Recently, I was interviewed by 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. Here is an exerpt from the the article. I’d love to get your thoughts on it:

“The challenge for Christians wrestling with how to define mental health and mental illness has always been, “How much of this issue is a spiritual problem, how much is psychological, and how much is physical?” Where does the brain stop and the soul begin? Is it even possible to separate the two practically? I would suggest that our desire to draw a hard and fast line between those three components is because it sets up a definition and model of treatment that is easy and comfortable for us. As humans, we gravitate toward the black and white. If I see a person in counseling and I can say with absolute authority that he or she is suffering from unconfessed sin, it makes my job a lot easier. Confess the sin and you will get better. On the other hand, if I can draw blood and say with absolute authority that the test results show a low thyroid level, again my job is very easy. Treat the thyroid and you will recover. The problem is that much of medicine in general (not just psychiatry) is not this clear cut. [Examples abound.] More importantly, Christians need to acknowledge that this is true of life. That is why the Bible speaks so much about wisdom, which is the application of knowledge to given situations, not in a cookie-cutter sort of way, but in a way that uses discernment, taking each case as it is presented to us. It is easier and more comfortable to make everything a black and white issue, but it is not the Biblical model in dealing with people. The essence of humanity is body and soul. Some would say body, soul and spirit. We separate these elements out in order to understand them intellectually, but in real life, in the context of counseling, we treat the whole individual. This might be messier, but God never called us to remain in the ivory towers of intellectualism. He called us to love people, broken people who need him. That takes a lot of work. So defining mental health and illness becomes a process of understanding the component parts of a person (their biology, their psychology, and their spirituality) and how they interact as a whole to effect an individual’s understanding of themselves, how they relate to God and others, and how they act in that context.

I see the SBC resolution (last summer on mental health) as extremely important to the shift in mindset that we are taking as evangelical Christians on dealing with the mentally ill. Do we still acknowledge the reality of sin? Absolutely. But we acknowledge it in the sense that it taints us spiritually, emotionally and physically. This means that we must accept that our physical bodies, our psychology, society, and our history of life experiences impacts the way we think and the way we feel, even the way we live out our faith.

Question: What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? How should we determine what problems are caused by the unhealthy practices of an individual’s faith tradition vs. a psychological or psychiatric condition that might benefit from medication or psychotherapy? Is the question even relevant?

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

Originally posted on kidsbook friends:

Curious Garden Cover

“But the most surprising things that popped up were the new gardeners.”

Featured Friend: The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Today was Western Day for my kindergartener at her school. (Remember, it’s Texas!) When I joined her for lunch on the playground, I noticed all the weeds that had sprung up with the coming of spring. Then, I noticed something wonderful: One child began pulling the weeds up by their roots. Before long, he had a host of kids following him doing the same thing. The kids hesitated in their activity when they saw a teacher approaching them. However, they continued their fun when Mrs. Wilson, a wise kindergarten teacher simply remarked, “I’m certainty not going to stop you. Keep going!”
Without even realizing it, one child’s fun endeavor inspired other children to do good, and at the close of Western Day, the playground looked better.

A very similar, but more elaborate scenario is featured…

View original 834 more words

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Tonight on For Christ and Culture, Barry Creamer hosts the show as I call in from Chicago, The Windy City, where I attended the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists’ annual meeting.* Be sure to tune in on KCBI 90.9 at 6:30pm or 10:30pm or by listening online any time after 7:30pm as we discuss the role of medication in treating psychiatric illnesses, when to prescribe and when not to, and how doctor’s determine when and how to use medications. We also dispel some myths about overprescribing in our culture and give some recommendations for clients seeking treatment. Seeing a mental health professional can be a scary thing to do, but with some preparation ahead of time, you can be confident that you are taking the right steps toward securing your own or a family member’s mental health. Here are just a few recommendations:

