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!

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 .

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

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.

 

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 .

Image

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.  

purposebeyondpain:

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

Originally posted on kidsbook friends:

plantingarainbow.cover

Introducing Our Featured Friend: Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Our April Showers from Tuesday’s Featured Friend, Just You and Me, brings us some May Flowers with Today’s Featured Friend, Planting a Rainbow. With so many wonderful flower books for kids, Ehlert’s is my pick because children ages toddler to ten (and even adults) can enjoy the book at different levels.

“Every year Mom and I plant a rainbow.”

She begins her book with “Mom and I” planting bulbs in the fall, and moves through the seasons of winter, spring, then finally summer by illustrating and labeling the bulbs, seeds, sprouts, seedlings, and plants with pictures and colors that captivate us.

In the middle of book, she includes a creative flip chart with each color of the rainbow and the flowers that correlate. For example, on her orange flowers page, she shows an orange tulip, zinnia, tiger lily, and poppy…

View original 750 more words

This is the third part of an interview I participated in for the Texan, a publication of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I was asked to comment on the motion presented to the SBC Executive Committee in favor of improving churches’ care for those with mental health challenges. I see this as a huge step forward in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, which has unfortunately been propagated by the church at times. In this section, I answer the question, “What are some ways in which you see churches failing in their attempts to biblically and adequately address mental health?” I’d love to get your thoughts on it:

“Our failure has come from turning a blind eye to the science and the research that has been done over years and years of studying human development and functioning. As I’ve said, we have turned a blind eye to it out of fear, fear of what it would mean for us to step outside the bounds of the Bible and using other forms of truth, natural revelation, that are just as God-given. We know so much more about how the mind and brain work than we did even 10 years ago. Why would we waste that knowledge in our efforts to help redeem the brokenness of mankind?

At Criswell, we take an integrated approach to counseling. We don’t shy away from what natural revelation might reveal to us. We absolutely filter it through the lens of Scripture; we make sure that the theories we’re espousing are consistent with the Word of God, but we don’t shy away from knowledge that might make us more efficient at helping the mentally ill. And this is one of my biggest pet peeves with people in the Christian community and with people in Christian academia: when they completely refuse to even study a field of knowledge because they say, “Well that’s not based on biblical truth.” I think it was Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth.”

For example, it’s very emotionally taxing to be in the presence of someone with a mental illness. You can share Scripture. You can share truth with them through the Bible, and it doesn’t seem to penetrate; they don’t seem to get it. Without training, we get tired very quickly. It’s why the statistics associated with pastor burnout are so high. So in an academic program like Criswell, we teach more effective ways of working with someone with mental illness. Why? Well for one, it reduces your own emotional exhaustion so that you can sit in the presence of someone with a mental illness and have greater strength bear the load. In the end, it makes us more efficient as counselors and as lovers of people.”

Question: What do you think? Is the church helping or hurting people with mental health problems? How and why?

(Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter @DaveHendersonMD, and Linkedin for more articles like these.)

This is the second part of an interview I participated in for the Texan, a publication of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I was asked to comment on the motion presented to the SBC Executive Committee in favor of improving churches’ care for those with mental health challenges. I see this as a huge step forward in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, which has unfortunately been propagated by the church at times. In this section, I answer the question, “How does mental illness relate to the fallen nature of mankind?” I’d love to get your thoughts on it:

“However you view the “mind-body-spirit” dynamic—you have to acknowledge that sin taints our entire essence. We sin as an act but we are also sinners in our essence and that essence spans our spirituality, our psychology—I would use that term psychology—and our physiology, our bodies. When you see it from that standpoint, it allows for the uniqueness of the individual and their struggle. It allows for the infusion of truth, grace and mercy into their specific circumstances. And the gospel becomes very real to them because you’re not taking a cookie-cutter approach to every single person. You’re recognizing that we’re all tainted by the fall, but that tainting is very different for each person. So Sally, for example, may struggle with pride or arrogance or gossip, but Johnny over here struggles with pornography or violence, anger, rage. What makes them different? They’re both sinners. They’re both tainted by the fall. But their genetics, personalities, sex, and life circumstances are all different. And so it creates both a dynamic of collective sinfulness, commonality, while maintaining a uniqueness in these other areas. And when I see clients that come to my office, I take each one as an individual and try to tease out what is the essence of their struggle in this life, how the fall has tainted them, but also how they can be redeemed, in body, in soul, in spirit.

To address the physical nature of our humanity, let me point out that researchers have done studies looking at people with severe anxiety and demonstrated that certain areas of their brain are not just functionally overactive, but actually physically larger. One area in particular, called the amygdala, is larger and hyperactive in those who are extremely anxious. So then we must address the nature of their struggle. If somebody has a larger amygdala and it’s overactive, are they going to struggle more with worry and with anxiety, which the Bible says we clearly should not do? Yes, absolutely. Does that affirm their sinfulness? Of course, it affirms that they are broken people just like all of us. The statistic, as far as brokenness, is 100 percent—it just differs in the areas that we struggle. The joy and excitement of what I do is to learn about the nature of their anxiety and help equip them to battle it effectively, incorporating all tools at our disposal, given to us by God through both divine revelation and natural revelation.

