What is the Gift Your Wound Has Given You?

‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me’ is a fallacy.

Words can hurt. They can cut right to the core of your being and can echo around and around in your mind and drive you to despair.

Just think of the abuse of text bullying. A few choice words here and there, and cuts are made to the heart and maybe to the skin. I wonder how many suicides and suicide attempts have a few words as the catalyst of destruction.

A barrage of abuse on a weakened spirit can break the will to go on. Words like nails are hammered into your psyche.

I think of Jesus and the barrage of words rained down upon him in his trial. Matthew 26.

Words can drown out life.

Words can also be the soothing balm needed on a wounded heart.

Little phrases like

Well done
Thank you
You’re going to make it
I’m going to help you

I am with you

Words and gestures from ‘Big people’ in your life. That older person, that person with the street cred, mana, wisdom, grey hair. That one, for reasons unknown to yourself, who just whispers to the heart ‘you’re going to be ok’.

I listen to many words through a range of podcasts.

I discovered Nadia Bolz-Weber on the Podcast Onbeing where she was interviewed by the host Krista Tippet.

In the podcast Nadia states these words.

I have this thing about being a preacher who reveals things about herself, and it’s that I always try to preach from my scars and not my wounds. So, talking about depression is not in any way a wound for me.

When I heard this I felt connected with her journey, her depression, wounds and scars.

Words.

So I created a meme, and now it has been my most repined image on Pinterest.

I only preach from my scars, not my wounds. Nadia Bolz-Weber

Why has this been so incredibly popular?

I think that the image grabs you because it’s a real person, like us. Not some model, superstar or icon, and yes I know they are real too.

The words I think touch down on some core pain points. Our wounds and our scars.

They give us a sense of hope that wounds can, in time, become scars. That we don’t have to be stuck as wounded forever and that out of those battles there can come a gift.

For Nadia Bolz – Weber, as a pastor, the gift is preaching. For others it could writing, singing, teaching, listening etc…

What is your gift?

Today I listened to a an interview with Rob Bell. He was talking about a time where he was speaking in Miami and a women in the audience stood up and asked this question.

What do you say to somebody whose young daughter has just died from a mysterious illness that only a few people get. What do you say to me, because I have just lost my daughter.

I said first off in the ancient wisdom tradition in some suffering there are no words, there’s silence.

So first off I would begin with that any one that does give you nice clear-cut answers for why your daughter died, I don’t know.

Secondly I do know this, that some point down the road your going to meet up with a women who has also lost her young daughter and your going to look at her in the eyes and your going to say ‘me too’ and in that moment that you’ll be standing on some holy ground. Solidarity is divine. When someone stands with you.

Here is what happens. The woman standing next to her starts gushing and says ‘My young daughter is really sick and they have only given her a little bit of time to live and this woman turns to her.  Rob Bell – How to Practice and Understand Faith and Spirituality

Words, solidarity, hope.

 

Barry Pearman

7 Steps to Help Those who Ruminate.

7-Steps-to-Help-Those-who-Ruminate-cow-mental-health

Sometimes I think I am like a cow. I ruminate over things, chewing my thoughts this way and that. Trying to extract something good out of them. 

Much of my life I have spent time working on farms, I even have a University Degree in Agriculture. I humorously call this my first degree in pastoral care.

Cows sit out in the field and chew the cud.

With their mouth’s moving from side to side they chew food that has already eaten. Cows and sheep are ruminants and have four stomachs, so they eat their fill then they chew it later, colloquially known as ‘Chewing the cud.’

Rumination according to Wiki is defined in this way

Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential adverse events in the future. Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.

Do you ruminate?

I know you don’t re-chew your food, well at least I hope you don’t, but do you go over and over issues all the time?

[pullquote]What I had been taught all my life was not true: experience is not the best teacher! It’s what you do with that experience that matters. John Maxwell[/pullquote]

I think we all tend to do this, some more than others, but if you are always looking back, then you are going to stumble in going forward.

It’s like we chew over things. Round and around and around. ‘Woulda,’ ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’ are echoed self-talk sound bites leaving you malnourished of hope.

Why do we ruminate?