  1. Do your research ahead of time. Reading online reviews of a doctor can be helpful, but more often than not, getting a recommendation from a friend, a primary care physician, or another therapist who has had a positive experience with the doctor is the best way to feel comfortable that you have made a good choice.
  2. Consider the style of the professional. Is the doctor’s method of evaluation conducive to your needs? Ask questions of the staff before making an appointment: How long is the initial evaluation? Do I see the doctor the whole time or are their other individuals, assessments, and time commitments involved? It would even be appropriate to ask about the personality style of the doctor. Many people want to know if a doctor is sensitive to their spiritual and religious beliefs. These are all valid inquiries to help you make an informed decision. If staff seem inpatient and unwilling to respond, you might take that as a warning sign for future experiences. (Realize, however, that most doctors’ offices are extremely busy, so it would be helpful to think out your questions ahead of time, write them down, and take notes while you talk in order to get as much information in as short amount of time as possible.)
  3. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. No physician should get upset by a client’s decision to obtain a second opinion. It is always helpful to have another set of eyes on the situation to help determine the appropriateness of the diagnosis and the effectiveness of the treatment. If opinions differ, however, it will ultimately be your choice to decide on whose advice you act. Just realize that most doctors will require that you make a decision and see one or the other professional. Doctors do get concerned when a client shifts from doctor to doctor because it interrupts what we call “continuity of care.” Continuity of care allows us to follow an individual over time, make sure that treatments are effective and safe, and intervene quickly if a problem arises.
  4. If you’re hesitant to start medication, consider seeing a psychologist first. Most psychologists are trained in assessing personality styles and symptoms related to mental illness. If you are really wanting to keep medication as a last resort and fearful that a psychiatrist will automatically prescribe (It happens sometimes!), you might start here and allow the psychologist to recommend psychiatric treatment if they are concerned. Just realize that this adds an addition step onto the process and may lengthen the time it takes to find relief from your symptoms.
  5. Trust your instincts. After you’ve done your research, talked to friends and family, and prayed about the decision, move forward with the treatment recommendations that have been agreed upon. Most doctors today are collaborative in their approach. They don’t “force” you to do things unless they have an immediate concern for your safety or the safety of others. In these instances, they will likely involve friends and family who love and understand you. Each step of the way, ask questions. Talk openly about your concerns. That’s why the doctor is there. Perhaps you are unsure of your decision-making abilities. You have a right to an advocate who could join you, at least for the initial evaluation. And remember, if it doesn’t work out between you and the doctor for some reason, it doesn’t mean that you or the doctor has failed. It may simply mean that there is a better person suited to care for your needs.

Questions: Why do you think it is so scary to see a psychiatrist or other mental health professional? Is it possible that some of your fears can be assuaged by following the steps above? What other helpful tools have you developed to find the right professional for yourself, your family, or your friends?

Follow this blog by clicking on the “follow” tab on the left hand column or check out my twitter account @DaveHendersonMD or like my facebook page, David Livingstone Henderson MD.

Ever seen that movie, What About Bob? One of the funniest scenes in the movie is also one of the most glaring proofs of how ignorant many people are about mental illness. Bob has been placed in a sanatorium by his analyst, and he sits casually telling a joke to the hospital staff. “Roses are red. Violets are blue. I’m a schizophrenic and so am I.” Many people still believe that schizophrenia is a disorder of split or multiple personalities. It’s actually not that at all. For the DSM V diagnostic criteria of Schizophrenia, click here.

Another misunderstood diagnosis in psychiatry is called Bipolar Disorder. You yourself may have been accused of being Bipolar if you’ve changed your mind on an issue recently, become suddenly sad or angry for no apparent reason, or chosen to do something foolish on a whim. I see many clients who ask to be evaluated for Bipolar Disorder, so I know that it is a real concern for many. If you believe that someone you know may suffer from it, I hope to clear up the most common misconceptions. Please note that this blog post does not substitute for a thorough psychiatric evaluation nor does it provide all of the various diagnostic criteria to make a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. The internet provides basic information about the disorder, but this is no substitute for a medical evaluation by a trained professional.  With that CYB (Cover Your Butt) disclaimer, here are the top five most common misconceptions I’ve heard:

