Angry baby

The presidential election is just around the corner and emotions are running high. Clearly, there is a great deal of outrage and disgust surrounding the two most controversial figures in the running: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Anger is a normal emotion for all human beings to feel and whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a pro-lifer or pro-choicer, religious or not, there is nothing like politics to divide us into two kinds of angry people: the actively-aggressive and the passively-aggressive.

Active-aggressors take direct action to fix the problem that stirred their anger. They see an injustice and channel all of their angry energy into making it right. Morally, of course, there are right and wrong ways to take action. Anger that leads to the violation of the rights of others is generally considered wrong in our society. However, in some respects our culture has thrown the baby out with the bath water (in an actively-aggressive way of course!). We’ve been told that any form of active-aggression is wrong, that the healthiest individuals don’t take strong stands on anything, work hard not to offend anyone directly or indirectly, and stuff their beliefs, their feelings, and their actions into channels that look neat and tidy on the surface. In short, we are told to sweep our dirt under the carpet.

The problem is that the pressure of that stuffed anger becomes an explosive time-bomb. For example, I knew a lady who was the sweetest person you could ever meet. No person and no situation ever seemed to rile her…until, that is, she got into her car. I was shocked when I discovered that she had been in a physical altercation at a local grocery store when someone cut into her parking space. When I asked her about it later, she said, “I don’t know. Something just came over me.” I wondered how she could act so aggressively over something so petty and yet never seemed upset by the major conflicts in her personal life. It wasn’t that she was immune to anger, she had just learned to suppress it. Like anyone else, however, she had a breaking point.

Passive-aggressors are those who displace their anger onto something unrelated to the inciting problem or who act in ways that don’t clearly convey their anger to the offender. There are certainly times when passive aggression can be healthy. When we channel our anger into something productive, even if it is unrelated, we at least have something positive to show for it. A long run, an hour hitting the weights, a piece of artwork, an impassioned talk with a friend, or a deeper determination to complete a project at the office are great ways to deal indirectly with the problems in our lives for which there are no solutions. When we feel powerless, we can channel that anger elsewhere.

Passive-aggression becomes a problem when the displacement of our actions ends up producing more problems than good in our lives. When our boss reprimands us at work and we come home and shout at our children, we’ve just made our home life as bad as our work life. When our favorite sports hero gets injured in the big game and we punch the wall, our busted hand does nothing to help him heal faster.

The other problem with passive-aggression is that it can postpone our acceptance of responsibility for our anger until a later time when the stakes are much higher. For example, we might be able to get away with the silent treatment of a friend who has hurt us. In the short term, it allows us to avoid being vulnerable and facing the pain of conflict. However, this response prolonged over time leads to a growing tension in the relationship that may result in either a slow tearing away of the connection we have or an explosive blowup that does irreparable damage to the friendship.

So how do we decide what to do with our rage? First we must understand what generates it. I believe there are three major causes of anger:

  1. A sense of injustice – If we believe that something that has, is, or will happen to us is unjust, we are likely to feel anger.
  2. A sense of meaninglessness – If we believe that the circumstances we’ve had to endure are pointless, we will become angry.
  3. A sense of helplessness – If we believe that there is no way out of our circumstances, that we are destined to endure forever the cards we have been dealt, that we cannot overcome our injustices or bring purpose and meaning to our situation, we will struggle with anger.

So how do we deal with the anger:

  1. Find a way to bring justice to your circumstances. If you have strong beliefs about a moral or ethical issue you have faced, actively look to make it right. Perhaps you cannot make it right for yourself, but you can for others. Join an organization or volunteer where you can help others overcome their injustices and through this, bring some justice to your own experience as well.
  2. Find a way to bring meaning to your circumstances. Viktor Frankl is best known for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he describes his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. Those who survived emotionally were the ones who found meaning out of an otherwise meaningless situation. A simple example in our lives would be getting caught in stand-still traffic and reminding ourselves that this traffic could have saved us from something more terrible down the road.
  3. Find a way to fight helplessness with courage and serenity. I like the serenity prayer which says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” There is something extremely valuable and freeing in knowing you have done everything you can do to fix something and then accepting the ultimate outcome, no matter what happens. It can transform rage into a peaceful contentment like no other.

So the next time you feel angry, ask yourself what is driving it. Ask yourself how you are wanting to deal with it: passively or actively. Then decide that you will bring justice, meaning, courage, and serenity to the situation, whatever it may be.

Question: What have been the most effective ways to deal with anger in your own life?

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Fighting Against Hysteria

WARNING: This is a long post and I recognize in our current culture, most people want to read a blog that has 3 quick bullet points they can skim. Just understand that to write this particular post in that manner would be to contradict the very point I am trying to make. So, please forgive me in advance for the length and flow. I hope you can read it through in its entirety.