  1. To feel like we are doing something about the problem.
    We want to change a situation, so we keep going over and over and over it, looking for a solution. This feeling of doing something can be a subtle downward delusional spiral to the depressing reality is that there is nothing you can do. The brain, in trying to resolve its tension, looks for the answer. Any activity, including rumination, feels good. We hate ambiguity, that sense of uncertainty and lacking clarity. We want to solve the mystery.  So like a good detective on T.V., we hunt out the clues to try and explain the murder and eliminate the mystery.Know that you will never know everything and to chase the past for purpose is like chasing the clouds for pleasure.It will leave you exhausted and lost.
    [Tweet “To chase the past for purpose is like chasing the clouds for pleasure. It will leave you exhausted and lost.”][spacer height=”20px”]
  2. To Self deprecate.
    Perhaps it is a way of punishing ourselves. That below the surface of our thinking there is a deeper trail of chewing.’I did those things, so now I have to punish myself.’
    ‘This is the consequence of my actions’
    ‘This is the reaping of what has been sown.’So we stew in this cud as punishment.Any sense of forgiveness, grace or loving fathers embrace (Story of Loving father – Prodigal son) is not allowed to touch our lips.[spacer height=”20px”]
  3.  To potentially learn.
    We chew over the situation to glean some wisdom from the situation. We consider experience is the best teacher yet only considered experience teaches us wisdom. Rumination can be helpful, as long as it leads to action and not just stewing and procrastination.

7 Steps to Help those who Ruminate.

  1. Write it out. [pullquote]Learning to write is learning to think. You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing. S.I. Hayakawa[/pullquote]
    Get what you’re ruminating in your mind out of the head and on to some paper. I think writing in a journal is one of the most powerful of all mental health disciplines you can have. Red Too much Traffic in your Mind? Try Journaling
    [spacer height=”20px”]
  2. Problem solve it.
    This is where writing it down comes in helpful. Get together with someone you trust and talk about what you have written down. Tease it out to find the problem. Find one concrete solution you can (not should, could or would) do to overcome what you are ruminating about.Read  How to Help Others Solve Problems
    [spacer height=”20px”]
  3. Engage in activities that promote the positive.
    What activities fill your mind with other thoughts preferably positive thoughts. Hobbies, meditation, reading, running, cooking. The main point is to get your mind out of the rumination rut for a while.Read about Mindfulness here Questions and Answers about Mindfulness
    [spacer height=”20px”]
  4. Can them.
    Get yourself a tin can, and as the questions come up write them down on a piece of paper and prayerfully place them in the can. Imagine yourself placing them in Gods’ hand to hold them for you. God has big hands!Place the can up on a shelf and leave it there. After a while take that can off the shelf and see if any of your questions have been answered in the intervening time.Add more questions when they come up.

    Read Can You Can Your Questions? [spacer height=”20px”]

  5. Schedule them.
    Tell your brain this ‘I do not have time to think about that at this moment. I will think about it tomorrow at 3 pm’.It’s telling your brain that yes what you are presenting to me is worthy of time and thought so I, therefore, will make space for it. If you remember to think about at 3 pm so be it, but I have found quite often that this little technique will slowly deflate the rumination balloon of any sense of self-importance.
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  6. Place them.
    Do you have a place where rumination is worse? Look for patterns of where your rumination seems to occur more frequently and more powerfully. You could also create a place which is specifically for ruminating and thinking over ideas. Writer and speaker John Maxwell has a thinking chair.’When I found a place to think my thoughts my thoughts found a place in me.’ John Maxwell[spacer height=”20px”]
  7. Displace them.
    I often use truth coaches to get my thinking back on track. These are little powerful insights, quotes, verses that speak truth into my thinking. Remember this. Whatever you dwell on, it will get you, in the end.It will create thinking tracks in your brain the size of the grand canyon where every situational event will tumble into.

[Tweet “Remember this. Whatever you dwell on, it will get you, in the end. #rumination #mentalhealth”]

Read How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Quotes to consider and share

  • Monitor your thinking and deliberately dwell on the virtues of your difficult friend, or negative feelings will surely follow. David Riddell
  • What you focus on gets you. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take you down. Focus on the positive/ good things will always give me hope.
  • I choose to ruminate, ponder and toss over in my mind good things.
  • Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips. Dawson Trotman
  • The thoughts I indulge grow stronger. The thoughts I acknowledge and put in their place lose their power to discourage me.
  • The tricky thing about rumination is that it feels like it’s helpful, but there’s no action taken, and you don’t move forward to some sort of solution. Carla Grayson
  • He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality. Anwar Sadat
  •  To change your emotions, first get control of your thoughts. Ruts of the mind become moods of the heart. David Riddell
  •  To achieve radical change, I need to call some of my feelings ‘liars’ and choose to side with truth, against my own emotions, until my feelings come around. David Riddell
  • I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

Exercises

  1. Use a journal to write out what you’re ruminating on. Share it with a trusted friend, counselor or pastor and problem solve anything that needs addressing
  2. Find some truth coaches and write them out in an easily accessible place such as a small notebook you can carry at all times. When you feel the ruminations coming on, spend time reading your truth coaches.
  3. Get yourself a tin can and can the questions you are ruminating over.