  1.  People with Bipolar don’t sleep well. This is true but only part of the truth. Many people who do not have Bipolar disorder experience insomnia. When daylight savings time rolled around, I was struck by how many people on facebook reported several nights of insomnia as a result. We all have times of poor sleep for a number of reasons. Stress, worry, depression, too much caffeine, exercising too close to bed time, indigestion, a lousy mattress, or a snoring spouse all can interfere with our sleep. What constitutes a positive symptom of Bipolar disorder is a decreased NEED for sleep. If most of us have a few bad night of sleep, we are out of commission for the next day. We feel lethargic, unmotivated, and miserable. Not people with Bipolar Disorder. During a manic episode, a patients will not want to sleep, forget to sleep, or feel they are wasting time by sleeping. Even if patients want to sleep, their bodies say no. They have so much energy and drive; they can do without sleep for several days or weeks at worst.
  2. People with Bipolar are moody. Mood changes, as the old name implies (Manic-depression), constitute part of the criteria for the disorder.  However, these changes in mood are distinctly different from the individual’s normal personality. Some people are prone to moodiness by nature. They may be up one minute and down the next. These shifts of emotion are usually the result of circumstantial stressors. By definition, however, a manic episode must last at least seven days (4 for a Type II diagnosis) or require immediate hospitalization due to the severity of the shift. Depressive episodes must last at least 2 weeks. These changes are drastically different from the affected individual’s normal disposition. So if you’ve ever said to someone, “You’re so Bipolar,” you are probably describing a personality trait rather than a feature of a true mental illness.
  3. People with Bipolar have racing thoughts. Again, this is true only in part. Many people complain of racing thoughts, but what they really mean is “I feel anxious.” A person who feels anxious can have a subjective sense that their mind is racing. Someone with Bipolar disorder, however, actually has an increase in the flow of ideas rushing through their brain as a result of excitement, overstimulation, and excessive energy, not worry or fears. In fact, individuals in the midst of a manic episode tend to feel grandiose or invincible, as if they could conquer the world. They are more likely to be impulsive as a result. Because of the racing thoughts, they are easily distracted. Their speech is pressured and fast. You might have trouble keeping up with their train of thought. Don’t confuse the racing thoughts of an anxious person with the racing thoughts of a manic person.
  4. People with Bipolar Disorder are drug addicts. This is an unfortunate stigmatization of Bipolar patients. Many individuals who have a first break episode of mania or depression have never even tried alcohol, let alone hard drugs like cocaine. Is it possible for drug-use to mimic the symptoms of Bipolar? Absolutely. It is also common for someone with Bipolar Disorder to have a comorbid (co-occurring) addiction. At times it can be difficult to distinguish the two from each other. The key difference is that people with Bipolar Disorder experiment with drugs because of the grandiosity, invisibility, and pleasure-seeking desires they feel during a manic episode. The egg comes before the chicken in this case. In many instances, proper treatment of the disease reduces the addictive behaviors.
  5. People with Bipolar Disorder are dangerous. Though it is true that in the midst of a manic or depressive episode, people can be a danger to themselves or to others, they are not evil, scary, criminal, or crazy as pop-culture might like to portray them. With the proper education, treatment, and follow-up, most people with Bipolar Disorder live very normal lives. Indeed, some of the most powerful, creative, and influential people in society have had Bipolar Disorder. I would encourage anyone who would like a first-hand report of life with Bipolar Disorder to read Kay Jamison’s book, An Unquiet Mind.

If you or someone you love suffers from Bipolar Disorder, check out The Bipolar Survival Guide for more helpful information and tips on how to control it.

Question: What are some of the other common misconceptions about Bipolar Disorder that you have heard? What is our role as a society to help those with mental illness? How can we better equip people to understand and relate to people with a mental illness?

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

How are your fears keeping you chained to the same old destructive patterns in your life? Are you ready for real freedom? Then you will want to tune in to the show tonight on 90.9 KCBI at 6:30pm or 10:30pm CST or listen online after 7:00pm by clicking here.

