Month: June 2012

Soul P.M.

By Jonathan Hart, LPC

I have just returned from a very nice, relaxing vacation.  We were quite thoroughly “off the grid”: away from cities, away from crowds, away from cell phone signal, internet, and even electricity.  It was refreshing … after about a day and a half of electronics withdrawal.

When I’m not on vacation, I depend a great deal on my phone.  All my appointments are stored there in my schedule, along with contact information and a glut of other data that is fairly important.  I take a great many phone calls, texts, and e-mails about business and clients.  It has become a (bad) habit to give my attention to the thing whenever it blings, dings, beeps, or whistles.  When it does not do so for more than an hour or two, I find myself compulsively looking at it to see if I missed something.

Out in the woods, I found myself repeatedly grasping my pocket where my phone usually resides and, finding nothing there, experiencing a brief moment of panic: “Where did I leave it?  Did I lose it?”  Then I remembered that it was turned off and stowed in the glove box alongside the other useless stuff: the owner’s guide for my truck, 27 maps for places we weren’t, and a stick and a half of year-old gum.

Even on the third day, my wife and I found ourselves in information withdrawal: what was the weather going to be today, and how would that influence our decisions on activities and preparations?  We needed to know!!  We never did find out, and –gasp– we survived unharmed.

A mentor of mine told me once: “Always, Always, Always take a vacation every year. Make the time.”  Especially in the helping professions, but in all walks of life, rest and self-care is critically important.  In the military they call it “P.M.”: Preventive Maintenance.  It means stopping before things break in order to keep them from breaking.  It means taking the truck, gun, or equipment out of use and circulation for a period of time, doing without it, in order to keep it functioning optimally.

Many of us are bad at PM for our hearts and souls.  We usually wait until we feel bad or until something in our world “breaks” before we stop to rest.  This is a mistake.  We run ourselves into the ground and we cease to function well, serving poorly, working poorly, and living poorly.

How long has it been since you went off the grid (whatever that looks like in your world)?  How long since you stopped and took care of your heart and mind and soul?  Do something that relaxes, refreshes, recharges you.  Get out of your routine for a while.  You’ll know you are starting to do it when you have those moments where you wonder what has fallen apart that you could have taken care of or prevented.  When you get to that point, don’t stop.  Take another day.

Or two.  It will keep.

Let it go.  Go on.

PM yourself.

–JH

Why can’t I handle it on my own?

By: Andy Gear

When I think about life before the Fall, I don’t think of people going around lonely. But that thought comforted me because I realized loneliness in my own life doesn’t mean I am a complete screwup, rather God made me this way. You always picture the perfect human being as somebody who doesn’t need anybody, like a guy on a horse in Colorado or whatever. But here is Adam, the only perfect guy in the world, and he is going around wanting to be with somebody else, needing another person to fulfill a certain emptiness in his life . . . I wondered at how beautiful it is that you and I were created to need each other. The romantic need is just the beginning, because we need our families and we need our friends. In this way, we are made in God’s image. Certainly God does not need people in the way you and I do, but He feels a joy at being loved, and He feels a joy at delivering love. It is a striking thought to realize that, in paradise, a human is incomplete without a host of other people. We are relational indeed
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
I often feel like I should be able to handle all my problems on my own. Images of John Wayne and Bruce Willis float through my mind as I suck up my pain and try unsuccessfully to pull myself back up by my bootstraps. If only I just relied on God more, all my loneliness would just melt away. But as I read the first chapters of Genesis, I begin to question this assumption. Adam walked in the garden in perfect fellowship with God, and even then God said that Adam needed other people. He didn’t create us to be lone wolves. He created us to need each other, and He doesn’t call this weakness. He calls it being made in the image of God. We are relational, like our Father.

Growth in maturity doesn’t mean learning to solve all our problems on our own. Seeking caring, empathetic, and authentic relationship is not a concession for the weak. It is the wisdom that comes from realizing who we were made to be. We were not made to ‘stick it out’ on our own. In the Old Testament God called a family and a nation. In the New Testament He called His church to do life as a community of brothers and sisters. He wanted us to understand our need for help in this journey. Why can’t I handle it on my own? It’s not because there is something wrong with me. I was never meant to do it alone.  

