A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#27 - On Support Systems: Friends, Family and Local Support Groups

October 09, 2020 Waheed Jensen Season 3 Episode 1
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#27 - On Support Systems: Friends, Family and Local Support Groups
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
5:39
Four Kinds of Friendships
20:28
Disclosing SSA to a Friend
34:50
What is Expected from Disclosure?
42:07
On Modesty and Secrecy
46:58
Friends Who Don't Know About Your SSA
57:22
Friends Who Know About Your SSA
1:01:25
When Feelings Collide
1:16:18
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#27 - On Support Systems: Friends, Family and Local Support Groups
Oct 09, 2020 Season 3 Episode 1
Waheed Jensen

With season 3, we begin a series of episodes that address different kinds of support systems and the ways they can help us on our journeys of growth and healing. In this episode, we address local support groups, including friends, family members and colleagues, and we answer some frequently asked questions. 

What are the different kinds of friendship with the same sex that one can cultivate, and what values do they have? Should I disclose my same-sex attractions to a close friend, and if so, how can I do that? What if I find myself attracted to a friend or member of my support group, how do I handle that? Should I disclose about my habits or struggles, bearing in mind that Islam promotes modesty and concealing one's sins? These and other questions are explored in this episode.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

With season 3, we begin a series of episodes that address different kinds of support systems and the ways they can help us on our journeys of growth and healing. In this episode, we address local support groups, including friends, family members and colleagues, and we answer some frequently asked questions. 

What are the different kinds of friendship with the same sex that one can cultivate, and what values do they have? Should I disclose my same-sex attractions to a close friend, and if so, how can I do that? What if I find myself attracted to a friend or member of my support group, how do I handle that? Should I disclose about my habits or struggles, bearing in mind that Islam promotes modesty and concealing one's sins? These and other questions are explored in this episode.

Waheed  00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome back to “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Islam. I'm your host Waheed Jensen, thank you so much for joining me in today's episode. Today we start our third season, inshaAllah. I am so excited to be sharing with you the episodes we have planned for this new season. As you guys know, so far in this podcast, we have covered topics related to our own identity, we talked about shame, self-compassion, and love. We covered the psychology of same-sex attractions, from the genesis of SSA and accompanying characteristics, to the roles of therapy in their different kinds in helping out individuals experiencing same-sex attractions. In the previous season, we have also touched upon many pertinent spiritual and religious themes that are relevant to our struggle, such as hardships, trials and tribulations, patient forbearance, attachments and surrender, pure love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, desires and temptations, spiritual awakening and much more. In this season, inshaAllah, we will be talking about two main themes, and those are support systems as well as marriage and intimacy. 

For support systems, we will be talking about the importance of having support networks of friends, family and colleagues on our journeys. We need men and women in our lives to help us grow and heal, as we’ve always said. We’ll start by talking about the “local” or “small” support groups in our lives, which involve friends and family, as well as other local networks that one can find, depending on each person and his/her context and capabilities, and we’ll be tackling some international or global support groups and services that are available to you with the touch of a button. The latter don't necessarily involve people that you know, but many of them can become lifelong friends and close brothers and sisters in your own journey. And those support groups have different services that you can benefit from depending on what you need and what you struggle with. To do this, this season, we’ll be traveling the world across many continents, many guest speakers will be joining us to talk about these programs. I have had the privilege of speaking to Br. Ali Jaffery from the UK who will tell us about his organization, “Strong Support”, as well as Br. Yousef Salam from Canada who will tell us about “Straight Struggle”. These two initiatives are Muslim-led support groups that help men and women who experience same-sex attractions in many different ways. After that, Chis will join me all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to talk to us about 12-step programs and sexual recovery programs (like Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, among others), and Robert from Munich, Germany, will tell us about Homosexuals Anonymous and the 14-step program. You may have heard of Brothers Road and Journey into Manhood; Mr. Richard Wyler, the founder of Brothers Road will join me from the US in an interview to talk about these services, inshaAllah. After that, we will get to know more about the organization Joel 2:25 through an interview with Jeremy from the US and Alan from Brazil.

As for the topic of marriage, a team of wonderful men and women has been involved in the brainstorming, planning, drafting and editing of what we hope would be answers to the most frequently-asked questions on marriage and celibacy for Muslim men and women experiencing same-sex attractions. These will be published in two back-to-back episodes, inshaAllah. After that, we have two back-to-back episodes as well on sex and intimacy, and joining me in those is a sex therapist who helps us address and navigate commonly-asked questions and relevant matters in that subject.

We also have two guest speakers joining me this season who are going to be sharing with us their story, just like Sinan did in season 1 and Amina did in season 2. So, yes, as you can see, it’s quite a packed season. One more thing: the episodes will be published every couple of days, inshaAllah, and not weekly, as we’re used to, so make sure you frequently check our website (awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com) or the apps you normally use to tune in. Speaking of which, “A Way Beyond the Rainbow” is now on more diverse platforms – you can listen to all our episodes anytime on Apple podcasts, Google podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, Castbox, Deezer, Player FM and many more platforms, inshaAllah. So, let’s get started now with our episode on local support groups.

05:39 
For many of us, we have found that it is vital for us, men and women who experience same-sex attractions, to find mature friends from within our own faith community, who offer us support, encouragement and healing. We have found that this struggle is easier with the support of others, and it does not need to be handled individually. Just as we've said multiple times, you don't have to go through this alone, nor should you do that, right? The challenges are easier to attend to and to overcome, inshaAllah, when there is group support as well as healthy friendships. So, what we will do together in this series of episodes is to start small and then widen the circle of influence. What do I mean by this? Each and every one of us has the potential of building their own support network, through friends and family and colleagues and other people, depending on our own individual cases, and whether they happen to be face-to-face or online support groups. So, these are so-called “local” or “direct” or “smaller” support groups that are very, very important. Those systems or support groups are made of people you already know or are familiar with. And we will discuss these, inshaAllah, in this particular episode. And when I say “group” in support group or support network, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean a large number of people, it can mean just a couple of individuals, maybe two or three people, maybe more, depending on your individual context. 

A wider circle of support involves other support groups that we’ll tackle, inshaAllah, starting with the next episode. As I mentioned at the beginning, we have interviews with representatives from many initiatives to try and give you an idea about what support venues and outlets are available to help you in your own individual journeys. I will, inshaAllah, add all the relevant links and resources in the episode descriptions, so make sure you check these out. For this introductory episode, however, we will be addressing local support systems and friendships, and we will also address some commonly-asked questions that are relevant to this topic. 

