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imagesCA6E2P0ZSometimes you hear people say that they are in a boring marriage.

They aren’t stimulated intellectually like they once were.

They aren’t as excited about spending time with their spouse anymore.

They just feel like they are both going through the motions, stuck in a rut, and just
fulfilling obligations.

Their heart just isn’t in it anymore…

It didnt start that way… how did it get that way now?

I used to wonder how things got that way for them.
Now I think I know.

First, my answers to this aren’t going to include all of the regular aspects of everyday
life that rise up and choke out a vibrant marriage.   I mention some of those in the article about
loving with limited resources that there are many things (http://phalanxmen.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/loving-with-limited-resources/ ).. things that consume our emotional energy  – kids, jobs, money stresses, sickness, burn-out, failure to exercise and much more.

However, I don’t think these alone fill in the puzzle of boring marriages.

But I have to tell you this before I can explain it:

t1larg.bored1One of the reasons that I am a follower of Jesus is that He doesn’t B.S. (can I say that?)  He tells it like it is.  For this reason, I get to listen to His words without having to constantly filter out the Political Correctness (even of His  day) and I don’t have to filter out some kind of incredulous, utopian-istic, humanistic gobblety gook.  Reading Jesus  isn’t at all like listening to Oprah’s guest of the day, or almost anyone in the field of psychology.

Jesus, when explaining how things are, actually explains how things are; when He is  saying how things should be, He explains how they should be.  How refreshing that He doesn’t mix those two things up.

When explaining how things are, too many people tell us how they think things should be.

Not Jesus.

Here is one of my favorite examples, and I think the solution is hidden here:

“ …for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)

Catch that?

In most of our touchy-feely feel good self help junk it would be cuter and more prosaic.  It would read:  “Wherever you heart is, there shall you put your treasure…”

See the subtle difference?  The non-Jesus way  makes it sounds like our treasure follows our hearts.

Today, the only measure of sincerity our culture accepts is emotions – the heart.  I shouldn’t do anything unless my “heart is in it” right? That wouldn’t be sincere, or authentic, or some other such absurdity.

Imagine that we have now made sincerity and authenticity (two static and stable things) dependent on emotions (mercurial, dynamic, and constantly changing things)!  Screwtape was right in thinking that the “horror of the same old thing” has taken hold.

Sincerity is about being what you seem and claim to be… and so is authenticity.  These are raw choice.  I cannot fully choose what I feel (I am, of course, responsible for what I do in response to what I feel and even responsible to create the right environment for feeling what I want or ought.)  Emotions are largely our biochemical and  soul-level reaction to our situation.

I cannot choose to feel desire – I can only choose to create the conditions to encourage  it or avoid it.

My choices have the power to lead my emotions.

The truth is that my heart follows my treasure… as Jesus said.

Now, Jesus was talking about investing treasures in eternal things – in His Kingdom.  However, I think He is also revealing a general truth that can be applied here as well.

If your heart is not in your marriage, then, I assume that it must be because you have  stopped putting your treasure there.  Your heart has no treasure to follow.

Remember when you were dating and you would spend hours thinking about your girlfriend,  and hundreds or thousands of dollars pursuing her, and dozens of hours doing sweet things for her?  Remember how hard it was for something to divert your attention from her?  Remember the poems, the letters, the love-notes, the creativity, or even just the dates?

These are treasures…

Time

Money

Attention

Creativity

Thought

Strategizing

Sacrifice

Pursuit

Listening

yawningSo, if you are in a boring marriage, recognize that it is because you are a boring husband who is investing so little treasure in your woman that your own heart isn’t even inspired toward her.

Solution?  Plan a weekend away.  Plan it for at least a month from now, but don’t tell her until you have to.  Make it all about her getting what she loves the most.  Remember her favorite places to go, things to do, etc.  Stare into her eyes as you plan it and try to remember what she loves the best.  (this idea works for wives too)

Do it right, spare as little expense as you can, in time, strategy, and money.  Start writing a card and write one thing you are thankful about each day in preparation for your trip.

Enjoy the experience of your heart chasing your treasure, even though she doesn’t even know about all the planning.    If your treasure is in it, your heart will follow.

If you need some thoughts on planning, look over at some of the other articles for ideas.

And hey!…
after you plan it, post here and let us know where you went and rate it for us…
remember, We are all in this together.

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… and, (if you haven’t read part I, jump to it now) real relationships require dials across time.

This same principle applies to emotional responses.  Maybe you are the “worst case scenario” type – you jump all the way to the extremely unlikely but possible options? Avoid the switch and seek to examine for more likely but less intense options.

It is ok to deal with the realities rather than attempt to borrow troubles that are essentially guaranteed to not exist. A doctor friend of mine likes to remind his patients that “it is probably horses.”

He makes the point that if we hear hoof beats outside, it could be zebras (they have hooves) but probably, it is horses. Sometimes when someone has a symptom that could be an allergy headache or a brain tumor, it is most likely an allergy headache… horses.

Could it be zebras? Well, technically, yes… but pretty darned unlikely.

When it comes to worry, keep the gauge dialed down as low as the common denominators allow.

I would encourage anyone to seek to develop the skill of measured emotional responses. In the past, this character trait was called “temperance.”

Temperance means to be the governor of your emotions rather than governed by them.   We have the capacity to affect the intensity of our emotions with our minds and hearts. Learning to understand our emotions maturely is fundamental. Then learning the way to talk to ourselves in emotionally rational terms…

These are us using the dial mentality. Rather than feeling sudden and extreme frustration or rage or utter despair or completely overwhelmed, we can feel annoyed or angry or discouraged or just stymied a little instead.

You can find some more tools about emotions here and there will always be more coming here.

So, do your best to develop the patterns and skills of engaging with dials. Avoid “switch” thinking. Feel a little more or a little less – not everything or nothing. Let your relationships grow a little or fade a little… pull back a little, step up some more.

There are no perfect relationships with humans. Don’t demand them to be perfect. Get better and better and cranking the volume dial up or down a few notches. There are better things than off or on all the way.

Showers are better integrating the hot and cold a little up or a little down. Take that skill and apply it to your relationships and emotions.

Note – I am not staying that anyone who has the switch mentality rather than the dial mentality has a personality disorder, of course.

However, the reason that I talked about personality disorders at the beginning of the article is so that you can understand the dysfunctional nature of the habit to engage with off and on only thinking when it comes to feelings and relationships.

Learn to make incremental changes in emotions and in relationships. Both will become more valuable and healthy aspects of your life.

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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: part II

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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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