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Book Introduction - Chapter 2

 

Chapter 2:
A study on the genesis of the anxiety state

 


Summary
According to the Islamic School of Psychology there are two different and opposing inherent psychic processes in operation: namely, the conscience and the passion. The first one has an evolutionary and developmental nature; whereas the second can be considered as an instinctual motive. These two processes have an infinite number of urges. The personality of man and his volition depends on the authority of one of these two processes.
An individual whose conscience has authority over the self can solve all of his controversies between the conscience and the passion.
Contrary to the above process, in the case of an individual whose passion has authority over the self, the psychic conflict will arise because of unsolved controversies.
All the Divine instructions, according to Islamic psychology, are practical instruments to control the passion and to fortify the conscience. By this approach these instructions can be used as preventive and therapeutic methods to control the state of anxiety.

Introduction
The World Health Organization definition of “anxiety state” is as follows: various combinations of physical and mental manifestations of anxiety, not attributable to real danger and occurring either in attacks or as a persisting state. Anxiety is usually diffuse and may extend to panic (9).
Every school of psychology has interpreted the genesis of the anxiety state according to its own special viewpoint and in line with its approach to the understanding of personality.
The practicalities of these approaches are related to the degree of the realistic bases of these schools. Not one of the contemporary schools of psychology suggests a defined program to prevent the anxiety state. And, further, no protecting sanctions have been offered by these schools to prevent the anxiety state. The Islamic School of Psychology is an unique school of psychology; and with its special approach to the understanding of the anxiety state it can help us in preventing and treating this most prevalent psychiatric syndrome.
According to this school there are two different and opposing psychic processes in operation--namely, the conscience and the passion. Both processes are inherent, that is, they are not acquired. The first one has an evolutionary and developmental nature, whereas the second can be considered as an instinctual motive. The characteristics of these processes can be summarized as follows:

The characteristics of the conscience

  1. It is inherent, constitutional and not acquired.

  2. It is continuously present in the personality of everyone (but it may be weakened or strengthened).

  3. It is existent in all human beings.

  4. It universally accepts some subjects and judgments as obvious, e.g. Telling lies is bad; committing murder is illegal; etc.

  5. It has the potentiality to accept the truth and the existence of God.

  6. It acts as a judge whose judgments are respected by others.

  7. Behavior and judgment which are based on the conscience are clear and exact, truthful and without any dissimulation or cheating.

  8. It has the potential to differentiate between man’s benefits and detriment, and it acts like a compass.

  9. It blames the self when it commits wrong doing.

  10. There is close intimacy between the conscience and truth; and the conscience always tries to fulfill justice and truth.

  11. All duties and responsibilities have been based upon the conscience.

  12. Fulfillment of responsibilities facilitates its development, but there is always some resistance against these responsibilities. This resistance arises from the passion, and man usually accepts the Divine responsibilities with some reluctance.

  13. The Conscience has its own special energy. This energy may increase or decrease according to the concordance or opposition of one’s free will with its direction and programming.

  14. It is quite conscious of itself; therefore, behavior which is based on the dictates of the conscience is conscious.

  15. It has an evolutionary and developmental nature. This process is going on infinitely. It cannot tolerate any limitation in this process, and any conceivable factor which obstructs the process of the conscience will naturally cause an anxiety state.

  16. In order to fulfill its goals and to reach absolute development, the conscience is always at war with the passion. This war continues until the end of life.

  17. The dynamics of the conscience and its stimulation in the direction of development and maturity can be protected only by using the Divine laws. In this case the conscience will experience a feeling of security. If the contrary occurs, its movements will be stopped and an anxiety state, regret and the state of being cheated will come into existence. Consequently, a dark and dull life is the final result.

  18. Weakening of the conscience’s energy is due to the coverings which are brought about by the authority of the passion. The thickness and strength of these coverings are related to the strength of the passion and the extension of its authority over the self.

  19. Existence of the conscience in all human beings is the basis of social conscience. This trend is the key for the understanding of concordance or opposition between or within social groups. In individuals and groups where the conscience has authority over the self, the relationship between or within such individual groups is characterized by closeness, companionship and sympathy. However, there is continuous opposition, conflict and enmity between those individuals and groups wherein the authority of the self is differing and opposing in nature. This trend will come to an end by causing real wars (conflicts) between these two opposite groups.

  20. “Science” is the most important factor for strengthening the conscience. This factor makes the conscience alive, fresh, and facilitates its development.

  21. Weakening of the conscience is always due to the mechanisms which are unconsciously produced by the passion.

  22. God will protect, help and confirm one who has fortified his conscience. If man can succeed in giving authority to his conscience continuously, he may do supernatural things (like the prophets).

  23. It can be stated in general that any conceivable science or perfection is due to the activities of the conscience, and any defect is due to its weakness.