This evening on For Christ and Culture, my special guest is Michelle Borquez, author of the book, God Crazy, and creator and host of the women’s conference, The God Crazy Freedom Experience. Michelle will be talking to us about what true freedom looks like and how her personal journey of redemption led her to become a powerful advocate and coach for women struggling with the pressures of a superficial culture. When the glitz and the glamour fades, Michelle knows how to find true satisfaction and freedom in relationships, the most important of which is our relationship with a God that loves us completely. If you are interested in signing up for her upcoming conference here in the Metroplex on April 17th, 2014 at 7:00pm, click here. It will be at North Point Church in Fort Worth. Tickets are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot today.

For those of you who don’t know Michelle, God has used her mightily. In 1999, she founded “Shine”, a general interest women’s publication highlighting articles on fashion, travel and health. As Editor-in-Chief she interviewed well known leaders, such as First Lady Laura Bush, Anne Graham Lotz, Michael W. Smith, Kurt Warner, Chuck and Gena Norris, Beth Moore, and many others. Shine published 9 years with over 40,000 subscribers. In 2005 Michelle hosted and co-produced I-Life Television’s “SHINE with Michelle Borquez” on INSP that aired internationally for two years. Michelle is also Creator, Producer, and Host of the recently released, 8 week DVD series for women,” Live Again After Divorce” available at liveagaindvd.com and is host for Beth Moore’s “Loving Well” Television Special and national spokesperson for “GLO” Bible. She has authored numerous books, “Live Laugh Love Again,” “God Crazy” “Overcoming the Seven Deadly Emotions” “Forever God Crazy,” “God Crazy Freedom”, and the “God Crazy Freedom Series”.

Question: What’s your story of redemption? Sign up for my blog and email me your story and I may feature it on a future blog post. Help encourage others who may need your words of hope in their life! “It is always the deepest mine, the darkest cave, or the loneliest desert that holds the richest treasure…”

Twitter: @DaveHendersonMD

Facebook: David Livingstone Henderson, MD

The Center for Disease control reports that insufficient sleep contributes to:

1. Depression
2. Unattractiveness
3. Skin aging
4. Weight gain
5. Less sex
6. More arguments
7. Marital dissatisfaction

As a physician and psychiatrist, poor sleep quality is one of the most common complaints I hear. Insomnia can include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and early morning awakenings. There are a number of factors that contribute to a poor night’s sleep. Many people think that medication is the only option, but with a few simple tricks, the majority of people with insomnia can see drastic improvements. Here are some that my clients have found helpful:

1. Only use the bed for sleep and for sex. The body learns by association. If you use the bed for anything other than what it was designed for, the body begins to associate it with that activity. So if you study in bed, watch T.V. in bed, or handle marital problems in bed, your body will not associate the bed with sleep but with stimulation and frustration and will prepare accordingly. The only exception is sex. Researchers recommend sexual intercourse right before bed because in the postcoital state (after orgasm), the body releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps you relax.

2. Get up at the same time every morning…EVERY morning. Yes, that means even on the weekends. Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter as much what time you go to bed, but what time you get up that helps to regulate the sleep cycle. Even if you have a crummy night’s sleep, you are better off cutting your losses, lowering your expectations for the coming day, and catching up the following night. And as much as you love a lazy morning on the weekend, if you are sleeping in late, it probably means you are not allowing yourself enough time to sleep on the weekdays and your body has learned to exclude the weeknights as a restful time.

3. Only sleep when you are tired. A lot of people get into bed at 9, 10, or 11 because it’s the expected thing to do. The problem is, if you are not tired (because of poor sleep hygiene, perhaps), getting into bed begins a ritual of tossing and turning before you can sleep. You are better off getting 5 hours of continuous sleep rather than 8 hours of fitful sleep. So, pick the time that you need/want to get up each morning and subtract the total number of hours you actually spend asleep. That is the time you should go to bed. For example, if you need to be up by 7am and you are only getting about 5 hours of actual sleep time a night, then start out going to bed at 2 am. Eventually, as your body resets itself, you might start getting tired at 1:30am or 1 am or 12:30am. Gradually add a ½ hour onto the total time and watch your sleep return. This step also means that if it takes you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you should get back out of bed, proceed to step 4 and return only when you start dosing off again.

