Compassionate Help for Medical Professionals
These are incredibly emotionally depleting circumstances. In addition, these medical professionals also interact with the patient’s family members, spouses and companions. As one writer put it, “They listen to their stories and feel their pain. They see their helplessness and loss of hope." The load of our medical teams today includes multiple, highly stressful events, which can cause psychological trauma as event after event is perpetuated.
Building healthy coping skills
Learning to cope with the difficulties of life is a task we learn through trial and error. This writing is about exploring ways to circumvent difficult feelings and distracting thought patterns through pleasant escapes. We can distract ourselves from tormenting, dark thoughts and compelling emotions. We can put ourselves in “better space” mentally and emotionally, by applying coping skills capable of creating quietude and calmness—moments of enjoyment.
Fear, for instance, brings anguish. Urgings and cravings hold agonies. Good coping skills hold definite hope for reducing our anguishes. Many attempt to manage the difficult and highly stressful times of life through using alcohol and drugs. Yet, this creates a far greater difficulty as many get habituated and fail to recover. We can reach far greater enjoyment in a life by designing ways for shifting gears and purposely taking detours around the ruts of worry and self-doubt.
Below are examples of tracks to try for enjoying life within times that are downright hard to handle. For instance, notice when you start tensing up shoulders are tight and aching . . . tongue is at the roof of your mouth and, jaws are clenched. You are pushing yourself and anxious. This is a moment to remember good self-care is in order!
Consider deep breathing as a coping skill. You can do it at any point or place you want. Pause. Start breathing deeply, taking in more air. This exercise in breathing strengthens and supports the nervous system resulting in a calming experience.
The entries extended below can each bring enjoyment of YOU, of what you think and of what you feel. Try the various suggestions finding the ones that work best for you.
We all have stress to deal with. Medical science has proven chronic psychological stress causes oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is detrimental to sound health and can accelerate one’s aging process.
Dr. Nora Vocci, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that stress alters the way the brain thinks, “The part of the prefrontal cortex that is involved in deliberative cognition is shut down by stress.” So, enjoy as many of the stress reducing activities extended here as you can—and as often as you can. Doing so will help you minimize stress and protect your health.
Truth be known, developing coping skills and learning how to set boundaries are the two main ways to control stress on a daily basis. Going forward, your help with these two elements of good self-care will be the focus and will make a remarkable difference in your future health and happiness.
Finding ways to deal with unexpected events that happen will greatly lessen your stress level. A major element of developing coping skills lies with coming to value oneself enough to take good self-care. Having some fun in life is as important as eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest. But when we neglect these premises of healthy living and do not have accessible coping skills then this can become a combination that is ruinous to one’s health.
Pick activities from the list below that you want to try as you strategize toward developing (or returning to) a loving friendship with yourself. Discover the comfort of simply being who you are and appreciating what appeals to you. Find your legitimate pleasure; learn to make space for enjoying yourself.
Use the list below during hard times when you feel uncomfortable in your skin, or highly pressured. You will “spark” on one or two.
The first two on this list are coping skills that are highly effective—and successful.
- Meditation and/or prayer
- Read Holy Writ
- Exercise using gym equipment, or other methods like biking
- Take a walk, ideally 30-40 minutes; or a run, based on your safe ability
- Visit a pet shelter (where you can talk to and pet animals)
- Use a relaxation app or practice progressive muscle relaxation
- Listen to music, or play a musical instrument
- Sing or hum at points when anxiety arises or feeling depressed
- Make a blessing or gratitude list (“I am thankful for . . . “)
- Enjoy water (swimming, soaking bath, and by other means)
- Journaling is a meaningful way to get in touch with what you need it life
- Draw, color, paint, sculpt, or do ceramics
- Play with a pet, or a friend’s pet
- Try a new recipe, then ask friends, “come over to help eat”
- Clean a messy drawer, cabinet or closet that has been bothering you
- Take a drive . . . find a nature path to explore
- Read your favorite kind of book
- Enjoy playing cards with a friend, or friends, try Bunco, Gin Rummy, etc.