  24. Any positive value related to human beings is due to the conscience. Inversely, any negative value is due to the authority of the passion. This produces harmful and worthless results and consequent lapses in conduct.(3,4,5,6,7,8)

The characteristics of the passion
The most striking characteristics of the passion are as follows:

  1. It is inherent, constitutional, and not acquired.

  2. It is steady in the life of everyone (but it may be weakened or strengthened).

  3. It is existent in all human beings.

  4. It derives its special energy from biological needs. Instincts are the main source of the passion’s energy. This energy may increase or decrease according to the concordance or opposition of one’s free will to its demands and programming.

  5. The Passion is not conscious of its processes. This means that an individual whose passion has authority over the self cannot distinguish between those factors which may be harmful to his life on the one hand, and those factors which help him to attain more development on the other hand. Consequently, he may even harm himself voluntarily without being aware that he is doing so. The Qur’an defines these individuals as follows:
    "Those whose striving goes astray in the present life, while they think that they are doing good deeds."(Cave: 104)

  6. Its main goal is to develop and fulfill instinctual needs and to receive infinite pleasure. This process has infinite urges. It cannot tolerate any limitation in its desires. Any conceivable factor which obstructs the passion will naturally cause an anxiety state.

  7. This process always tries to gain authority over the self in order to fulfill its desires and to reach infinite pleasure. The Passion is always at real war with the process of the conscience, and this war continues till the end of life.

  8. When the passion gains authority over the self, the conscience will be weakened. The weakening of the conscience’s energy is due to the coverings which are the complications of the authority of the passion. The thickness and strength of these coverings is related to the strength of the passion and the extension of its authority over the self. The Passion usually fulfills its desires by the employment of some unconscious mechanisms. In this respect “the mechanism of decoration” is an example. According to the Qur’an:
    “As to those who do not believe in the hereafter, we have surely made their deeds fair-seeming to them, but they blindly wander on”. (Ant: 4)

  9. In general, it can be stated that any conceivable defect is due to its over-ruling authority.

  10. The passion is always in opposition to the conscience. As any positive value related to humans is due to the conscience, so also any negative value is related to the passion, which in turn produces harmful and worthless results. In other words, it is apparent that lapses in conduct may arise due to the exclusive authority of this factor.(2,5)

As we have already seen, the characteristics of the conscience and the passion are such that these two psychic processes are continuously in a state of conflict. The Prophet (PBUH) defines this conflict as a real war. The personality of man and his volition depends on the authority of one of these two processes (Ref.I, p.164).
From this it can be understood that there are two opposite individuals and correspondingly social groups in existence; and the characteristics of a given individual or group is determined by the process which has gained authority over the self. These two opposite individuals and groups have different and opposite motives, goals, and life styles in accordance with their own personalities. Consequently, in these two kinds of individuals the reaction to internal and external stimuli will be different and this naturally has an impact on the genesis of the anxiety state.
According to the Islamic viewpoint, psychic conflicts are due to the controversies between these two opposite processes. The controversies between the conscience and the passion can be categorized as follows:
1. Controversy between infinite urges of the passion on the one hand and physiological and social limitations to fulfill these insatiable demands on the other hand.
2. Controversy between pleasure-prone urges of the passion on one side and the developmental urges of the conscience on the other side.
3. Conflict between pleasure-prone and indefinite urges of the passion and natural limitations imposed by the basic environmental circles of life. (Diag. 2)
4. Conflict between persistent desires and their lack of satisfaction. Sometimes the individual may even confuse his goal in life; thereby lacking an exact aim. The latter, in turn, can be a source of anxiety and apprehension.

Diagram 2:
The relationships of the basic life circles of human beings

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In an individual whose conscience is fortified, that is, has authority over the self (Ref. to Diag. 3) his strivings will be confined to only one motive-namely, the motive to fulfill his responsibility to God and to win His favor.

Diagram 3:
Personality structure in a controlled person (according to the Islamic school of psychology)

