Monthly Archives: June 2014
My degree is in psychology, with some graduate courses in learning disabilities and training in administering, interpreting and leading workshops on the Meyer’s-Briggs Type Indicator. But I have never done any counseling, so what I have to say needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
I have had counseling at some crises times in my life. Some of it was not helpful at all, but some actually helped enough to bring about major change. To me, Psychology often seems now aimed at putting a label on people and experimenting with pills until either some pill works more than it hurts, or they get over whatever it was on their own!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been helped by pills, but I’ve been helped as much or more by reading, working at developing inner awareness, and getting feedback from a counselor. There was a face book post about pills not curing anything, but helping us keep it together enough to work through our inner conflict. That resonates with me. Though I do recognize that in the case of some serious mental illnesses, pills are a critical part of keeping personal demons at bay. Although chemical imbalances may play a part in our problems, along the way we have usually learned responses to life that no longer work for us. Sometimes it takes changing our chemistry, our mental attitudes and our habitual behaviors.
One of the problems I, and many others, have is that our first response to the outer world is emotional. We operate on a feeling level. We are capable of using logic and reason, but that is not our first response. (And sometimes, not our second or third or……)
All too often we identify with our feelings. We are sad or happy, PERIOD.
From our viewpoint there is no end in sight. This makes any feeling seem overwhelming.
Whether it’s despair or pure joy, if you feel/think it’s going to last forever, that’s delusional thinking and it’s going to seriously handicap you in dealing with reality.
We have to learn to tell ourselves,” This is just a feeling and feelings change.” That is the nature of feelings, when we don’t get stuck there by delusional thinking. Our emotions and our reason need to hold hands, look each other in the eye, and talk!
Henri Nouwen speaks to this, “Don’t identify with your feeling. It is not the whole of you. Instead pastor it gently.”
And that takes grace.
We are in the process of moving with all the sorting and prioritizing that goes with downsizing.
So when I ran out of stamina for bending and lifting to pack things, I started going through 30 + years of journals. I have already found quite a few quotes I liked and that I have seen confirmed in the intervening years.
“Ministry is often a confrontive service, taking away the false supposition that there should be no pain or suffering.”
“Hospitality gives space for the other to find their own soul. It takes away the illusion that wholeness can be given to another.”
“Don’t identify with your feelings, they are not the whole of you. Simply pastor them gently.” (All three from Henri Nouwen, I think.)
“Important consequences are often side-effects: A bee gets honey, so nature gets pollinated.” Buckminster-Fuller
“Perfectionism and the stress it causes make small achievements feel larger.”
“Admit that no one, including you, can please everyone.” My paraphrase of some others’ ideas.
“Use suffering to end suffering. Welcome it, because it alerts us to our own inner needs or illusions and frees us by helping us to face and accept reality.” Sadhana
Reading my journals from the eighties, I can see some ways I have changed. Back then I was struggling unsuccessfully to even love, never-the-less, like myself. Now, I realize that I still don’t like me very much, but because I have come to know with all my heart that I am loved by God, I do actually love myself. And that has freed me to love others that I don’t like very much. I’m thinking this may be enough. Perfection is best left to God”
One of my most cherished beliefs has been that we are capable of growth, of spiritual evolution. So as I read my journals, at first I found myself thinking….yes, I love more deeply now, in spite of the reality that loving people more and loving more people brings more heartbreak along with the joy. And then I decided that I was also more honest, since I am not as addicted to pleasing everyone. And remembering how little stress it used to take to paralyze me, I felt pretty sure I’ve grown stronger. And I definitely stick with people and and goals through the disillusionment stage better than I used to. (Please realize I am not saying I do any of these well; just better than I used to manage.)
But then I realized that I’m still the same wus I always was. The difference is that now I admit it and I waste less and less time trying to solve everything with my own limited strength, wisdom, and ability to love the unloveable.
I know more and more what Paul meant about praying unceasingly. He meant it literally. And in weak moments when I have trouble praying with much faith, I gather prayer support from all the praying friends and family I can rally.
Though it’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey, as I look back across the decades, I get glimpses of a somewhat meandering path, but one that seems custom designed to get me to my final destination.
I used to avoid reading the prophet Jeremiah. He seemed so negative, a real downer. But I’ve come to realize that he would make a great character in a modern novel. He has such a complex and conflicted personality.
Babylon’s long siege has brought terrible suffering to Jerusalem and its army is now battering the gates. Good old Jeremiah is loudly proclaiming, “Babylon is gonna win! They are going to haul King Zedekiah off. You might as well all defect and get it over with, because you can’t win. This is God’s retribution. You brought it on yourselves.”
Jeremiah’s really great for morale in a war zone.
But at the same time the Lord also tells Jeremiah to buy his cousin’s land officially, in front of witnesses, for the time when God will return Israel to Jerusalem. That would be like buying an ocean front house in Florida in the middle of a full scale hurricane.
And Jeremiah puts both his money and his mouth where his faith is; he not only buys the land, he begins to proclaim that God will make a new covenant with his people. Jeremiah tells anyone who will listen, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will put my law within them. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”
This is a serious leap of faith for Jeremiah. Even though he cares deeply about God’s people and really hurts for them, he has no illusions about their track record. But he goes on record that God’s love can accomplish anything, not just reverse the fortunes of war, but change hearts.
Jeremiah is like an Eeyore with faith. He has no illusions about life or people, but God is his bottom line.