Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Psychology of Protest

November 29, 2016

When you are suffering, when your life is unsatisfying, you will always search for meaning.  For some, the meaning is found in a particular ideology or worldview that puts everything you experience emotionally into a niche of the system.  If you are suffering poverty, there’s a reason that fits the paradigm.  If you suffer what you experience as oppression, there’s a reason.  If you are sad, fearful, depressed, or dissatisfied with life, there’s a reason.  According to the ideology the reason is never found inside yourself or your life choices, but always in the society at large, and the solution is found in government.  That is why protesters from many different causes can join together in one large march.  They are all demanding change according to their ideology, and one that encompasses every grievance will attract a variety of people.

Protestors are not reasonable people.  They don’t really want solutions to problems facing the nation as a whole.  They want their own way.  They are convinced that a change in government policy will give them what they want, and they are convinced that what they want is righteous.  There is no middle ground, no center, no compromise.  Frustrated that they have not found a way out of their dilemma, being exposed to only one point of view, anger at their situation becomes anger at everyone else who isn’t protesting with them.  They may not understand how government works, but since government is the god of their worldview, they are demanding government give them what they want, regardless of consequences.

Advertisements

Being Honest with God

January 24, 2016

“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?  Psalm 13:1,2

David was expressing something like exasperation to God, and it was almost exasperation with God.  He had been suffering, being cornered by enemies who sought to destroy him, and he was not seeing any action on God’s part.  He had a certain daring.  He dared complain to God, and yet he felt safe enough to do so.  God could have destroyed him.  God had punished the complainers among his people in the past.  But God didn’t punish David.  God actually called David “a man after my own heart.”  What was the difference?

David wasn’t taking God for granted.  He didn’t lack faith in God.  In this same psalm David said “But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” (Verse 5)  David was just tired, heartbroken, and longing for some reassurance from the Lord, some movement on his behalf that would give him some hope.  He wasn’t distrusting God, but just being honest with God.

Sometimes it feels wonderful to just unburden ourselves, talking about our problems with someone who will listen without condemnation.  God knows how we are made, and He doesn’t mind at all that we ventilate our emotions before Him.   He is pleased that we trust Him like that.  It is good for us to be honest about our feelings, not acting as though we have to play some holy pretend game before God.  It is good for us to unburden ourselves to the only one who can do anything to help us.  And it is good when we then tell God we are willing to do what He wants.  It is good when we tell Him we trust Him to work out our problems for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)

Christian Psychology

January 7, 2012

Many years ago I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and recently at quite an advanced age, I earned a master’s degree in Christian psychology.  A number of people have asked me what is the difference, and that has provoked a lot of thought on my part.

When I was in my twenties and working on my bachelor’s degree, psychology was a way of seeking truth.  It was, in a sense, my religion.  I wasn’t a Christian myself, although I liked Jesus.  I was almost completely ignorant of the bible, and I had certainly made no commitment to Jesus, or any religion.  I thought, in studying psychology, I could learn what brings people happiness and fulfillment.  I thought psychology would give me answers to problems in my own life, such as anxiety, loneliness and relationships that weren’t working very well.  Psychology, I learned, was the science of human behavior.  In the first year, I learned that if something couldn’t be researched, it wasn’t psychology, but belonged in the realm of philosophy or religion.  By the final year, I was learning dozens of theories of psychotherapy.  These theories could be researched as to whether clients felt themselves to have been helped, but it was all very nebulous as to how the theory helped.  I became very Rogerian.  I felt people just needed love and understanding, and they could go a long way toward solving their own problems.

After college, I began to work in the mental health field.  I very quickly learned some conditions were improved with medication, such as certain types of psychosis.  I also learned that psychotherapy of almost any stripe seemed to help very little.  We did it all.  We had a “therapeutic community”, had group therapy twice a day, psychodrama, occupational therapy, individual counseling, and so forth.  We had the same patients coming back and back.  After three years I was pretty doubtful that we were doing much good other than giving patients and their families a break during hospitalization.  I got into a related career field, doing health education.  I felt I could contribute more to people’s mental health by helping them to live healthier lives in general.

About that same time, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I had begun to read the bible, and became convinced the accounts of Jesus were true.  What is more, there were answers in His teachings to the questions I had asked since college.  Jesus had answers I had never heard while learning psychology.

All human beings have questions, and the answers they come up with determine how healthy and happy their life turns out.  Universal questions include:  Who am I?  What am I doing here?  Do I have significance?  Why do I feel so lonely inside?  Why do I feel so guilty sometimes?  Why can’t I get along with …?  How can I feel satisfied with my work?  Is this all there is?  Why am I not happier?  Why is life so unfair?  What happens when I die?