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This individual can solve all of his controversies between the conscience and the passion by accommodating his behavior with the Divine instructions as follows:
1. A developed person whose conscience has gained authority over the self (Ref. Diag. 3) is able to control the infinite urges and desires of the passion. Hence there is no uncontrollable psychic conflict between his conscience and the passion.
2. All instinctual needs and demands have been directed or channeled in a rational way; for example, marriage and the establishment of a strong family structure. By virtue of this, instinctual urges can even help in developmental aims.
3. These individuals have solved their conflicts within their basic system of life by using the Divine instructions. (Diag. 2)
The routine work and relationship of every person can be divided into eight basic systems as follows:
1. The system of man’s relationship with himself.
2. Family system.
3. Social (significant peer and friendly groups) system.
4. Occupational system.
5. Scientific system.
6. The system of the relationship between man and nature.
7. Political system.
According to the Divine religions all of the seven basic systems of human beings should be surrounded by a greater one which is the system of the relationship between man and his Creator, i.e. the Divine system. (Ref. Diag. 2)
According to this approach there are precise rules in the Divine religions for each of the basic systems. Rights and responsibilities of every individual have been well-defined in these basic rules. These rules are not mere suggestions. It is mandatory for man to follow them up in order to gain multidimensional development in his life (this approach is the philosophy of life according to the Divine religions). By this approach one can prevent the anxiety state which is seen as a complication of disturbed inter-individual relationships.
In order to prevent excessive reactions due to involuntary life events such as natural calamities and catastrophes, etc., one can use the Islamic instructions as an instrument to increase psychic capacity and change the meaning of the accident. All accidents and involuntary stressful life events have a special meaning in Islam. According to Islam, all accidents are trials to discover and expose man’s initiatives. So he is responsible for enduring them and his position of development will be arranged according to his approach to these events. (4)
The only source of anxiety in a developed individual is his fear of not perfectly carrying out and obeying the Divine laws as God expects. If one bears in mind that according to Islam he is supposed to believe in God’s mercifulness and not be pessimistic, this urge can help him to act better and gain more development.
A feeling of security, extended psychic capacity, and the ability to deal with the difficulties of life are natural results of this ideal approach. This kind of personality, in its extremity, can be seen in prophets and other thoroughly developed individuals.
Contrary to the above process, in the case of an individual whose passion has authority over the self (Ref. Diag. 4) his goal is to reach infinite pleasure.

Diagram 4:
Personality structure in a non-controlled person (according to the Islamic school of psychology)

It can be said that this individual is planning his lifestyle according to his own desires. Bearing in mind the physiological and social limitations that are present which prevent the full satisfaction of these infinite instinctual desires. So, the psychic conflicts which naturally follows in the latter instance is easily comprehensible. As the conflicts of these individuals cannot be solved and may even increase, so also the psychic conflict continues and increases mutually. We can see this process in its full picture in some antisocial individuals whose brutal behaviors are the most striking characteristics in the history of mankind. This is also exemplified by the idolaters during the age of the Prophet (PBUH).

In most people, that is those who by usual standards are considered ordinary, the authority of the self changes intermittently and the potentiality for the genesis of the anxiety state exists in correspondence to the fluctuation between their conscience and the passion.(diag.5)
According to the Islamic psychology all the Divine instructions are practical instruments to control the passion and to fortify the conscience. Hence, if a given individual or society considers these instructions, there will be a powerful protecting sanction for the prevention of the anxiety state and other reactive psychiatric manifestations. The Divine laws can prevent the anxiety state when the following processes are considered:
1. To learn the Divine laws.
2. To accept the Divine laws.
3. To consider and use the Divine laws in every day practice of life.
In Prophets and other developed persons these three processes are fully developed and considered. These individuals have been exposed to overwhelmingly stressful life events without showing any fear or state of anxiety. They have been presented in the Qur’an as models for human beings. We can use the fundamentals of the Islamic School of Psychology as a therapeutic method. In this case the most important duty of the therapist is to try to make his client aware of his own psychic processes, to check the functions of the basic circles of his life, and to eradicate any imagined or real obstacles from the way of his development.
The individual can achieve this by accommodating his behavior with the Divine instructions.

References

  1. Ameli S.H: Al vasael Al-Shia, vol. 11. Al-Eslamiaa Pub., 1398 Hij., pp. 124,164.

  2. Amodi: Ghorar Al-Hekam. Tehran University Press, 1390 Hij. Sh., vol. 1, pp. 55, 206,220,230, vol. 2, pp. 23, 324, 434, 176, 224, 503, vol. 3, pp.. 88, 137, 135, vol. 4, p. 32, vol. 5, pp. 337, 438, vol. 6, pp. 370, 326.

  3. Jafari M.T: Vejdan.Moassase Matboati Eslami, 1347 Hij. Sh., p. 12.

  4. Hosseini S.A: Primary prevention of psychiatric disorders according to Islam.Bulletin of the Islamic Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 5, pp.. 598-603,1983.

  5. Hosseini, S.A:An elementary study on the fundamentals of the Islamic psychology, vol. 1. Mashhad University Press, 1981

  6. Khomeini R:Talab va eradeh, Persian version by Fehri. Markaz ntesharat Elmi Farhangue, 1363 Hij., pp. 155-157

  7. Motahari,, M: Fetrat. Pub. of the Islamic Society of Madreseh Aali Sakhteman, 1361 Hij. Sh., p. 27

  8. Tabatabai, M.H: Tafsir Almizan. Mohammadi Pub., 1343 Hij. Sh.,vol. 40,pp. 24, 248-335, 383-384, 310, vol. 17, p. 89, vol. 39, pp. 311, 320, vol. 38, pp.93, 95, 187, 194, 251, 151, vol. 11, p.295

  9. World Health Organization: Mental disorders glossary and guide to their classification in accordance with the ninth revision of the international classification of diseases. W.H.O., 1978, p. 35.

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