Imam Ali's Solution to Anxiety and Fears

There is another kind of therapy. It is called behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy says that whatever your obsession is, whatever it is, is it avoiding cracks on the sidewalk? Is it washing your hands every two minutes? Is it checking on the door at night? Making sure the door is locked? Whatever it is, behavioral therapy is, behavioral therapy says expose yourself. Expose yourself to that which you are obsessed to, but without doing anything about it.

So, for example, if you have to avoid cracks on the sidewalk, begin walking on cracks. Walk on it. If you have to wash your hands every two minutes, stop washing your hands. Stop! Force yourself to stop. Do it once every hour, once every 2 hours. If you have to wash the counters every couple of hours, stop for one day or two days. Say, I won't. Force yourself. Say I won't. I will leave the counters as they are. I will not vacuum the house today, if that is what you obsess over. This is called behavioral therapy.

Exposure to what causes the problem, while not allowing repetitive behavior to occur. Let something spill on the ground. Let there be a couple of dots of rice on the ground. It is not a big deal. It will not kill you. You do not have to vacuum it today. Nothing will happen if you do not. Nothing. Expose yourself.

Once you do that once, twice, you will get adjusted. If you could go on for an entire day without having to wash your hands every two minutes, the next day will be easier. The day after that will be easier. Psychologists are saying this. Psychiatrists are saying this today. But Imam Ali said this 1400 years ago. Imam Ali, alayhi as-salam, said, "Idha khifta shay'an fa ka'afi" if you fear something, expose yourself to it. Whatever it is that you fear, expose yourself to it. Do it! Immediately, and the fear will go away.

Are you afraid of snakes? Go and hold a snake. Are you afraid of heights? Go stand on a tall building. Are you afraid of spiders? Hold a spider in your hand. I am serious. This is what Imam Ali says, "Idha khifta shay'an fa ka'afi". If you are afraid of public speaking, tomorrow you are going to give the lecture and I will take a break. Come speak and stand in front of people and do it immediately. Do it immediately, without thinking, without questioning.

I remember several years ago, in 2003, my father, Ayatullah al-Qazwini, he had a heart attack, and he was in Iraq, so doctors told him, you have a heart attack. You had a heart attack and you need a bypass surgery. And here in Iraq, we do not have the means, so it is better that you go back home. So my father, he came back to the United States. He was not sure. They had not told him, you need surgery. But they told him, you need better care. He came to the United States. He came to the doctor. This was back in Los Angeles. He came and he saw a doctor. They had all the checkups and he told him that you need a triple bypass surgery. We need to change three of your arteries. He said when, they told him we are ready, we could go into surgery whenever you would like. Would you like to come tomorrow? The day after tomorrow?

He said: No! Right now. Right now. They told him: are you sure? He said, Right now. I am ready for surgery right now. Take me. And they took him to the surgery. After a couple of hours, he was out. We later asked him, Why did you not wait a day or two days? He said, why should I wait? If I come back at home and I think about it, I will have anxiety. I will develop fear of the surgery. I said, why develop anxiety? I am ready now. Let them take me,

""Idha khifta shay'an fa ka'afi", if you are afraid of something, expose yourself to it immediately. It will go away. Once, twice, it will go away. You are afraid of heights. You are afraid of planes. Go on a plane once, twice, three times. Force yourself. Whatever it is that you are afraid of, force yourself and the fear will go away. The obsession will go away. This is a cure. This is a cure that Imam Ali gave us 400 years ago. Try it.

What is it that you are scared of? Whatever it is that you have fear of, sometimes you are scared of something that is not a big deal. Everyone else is scared of, and it will not affect your life. You are scared of snakes. That is not a big deal, because you do not see snakes every day. But sometimes you are scared of, for example, driving. And you have to drive every day to work. You are afraid of the freeway, and you have to take the freeway every day. You have to expose yourself. Otherwise you will paralyze your life!