Barry Pearman
Photo Credit: Biel Morro

Oh, yeah don’t forget to share it with others who ruminate. Use one of the handy little icons below. HIT them

8 Steps To Discovering Wellness Through Knowing Your Early Warning Signs

8 Steps To Discovering Wellness Through Knowing Your Early Warning Signs

Often I travel over some sharp twisty roads. One of these roads has a large hill, and just on the other side, there is a beautiful view with a fence that has been driven through. The driver didn’t take notice of the early warning signs.

There are signs to tell drivers to slow down, but for this driver, the signs were ignored, boundaries were crossed and lives put in danger.

If you know the signs, then you can avoid the catastrophe. Continue reading “8 Steps To Discovering Wellness Through Knowing Your Early Warning Signs”

Mental Health Requires These 3 Things

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My shoulder muscles are sore, and so they should be.

Yesterday I spent the day shoveling 6 m³ (7.8 yd³) of compost. As part of my gardening business, Gumboot Gardening, I am building a vegetable garden for a school and part of this has been building some raised growing beds.

Yesterday was the day to fill the beds with compost which left me with tired muscles.

I have learnt recently that when you are building muscle mass there will be pain as the muscles get stretched. No pain no gain I suppose. I am also learning that there needs to be recovery time where the muscles can heal and repair.

Here is some thing I want you to learn.

Mental Health doesn’t just fall into your lap.

You have to work at it.

 

To be mentally fit and healthy, the same principles apply as for physical health and fitness.

It doesn’t just fall out of the sky and present itself you as something quick and easy.

Mental health requires Effort, Patience, and Pain. Click to tweet

 

  1. Effort. Do you treat your mental health as seriously as perhaps an athlete treats their physical wellness. Enough that they are able to win that gold medal, break the world record, or just achieve their personal best. Athletes train hard, but they also focus on what they are consuming in their diet.

A mental health question.

What are you regularly taking into your mind?

Is it positive, uplifting, helpful. Would it meet Pauls criteria of things to think on?

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4:8

In the past I have spent a lot of time listening and watching the news. I have decided to seriously cut back on the consumption of news. Last night made my mind up for me. The opening words from the news anchor were ‘It’s all down hill from here’. Do I really need this! Now I am not going to become a hermit and cut myself off from all current affairs, but seriously, do I need most of what the media determines to be newsworthy to fill my brain?

2. Patience. Some things … just … take … time. The change will happen but it will only happen when I am consistent in forming new habits over a long period of time.

It has been estimated that the average time for a behavior to become a habit is 66 days. I imagine that this would be the same with thinking habits.

It isn’t going to happen overnight but it will happen if we are consistent in repeating positive behaviors over an extended period. Here is a hint about habits. Make them small enough that they would be impossible to fail at.

3. Pain. No one wants pain or failure, but without failure we won’t learn and grow. Does fear of pain or failure hinder your stepping out and trying something new?

An acceptance that you will have failure and pain opens the door to learning.

I remember learning to ride a bike. I fell off. I scraped my knee. Did this stop me from trying again? No, I jumped back on and fell off and I did this again and again until I had mastered riding that bike.

[pullquote]‘Failure isn’t fatal’ and ‘there are no dumb questions’. Without these insights your learning will remain inhibited. David Riddell click to tweet [/pullquote]

Writing this blog for 4 years has taught that I have to keep getting back on that bike of writing. Of learning the skill. Its painful at times wondering if what I am doing is actually making a difference to anyone. Then I get some feedback and that’s enough to get back on that bike and keep on writing.

Having good mental health requires effort, patience and pain. Most people can’t be bothered. Instead they settle for second or third or fourth best. They roll along with whatever comes along.

Barry Pearman

Why this image had a viral sneeze – feeling guilty?

This week I put this image out through my Social Media channels

 I have been increasing my use of images to get my message across. I like working with images, they can convey so many different ideas all at once.