4. Create a ritual before bed. You would think this is the easiest part. For many, it is actually the hardest. We live in an over-stimulated culture. Winding down after a long day of work has become difficult. Gone are the days of sitting on the front porch in a rocker sipping a mint julep (never had one, myself, but an old southern gentleman at my church in South Carolina used to talk about it and it sounded so delicious!). Nowadays, most people watch T.V., work on the computer, or check apps on their smartphone right up until the time of sleep. These kinds of activities are so over-stimulating, that the brain takes longer to shut down. People who engage in these activities report a subjective sense of “racing” thoughts. Some ritual behaviors to incorporate include:

a. Reading a pleasant book (No studying – I usually recommend James Herriot books like All Creatures Great and Small.)
b. A warm bath/shower.
c. Application of a fragrant cream/lotion to help you relax.
d. A light snack.
e. Go to the bathroom!! (I thought my kids were the only ones I needed to remind on this one, but no, adults forget too!)
f. Journaling the events of the day.
g. Quiet music.

5. Avoid stimulants and alcohol before bed. We all like our Starbucks coffee! (Actually, I can’t stand their Pike, which is all they brew after noon, but I still buy it for some reason! That is a subject for another post!) Using a stimulant like caffeine actually interferes with the chemical fluxes that help to regulate our sleep. Adenosine is a chemical that builds in our system the longer we stay awake. It is a byproduct of energy molecules in the body. The longer we stay awake, the more adenosine we have flowing through our system and the sleepier we get. Caffeine is an adenosine receptor antagonist, which means it blocks adenosine’s ability to induce sleep. Alcohol, on the other hand, binds to GABA receptors in the brain, which do sedate us, but prevent us from experiencing the deeper, more restful stages of sleep. For this reason, it is important to avoid both.

If you have done all of these things consistently and still can’t seem to sleep or if you sleep through the night and still don’t feel rested during the day, talk to your physician about an underlying medical or psychiatric condition that may be contributing.

Question: What tips or tools have you found helpful in getting a good night’s rest?
Thanks to Bettersleep.org for some of the statics in this post.

Tonight on For Christ and Culture, I discuss a recent article in the Huffington Post. (Cue not so subtle guffawing from Dr. Creamer, who clearly has a great deal of regard for their political leanings!). The title is quite a mouthful: 10 Surprising Things That Benefit Our Brains That You Can Do Every Day. I’d like to address just five of them. If you’re interested in reading the entire article, you can click the link above. And be sure to tune into the show tonight at 6:30pm or 10:30pm to hear the entire discussion.

1. A tired brain is a creative brain. When we get tired, most of us want to veg out on the couch, watch our favorite DVR’d television show, play video games, or surf the internet. If you do, you may be missing out on the creative processing your brain is capable of. Why? Because when your brain is tired, it is more prone to distractions. The decrease in focus allows for the connecting of more random pieces of information, making it more likely to generate new ideas and associations. Here’s what Scientific American had to say about it: “Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.” So the next time you feel tired, don’t immediately veg out. Instead, let your mind wander and see where it goes. You might be surprised at the new and exciting ideas that arise. I also think times like this are important for our spiritual life as well. Yes, we need to be disciplined in spiritual practices like studying, prayer, meditation, and worship. But God also encourages us to “be still” and “know” Him. What new insights about His nature might He reveal to you in those quiet moments? You’ll never know unless you try.

2. A stressed brain is a weaker brain. More and more studies are demonstrating that stress has a powerful impact on the body. Remember David’s words in Psalm 32? The Brain is no exception. In fact, it’s the primary organ where these changes take place. There is a correlation between anxiety and the size of the amygdala, the emotional hub of the brain. People with high stress levels tend to have larger amygdalas. We also see an inverse correlation between the amount of chronic stress and anxiety in a person’s life and the size of their hippocampus, the memory processing part of the brain. This makes sense when you consider someone with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the difficulty they have with memory and concentration. (For more information about stress and the body, click here.) The take home point is this: If you want a strong mind, you have to give it time to rest. Take a vacation, slow down and enjoy your favorite meal, do something fun with a friend, read a relaxing book, write out all the things in your life you are thankful for. If you’ve experienced significant trauma in your life, consider meeting with a therapist to process those life events in a healthy way. Taking care of your emotions is taking care your brain.

