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.

 

Advertisements




Surprised by Success

23 11 2010
Surprised

Me in the face of success!

In my last entry I was surprised by the amount of sadness I carry around and have access to on a daily basis.  I am learning to better feel the weight of that sadness and to be more willing to work through the un

easiness of crying and feeling sad in order to experience a lightness and resulting joy.  This past week however, it was not sadness that caught me off guard, rather it was my own success.

I am a good public speaker, in fact my colleague Amy and I recently hosted a singles workshop, and yet what I am learning through this is that I don’t like to brag.  I have a very narrow definition of positive attention, and have been taught to think that any type of self-promotion is bragging.  I learned pretty early on that bragging was bad, it was arrogant, and did not lead to the type of humility that God expected of me; it was selfish.  In expanding my definition of positive attention, I am testing out exactly what the boundary is between bragging and positive affirmation, and looking to my support team to give me the feedback of when I have gone too far.  So far that has yet to happen!  Meaning there is a ton of positive attention available to me, I only need to be willing to ask for it and be willing to receive it once it is given.

I have some old messages or tapes that play in my head as it relates to receiving praise- “They don’t mean it, they only want something from me in return;” “If they really knew me they wouldn’t be praising me for this;” “They are only flattering me, it is not genuine.”  I have historically had a d

ifficult time accepting praise, and yet that is one of my deepest hungers to know that I exist, that I am good, and that I am worthy of love and attention.  At my core I both yearn to have those beliefs affirmed, and believe deep down that I am not worthy enough to have those needs met.  I am caught in a bind.  I want what I don’t believe that I deserve (positive attention), and so the type of attention I believe I deserve (negative attention) is stuff that I don’t really want.

Winner

What I am beginning to believe about myself

I am shifting my view of the world, whereas I once saw a scarcity of positive attention, I am seeing that it is abundant to those who seek it.  I have my sights set on that, on creating situations for myself in which I will receive affirmation and to also be engaged in activity worthy of praise.  I am learning to trust, to trust myself and the world that there is abundance out there and that I already have the tools to access and benefit from that abundance!





Surprised by Sadness

16 11 2010

Taylor Hall- Where the Magic Happens

Last weekend I was a staff facilitator at our annual CLE Fall Retreat where our Northshore practice makes the trip up to the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin for a time of personal growth in a safe, secluded, and sacred space.  Spanning the first weekend in November I learned and grew in ways I could never have imagined and was able to share that surrounded by a community of support.

After dinner on Saturday as I sat in the leaders meeting, wave after wave of sadness came over me and before I knew it I was sobbing in front of a room full of people I admire and respect.  Though I tried to close the floodgates by taking shallow breaths and looking down, I knew that there was no stopping whatever it was that was coming up.  Initially all I could feel was a tearful rage and had no idea what else was lurking just beneath the surface.  I was tense, angry, scared- but mostly in the moment I had the urge to kill.  I sat there in my chair, fist clenched, mind racing, heart pounding, and eyes swelling.  I wanted for the whole room to stop, for the whole world to stop, and for all of it to just go away.  I knew that that wasn’t going to happen, I knew that whatever was coming up I needed to experience.  I grabbed onto my supervisor’s hand for comfort, support, and safety.  As I did so, my feelings switched from rage to pain and once I put my armor down, each word that was being said was cutting through me like a knife.

As we processed, I was no longer in the leader’s meeting, I was back at the dinner table in my family.  Feeling lost, alone, scared, and wounded I would mentally retreat.  Each night at dinner I was braced for a fight yet could never have told you that at the time.  It all felt normal to me, just the way things were.  We said we were a nice family, and our words would have matched it too, but our actions did not.  There was a game going on underneath the surface, one of superiority, competition, aggression, and shame.  Words were words yet the tone behind them was condescending and mean.  This game didn’t feel nice.  And not having a better way to take care of myself and the upset I would feel- I would bury my head in my plate, rarely come up for air, and eat way more than any little kid should.  I could feel but not directly express the dichotomy at the table.  I was a chubby little kid who used food and extra weight to stay insulated and isolated from his family.  I learned to deal with sadness and pain by eating; my strategy was to avoid inserting myself in the conversation and risk being hurt by always having my mouth full of food

