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Question 1 (Alissa):
Salam, Would like to know what characteristics a good friend has and how I might develop these and maybe the art of conversation? I've been depressed for the last few years and only recently overcome the depression but due to this lost all my friends and really not sure how to be a friend and hold a conversation. Please keep in mind this is not my negative thinking but rather something my aunty has also picked up on. Thanks
Thank you for asking your question. I think one of the best models for knowing how to be a good friend would be looking at the example of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Self awareness is the first step to developing one's social skills. What occurs during periods of depression is that an individual is not in the state of mind to focus on the needs of others as the self becomes the general focus. There is a general saying her in the United States that in order to get one has to give. This concept applies to every area of life including our friendships.
Some characteristics of a good friend include the following:
-Self awareness-being aware of one's strengths and weaknesses will help you in all of your family and interpersonal relationships.
-Being a good listener-active listening: sometimes friends don't want any advice they would just like to be heard and understood without judgment
-Showing general concern for others
-Respect and consideration
-Supportive during good and bad times emotionally, spiritually, etc
-Staying positive-we often attract exactly what we are when one is negative we will attract negativity when one is positive we begin to attract positive things around us and positive people.
Discover your own passions in life-what are your interests? Pursue your passions and you will gradually meet people and become friends with individuals with similar interest....
Try new things, take healthy risks in meeting new people.
In sha' Allah I hope this helps..
Question 2 (Adda):
Salam and Ramadhan Mubaraq in advance, My name is Adda and am a university student. It is joyous to know that Ramadan is coming and many of my friends are returning to their hometown to spend their blissful Ramadan with their family, but for me, I'm dreaded to return. In fact, I feel more at peace by living away from them and join Ramadhan activities instead at the university's mosque. And the only time I'm willing to return is about a week before Eid then immediately return to my dorm for a better breathing space. There's a reason why I'm dreaded to return. My parents have always been in a constant fight ever since I can remember. Now that my father has retired, he separated from us and joined to live with his relative instead without saying a word of when or will ever want to visit us. My mom, on the other side, became workaholic and the only thing we ever have a 'communication' is how much she resents against my father. So the Eid for me hasn't been, or ever been, pleasant. It is either seeing my parents in constant fight right at the moment they met for Eid, or they spent their Eid in their own separate ways. Me and brother were left to embarrassment, emptiness and broken as we see other friends are enjoying their happy times with their harmonious family. So, I'm happy with the Ramadan but not looking forward to Eids for dreading that it'll will be ended up the same embarrassing Eid again. I wish that I can have a happy Eid like others and able to invite others to our home, not just we keep going at other people's home. But I know it is impossible judging by their constant fight and stupid arguments. So for that I'm not looking forward to the Eid, and even though I go back, I don't think I can handle such emotional and psychological turmoil to witness their stupid fight again. Please advice of how can I not go through these pains again. Thanks Adda.
Wa `alaikum as-salaam Adda, There is so much beauty in the month of Ramadan as it is such a great month to reflect on one's actions and to further enrich ourselves in our journey for personal and spiritual development. However, what also occurs is that this is a time when families come together and certain issues and unfinished business among members also begins to resurface. This is true for many families harmonious and not so harmonious as all of our families have various ways that we can interact with one another more harmoniously. More specifically it seems that you are dealing with some of the family stress that is occurring as a result of the fighting and separation of your parents. What is important to keep in mind is that there are various ways that Muslims can celebrate the holidays together. One of the ways is considering the strong ties that you do have with certain family members and if you have siblings start with building upon relationships with your closest sibling and build upon that experience. I can imagine divorce or separation of any kind would be difficult to endure. Also consider and refresh your intentions for this month. Although this is a time for families, this is also a time for reflection and personal growth. Also consider ways that you can improve your conversations with your mom. Consider respectful ways that you can change the subject when you find the conversation is going negative. Sometimes we often forget we must set the example first when modeling positive and healthy behavior.
