Moments that Change My Life 3: About Faith

Sepertinya kuliah jurusan psikologi membuat gw banyak belajar mengenai hal-hal baru. Lots of my reflection and “awakening” dimulai dari teori-teori atau prinsip yang gw pelajari di kelas psikologi. Ada satu kelas yang bagi gw sulit tapi ternyata meaningful, yaitu kelas psikologi kognitif. Why?

Jadi, beberapa hari yang lalu di jalan pulang, gw sempat ngobrol dengan salah satu teman gw yang merupakan guru senior di sekolah tempat gw kerja. Kami awalnya bicara mengenai banyak hal, lalu menyempitlah pada satu peraturan yang pernah diterapkan di sekolah kami, yaitu mengenai kewajiban untuk solat Dzuhur berjamaah di kelas. We both agree that the essential of that rule is good. Ya, siapa yang tidak setuju bahwa praktik beragama itu tidak baik? Pada kenyataannya, murid-murid di sekolah kami ternyata banyak yang memprotes peraturan ini. Banyak sekali alasan mereka, termasuk mengenai kebebasan beragama dan memilih untuk tidak menjalankan praktik agama. Well, well…. Kalau sudah bicara mengenai hak seperti ini, memang akhirnya menjadi sulit. They have a valid opinion. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, I’m saying that it’s valid. Ya betul kan, mau beribadah atau tidak merupakan hak masing-masing orang. Bahkan, mau percaya Tuhan dan agama atau tidak, juga hak masing-masing orang. Nah, melawan argumen-argumen ini lah yang sulit bagi gw. Bukan karena gw tidak percaya atau karena gw tidak beribadah. Not at all. Sulit karena ketuhanan dan kepercayaan terhadap agama asalnya dari faith dimana tidak ada orang yang bisa membuat seseorang punya faith terhadap sesuatu. Sesungguhnya, Allah-lah yang dapat membolak-balikkan hati. Pada akhirnya, Rasulullah SAW meskipun sangat menyayangi pamannya dan telah berdakwah kepada pamannya, pun tidak dapat membuat Abu Thalib masuk Islam.

Nah, di dalam percakapan gw dan teman gw ini, kita melakukan refleksi lah (yekan gw sukanya emang refleksi diri). Yang kami temukan bersama adalah bagaimana seseorang dididik dalam keluarga sangat penting untuk menumbuhkan yang namanya faith ini. Kalau menurut Cambridge Dictionary, faith diartikan sebagai keyakinan atau kepercayaan tingkat tinggi terhadap sesuatu atau seseorang – bahkan ketika tidak ada alasan atau hal yang mendasarinya. Oleh karena itu, bagi saya, tampaknya sangat sulit sekali untuk memunculkan faith dalam diri seseorang. Kalau tidak dari kecil, kalau tidak dengan keyakinan yang sangat kuat, tampaknya tidak mungkin. Kembali lagi, hanya Allah yang dapat membolak-balik hati.

Cerita gw tentang faith mungkin agak sedikit berbeda. Mungkin apa yang gw pahami salah, tapi ini adalah persepsi, pemahaman, dan pengalaman gw. Alhamdulillah, gw tidak pernah menjadi orang yang tidak percaya pada Allah dan agama. Gw lahir dan dibesarkan dalam lingkungan keluarga yang sangat taat sehingga pendidikan agama gw dapat sejak sangat kecil. It kind of grows in me. Tapi gw pun tidak pernah mempertanyakan. Ya, ada lah ya, pertanyaan-pertanyaan seperti: kenapa Allah menciptakan orang jahat, dll saat gw menginjak remaja. So and so, gw tidak pernah lalu meragukan keislaman gw. I have a complete faith sampai akhirnya gw menemukan jawabannya sendiri.

Jadi, gw dulu adalah mahasiswa psikologi. Salah satu mata kuliah yang wajib kami ambil adalah psikologi kognitif. Dalam pelajaran tersebut, kami belajar mengenai bagaimana manusia berpikir, fungsi otak, dll. Intinya, otak adalah organ tubuh inti yang membedakan manusia dengan mahluk lainnya dan membuat manusia menjadi “manusia”. Susah kali bahasanya yaa… Suatu hari, kami belajar lah mengenai persepsi. Tubuh manusia itu punya reseptor sensasi, yang biasanya kita sebut indera. Nah, si indera manusia ini menyampaikan lah informasi melalui saraf ke otak. Lalu, otak menerjemahkan sensasi ini dan akhirnya kita tahu apa yang ada di sekitar kita. Sama lah, seperti input di komputer yang lalu ada output-nya. Nah, masalahnya…. Saking si otak kita ini sangat kompleks, we may not know how it translates information. And we have no way of knowing bahwa apa yang diterjemahkan otak kita itu benar atau salah. Biasanya, we come to other people to convince us that what we perceive is true. Masalahnya lagi, orang lain kan belum tentu juga otaknya “benar”. Masalahnya lagi, bagaimana kalau otak kita salah menerjemahkan input, dan ternyata orang lain itu hanya ilusi?

