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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Five Things You Can Do to Improve Your Relationships Now

Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 1:49 PM

When individuals seek counseling their relationships are often directly or indirectly affected by the issues they are facing. Counseling can help by providing an objective point of view and tools to help build communication and understanding between people, but you don't have to wait to make some immediate changes that will begin to improve your relationships now. Here are some tips that can help:


1. Learn to listen non-judgmentally. You cannot force another person to change but many people try to. The more you push the more they resist. You might even be able to compel the other person to change, for you, for someone else, or for a secondary gain (such avoiding a breakup) but the truth is, lasting change will only come from an internal transformation.

The renowned psychologist Carl Rogers founder of the "person centered approach" to understanding personality, proposed that all individuals have a concept of the person they should be, what he called the “ideal self”. Given the right environment they will grow toward that “ideal self”. In the wrong environment, that "ideal" is something that they see as continually out of reach.

When a individual doesn't feel valued by others they tend to devalue themselves as well. They can become defensive and resistant to change. That does not suggest that they need others to approve of their behavior, but rather that others listen and try to understand their perspective.

Rogers believed that most people know what they need to change, but the truth often hurts, which is why they tend to push back when pressured. When someone feels valued as a person they are more likely to accept the possibility of change without being pressured.


2. Don’t spend the time another person is speaking formulating your response: Just try listening. If you’re thinking of what you’re going to say next, you’re not really listening. Sometimes, especially during a heated conversation, there is a tendency to ignore what others are saying and focus on why they are saying it, even going after their motivation (“why are you bringing this up now?).

Reacting this way is essentially ignoring the message and attacking the messenger. Thus, healthy communication ends and a conversation becomes a battle of words, with each party defending themselves and attacking the other. At this point the whole point of the conversation may be lost. “What were we talking about actually?”

Show that you are listening by “reflecting”, restating what the other person said in your own words: “What you are saying then is that you feel unappreciated?”.


3. Not every statement requires a response. Don’t “one up” others with your similar or more terrible experience. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Silence gives power to a person’s words. It can encourage the other person to continue talking or go deeper. It can also give power to hurtful words when they are directed toward you. Silence can be more effective at demonstrating that word hurt than than a verbal retort that hits back.


4. Speak using “I” statements. Statements prefaced by "You" tend to be confrontational and critical. For example, “You don't care about me” is more confrontational than “It feels to me as if you don't care". The first assumes the other person is uncaring. The second is a personal statement. There is a difference. You statements tend to be attacks and cause defensiveness. I statements are more effective at keeping communication open and resolving issues.


5. Share power. This doesn’t require much explanation. A healthy relationship involves sharing power. People who continually demand their way usually end up in frequent unsuccessful relationships.

What do your boundaries convey to those around you? {Part 1 - Physical Boundaries}

Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 12:25 PM

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others." - Brene Brown

What do your boundaries convey to those around you? {Part 1}Boundaries have been coming up a lot in sessions these past few weeks, so I felt they were a relevant topic to discuss. I will focus this email on physical boundaries and the next email on emotional boundaries.

I encourage you to take a look at your own boundaries while reading through this and identify where you can build them up. I will guide you through the process of identifying what your boundaries look like, how they make you feel, and how you can strengthen them.

What ARE boundaries anyway?
Many people have not been introduced to the idea of boundaries or what they look like. Boundaries are established by you, based on what helps you feel comfortable and safe with another person in which you are in relationship with. They are totally subjective to each individual person.

What purpose do boundaries serve?
Boundaries are important for all relationships - not just romantic relationships (which many people think of when you mention boundaries). They allow you to acknowledge what you feel and provide safety in relationships.

How do I know what I need?
Most people actually allow more than they are comfortable with, but don't take the time to be mindful of themselves in a safe situation to figure out what their boundary would ACTUALLY look like. Instead they trudge through life being triggered, feeling anxious, and often not being able to enjoy the relationships in their life. What do I mean by this? Well, when I help my clients establish their boundaries, I first ask them to establish a physical boundary - whether this be with items in the room or through a line that they draw on the ground. After they establish their boundary, I ask them to notice their body and see if this physical boundary indeed feels safe for them (our body is our best resource, and often provides great biofeedback). Often times it is discovered that the client in fact ISN'T comfortable with this physical boundary and there is a deeper emotional reason for this.

Whether this be that they are afraid of taking up too much space, so they tend to make their boundary smaller than they are comfortable with.

They never knew that they were allowed to set a boundary or didn't know what that looked like and therefore were experiencing major anxiety whenever someone would come closer than desired.

Maybe they thought that they were setting boundaries by not welcoming the person and being somewhat off-ish, but the person moved toward them anyway.