One of my highlights this year was guest posting on Jeff Goins blog with an article titled ‘How to Wow Your Audience with the Right Image’

The image above had a viral internet sneeze and had 10 retweets, 7 twitter favourites, comments and plus’ on Google plus, and a bunch of likes on Facebook.

Putting aside the powerful attention grabbing picture, I think its the words that really resonated and connected with people.

We have all been there.

Taking on responsibility for some thing that was outside of our control. Worse still is when others blame us for something outside of our control.

‘It’s all your fault’ is an echoed burden too many of us carry.

Perhaps its time to revisit some of our stories. The places and times in our memory bank where our beliefs about life were formed.

  • It was never your fault that you were sexually abused as a child.
  • It was never your fault you were shamed by an over bearing bully.
  • It was never your fault that your parents marriage broke up.

Please, this new day, give yourself the beautiful gift of truth. Only take responsibility for that which is in your control. Other peoples problems are truly other peoples problems.

Questions to Consider and leave a comment

  1. Why do we take on others problems, making them our own?
  2. Shifting responsibility for one’s personal problems is text book avoidance. What is the end result however for the avoider when this is done?

Barry Pearman

Photo Credit: .kleine via Compfight cc

How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps

How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps

Problems! We all have them, and they can so often create incredible amounts of pressure and stress. A small problem for one person can seem like a mountain of stress for another.

The problem can feel too big, and that there is no way of solving it.

People also come to you with their problems and hope you have some magic wand to fix them.

A burden shared is a burden halved. T.A. Webb

In this post, I will give you a tool that will take the pressure off you and empower others to see their problem solved.

Dr. Ian Falloon developed the Problem Solving Sheet for Helping people with Psychotic disorders. Here is a link to a research paper.

What I love about this process 
  1. It is a formulated process. A step by step process, not just a random ‘free for all’ of throwing out ideas.
  2. It is written down, so we don’t have to rely on faulty memory systems to remember who does what.
  3. There is a team approach to finding the solution and carrying it out.
  4. It empowers the person with the problem to take ownership of finding the solution.

Crucial consideration.

Don’t solve the problem for the person. Instead, help them find the solution.

Involve them all the way through. A solution they are deeply involved in the making will be far more motivating than a solution made for them by others.

The 8 Steps to Solving Problems

Let’s go through the process step by step.

 

Problem Solving Sheet
Problem Solving Sheet by Dr. Ian Falloon

1. Get a team of supporters together.
Of course, this will include the one needing the problem solved, but it may also include spouse, friend, family members, and anyone else you consider would help solve the problem.

2. Pray.
I always like to pray and ask God to be part of the process and to be filling the group with creative ideas.

3. Identify the Problem.
This is probably the trickiest part of the process. We often have so many different problems that it’s hard to choose which one to tackle first. It might be helpful to list them all out and rate them each on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being a problem causing the most stress. You can always come back to the other problems later.
As you go through the process, you may well have to redefine the problem as more information comes to light.

4. Generate Possible Solutions.
List all the possible solutions, don’t worry about the quality of the solutions at this stage. Don’t discount anything.
Try to list ten solutions, be creative. If creativity and fun are encouraged, new solutions may often appear that no one would have thought of. The brain needs permission to explore. So include all ideas, even ‘bad’ or ‘silly’ suggestions. Get everyone to suggest something.

DO NOT talk about whether ideas are good or bad at this stage. We don’t want to shut down people’s creativity.

5. Evaluate alternatives.
Get the group to say what they think are the main advantages and disadvantages of each suggestion. Start by considering the positive aspects of each solution and then the negative. Do not write these comments down. It is just a general discussion.

6. Decide on a Solution.
Choose the solution that can be carried out most easily with the resources (time, skills, materials, money, etc.) that you have at present. This could be a solution from the list developed or a combination of some of the ideas suggested.

7. Plan exactly how to carry out the solution.
Write down the solution as clearly as possible. List out what needs to be done and by when. Organize how to get anything that is needed to solve the problem.
Consider how to cope with likely hitches. Practice any difficult steps. Set a Date and time to review how progress is going with the plan

8. Review progress in carrying out the plan.
Praise all the efforts people have made. Do a quick review making sure you praise any effort made to solve the problem. You’ve got to accentuate the positive.
This is not a time to play the blame and shame game. This is a time to review and possibly problem solve any issues that have arisen. The existing plan may need to be revised or a new plan made.

