The More the Merrier!

21 12 2010

In my Small Group Bible study through Park Community Church in Chicago, I have been reading through Ecclesiastes.  For me that is a challenge.  I don’t always see, hear, or experience the Bible as a life-giving document that inspires me to live a more Christ-like life.  More often I see the Bible as I did growing up- a tool for punishment.  I’ve been reticent to dig into it deeply and yet am starving for the knowledge, wisdom, insight, and healing that it can provide.  I have suspended my fears and just read it.  I’m glad I have, among the many great things I’m learning, the most poignant so far has come from Ecclesiastes 4:8-12.

8 There was a man all-alone; he had neither son nor brother. 
There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. 
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” 
This too is meaningless— a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? 
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I read the first part and had an, oh crap he’s talking about me moment.  I immediately identified with the man standing alone- working constantly, rarely content and actually depriving himself of enjoyment!  I’ve been living under the mistaken belief that in order for life to have meaning it must be a struggle- not true, well, not entirely true.  Life is hard work and it is hard work that is best taken on in community, with support and not something to be done alone.

As a therapist I have the privilege to be a professional relationship builder, and yet these relationships alone are not enough to keep me filled, supported, and thriving.  I find an immense amount of satisfaction and joy from my work and though people whom I support surround me, I live my life more like the man in the passage.  I am learning to reach out more often for the same level of support in my own life that I offer others on a daily basis.  As the words in the passage suggest, when I am supported and backed up by another my efforts go farther.  I work harder, have someone to help me up when I fall, and I stay warmer- full of life, energy and vitality.

Through my employment at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment I have experienced the value of community and groups.  On faith I have done the unthinkable, and risked pain, rejection, and hurt by getting involved in my own personal growth work receiving group and individual support.  I am allowing myself to trust more than I have in the past and I am seeing the positive effects permeate my life.  I am less concerned with personal failure and utter destruction.  I have instead created for myself, through intention and support, the network of support I need to be constantly growing, learning, and playing in this world.

 





Holiday Hangover

7 12 2010

The first time I ever went out drinking was a day of exploration, fun, and carefree unconscious exuberance.  At the time there didn’t seem to be any consequences, but little did I know what was going to happen the next morning.  Though I wore the headache, irritability, lethargy, and pain as a badge of honor, I told myself I wasn’t going to drink like that again.  Oddly enough, once the hangover subsided and I returned to normal, I forgot my vow and was out at it the next weekend seeking a way to be connected with others yet unconscious and unaware.

Now just as I have been physically hungover and sick from drinking too much, I have also felt an emotional hangover when I spend too much time drinking in painful emotions without taking the time to express them responsibly.  This happens often with my family where I feel a lot, take on a lot, have racing thoughts and feel internally out of control yet appear dead to the world.  The exhaustion this struggle c

reates is breeding grounds for an emotional hangover.  The effects of which sometimes take days to recover from.

When I leave and retreat back to the safety of my apartment in Chicago, I slowly and painfully regain the consciousness I worked so hard to suppress.  I come away feeling so thirsty for aliveness and connection that it hurts.  I literally go through the physical sensations of being hungover even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol!

The jolt that gets me out of my funk, the water that cures my emotional dehydration, is safety in community.  I had the experience of being jolted into aliveness through the tough support of community encouraging me to leave the mess I wallow in and join society as an alive, functioning, and supportive member.  While I am getting better at recognizing my foul moods, I depend on the support of other people to help me out of them.  When people hold for me the higher vision of being the strong, confident, capable man that I am I can more readily step out of my deadness and awaken to the aliveness of life that is happening all around me.  I choose to participate in the abundance around me instead of walking around in a slump only aware of a very narrow spectrum.

Where disconnection is my alcohol, community is the best cure I know for an emotional hangover.  The desire and drive to connect keep me in check, and where I once struggled with drinking too much my current area of growth is disconnecting too much.  Thankfully through the support of the community at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, as well as my friends and growth work partners, I am creating the community and the opportunities for the type of authentic connection that are unavailable to me in the grips of an emotional hangover.

I hope you will join me in my efforts to connectand connect authentically by adding to the conversation either online or in person-  Here’s to an emotional hangover-free Holiday season!





Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part II

2 12 2010

Continued from Tuesday read more of my thoughts on fighting loneliness-

Especially for singles during this holiday season, feeling loneliness and shame are common and avoidable.  I would suggest a couple of simple things that I have found helpful in my own life and that were suggested to me by Rich Blue of the Center for Christian Life Enrichment:

First- change what you beleive about yourself and the world.  Believe that you are a person worth being in relationship with, that you have a lot to offer and that you are capable of creating the type of fun and connection you are hungry for.  It sounds simple and is yet often overlooked.  If you have the vision for and the definition of what you want it is much easier to actually get that.

Second- Do one thing each day to connect in a way you would not normally do.  Maybe it is calling a friend you have lost touch with, sending out a card, or writing a meaningful email.  It could be as simple as talking to the doorman in your building or the receptionist at your office, striking up a conversation on the bus, or simply looking people in the eye as you walk by them on the street.  The important thing is to be pro-active and assume that other people will be happy to hear from you.