3. A multitasking brain is an inefficient brain. I did a radio interview on this very topic a while back. If you’d like to listen to it, you can click here. The book Brain Rules explains how multitasking is a myth: “Research shows your error rate goes up 50 percent and it takes you twice as long to do things.” I recently had a client tell me that he had trouble reading. “I get so distracted by my own thoughts. I think of things I need to buy at the store, a friend who asked me to do something for him, a work project that I’ve been neglecting, a fear that I have about the upcoming work week. After an hour, I find that I haven’t even made it through a single page.” Does this sound like you? It is pretty easy to eliminate external distractions. (Turn off the T.V., close out your facebook account, turn on some quiet music, find a conducive environment.) Eliminating the internal distractions of our minds takes more work, but it is possible to do. Here are just a couple of suggestions. First, remember your priorities for the moment. If you really want to read, then the other activities on your mind need to take a backseat. If this not possible, then maybe reading should be done after you get some of the other projects taken care of. If reading is your priority for the moment, set a time limit and take a break. While reading, keep a notebook by your side and anytime a distraction pops up, remove it by writing it down on the notepad. Tell yourself you will come back to it when you are finished reading and then return to the task at hand. The more you do this, the easier it will be to stay with one task for a longer period of time. You will notice your efficiency begin to improve with time and practice. Don’t give up!

4. A napping brain is a stronger brain. I’m not talking about the 2-3 hour naps we take after a huge Thanksgiving or Sunday dinner. Power naps, as they have been appropriately termed, are no longer than 20-30 minutes and they are like a quick reboot for the brain. When dealing with computer problems at the office, our IT guy has a saying, “If you haven’t first tried turning it off and back on again, don’t ask me for help.” The same is true for the brain. If you are feeling tired or inefficient, if your brain seems to be working slowly, try powering down for a few minutes and then restarting. Studies have shown that your memory, concentration, and efficiency will be drastically improved.

5. A seeing brain is a believing brain. Your vision is the most powerful sense that you have. It trumps all other senses. For example, professed wine connoisseurs have been known to mistake a dyed white wine for a red wine. A picture really is worth a 1,000 words. So the next time you turn on your computer, get ready to watch a movie, or read that book, remember this: ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—[picture] such things.” Fill your mind with beautiful and healthy things and the possibilities for a beautiful, healthy life will be endless!

Question: What changes do you need to make in your life for a healthier brain?

BTW, be sure to follow me on Facebook at David Livingstone Henderson, MD or Twitter @DaveHendersonMD or through LinkedIn. Stay in touch!!

For any of you that love the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon series, you know that Calvin and his mother do battle every time dinner rolls around. She exhausts herself, trying to get him to eat what he sees as a pile of green mush. One day, she simply gives up. When he strolls into the kitchen and asks, “What’s for dinner,” she replies, “Monkey brains.” The irony is that Calvin is so intrigued by the possibility that his mom may have actually cooked something as disgusting as he has always feared, he feels compelled to try it. With one or two timid bites, he realizes that he actually likes monkey brains!!