Every one of us has been judged, rightly or wrongly, by another human being. We’ve all been told at some point that we are wrong, that we need to change, that we are headed in the wrong direction. Each of us, too, has gotten frustrated when we do not see the kind of change we had hoped for in others and in ourselves. I have been practicing psychiatry for over ten years now and I have come to realize that the process of change is very complex and difficult. For some, success and failure are measured by whether or not they can get out of bed in the morning, let alone make it to the job or the gym. There are some who know all too well what they should do, but feel trapped by what they are compelled to do. Their spirits are willing. Their bodies are weak. We, as outside observers, might be quick to judge them. We theorize, often incorrectly, that they fail to change because they WILL NOT. They, however, would plead with us to understand that it is not a matter of willingness. They simply CANNOT. In the face of these conflicting interpretations of reality, we are left with a difficult decision:

Do we judge and condemn them? Do we label them? Do we shun them? Do we chalk their situations up to a lack of faith, a moral weakness, a stubbornness of pride? Or do we remain with them in the mystery of their struggle, accept our own insecurities associated with unanswerable questions, and feel to whatever extent is possible the burden of their pain?

The truth is, no one can know the depths of the human heart! We find ourselves deceived by it constantly. To judge is to say, “I know your heart!” When we get past all the rules, laws, boundaries, ultimatums, punishments, and demands in our relationships, we are still left with that “not-knowing.” Did they change out of fear or out of love? Did they stay the same out of fear or out of love? Who can know for sure?

I have found that those who try to find a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, black-and-white answer for the challenges and triumphs of human growth and change do so for their own comfort and security. When they are faced with a situation or person they do not understand, these people have to force their own understanding of reality on that person or situation because they cannot deal with any unknowns. “Accept my truth, my reality, or get away from me. I can’t stand you if you don’t. You threaten my reality.”

I must admit that for a long time, I was that person. If I’m honest, I still struggle against that old man inside of me. We all do. Humans have an inherent need to compartmentalize truth in order to survive. When confronted with another person’s experience, one that may contradict our own reality, we feel the need to pound their square peg into our round hole. We long for a clear cause-and-effect relationship to explain why they are “that way.”

So-and-so relapsed on alcohol or drugs? It must mean he did not work hard enough in his recovery. Jane Doe can’t seem to lose weight? It must mean she is lazy. But when you delve into the human psyche and spirit, these kinds of explanations are much too cheap. If we were to ask why So-and-so didn’t work hard enough or why Jane Doe lacked motivation, suddenly the picture of reality becomes fuzzy. Now we find ourselves playing with a set of psychological rabbit ears that sit atop life’s staticky T.V. screen. We are hoping to find a perfect position of clarity that enables us to make sense of what’s playing out before us. This we do in order to avoid the fracturing of our fragile worldviews, worldviews that make no room for mystery. Herein lies the essence of all pride, prejudice and judgment.

Very few people are capable of change in the face of such pride and spiritual prejudice. I have realized this both professionally and personally. During an extremely dark time in my own life, I had people who spoke truth to me, but in two different ways. The first group demanded that I accept their understanding of the situation and conform to their rules of reality. They left no room or time for my acclamation to their truth, nor did they display any desire to understand my reality, the one in which I felt trapped at the time.

Looking back, I can honestly say I was incapable of seeing or conforming to their truth. The only way I know how to describe that pain is by likening it to a prisoner, chained to a wall, enduring the shouts of angry inquisitors, crying, “FREE YOURSELF!!” all the while writhing to the point of bloodshed against the shackles and shouting back, “DON’T YOU GET IT?! I CAN’T!!!” One man, who at an earlier time in our relationship claimed I was like a second son to him, told me in the midst of my despair, “You made your bed. Now it’s time for you to sleep in it.” He was correct, of course, but his admonition did nothing to help me change. A minister’s wife looked at me straight in the eyes and exclaimed, “You disgust me!” She, too, was correct. I was worthy of her disgust, but there again, her words did nothing to help me, but simply hardened my heart all the more.

Then came salvation: another group of people who spoke truth into my life, but in an entirely different way. It is to these people I am indebted for the changes I’ve experienced in my heart and life over the years. They were and still are the people to whom the more I confess, the more they have said, “I get it, I love you, I am here.” There was no need for judgment or condemnation. They knew I had done enough of that to myself. Instead, they refused to give up on me through my struggles. The difference between the two groups can be summed up in one word: compassion!

Now, understand me: I do not condemn the people in the first group (or at least I try hard not to – I still struggle sometimes like everyone else). I know I have been guilty of inflicting the same judgment and condemnation on others. It is not easy to love others when our own survival depends upon maintaining a rigid, unbending reality that cannot tolerate the mysterious. If you are reading this post and I have been the person who has judged you, perhaps even spoken truth into your life, but without the necessary compassion you needed at the time, PLEASE FORGIVE ME. It just goes to show that we all need compassion, even in our failure to show compassion.