Now, before we go into support systems, I thought it would be worth looking at the types of friendships that bring about proper support and healing for many of us in our individual journeys. As you may recall, in Episode 20, I referred to al-Ghazali’s four different kinds of love as outlined in his book “Ihya’ Ulum-ud-Din”, or the “Revival of Religious Sciences”. A quick recap of these four kinds of love that he outlined: The first one is when he said that a person is loved for his or her own merit. When we get to know a person and we start to like that person based on their characteristics, their conduct, our shared interests and so on. The second kind of love is loving someone to achieve something else or to get to a third thing, meaning to reach a specific destination or to reach a specific goal, and through the love of that person or his/her help, we can earn, for example, wealth, fame, fortune, knowledge and so on – matters which are for the good of this world. The third kind is when someone is not loved for his/her sake, per se, but for another thing, and that thing is not for the good of this world, but rather for the good of the Next World. And, you know, the most common example is, we love a spiritual or religious master or leader in order to gain spiritual knowledge, which is good for us in the Next Life. So this is one example of that. And then the fourth kind of love, the last one, which is the highest and the most selfless, the most sublime kind of love is pure love for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that is free from limitations. And we went into details with regards to this love, and we gave the examples of David and Jonathan and Shams and Rumi, may Allah be pleased with all of them. And we talked about how this love is revered in our Deen with lots of rewards in this life and the Hereafter, inshaAllah. 

Now, that is all from a spiritual perspective. If we're going to look at this from a psychological angle, particularly with a focus on our experiences with SSA and our own individual journeys, there are also four categories of same-sex friendships that one can cultivate as well. These happen to be outlined by the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in both of his books, “Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach”, as well as his book, “Shame and Attachment Loss”. I will discuss those in the next few minutes for us to kind of think about them and how they relate to our own journeys. 

So, Dr. Nicolosi lists them in the order of their importance, he uses the term “reparative value”, as in the order of their reparative value, and we talked about the concept of reparative drive back in Episode 7. But let's try and think of it in terms of an order of friendships and connections that help us grow and overcome shame, experience meaningful and profound connections and belonging and love and authenticity, and to experience healing in different ways, depending on our individual contexts. The first kind is “gay friendships”, the second kind is “celibate friendships with other non-gay homosexuals”, the third kind is “heterosexual non-sexually-attractive male friendships” (and here we're talking about males, but obviously they apply to males or females experiencing SSA), and the fourth kind is “heterosexual, sexually-attractive male friendships”. Let's go into each one in detail. 

So, when he talks about “gay friendships”, this basically means, you know, we're talking about “gay men or women” who are living the “gay lifestyle” and they identify with the label itself. So, these kinds of friendships, they create the possibility of erotic attraction. While there may be a chance of honest friendship in this case, there's also a chance of flirtation and vague innuendos, things taking a turn, etc. There might be mutual game playing, or a kind of manipulation here and there, and this kind of undermines the efforts at establishing equality and mutuality, as Dr. Nicolosi refers to them. If this happens, this obviously diminishes the value of this type of relationship. 

If we move higher than this kind of friendship, we are now looking at what he termed as “celibate friendships with other non-gay homosexuals”, and the term “non-gay homosexuals” refers to individuals who experience same-sex attractions, but they do not identify with the identity labels or the lifestyle. They choose not to act out, and they remain chaste. This refers to us, basically, right? In other words, individuals like us who are on the same journey that we are on, we're on the same path together. Now, how are these friendships valuable? These types of friendships offer empathy and a special kind of understanding. They're quite unique, and they're helpful in many ways. We feel understood, we feel embraced, we feel supported. But when it comes to breaking down the male mystique in the case of a male, or you know demystifying the other male in the case of a male or the other female in the case of a female, other kinds of friendships are necessary. Also, it's worth taking into account that with friendships with other men and women who experience same-sex attraction themselves and who remain chaste, we need to also take into account that we're in different stages in our journeys. We come from different backgrounds, we deal with different battles, and we have different issues. So, such kind of friendships may not give us everything that we're looking for. This doesn't mean that they're not helpful. On the contrary, they are incredibly helpful, as many of us know, right? But of course, we don't put all our eggs in one basket and expect everything in return. Some people invest in these kinds of friendships and expect too much, they come with high expectations and assume this is the ultimate solution to their problems. That's not realistic with any kind of relationship, anyway, right? We try and cultivate friendships of different kinds that can help us in so many ways. And this is one kind of friendship and relationship that is very, very helpful and very rewarding. This is the second kind, which is, again, individuals who experience same-sex attractions but who do not identify with identity labels or the “gay” lifestyle, and they choose to remain chaste and not act out on their desires.

Now, a different kind of friendship is that which is the third kind that Dr. Nicolosi refers to as the “heterosexual” or “straight friend”, who is not sexually attractive to us. So, this individual belongs to the same sex and he/she doesn't experience same-sex attractions, and we do not necessarily find them attractive. We're not drawn erotically to that person. Now, what is the value in this kind of friendship? In this case, there is an opportunity for bonding without having that erotic element. Apprehension levels, particularly for someone at earlier stages in his/her journey, would be lower with this kind of friend compared to someone who’s attractive, right? Such friendships allow us to make connections and to build social skills, among so many other values that come with these connections, for example. Now, some of us, unfortunately, may not be motivated to establish such a friendship, and we may perceive the other person as being “ordinary”. You know, that familiar sexual attraction is kind of missing, that attraction that we crave is missing. So, we may label the other person as “boring” or “uninteresting”, since some of us may be chasing the exotic or the unfamiliar in so many ways. If you find yourself thinking along those lines, try and take a moment and look at where that drive is coming from. The ego is trying to chase a thrill and is preventing us from cultivating appropriate friendships that bring about a lot of healing and growth. When we think in terms of healing and growth, we choose to expand and not contract. We step up, we build networks and form new connections that are healthy and helpful. At the beginning, it’s not easy for sure. But with time, it gets easier. We’ll talk more about this in this episode and the upcoming ones, inshaAllah.