- Plan time with friends or family who have a baby; rock the baby
- Spend time with friends or family who have kids. Play games like a kid
- Look into a new hobby
- Look at landscape photos that help you feel relaxed
- Go to a park just to listen and watch what all takes place there
- Visit a zoo, science display, or museum
- Go to your favorite type of movie (or see one on a device)
- Visit a skating arena; watch and join in if able
- List good times and blessed events of your life
- List all for which you are thankful
- Sit by the water—breath, listen, smell and look around
- Ask a loved one to rub your shoulders . . . or, go get a massage
- Laugh as often as you can—even to pretend laughter (it works)
- Google “funny YouTube videos”
- Google YouTube singalong videos”
- Take some time in a shopping center; watch and listen to people
- Pursue something you want to learn about; share with a friend
- Ride a bike or skate as often as possible
- Look at people while giving a smile; watch their eyes: enjoy!
- Find a contemplative water fountain (or waterfall in nature); sit and listen
- Listen to Ted Talks; let your mind become engrossed in the subject
Find Ted Talks at https://www.ted.com/talks
There are many YouTube videos on various subjects that will grab your full attention, put you in a different “space”—and are likely to even challenge your thinking.
Remember, moving your body in challenging ways and fully occupying your mind will put you in a different space. Try it.
Here are some places to go to switch gears, in order to reach a more relaxing, more joyful “space”:
Visiting these YouTube videos will do wonders with putting you in “good space.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75PUjUsGsQQ (takes only 2 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUKrtkHbA90 (minutes of fun dance)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxOpnhY6ObU (beautiful pictures with flute music; 5 ½ minutes)
Now, return to the list of coping skills. Circle each entry above that piques your interest or is an activity you have enjoyed in the past. Then write below indicating which of these coping skills you will want to try, during times when you feel emotionally or spiritually at a loss and are tempted to act-out in an unhealthy way.
Few people realize that validating their emotions is one of the best things they can do for their physical health, as well as their emotional health. This subject is introduced on this website within the article titled “Ultimate Privilege.” More help is offered in this brief article.
Many people fear their emotions, or else they don’t know how to manage them. Many are even ashamed when the “not-so-good feelings” come up. But, having emotions that feel good and those that feel bad is part of being human. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are.
It is common to negate our emotions, telling ourselves we “shouldn’t feel that way,” or ignoring difficult feelings by gulping them down expecting them to stay deep inside ourselves. So, the first step toward healing is to decide we have a right to feel. The second step comes through taking the time to identify exactly what it is that we are feeling. The third step is having the courage to look at one’s life events and acknowledge that often what lies beneath our difficult feelings is related to an earlier life event. This enables us to value and accept our life experiences. When we get stuck and cannot get past a happenstance of life a mental health expert or psychotherapist can be of great benefit toward growth in wholeness.
Mostly, both big people and small people have to learn how to validate emotions through identifying what is felt and how the feeling relates to what is happening in life. The key to success within this work is to watch when you feel uncomfortable or unhappy about something said or done. Then do the work of identifying what emotion is arising.
Dr. Gordon Mate, author of When the Body Says No, warns that serious health problems result when difficult emotions are ignored. For this reason, it is wise to reverse that pattern and avoid a vulnerability that opens us to needless suffering.
My health has been greatly enhanced through learning to pay attention to what I feel within circumstances. This allows me to identify my perception of what is happening, while also scrutinizing existing beliefs that may need changing. See article titled, http://healing-with-joy.com/blog/ .