But I would also like to challenge each of us to contemplate: what is that one necessary ingredient in our relationships that must be present in order to lead to lasting change. I finished reading The Brothers Karamazov and there is a quote from the book that sums up the answer to my question perfectly. Though long, it is one of the most succinct and compelling treatises on compassion I have ever read. A man stands trial for murder and his lawyer, asking for leniency from the court, echoes what we all long for in the midst of our failures and misunderstandings:

“I swear that, if you condemn him, you will only make it easier for his conscience, for he will end by cursing the man whose blood was spilled, instead of weeping for him. At the same time, you will destroy the man he could have been, because you will doom him to remain blind and embittered for the rest of his life. On the other hand, wouldn’t you rather punish him sternly and painfully, indeed, inflict upon him the worst punishment imaginable, but a punishment that will save his soul and regenerate him? If so, then smother him with your mercy: Then you will see and hear him flinch and shudder in awe: ‘How am I to endure this mercy? What have I done to deserve so much love? Can I ever become worthy of it?’ Yes, this is what his heart will cry out…And he will bow before your great act of mercy, because he is yearning for an act of love, and his heart will catch fire and he will be saved forever and ever!”

God help me to grow in my compassion for people every day. Amen!

Here is a test of the depths of your compassion for people. On a scale of 1-5, to what extent can you repeat these statements to someone you know who is struggling?

  1. No matter how long it takes, I will always love you.
  2. No matter how long it takes, I will keep seeking to understand your struggle.
  3. No matter how long it takes, I will never lose faith in the process of your transformation.
  4. No matter how long it takes, I will never give up hope that you can see this to the end.

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758px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis weekend I got to see empowering love in action. Jim Savage is a therapist in Addison, TX who hosts a monthly meeting at the Dallas Recovery Center called the Artist’s Recovery Meeting. In typical 12 step fashion, the first part of the meeting includes a testimony from a local artist who is in recovery. The stories of metamorphosis from a raging alcoholic or addict to a recovered and contributing member of the arts community is as inspiring and beautiful as the art being displayed and performed.

The second half of the meeting is an open forum for artists of all mediums and levels of ability to express themselves through their work. Music, poetry, painting, photography, and even a standup comedy routine were on the lineup. What struck me the most throughout the evening was the level of support, encouragement, and admiration for the artists, no matter what their stage of development. One member of the group had never done art before, but was so inspired from attending these monthly meetings that she decided to purchase a sketchbook of her own. That night she presented her drawings for the first time. She wanted to be involved. Share herself with us. Become a part of something bigger than herself. We were all impressed by her bravery, her openness, and her creativity. In return for what she shared, the group gave her praise, encouragement, and a challenge to keep drawing, keep sharing, and keep inspiring others through her personal and artist journey.

The experience that night taught me something about therapy and life. Every human being wants three things from their relationships:

  1. To be known: Art is an expression of self. Copying someone else’s painting, singing another person’s song, or mimicking another person’s dance is only art insofar as it allows the performer to infuse some element of themselves into the experience. When clients enter my office, they do so in order to express themselves. Many are nervous about the encounter. They wonder and worry whether or not they will be heard, understood, and related to.  Clients share the good, the bad, and the ugly about their lives, trusting that their therapist will not form quick judgments or opinions, but will take the time to know them fully. The best therapists do so with diligence and care. Common phrases that I hear in therapy are “I don’t know where to begin”, “does that make sense”, “not sure if I’m explaining this correctly”, “I know I’m just scratching the surface here”,  and “I hope you understand where I’m coming from.” It is hard to be vulnerable. There is always a chance of being misunderstood. I tell my clients every day that they may need to tell me their story several times and several ways before I “get it”, but if we keep working at it and don’t give up, the understanding will come. If we want to experience deep, fulfilling relationships we must know ourselves and be known by others as we truly are. Take the risk, keep sharing your story, and don’t forget to hear and understand others too.
  2. To be accepted: Being known is not synonymous with being accepted. Just watch some of the early episodes of American Idol. Some contestants are accepted and advance in the competition and others are rejected and sent home. Rejection is one of the biggest fears associated with transparency. It is a risky business. When someone understands who we truly are and refuses to accept us, the blow to our psyche can be staggering, but when we share our struggles and find understanding and acceptance, it can heal the deepest of wounds. Supportive environments like AA/NA/CR/Al-Anon/CoDA help struggling members find the love and acceptance they need to discover their true selves and decide how they need to change. Therapy is a place where this can occur as well. Many clients fear abandonment. They sit in a therapist’s office because they have been abandoned by people like friends and family who should have loved and accepted them the most. Often, they seek counsel on how to change themselves so they can become more acceptable to others. The goal of therapy is to shift their insight toward loving and accepting themselves. If you cannot do this, you will never be able to accept the love and acceptance that others provide you. This is the value of sponsorship in the recovery community. Individuals seek out members with similar life experiences who can understand their stuggle  and will accept them in whatever stage of recovery they may be. Nothing should surprise a sponsor or a therapist. If something does, it doesn’t mean they or you are bad. It just means you need someone with a different expertise or experience to guide you. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you several tries to find that right fit.
  3. To be empowered: Understanding and acceptance are great, but if we stopped there, no one would ever change, grow, or experience new challenges and opportunities. Ultimately, each of us wants to be empowered to succeed in life. True love empowers. In AA, the motto is “keep coming back. It works if you work it.” Artists are never satisfied with painting one picture, singing one song, or writing one story. We want to continually create, improve, push the limits, grow. The same is true for life. Relationships should empower us to be better, more fulfilled, and complete. Psychologically, we would describe this process as self-actualization. Friendships challenge us. Sometimes there is conflict. Unfortunately, this is the destructive illusion of social media. We surround ourselves with virtual people who like all our posts or simply defriend us if they don’t. As a result, we have become sensitized to the friction that should be a natural part of any relationship. We disagree, we argue, we question, we push, all the while providing love and acceptance in the process. This is the beauty, the dance, the song of relationships. Feedback is important. Those who observe your life, much like those who observe art, have the right to say “I like that” or “I don’t like that.” Don’t dismiss the dislikes. Observe and explore them. It doesn’t mean you have to accept them as the truth, but they can challenge you in ways that simple praise may not.

