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.
I don’t think any of us are intentionally evil, but we are all blind. When Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” he meant all of us. When Paul said, “We see through the glass darkly,” he meant all of us, including himself.
Without grace there is no way we can get beyond our limited perceptions. We are molded and even warped by our historical era, culture, climate, nationality, race, class, religion, education, genes, ancestors, parents, peers, personalities, bodies, health, and life experiences. We are all crippled and incomplete spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Only by dying to these limits, to our earthbound selves, can we become free to see, and then to love, as Jesus did. Since many of these influences are rooted in our unconscious, it takes times facing our demons in the desert to even begin to know ourselves and times spent in prayer on the mountain with God to be set free mentally and reborn spiritually and healed physically. There is a huge difference between praying, “God, if it is your will, heal me.” And saying, “God, heal me according to your will.” God wants us healed. Though mental, spiritual, and physical healing are connected, I have been with both the young and the old when they were at peace dying physically, because they had been healed spiritually and I have seen people healed spiritually by being healed physically. With God all things are possible. He is the same, but we are all different. There are no limiting rules, just the goal of bringing each of us home to live immersed in His Love forever.
The scriptures show Jesus approaching healing differently for different people. “Do you want to be healed?” “Your sins are forgiven.” “Stand up and walk.” “Go show yourself to the religious authorities.” “Your faith has healed you.” “Some things take prayer and fasting.” The question isn’t whether God wants us healed. The question is where does the process need to begin.
Passion, death, and resurrection should be one word. Jesus struggling with his fears in the garden, feeling totally abandoned by his family and friends, his anguish so great that he sweat drops of blood, and finally being able to say, “Your will, not mine,” is what set Him free to rise again.
We are born again by recognizing and admitting we need to be set free, by putting ourselves in God’s hands, and then continuing to allow His Spirit to burn the chaff within us in life-long on going passiondeathandresurrections.
These things seem to me to be true: (I’ll get back to you later, when God tells me different.) 1.We all fall short: rich and poor, male and female, educated and uneducated, presidents and drug addicts, young and old, religious and non-religious, Republicans and Democrats. 2.Becoming is more important than achieving. 3. We can’t change anyone else. And the best way to help others isn’t by pretending to be a super person, but by sharing our struggle and our need for grace to become our best selves. (And that even our best selves may not be something to brag about!) 4. It takes a ton of grace and varying amounts of blood, sweat, and tears for each of us to grow closer to being the person we were created to be. (Some of us tend to make it harder for ourselves.)