Waiting for others to connect with you can be painful, and is normally a setup that perpetuates feeling stuck, in shame, and alone.

Doing these little things with the mindset that you are valuable and worth knowing will go a long way to filling your intimacy tank- they have and still do for me!  Creating intimacy does not have to be a fight; it can be a manageable, measurable, step-by-step process of getting what you want out of life.  Taking these daily steps does require an increasing level of consciousness as well as the willingness to engage with vulnerability and truth.  The payoff though is living an abundant life full of depth, intimacy, and meaning!





Friends with Benefits

29 05 2010

I recently saw Up in the Air in which George Clooney develops a friendship based on casual sex.  The agreement set from the beginning is that the relationship is physical with no strings attached.  As the movie goes on, it becomes clear that George Clooney’s character is developing romantic feelings for the woman, and this progression from casual partner to romantic interest is common among friends with benefits.  Desiring and building deeper connection is normal; we are made to want to connect deeply with others.  And even though it can be easy to connect physically, casual sex becomes messy because it blurs the lines between friendship and committed partnership.  In those few moments of physical fun, we lose our sense of self by disconnecting from our hungers to be seen, to be known, and accepted; we trade deeper intimacy for an easier substitute.

Many of us want deep, authentic and lasting connections, yet there is pain involved in achieving and maintaining that depth.  Like working up a good sweat at the gym, it takes some initial time and effort to get there, but once achieved the after workout high is well worth it.   Our hunger for more intimacy and meaning may  be at the core of our relational ache.  Finding ways to dull that ache through hooking up or having a friend with benefits are like applying band-aids for life threatening injuries.   Like scar tissue, counterfeit forms of intimacy build up and take an emotional toll on our selves.  Self respect  and self-acceptance needs to take precedence over the temporary pleasure our body’s experience through sex.  Using sex to numb ourselves from our pain can become addicting and have painful side effects.  What is instead necessary is to begin to train ourselves to be comfortable going for more depth in relationships rather than settling for easier and ultimately less satisfying forms of intimacy.

 





Hooking Up with Lyndi and Andrew

13 01 2010

My friend Lyndi and I wrote this and wanted to pass it along to everyone!  Please enjoy:

I remember watching MTV’s “Real World” in 2003, and realizing that the meaning of the phrase “hooking up” had changed.  One of the RW participants, Trishelle, used the phrase regularly to describe her nights out.  At first, I would naively think, oh, she means kissed or lots of kissing.  I was shocked by episode 4 when I realized she meant having sex with people that she just met!  At the time, I used this phrase regularly to mean that I was going to meet up or talk later with one of my friends.

There has been a shift among young people where getting to know a person physically is thought to help determine emotional compatibility.  The more traditional way of connecting emotionally prior to physical intimacy is out of favor.  “Hooking up” is an entertaining, but costly attempt to address our ravenous hunger for closeness, to matter, and to be important to someone.  Women are especially prone to using hooking up to avoid the hunger pangs for belonging, touch, and feeling attractive.  Random acts of physical intimacy with limited emotional connection can generate instant gratification not lasting satisfaction.

Additionally there is a commonly held misconception that men are capable of having these types of relationships without any negative effect.  Men do tend to be more visual and hard wired to seek physical gratification. . They are also more aware of their feelings throughout their bodies. Hooking up to get sex is usually done in reaction to feeling uncomfortable amounts of sadness, loneliness, and anger.  For men, sex becomes the antidote for the pain of emptiness or powerlessness.

To a person who is starving for affection, warmth and care, the seemingly harmless hook up is like a junk food binge. It  feels good in the moment but leaves you feeling empty.  As the sense of fullness from the encounter wears off, we metabolize the empty calories without the benefit of nutrients to grow and thrive. We end up adding dead weight and baggage instead of energy and vitality.  Binges on junk food and sex momentarily satisfy our cravings for fullness and connection, yet tend to intensify the desire for more.  That desire for more is then mistakenly fed through additional binging and hooking up, creating an unsatisfying addictive cycle.

Sex can be an outpouring of tenderness and love, a physical expression of what is already present in the relationship.  However, sex in the form of hooking up is not likely to produce those feelings in a lasting way.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through responsible eating and appropriate emotional intimacy requires hard work and dedication.  It is that hard work and dedication that make healthy relationships so satisfying and why junk food, or hook ups like Trishelle leave us feeling empty.  By filling ourselves with things that are valuable and substantial we will feel like we matter to the world, trusting in the abundance of love, acceptance, and grace.  I often wish there was a pill for that!  If there is… hook me up!

In the meantime, if you are ready to discuss how to satisfy your hungers for connection and intimacy, I would love to meet with you. In an environment of safety and grace, we will discover healthy ways to feed your hungers.  CLE is a great place to learn and grow and our staff would love to support you in your journey.