The fourth and the last kind is the “straight” or “heterosexual” friend who is sexually attractive – so this is someone to whom we feel an erotic attraction. And according to Dr. Nicolosi, this kind of friendship will offer the greatest opportunity for healing. And, as he says, only through such associations can there be the all-important transformation of erotic attraction into true friendship. That is the demystifying of the distant and mysterious male in the case of male with SSA. I’m quoting Nicolosi here: “While the aesthetic appreciation for this man's good looks and masculine qualities may always be present, even when same-sex attraction is overcome to that particular person, it will become increasingly evident to the man that sexual fantasies do not fit within any mutually respectful male friendship. And as the man experiences increasing acceptance and familiarity within the relationship over time, his feelings grow into male identification, and the original sexual feelings naturally diminish. This transformational shift from sexual to fraternal, i.e. from eros to philia, is a healing experience.” As you may recall, we touched upon this notion back in season 1. In the process, the other man is transformed from an idealized sexual object into a real person, very much like myself. This is a very valuable kind of friendship, which comes with time, and it offers a great deal of healing and growth through demystifying the other person, the “mysterious other”. Through shifting the perspective from attraction and eroticization to a deep and true friendship, attractions diminish towards that particular person, and this plays a huge role in our healing and growth journeys. I can’t tell you how many emails and messages I get from brothers freaking out that they’re in love with their best friend, or they’re scared from cultivating a friendship with an attractive friend of theirs (whom they know is “straight”), and my answer always is: give it a shot. Get to know the person. Don’t bail. Invest in that. Give it time. That mystique and exotic “aura”, so to speak, will dissipate, once an authentic bond is formed, inshaAllah.

Now, regardless whether our SSA is going to diminish or not, or whether our opposite-sex potential is going to increase or not, whatever happens - again, the idea is to get to a better place, and these kinds of friendships, once cultivated, once they are deep and pure and authentic, they inevitably lead to growth, one way or another, inshaAllah. So, these are the four different kinds of friendships or categories of same-sex friendships according to Nicolosi. I thought it was necessary to list them at this point, so as to help us think about how to cultivate the ones that bring about authentic connection and love and belonging and healing in our lives, and to see how they fit in the larger scheme of things, in our individual lives. Again, you are the person who decides, it's up to you, it's your life, your experiences, your own circumstances. You’re in the driver’s seat. So, take whatever helps you from all of this.

20:28
A question that comes up as a result of this discussion is, “Should I disclose my SSA to a close friend, and if so, how should I do that?” This is a very, very common question. Again, there's a very nice quote from Nicolosi in which he says, “a very risky and anxiety producing challenge, this disclosure must be a prudent calculated gamble. However, if it is met with understanding, a deeply healing experience will result. The exchange will bring the friendship to a new depth of honesty and intimacy.”

So, one common fear that we all have when we want to “come out” to a very close friend of ours, particularly if we’ve never done this before, is something like “If my friend knew about my SSA, he or she would not accept me” and this is mostly, as we have discussed before, a manifestation of internalized shame. “If they know this about me, I will lose that connection with them. I will not be worthy enough.” This is a feeling that we have all experienced, right? However, deep and honest disclosure is one way to overcome this fear of being distant or estranged from members of the same sex. Recall Brené Brown and vulnerability. I keep mentioning her and those themes all the time, because such themes are very pertinent to our struggle and our human condition at large, right? Vulnerability is the antidote to shame. What is vulnerability? Leaning into the discomfort and trying to cultivate meaningful connections, dropping the mask, speaking our truth to someone who has earned the right to hear our story. This “coming out” process to a close friend, for the sake of building meaningful connections, is a brilliant example of vulnerability. As a side note, I met someone who prefers to call this process, instead of saying “coming out”, he likes to say it’s a process of “revealing”, and I found that quite interesting. So anyway, in that particular moment, whether you choose to call it “coming out” or “revealing”, we are vulnerable at that moment. We have no expectations, I mean, we hope that the other person will embrace us, but we have no guarantees what will happen, and we're doing it anyway. This is vulnerability, but it is ultimate bravery, right? 

Now, again, there's a lot of value in disclosing our same-sex attractions to a close and trustworthy friend. Many people who experience SSA report that it has been a liberating, encouraging and sometimes even a “healing” experience. There is no doubt, again, it is a risky and anxiety producing challenge, and only you can take this first step. Of course, there's no pressure, as we have been saying all along, it's up to you. You estimate the risks and the benefits, pray istikharah, make duaa’s and take it from there. Some of us have experienced a lot of personal growth and healing through this interaction. Others have reported that it did not work out as they had planned, or it had completely backfired. So, it would be worth contemplating if this works out for you. Again, you're not disclosing to random people. You're talking to a close friend, or maybe a trusted family member, whom you have known for a long time, where there has been a lot of mutual empathy and understanding and trust and compassion. With these kinds of relationships, you weigh the odds, and hopefully, may the odds be ever in your favor. 

One piece of advice, it's recommended that we set realistic expectations of that friend who is being approached. Remember, again, if we take it from their perspective, it may come to them as a shock, right? He/she may be surprised that we have such feelings, he/she may not understand our feelings or may not understand why we are approaching them with our feelings or disclosing these things to them. Some people may need some time to internalize this revelation, and it would be advisable to give them some time to internalize that. 

I'd like to refer back to episode 12, the interview with Richard Cohen - towards the end of the episode, he touched upon the disclosure process, and I'd like to refer back to that part of the episode, because it's relevant to the question, and he was discussing this in terms of approaching potential mentors or people who will help you in the process, but this also applies to friends and your own support system that you want to build for yourself. If you recall, he said, “In the business field, salespeople are taught, ‘Expect nine rejections and one sale’”. So that means 90% of the time, they’re going to get rejected. Now, hopefully the odds in this case will be better than a 90% rejection rate (and he was referring to mentors, which is a different case, so hopefully it’ll be much better in this case). Cohen goes on to list a three-step model on how to communicate and to see if that person that you're trying to “come out” to or “reveal” to is a safe person, you know, a person who is worthy to become your mentor or someone whom you want to actually tell about your same-sex attractions. 

The first step is you talk about your own background. Like, “This is what I went through growing up, my family was like this, this was my relationship with my father, with my mother, with my siblings, those were my childhood experiences, those were my experiences with my peers. This was what it was like growing up at school, at uni, etc.” And then you ask the other person, “How about you?” It has to be mutual, not just one-sided. If that other person is like, “Oh, well, everything was great, you know, the usual blah, blah, blah,” and there's no mutual sharing over time, it's only one-sided all the time, and that person is not reciprocating, it might not be a good idea to go a step further. Now, if the person reciprocates, shares, builds bridges and is vulnerable with you, it becomes a two-way street. Vulnerability is a two-way street. If that happens, then that's a good sign, because it means that you can go further.