So this resolution seems to me to be the equivalent of Christendom’s acceptance that the world is round. In Galileo’s time, there was a lot of fear about what the acceptance of this fact would do to the Faith.  It challenged people’s worldview. This is an equivalent issue in that it’s challenging our worldview today. But I think in the end, it will not do anything as far as shaking the core doctrines of our faith and what we believe, but will instead help us to be more effective as ambassadors of the truths we find in scripture about our brokenness and our need for a Savior.”

Question: What do you think? What causes mental illness? Is it physical, psychological, spiritual, or all of the above? How do you think we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness while still remaining true to our faith?

(Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter @DaveHendersonMD, and Linkedin for more articles like these.)

Tonight on For Christ and Culture, I interview Dr. Matthew Stanford, neuropsychologist, author and co-founder of the Mental Health Grace Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping those who feel stuck in the “treatment box” discover the true process of recovery. They provide personal assistance to navigate professional care and improve personal life management (mental health recovery). Their Mental Illness Recovery Program (THRIVE) and support groups reinforce professional care, reducing symptoms, building recovery and improving personal faith.

Dr. Stanford was one of the plenary speakers at Rick Warren’s Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church in California. On today’s program we discuss some key factors necessary to help people understand the nature of mental illness and how best to approach treatment. Here are a few key points to remember:

  1. Recovery vs. Cure: Many people diagnosed with mental illness ask, “Can I be cured?” Unfortunately, this is a very black and white way of viewing mental illness that sets people up for certain discouragement and failure. If the cause of mental illness was as simple as identifying a bacteria that could be eradicated with an antibiotic, we might used the word cure. However, mental illness usually falls within the spectrum of disorders that require ongoing management of symptoms and signs. Similar disorders would include Diabetes, Parkinson’s syndrome, Heart Disease, and Lupus. When you consider the nature of mental illness, we use the diathesis/stress model. A diathesis is a predisposing factor that makes the acquiring of a disorder more likely. When we use this term, we are usually referring to a person’s genetics or heritability. The stress or stresses are the environmental factors that precipitate and perpetuate a bout of the disorder. These environmental factors include diet, exercise, traumatic life events, upbringing, belief systems, and relationships that generate the “perfect storm” so to speak. It is important to remember that these factors are always in flux and can either exacerbate or improve symptoms depending on the individual’s handling of them. Recovery comes when a person’s symptoms abate and/or the stressors are diminished.
  2. Resiliency vs. Avoidance: No one can completely escape the pain of life. That is why the second goal of treatment is called resiliency. Our goal is to help clients develop strength to overcome day to day challenges that before might have precipitated or exacerbated the symptoms of their mental illness. Just as diet and exercise enable an individual to overcome obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other such disorders, treatments for mental illness can do the same. Medications are one tool out of a host of options that provide this strengthening. They are not cures and they do have side effects. That is why a holistic approach to treatment that includes talk-therapy, group accountability and social support, diet, exercise, spiritual practices, and educational advancement is vital.
  3. Reminders vs. Results: Sometimes clients get focused on results and need reminders of how far they have come in treatment. “I feel worse today” is a common statement I hear. It is natural to have ebbs and flows of emotion. At any given moment, we might feel worse and it seems like we are taking steps backward. The encouraging part of what I do is to point out those subtle changes that I’ve noticed occurring in peoples’ relationships and daily life tasks, being a witness to the strength that clients demonstrate during very challenging times. We all need to be reminded that life is hard and full of surprises, but as our endurance builds, we rise to meet those challenges. We can have confidence in ourselves, looking back at some of the hurtles we’ve already jumped, knowing that the ones to come can be taken in stride using the tools we are continually acquiring.

Question: What has given you endurance to keep pushing forward, even when life gets tough?

Follow me on twitter @DaveHendersonMD or on facebook at David Livingstone Henderson MD or sign up to receive email updates from the blog by clicking the follow tab on the column to the left.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,111 other followers

Books:

Email me

I am a board certified psychiatrist, author, speaker and the Director of Counseling and Psychology at Criswell College in Dallas Tx. I also serve as an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I have a passion for helping people through painful circumstances, be they physical illnesses of the brain, psychological conditions of the mind, social problems of everyday life, and/or spiritual crises of faith and worldview.

Disclaimer

All information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a professional evaluation or treatment. If you are experiencing emotional distress, please contact a mental health professional. Dr. Henderson cannot respond to inquiries about prescription refills, or medical or psychiatric emergencies over the internet. If you are a patient in need of assistance, please contact Dr. Henderson’s office directly, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,111 other followers

%d bloggers like this: