Center For Indigenous Psychology (Pusat Pengembangan Psikologi Islam) is led by Prof. DR Achmad Mubarok MA, a Professor of Indigenous Psychology at University of Indonesia (UI), Jakarta State Islamic University (UIN Jakarta), and Assyafiiyah Islamic University (UIA)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Religious Counselors and Problems of Modern Society
at 1:36 AM 
In this current globalization area, values disorder in Indonesian society have been happening so fast and we can’t really sure about its direction since people have different absorbing power toward various stimuli in the global area. Modernization can be marked through progresses in science and technology, while globalization itself can be marked through the using of information technology that makes this world “shrinks” to a village. We can watch an occasion happening in America or Africa at the same day or even the same minute through television or the Internet. They also can watch what happen in our country in the same way. The world looks as if it is naked, can be seen by all peoples of the earth. The problem for developing countries such as Indonesia is that their people have knowledge levels and social strata that may be very different from each other so that their abilities to absorb information are not same or similar.

In Indonesia now, there are at least five social strata in the society: ultra modern stratum/people, modern people, urban people, traditional people, and backward people, even in Papua there are still communities living like those who lived in stone era a very long time ago, they don’t wear clothes. Those five kinds of people or societies receive the same stimuli from global culture, such as freedom, luxury, pornography, and violence that are different from traditional and cultural societies in Indonesia. The impacts are extraordinary. Local culture and religion’s norms are up side down in family livings, social-political living, economy, fashion, food taste, music, and other life styles. These are difficult problems for religious counselors, since they themselves are also victims of the wave of globalization culture. A lot of religious counselors belong to modern stratum, not yet urban stratum. Extra intensive efforts are required to prepare those religious counselors to be able to play a significant role in helping to relieve modern society’s problems.

Illnesses of Modern Man
Illnesses of Modern Man discussed in this writing are psychological disturbances suffered by people living in modern civilization environment. Modern area has two characteristics: (1) usage of technology in various aspects of human livings, (2) development of science as manifestation of human intellectual progress. Modern man is a man that is thinking logically and is able to use various technologies to enhance qualities of human living. With their intelligence and technology support, modern man should be wiser than ever, but in fact, there is a lot of people whose humane qualities are lower than thinking progress and technology they have achieved. Wisely, the usage of modern communication and transportation tools had caused man to live under global influence and controlled by global information wave, whereas mental readiness of people individually and even ethnically are not same.

Consequences of this imbalance can be found in living reality in which a lot of people had lived in a modern civilization using technology—high technology—as their living facilities but in their lives they suffer distortions in humane values. Dehumanization happens due to their intellectual, mental, and spiritual capacities are not prepared to cross the sea or jungle of modern civilization. They have Mercy cars but their insight is still insight of “becak” (a non-motored three wheeled vehicle). They have communications tools in forms of cell phones and internet connections, but they still often use language of hand signs, they choose pizzas and Kentucky chickens for their menus, but their nutrition insight is still of “tempe bongkrek” class. Their wealthy, positions, and weapons symbolize their progress, but their souls are empty and brittle. They use all symbols of modern man but its substances—logical thinking and sophisticated technology mastering are still far to achieve.

1. Cage of Modern Man
The powerlessness of modern man to play a significant role in the stage of modern civilization unstoppably in progress causes most of the “modern man” to be trapped in a situation called “Man in a Cage”, a term founded by a famous humanist psychologist, Rollo May. This is a term indicating one of modern man’s sufferings.
Such a modern man is actually a man who has lost this meaning of life, a hollow man. He is restless every time he has to make decisions. He doesn’t really know what he wants, and he is not able to choose a way of life he wants. Sociologists call it symptoms of alienation that are caused by (a) very rapid social changes, (b) warm human interactions that had changed into barren human interactions, (c) traditional institutions that had changed into rational institutions, (d) homogenous communities that had changed into heterogeneous communities, and (e) social stability had changed into social mobility.

The psychological situation in the social system shackling the modern man is like a very strong cage, causing the occupants within can’t think to try to find the way out from the cage. People feel too powerless to try to make changes, the power of political system is felt like a ghost whose working standards are difficult to follow, the economy is felt controlled by a few people who can manipulate it at their own disposal, not based on people interest, and cultural supreme values have changed into some kinds of market commodities whose fluctuations are difficult to predict.
Like a person who had been confined in a cage for a long time, modern man are frustrated and in powerlessness. They can’t plan their futures any longer; they are submitted to the fate since they feel powerless. People pay no attention to political developments; civil servants feel that they only work routinely and only do things ordered to them and supervised by their superordinates or bosses.

Another cage that is no less in its strength is social living. Modern people are confined by social demands. They feel that they are restricted to follow social scenario determining various criteria and arranging “musts” in social living. An official’s wife feels that she has to adapt to his husband’s position in terms of clothes, vehicles, accessories and even how to smile and laugh. An official also has to replace his homes, vehicles, clothes, friends, drinks, cigarettes, and habits to conform social scenario regarding officials. Women are also occupied with changing their cosmetics, clothes’ fashion, dressing, food tables and dishes in their homes to conform current trends

Modern man is very busy and trying hard to adapt himself with modern trends. He feels that he has been trying hard to meet his own wishes, but in fact he has been enslaved by others’ wishes, by social wishes. He is actually pursuing things others expect he pursues. He always measure his behaviours based on things he thinks are expected by others. He might be satisfied but the satisfaction is only for a moment, satisfaction in showing behaviours “commissioned” by others. He acts like a play actor on the stage that has to perform excellently based on his director’s commands, although he himself may be not healthy.

That’s the modern man; he does something not because he wants to do it, but because he thinks others want him to do it. He is so busy meeting others’ wishes that he forgets what he himself wants. He has hundreds social masks ready to use in various events in accordance with social scenario, and he uses those mask very often so that he forgets his own original face. Modern man is a man who has lost his identity; his behaviours are like robotic movements, without any feeling. His smiles are no longer as sweet as holy smiles of a baby, but are artificial. His laughs are not longer artificial like a child or teenager’s cheerful laughs, bus are controlled as a kind of face powder to mask his personality. His cries are not longer moans of his soul but are mask to hide his rotten characters, and it is has been programmed when to laugh and when to cry.

2. Psychological Disturbances of Modern Man
Because of the prolonged hypocrisy, modern man suffers various psychological disturbances such as (a) Anxiousness, (b) Loneliness, (c) Boredom , (d) Deviant behaviours; (e) Psychosomatic illness.

a) Anxiety
Anxiety suffered by the modern man caused by losing of meaning of life. Naturally, man needs meaning of life. Meaning of life is owned by one when he has honesty and feels that his life is required by others and feels that he is able to and has done things meaningful to others. Meaning of life is usually fully comprehended by strugglers—in any field—since focus of attention of those strugglers is how to contribute something to others. A struggler usually has a high dedication, and for what he struggles for he is ready to victimize himself and even his life.
Although things done for a struggler is for others’ interest, but the motivation to struggle comes from his own, not for satisfying others. A struggler does something in accordance with the principles he embraces, not with principles others embrace. A struggler will be satisfied if he is able to firmly stick to his struggling principles, although his struggle itself is possibly failed. Meanwhile, a modern man doesn’t have a meaning of life, since he doesn’t have principle of life. He only follows trends, follows social demands, whereas the social demands themselves are not necessarily based on noble principles. One whose life only follows others’ wishes, will only feel satisfied for a moment, and will feel disappointed and ashamed if he is failed. Since social demands are always changing and never end, modern man is demanded to always anticipate changes, whereas changes always happen and are difficult to anticipate and he himself doesn’t have a principle of life, so that he is enslaved to serve changes. Due to these imbalances and mainly because he feels that his life is meaningless, no dedication in his actions, he feels prolonged restlessness and anxiety. Only occasionally he feels temporary enjoyment, false enjoyments, whenever he is performing well on stage of life drama.

b. Loneliness
Loneliness if a psychological disturbance caused by personal interactions within modern society that are no longer sincere and warm. The barrenness of human interactions happens since modern man wears social masks to hide personality face. In interpersonal communications, modern man doesn’t introduce his own self, but instead introducing a person who is actually not himself. As a result, every time a modern man looks at another person, the person he looks at is not a true person but a masked person. Furthermore, personal interactions are no longer interactions among personalities, but interactions among masks, whereas every person needs another person, not another mask.