The second step would be, and that's a different conversation altogether, don’t dump everything in one sitting. Building bridges and cultivating vulnerability takes time, patience and effort. The second step would be something like, “Well, remember last time, I told you about so and so, I went through this and that, and all of these experiences culminated in a lot of hurt. I had those issues, and it made me feel left outside the ‘club’ or the ‘tribe’ of men. I didn't feel like I fit in. I couldn't feel like I was a man among men”. Whatever is your personal experience, obviously. And again, we’re saying “men”, but it applies to women as well. You can say something like “I felt there was a wall, there was ‘them’, and there was ‘me’, it was really hard to kind of be close to the other guys. So as a result, I preferred to hang out with women,” for example. “And now, I see that I don't like to do that all the time,” or something like that, whatever makes you comfortable and whatever speaks to you. So, it's basically the effects of what you have experienced, without talking about the sexual aspects or the attractions themselves or any acting out, if that did happen. And then again, it has to be mutual. So, ask the other person, “Well, how about you? What was the result of your upbringing, your childhood experiences, your growing up, school, friends, family, whatever you have been through?” And then if the other person shares and is vulnerable, then that's a great sign. If that person shuts down or doesn't reciprocate over time, then maybe rethink this.

The third step would be, after a while, again, having a different conversation, “Well, you know, I told you about my background, I felt left out, I found myself searching for connection, meaningful connections. I found myself eventually experiencing same-sex attractions. I didn’t choose them. I just discovered that I experience them. And, you know, I haven't had sex or maybe I have,” you know, depends on your experience and how much you want to share, obviously, in steps, “but now, I'm on a path towards Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Same-sex behaviors or encounters do not represent who I am, and they are not in line with my value system. They're not in line with my Deen”. And again, we're talking about encounters or behaviors. Then you can say whatever you're doing right now, so “I am currently doing, you know, so and so” like, for example, I'm going to therapy or I'm part of a support group that does X, Y, and Z, or I'm reading books on the matter, and I'm learning more about this, or I'm attending lectures or what have you. Whatever you're doing to help you in the process. And then you can add, “I really believe that our connection is authentic and would help me connect emotionally in a pure way with you, another man or another woman (in the case of a woman). I would be really grateful if you would be a buddy or support to me in the process”. Again, this is generic. It’s your words, the way you phrase them, whatever it is, this is just a generic example. You get the point.

Now, by that time, as Richard Cohen says, “It's like a good lawyer, you've laid out the potential causes of SSA in your particular case”. Again, it’s your case. it depends on you, whatever your case is. And then, by sharing in these multiple conversations, it makes it easier and logical for the other person to kind of understand where you're coming from and where you want to go. And notice that there is vulnerability in all three stages, but it is calculated vulnerability. And once again, don't forget, it's mutual, it has to be mutual. Even in the third stage you ask, “How about you? How did all of those things in your life affect you growing up?” And maybe the other person can tell you if they're “straight”, “Yes, I did struggle with watching porn, or maybe I did have my encounters with women or I did struggle with masturbation for some time, or struggle X, Y or Z”, right? “I'm trying to get over that. Maybe I succeeded. Maybe I didn't, maybe I relapsed. I’m trying to connect to God, but I’m struggling with this. I’m trying to build my body physically but I’m struggling with it. So maybe we can help each other”, Or anything like that, or whatever the result would be.

A piece of advice worth mentioning here is: Try and avoid using labels like “homosexual” or “gay” when you are describing those experiences. Again, no pressure, but it is a piece of advice, because we are experiencing same-sex attractions, they do not define who we are, remember? They define our attractions, they're not our identity, they do not define us as people, we experience same-sex attractions, or we struggle with same-sex attractions. So, talk about your own personal experience. Try and avoid labels, this is my advice, try and be authentic and vulnerable in the process.

Now, if the reaction is negative from the other person, and hopefully it won’t be, but in case it is, then again, it's important to have at least anticipated this possibility beforehand. Sometimes we might be rejected. If this happens, try and explain to that person that you approached him/her and had hoped that the reaction would have been different. You did not intend for this to jeopardize the friendship. Try to keep your feelings in check, and remember that you only have control over your own actions and reactions, and you have very little control of other people's actions and reactions. We know that in that case, if that happens, it's such an incredibly painful moment. And it kind of compounds the shame that’s already there. So please turn to a trusted friend or a colleague, reach out to your support group to talk to them and share with them that experience, because you shouldn't be doing this alone. You shouldn't be experiencing all this rejection and all these emotions alone. Diffuse that, if you can’t talk to someone. Journal. Go for a run. Punch a punching bag. Do something to get it out of your system. Do not let it sit there and simmer. And please realize that you are not a reject, you are not a failure. You are brave. You did everything you could. It’s a milestone either way. In many cases, it turns out beautifully, and inshaAllah it would be in your case, should you choose to open up to a friend, family member or trusted colleague.

34:50
Now, a question that follows this is, “What are the men and the women who experience same-sex attractions looking for from their same-sex friend whom they trust and whom they have come out to or revealed?” So, in other words, what do we expect from those friends to whom we have disclosed our SSA? This is a section to our “straight” friends, so feel free to send them this portion of the episode, if you like. What we need, or what we would appreciate is to be understood and to not be patronized, to not be mischaracterized as “gay”, but to actually have another person, another man or another woman who knows us, who tries to understand the struggle. Many of us found that we fit, for example, the trauma model of the development of SSA (i.e. our upbringing, relations with our parents and siblings, peers growing up, there was shame, rejection, abuse, neglect or a combination of that, we felt inferior to members of our own sex, and so on). So maybe if we talk to our friend about this, it will help them understand this further. Bear with us when we actually do that because we want to share our experiences with you. What else are we looking for? We’re looking for acceptance, to be accepted as human beings, right? We’re not talking about accepting behaviors, because we’re against that anyway. To be accepted with our own authentic experiences, as human beings. Again, not the same-sex behaviors. We're asking you to accept us as human beings and individuals. This is a given, right? We also ask you to recognize and actually trust that by us disclosing these things to you, it doesn't modify or diminish in any way our relationship or friendship. On the contrary, it opens new dimensions of trust, bonding, respect and growth. It makes our friendship stronger. 

I know some people who have asked their friends after a while to encourage them to try and accomplish things that they couldn’t do on their own, whether that was healing work, therapy, joining certain support groups and following up on that, maybe reading or studying, investing in one’s career, forming healthy relationships with family members and other friends, doing sports or trying to eat healthy, trying to reconnect with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala or maintaining that connection with Him, whatever that is. If that helps you and you think your friend would be supportive, then go for it. It’s not that you’re adding any pressure on your friend or burdening him/her, but that you actually trust that person to keep you in check. And if that person is you, you’re that friend to whom a person has “come out”, maybe that’s something you can offer if you’re up for it. But of course, don’t dump everything all at once and make the other person feel pressured. Take it easy, baby steps. Of course, this is different from one person to another. You know what works for you and for your friend, try to find that dynamic. Some of us find that we can go to our friend and feel like, okay, this person is keeping us in check. We are being held accountable for any behavior, especially if we struggle with specific addictions or acting out or whatever that is. That can actually go both ways, because, as you know, we have a lot of friends who don't struggle with or experience SSA, but they have their own struggles, whether it's temptation, especially addictions or habits that they want to get rid of, like pornography, masturbation, even acting out and what have you, or, on the other hand, they have certain skills that they want to build, particular hobbies or habits they’d like to cultivate, or whatever. So that can go both ways. And again, it has to go both ways. It’s a two-way street. You help each other out in your individual journeys, and that makes it even more rewarding, inshaAllah.

