Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Crosswalk.com - Exploring Your Emotional Baggage

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:19 PM

Crosswalk.com - Exploring Your Emotional Baggage: "Exploring Your Emotional Baggage
Les Parrott & Neil Clark Warren

Exploring Your Emotional Baggage
Les Parrott & Neil Clark Warren

Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ever thought about what’s in the luggage that makes the rounds at the baggage-claim area in the airport? As you are waiting for your own bags to arrive, perhaps you think to yourself or say to a friend, “That monogrammed Louis Vuitton piece must surely contain valuables. That hot pink Samsonite number with the stickers on it looks intriguing. Wonder who owns that cardboard box held together with duct tape and string? Or how about that sleek silver case with the sturdy lock?”

Allow us to ask what may seem like a strange or even silly question: If your psychological baggage was traveling on that same conveyor belt at the airport, what kind of shape would it be in? How would it look? Would it be scuffed up? Tightly locked? Nondescript? How would you describe it?

We ask such a question because your answer reveals a bit about how you consider your past. It provides a glimpse into your feelings about your personal history. And those feelings are what we psychologists are getting at when we talk about your proverbial baggage.

History is what has happened in our lives. Baggage is how we feel about it. Your psychological perspective on your past determines, to a great extent, your personal health and vitality.

We know a couple who has a huge heart for hurting kids. Ramona and Jeff have been foster parents for more than thirty struggling teenagers over the last dozen years. They have stories that don’t quit. Recently, Ramona told us about two women, Marian and Andi, who are now in their early twenties. Both have been in counseling for childhood abuse, but the outcome for both could not be more divergent.

Marian repeatedly endured every-night assaults from a stepfather from the time she was eight years old until she ran away from home when she was fourteen. Andi was used multiple times in her uncle’s sexual experimentation – all when he was supposedly “baby-sitting” her and her younger brother. As a result, both of these young women have suffered low self-worth, have distrusted any male, and have felt “used and dirty,” unfit for anyone to love them for who they are. Through extensive counseling, both came to the same realization: that they had to unpack their baggage in order to move ahead in their lives.

Marian chose to do so – even though the baggage was tightly locked in her suitcase and even a slight peek was horrifying. Andi chose not to do so. She was not ready to let go of any of the items in her suitcase. Today, five years later, it’s easy to see the huge impact that simple choice has made for both of them. Marian is now happily married to a loving man, has a beautiful baby (although she was told by several doctors that she could never conceive due to the massive internal damage from her early abuse), and is actively involved in her church and community, helping other young women who have suffered such abuse as well. And Andi? She has chosen to flit from relationship to relationship, running away when any problem needed to be addressed, rather than facing it head-on. She has difficulty keeping a steady job, won’t look anyone in the eye, and spends her nights alone – painting angry portraits.

By the way, you need not suffer a traumatic accident or something as dreadful as abuse to have baggage. We all have baggage. Even the most well-adjusted, healthiest people have baggage. No one is exempt. You may have childhood angst over paternal divorce, conflicts with friends and family, or remorse over missteps and lost opportunities. Everyone has a history and an emotional response to it. What matters, when it comes to being a healthy, thriving human being, is whether or not you have deliberately unpacked your baggage. If not, it is bound to thwart your personal growth. You can never feel profoundly significant at your core until you make peace with this emotional baggage. The healthiest among us, you can be sure, have rummaged around in the contents of their own suitcases. They have explored what they feel and why they feel the way they do about their history. And this act of simply identifying and labeling their emotions as they explore their past serves as an amazing springboard to personal growth, self-insight, and maturity. It even impacts physical well-being.

Consider the following study, which is only one among hundreds that substantiate this point. Participants were asked to write for just fifteen minutes a day about a disturbing experience. They did this for three or four days in a row. Forget polish and politeness. The point was not to craft a wonderful essay but to dig deeply into one’s emotional junkyard, then translate the experience onto the page. James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the study, then compared a group of college students who wrote about trauma with a group who wrote about trivial things (how they named their pet or the kinds of clothes they like). Before the study, the forty-six students in the study had visited the campus health clinic at similar rates. But after the exercise, the trauma writers’ visits dropped by 50 percent relative to the others. Other studies have found that identifying one’s feelings about past events actually increases the level of disease-fighting lymphocytes circulating in the bloodstream. It also lowers blood pressure.

Notice an important distinction. Spending time with your past, coming to terms with it, putting it in perspective, is different than wallowing in your past and using it as a scapegoat. In order to get beyond your past, you sometimes need to get into your past.

At this point you may be shaking your head vehemently. No way am I going to relive that again. Especially when I’ll get hurt all over again – and it won’t change a thing!

You’re right – reliving your past may hurt. And that’s not fun. But you’re also wrong – spending time with your past does change things. In fact, it can change your entire life perspective. So hang in there with the process. Coming to terms with your past isn’t easy, but it’s necessary in order for you to move on. It will free you not only to like your current life, but to love your current life, and have great hope for the future. The very process of exploring, identifying, and owning your emotional response to your history is what will allow you to move past your past. Contrary to what many of us may think, healthy people are not blessed with an unblemished history. Rather, they suffer the same struggles as you do. But they carry their negative history with little ill effect because they understand it to be part of their history. They have come to grips with the hurtful emotions a family member engenders, for example, and they acknowledge when those emotions arise. Because they have traced back the source of their hurt and examined it from different angles, they are able to set it aside. Their emotional baggage no longer pulls them down. In fact, they may even learn to joke about it in a healthy way. (Think about it: One person’s dysfunctional family background is another’s entertaining tale or comedy routine.)

If you want to become the person you were meant to be, you’ve got to unpack your baggage.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell

Used with permission from "Love the Life You Live" by Les Parrott, Ph.D. & Neil Clark Warren, Ph.D., published by Tyndale House Publishers, 2003. Visit eHarmony.com to find the love of your life.

Les Parrott, Ph.D., is founder and codirector (with his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott) of the Center for Relationship Development, a groundbreaking program dedicated to teaching the basics of good relationships, on the campus of Seattle Pacific University (SPU). He is the author of numerous best-selling books, including "Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts." For more information, visit www.realrelationships.com.

Neil Clark Warren, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the founder of eHarmony.com, a relationship Web site. He is the former dean of the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and the author of seven books, including the best-seller "Finding the Love of Your Life."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Crosswalk.com - Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too

3 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:12 PM

Crosswalk.com - Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too: "Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too

Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too
"It has been 11 years since my ex-husband last beat me," says Ginny H. "Funny how we never forget the last time. We who have suffered spousal abuse remember distinctly the first and the last times we were hit, punched, kicked, shoved, or otherwise physically and/or verbally and emotionally assaulted. To this day I wrestle with after-effects of his abuse. But healing has come. Bit by bit and piece by piece, I have been reclaiming what abuse had taken from me."

Ginny is a Christian. And she is not alone.

"We are very aware that our Christian leaders are abusing their wives and abusing women," says Winnie Bartel, chair of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) women's commission.

At its 11th General Assembly in Malaysia, the WEF, which represents 160 million Christians in 110 countries, released a report showing that incidents of violence against women are nearly as bad in church circles as in wider society.

In a strongly worded statement, WEF called upon the Church "to denounce abuse from the pulpit, to protect and provide for those in need of safety, to offer healing for victims, and to admonish offenders."

Co-author of the book "No Place for Abuse," Bartel says, "I am thrilled that WEF is taking the issue of abuse seriously. Henceforth, we'll make a difference. And it should be a radical difference."

Bartel herself was sexually abused as a child by a deacon in her church, which was covered up. Instead of turning against the church, Bartel says she found healing through true Christian love and grace - particularly when male members of WEF acknowledged her and many other women's pain and suffering at the last General Assembly.

"If more male leaders took a stand and went to bat on this issue," Bartel adds, "it might have a great influence on their peers and create a sense of accountability that's missing."

The national statistics are alarming. Women of ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) cite that 30 to 50 percent of women seeking help for themselves in hospital emergency rooms are victims of abuse. Twenty to 30 percent of adult women are at risk of being abused by their male partners during the course of marriage.

According to My Sister's Keeper International, domestic violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and financial abuse that occurs between people in an intimate relationship. The group was organized for "the purpose of responding to the silent cries of our suffering sisters, including women of all faiths."

Among the ways that My Sister's Keeper reaches out is by raising awareness of the problem of domestic violence in all communities, including religious groups, and by encouraging all communities, including religious groups, to get involved in breaking the cycle of violence through education and training.

They also provide Godly guidance and practical assistance to the victim for a victorious life and urge batterers to attend recovery programs for their own healing.

My Sister's Keeper agrees that Christians are not exempt from domestic violence. They cite a landmark Minnesota case "revealing a chilling story of domestic violence in a Christian family. Lucille Tisland, described as a devout Christian woman, and her five children, were found to be the subjects of constant physical and emotional beatings by her pulpit-pounding preacher-husband for more than 13 years."

In many instances, Christian women stay in dangerous situations longer than a non-Christian might. According to Lois Pruneau, co-coordinator of the domestic violence department of the Family Support Council in the Lake Tahoe area: "A lot of our domestic violence victims that are of a certain faith say their marriage vows are very important to them and they don't know what to do when they're being battered in that marriage."

One woman is battered every 15 seconds in this country, Pruneau adds. "And some Christian women say they feel their abuse is a consequence of their own behavior, and that's why God isn't protecting them."

Nancy Nason-Clark, a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick, says on her Web site there are many reasons why women don't leave, or for them to return: The inability to see any other option; fear of reprisal; economic dependency, and a feeling that leaving would mean breaking their wedding vows. "This may be a particular issue for women of faith," Nason-Clark writes.

Other women cite fear - fear that the abuser would follow "and kill me" - as well as the Biblical instruction to turn the other cheek. They also misunderstand Paul's command to submit to a husband's authority.

Joyce Williams-Mitchell, a veteran battered-women's advocate and a member of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass told The Boston Herald, "Churches should remember that the pressure to keep up appearances within a congregation can make it harder for a woman to leave a violent situation.

"If it's difficult for people who aren't in faith communities," said Williams-Mitchell, "how much more difficult it is for people who are?''

By Janet Chismar, Religion Today

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ephesians 4

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 4:01 PM

BibleAndReference.com: "Ephesians 4

Unity in the Body of Christ
1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it[a] says: “When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”[b] 9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Living as Children of Light
17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:8 Or God
Ephesians 4:8 Psalm 68:18
Ephesians 4:9 Or the depths of the earth
Ephesians 4:26 Psalm 4:4

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Healing and the Bible

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:19 PM

Warning: Triggering TopicAs a rule, I don't write about Bible-based or religion-based topics. This is part of our Chat Guidelines as well, and it's because so many survivors have been victimized, or re-victimized, by people in the guise of religion.

I am breaking the rule this one time, so if religion is a triggering subject for you, please stop reading now.

When you have been abused in any way, the very foundations of your world have been destroyed. You feel adrift, uncertain of anything, confused, and very badly hurt. Many of us turned to religion for some answers. And that is where the danger lies, because American society has a very poor selection of people who can do a good job in talking about religion in the context we need.

When I was adrift and uncertain, I turned to a person I knew for some advice.
I needed certainty, and as a fundamentalist, he was very, very certain about things. So we had a talk, and the upshot was that if I couldn't feel better through prayer, it was my fault because my faith wasn't strong enough.

Well, of course my faith wasn't strong enough! My faith had been completely shattered! I had gone to him for help and ended up feeling even worse.

Someone in our forum shared a similar experience. This person listened to Dr. Laura, a radio personality of some kind, and heard Dr. Laura say, "The Bible is all about judgment. You should read it sometime." This person looked at the Bible and decided that Dr. Laura was right. But that made her feel worse. This person needed help, not judgment, and guilt for Inadequate Bible Reading, piled on top of survivor's guilt, made things worse.

Survivors have all kinds of stories like that. Priests have abused children. Pastors have lectured battered women about the sanctity of marriage and sent them back to their batterers with orders to forgive (and keep getting battered). Survivors have heard stories where punishment was the result of a sin the sufferer committed, or that their faith was inadequate, or that God works in mysterious ways.

As you know, none of that helps. In fact, most of this 'advice' makes you hurt even more. If you're interested in learning more about the Bible, my favorite book is Kenneth C. Davis' Don't Know Much About the Bible. It helps you understand what was written, when it was written, and why it was written. It's an excellent antidote to sweeping generalizations that don't help anyone.

But today, I'm going to take a stab at talking about the Bible as it relates to survivors.
It's OK to Question

First, it's OK to acknowledge that abuse has shaken you to your very core. Abuse, in its many forms, is incredibly destructive. Chances are, the religion you learned in Sunday School told you that God would protect you from things like abuse. So your faith is in shambles. You doubt everything you used to believe, and that is frightening.

This can be a terrifying time. Survivors tend to wonder, "What if I die in an accident, while my faith is still destroyed? Would I go to hell?"

Here's the short answer: NO. Look at the book of Job. Look at Lamentations. These two books are full of doubt and questioning, and their conclusions are that there are no easy answers. You are not the first person to wonder or doubt. You will not be the last. The fact that Job and Lamentations are in the Holy Scriptures means that the Bible recognizes that doubt, pain, suffering, and crises of faith are all going to happen. It is a legitimate part of our spiritual journey. God understands.

Another example is during the crucification of Jesus Christ. Before dying, he cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" And he was quoting a Psalm when he did it, which is another place in the Bible where the writer expressed despair and pain and doubt.

If you are going through a spiritual crisis, realize that most survivors do! Just keep working on it. You'll get to the other side. As Winston Churchill once said, "If you're going through hell, keep going!" A pastor I once knew said that he didn't have any respect for someone's faith unless that person had gone through a crisis of faith. "Then it's a faith that hasn't been spoon-fed," he said. "Then it's a faith where they have examined what they believe, why they believe it, and it's their own custom-built, carefully thought-out faith."

Keep working on it. If your current clergy member isn't helping, find another one. Hospital chaplains are often a good resource for these questions. So are the trained advocates in your local women's crisis center or child abuse prevention agency. Most of them are survivors who have gone through their own crisis of faith and have come out the other end.

If you find that your spiritual advisor is blaming you in any way, then run far, run fast. Those people can mess you up for years. Find someone better.

One last thing: your biggest question is probably, "Why??? Why did this happen to me?" This is the same question Job asked. His friends offered various reasons: it's punishment for a sin you committed, God punishes the wicked, etc. The thing I love about Job is that he rejects these ideas.

He admits he's human, and therefore a sinner, but insists that he didn't deserve this much suffering: basically, that 'I didn't do anything this bad!'

(Note: the often-quoted comment from Job that 'the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord' is in the very first chapter of the book, before many of his sufferings are inflicted. Two chapters later, he curses the day he was born.)

At the end of Job, there is no answer to 'why?' There are no easy answers. But the suggestions of his friends are rejected by both Job and God.

You didn't do anything this bad either. There is no good reason you have to hurt this way. It will take awhile, but this is one concept you will have to work through and accept. Humans aren't good at answering 'why' questions. Eventually, we have to let go of 'why' and move on.

The next question is, "Since this happened, what do I do next?"

Healing and the Bible

If you go through the four Gospels, you'll find that Jesus performed many miracles, but the Gospels only record 34 of them in detail. Now, of those 34, 5 are mystical in nature -- changing water into wine, walking on water, etc. All of the rest -- all of the rest! -- have to do with Jesus either healing the sick or feeding the hungry. Those are his priorities. Make them yours, too.

Now, following are some Bible verses. Matthew is my favorite Gospel, and the one I know the best, so most of these are from that book. Similar verses can be found in Mark and Luke.

Matthew 3:23-25: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, while curing every disease and sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.
That's a lot of curing and healing, over and above the 34 miracles recorded in detail.

Matthew 8:16: That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick.

Okay, more miracles that are performed by Jesus, not recorded in detail, that are miracles of healing.

Matthew 8:1-2: When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

"I do choose." Remember that. Jesus wanted the leper to be healed.

In Matthew 10:7-9, Jesus sends his apostles out into the world, and this is what he tells them to do: "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons."
Heal. He tells them to heal.

Matthew 11:2-5: John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if Jesus is really The One. What evidence does Jesus present? "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."


Healing is the evidence Jesus himself uses to show that he is the Messiah.

Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Matthew 12:15: When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them.

Even more curing and healing. Rest for your souls.

Matthew 14:35-45: After the people of that place recognized him, they went word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Even more healing and curing.

Matthew 25:31-46 includes the following: I was sick and you took care of me. Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

In John 10:31, The Jews took up stones again to stone him. "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

Again, Jesus uses his works as evidence that he is the Messiah. And his works consist primarily of healing people.

The Gospels are saturated with healing. And make no mistake about it: if you are a survivor of abuse, you are as hurt and suffering as anyone in the Bible. And God wants you to be healed. He spends more time healing than almost anything else.

How Do You Heal?

Now that we've established that God wants you to heal, what do you do next? Healing from abuse is possible. It takes time, and there are many ways that do not help, but there are some established, proven ways that you can heal.

STEP ONE: Contact your local Women's Crisis Center or Child Abuse Prevention Center, whichever one is more applicable to your form of abuse. If you're an adult survivor, call the child abuse center. If you don't know the name and phone number of the center in your area, call your county social services department and ask. They'll have all the information you need.

STEP TWO: Find a qualified, experienced, specialized therapist. Do not go to a family counselor, or a member of the clergy, or anything like that. You have heavy-duty wounds and most professionals will find themselves out of their league. You need a specialist. The advocates you contact in 'step one' above, can recommend someone.

If you want a Christian specialist, fine; there may be one in your area. But all healing is sacred and claimed by God. (John 3:11: Whoever does good is from God.) Pursue healing with all your might, and that includes choosing the very best, most qualified specialist you can find. Make your decision based on qualifications and abilities, and recommendations from survivors and advocates, not on whether or not that little fish symbol is on their ad.

I once wrote, "If you don't like the therapist, or they don't help you, remember that therapy didn't fail. One therapist has failed. Find another one. Don't stop until you are better."

God wants you to be healed. Pursuing healing is an important, sacred act. If you are suffering and wounded, how can you love your spouse, or parent your children, or serve your community, or praise your God, to the best of your ability? You can't. Work on healing. Give it your highest priority. Everything else in your spiritual journey can wait; everything else can come later. Heal first.

I'll close with a passage from Isaiah 54:11,10:

O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

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