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Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

Switches or Dials

In the psychological world, there is an area of diagnosis called “personality disorders.” These include Narcissism, Borderline, Avoidant, Dependent, Paranoid, etc. There are 10 of three types (clusters).

The American Psychiatric Association describes Personality disorders as “ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.”

The pattern includes at least two of these:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior

I have done extensive work and writing on one of them, Narcissism. And, each year when I do training for future ministers, I teach about Borderline. Hopefully, I will be able to write about that material soon, as well.

There is something I dislike about Psychological diagnosis – and that is the false impression of diagnosis speaking identity into people.   At most, any diagnosis is a descriptor, not an identifier… and really all that a diagnosis is, is a shorthand for internal communication.

Medical professionals and insurance companies out there, please refrain from defining, cursing, or incarcerating someone with a diagnosis – psychological or otherwise.

Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, poses near the Wankel T. rex, in Fort Peck, Mont., in June 1990. Researchers estimate the dinosaur weighed between 6 and 7 tons.

Imagine a group of Paleontologists who get tired of saying “Hey, I found another one of those really big dinosaurs with big teeth, little front legs, really big hind legs…” So, they gave that dinosaur a name: T-Rex.

In the same way, mental health professionals got tired of saying “I saw another client today with a poor sense of identity and a sever fixation on abandonment and extreme emotional and relational responses…” and they gave that combination of traits a name: Borderline Personality Disorder.

Anyway, that was my two cents about diagnosis. They are nothing more than useful shorthand.  No extra charge.

Many of us – heck, maybe all of us – have some traits from the lists. The most severe problems come when a single person has multiple of the traits. That is what a personality disorder is.

Pretty much every personality disorder shares a tendency that I think is worth all of us examining in our own lives.

Do we have dials or switches when it comes to our own emotional responses? What about in our relationships?

If you are all-in with a friendship until that person disappoints you, and then you are all out, you are engaging with a switch, not a dial. A switch is either off or on. A dial can be turned up or down incrementally.

If a family member hurts me, I can draw a slightly tighter boundary around the relationship… or I can just cut that person off and stop speaking to them. Dial. Switch.

Dials are generally healthier.

When I hire a new employee, certain that they are the perfect person for the job, I can get behind them, be excited about them… the switch fully in the “on” position. 100% positive.

What happens when it turns out they aren’t the perfect person for the job (because there is no such thing)? A person with a dial mentality can continue to support them at 90% or 70% positive.   A person with a switch mentality is done.

Apply that to friendships and marriage.

I once read that we all marry an ideal person, but turn out to be married to a real person. In the end, we have divorce the ideal and stay married to the real, or we divorce the real and keep searching for the ideal.

But, there is more to come:

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https://hunterbeless.com/new-blog/2017/7/ep28-on-understanding-sexuality

I got to be a part of a great podcast a few days ago.  This expresses some of the roots – going WAAAAAYYYY back (in time and in philosophy) for the issues of sexual identity that we face as a culture today.  Check it out!

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This is an era of when suicide is a part of the cultural conversation again, we need to be prepared to engage with it in a serious way.

The article I linked to above is for parents who kids are watching or who have watched the popular show “13 Reasons” – but in general, I think that the show is not appropriate for any audience.  It glorifies suicide and turns into a hero a teenage girl who is in serious need of help and yet instead chooses to take her own life and communicate it in a vengeful vindictive way.

Suicide is a complicated issue, biblically and psychologically.  I strongly recommend you check out this sermon on suicide I posted a few weeks back.  I think it will be very helpful to anyone.  All of us have thought about it, and all of us know someone who has taken their life… and others who likely will in the future.

However, I think what would be most valuable to many is just simple, practical guidelines for what to do when someone we know threatens suicide.

Anytime someone threatens, even in a veiled way, to commit suicide, we have two options:

  1.  Take it seriously
  2.  Not take it seriously

Typically, based on statistics, it would seem to be perfectly safe to go with #2., right?