And there's an important point that's worth mentioning here, sometimes there is disappointment that arises when that particular friend shows us their initial support and understanding, but then, after that, they don't discuss the issue at all. It’s like, blank. And, sometimes, this either comes from their own lack of knowledge on how to deal with this or how to talk about this further, or because they don't want us to feel overwhelmed by it, or they feel that they don't want to open it up, because they don't want to hurt us, or they don't want us to feel that this is all they're thinking about, or any other reason. Maybe they don't know if they should mention the issue or not. So, what is the solution? In this case, communicate. The whole idea is to have a healthy dialogue. So, keep the connection open, right? Ask them. Encourage each other to ask you questions, if they like. Make it clear that if they’re burdened by certain things to be vocal about them so that you know, and the same goes for you. Again, it’s a two-way street. It has to be mutual. Also, let's not assume things. I know a lot of us assume things. Many of us are hypersensitive, and we kind of “read” other people’s energies and feel everything around us. Let’s not assume things. Let things be out in the clear, this would be much more helpful than making assumptions or passing judgments, or staying in the dark and not knowing what the other person is thinking, or feeling certain things and going through all these mental dramas. Let things be clear, just ask if you have questions, whether you’re the friend or the person with SSA. It goes both ways. If you don't know something, if you want to understand something further, please ask. Talk about it. Be transparent. Breathe. Smile. Let it be. And again, it goes both ways, don’t forget.

So again, keep the lines of communication open. Transparency is key, and it applies to everything, right? If something is bothering us, if we're concerned about something or someone, or if we're happy even and positive, let's vocalize these things. And again, it goes both ways. Something that Nicolosi says “Each layer of disclosure depends upon the previous one, the man or the woman with SSA cannot experience the benefits of disclosure until that “straight” friend supports him or her. And one cannot support until one first accepts, and one cannot accept until one understands.” So, let's try and understand one another. We both grow in the process. Try to see things through the other person's eyes. And just be yourself in the process.

One last point to mention here is, and I know that some of you might have been thinking about this while listening, we know that our Deen promotes modesty and keeping sins a secret, not being vocal about one’s actions that one regrets or one’s bad habits, having “healthy shyness”, modesty, etc. And that’s true. And that’s a common concern that many people have. We get asked a lot of questions like, “Shouldn’t I keep things to myself instead? Should I disclose what I did in the past?” and so on. A couple of things here, it’s necessary to realize that you’re not making it public for people to know, you’re not boasting about your sins or habits, and you’re not being arrogant or showing off either. What’s your intention from all this? This is the question we should be asking. 

Now, when it comes to “coming out” or “revealing” that you have same-sex attractions to a trustworthy friend or family member, you’re not talking about a sin, as attractions or desires are not sinful. Again, we’re talking about the attractions here. So what’s my intention of doing that? It’s to seek help, right? To find healing and growth. To seek a genuine connection that helps you as well as the other person. We can’t do this alone, nor do we have to. We’re reaching out to trustworthy individuals with the intention of seeking support, embrace, understanding, growth and healing, regardless of the extent to which we achieve those things. Above all, we’re doing this for Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala, keeping Him front and center. Remember, when we recite in Al-Fatiha, “It is You WE worship”. We. It’s a communal effort. We need each other. There’s a lot healing in being together. And then again, we’re not making it public that we have same-sex attractions or boasting about it, it’s not a label that we wear and walk around with, it’s something that we experience that a few people who have earned the right and privilege of hearing our story know about, right?

Now, when it comes to the question of, “Should I disclose my habits? Should I disclose what I did?” And here we’re talking about particular actions or behaviors, not the attractions themselves. We know that Islam promotes modesty and hiding one’s past or current sins, not making things public which should be kept hidden and concealed. This is a point of conflict between Islamic tradition and what it promotes vs. the Western paradigms where one is encouraged to say everything in an individual or group setting. We’ll talk more about this in later episodes, inshaAllah. But to answer the question of disclosing particular sins or habits or behaviors that one is struggling with, it depends. Are you doing this to seek proper help from the appropriate individuals who can help you address those particular matters, like a professional counselor or therapist, or in this case, a trustworthy friend or mentor or people in your support network who can help you keep things in check, follow up on you and help you overcome triggers and so on? If that’s case, that’s necessary and encouraged. One analogy to this is, a doctor uncovers only part of the patient’s body which the patient is complaining about, he/she doesn’t uncover the whole body for no reason, right? Similarly, it’s not like an open faucet where one opens up about everything and anything, it’s particular matters that are causing pain or harm to the individual, and here we’re referring to habits, actions or addictions that the individual seeks to get rid of, but needs support to do so, in the process. You’re not revealing everything you’ve done to random strangers, or making things public which should be kept private, or boasting about past or present sins, or any of that. Things are kept within a small circle of trust for the sake of healing, recovery, and overcoming particular harmful practices. The intentions are for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. I hope this issue is clear, as this is a common question as well.

46:58
Now, having said all of that, let us start talking about local support groups. The purpose of this part of the episode is to encourage us to think about building local support groups, in case we haven't done so already. There are two different kinds of support groups in this regard: there are those people who don't know about our SSA, and there are groups of people who know about our SSA, and each kind offers unique advantages. Many of us have found that both types are necessary to have in our lives. And it's up to you at the end. Again, we're only sharing ideas and perspectives that may end up helping you on your own journey. You take whatever helps you in your own journey. 

As for the first type, people who don't know about our SSA, this is a group of friends of the same sex who meet regularly to go out, let's say for a social activity or a specific gathering. We may not find it necessary to actually tell the group or specific individuals in that group about our attractions. Maybe because we don't find it necessary to begin with, or maybe because there is a high level of rejection that might be anticipated, or it might get awkward, or those people might change their behavior towards us, or it might be anxiety producing, or a combination of or all of the above. And again, it’s unnecessary to tell each person in our lives, we don't have to, right? There are people that I’ve met who want to tell each and every person in their life, and I’m like, “Why?! It’s not necessary. I respect that if you want to do that, but you don’t have to.” It’s your life. Again, it’s not a label that we wear. So, yeah, many of us have found that such a support system is essential in bringing us closer to embodying our own gender characteristics and to help us become more comfortable in our skin, particularly in a group setting. And this can include friendships from the third and the fourth category that were outlined by Nicolosi (i.e. members of the same sex, either we're not attracted to them or we are attracted to them). Whether they know about our SSA or not, it doesn't matter. But in this case, we're talking about a group of people who don't know about our attractions. 

