CRYING OUT

I was in Hobby Lobby with my husband yesterday, picking up a picture we had framed. My attention was drawn to the sound of a crying baby. This baby wasn’t just fussing, but clearly very distressed. The parents were making every effort to ignore their infant’s cries as they pushed it in the pram. My heart was broken hearing this infant’s cries and no one responding.

You may think I’m just a softy, but I know too much to not be deeply affected by this scene. As a therapist, I spend most of my time helping people learn how to regulate their emotions. People come to see me with depression, anger, anxiety, OCD, addictive behaviors, marital conflict or distance, PTSD, and the effects of childhood trauma. As adults, they haven’t learned how to regulate their emotions. They have difficulty in relationships and they have no idea why they can’t fix it. While therapy is a good place to learn this, the best place to learn how to regulate your emotions is in infancy.

I’m still feeling the deep sadness today of hearing that desperate infant’s cry, and being ignored. As a therapist, I know that if these parents continue to ignore their baby’s cries, he will have difficulty regulating his emotions, and will likely have some challenging behaviors. Neither parent nor child will have any explanation for the child’s behaviors and he will probably be labeled “a difficult child,” and may even be diagnosed with ADD. He will likely have difficulty in relationships as an adult, and at a very deep level, will find it difficult to trust.

When an infant cries, he is not able to calm himself. This is a neurobiological fact. Many parents of previous generations were told to let the child cry it out. If you comforted your baby they were told, he would never learn to manage his emotions. You might even spoil him! The reality, as we now know from science, is that the exact opposite is true.

A baby’s brain develops in a sequential way. A baby is aware of discomfort, and he is only able to cry out. But he has no way to comfort himself. He needs his mommy or daddy to comfort him. The baby’s brain doesn’t develop the ability to use self-soothing, or regulate his emotions until much later. God designed our brains this way–to be comforted by another caring adult. He made us relational. But if no one comes to soothe and comfort the baby, the neural circuitry in the brain is never developed. The infant is dependent on an outside source to co-regulate his distress. It’s only with this co-regulation from a caring person that these neural circuits develop. With consistent, responsive parenting, the baby eventually learns how to regulate his own emotions. These neural circuits are essential to be an emotionally healthy adult.

Without this co-regulation of a baby’s emotions by a loving caregiver, babies become adults who have to depend on outside sources to feel comforted. As adults, we become masters of finding outside sources to comfort, without being aware of what is really going on inside us. We use all kinds of external things to make us feel calm: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography, workaholism, co-dependent relationships, obsessive-compulsive behaviors…The list goes on and on.

But it’s never too late! God can be that external source when we are feeling emotionally unstable. He tells us, “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you…” (Psalm 50:15) As adults, He can be that co-regulation for us that we all so desperately need. What’s even more amazing is found in the next part of that verse, “…and you will honor Me.” God is the ultimate, loving caregiver. He is longing to comfort you in your distress. And He’s honored when we cry out to Him and allow Him to be that source of comfort.

My prayer for you today is that you would be able to say, with King David: “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” (Psalm 54:4)

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The Lesson of Being Who You Are

3/21 Celebration of My Wise Son.

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Movement that Calms the Emotions

This video is more than just moving to music. It is based on the research of Steven Porges and his Polyvagal Theory. Try it and see what you think!

LifeMoves | Heart. Brain. Connect..

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God’s Cure for Anxiety

God’s Cure for Anxiety

 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:25-34)

For this reason

Notice this passage begins with “For this reason.” The reason is found in the previous verses:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matt. 6:22-24)

The reason you are not to worry is that your treasure is in heaven. If you put your trust here on earth, of course you’ll worry!  Rust… moths… thieves…there are no guarantees in this world. Either you will trust in the things of this world for your security, or your treasure will in heaven, with an eternal perspective.

Why would you put your treasure in heaven? Because God cares for you more than any human ever could. He loves you. He is the source of Living Water and nourishment for your soul. Throughout the Bible He tells of His longing to have a relationship with you in which you trust Him and rely on Him and experience His goodness. He desires to enthrall you with what will make you eternally and ever-increasingly happy–namely, Himself (to borrow a phrase from John Piper).

The original lie

The original lie the first man and woman believed was to question God’s goodness and provision. “He’s holding out on you,” said the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). “Can you really trust Him?” We still hear that lie whispered in our ears. The serpent’s intention is still to rob us of having peace in knowing the love of God.

Your anxiety is evidence of where you put your trust.  Jesus says it even stronger: “You cannot serve two masters.” Your anxiety is evidence of who your master is. Verse 33 supports this: But seek (treasure) His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Where is your treasure? Where do you put your trust? Who is your master? Your anxiety exposes your heart.

Other reasons not to worry: Evidence of His Goodness

 … His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness… (1 Peter 1:3)

And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 2:9-10)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (2 Cor. 9:8)

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.) (Rom. 8:35-39)

What do you have to lose? Maybe your anxiety?