So here is the link to your free Problem Solving Sheet.

Quotes to consider

  • I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. Abraham Maslow
  • We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.  Albert Einstein
  • If you choose not to deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue, and it will select the path of least resistance. Susan Del Gatto
  • We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a stroke problem. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right – one after the other, no slip-ups, no goofs, and everyone pitching in. Atul Gawande
  • A problem well put is half solved.  John Dewey
  • A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
  • It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem. Malcolm S. Forbes

Further reading

5 Keys to Help Grow a Persons Confidence

How A To-Do-List Can Help You Off To Sleep

Barry Pearman

Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

 

Barry Pearman

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

 

 

 

6 Things That I Have Noticed About People Who Change and Recover From Mental Illness

6-proven-ways-will-empower-mental-health-recovery-change

Want to change? 

Most people want to change without having to do the work. Give me the pill, wave the magic wand, say ‘abra ka dabra’ and then everything changes.

I don’t believe that Mental Health miracles happen overnight. Change and recovery take work and time.

In those that do make great strides in personal development and especially in recovery from Mental Illness, I have noticed that they have six crucial habits that empower their change. Activities that they repeat over and over again, so that step by step, millimeter by millimeter, and day by day the brain changes and recovery is empowered.

You don’t have to have a mental illness for these to be life-changing. Anyone can apply these and see steady change occur.

6 Things That I Have Noticed About People Who Change and Recover From Mental Illness

1. They make their bed every morning.

What? Seriously? Making your bed can change your life?

I picked this up from a  talk by Admiral William H McRaven where he related the process of training U.S. Navy Seals.

Every morning Navy Seals have to make their beds perfectly. Every morning they start with purpose. They don’t drift into the day, but rather they start with a drilled in positive habit.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day, it will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to another task and another and another. By the end of the day that one task completed will turn into many tasks completed . 

Making your bed will also reinforce that the little things in life matter. If you can never do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If by chance you have a miserable day then you’ll come home to a bed that is made. That you made. A made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. Admiral William H McRaven

There are habits that will set yourself up for the day. It doesn’t have to be exactly making your bed, but this sure helps. It may be other day starting habits of planning, meditating, praying, reading.

It’s starting the day with intention.

It’s saying to the brain ‘here is the starting line, let’s do it’

2. They make a bed for someone else.

Ok, I am playing with you on this one.

I don’t mean for you to go around making other peoples beds. They need to make their own!

What I am talking about here is fruitful labour. Finding something to do that has value to you. It may be paid employment, but it doesn’t have to be.

It’s finding that activity where you serve. It could be picking up rubbish on the sidewalk and in so doing, you silently serve your community.

It’s doing something that at the end of the day, when you climb into your made bed, you can say ‘I gave’ without any expectation of return, and just in this giving there is satisfaction in itself.

It is living with an external focus rather than an internal ‘its all about me’ focus.

Sitting on your butt, smoking, and drinking coffee all day will not help you to recover.

People who recover find an outlet, a place to contribute to society, a meaning for their existence.

Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter. It’s an activity that you find some value in and adds to others.

Download a copy of this post other plus bonus gifts

3. They get angry.

I’m not talking about walking around being abusive and violent.

What I am saying is that people who recover have an inner resolve in them that they are not just going to let life happen to them, they are going to take life on, attack it with all they can.

They turn all their energy they can muster into making life change. They live on purpose, not on a possibility.

Read more about this in my post I’m so angry that I’m going to …

4. They become passionate learners.

People who recover are passionate learners.

They read, listen, and hunt out wisdom. They want to devour knowledge and apply it to their lives.

They form habits which enable their learning. They go to the library, borrow books from friends (and return them), listen to podcasts, take classes.

All are helping the spongy grey matter of the brain to build new neurons and grow.

They battle with self-defeating attitudes and beliefs that echo in the brain about not being able to learn.

If they have trouble reading then they go and do literacy courses, they get audio books. They journal their discoveries.

Brick by brick the foundation of change takes place.

5. They set realistic goals.

Goals, ah, that word brings back to me memories of sitting with people with a bright new young Community Support Worker saying ‘Now we need to set some goals. Then observing the ‘client’ silently groaning within, yet again, at the cycle is once again repeated. A fresh young thing, straight out of College, wanting to save the world and having to follow the model.