Artist’s in recovery was a great experience for me. I witnessed something amazing that night: not just the beautiful products of art but the beautiful processes of art. Life is the same. May each of our lives continue to produce beauty. Don’t give up on the process!!

Question: If your life was a piece or product of art, what would it be? How would you describe it? Who have you shown your art to? What was the response? Where have you found a community that understands, accepts, and empowers the beauty of your life?

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To be alive is to be motivated. At any given moment in time, you have one of two motivating factors influencing you:

1. The pursuit of a reward: Greek philosophers like Aristotle would tell us that there is no such thing as a completely selfless act. Humans ever and always are motivated by the pursuit of their own good. There is really nothing wrong with this. To ignore “The Self” is to cease to exist. When someone says, “I didn’t want to do X, but I did it anyway,” they are deceiving themselves. The reality is that they did want to do X, but their statement acknowledges the fact that it was not for the direct pleasure but a reward beyond the pain. This is an important concept to understand if you are going to understand what motivates you in life. Many people endure painful experiences in the hope that it will produce something positive in the end. When we do stupid stuff, we are acknowledging ahead of time that the end result will not be good, but we are willing to sacrifice the future for the immediate pleasure of the moment.

 
2. The avoidance of pain: No one likes to hurt. Even people that intentionally cut on themselves or engage in some self-destructive activity are ultimately attempting to avoid pain. The truth is they subject themselves to a lesser pain to avoid something they imagine would be unbearable. For instance, individuals who struggle with eating disorders will often say that their malnutrition and hunger pains allow them to avoid a sense of helplessness or lack of control. It is the lack of control that is unbearable to them, not the sense of starvation!

 
This is the logic behind The Death Drive, a concept articulated by Freud, but named byWilhelm Stekel using the greek word, Thanatos. Thanatos in Greek mythology was the God of Death. In psychological terms, it is the counterintuitive urge within us to destroy. Think about why when you stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon or on the top of the Empire State Building you are both compelled and repulsed by the possibility of jumping. Imagine a child building a sand castle on an ocean shore. When they have completed it, their next action is often to stomp all over it! As humans, we are fascinated by that moment when all things come to an end.

 

I believe there are two reasons for this destructive urge within us:

 
1. Aggressive Power: The first reason humans do stupid stuff is to foster an innate desire to assert power and control over a situation, even if that means destruction. “Because I can” is a phrase repeated by many an individual who willing engages in a destructive act. In essence, the action becomes an adolescent-like retort to every parent of society: “You can’t tell me what to do!!” Sometimes we speed, steal, lie, cheat, get drunk, curse, or fight simply because someone tells us not to. We want freedom, even if we are restricted to the freedom of self-destruction.

 

2. Immediate Redemption: The second reason people often choose to do stupid stuff is to experience immediate redemption. Everybody enjoys the do-over, the mulligan, the clean slate, or the false start. We all need a second chance, but when things get messy, we find it easier to change plans, locations, relationships, jobs, and all other circumstances to avoid ongoing suffering. Unfortunately, Redemption’s road is often long and arduous and the people who look for the quick fix or escape often find themselves repeating the same struggles over and over again.

The Death drive can be channeled in two directions:

 

1. An Inward Focus:We see this inwardly destructive tendency in those who consciously or unconsciously enter abusive relationships similar to those of their past. They find some sense of power in the familiarity of the situation, even if it is self-destructive in nature. They also hope for a do-over, a chance to fix a problem that has surfaced in a current relationship with the same old solutions they tried in a previous one.

 
2. An Outward Focus: The outwardly focused death-drive becomes a means of asserting power aggressively over others. Abusers often act on this drive. The 90’s rock band, Nickleback, had a song wherein the lead singer describes his love of all the degrading things his girlfriend does during their sexual encounters only to conclude in the chorus that the challenge of “figuring her out” was not as difficult as he thought it would be. Ironically, the last verse of the song twists his love for her into hatred. The implication is that he is now on to the next conquest, thus feeding his inner desire for the do-over, a new opportunity to assert his control and assuage his own helplessness and shame by inflicting it on others.

