When psyche meets spirituality

Quite recently I got lucky to perform Umrah again after many years. I had been longing to go and fortunately, the ‘bulawa’ (invite) as we Muslims believed came this month. Those of us who have been to the house of Allah or have visited the Prophet’s (p.b.u.h) Mosque more or less share how it’s a renewal of faith and spirituality and one feels at peace. It’s a different world altogether where suddenly time slows down and revolves around the sound of Azaaan and prayers and the twenty-four hours are spent praying, eating, and sleeping. I was noticing how there seemed to be endless hours in Mecca and Medina and there is a stillness within that feels like peace and calm. It’s not only the ceremonial prayers that one is practicing there but I wanted to use the time to reflect and introspect and understand the meaning of life that gets lost in the world we are living in.
Spirituality is a journey beyond rituals and there were many instances during my time there that I observed our psyche’s relationship with spirituality. So, what were those observations? For instance, I can fully relate to the longing and overwhelming want to touch the Kaaba and pray but that want conflicted with the spirit of Ibadaat which is to practice tolerance towards other fellow beings. Men and women pushed their way through to touch Hajra-e-Aswad or the walls of Kaaba or offer Nafils in Riad-ul-Jnanat. In those moments, I saw the inherent human psyche that jumps forward to connect to the universe. That drive and impulse that wants to compete to attain goals, strive, and work towards them by any means and that can break boundaries no matter what. In Haram, only Umrah performers are allowed in Mataf; the open area around Kabaa, and a man in the hotel told us how he wears the Ihram without performing Umrah to be able to pray there. Was I not tempted to push my way to be the one to kiss Hajra-e- aswad? I wanted it badly but then I kept asking myself why am I here? What am I trying to connect to? What does spirituality mean for me? When I got space to pray in Riad-ul-Jannat, it was a difficult decision to leave after a short bit so other women could pray.
The conflict between the psyche and spirituality feels heightened in a place like this. Feels like man vs God. Ironically a place where we want to be closer to God; that desire is a strong force that collides with our habitual modes and becomes stronger and resistant to the essence of spirituality. As Muslims, we believe that the devil (shaitaan) within us becomes stronger and as a therapist, I believe that all that we are trying to repress in the shadow of the psyche like forbidden thoughts and impulses becomes more alive there as we try harder to only connect to our spiritual existence.
Spirituality is an integral part of our core and it has a strong imprint on the psyche but the human psyche has many self-states that are in direct conflict with some of these self-states that evoke moral anxiety in people. There is a part of us that is a conformist and likes to adapt and pray and follow the lead of many for example in a place like Mecca but equally powerful is the part that likes to break boundaries and rebel and act out.
We must accept that part and its existence in our shadow because that’s how we can integrate it with the spirituality within us. Just to accept is enough and can remove the temptation of acting into it but repressing it and denying and especially believing that as we step into Haram, we rise above the mere mortals is a fallacy and illusion.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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