If you want to have a relationship with God, you must come to Him solely on the basis of what His Son, Jesus Christ did on the cross, Who took the punishment for your sin (which you deserved) so that you might live in relationship with God. Amazing love!

The gospel is the good news, that at the cost of His Son’s life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy–namely, Himself. John Piper 

If you are in the greater Wichita area and would like treatment for anxiety, give me a call!

 

 

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The Many Faces of Depression

THE MANY FACES OF DEPRESSION

An estimated 19 million American adults are currently living with major depression. Unfortunately, only 20% of people with clinical depression get the kind of help they need (Archives of General Psychiatry). Even though depression is sometimes referred to as the “common cold” of mental health, its effects can be devastating and life-threatening.

SYMPTOMS

  • The symptoms can include difficulty concentrating, feeling sad or hopeless, a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sleep disturbances, and decreased energy.
  • Interestingly, women experience different symptoms from men. Women, who experience depression twice as much as men, may experience sadness, or feeling down or blue, while men are more likely to feel angry or irritable, isolate themselves or use alcohol or bury themselves in work to lessen their pain.
  • 69% of people report only physical symptoms when depressed (New England Journal of Medicine).
  • There are also many subtypes of depression that may present with different symptoms.

TREATMENT

Because God made us as spirit, mind and body, we need treatments that address the whole person and accurately assess the underlying causes.

PHYSICAL CAUSES: Depression may have physical causes, such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Syndrome, frontal lobe brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, sleep apnea, insomnia, stroke, vitamin D deficiency, hormone imbalance, anemia or chemical imbalance.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ROOTS: Depression may have psychological roots in harmful thinking habits or deeper roots in childhood neglect or trauma. Grief is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a cause of depression.

SPIRITUAL ROOTS: Depression may have its roots in a defective view of God as punishing or expecting perfection, leading to chronic guilt, or from real guilt from one’s past that may have been buried. As we dig deeper, we may find anger at God as a root of depression. To complicate things even further, many believe a Christian should never be depressed, which denies that we are spirit, mind AND body.

There may be multiple interrelated causes, as well, i.e., harmful thinking patterns may lead to a chemical imbalance. Chronic stress can also cause a chemical imbalance that may lead to depression. It is important to have a thorough evaluation to accurately assess the many factors that may have led to depression. An accurate assessment is more likely to lead to a treatment plan that works.

IS MEDICATION ALONE ENOUGH?

The treatments for depression are not as straightforward and simple as portrayed on popular television commercials for medications. Recent, large-scale research studies reveal that when treated alone with antidepressant medications, only about 30% of patients reach remission and maintain it for one year. Adding proven therapies that address the person’s spirit, mind and body to medication treatments has been shown to improve outcomes and significantly reduce the chance for relapse.

FREE DEPRESSION SCREENING

If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, call for a free depression screening.  (316) 313.2834.

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Guilt from Past Memories

Memories of Your Past Sins: For Believers

You and I both sin on a daily, even hourly basis—God says so. 

1 John 1:8 & 10 If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us…  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

But the good news is:                                                          

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

It is no surprise to God that you and I have sinned. And He’s created a solution to guilt: Jesus paid for your sin and guilt on the cross. Therefore, you confess; He forgives. To refuse to admit you have sinned, you are deceiving yourself and making God a liar. To refuse to believe the truth of verse 9 is to trample underfoot the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

“But I can’t forgive myself.” I hear many in my counseling practice say “I just can’t forgive myself.” I believe this is a wrong belief rooted in popular culture. The Bible never says you need to forgive yourself. You need forgiveness from God more than you need air to breathe. Even though David had sinned against Bathsheba (adultery and deception) and against her husband Uriah (murder and deception), he prayed in Psalm 51 that he had sinned against God and God only (Psalm 51:4). It was forgiveness from God he needed most.

I’ll say it again: To refuse to believe the truth of verse 9 is to trample underfoot the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. In effect, you are saying, “Jesus’ death was not enough. It may be enough for someone else’s sin, but not mine.” It elevates your opinion and power to forgive above God—and that is dangerous territory! If you have held onto guilt because you can’t forgive yourself, first confess that to God. Then confess your wrongdoing as sin against God and ask for His forgiveness.

“Sort of sorry.” A second theme I run into in my counseling practice is a tepid sort of repentance. Perhaps you are sorry only that you got caught, or that there have been consequences for your sin. Another way this presents is as a victim mentality. Paul talks about godly sorrow that leads to repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow is an ache in the belly. It mourns for sin. True repentance requires a broken and contrite heart. There is no rest or joy or gladness.  It longs for God’s forgiveness. If you’re not there yet, God can even soften your hardened heart and give you the gift of repentance.

Guilt serves a function. A third theme I see is a person somehow benefitting from guilt. Their guilt serves some sort of function. It may present in co-dependency or addictions. Somehow the person comes to believe (usually not at a conscious level), “If I hold onto this guilt, I’ll get the acceptance I long for.” This kind of guilt is usually deeply entrenched because it’s become a style of relating that feels normal. It is frequently passed down from one generation to the next.