Question 3 (Adda):
Salam and would like to ask another question. Having seen my parents in constant fight for as long as I can remember and till this day they are still in fight, I am afraid that such incident can have influence on me later on to my marriage and family life. So I wonder how can I be freed from such negative influence and not have an impact later on my marriage and family life? And should my parents still impose their negative influence on me by making me listen to the accusation of the other's faults either in public or private, how can I stop them without me getting hurt emotionally and psychologically? Thanks
The beauty about life is Allah gives us the freedom to make choices about how we are going to allow things to affect us. It seems that you are highly aware that your parents fighting is unhealthy. What often the problem for many individuals and their families is that they can't see themselves objectively and they do not realize that the various ways that they behave are dysfunctional because this is all that they have seen and this is all that they know.
However, you are aware of what the problems and issues that exist in your own family. Sometimes if individuals have parents that did not have a happy marriage it can affect one's confidence level about one's own ability to maintain a successful relationship but it seems by your line of questioning you are aware of the things not to do and what will not bring about great results for a successful relationship now the goal is to learn and build upon positive behaviors that will bring about the behaviors in building a healthy bond in your own interpersonal relationships. You can counteract the negative exposure through various ways including:
- Increasing prayer and `ibadah
- Reading various psycho-educational materials on the dos and donts of relationship building
- Spending time with family friends and additional family in healthy marriages for positive reinforcement and for observing positive environments where healthy relationships are modeled
my parents come from very different family backgrounds. my father used to like my mother and thus he ignored major differences in family backgrounds, values and norms and married my mother. my father has always been extremely reserved with us children, specially with the girls. so much that we can't even imagine him kissing or hugging us ever. my mother is not a loving mother too. she is concerned about her own moods and problems more than us. my father is a syed and he can't even bear the thought of allowing us to marry anyone who is not a syed. i have an elder sister, who married a guy of her choice so consequently my father cut all connections with her. its been seven years since her wedding but we are not allowed to meet her. i have an elder brother and one younger brother and one younger sister. my mother thinks that all the problems in her life are because of us. she and my father want us to obey them blindly. we have a very tense environment at home. selfishness is the rule. i have always been different and thats why have suffered the most. now i feel very tired. my parents are never happy though i have been their only child who has always tried to not get them upset. but now i feel so sick that if they stop talking to me (when and if i don't listen to something they have said) i dont make any effort myself too. they have been bringing proposals for me. proposals that my heart and mind don't agree to at all. the suitors usually don't even have proper jobs and education. although i am educated and we are affluent too. and every time a suitor comes, i am not given an option to say a yes or no. instead i am forced to say yes. i have barely been able to hurl those proposals off somehow. i don't understand what to do. i have been a good muslim all through but now my patience seems to be getting exhausted. i stay so stressed that sometimes i start vomiting out of stress. my family doesn't take much notice and doesn't care much. in our country going to counselors etc is not an option. poeple are not enlightened enough to understand that. give me some effective advice please.
It's seems that you are dealing with multiple family issues and relationships issues within the family. The fact that you are asking questions about ways to improve your family life shows that you are listening to your natural instincts and following your intuition which can be healthy in many ways.
Our physical well being can sometimes be an indication of our emotional well being and vice versa. Our bodies can often send us signals when something is not going right. I would highly recommend consulting with a marriage and family therapist to explore the various interactions between family members, the dynamics that is taking place and the effect that this is having on the family overall.
From the explanation of your situation, it seems that you have one family member that has been emotionally cut off from the family because she has chosen to go against the cultural norms within the family and now your father seems to be continuing this pattern of behavior in his interactions with you by trying to keep you family exactly the same culturally. This dynamics can occur in families of all cultures as individual family members can try to maintain a certain level of homeostasis within the family when they see a particular family member is going against the norms..
I highly recommend consulting with the therapist (could be online therapist specialized in family therapy) and explaining the various relationship dynamics that you have explained to me and the two of you can work collaboratively on goals and ways you can improve on the level of communication with your parents and in reaching a desired understanding of what all of you would like to see happen in the family...
Sakeena Abdulraheem holds an MA in Social studies with a concentration in Islamic studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her M.A.in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma counseling. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant.
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