 
Feodor Dostoyevsky, the brilliant Russian novelist who wrote Crime and Punishment, provides a powerful description, if not explanation, of the death drive in action through his character, Nastasya Filipovna, in his novel, The Idiot. Though loved and proposed to by the purest and most noble character in the story, Prince Myshkin, she chooses instead to debase herself with the vilest individuals in society. Dostoevsky reflects on her behavior through Myshkin’s character:
“She ran away from me. Do you know what for? Simply to show me that she was a degraded creature. But the most awful thing is that perhaps she didn’t even know herself that she only wanted to prove that to me, but ran away because she had an irresistible inner craving to do something shameful, so as to say, to herself at once, ‘There, you’ve done something shameful again, so you’re a degraded creature!’ …Do you know that in that continual consciousness of shame there is perhaps a sort of awful, unnatural enjoyment for her, a sort of revenge on some one.”

So how do we fight against the death drive?

 
1. Confront your rage: People who do stupid things to themselves or to others usually harbor a deep-seated anger. Counseling can help to uproot this anger and begin to address it in a healthy way. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. The only way you will be able to stop punishing yourself or someone else is to acknowledge and be aware of the source of your anger and begin the process of managing it successfully.

 
2. Commit to the long-haul: There is no quick fix. Slow down and accept some of the momentary suffering that you may be experiencing. Some of the stupidest things we do are actions taken to relieve immediate suffering without taking the time to consider what our current pain might be teaching us for the long-term successes waiting for us.

 
Question: What about you? Where does the death drive rear its ugly head in your life? What solutions have you found for overcoming our human tendency to do stupid stuff in the moment? I hope you remember that there is always redemption to be had. It just might be a little farther down the road than you originally thought. I hope you can say that it is worth the wait!

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If you missed my interview with Robert Shryoc, Founder and CEO of Stonegate Center, a recovery community for men struggling with addictions, you really should take time to check it out. On the program, we talked about some of the lies we tend to tell ourselves when we are stuck in a negative cycle, habit, or addiction. You do not want to miss it! You can tune in to the program by clicking here.

Tonight on the program, I am revisiting a topic that I posted several weeks ago: the three people that you need in your life to succeed. I got such a good response from people about how helpful they found it that I decided to do a radio show about it. If you happened to miss the post, you can read the original below or tune into the program tonight on KCBI 90.9 at 6:30pm or 10:30pm CDT, or click on the link here after 7 pm to hear it in it’s entirety. Also, be sure to tune in next week as well. I will be talking with Stephanie Coker, a licensed social worker who has both personal and clinical experience working with those who are emotionally fragile. Stay tuned for more great guests and topics in the months ahead!! :

So, there you are…reeling at the news, a look of utter shock undeniably written all over your face. That exciting opportunity for which you had trouble falling asleep the night before is now the shattered hope that will keep you up tonight!

The work you put into the dream – the planning, the time, the networking, the energy – all seems now like a complete waste of time. And what hurts the most? The whole thing would have worked out if not for the interference of other people! Why couldn’t they catch the dream? Why couldn’t they get the vision? Why couldn’t they see in me what I know I have to give?

People will tell you, “Well, it just wasn’t meant to be?” Is that supposed to be comforting? I mean really…if it wasn’t meant to be, then why did I kill myself thinking it was? Why couldn’t somebody have seen that earlier, told me, and saved me a whole lot of trouble? If it wasn’t meant to be, then what is meant to be? Is there any point, any good that I can take away from this defeat?

My response? No doubt…there is!

Now, I’m not going to go into a bunch of platitudes about “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” or “this will build character in your life.” I know these are true, but they usually don’t help much in the face of such a tremendous disappointment. Instead, I want you to focus on the original passion that led you into this seemingly lost endeavor in the first place. I can almost guarantee you that it wasn’t about money, power for power’s sake, popularity, or pure pleasure. It was always about people. You had something that you wanted to give, something to contribute, a need to know and be known, a need to accept and be accepted, a hope to empower and be empowered. You haven’t lost faith in the dream…you’ve lost faith in people!!

So what do you do? How do you keep this disappointment from completely tainting your love, faith, and hope in others and making you a bitter, cynical person?