Obviously, people threaten or hint at committing suicide all the time without actually doing it. There are many reasons why someone might even threaten without any intention of doing it.

Rarely do otherwise rational people become disconnected enough from reality to go through with suicide. The disconnection may not be what you think, but it is there when someone actually comes to the point of being willing to take his or her own life.

So, let’s examine option #2.  Anyone who can become delusional – who can experience a psychotic break from reality – can do things that are dangerous to themselves and others. They might get in a plane attempt to vanish without warning, or have an affair, commit suicide.  Even in those cases, the chances are low, right?

However, not taking it seriously can leave us with a dead or devastated friend… and we should not be willing to take that risk for a lot of reasons… one of which is that we do not want to carry the burden of our decision to not take them seriously after they are dead.

So, even if our odds of being ok not taking such a threat seriously are kind of good, the cost of being wrong is unacceptable.

Which leaves us option 1.

So, here are my recommendations:

Speak to a friend or family member and make sure she or he knows that if you suspect that they are a danger to themselves, then you are going to contact the police and send them to your friend to check on them and verify that they are safe.

Make the call.

It is also possible to send a family member who lives with them to check on them and keep a watch over them until they are safe. If that is not an option, then the police are the best option.

If the police do not think they are safe, they should take your friend to a hospital.  Your friend needs to know that you will always, without hesitation, contact professionals and police if you suspect that this person is a threat to themselves.  This is in an effort to protect your friend; and an effort to protect yourself from the regret that doing nothing can create.

So, she needs to make sure that if she is going to threaten or hint at suicide, that your love for her and desire for her best will motivate you to take her seriously.

If you are going to take her seriously, you have no choice to contact the professionals and/or get the police involved ASAP.

It is incumbent upon us to communicate this boundary with anyone who threatens or hints at suicide. Make sure they know that this is how you will respond to such things – that you will contact a professional and/or the police.

This kind of boundary will help you know that when the friend speaks of suicide, they are serious, since they know what your response will be. If, by some chance, they use the threat of suicide as a manipulative tool, this will put a stop to it.

If they are serious, you may save their life by refusing to keep their suicidal ideas secret.  If they are serious, then even if they are going to be angry at you for telling, when they are healthy again, they will recognize that you have done what a good friend would do.

If they are not serious about suicide, they probably are serious about getting help or attention or something – and you will have helped them in that way, too.  They will know you are a friend who listens and takes them seriously.

The cure for real suicidal ideation is hope.  People who care can go a long way toward giving us hope.  People who love us even more than they care if we are happy with them right now, give us solid hope. They give us some space to grow.

We all deeply desire to be heard and known.  Giving people, whether seriously suicidal or not, other options for being heard, cared about, valued, is quite a gift.   Help them understand that they are treasure and you can help them live an abundant life as the treasure they are!

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Does the Bible deal with the tough issues?  It does.  Christianity is neither merely a religion nor outdated.

People despair.  People struggle with mental illness.  People get trapped in the belief that there are only two choices – a long tortuous death or a quick release… but the problem is that there are almost always more than two choices.

https://southspring.org/teaching/suicide/

This sermon is near to my heart as we open up the Bible to understand the awful tragedy of suicide.   I hope it encourages you and gives you strength to face life and to help others do the same.

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I think this will be valuable to anyone with teens or preteens.   You can find out more at http://www.alethiacounseling.com.


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This next Wednesday, November the 9th, FBC and Alethia Family Counseling will host two short seminars for adults – moms, dads, grandparents, teachers and others –

We will be in the Great Room at FBC South Campus (just south of the new loop) at 9:30am (hoping that is convenient for parents who drop off kids at school and can make it then) and again at 6:30 that evening in the same location.

Do not hesitate to reach out to either the church or Alethia.

 

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Hello everyone – a few years ago, I was invited to speak at a church about talking to kids about death.  Recently, a child had died in their community, and they wanted tools to talk to their children about it.  Recently, in our community a child was kidnapped and apparently killed.  As Alethia scrambles to get resources to the seminar, you might find this video helpful (there is a part two as well):

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