiatric or behavioral sciences department for evaluation.
Perhaps it’s not a loss of eyesight for us (Alhamdulillah!), but back pains or headaches or hypertension or constipation (or worse, the opposite–diarrhea during presentation day!) …the list of possible psychosomatic symptoms goes on, really. This may be a good time to assess if those physical health concerns are of a physiological nature or not.
Moreover, other areas of our lives may also be affected by emotional stress. When we suppress how we feel, how’s our social life? Can we honestly and confidently say our relationship with our loved ones is not affected by work stress–and vice versa? When we suppress how we feel, how’s our mental health? Can we truly see positivity within and around us? When we suppress how we feel, how’s our spiritual life? Can we truly focus on our conversations with Him and reflect this in our daily life? Pause and ponder.
So, reflecting on this verse, we must realize:
- Life indeed has challenges. We encounter setbacks, and we encounter losses. It’s not always going to be a smooth journey. Pause whenever needed, but continue after these recharging pauses.
- We can be tested through our relationships. And, we’re not simply talking about the test of losing loved ones, but also the test of having stressful relations with those around us. It often can be with a family member, but this can also include other relationships at work or in the community. Note that in Prophet Jacob’s case, while it was his own sons who caused him to grieve, he still engaged them in finding a solution (i.e, asking them to look for Benjamin and Joseph)–another reminder that engaging those concerned is something for us to consider as an important part of resolving stressful issues. (you may want to read our previous post about dealing with toxic people)
- We can (and indeed do) get affected by these challenges. And, it doesn’t mean a loss of faith or a sign of weakness. This is the part where it would be nice to remind ourselves that everyone gets tested and that it’s normal to feel extreme emotions during these tests–just like Jacob, a prophet who’s already been gifted with so much patience and faith by The Almighty, but still experienced grief and still experienced psychosomatization.
- It is okay to talk to a trusted person or a professional helper about how we feel instead of suppressing it to a point that even other areas of our lives are affected. Again, this does not mean we’ve lost faith. Yes, we rely on The Almighty alone for help, but we must understand that His help can also come in the form of someone who’s willing to listen, offer words of comfort and wisdom, and assist us in finding clarity and meaning.
May The Almighty give us the courage and strength to resist the pressure to always show we’re okay though we’re not, and to seek help for ourselves as part of a truly healthy lifestyle.