Psychology, as far as I ever learned, just doesn’t answer these questions.  It essentially says its up to each individual to find their own answers.  Well, answers that are invented just can’t satisfy.  People know they are engaging in wishful thinking.  They want to know there is truth, and they want to know what it is.  The other thing psychology doesn’t address is our limitations.  Limits are what cause mid-life crises.  The young think the whole world is out there for them to examine and enjoy, but by middle age one realizes there are limits and one won’t ever do all one has wished to do.  How can we live with our limits?

Christian psychology helps people to seek truth where it may be found: in the teachings of Jesus, and the older book Jesus so often quoted, called the Old Testament by Christians.  Jesus addressed all the issues that go beyond psychology to our deepest self, beyond this life, beyond this world, to God Himself.  In addition, He offers a relationship, whereby He helps us with our limitations, satisfies our loneliness, deals with our guilt, gives us meaning and purpose, and settles once and for all our value, based on God’s love for us. 

The bible has something to say about every issue people face, and deals with these issues on a deep level beyond the surface behavior and emotions.  Christian psychology gives people, not only answers to their day to day problems, but a view of life based on God and eternity. 

One might ask if this isn’t just religion dressed as psychology.  It is more.  It is the same truth found in the Christian religion, but it is made personal, it points to specific, individual needs, and it uses counseling techniques as pschology does.  It also shares truth with psychology, because truth is a unity, and all truth comes from God.  Where psychology can teach relationship dynamics and communication skills, that is truth and is used in Christian psychology.  Where psychology attempts to get into humanistic philosophy, relativistic values or sheer speculation, that would not be part of Christian psychology.

Much more could be said on this topic.  Someone smarter than I am could write a book titled “Why Christian Psychology.”  I have just scratched the surface.  What I have seen, is healing going on in lives where a person begins to follow Jesus.  These healed lives aren’t all that uncommon among Jesus followers, yet they would have been considered a miracle in the mental health world where I worked.

 

How to Do Something You Never Thought Possible

May 5, 2008

I just ran another 5K yesterday.  This is my second, in my whole life.  To prepare, I have trained over time to run 4 or 5 miles at a time.  I’m not fast, but as someone on the track said, “You sure have endurance, for your age.”  I wasn’t a runner my whole adult life, but three years ago I learned of a marathon runner who began at age 70.  Now, I don’t anticipate being a marathon runner.  That is really too hard on the knees, hips and ankles.  I want to die with all my original joints, thank you!  But I figured 5K runs, and maybe even an occasional 10K run might be in the cards for me. 

Because I had never run in adulthood, running even half a mile wasn’t possible for me in the beginning.  My first time out, I just wanted to see how far I could run, and I was surprised that I actually ran somewhere between 1/16 and 1/8 of a mile.  (Thats between 1/4 and 1/2 a loop on a standard track).  And I wasn’t even fast at that!  I figured my first guess was probably right–I wasn’t made for running.  But I persisted–probably because of the 70+ year old marathon runner.  Within a month, I was running a mile.  By the end of 6 months, I was running 2 miles, and by the end of a year, I could run 2 1/2 miles.  Finally in my second year of running, I ran my first 5K.  I did well just to finish, but considering I was the oldest female to enter it and actually run, I was pretty pleased.  Then yesterday I ran another 5K and won in my age category.  Yes, they did have to start a new category, but I was pleased because I came in ahead of all the ladies who were ten years younger, and most of the ladies who were 20 years younger than me.

What is the moral of the story?  Don’t give up too soon.  What you are able to do today may not be representative of what you can do in the future if you train for it.  That can apply to anything!  You may have the ability to do something you never imagined you could do, if you could just train for it or study for it.  You may be lacking the building blocks right now, but step by step, you can build your foundation, and then build on your foundation and surprise yourself and everyone else at what you can eventually achieve.

Forgiveness

May 5, 2008

No one is beyond God’s power to change their life.  Therefore, don’t freeze them where they are right now in your thoughts.  Forgive and never stop seeing them as God intends them to be.  And do the same for yourself.  Stop looking back and continue to hope that God will never stop His work in you until you are complete in all He intended for you.

Secondary Gains of Belief

April 15, 2008

Last post I wrote about secondary gains being a way that “mental illness” can confer a hidden benefit in a person’s life. I’m wondering if there aren’t secondary gains from a person’s belief system that also confer some hidden benefits.

 

If a person is a believer in God, the secondary gains are things like the hope that life is eternal, the hope of seeing deceased loved ones in that eternal state, hope that life has meaning and purpose, hope that God has a plan and a purpose for things that happen, hope that God answers prayer, and hope that He has our best interests at heart.

 

If a person is a skeptic or agnostic, the secondary gains are things like a feeling of ones self being in control, a belief that science will find answers to human problems, the ability to make one’s own moral and ethical judgments, a feeling of freedom from any external controls of a moral nature, and the feeling of making one’s own meaning of one’s own life.

 

If one has a reasonable case for being a believer in God, I think I would prefer that alternative.  I realize it might mean I owe Him something for creating me, but I would gladly exchange the freedom to do as I choose, for the meaning and purpose He created for me and the hope of a life spent with Him forever.

