Paranoia, Fear and Shame in a climate of Islamaphobia

People come to counselling with many issues but there is one issue that is increasingly appearing in therapy sessions and that is the issue of shame based paranoia.
Clients express their fear saying, ‘the atmosphere is tense out there’. ‘Im afraid to wear hijab (head covering)’.
When we enquire a little deeper I hear; ‘I get stares, I get people shaking their heads at me’ or worse, ‘ I’ve been spat at’ or ‘ some one shouted abuse at me today’.

Sadly their reports are real enough, but paranoia is not just about thinking something is worse than it is, it is how a real situation can escalate so that it effects your thinking, your feeling and your behaviour.
In the case of ignorant hate filled looks and abuse, the victim starts to believe that everyone could carry the same attitude and a cycle of paranoia results in sometimes paralysing fear.

This is not really surprising to us as Muslims, its a familiar daily occurrence. Read the newspaper, read hate, feel fear. Open up Facebook, read hate, post hate, feel fear and it goes on. Fuelled by paranoia and fear the tension mounts until bam, we react.

Our reactions vary, a comment to defend, correct or fight. A stare back, a word back, and worse and worse and worse. Anger  peaks and it falls, its a projection of the internal shame and fear. As muslims we have anger management techniques such as wudu (ablution) salah (prayer), dhikr (remembrance of Allah), fasting, giving to others.

The effects of paranoia stemming from shame can trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response i.e.; anger and violence or internal hate and silence.  When a person is objectified to a bombardment of negativity they can start to believe that the world is not ok, your not ok, and even I’m not okay. What we hear mostly in the news is the ‘they are not ok’ and so starts the anger, hate and fight. But there is a portion of us that feel that ‘we/I am not ok’, thus internalising the hate on themselves.

‘I am not ok’ is self hate and self hate is damaging. Its the route cause of addictions, unhealthy dependancies, self harm, neglect and even suicide. The scale is major and can range from picking ones skin, overeating, under-eating, too many Nurophen’s to taking class A drugs! Victims of shame can go mostly unrecognised and most victims of shame don’t even know that they are.

‘Shame is important because no affect is more disturbing to the self, none more central for the sense of identity’ (Gershna Kaufman)

Victims of Shame based anger projecting a ‘they’re not okay’ response are the abusers, the bullies, the suicide bombers!

Shame is multifaceted and  a common shackle to us all. We originate from a  long line of shame sufferers, the line extends all the way back to the start of humanity and our father Adam peace be upon him.

Adam and Hawa (Eve) fall was down to the shame and humility of awareness that they had forgotten their Creator, followed their desires and now were witness to their embarrassment through the uncovering  of their modesty.  Shaytans (satan) aim was shame, and shame is what Adam and Hawa felt when they realised their mistake.


How did Adam and Hawa react and project their shame? did they react with violence? anger? or self hate and loathing? did they carry the burden of shame and pass it on like a ‘hot potato’ to the next generation? this i shall research. But for now I am asking us to look at how deep and how far does shame play in our purpose of life and our intrinsic nature to transcend worldly struggles. Is shame a secret ingrediant to internal and external paradise?

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Allah does not send down any disease, but He also sends down the cure for it.”
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ مَهْدِيٍّ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ السَّائِبِ، عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ دَاءً إِلاَّ أَنْزَلَ لَهُ دَوَاءً ‏”‏ ‏.‏
Grade : Sahih (Darussalam)
English reference : Vol. 4, Book 31, Hadith 3438
Arabic reference : Book 31, Hadith 3564

‘Healthy shame is essential and is a foundation of spirituality. By reminding us of our essential limitations, our healthy shame lets us know that we are not God. Our healthy shame points us in the direction of some larger meaning. Our healthy shame is the psychological ground of our own humility’ (John Bradshaw).

Part 2 of my search for an understanding of shame continues (your comments and input appreciated)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s