Considerable understanding is needed as to what we need as humans in order to bring healing to our emotions. For instance, years ago I began to reckon with the truth of my childhood. I began to deal with the truth that the “big people” in my life were angry before I could come to the truth that Mom, Dad and my older sister didn’t mean to hurt me with their anger. The work took time, but I began to release a lot of pent up feelings about them. Freedom came through forgiving them. Their anger had taught me to give them a lot of distance while yearning to have closeness with them. I learned to accept my truth and to see it as an opportunity “grow up” beyond it. I found closeness with God which no doubt made it possible to be close with others without so much fear as I had to endure as a child. I took on the task of letting the past go with all its deeply felt pain—especially the feeling of not being good enough. It took time to feel safe in this world. It is impossible to know how much that had to do with the fact my body started forming blood clots at age 18. Each of us are responsible for getting ourselves into better space. Doing so usually means we have to look within and do some work.
Great amounts of medical research exists that reveals the very real connection between our emotions and our physical health. This connection creates the motivation to not fear, dread or be ashamed of our emotions. Pushing strong, uncomfortable feelings away is a pattern that refutes our pursuit of maintaining good health.
A study of psychoneuroimmunology found me deciding my health is more important than staying with old habits that felt comfortable. After years of working with my emotions through prayerful journaling, I eventually reached the excellent health I now enjoy. The many DVTs and PEs endured are only a piece of my history. A vena cava screen at age 35 saved me at a desperate junctive. Following that surgery, I learned how to manage my difficult emotions, which played a significant role in my becoming healthy.
It doesn’t matter what age we are—young or old—our bodies are negatively impacted by stress when we are unable to acknowledge our emotions. Whether we do this work privately or with professional help, it is vitally important to address our pain in life when it cannot be dismissed.
How true it is that only close, trusted friends and certain caring family members are interested in hearing about our difficult emotions. In modern history, most people are dealing with a large amount of concern for their families and other relationships. It is nearly impossible for most people to extend themselves toward our pain while working to juggle their own. Choosing carefully who we confide in has become essential. For that reason, people are realizing the need to seek professionals to help us get past what looms large in our lives. If we cannot go that direction, prayerful journaling and learning how to perceive our dreams as teachers can bring amazing results.
Dr. Mate makes a case for believing we will live longer and enjoy better physical health when we do inner work, which essentially requires honoring and identifying our emotions. He writes, "The single greatest risk factor for death—and especially for cancer death—was what the researchers called rationality and anti-emotionality or R/A.” Mate writes of a state-of-being that happens for a person when only good feelings are allowed to the exclusion of dealing with difficult feelings. He states that within the toggle between “rationality and anti-emotionality,” most of a person’s thought life is lived out in the left hemisphere of the brain where logic and analytical abilities formulate.
For the most part, it is the right hemisphere of the brain that involves our emotions. So, it is the right hemisphere of the brain that many people are inclined to stifle. Dr. Mate calls this pattern of denying difficult emotions a "hyper-rational, non-emotional coping style” and claims this results in loss of emotionality, receptivity and creativity. The worst of all, Mate assures us, is that this can result in loss of health.
So, how does a person stop gulping down their feelings—especially the difficult ones? It takes noticing when something happens or something is said and you feel uncomfortable about it. Honoring that feeling allows for asking yourself, “What is it that I am feeling? Am I hurt about this? “Or sad about it?” Am I frustrated? Irritated? Or, disappointed? Am I angry? Is it fear I am feeling? Am I feeling ashamed or guilty?”
The subject of guilt is complex due to the fact there is both true guilt and false guilt. Many people suffer from frequently feeling false guilt. For that reason, this subject is addressed separately. It is important to set boundaries with yourself in order to recognize this problem and to change the thoughts or beliefs that are creating the false guilt. If this needs clarity, please see button above titled, “Are You Suffering from False Guilt?
It is essential to realize that anger and hurt go together. When we are angry, there is also hurt involved. When we feel wounded, there is always an element of anger that accompanies that pain. Fear lies beneath both hurt and anger.