OK putting this echoing memory to the side for a moment, it is important to set goals. The key to setting and achieving goals is that they must be significant to you. They must have value and importance to you. They cant just be a ‘tick the box’ activity for the other person. They must be owned by you completely.

A great way to set goals is to look back into recent history such as the past week and consider what gave you that sense of fruitfulness. An achievement that for you was significant. Then add 10 %.

So if reading for 30 minutes last week gave you a great boost, what is the likelihood that if you repeated it this week, you would get the same sense of fruitfulness? Quite high? So do it again, but this time add 10%. Read for another 5 minutes, something realistic that you know that you can achieve.

Try it, and let me know if it helps.

Over time, using this method of adding 10% can genuinely change your beliefs about yourself and radically empower growth.

6. They make STAN plans. 

This is a little method I learned from the story of Daniel in the Bible. In the story, Daniel was in a crisis and was having to make some difficult choices. So he made a plan to achieve his goal.

Stan Plans are

  • Simple to understand by all. Everybody that is involved can understand what is going to happen. It is not pages and pages of detail. It may just be a simple sentence.
  • Timed for a Review. The plan has a time for it to run and then reviewed.
  • Aimed at some thing of deep value. The plan is aimed at achieving something of deep value to the people involved. ‘It is important to achieve this because it would mean …’
  • Negotiated with key others. Our plans will always involve others in helping to make them work. So we need to consult with others as to whether they are on board with our plan.
Having a plan empowers the brain to embrace the changes you are making.
I wrote a series of Blog posts about this, and you can find them here – Lessons Daniel Taught Me About Achieving Goals. 
So there you are. Six Keys to change, but they all require one thing.
You have to choose to do them. Simple!
Question to Consider.
  • What for you, from the list above, would be the most difficult to achieve? Why?
Barry  Pearman
Photo Credit: jm3 via Compfight cc

 

6 Markers of Healthy Spirituality for Mental Health

6 Markers of Mentally Healthy Spirituality

What would a Mentally Healthy Spirituality look like? Over my life, I have been involved in many different styles of Christian denominational expression, or Ice Cream flavors as I like to say.

Staid conservative Bible fundamentalism, ‘swinging from the chandeliers’ Pentecostalism, social justice activism, and many other ice cream flavors.

They all have strengths and weaknesses. 

Some aspects of all of them have been helpful to my Mental health while some aspects have been downright destructive.

People often ask me ‘What Church should I go to?’

I suppose I would answer this question with this statement.

‘A Church that keeps you grounded in reality,
connects you with Biblical truth,
is actively part of the local community,
and promotes a healthy spirituality.’

 

So what does a Healthy Spirituality look like?

( adapted from David Benner [1])

1. Grounded in Reality, seeing things as they are.

There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.

When our life feeds on unreality it must starve and die.

The death by which we enter into life is not an escape from reality but a complete gift of ourselves which involves a total commitment to reality. Thomas Merton

It is the acceptance of what reality can and cannot fulfil that leads to real change because, short of the progressive destruction of illusion and consequent mourning, one cannot discover the world as it is. Donald Winnicott

Reality itself – my limited and sometimes misinterpreted experience -is the revelatory place for God. But for some reason, we prefer fabricated realities to the strong and sensitizing face of what is. The spiritual life begins with accepting and living our reality. Richard Rohr

2. Awareness

The spiritual life is, first of all, a matter of keeping awake. Thomas Merton

We have to accept that we are all sleep walkers. We need to awaken and we need to learn to see. Spirituality is about seeing. Once you see, the rest follows. Jesus tells us that if our eye is healthy our whole body will be full of light. Richard Rohr

3. Hopeful openness

    • To life, to others and to God

The most important question each person has to answer -“is the universe friendly?” Einstein

4. Loving connectedness

    • Connectedness with others, with the earth, with God
    • Interdependency, compared to codependency and independency

5. Transcendent meaningfulness

    • Making sense of personal reality in a way that gives direction and purpose to life
    • Having a framework to make sense of failure and suffering
    • Making suffering sufferable
    • Movement beyond egocentricity and entitlement
    • Capacity for grace and gratitude

6. Capacity for love, work and play

    • Altruistic attitude toward others
    • Sense of vocation
    • Spontaneity and playfulness

Questions to Consider and leave a comment.

  • How would you answer the question ‘What Church should I go to?’
  • What would be the signs for you of a Healthy Spirituality?
  • In what ways can Mental Illness rob you of a Healthy Spirituality?
  • In what ways can Mental Illness actually lead you to a Healthy Spirituality?

Barry Pearman
Photo Credit: Cayusa via Compfight cc

Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human

Listening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

I am lost and need a sense of true North. A focal point, a direction, a ‘something’ to aid my progress out of the fog. When the stress loading becomes too much it is very easy to lose your way. What we need is some sort of Thinking Compass.

Mental Illness is one of the worst fog generating experiences you can have.

Your brain can play tricks on you.

Your perceptions can change, sometimes quite dramatically, to being vastly different to everyone else’s.

I well remember someone pointing out to me the ‘Little spacemen in the tree’.

Psychosis was fogging his thinking, he was unwell, but in his mind, he was perfectly well.

Perhaps though the more subtle and less overt effects of mental illness can be more damaging. The thinking habits nurtured over many years in a watery soup of unawareness.

When the stress becomes too much for the fragile brain, we become disoriented, confused, and truly lost.

The fog has closed in and it’s black.

Mental illness often fog’s out a true perception of life. The perspective you have gets fogged by the interpretations you have made about events.

Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O).

When the Response is affected by an illness then the Outcome can be disastrous.

When the stress loading becomes too much it is very easy to lose your way.

What we need is some sort of Thinking Compass. 

Something that we can refer back to time and time again, and that will always point towards true North. Always to healthy thinking and hope.

We don’t need some huge massive compass, too big to carry, too heavy to bear, and too incomprehensible to take in. When you are unwell you don’t want to be overloaded with information and unrealistic expectations.

Even previous learning experiences can hinder your uptake of new information.

It’s not so much that the client is unable to grasp the info, as he or she is easily discouraged, based on a fund of previous negative experiences in school. C. Scott McMillin

Do you have a compass for your brain? 

I have a handy-dandy little notebook (apologies to Blues Clues fans). It is small enough to fit in my back pocket and easy enough to pull out when I need a sense of direction.

I have a little notebook that is my Thinking Compass. I use a physical book, not an electronic recording device. I just think something quite tangible happens in the brain when you put the pen to paper.

Into this compass goes all sorts of material for me to keep training and coaching my brain.

  • Quotes. These maybe quotes I have gleaned out of books, podcasts, social media etc. Short and pithy, powerful and true.
  • Empowering and Challenging questions. Questions that stop you and make you think and consider some tough choices. e.g. Am I truly taking responsibility for my own life, today? In what ways am I going to help someone else today?
  • Scripture verses. The Bible is full of verses that speak truth in the innermost being. Read it and glean goodness.
  • Counselling insights. If you are getting counselling perhaps your counsellor can write down some the keys insights they want you to think and consider.
The criteria for material getting into my Thinking Compass is that there has to have some sort of ‘ah hah’ moment attached to it. There has to be a ‘light bulb turning on experience’ when I read it.
Basically, my brain needs some sort of new learning experience for it to make a new pathway.
Making new pathways in our thinking is hard work, much like building a rope bridge over a chasm. Many repeated journeys back and forth in the brain will make a new thinking bridge strong and secure.
Going back to the Thinking Compass time and time again is needed.

The thicker the fog, the more times you will have
to refer to the compass.

Question to Consider and leave a Comment.
  • Do you have some favourite verses or quotes that are like a compass to you? Why them and would you like to share them in the comments section?
  • Have you had an experience of a Mental Illness being like a fog around you, disorienting you, affecting your judgements? What helped you?
  • Can you have too much information? How can you discern what is most helpful and disregard the rest?
Barry Pearman

Jamie Street

Dirt + Spit = Mud and 6 Things to Learn about Healing

Dirt + Spit = Mud and 6 Things to Learn about Healing blind man

Dirt, spit, and mud. What a combination that brought medicine to a blind man’s eyes. God works healing in ways we couldn’t imagine.

It was just a typical sort of day.

I was out on the street listening to everyone passing by. Right from birth, I had been blind, but I could hear, smell, and taste. Touch was powerful for me, too, yet nobody wanted to touch me, I was, in a sense, touch-deprived.

Once a blind man, always a blind man.

Then I heard a noise coming up the street: people, lots of them, noise. I could names being said, ‘Jesus.’ Theological arguments being thrown at him. Was this the one that I had heard many talking about? I could smell the dust being stirred up.

Someone was looking at me, I could feel it.