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And that’s when I realized: gila! Dunia ini beneran fana ya. Gimana kalau otak kita berbohong pada kita? Bagaimana kalau realita yang selama ini kita percaya, ternyata bukan realita. Maaaaaannnn…. And that time I completely believe that I need something beyond. Bahwa ada suatu zat di atas manusia yang Maha. Bahwa sesungguhnya gw butuh sesuatu yang membuat gw “sane”. Bahwa gw butuh bergantung pada janji yang diberikan sama Allah, bahwa ada dunia, nanti, yang tidak fana. Gw sangat bersyukur sih bahwa gw mendapatkan pencerahan ini. Buat gw, inilah yang membuat gw memiliki (mudah-mudahan) complete faith. Mungkin buat orang lain ini tidak logis, mungkin buat orang lain pengalaman dan pemahaman ini belum bisa membuat mereka percaya. But then again, balik lagi lagi dan lagi, hanya Allah yang bisa membolak-balikkan hati. And at the end, memang manusia tugasnya berdoa dan memohon supaya selalu dibukakan hatinya terhadap hidayah dan cahaya. Aamiin.

Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/ryantoanugroho/?hl=en

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Moments that Change My Life 2: Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

I always believe that discomfort is the key of learning. I’ve started believing this since I was in college, studying cognitive psychology. In that class, I learned that when new information is absorbed by our brain, we try to match the information with the schema that we’ve had. The new information may fit well, or we need to adjust our schemas to receive the information, integrating it with the knowledge we’ve had. And this process causes change. This process causes discomfort. This is called cognitive dissonance.

I believe that this cognitive dissonance is actually good, which makes me think that the whole discomfort feeling may actually be the sign of change and improvements. Getting more and more aware of ourselves, sometimes it is inevitable to feel that change and learning is not fun because of this uncomfortable feeling, which makes people not willing to learn. Working in an education setting, I see a lot of students with great potential, but lack of the ability to feel uncomfortable, the humility, and the curiosity. The first one I’ve discussed in the previous paragraph. The second one, humility, is a very interesting topic.

The know-it-all person. With the height of technology use and wide access of information, our generation is very susceptible to be the know-it-all people. Without critical thinking ability and humility, I think everyone may eventually stop learning. Why? Because they think that they know everything. I truly believe that another aspect that can support one’s improvement and learning is humility; knowing that we don’t know everything. I’d discussed this too in one of my writing: https://theadventureofizzao.com/2016/10/21/ada-langit-di-atas-langit/. And arrogance is a very dangerous thing for students that hinders them from actually learning. I saw this a lot, especially with the more advanced and intelligent students. Being humble doesn’t only mean that we seek for further knowledge, but also that we are open to feedback and other people’s perspectives.

The second aspect leads to the third one, which is curiosity. I think curiosity is human nature. Everyone is born with curiosity and the ability to explore the world. One thing, back to square one again; is that one may diminish his curiosity because he is not willing to be uncomfortable. Trial and error requires someone to fail, which is not fun! Getting to know new people may exhaust us, which may also not fun! And all those “negative” consequences of trying new things sometimes prevent us from learning and from improving ourselves.

Getting out of my comfort zone is actually the key of my learning. I don’t know with other people, but I am always aware that learning and improving are not always fun. I try to think the challenges as something that can increase my capacity, and when I fail, better try next time. I am also very aware that getting out of the comfort zone is not easy. I need to push myself to do it, even if it is only online courses or trying new food recipe. However, the biggest opportunity to get out of my comfort zone was when I had to live far away from home, alone. “Merantau”, Indonesian people said. It has become a philosophy for some Indonesian people, which actually teaches a lot of life lessons.

How do I feel right now? Am I comfortable enough that I stop learning? Hmmm… maybe I am too used to this environment that I am living in? I don’t know. I still feel that I have a little bit room to explore, but maybe not for long. Maybe I need to find another area to pursue? Maybe I need to get out of my comfort zone, soon.

Moments that Change My Life 1: Thinking about Others

When asked about a moment that changes my life or myself, I would answer it with a super short story when I was in high school. At that time, I was a 10th grader in my high school. My schoolmates (who I did not really know at that time) and I joined this leadership activity. During the course of that program, we were given several demanding tasks that required us to collaborate with each other. I was not the way I am now. I had very limited exposure to such activity and I would even say that my leadership and collaborative skills are 0.

One of the tasks given to us was that we had to wear a red ribbon on our school uniform. We agreed about the size of the ribbon, etc. We were also given other tasks, which consume my time at home so that I forgot to prepare my ribbon. On the next morning when I arrived at school, I remembered that I had to wear a ribbon. I panicked. Then, I met this friend of mine whom at that time I didn’t even know her name. I think she realized that I forgot to bring my ribbon and she happened to have a spare ribbon. She just gave it to me like that, saving me from punishments that will be given by our seniors if we didn’t wear one.