By the way, do you see a pattern here? Guilt can erode self-confidence and relationships. No wonder guilt is a major theme when people coming for counseling!

God’s desire. It is God’s plan and desire for Believers to live without guilt, without condemnation, and to feel safe and loved in His presence. The Bible speaks of having a cleansed conscience (Romans 8:1, Hebrews 9:9 & 14, 10:22). What joy and peace to know God’s forgiveness and to live with a clean conscience!

John Ensor has encouraging words:

In learning to live by a clear conscience, we must learn to follow a few of God’s guiding principles. Among them are:

1)      Allow a season of sorrow for sin. It’s godly sorrow. It leads to the actions of repentance. It means my conscience is working. We do well to consider the shame of bad behavior.

 2)      Rest in the truth of the gospel. It’s a special foretaste of hell to be convicted of the evil of sin without trusting in the righteousness of Christ’s sacrifice for sin. A good conscience weeps for a short time, then comes to rest again in the gift of God in Jesus Christ. In this way shame spurs change but doesn’t become persistent or disabling or demeaning to the work of Christ. We must trust Christ as both “author and perfector” of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

 3)      Restore what is restorable… Making restitution where possible cleanses the conscience.

 4)      Remember that God forgets. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Corrie ten Boom once said in her wise and childlike way, “He posts a sign, ‘No fishing allowed.’” In striving for a good conscience, we need to remember to forget.

5)      Endure hardship as God’s discipline, not damnation. We experience the conviction of God as He fashions us into His holiness and likeness, but there is not condemnation.

 6)      Bear your scars graciously. We may choose to hide the scars of our past sin in shame and guilt, or bear them graciously as a testimony to the grace of God. They are our testimony to our need for forgiveness and the sign of having received it… For what guilt and shame once used to blackmail us into silence, God now uses to make our testimony ring authentic and glad of heart.¹

But if, after you have confessed your sin and you still struggle with guilt, Robert D. Jones may be of some help:

…Let’s briefly consider how God wants us to think about “memories.”

First, realize that God was “in” your past. He was not asleep or on vacation when you did or said the sinful things that now trouble you. Whether you committed those sins before or after you became a Christian, the sovereign God was on site. He now designs to turn your past into something good. This is the perspective Joseph powerfully models in Genesis 50:20, when he reflected on his brothers’ treacherous sins: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” (See also Gen. 45:5-7; Acts 17:25-31; Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 1:4,11; and Jer. 29:11).

Second, realize that while your past might influence your present beliefs or conduct, it does not determine them. You are not a victim of what you did or what happened to you. You are not doomed. Instead, as a fully human person, you are an active interpreter and responder to your situation. You are fully responsible for your present choices no matter what memories linger (see Gen. 37-50; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:14-23; and James 1:13-15).

Third, your memories result from your act of interpreting your past (see Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28-29; Num. 11; Ps. 78:11, 106:13; and Ezek. 16). What you actually remember are not the past events per se, but the past events as-you interpret-them. They are not bare facts, but interpreted facts. As such, they are capable of reinterpretation. Herein lies hope. God can help you put the right interpretation—a biblical spin—on your past and make your past even a good thing for you.²

John Ensor closes his chapter on “Forgiveness Experienced” with this:

“Experiencing God’s forgiveness in the form of a clean conscience moves us another step forward from guilt to gladness. We cleanse our conscience by putting our faith in the sufficiency of Christ and the punishment He endured on our behalf.”¹

There is no sin so great that He cannot forgive, cleanse your conscience, and free you from guilt. He has already provided the remedy. All He asks is that you come.

¹Experiencing God’s Forgiveness, Ensor, John (1997). Colorado Springs: NavPress.

²Redeeming the Bad Memories of Your Past Sins, Jones, Robert D. (2003). Journal of Biblical Counseling.

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The Secret to Healthy Relationships

I’m becoming more and more convinced as a therapist and as a Believer, that the secret to healthy relationships and good mental health is knowing the love of God.

Brennan Manning, in “The Ragamuffin Gospel” wrote:

“Self-hatred is an enormous obstacle to loving other people. Usually we dislike others not because we love ourselves too much, but because we’re not able to love ourselves enough. We fear and distrust others because we feel inadequate. We hide behind anger, sarcasm or judgmentalism because we’re convinced that we don’t measure up ourselves.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to recognize our intrinsic worth and dignity, to love ourselves humbly and wholesomely, and to forgive ourselves as we have been forgiven. Anything less is a refusal to accept God’s love for us. In fact, it is a rejection of Christ’s death on the cross for us as a colossal blunder.”

Quoting Father Adrian von Kahn, Manning continued:

“Gentleness toward my precious, fragile self as called forth uniquely by God constitutes  the core of my gentleness with others, and it is also the main condition for my presence to God.”

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”    -The Apostle Paul

This Christmas, may you know the love of God that transforms your view of Him, how you view yourself at the deepest level and how you love in your relationships others.

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