Let me suggest that you start by envisioning three people in your mind. Keep these people with you through the trial. Give them a face, a name, a legacy, and a future with you. They are as follows:

  1. The person you are striving for: This is the person that more than likely you started your mission to reach. I asked a factory worker installing seatbelts in automobiles who he was striving for. He said, “That little girl, just like my daughter, whose life will be saved because of me.” A teacher recently told me it was “that kid who really can succeed but everyone else in his life keeps telling him that he cannot!” Who are you striving for? He or she will be the one who gets you back up on your feet when you face a roadblock on the way to your dream. If you do not have someone like this in mind, create them. Be as detailed as possible. Give them a name. Envision their face before you when you are feeling discouraged. No venture in life will succeed if you are pursuing it for purely selfish gain. Your work will be so much more satisfying, even in times of failure, if you are striving for another.
  2. The person you are striving with: Somewhere in this world, there is someone who has gone through or is going through exactly what you are. They need you! They need your story! If you hole-up in isolation and coddle your hurt, keep it to yourself and refuse to share it, you will miss out on the connections you could have made with people who want to give and receive strength for the journey. Your heart will overflow when you meet them: a kindred spirit you might never have known otherwise. I interviewed a woman who said, “I thought I was all alone, but a whole world opened up to me when I opened up to it. It was like walking through a fog of loneliness for so long and then suddenly stumbling upon a campfire, burning bright and hot, surrounded by people celebrating a journey not yet finished but sure to end well. They were ready to walk along with me. My heart glowed for the first time!”
  3. The person you are striving toward:This isn’t as simple as a WWJD bracelet with which you snap your wrist each time a problem arises. It is, however, visualizing that one individual that you want to be and asking yourself how your pain can make you more like him or her. I’ve been reading a kids version of Pilgrim’s Progress to my children at night before bed, and so for me right now, I’ve been visualizing the character, Faithful. He’s the one who entered the town of Vanity Fair and was dragged into the courts by the town’s people. Despite all the tempting and laughing and brutality he experienced for being different, he stood strong in his mission, even to death. That’s who I want to be. I know I’m not perfect in that regard. I know I have a long way to go with lots of setbacks, but I keep that story in my mind and it helps. What about you? Who do you want to become? Perhaps he or she is a real person or a fictional character that embodies all the qualities you long for. Tell yourself that this setback is an opportunity to become more like them and determine to be that same person others aspire to be. It will make all the difference.

Questions: How do you keep from getting cynical about life and love when you’ve faced a hurt or setback? Are their ways that you have found helpful to keep you motivated? If you had someone in mind to strive for, with, and toward, who would they be?

 

Be sure to follow my blog but signing up to receive email updates and follow me on facebook at David Livingstone Henderson MD or on Twitter @DaveHendersonMD .

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If I Only Had….

This past week, I interviewed Lisa Burkhardt Worley about her take on the secret longings that many women harbor.  You can click on the link above to listen to the full program. I really encourage you to do so. In this interview, we focus on Lisa’s personal testimony of struggling with a mother who suffered from mental illness. We do not often hear these stories from the perspective of the child involved and I think you will find it very encouraging and uplifting…a true story of redemption. For more information about Lisa, keep reading:

Lisa Burkhadt Worley is a former national television sportscaster, Christian non-fiction writer, speaker, retreat leader and Christ follower whose passion is ministering to women. Lisa has worn numerous hats throughout her life. She was both a national and local television sportscaster for nineteen years with HBO Sports, the Madison Square Garden Network, ESPN and the local CBS affiliate in San Antonio. She was also the spokesperson for San Antonio International Airport for five years, part of which was during the events of 9-11.

After she rededicated her life to Christ in 1993, God led Lisa on a path that has included numerous ministry leadership positions. She is currently the lay leader over Women’s Ministry at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in Flower Mound where she speaks regularly at a monthly women’s luncheon at Trietsch called First Friday Feast. Lisa also speaks to other church gatherings, retreats and secular groups, both in the Texas area and occasionally in other parts of the country.

She recently completed her first book with co-author Catherine Weiskopf called, If I Only Had…Following God’s Path to Your Security. The book won “Best Non-Fiction Book” at the 2012 North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is currently being edited by Catherine and Lisa’s Literary Agent. Catherine, Lisa and former Dallas media personality, Rebecca Carrell, are currently writing a new Bible study, The Un-Crowd: How God Takes us Out of the World to Do the Unpopular. It will be taught in March, 2013 at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church. Lisa is also publishing a devotional, The Pearls of Promise Devotional, in 2013.Lisa is a strong proponent of small group ministry, having led small groups in both San Antonio and Flower Mound for over fifteen years.

Lisa completed her Masters of Theological Studies Degree at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2008. At Perkins, she was recognized as one of the top students in Division 1 Studies (Biblical Witness.) Lisa is a San Antonio, Texas native but moved to Flower Mound in 2005. She has been married to Jeff Worley for 26 years and has two children, Kyle, 23, and Bret, 16.

Visit Lisa at …

www.pearlsofpromiseministries.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pearlsofpromise
Facebook: http://facebook.com/pearlsofpromiseministries.com
Books: Pearls of Promise Devotional
Linked in: Lisa Burkhardt Worley

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Relationships in the Workplace.

I had a great time interviewing Robert E. Hall, a noted author, consultant, and speaker on relationships. His latest book, This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith, gives a clear explanation as to why fostering healthy working relationships should be on our short list of daily activities.