Calvin’s mom showed true brilliance in that moment. She did several things that ultimately led Calvin to try a few bites of her dinner:

1. She named the fear: She knew that every time Calvin sat down for dinner, he imagined some horrific concoction of unpalatable offals (def: internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal). Rather than being disgusted by this, she named the fear out loud. She acknowledged “this is what you fear and I understand.”
2. She validated the fear: Some of us might call this lying, but I believe calling the meal “monkey brains” was simply a validation of how Calvin felt about her cooking. She knew no amount of arguing or rhetoric would convince him otherwise, so she went along with it.
3. She disarmed Calvin: No matter what she cooked, she understood Calvin’s tendency to argue about everything. As a little boy, he was determined to assert his independence, his understanding of the world and how things should be done. By refusing to battle with him, she took away Calvin’s one source of power to drive his parents crazy.
4. She didn’t get defensive: By trying to prove that her meal wasn’t monkey brains, Calvin’s mom would only have been defending herself. “I’m not a bad cook. I’m not trying to kill you. I’m not an idiot. I do know what’s best for you. I do love you.” She came to realize that this mode of approach never works. Let him believe all those negative things. One day, he’ll realize the truth, but not by me telling him. He’ll have to experience it for himself.
5. She gave no alternative: She could have given into Calvin in order to have peace. Alleviated his fears by making him his favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she didn’t. There would be no other options from her. He had to accept what was coming or go hungry.
6. She gave no instructions on how to proceed: No more “just try it, honey, and you’ll like it.” No more “all you need to do is take three bites.” Calvin was on his own. What he chose to do was entirely up to him. Mom was there to help guide him if he sought it out, but she was done offering solutions that would only get shot down by Calvin’s resistance.
7. She pricked his curiosity: Whatever Calvin chose to do, Mom was going to eat monkey brains. He witnessed his mother living out her fearlessness, her love of monkey brains, and it prompted him to wonder what it was about monkey brains that made her want to make it and eat it herself. “If mom eats monkey brains, I should at least see what all the fuss is about.” And with a few bites, he was now eating monkey brains himself!!

Questions:
1. What new and exciting adventure might you be missing out on in your life because of fear?
2. Who has tried to convince you to change and how have you brushed them off?
3. Is it time that you face your fears and try some monkey brains? (Who knows, you might like it!)
4. Maybe you’ve been trying to convince someone of something important and you just don’t seem to get anywhere. What could you learn from Calvin’s mom?

(For more posts like these, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or sign up for email updates by entering your address in the column to the left!)

Recently, I did a post on the seven people waiting when you fall (The Vulture, Vampire, Voyeur, Freak, Fixer, Father, and Friend). If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here or you can tune in tonight at 6:30pm or 10:30pm to 90.9 KCBI and hear some of my thoughts on the subject. Once the show has aired, you can also listen to it online by clicking here. Be sure to check out some of the other radio shows I’ve done while you are there.

One of the seven individuals I discussed was the friend. This is the person who is loyal and genuinely wants you to succeed in life. You know them by how willing they are to celebrate with you when you’re succeeding, not just by how they help you up when you’ve fallen.

This got me thinking. Are there benefits to being a friend like this to others? Absolutely. Here are just a few I came up with:

