4 easy steps to overcoming impure thoughts, temptation and compulsive behaviour

(This is the second in a series of blogs. You can find part one here)

The scientific perspective – by understanding the relationship between our brain, our mind and our actions or behaviour

In the brilliant book ‘You Are Not Your Brain‘, two neuroscientists; Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding explain how their ‘4 steps method’ can help break impure and destructive thoughts and change bad habits in to good. If we adopt these 4 steps with God consciousness, it could be tremendously helpful for the Muslim Ummah to counter-attack the prevailing corrupted Global secular culture which promotes immorality and immodesty as a way of life.

In an article written by John Lee on the website choosehelp.com, he majestically explains the process:

“The philosophy behind the program is that your mind and your brain are not the same. Your brain influences your thoughts (your mind) and through this it can influence behaviours (such as drinking, or gambling etc.)”

However, the same process can occur in reverse – your mind can also influence and change your brain and in doing so can help keep you from behaviours you feel to be negative. Through directed, intentional and conscious thinking (mindfulness) you can re-train your brain to stop sending harmful messages to your mind.

  • When your brain sends an urge message and you give into it – you strengthen the brain pattern
  • When your brain sends an urge message and you fight it – you also strengthen that brain pattern
  • But when your brain sends an urge message and you acknowledge it, recognize its true source and re-label it as a false and harmful message – you weaken the brain pattern”

The 4 steps developed in the book ‘You Are Not Your Brain’

First Step: Relabel

When you receive the Whisper of Satan in your brain, don’t fight the thought, simply and deliberately acknowledge the urge or cravings, then look at it from the perspective of an impartial outsider and literally say to yourself:

“This is a whisper of Satan, it is not a true need that I’m feeling right now, I don’t have to fantasise and act upon it, it is not real and it will pass and leave me in a few minutes with the Help of Allah (swt) though it may come back again”

Second Step: Reattribute

This is the crucial part of the method and illustrates the title of the book “you are not your brain”. In this step you should define the source where the urge/impure thought is coming from and once again say to yourself:

“This urge and sinful thought is coming from my brain, my brain is sending me a false message, a whisper from Satan the accursed, my enemy, I don’t have to listen to the false call. Remind yourself that it may come back sooner or later. This will help you to weaken the intensity of future whisperings of Satan”

Golden rule: ”if you give in to your temptation, you will become the slave of your desire and a prisoner of your urge and cravings.”

Third Step: Refocus

Temptations and impure thoughts can sometimes be really strong but fortunately if you don’t give in, they tend to go away. Say to yourself:

“I’m experiencing something that is against my faith, I don’t want to displease Allah (swt), use this third step to turn to Allah (swt) for help.”

Some tips: Try to meditate by closing your eyes and picture or imagine the Glorious Name of our Creator Allah (swt) and speak to Him with your heart or you may try this daily technique of visualisation of the name Allah on prophetic-path.com, it has always worked for me and many of my friends to overcome impure thoughts.

If you can, try to perform the minor or major purification and pray Salatul Hajah. In case any lust is concerned, add reality to the fantasy,imagine he or she may have crooked teeth, bad breath and so on or just find something that will work for you before the temptation overcomes you. Also you may like to try taking a 15min walk – don’t remain still, do some push-ups or any physical exercise, or simply call a friend to speak about important things.

Fourth Step: Revalue

This last step is after the temptation has passed, now think honestly about past times when you used to give in to temptation, urge and impure thoughts, the feeling of guilt, shame, abasement, dissatisfaction that follow the moment of sin. Recall some specific misfortunes that happened in your life and hurt the feelings of the people around you, your family etc. because you didn’t manage to overcome your bad behaviour.

Golden rule: “Always remember temptation always promises you freedom but it never and will never deliver it to you.”


Adopt the following mind-set: you are not your brain. You cannot in any way stop your brain wandering or receiving impure and false message from Satan, however you can control how you respond to any urge and temptation by using your will power with the Help of Allah (swt). In the end, it is not what you think that matters, but your actions and behavior that will be accountable on the Day of Judgement.

Important: The 4 step will only work inshAllah when it is practiced on a daily basis in a very conscious and deliberate way. One must make sure these 4 tools are at hand when one is BROKE, HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY and TIRED, because Satan tends to win the battle of consciousness when we are in those states but with mindfulness we can overcome temptations including some compulsive behaviours; excessive shopping, eating and drinking, lust, gambling, and more…

Remind yourself that you are abstaining yourself for the pleasure and closeness of Allah (swt), The Lord of the worlds. May peace and blessing be upon the best of creatures, the Beloved Al Mustafa and his family.

To be continued…