I always remember that moment because for me, it changes the way I approach life and the way I think. I was a very individualistic person. I couldn’t care much about other people. That moment when I friend gave me this ribbon made me think how a person can think about other people and be unselfish. What she did didn’t benefit her, but she did it anyway. From that moment on, I always try and try to think about other people’s position, condition, and perspective. Then, I try to do whatever I can to help others. What my friend did was merely giving a ribbon, maybe an extra one when she made it for herself. It didn’t take a lot of effort. And I now believe that kindness shouldn’t always take a lot of effort.

As I said, I try and try to be a better version of myself. Sometimes I forgot, sometimes I slip. Recently, I was reminded again of how I should not be selfish. So I work as a school counselor in a private school in Jakarta. There’s this new regulation from the government that will give a certain amount of money in monthly basis for private school teachers. I knew this as I saw a colleague opening a document about this matter. Then, in a Whatsapp Group, another person shared the document. I knew this, but I disregarded it. What I thought at that moment was that “ah… maybe I am not qualified. I don’t want the extra load that I have to do to obtain that”. A few days later, a friend also talked about this, sharing the information that she knows to me about this endowment fund. Again, I simply thought that it is unimportant for me.

Can you see what’s wrong in the way I think about this matter?

Yes, I only think about myself. I didn’t care that maybe my other fellow teachers may need it. I didn’t think that probably there are teachers who really really deserve this endowment fund. And when this matter was blown up because most of my colleagues are informed about the fund when it is too late, causing a rather chaotic situation; just then that I realized “maaaan… what did I do?”. The answer is: I didn’t. I didn’t do anything because I was so self-centred that I didn’t think about other people. What I could have done was so simple, as simple as sharing the information that I knew.

As usual, what I do after this kind of thing happen is to think of what I could have done better. And I realize that I have been so busy with myself that I care less about other people around me. This situation reminds me that I have to reflect and evaluate. I have to practice my belief to not only think about myself, to not being selfish.

Mental Health and Stuff

Okay, I don’t have time to write and this is the last thing that I wrote. It is actually an assignment for my online course about Mental Health and Well-being that I join through FutureLearn. You can go to futurelearn.com to check other online courses that are free (if you don’t want certificate). The course has been very helpful!

Here it goes…

There are many things that can negatively influence mental health. This is based on entirely my opinion, shaped by my experience and observation throughout my years as a school counselor and even before that, at the time I had difficult experience related to my mental health. In my opinion, the three factors that can negatively influence our mental health are inability to cope with changes, non acceptance of life situation, and negative mindset.

Human life is full of changes. Since the theory of evolution emerges, many people believe that existence is based on one’s ability to survive and to cope with changes. Somehow I agree that people with a better quality of life is those who can adapt with the ever-changing life situation. Inability to do so may make a person feels left behind, angry, or frustrated. A small example of change is loss. I categorize many aspects of life in change, but I think almost all people may have difficulty in coping with loss. The passing of closest family member, the devastation from disaster, and so on. Those events are negative, creating a feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, etc. However, change is not always negative – but even positive changes can also negatively influence mental health. It is evident in cases where people with newly coming wealth, power, and popularity cannot cope with the change. This, again, leads to negative affect and disturbed mental health.

I believe that how we live and how we keep our mental health entirely depends on how we see the world and ourselves. Therefore, the non acceptance of our life situation will definitely negatively impact our mental health. Once we cannot make peace with what happens to us, we will have this thought that the world is unfair, that we deserve more (or less), that someone does this to us and needs to be blamed. Again, these negative affect and thought can negatively influence our mental health.

My second point is actually related to my third point, which is negative mindset. Seeing the world and our own situation as negative can diminish our motivation and spirit. This can also affect how we as human interact with other people. Expecting the worst, assuming negative events will happen, and seeing ourselves as a negative being are all evidence of negative mindset. For example, a person who has the tendency to distrust other people may approach a relationship with the feelings of cautiousness, anxiety, and distrust. He may also think that other people may take advantage of him, etc. Therefore, he builds this wall between him and others, which hinders him to create a meaningful relationship. The feeling of loneliness may come, which then may lead to worsen mental health.

In order to alleviate these factors, I think the best way is to start being aware of ourselves. This includes our emotion, thought, and behavior. By being aware of ourselves, we can also adjust our mindset and reflect on how we want to make meaning of the things around us, of the events that we experience, and of other people’s perspective. It is expected that after we’ve done this, we will have a positive mindset and the acceptance on our life situation. We can then start taking charge of ourselves, being able to help our own self in difficult situations that may threaten our mental health. After that, we can build a healthy and supportive relationship to help us go through life changes.