  1. The credibility you gain: If you want people to trust you, you have to demonstrate your friendship by helping them succeed when there is nothing immediately in it for you. Notice I used the word “immediately.” I do not think there is anything wrong with acknowledging that we do and should get something from our friendships. In fact, we get lots of things: companionship, mentoring, sharing, emotional support, and a list of other benefits. We need friendships as much as we need life itself. In that sense, no action taken on behalf of a friend is totally selfless. If you are in a relationship that is one-sided (all take and no give) I would not call that a friendship. I might call it slavery, but not friendship. The true friend is not someone who gives and gives and gives and never gets anything in return. Rather, a true friend is one who is willing to set aside his or her needs for a time in order to help you acquire your needs for a time. When you help someone in this way, you gain credibility as a true friend and strengthen a bond that can last a lifetime.
  2. The future ally you secure: When people know that you genuinely care about their success, their loyalty to you grows. This is important to recognize, because there will come a time when you need their support in order to succeed yourself. If you have been a true friend, you will not have to feel guilty or anxious about asking them to respond in kind. Example: How likely are you to donate money to a person’s cause when they don’t even say hi to you at the office? Not likely, right? But think about that individual who always asks you about your kids, prayed for you when you had surgery, and wrote you a congratulations card when you got a promotion. I bet you’d be more likely to put up five bucks for their charity run. We have to stop being so self-focused, understanding that serving others leads to long term allies. One caution: when you call on an ally to help, the decision is still theirs to make. They might say no and that is okay. If we are simply keeping checks and balances on our investments into people, we will become very bitter. But if we freely “cast our bread upon the water” (as the saying goes), it will return to us in the end.
  3. The wisdom you acquire: The saying is, “Learn from other people’s mistakes.” I say, “Learn from other people’s successes.” When you participate in the process of another person’s success, you learn a lot vicariously through them. For example, Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing Company, completed a book several years ago called Platform. It ended up on the New York Times Bestseller list. Prior to publishing the book, he had posted updates on how the book was coming along, asking for feedback, and sharing tidbits of his wisdom. I must admit, as an author, I was just a little bit jealous. “I wish I could ask advice from a network of 100,000+ followers anytime I wanted.” But instead of being bitter, I took the time to follow his progress and learn from him. After all, if he had aquired so many followers, he had to be doing something right. His success, in a small way, has become my success because of the knowledge I gained through his openness about the process. (And, yes, I did buy his book!)
  4. The new relationships you develop: When people see that you are a trustworthy friend, they will want to be your friend as well. Over time, you will find that you have created a network of friendships that will become a source of joy, encouragement, and help, both in times of trouble and great success.
  5. The sense of purpose you feel: When you learn to celebrate with others, you discover the true purpose for living life. My new motto on social networking sites is share the positive, the whole positive, and nothing but the positive. Why? Because social networking is not all about me. This is my opportunity to serve others in the virtual world, just like in the real world. There is nothing more exciting than being able to take part in a big or small way in the success of other people. My life is richer because of it. Yours can be too!!

Question: How have you benefited from celebrating the successes of others?

I’m not a diehard fan of zombie movies, but I must admit I found World War Z entertaining. (If your interested, you can listen to a radio show I did recently on the psychology of the undead by clicking here.) In zombie flicks there is always a scene were the protagonist (the living) and the antagonist (the undead) have a chance to observe one another from a place of relative safety, often depicted as a chain link fence. Both have the desire to destroy one another but amid that destructive force lays a hint of curiosity. What’s it like to be on the other side?

There are so many of us today who feel like the “living dead.” We are going through the motions of life, but nothing seems to bring us pleasure or fulfillment. I’m not sure how this feeling developed or whether people of centuries past could relate to it. I do know that years ago, when someone in a community suffered, the people of that community suffered with them. During World War II, you might drive through your neighborhood and see a star in the window, representing a family member who died. People would bring meals to one another and stop by for a comforting word or two. Today we lack that kind of camaraderie because many of our communities are virtual. On social media sites like facebook, twitter, and google+, we don’t have to interact with each others’ suffering if we don’t want to. Recently, I was scrolling through the news feed on facebook and I began reading a post that described a recent disaster in the family. Without even thinking, I skipped past it to a funny youtube video another friend had posted.

That separation, that chain link fence, can also leave us wondering, “Am I the only one that feels dead?” When all you see are vacation pictures, delicious meals, funny videos, the best images of people smiling and living life to the fullest, it is easy to start questioning the fullness of our own reality. Here are some actions I’ve found helpful to fight that feeling:

1. Take a break from social media for a while and reach out to a LIVE person in your REAL community.
2. Stop focusing on the grand and amazing events of life, and stay present in the moment. Learn to find beauty in the ordinary. (A hot cup of coffee on a cold day, your favorite pen when you’re doing paperwork, the giggles of your son or daughter, a wet kiss from your pet.)
3. Remember that what you see in the virtual world is often an illusion. Everyone is human. Everybody hurts. Don’t look to social media to fill a void in you that only another live human being can fill.
4. Stop watching the lives of other people and start doing some living yourself! One moment at a time.

Questions: What activities in life bring you the most joy? How can you infuse more of those activities into your daily routine? What are some of the small things in life that you’ve been ignoring that might actually encourage and lift your spirits? Stay mindful of them through the next week and see how your attitude about life changes.

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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.

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