So, for example, let's take an example a group of guys who meet regularly to go out and let's say play football or volunteer at a local charity, or whatever. Another group of women for example, they do volunteer work, or they have a hobby that they share and like to do together, or they visit each other, they have fun, they go out, they have dinner, whatever that is. Friends hanging out together. If we maintain contact with such a group, provided these men or women are righteous people, they embody the characteristics of decent Muslims and they encourage good, we hope, inshaAllah, that we will find improvement in our connection with members of our own sex. It's normal to feel intimidated, especially at the beginning. It's normal to feel afraid or anxious on some occasions, particularly when our behaviors do not match what is expected, or again, what is thought to be expected in many cases. Remember, sometimes we perceive certain things that are not real in a sense. We have certain expectations, or we think that others have certain expectations, but it doesn't even matter whether they happen or not. But anyway, all of this is normal. For many people like us who experience same-sex attractions, in many cases, we have “othered” ourselves. We have built walls when it comes to people of our own sex for years, and cultivating a sense of belonging or fitting in can take time. But the more that we invest in those activities, the more we realize that our fears and challenges can be overcome, inshaAllah. It takes time, it takes investment. Yes, it does involve putting ourselves out there, taking ourselves out of our own comfort zone, for sure. Again, vulnerability, right? But many of us have found that, with such perseverance and dedication to self-empowerment, the situation gets easier, and we truly feel that we belong to members of our own sex, inshaAllah. 

If we shy away from these activities, if we opt for a lonely life out of fear of rejection or not being able to fit in, or feeling like we’re never going to be good enough, or constantly feeling like we’re under scrutiny, or not measuring up to a certain “ideal”, this fuels shame and isolation and causes a lot of problems, as many of us know already. Of course, some of us may find it incredibly overwhelming at the beginning to the point that it is beyond our capacity, particularly if we have social anxiety, for example. So, in this case, seeking professional help, the help of a therapist or a psychologist/counselor, a mentor to kind of help us navigate the how’s and the what’s of those interactions might actually be necessary. Look at it as a challenge that you’re assigned that you have to overcome. Challenge yourself, and be creative in how you’d want to overcome that.

As we have discussed in season 1 before, same-sex attractions can stem from looking for things and seeking things that are possessed by members of our own sex, such as specific physical or personality traits, or when we seek verification and validation or worth from members of the same sex. The kinds of support systems that many of us have found to have worked are the ones that have the potential to recalibrate our relationship with members of our own sex. So, instead of fear and intimidation, we now find acceptance and comfort and healing. And how does this come? It comes through establishing and then maintaining the proper contact with our peers and friends. 

Now, you might be thinking, “Well, okay, this is all lovely, but how do we do this?” Well, let's start small. Based on recommendations from tons of men and women who have been on their own paths of recovery and healing for years, I'm going to name some examples. Look up a charity in your own vicinity, and sign up for regular events where other people volunteer, for example. Join a halaqah, which is a religious study circle, for example, at your own mosque or religious center, where they learn or give religious lessons regularly, for example. Maybe join a recreational event at work and get to know others. What are your hobbies? Invest in those, and instead of doing them alone, you can pick a place where other people with shared interests come together. So, if you'd like to read, you can join a book club. If you like music, you can look up a music group, in case you like singing, for example, or playing musical instruments. You can look up amateur sports teams if you'd like to play a sport but you're not very pro at that. If you like biking or hiking, look up groups that meet regularly for those purposes. You can look up art groups, if you're interested in the arts and so on. There's a famous website/app that's called “Meet Up”, I’m sure many of you know it already, and there are tons of other websites and apps obviously, but “Meet Up” is one example where you can find, within your own vicinity, likeminded people who enjoy, you know, particular hobbies, or have specific interests that you also enjoy. And you can meet regularly and form friendships. So that would be something to think about. Don't be intimidated. We know this is easier said than done, obviously, because we have been there. I have been there personally. Severe social anxiety is so dreadful. Many of us deal with low self-esteem and a sense of inferiority and alienation. Yes, this makes it even more difficult to approach these kinds of activities. We know it's very tough at the beginning. But we promise - and this is not just coming from me, it's coming from tons and tons of people whom I have spoken with and who are on the same journey together - the majority of the fear that you have is in your head. I'm not saying that it is all untrue, but the majority of it is in your head. Once you take the first step, it becomes easier. Maybe at the beginning, you might want to take a trusted friend or a family member with you just to test things out, to break the chain and to try it once, just once. And then move from there. If it's too difficult, try and consult a therapist/counselor to work around these issues. And of course, needless to say, we pray, make du’aas for success, and seek the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, always, and we ask Him to facilitate things for us. And hopefully, inshaAllah, with time, it becomes easier. And then you look back and say, “Man! I used to be afraid of doing these things? Look at where I am right now!” Again, many of us have been there, and, alhamdulillah, we're at a much better place. It does take time. It does take effort. We know it might be excruciating at times. But it’s necessary, and it’s worth it. 

Not only does this help us bond with other people, but those support systems can also help us observe and learn from others. They help us reevaluate our perceptions, our ideals and our preconceived notions. Many stereotypes and many fears are shattered in the process. Many of us, as a result, have started to see ourselves as “men among men” or “women among women”. Tthose people may not necessarily know about your SSA, neither should they, and it might not be necessary for them to know, anyway. But you eventually get to a point where you see yourself as equal to those people, you’re not inferior, you’re not less than them in any way. And it's no longer necessary to seek their validation for us to feel worthwhile. And once again, this is a process, and it varies from one person to another. It does require perseverance and patience, but with time, inshaAllah, the results will amaze you.

57:22
Now the second kind of support groups that I refer to is a support group of people who know about your same-sex attractions. Mind you, when I say “group”, again, it doesn’t have to be like ten people or whatever. It can be a few people or even one person. Depends on you. Whatever works for you. Now what's the advantage of this particular support network, i.e. people who know about your SSA? The advantage is there's no “hiding” that part of me like I do with other people, like the first kind of support system that I mentioned. You get to be completely open and honest and share parts of your struggles with those people, and those aspects of yourself that you cannot or may not want to share with other people. And those people that you are sharing these with or who know about your SSA, they may themselves experience SSA, or they may not experience SSA, but in all cases, they have earned the right and the privilege to hear your story. And again, this comes after a period of trust and empathy and mutual sharing and understanding and respect. 