Perfectionism: A Book Suggestion

by: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC

Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism by Richard Winter 

          In an age in which perfect performance is highly regarded as the means to a successful and thereby happy life, Perfecting Ourselves to Deathspeaks biblical truth into an often-overlooked epidemic. The effects of a performance driven culture have permeated the Christian culture as working for Christ and performing for him has become a standard measure of spiritual maturity. Dr. Winter diagnoses and dissects this perspective as unbiblical.

            The spectrum of perfectionism varies from normal, healthy perfectionism, to neurotic, unhealthy perfectionism, to non-perfectionism. Healthy perfectionism is realistic and enthusiastic as it is driven by positive motivation to achieve. Unhealthy perfectionism sets unrealistic standards and bases self-worth on performance; it is motivated by a negative motivation of fear of failure. Non-perfectionism is relaxed and undemanding, sometimes to the point of unreliability and laziness. Defeated perfectionism is a covert form that says, “Why even try when perfect is unattainable?” It has already been defeated before any attempts have been made; success is unlikely or an impossibly, so failure is viewed as a choice to be desired over disappointment.

            All perfectionism is centered on the tension of the gap between “who I am” and “who I should be”:

  •   driven perfectionism: works harder to close the gap
  •    defeated perfectionist: gives up the fight
  •    healthy perfectionist: able to live in the tension

           The healthiness of perfectionism is determined in our motivation to achieve success, and our view of the failure to do so. The ways it can manifest itself are through performance, appearance, interpersonal interaction, morals, and all-around perfectionism. There are also different types of perfectionism such as self-oriented or other-oriented. Other-oriented perfectionism projects the demands and expectations of perfectionism onto those around you. Each of these can manifest in healthy forms and unhealthy forms, at times affecting mental health and personal relationships. Depression, anger, suicidal intentions, eating disorders, worry, and anxiety can all find their foundations in perfectionism.

      So what is your view of yourself or others when success is not achieved? How do you interact when you or someone around you is less than perfect? What drives your desires and demands for perfection, or your fears of even trying? What is your heart like towards who you “should” be? What is your heart like towards who your spouse, friend, child, boss, sister, brother, pastor, co-worker, neighbor “should” be?

          

A Soul in Torment: Living With An Addiction

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC
Sitting with someone in the throws of an addiction causes my soul to ache.  The reality of many who struggle with an addiction is this: they desire to be free from their addiction is, yet they literally feel chained to their addiction – unable to get away.  And no matter what special techniques I use as a counselor, or what their family does or doesn’t do, they will remain chained until they alone choose to risk leaving their addiction in order to learn what life would be like without their addiction.  For those of us caring for a person with an addiction, this truth is hard for us to accept. 
It is hard for us to except that no matter what we do, what we say, or how we act, we have no control over freeing the one we care for who is being tormented by their addiction. 
Often as I sit with individuals they are in the midst of fighting to be freed from their addiction.  I see sitting before me a soul in torment.  Webster’s Dictionary defines the word torment as,  “1) the infliction of torture, 2) extreme pain or anguish of body or mind.”  I believe using the word torment to describe the experience of the addicted fighting to break free from their addiction is fitting. 
The Apostle Paul expresses this idea of the tormented soul in Romans 7, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

I found this picture in Google images.   This picture depicts for me what I perceive the life of an addict to be as they fight to be freed
from their addiction. 
The face on the far left is the side of the addict that rages inside of them and wants the rush and momentary fulfillment that their addiction provides to them.  The face on the far right is the face the addict has once they have succumbed to the allurement of their addiction – they are tired, sad, and feel shame over what they have done.  The middle face represents the small pockets of time they feel human, free, and love themselves (to an extent).  This is the face they get to experience the least, yet long to experience the most. 
Patrick Carnes describes the cycle of addiction this way:
Family Wounds / Life Wounds
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Shame
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An addict spends so much time in the cycle Carnes depicts above, that they are virtually unable to live their life.  They are continuously moving through the cycle.  Once an addiction takes root into someone’s life it has power and control, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. 
Freedom from the bondage and torment of their addiction is possible. 
I have listed some resources regarding addiction and healing from addiction on our resources page.  Take a look if you are in need of some help/knowledge.  If you’d rather talk to a live person give us a call.  We’d be happy to help you find the help you need.  Avenues main number is 314-529-1391.  Our email is:  info@avenuescounselingcenter.org