In handling an upsetting situation at the retreat, the leader, Rich Blue, took the very protective stance around my colleague Kathleen and I that I wanted to feel in my family.  I recognized in that moment my profound hunger to feel safe, to truly feel that I would be okay no matter what else was happening around me.  I had never been so in touch with this hunger than I was that night.  It was painful the ways in which it wasn’t met, and so liberating to see that that is available to me even now.  I recognized that what I longed for growing up was for someone to just pull me aside and let me in on the game my family was playing, some sort of warning to let me know what to expect.  I lived in the fantasy of what dinners and family time could be like instead of stepping into the reality of what they actually were like.  Now that I am learning how to more accurately describe my pain and experience of that pain I am more willing to live in the reality of what life is actually like and am willing to use that upset as motivation to change instead of justification to stay stuck.  Though at times it takes me great prodding to get moving and grow, this experience of feeling pain, expressing it, and living to tell the story afterwards has been one more notch in my belt of personal growth and self-discovery.

I hope to have many more notches!





The Power of Our Personal Myths

28 04 2010

Myths are stories that help us make meaning in the world. They give us a framework by which we can organize information into systems. Myths can be captivatingly sad, or powerfully funny, and yet the way the story weaves into our personal lives has great meaning.  Serious study has been given to learning and discovering the power of myths from many cultures and generations.  Universal truths about the nature of the human condition have been derived from these stories.  Would it surprise you that we all have our own internal myths learned in our family? These myths hold just as much power, if not more, than those ancient stories passed down through the ages.

Both positively and negatively, family myths shape and influence the way we are in the world today.  They encourage us to set up rules to follow and beliefs to adopt that shape our view of the world and ourselves.  These myths are experienced, shared, and internalized on a daily basis. Like a fish to water, the resulting rules and beliefs are difficult to distinguish without deeper exploration.  For example, one of my family myths is the time when I was 10 years old and I cut my foot on sharp barnacles while jumping into a creek behind our beach house rental in South Carolina. Spending the first few hours of vacation in the emergency room getting stitches significantly changed the tone of the trip for me.  Below are a few of the rules and beliefs I was able to identify:

 

Rule 1: Don’t take chances. Look before you leap, gather as much information as possible before acting.  I believed by following this rule I would reduce the chance of getting hurt in the future.

Rule 2: Don’t be impulsive- doing so is inconvenient and only makes messes that mom and dad will have to clean up.  I came to believe that people resent me and find me to be an inconvenience.

Rule 3: Play small and be nice.  No one wants to be around impulsive and inconvenient kids. I came to believe that if I was too much then I would get rejected and abandoned.

 

The power of a myth lies in its telling and re-telling. The above rules and beliefs had been verbally and non-verbally communicated in my family, in school, and throughout my life. Sure, there are valuable lessons we need to learn as children, such as, “Look twice before crossing the road.” However, we must be mindful of the fact that those lessons can become generalized and direct our entire life. What is the difference between being careful and living your life refusing to take risks because you are afraid to make a mistake or get hurt?

 

I am discovering that my family myths have had a silent but deadly influence on my life. I play it safe and do not take risks in order to insure I don’t inconvenience others or risk getting hurt myself.  I am examining and evaluating which rules are working for me and which ones are not.  By paying attention to and cataloguing my library of family myths, I am better able to see where my mistaken rules and beliefs are operating.  With the feedback and support of trusted friends I can more readily live in hope, compassion, a sense of abundance, community and grace rather than seeing the world as dangerous, judgmental, unforgiving and intolerant.

 

What are some of the myths which have shaped your view of yourself, others and the God? What are the rules which reflect the values communicated by your family myths? Let’s get free from the chains which bind us and keep us from becoming our most Christ-like selves!





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.