Because of the barren personal interactions, modern man suffers loneliness, even when he is in a crowd. As a man, he is really alone, since there are only mask around him. He can’t enjoy others’ smiles, since he himself perceives those smiles as masks, like his own smiles to others that are also masks. He regards others’ compliments as “programmed” lip services, even love expression from his lover sounds insipid since he also regard his lover as a person wearing a mask of love. How poor the modern man is!

c. Boredom
Because of meaningless life, insipid interactions with other persons, anxiety always disturbing his soul, and prolonged loneliness, the modern man suffers another psychological disturbance, boredom. When he is on the stage of falseness, the masked man indeed gets delight for a while, but when he gets home, alone again with his true identity, then he is again haunted by anxiety and loneliness. Prolonged anxiety and loneliness makes him getting sick of pretence and falseness, but he doesn’t what to do to eliminate the boredom.

Different from a struggler who feels living in a crowd of struggle even when he sits alone in his room or even in his prison cell, a modern man feels lonely in a crowd, gets frustrated among various facilities, and feels boredom in a party’s seducing merriness.

d. Deviant Behaviours
Anxiety, loneliness, boredom suffered continuously cause one doesn’t know exactly what to do. He can’t make any decision and doesn’t know which way to go through. With his empty and brittle soul, when one can’t think deeply, his tendency to satisfying motives to low things gets very stronger, since satisfying motives to low things will provide a bit of amusement.

A person with this level of psychology disturbance is very easily persuaded or affected to do amusing things although those deeds are deviant from moral norms. His psychological condition is like that of a person influenced by drugs. When one is not able to think almost anything, he is wiling to do anything to get liquor. The emptiness of soul may lead such a person to rob others, although he doesn’t need money, rape someone he doesn’t know, kill another without any clear reason. Principally, the person can do any deviant behaviour that can seemingly amuse him.

e. Psychosomatic disturbances
Psychosomatic disturbances are physical disturbances caused by psychological and social factors. One’s cumulative and peaking emotion may cause shock and disorder in his mind. If those factors causing emotion to peak continuously can’t be kept at a long distance or controlled, then he will always be forced to struggle to press his feelings. Those prolonged stressed, anxious, lonely, bored feelings may influence his physical health. Therefore, pyschomatic disturbances can be viewed as a combination of physical and mental illnesses, which is in Arabic called nafsajasadiyyah or nafsabiolojiyyah. The sick part is actually his soul but the illness manifests in form of physical illnesses

Psychomatic sufferers usually complain that they feel unwell, their hearts pitter-patter, they feel weak and can’t concentrate. The psychosomatic forms may consist of syndrome, trauma, stress, dependence on tranquilizer/drugs/alcohol, or deviant behaviours.

A modern man suffering psychomatic disturbances is like an occupant of a cage that does not realize any longer that the cage had confined him. He thinks that living within the cage is as normal as it should be. He can’t imagine how things outside the cage look any longer.

3. Psychological Therapy for Modern Man
Because modern man’s sufferings come from the cage confining him, the way out of the problem is trying to get out from the cage. The cage confining the modern man actually has something to do with emptiness of values. Emptiness of modern man’s values happens since he can’t recognize himself in constellation of God’s creatures. He is occupied with his belief that he is only a stand-alone creature, so that his world gets narrow, his sky gets low.

To be dared to get out of his cage, firstly a modern man should recognize again his identity, what a creature is, what a man really is, who he really is, for what he exists in this world and where to go after this life?

A modern man with not so serious illness can be asked to discuss, to think, contemplating what had happened and how much the rest of his life will possibly be. He is asked to recognize himself in the context of Allah’s creature, since like the Prophet Muhammad said “he who knows himself knows his God. However, dialogue or discussion won’t help a sufferer with a very serious condition. Such a person is recommended to be taken into a situation that gives no opportunity else than thinking and feeling being in a religion condition, for example invited to join a forum of “dzikir jahr” like that of “tarekat of Naqsyabandiyaah” community. The dzikir jahr environment will force him to follow reading of thayyibah sentences, and repeated readings will help to slowly enter a situation that is not easily comprehended but beautiful and delighting.

In this perspective, tassawuf or religious spirituality is actually highly relevant for modern people, for healthy ones, and especially for sick ones.

4. Muslims’ Views of Life
People are trapped in a modern cage because they have wrong views of life. They have wrong views of life so that they create further mistakes preventing them from getting the meaning of modernization and instead becoming merely consumers of modernization wastes. A Muslim having a correct view of life will be still exist and strong in every era, traditional era and modern era, since the correct view of live will throw wastes out of the essence.