As cofounder and CEO of a two-hundred person relationship management firm with offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia, he consulted for twenty-plus years with major corporations on customer and employee relationships. Ernst & Young named him a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Southwest. His first book, The Streetcorner Strategy for Winning Local Markets, is a business bestseller that helped inspire the customer relationship managment movement. For the past decade, Hall has mentored inner-city homeless families and helped pioneer a relationship-centric model for addressing homelessness. He has authored more than one hundred published columns, articles, and research papers on the topic of relationships.

I asked him to stop by the studio to give us some insights into how relationships can make or break a business. Click on the link above to listen to the whole program. Listed below are four actions you can take to strengthen your relationships in the workplace:

1. Understand Unintended Consequences:  We are always trying to streamline our lives. The faster or easier we can accomplish a task, the better. Unfortunately, there are unintended consequences to increased material productivity, usually in the form of declining relationships. Why communicate face-to-face when you can send a text? Why strike up a conversation with someone in an elevator when you can be listening to your favorite podcast on your i-phone? Robert does not advocate for going back to the stone ages. He does, however, believe that if we are aware of this unintended distancing brought on by advance in technology, we can be more intential about fighting against it, maintaining connection and unity with people in the workplace and potentially save a suffering relationship.

 2. Make relationships a strategic priority: Robert notes that relationships have as much value (if not more value) than capital.  Our intentional investment in people can be worth more than a million dollar grant if we can understand the long term ramifications of a healthy working environment. As a consultant, Robert notes that he has seen large companies go under, not for lack of material resources but because of failed communication, bitterness, disloyalty, and hurt feelings. We need to remember that relationships are not just a means to an end, but an end in and of themselves. They are what give our work meaning and purpose. We feel fulfilled in what we do for the very fact that we are investing in people, whether directly or indirectly.

3. Deinstitutionalize our Organizations: Robert recommends breaking organizations down to the small and local. Many churches are adopting the small group model of connecting people with people. As one school principal told him, “We have been in rows and we need to move into circles.” Sometimes we hate business meetings. I know every one of us has thought at some point, “This meeting could have been over 15 minutes ago if someone would just get to the point.” But meetings are not even as much about producing something material as they are about giving people a voice to be heard and a way to connect with one another.  For a great book on this subject, check out Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzler.

4. Relational Leadership: We will not change this problem from the top down through programs or forced interactions. We can only create an environment that fosters these interactions. To do this, leaders must demonstrate the importance of individuals by being individually oriented themselves. You may be the lowest man on your company’s totem pole but you can be a leader in this way by making meaningful connections with people each and everyday.

Question: How do you feel in your place of employment? What are the relational aspects that make or break your work experience? What are the solutions you have found helpful? 

Be sure to sign up for my blog by clicking the link to the left or follow me on facebook or twitter at David Livingstone Henderson, MD or @DaveHendersonMD.

 

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So, there you are…reeling at the news, a look of utter shock undeniably written all over your face. That exciting opportunity for which you had trouble falling asleep the night before is now the shattered hope that will keep you up tonight!

The work you put into the dream – the planning, the time, the networking, the energy – all seems now like a complete waste of time. And what hurts the most? The whole thing would have worked out if not for the interference of other people! Why couldn’t they catch the dream? Why couldn’t they get the vision? Why couldn’t they see in me what I know I have to give?

People will tell you, “Well, it just wasn’t meant to be?” Is that supposed to be comforting? I mean really…if it wasn’t meant to be, then why did I kill myself thinking it was? Why couldn’t somebody have seen that earlier, told me, and saved me a whole lot of trouble? If it wasn’t meant to be, then what is meant to be? Is there any point, any good that I can take away from this defeat?

My response? No doubt…there is!

Now, I’m not going to go into a bunch of platitudes about “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” or “this will build character in your life.” I know these are true, but they usually don’t help much in the face of such a tremendous disappointment. Instead, I want you to focus on the original passion that led you into this seemingly lost endeavor in the first place. I can almost guarantee you that it wasn’t about money, power for power’s sake, popularity, or pure pleasure. It was always about people. You had something that you wanted to give, something to contribute, a need to know and be known, a need to accept and be accepted, a hope to empower and be empowered. You haven’t lost faith in the dream…you’ve lost faith in people!!

So what do you do? How do you keep this disappointment from completely tainting your love, faith, and hope in others and making you a bitter, cynical person?