However, until they took the time to be aware of themselves and establish that their boundaries were often being crossed, they would not have had the opportunity to identify what had been causing the discomfort and anxiety that often occurred in social situations. This exercise empowered each of my clients to recognize that:

1. They have the right to set boundaries with others in their life.
2. This gets to look however they need it to look.
3. Having boundaries is healthy, and they had clarity around why so many situations in their life felt uncomfortable.

They were no longer in the dark and had answers to questions that were lingering, and this was so relieving.

How do I set boundaries?
If through reading this, you wonder if your boundaries need further building and strengthening, I would love to help you do this. However, I don't want you to do it all at once. I will send 2 follow up emails this week to encourage you through this process.

The Importance of Emotional Boundaries

Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 12:24 PM

When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. - Brene Brown

A few days ago, we talked about physical boundaries and the importance of taking the time to be aware of what your body is telling you about the physical boundaries that you have set. Today, I want to focus on emotional boundaries.

What are Emotional Boundaries?
One of my favorite sayings is, "you teach people how to treat you". Many people respond to this with, "I can't control how others treat me". You are right, you cannot control others, however, you can control how you respond to the way that others treat you.

Emotional boundaries focus on two things:

1. They focus on what you are willing to accept from another person's behavior.

2. They focus on only taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and not the other person's emotions. Emotional boundaries can get sticky when we start to take on other's emotions. What do I mean by this?

Do you have relationships in which the other person has no regard for how their comments will affect you? I want to take a moment to empower and encourage you that YOU HAVE A CHOICE! You can choose to stand there and let them treat you that way, to let them call you names, to let them yell at you, but you do not have to. You can demand higher respect for yourself.

Do you have a boundary in place to protect you and your emotions? What does it look like?

Are there things in your relationships that are destructive to you?

A lack of emotional boundaries are:
1. Not being able to say no to someone and sacrificing your own emotions.
2. You are giving, giving, giving, and not receiving anything in return from the relationship.
3. You are being abused - the other person gets to do and say whatever they want and you allow it.
4. You feel emotionally exhausted after engaging in conversation or time with this person.

Do any of these feel relevant in your life?

"Lack of boundaries invites lack of respect." ― Anonymous

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart

Sunday, May 20, 2018 @ 7:59 PM

My wife had a toothache that developed into unbearable pain the day before the recent holiday. Her dentist’s office was closed for an extended time and she decided to make an appointment with another dentist who handles emergency situations. The x-rays from the visit revealed a likelihood of an infection that was treated with a medicine. Thankfully not a root canal needed, but the pain drove her to seek relief even though the timing was not good.

Emotional pain can be similar to a physical pain in many ways. Disappointment, worry, anxiety, depression, or feelings like abandonment, shame, fear, powerlessness, damaged, invalidation, and hopelessness are common and come in varying degrees for different people. The pain can be intense. It pops up unexpectedly. It can pop up with bad timing. If you try to ignore it, it will only get worse. Sometimes the source is hard to identify. The only lasting solution is not a quick fix, but takes time to heal. For true healing to occur, the root cause must be identified and dealt with properly.

Root causes of emotional pain are often not easy to determine. It may take the help of a “soul doctor” (counselor) to get better. The root cause of emotional pain almost always involves some sort of offense. At the very least, it takes the form of a perceived threat to a person’s comfort, pleasure, or power. At worst, an offense is a gross injustice or disregard for truth. In my experience as a counselor, I have found that when a person is willing to do the hard work of identifying and rooting out offense, it transforms their inner life for lasting results. In the previous few articles I have written a lot about offense, but this article deals with the best solution; that is forgiveness.

The things I learned about forgiveness during the 3 year research project to culminate my seminary degree, changed my life forever. I still consider myself a learner on the topic. One only learns about forgiveness if he practices forgiveness. Since offense creates the need for forgiveness, and since offense is part of an inescapable human condition, the only way to learn about forgiveness is to practice it. How does one practice forgiveness? As an answer to this question I authored the book called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.

Below is an overview of the book. The goal is to help people in three aspects of life: understanding what true forgiveness is (and isn’t), applying this understanding to inner life change, and applying it to relationships with people. I divided the content into three sections of three chapters each.

The first section, Part One, is called Foundations. The chapters in Part One are called The Cycle of Offense, Misunderstandings, and Divinely Initiated (the basic theology of forgiveness with many biblical references).

Part Two of the book is called Transformational Healing: Between God and Man. This section is the heart of the matter, distinguishing forgiveness from reconciliation. The simplest definition I have discovered for forgiveness is “surrendering to God the right to judge.” Forgiveness is a matter of getting your heart in the right place before God, and nothing (or at least very little) to do with how the offender responds (or doesn’t respond). The three chapters of Part Two are called Receiving God’s Gift, Surrendering to God, and Trusting God for Change.

