Have you ever experienced any of the following thoughts?
“They’re looking at me in such a strange way, they definitely don’t like me…”
“They have clearly seen my message and not responded… I must have annoyed them somehow, what did I do? Let me ask them if they’re mad at me.”
“That person is definitely out to sabotage me, I just know it…”
If you’re constantly thinking like this, you might have received a comment that you are being “paranoid”.
Paranoia refers to someone who feels excessively suspicious without justification and feels that others might be plotting against them. They read too much into what people say with a negative point of view. As a result, their overall emotional state gets negatively affected. They might feel depressed, anxious, and have low-self-esteem.
If you’re currently experiencing these thoughts, you’re not alone. Almost all of us experience some sort of paranoia at some point in our lives. But it’s about time we address this issue constructively and learn how to overcome it.
Some of the reasons why people get paranoid is a strong belief that they’re in danger and that their safety is in question. Paranoia is thought to be partly genetic and partly the result of certain events that happen to us in our lives. Distressing or traumatizing experiences that we have encountered can play a role into our paranoia. These negative thoughts cause irrational fears and drain our energy and positivity.
Before looking into paranoia, we need to acknowledge the importance of mental health and how crucial it is to our well being. Paranoia can require professional help, and if this is the case for you, then do not hesitate to get help.
For now, let’s discuss a few tips on how to avoid negative thoughts.
1. Develop the habit of husnul-dhan (positive assumption)
Our Prophet has encouraged the practice of having a good opinion of others, and always assuming the best of them. We are asked to think positive about others such that Allah has recorded negative assumption in His Book as a sin.
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin…” [Qur’an: Chapter 49, Verse 12]
Sometimes we automatically assume the worst in others and this fuels unsubstantiated paranoia. For some, this is considered the equivalent to being gullible, however, if we constantly assume that people are out to get us, it causes mind games that further exacerbate and fuel negative thoughts. To constantly suspect others drains your energy and steals your happiness away.
In the very same verse, Allah shows us the way to get rid of assuming bad things of others:
“…And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 49, Verse 12]
Instantly seeking His forgiveness when the impulse from Shaytaan touches us can help us get rid of negative thinking.
2. Avoid backbiting
“.. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 49, Verse 12]
There is divine wisdom behind backbiting being forbidden in Islam. Not only does backbiting negatively affect relationships, but it is also a two-way harmful act which plants seeds of suspicion and animosity. Taking part in spreading rumors or even discussing them puts you at risk of becoming paranoid.
Silence or even a delay in a response from someone you have spoken about triggers paranoia inside you where you worry that they know. Your first assumption is that the other person is mad at you.
3. Do not tolerate backbiting around you
Yes, I’m bringing up backbiting again, it’s that toxic! If you have friends or family members who regularly gossip, walk away. This might feel strange at first, you may feel bad, confused or even guilty to an extent that you feel nervous to get up, let alone walk away. But remember, you’re not the one who is doing something wrong, so stick to your guns, because you’re right!
If you’re more comfortable explaining that what they’re doing is wrong, in a way that they would listen and respect your position, then that definitely works. People will not bring up negative things around you when you tell them what you think about backbiting. This will help bring positive vibes your way and keep the negative ones at bay.
4. Avoid negative people
Disconnect yourself from those who bring you down, as paranoia is fueled by negative thoughts. Different people have different energies. Sometimes we stay in the company of people who are constantly pessimistic and cynical and we leave them feeling low and uninspired, maybe even worthless. Constantly being in the company of these people might affect your well-being and contribute to paranoia. Leave them (if possible) and look for those who make you feel valued and appreciated. There wouldn’t be a reason to question their intentions because you know they wish you well.
Allah also teaches us how to avoid people spreading negativity – by being patient, saying words of peace and then walking away.
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace” [Qur’an: Chapter 25, Verse 63]
“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.” [Qur’an: Chapter 73, Verse 10]
5. Anticipate goodness and you will surely find it
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Indeed, mankind was created anxious” [Qur’an: Chapter 70, Verse 19]
Anticipatory anxiety is a negative projection about an unknown outcome and everyone experiences this with varying intensities. A low level of anticipatory anxiety motivates us to work hard and pray more sincerely. But when it causes an increased level of anxiety, we start to lose control of things. It even leads to physical issues like an upset stomach, fatigue or severe back pain. But anticipating goodness is deep-rooted in our faith.
Jabir bin ‘Abdullah reported:
I heard the Prophet saying three days before his death: “Let none of you die unless he has good expectations from Allah “. [Muslim]
Anticipating goodness has been found by modern psychologists to be a primary factor to start a positive change. Positive thoughts have been proved to have the power to create positive outcomes. Think positive. In every experience, there is a Divine wisdom.
تَوَقَّع خَيْرَا مَهْمَا كَثُر الْبَلَاء
Anticipate goodness no matter how serious the affliction may be.
How to develop the habit of anticipating goodness? There are many ways but the following, bi’ithniLlah, is a very powerful one: Thank Allah for the positive results even before starting to do something. Have you ever noticed “Thanking you in advance” in the application letters? Yes, the same! For instance, if you are preparing for your exams, say “AlhamduliAllah that You are there to help me”, “AlhamduliAllah that You are going to make it easier than I thought”, “AlhamduliAllah that by Your Mercy I am going to get a good result”, etc.
6. Have tawakkul
Believe that Allah has a plan for you and that He knows what you’re going through. He is our Protector, and if people wish us harm and it is not written for us then it will never happen.
“Say, “Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is Our Master. It is in Allah that the faithful should put their trust.” [Qur’an: Chapter 9, Verse 51]
As Muslims, we believe that relying on Allah and believing in His decree are crucial in our lives.
Ubadah bin al Samit said to his son:
Son! You will not get the taste of the reality of faith until you know that what has come to you could not miss you, and that what has missed you could not come to you.
I heard the Messenger of Allah say: The first thing Allah created was the pen. He said to it: Write.
It asked: What should I write, my Lord?
He said: Write what was decreed about everything till the Last Hour comes.
Son! I heard the Messenger of Allah say : He who dies on something other than this does not belong to me. [Sunan Abi Dawud]
However, we must understand it correctly. We need to make sure that we do our part first. We believe that Allah will not burden us with more than what we can handle, so we need to try our best, and ensure that we are trying to improve our situation and whatever is beyond our control we trust that Allah will take care of us. Once we practice tawakkul in every aspect of our lives, it will reduce paranoia significantly, because you don’t fear tribulations that come your way, instead, you recognize that Allah is with you in this struggle and that through it and after it will come ease.
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” [Qur’an: Chapter 94, Verses 5 – 6]
7. Keep yourself busy
Schedule enjoyable and absorbing activities for the times of the day when you are most prone to worry. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep because of worrying thoughts, try to wind down by reading a book, or listening to something soothing, such as your favorite Qur’an reciter. We are also advised to read our evening adhkar that will protect us before we go to sleep. Once you’ve distracted yourself from negative thoughts before you know it, you will fall asleep feeling safe and protected, and that would help reduce your paranoid thoughts.
8. Seek help
Speak to your GP, or a mental health professional. If you feel like paranoia is interfering with your day-to-day life and is really affecting you, reach out to your GP, or a mental health organization/specialist near you. You can get help to manage your negative thoughts and it will give you a chance to share what you’re feeling with someone else, without the fear of judgment.