So, those people may themselves experience SSA or may not experience that. If they do experience same-sex attractions themselves, in that case, we get support from people who know exactly what we are going through. This group is a platform for us to open up about our own personal daily struggles and to obtain practical advice on what helps and what doesn’t, from people who have tried it and who have been there. Maybe they're in advanced stages in their own journeys, and they can offer a lot of insights that we don't have yet. You get a variety of feedback, you choose what works for you, given your own individual context. 

So, again, how do we do this again? Do you have a close friend with whom you can share personal matters, one who is trustworthy and reliable, a person whom you feel he/she can help you if you tell him/her about your struggles related to SSA? If that is the case, then by all means, go for it. Try it. And again, we've discussed this earlier in the episode on how to disclose and the steps to help you through that. Of course, this is not like a thumb rule, and it depends on your individual case and what works for you, and how you choose to go about that. If not a friend, then maybe a sibling or a family member, maybe a teacher or a mentor. Sometimes it could be an Imam at your local mosque, if that Imam is trustworthy. Sometimes even a parent. As much as we realize that it can be a big no no for a lot of us, some people may choose to tell one or both of their parents, in which case, that parent/parents may end up being very close to them and helping them in their own individual journeys. Again, it's up to you, you know yourself better, and you decide. 

When we're talking about mentors, remember in episode 12 when Richard Cohen was talking about the idea of finding mentors to help us in different areas of our lives? So, who would be a suitable mentor for you? In what fields would they be good mentors for you, and what can they offer? And these are all things to think about. If none of this is possible, within your own immediate vicinity, friends, family members in your locality, then you might want to widen that circle a little bit more, and check out support groups that we will, inshaAllah, talk about in the upcoming couple of episodes. And even if you have those local support groups, whether through friendships or family members or whatever, the international or global support groups, the ones where you widen the circle of influence, those also offer lots of advantages and values, inshaAllah. And, again, we'll be talking about them starting with the next episode.

01:01:25 
One question that comes up is, “What if I feel like I'm falling in love with a member of my support group?” Or “What if I have a crush on my best friend, and I find that I cannot disclose this to him or her?” or “What if I disclose this to my close friend, and I'm feeling attracted to that person?” Or “What if I am attracted to a specific person, and I feel like I should just call it quits?” I can’t even begin to recall the number of times I’ve received these questions personally or through friends and colleagues, or even read them on support forums. You know, people who have developed meaningful relationships, but because the attraction is still there, they call it quits. I find it particularly harmful to walk away from a meaningful relationship just because an attraction is there. But anyway, to answer those questions: If this is just a speculation or a fear on your part, do not let it keep you from joining a specific support group or maintaining those relationships that you have. And it has been shown that people who experience same-sex attractions and who have appropriate regular contact with members of the same sex improve in their social and behavioral skills more than those who prefer isolation. One quote from Dr. Nicolosi, he said, “Non-erotic intimacy with other men”, and here, again, we're talking about a man, “is a foundational requirement for the resolution of same-sex attractions, so much so that this individual's progress can typically be evaluated by the level of intimacy of his male friendships.” And later he says, “Mastering the challenge of establishing, maintaining and deepening male friendships is essential for the man who desires to overcome his homosexual problem.” And the same applies to a woman who experiences female same-sex attractions. The idea here is to cultivate deep and intimate friendships with the same sex that are not erotic in nature, i.e. platonic, pure friendships, and we've been saying this over and over. This is very necessary for our healing and growth journey. And remember, we touched upon this earlier with the fourth kind of friendship in that there’s a huge opportunity for improvement – actually it’s interesting: the fourth kind of love with al-Ghazali was pure love for the sake of Allah, and the fourth kind of friendship with Nicolosi was this “straight” friend from the same sex to whom we’re attracted. I say, merge them together: keep Allah front and center, cultivate a meaningful relationship, and this will, inshaAllah, bring with it lots of growth and healing. Don’t run away from this opportunity. Give it time. Be patient. Invest in that. And keep Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala your Aim.

So, with that in mind, if you have someone in your support group whom you find particularly attractive, or maybe he/she is a close friend or colleague of yours, and you feel that this is really, really consuming your mind, then some pieces of advice are: try to divert your attention from that person and focus on other people or other matters. If you find it difficult to do that, one technique that a lot of us use is to kind of locate a “blemish” in that person, like what is a physical feature or a specific behavior that no longer makes that person attractive to you? Because when we idealize a specific person, we think that they have no faults. But oftentimes we are overlooking those faults to a point where we cease to believe that such faults even exist, and the other person is perfect. But of course, we're human, we all have faults, we sometimes step back and realize this about a specific person, and we realize that they are a human being like any other human being, and that they have faults like the rest of us. And when we do realize that, this often diminishes the idealization on our part, and, as a result, it kind of diminishes the attraction. One good exercise is to sit with yourself, and maybe write down two or three qualities that kind of “turn you off” about that person – the idea here is not to find faults for the sake of finding faults, or to talk about the person behind his/her back (you’re not talking to anyone, you’re just doing this on your own), but you’re doing this so you can start to de-mystify that person. If you were to ask me to write down two or three things I don’t like about myself, I’d give you ten right now. We’re quick when we de-value ourselves, but when it’s the other way around, it becomes a challenge. No one is perfect. We’re all a work in progress.

And there is another aspect to this, which is something that we've covered back in season 1, the “Exotic Becomes Erotic” theory. What we don't know, what is mystified for us, what is the “other” becomes attractive. Once we know the person well, once we spend time with them, once we know their strengths and weaknesses, once we know their ups and downs, those attractions start to dissipate. That distance and unfamiliarity is often what creates attraction. This idealization is what creates the attraction. So, the advice is always to get to know the person. And not just superficially, but to actually be vulnerable with that person and let him/her be vulnerable with you. That is the path to genuine and authentic connection. Of course, as long as you're safe, and you're not alone in case the stakes are high, and maintain proper boundaries and adab (proper manners), of course, but get to know the other person and realize that they're human like you, they have their own faults. They have their beauty, and they have their dark sides. We all do. They have their strengths, they have their weaknesses, they have their good sides, and they have their bad sides. We all do, right?