Part Three, applying forgiveness to relationships, is called Conflict Resolution: Between God, Man, and Fellowman. Whereas forgiveness is for the offended person restoring right relationship with God, reconcilation adds the offender to the mix. The Bible is clear about the necessity for brothers and sisters in Christ to relate to one another in love, peace, and harmony as much as possible. When God’s Gift of forgiveness is truly received in our hearts, we are genuinely prepared for the reconciliation to be pursued. Reconciliation requires two hearts surrendered to a higher judgment, not just one. In some cases complete reconciliation is not possible (eg. Death, imprisonment, lack of safety), but again, the freedom of forgiveness (escape from the pain of offense) is still possible. The three chapters in Part Three are called Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Reconciliation in Relationships, and Conclusions. I refer to marriage, church, and community relationships for practical application.

At the end of each of the three sections I include a few pages of material to encourage looking into more detail on the topic. These sections are called Follow-up and Practice. I include End Notes that correspond to numbered references throughout the text. These references are included in an eight page Bibliography at the end of the book. These are great resources for further study of the topic. At the end of the book, I also include a Study Guide. This study guide presents questions for further exploration and deeper reflection. The questions can be used for self study or group study.

Finally, the book includes three Appendices. Appendix A includes a number additional resources (sample prayers included) that have been meaningful in my own journey and have helped others in our counseling ministry. Appendix B is about my personal healing journey including forgiveness. Appendix C is the content of a pamphlet entitled Overcoming an Abortion that has been distributed by the thousands and helped many find Christ Jesus as a Refuge for their pain. It highlights the truth of Jesus being our pain bearer and our escape for the debt of our offenses and payment for the debt of offenses against us. No matter how much guilt or shame we carry, Jesus is our Refuge, and best solution to the pain.

You may have heard of the three typical responses to emotional pain; flight, fight, or freeze. Escaping the Pain of Offense is not a book about escaping in the sense of a flight (nor fight, nor freeze) response to pain. The above details about the book show that substance and sufficient effort is necessary to become a victor and not a victim. The book is different from other books on the topic of forgiveness in that it emphasizes the inner life transformational growth journey. Personal growth occurs by embracing forgiveness as an ongoing process of changing our inner person.

Forgivenss does not solve all the problems a person may have, but it prepares the heart for answers to be implemented. I recommend John C. Maxwell’s book called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. Maxwell’s book contains a chapter called “The Law of Pain.” He shares how to turn pain into a growth experience. Maxwell elaborates on 5 specific ways to grow through struggle. I would add (perhaps as a per-requisite) “Seek Corrective Understanding and Consistent Practice of Forgiveness” to his list below.

You grow best when you::

1. Choose a Positive Life Stance

2. Embrace and Develop Your Creativity

3. Embrace the Value of Bad Experiences

4. Make Good Changes after Learning from Bad Experiences

5. Take Responsibility for Your Life

Maxwell’s book will help you with many aspects of personal growth. But all the growth expertise in the world will not help a heart that is unwilling (or lacks the emotional capacity) to change. And it’s not all or nothing. Any part of your heart that resists positive change will hold back the entire growth process. The human heart changes bit by bit, incident by incident, offense by offense, forgiven offender by forgiven offender, etc. For the Christian, fully surrendering judgments to God is the path to growth. A mere decision does not qualify as full surrender. Thoughts and beliefs must be accompanied by surrender of the soul (mind, will, and emotions). Growth is only as current as the last time you allowed God to take his rightful place as Judge in life circumstances.

Is there an area of your life in which you know growth needs to happen? Maxwell’s book is filled with very insightful practical application to help. But is there a part of your heart that feels pain, stress, or negative feelings mentioned at the beginning? I wrote the book Escaping the Pain of Ofense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart to help people find freedom through forgiveness. The book has helped many people already. For those who think their level of understanding and practice of forgiveness is adequate, I encourage you to rethink whether your beliefs are holding you back from God’s best for your life. I am not saying this to sell more books. I am sold on the idea that greater measures of truth about forgiveness are essential for positive change. My book is available online or by contacting me. I am so convinced of the message that if you cannot afford to buy a copy, I will make it available at cost. Write me and remind me of this offer. Check out more about the book at http://book.bluerockbnb.com .

Also write me with your feedback or requests for more input on the topic. May this not only be the beginning of a successful New Year, but also a new beginning for a brighter future of real, healthy, and new growth in your life!

This article is published at:
http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2018/01/escaping-pain-of-offense.html

More on simpliar topics is on the blog site.