Let me suggest that you start by envisioning three people in your mind. Keep these people with you through the trial. Give them a face, a name, a legacy, and a future with you. They are as follows:

  1. The person you are striving for: This is the person that more than likely you started your mission to reach. I asked a factory worker installing seatbelts in automobiles who he was striving for. He said, “That little girl, just like my daughter, whose life will be saved because of me.” A teacher recently told me it was “that kid who really can succeed but everyone else in his life keeps telling him that he cannot!” Who are you striving for? He or she will be the one who gets you back up on your feet when you face a roadblock on the way to your dream. If you do not have someone like this in mind, create them. Be as detailed as possible. Give them a name. Envision their face before you when you are feeling discouraged. No venture in life will succeed if you are pursuing it for purely selfish gain. Your work will be so much more satisfying, even in times of failure, if you are striving for another.
  2. The person you are striving with: Somewhere in this world, there is someone who has gone through or is going through exactly what you are. They need you! They need your story! If you hole-up in isolation and coddle your hurt, keep it to yourself and refuse to share it, you will miss out on the connections you could have made with people who want to give and receive strength for the journey. Your heart will overflow when you meet them: a kindred spirit you might never have known otherwise. I interviewed a woman who said, “I thought I was all alone, but a whole world opened up to me when I opened up to it. It was like walking through a fog of loneliness for so long and then suddenly stumbling upon a campfire, burning bright and hot, surrounded by people celebrating a journey not yet finished but sure to end well. They were ready to walk along with me. My heart glowed for the first time!”
  3. The person you are striving toward:This isn’t as simple as a WWJD bracelet with which you snap your wrist each time a problem arises. It is, however, visualizing that one individual that you want to be and asking yourself how your pain can make you more like him or her. I’ve been reading a kids version of Pilgrim’s Progress to my children at night before bed, and so for me right now, I’ve been visualizing the character, Faithful. He’s the one who entered the town of Vanity Fair and was dragged into the courts by the town’s people. Despite all the tempting and laughing and brutality he experienced for being different, he stood strong in his mission, even to death. That’s who I want to be. I know I’m not perfect in that regard. I know I have a long way to go with lots of setbacks, but I keep that story in my mind and it helps. What about you? Who do you want to become? Perhaps he or she is a real person or a fictional character that embodies all the qualities you long for. Tell yourself that this setback is an opportunity to become more like them and determine to be that same person others aspire to be. It will make all the difference.

Questions: How do you keep from getting cynical about life and love when you’ve faced a hurt or setback? Are their ways that you have found helpful to keep you motivated? If you had someone in mind to strive for, with, and toward, who would they be?

 

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Tonight, on For Christ and Culture, I interview Kevin Gilliland of Innovation 360, a treatment program designed to help individuals struggling with overcoming addictions and mental illnesses. I encourage you to tune into the program, which aires on 90.9 KCBI, at 6:30pm and 10:30pm CST. You can also listen on your own time any time after 7:30pm CST by clicking here.

On the program, we discuss the struggles that many parents have in successfully launching their teenagers and emerging adults from the home. How do we motivate our kids toward a healthy change of mind and equip them to struggle well?

Based on our discussion during the program, here are my top 3 answers:

1. Find out what currently motivates them.  What are your teenager’s interests, passions, or desires. Open up the conversation with them and work to figure out what makes them tick. You may be thinking, “Well, nothing seems to motivate my kids. All they want to do is sit around and play video games.” This does not mean they are not motivated. It means that their is something about sitting around playing video games that is motivating to them. Find out what that is and you are well on your way to helping them succeed in other areas.

2. Begin to let them struggle. Part of the reason why a teenager sits around playing video games all day is because there is nothing or no one challenging them to do anything else. As parents, because we love our children, we fear the possibility of them facing pain. What can happen is without knowing it, we begin to pick up the slack for their decisions and so they do not have to face the inherent struggles of life. This fosters their complacency and makes them more sensitive to minor challenges. Think about it. If you lie on the couch all day for days on end, your muscles atrophy and lose their functioning. If this behavior (or lack thereof) goes on long enough, you may find yourself lying on the couch not because you want to but because you can do nothing else. If we do not let our kids struggle, they will not have the strength to face greater and greater challenges as time passes.

3. Check your own motivations. If you are unable to step back and let your son or daughter experience the challenges inherent to a life well-lived, you have to confront the reasons why. What struggles would you have to experience in order to launch your son or daughter? Perhaps it is loneliness, fear of failure as a parent, embarrassment, the fear of more work in the future if they come back battered and bruised. Whatever the struggle, you must acknowledge how your fear of facing it may be influencing the decisions you are making with your kids.

Ultimately, we all desire hope. Hope that we will succeed in the struggle. Hope that the pain will be worth the reward. To struggle well, you must have hope that the challenges are worth the risk. Remember, God does not cause pain without allowing something new to be born. Remember this the next time you step back and allow your son or daughter to experience some pain in their lives. Do not feel guilty. Check your motivations and recognize that ultimately, you want what is best for them. If you want them to grow, you’ve got to let them struggle. Struggle well!!

Question: What are the challenges that you have had to overcome and what tips can you give someone who is seeking to struggle well through life?

Please sign up for the blog by clicking the link on the left hand column that says subscribe, follow me on facebook at David Livingstone Henderson, MD or twitter @DaveHendersonMD. Also, if you are interested in more information about Innovation 360, you can check out their website, www.i360life.com.  

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For those of us in a painful season of life, this is a great reminder!!

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