Now, should we call it quits? NOPE! Again, this is a chance for you to develop deep and meaningful connections. Give it a shot, give it another shot. And of course, as always, make sure that you are safe, make sure that you are maintaining proper boundaries and adab. And if this is difficult for you, then try and shift the focus from that or try and bring another party with you, a third person maybe, or just give it time and maybe the attractions will dissipate on their own. If all of these pieces of advice I've highlighted so far don't help, then it might be a good idea to talk to a professional about this, a therapist or counselor, to help you navigate these emotions. But a lot of us find that calling it quits and cutting ties with specific people, particularly if those people have the potential to help us, and there is no danger of the other person being attracted to us and us falling into sin, then we find that cutting ties with those people can actually do a lot of harm. We are used to being shamed, and we're used to having low self-esteem, a lot of us are. Burning bridges is going to compound our problems even further. So be patient, give it your best and hope for the best, and make dua’a. Supplicate to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and Allah will make things easy. Allah will help you through the process. Nothing comes easy, but it's all worth it at the end, inshaAllah.

At this point, while we’re on this topic, I’d like to address two forms of questions I occasionally receive. One of them goes like, “Sometimes this attraction becomes intense, even though I don’t want it to be that way, I’d never approach my friend in the ways that I think about”, or “I became attracted all of a sudden to my friend whom I didn’t find attractive before.” The way that I’d like to encourage you to think about these attractions is as follows: what are those attractions telling me? What am I looking for in the other person? Many times, it’s an emotional connection that has become profound, but because we’ve been used to sexualizing deep emotions, things got mixed up in the process. Sometimes we’re given attention, affection, approval and love, and this “turns us on” – in this case, don’t be afraid, that’s not sexual. That’s part of the process. Most of the time, these are transient feelings. Focus on the authentic emotions, the true connection, the good, the wonderful. This is part of healing and growth. Focus on the positives, it’s going great! The other aspects will subside with time, inshaAllah. Don’t let this discourage you from maintaining that healthy friendship and connection. Of course, if you feel that things with time might get out of hand, then address them, be transparent, or seek the help of a third party. But many times, these things dissipate with a bit of time, patience and perseverance.

Another question is, “I approached my friend inappropriately and immediately regretted it, and he/she has shunned me”, and the “approach” can be a hug or a kiss on the cheek, for example, or something else even. Depends. Maybe that friend didn’t know about you and now suspects you might be “gay”, or he/she did know about you but now feels that his/her personal space got “invaded”. In any case, we go back to communication. Be genuine and sincere, reach out to that friend, explain yourself, go back to the 3-step process of disclosing to that friend (if you haven’t done so already), put things in context, apologize if you have to, give them time and space. Don’t run away from it. Yes, it hurts. You might feel disappointed and ashamed. It’s not easy. But again, this can turn into a beautiful healing experience with lots of growth. You do your best to make amends, be sincere in the process and address the issue as much as you can, and leave the rest up to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Don’t run away from this. You care about the other person, and the other person cares about you. Don’t let go of this special bond. 

Now, going back to our topic of being attracted to that friend and addressing those emotions, what about if those feelings are reciprocal, and you feel that the other person might develop feelings, and the relationship might be going into a place that is inappropriate? Then we go back to the idea of keep things transparent and always being vocal about things, in a decent way, of course, in a cautious and respectful way. Sit together in an open space, maybe a third person would be with you, like a trustworthy friend or a mentor, or a sponsor or a therapist or a counselor who knows about this (actually this would be recommended instead of being alone, particularly if both of you are vulnerable), and try to assess those mutual feelings. It really does help. And again, after all, I mean you are both working together for mutual support, but what you are afraid of is that your relationship with each other seems like it may reach or it has already reached an inappropriate stage. So, try to work on this issue in order to resolve it. Ask questions like, “Why has this happened? When did it start? What are our feelings telling us? How can we work this out?” and other questions that can help you navigate all of this territory. The questions are not meant to judge, blame, point fingers or cause any pain. On the contrary, they’re meant to help assess the situation so you can both get to a better place. Again, there’s a wonderful chance of growth and healing in such situations as well. Don’t shy away from it. Remember, vulnerability = courage, authenticity and connection. 

If you find yourself, however, reaching a dead end, for example, and those feelings are still lingering, then maybe minimize the contact with that person, provided that you both know that this is happening. You're not cutting the other person out of nowhere. You both know this, because you have those common goals. And do that until you reach a point where these feelings have been appropriately processed, and they're no longer a threat or a compromise to your journey, both of you. This is generic advice that I hope will help, inshaAllah, and this is coming from so many brothers and sisters who have been through this themselves and who have shared those experiences. So I tried to summarize them here, and I hope they would be of benefit to you, inshaAllah.

And if I were to end this episode with a reflection on an idea that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, which is the four kinds of love as outlined by al-Ghazali, our different support groups and the different friendships that we cultivate in this life can be one of those four: we can love a person based on their own merits, their character, the qualities that we love, and that's the first kind; we can love a person in order to achieve something else which is knowledge or fame or wealth or what have you, and that’s the second kind; we can love a person to achieve something that is of benefit to us in the Afterlife, which is like spiritual knowledge and cultivating certain habits that can bring us closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and so on; and the fourth kind is when we can love a person purely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, no attachments, no limits, completely sublime and completely pure for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. 

I truly believe that these proper support systems can give us opportunities to cultivate these different kinds of love to different degrees. And obviously the highest, most rewarding one is the love that is purely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. May Allah allow us to cultivate this particular love for His sake, and may He allow us to develop genuine friendships and brotherhoods and sisterhoods for His sake, and may He bless all our relationships and all our efforts in forming support groups on this journey of healing and growth and seeking Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, inshaAllah. 

01:16:18 
And with this, we have come to the end of today's episode, which was more of an introduction to support systems, answering FAQs and talking about friendships and support in general. In the upcoming couple of episodes, inshaAllah, we will examine together those widely available global support groups for you to check out. Each of those can help you in different ways. Today, we focused more on the local networks and friendships. In the upcoming episodes, inshaAllah, we will extend this further. As mentioned at the beginning of this episode, episodes of this season will, inshaAllah, be published every couple of days, so make sure to check them out whenever you have time. In the next episode, inshaAllah, brother Ali Jaffery, who is the head of Strong Support organization in the United Kingdom will be joining me to talk about his initiative. As always, you can write to me on [email protected] with any comments, suggestions, questions or anything that's on your mind, and you can always listen to us on our website awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com and on your favorite podcast apps. Until next episode, stay safe and healthy. This has been Waheed Jensen in “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh.

Episode Introduction
Four Kinds of Friendships
Disclosing SSA to a Friend
What is Expected from Disclosure?
On Modesty and Secrecy
Friends Who Don't Know About Your SSA
Friends Who Know About Your SSA
When Feelings Collide
Ending Remarks