Muslim views of life can be measured at least from following things:
a. Goal of Life. Religion of Islam teaches us that goal of man’s life is seeking for ridla of Allah, ibtigha'a mardatillah, so that his principle of life is whether things he chooses are in accordance with God’s will or not. This view of life will make one strong in his convictions, not afraid of being abused verbally and even not afraid of being alienated from his social system. If one has decided that God’s will (ridla of Allah) is his goal of life, then he will prevent from having to meet social demands in contradiction with his goal of life.

b. Function of Life. Islam teaches us that man’s function on earth is as a khalifah or representative of Allah. As a khalifah of Allah, man is given responsibility to uphold truth and law of Allah on earth. For that purpose, man is also given right to manage and make use of nature. This view of life makes one can’t come to a standstill seeing the arbitrary behaviours of people in damaging living or environment. As a khalifah, he feels invited to do good deeds and to prevent bad deeds (ama ma’ruf and nahi mungkar). In this perspective, man is a subject, not merely an object.

c. Duty of Life. Islam teaches us that man is created to worship God. Therefore, worship or ibadah is a duty to do, not a goal. To achieve the goal of achieving will of God (ridla of Allah), man should do his worshipful duty. Those who are disciplined in doing their duty will be given promotion, while lazy ones will stay behind.

d. Instruments of Life. To achieve the goal and to do the duty, man is given
instruments that are his own self (his physics, intellectuality, and soul), properties, and nature. Properties and belongings are instruments of life, not a goal. Therefore, the amount of properties a man needs is the amount he needs for the purposes of doing his religious duty and achieving will of Allah as his goal of life. To achieve his goal and to do his duty, man needs nutrition for his body’s health, clothes for social interactions, feet or vehicles to travel, hands or power to carry out decisions, and science to improve his qualities of work.

e. Model (Exemplar) of Life. Man tends to imitate and identify. Man needs a figure to imitate, since merely sciences and skills don’t guarantee one to achieve values of work primacy. For that purpose, teachings of Islam determine that the figure that should be referred by man in his life is Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad is uswatun hasanah (excellent model) for mukmins (believers). Muhammad as an exemplar is unrivalled by anyone, since Prophet Muhammad is the concrete manifestation of Quranic values. “Kana khuluquhu al Qur'an”, Aisyah r.a. said once.

f. Friends and Foes in Life. In living his life, struggling in doing the duty, and achieving the goal, man needs friends and often meets foes. Islam teaches us that all mukmins are brothers and sisters, and devil is a consistent foe or enemy. A mukmin has to prioritize other mukmins as his partners over other people. Dealing with devil provides nothing except a loss.

Functioning Religious Counselors
A religious counselor actually is different from a muballigh or teacher of Majils Ta’lim. A muballigh should talk a lot, while a counselor should be able to listen a lot. A muballigh deals with healthy people at once, while a counselor deals with troubled people, one by one. A muballigh acts as a subject in dealing with a mad’u as an object, while a counselor only helps a troubled person so that the person can be a subject to solve his own problems as his objects.

Therefore, religious counselor should comprehend his position when dealing with troubled people that he is a counselor not a mubaligh. A troubled person may have his problem disappears only by telling it to the right person (counselor). On the contrary, a trouble person may be getting more confused when he listens to long advices submitted by a muballigh.

It is not easy to change self-concept of a muballigh to become a counselor. Science, field experiences, and comprehension on people’s problems in life are required here. We meet various people problems in modern living but not everyone is able to analyze those problems to find their solutions. Preparing programs for religious counselors in capital areas is easier since they live close to cases and there are a lot of information source. To change the muballighs into religious counselors in solving modern man, periodical programs can be held, for example once a week. The programs consist of:
1. Inviting information sources to provide insights on problems of modern society (psychology)

2. Guided by an instructor, every counselor is given task of observing society problems in his area and reporting them in form of paper

3. Also guided by an instructor, on every day of common programs, every counselor candidate reports his findings.

4. The instructor guides them in comprehending existing problems.

5. Instructor guides them in finding appropriate problem solving format

6. Publishing counseling journal for internal purpose whose materials taken from cases founded by those counselor.

7. A kind of seminar is held every certain period to discuss those problems.
In Jakarta area, those tasks can be carried out by PMTI in cooperation with Ministry of Religious Affairs and other sponsor institutions. Wallahu a`lamu bi as sawab.
posted by : Mubarok institute

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