A voice speaks.

“Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

I had carried the burden of this question all my life. Surely it must be someone’s fault that I am like the way I am. Guilt trips, blame games, and the stones of shame had been thrown at my parents and me.

Then I hear a new voice, one of authority and power.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned”

What!!! I had always thought it had to be related to something I had done, or my parents had done. Wow, then I suppose I am blind because …

Jesus spoke again.

“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” John 9:3-5 (The Message)

Then a sound reached my ears of someone spitting! I could hear the people take a gasp, step back, and mutter amongst themselves.

Dirt, Spit and Mud

Then I felt it on my eyes. Dirt and spit mixed to make mud. He, Jesus, gently smeared it over my eyes. I could feel it getting right into the corners. The mud was sticky and warm, gritty but also strangely smooth and soft.

Jesus then told me to go and wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. Well, I staggered off feeling my way, asking others for help, stumbling now and then.

There was a tingling feeling happening under the eyelids. It wasn’t painful; you just knew that something was happening.

It was a long walk, but eventually, I got there. I reached down to the cool water and began to wash the mud off. Suddenly I realized that I saw things, people, water, the walls of the dark cave. There wasn’t much light in this place, which was good for my new eyes to adjust to. Never the less I could see, I could see, I could see!

People could not believe that I had received my sight.

Some didn’t want to believe. You can read the rest of the story in John 9.

I caused a stir with those religious rule makers! Ha!

Here are some things I want you to take from this story.

Six things to learn about healing

1. Jesus deliberately made sure that everyone knew that the illness wasn’t related to my sin.
We all want to find excuses or reasons for suffering. We must, however, remember that we live in a dusty world where sickness and illness are just part of it’s fallen state. Stop, please stop, dumping guilt on those who are unwell. Stop making quick diagnoses without wisdom to discern the real needs of the person.

2. You don’t have to deal with a person’s spiritual state of sinfulness before healing the physical state.
There is no fixed formula. God does not demand repentance before he is interested in the person. God is in love with everyone in whatever spiritual state they are.

3. Consider the needs of the person.
If you are praying for healing for people with sensory needs such as blindness or deafness, make sure you do it in a place that is quiet or has dim lighting. A public place or out in broad daylight is just not the place for this. This is wise and caring. Jesus knew my needs. He wasn’t interested in the applause of the crowd on the auditorium of the street.

4. Healing can come through very unconventional methods.
Who would have thought a mud pack made from dirt and spit would have been part of a healing process. Jesus knew what was needed. Perhaps the spit mud was there to stop the bright light from getting into my eyes. Maybe there was something chemically in the dirt that stimulated the healing. I don’t know what it was, but it worked!

5. Healing can take a length of time and faith to happen.
It took me quite some time to get that pool. I didn’t know what would be the result, but I went by blind faith (pun intended), and I received sight. Light dispersed the darkness.

6. Get your hands dirty!
We must not wait until we have understood all the mysteries of suffering before we get on with the work of what God has called us to do.

A blind man teaches Mental Health

As I reflect on this story and its role in the healing of Mental Illness, there is much to learn.

  • Healing can take a period of time. We all want the instantaneous, but often I have found that with the brain that it takes to heal, to learn new ways of thinking. For an instant healing, it would possibly mean a complete change of the brain. Too painful, too much change, too much to learn or unlearn. God is gracious and knows what we can handle.
  • Physical elements such as medication can have a role just as much as the mud pack had a role in this story. Too many times, I have heard people want a magic miracle pill, whereas they need medicine to allow a miracle to occur.
  • Healing is not about the healer. Instead, it is about the one with the need, and the God who knows their name. We don’t have to have hype, music, bright, etc. Jesus wants us to be super sensitive to the needs of those he loves.
  • Pray anyway. We don’t have to understand all the components of illness before we can pray. God knows more than any psychiatrist! We call on Jesus to be the great healer.
  • Mental Illness is part of a fallen world. We are dust, imperfect, and prone to illness.

I love this story. There is so much to glean about Jesus and his compassion.

Just imagine you are that blind man. Close your eyes, then feel that wet sticky mud being smeared into your eyes. Reflect in the comments section below your response.

Barry Pearman

Image by ViaMoi Creative commons Flickr

This is part of a series where I am exploring the various stories of healing found in the New Testament. I am gleaning many of my ideas from Jesus’ Healing Works and Ours by Ian Cowie