 

Nonni

Secondary Gains

April 15, 2008

Back in the dark ages when I worked in mental health, we didn’t have all the pharmaceuticals we have today, and relied a lot more on inpatient hospitalization and psychotherapy of various kinds.  One of the rather interesting concepts was the concept of “secondary gain”.  Some people, unconsciously, or perhaps consciously had something to gain by being “a mental patient”.  Sometimes the psychiatrists could weed out people who were “playing crazy”.  What were the secondary gains?  Oftentimes it was a release from some intolerable living situation.  It might be huge expectations on a person they felt they could never meet.  It might be a career they had spent many years preparing for and then found they hated.  It might be a wildly dysfunctional family.  It might just be that the expectations for the person’s success in life, (their own or their family’s) was more than they ever felt they could live up to.  It might be the marriage from hell.  In all these cases, being “mentally ill” released the person from the burden of the expectations.  They couldn’t be expected to continue what they were doing, and it wasn’t their fault—they were ill.  I think its still a useful concept in some situations.  When somebody you love is doing something “crazy” or dysfunctional, something that makes no sense, or seems to be self defeating, ask yourself whether there is a secondary gain.  It may help you understand the person better, and perhaps eventually help them find a more rewarding way to deal with life.

 

Nonni

A joyful heart

March 1, 2008

I think the tenth most important thing in life is to cultivate a joyful heart–a joyful attitude toward life.  I look around at my contemporaries–old as anything, and also at my granddaughter and great granddaughter’s contemporaries and I see a whole country of people on anti-depressants.  I’m no doctor, and I’ll admit there are probably a lot of good medical reasons why people take these medications, but in my day, “depression” was called “the blues” and people were supposed to get a handle on it.  Most people did.  Thats not to say there weren’t plenty of people in mental hospitals with severe depression, but nowhere near the number of people who are now taking anti-depressants.

The bible says “a merry heart does good like medicine” and I believe that is true.  I used to struggle with my moods when I was a younger person, until I studied some of the non-medical indicators of depression.  People who are depressed have a number of these things in common.  Notice I don’t say “all” these things, but depressed people will have a number of these things in their life.

First of all, their care of their physical body will be sub-par.  They will eat junk, use either caffeine or sedating substances or both, and they won’t exercise.  They have a lot of unhelpful thought processes: they have unrealistic expectations about what other people should be doing, they have a persistent negative outlook on life, they have withdrawn from social contact, they have withdrawn from things that they used to enjoy, they have stopped or never did look for a power greater than themselves, they have stopped or never did look to be involved in something bigger than themselves, and last, but not least, they are almost totally self-absorbed.

I want to offer “Nonni’s recipe” for getting over this kind of depression.

1.  Get up early, no matter how you feel.

2.  Thank God that you can walk and talk, see and hear, take care of yourself, and that you had a bed to sleep in last night.  Thank Him for every good thing you can think of.  Take about 10 minutes.  Write these things down.

3.  Dress and take a brisk walk.  Walk about 30 to 60 minutes at a good pace.  Look at things around you.  Thank God for the birds, the green growing things, and smile and wave at the people you see.  Stop to say hello to whomever is outside.

4.  Have a good breakfast.  Keep it healthy.

5.  Drink enough water.  A lot of “droopiness” could be dehydration, especially in warm weather, but even in winter as some of our heating systems are very drying.

6.  Ask yourself what meaningful thing you could do today that would make the world a better place, or that would at least help some individual.

7.  Do something uplifting.  If you don’t feel the energy to do anything, then at least read something inspiring.

8.  Call someone, and try to lift THEIR spirits.

9. Add something beautiful to your surroundings.  Pick some wildflowers.  Bring in a blooming branch.  Play some music that makes you feel good.

10.  Think ten positive thoughts about your life, your future, the people in your world, and write them down.  Where possible turn them into goals for something good, happy, meaningful or beautiful that you will do.  Thank God again for these 10 things.

11.  Periodically do a mental housecleaning, and forgive everybody who has hurt you.  Everyone has their demons.  Forgive yourself.  Write down everything you are holding against others and everything you are holding against yourself.  Take the list and throw it in the fireplace or the paper shredder.  Now resolve to live in the future.

12.  Tell yourself that you will be a “worry procrastinator”.  If you can DO something to insure a more secure future, do it, but put off worrying.  Its a time waster, especially since 9 out of 10 things we worry about never happen.

13.  Do what Martin Luther did, and ask God to protect your mind as you sleep.  Ask Him to remove old negative thoughts and refill your mind with thoughts that are pleasing to Him.

14.  Go to bed early.  Fall asleep with a thankful heart.  In your mind, re-visit a favorite place.  Re-live the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful place.  You will be asleep before you know it.

Give my recipe a try for a couple of weeks.  If you don’t feel better, feel free to comment me.

 Nonni