For those interested in knowing how to use prayer as part of the process of this inner healing work, the following few paragraphs can prove helpful:
For example, we can say, "I feel angry right now. I also know that I am feeling an injury of some kind.” Honestly admit to yourself (and to God) what is felt. For instance, say, “I feel angry. I am letting this anger go. It is about ______________ (be specific, as you identify what you believe is beneath the emotion). I set my will to forgive this happenstance. I purpose to forgive (release) the person (s) involved with this is painful feeling. Remember, you don’t harm anyone but yourself when you will not or feel you cannot forgive what has happened to you and how this has injured you.
If the painful emotion persist, continue to work on completely releasing yourself from that difficulty of this happenstance. Keep saying, “I release this pain to God.” You will have heaven’s help as you persist in letting the emotion go.
Next, move from the emotion of anger to the hurt that is felt. Cover this emotion just as thoroughly, saying: "I know I am feeling hurt as well as angry. I determine to release the hurt that I am feeling, so that I can be free of it. I am feeling this ache because ______________ (be specific, as you identify what is beneath the emotion). I set my will to forgive this injury and to release the pain for the good of my own soul.” 
It is equally important to deal with the fear, which is the fulcrum of our anger. Fear lies beneath both hurt and anger.
When you feel anxious, frustrated, apprehensive, hurt, or dishonored and angry simply say, “God, I'm sensing it is fear that lies beneath these feelings. I am surmising that fear may be about ______________” (fill in the blank). The heaviest of fears usually involve a concern of losing something or someone through a situation at hand. Often we fear losing love or losing control. These are just two examples of how we humans suffer emotional pain. We also fear being misunderstood and looking less than “all together.” Truth be known, we are all working toward being whole and wholly healed. None of us have reached perfection!
It is important to recognize when penetrating disconnectedness comes, realizing it is influencing us toward both anger and hurt. We can say, “God, I'm sensing that fear is behind these feelings. I admit that I fear ______________” (fill in the blank). Using the mind’s eye to “see” us letting it go is powerful.
I found that as I work this process, it helps to use the mind’s eye to envision the healing as if it is taking place right then. We can use the power of the subconscious mind within healing work. We trigger the subconscious mind to begin the healing work when we “see” the healing taking place through mental imagery. An example of this method is offered in my website as a blog titled “Inner Healing Exercise.”
Using imagining with the mind’s eye allows the healing work to reach the subconscious mind which works with pictures. We see this through the way the unconscious sends us dreams. So, this part of our being needs pictures in order to get on board with what we want to take place. Creating mental pictures that show the unconscious mind the desired goal has brought amazing results for many people. Using the subconscious mind through envisioning is a powerful mode within inner healing work.
Here is a truth that few people know: Feelings follow thoughts. Upon feeling an emotion, it is of considerable help to check out what we were thinking just before the emotion arose. Often, what we fear is loss of respect or loss of appreciation. For me, the fear is sometimes about feeling that I am being devalued or not being treated respectfully. The little child in me says, “They didn’t care enough.” (See the “Stop Thought,” page at the bottom of these seven articles for a powerful technique.)
At times, it is easy to feel misunderstood. Fear can arise. An urge to control can easily set us in motion toward a behavior that can be counterproductive. It takes concerted work to go to that depth of self-understanding, but doing so truly pays off. We can reach the pain of our pasts as we work toward healing to our psyches (souls), which in turn affects our bodies favorably.
Majorly, it necessitates identifying our emotions as they arise. After identifying the feelings it is important to release them with strong resolve to “be done” with them.
It helps to think of an upside down triangle while doing this work. (See diagram, next page.) The illustration below shows that when we have anger, we have hurt. And, when we have hurt, we have anger. Both are present when either one of these emotions is felt. Be assured—healing takes place much more surely when we engage the subconscious mind with pictures, through visualizations and even diagrams created by the conscious mind. The article at http://healing-with-joy.com/blog/ makes this clear.
It is said, “Healing the soul is like peeling an onion.” This is true. The layers of pain, resentment, bitterness, and sorrow come off one by one. No matter how many conferences attended and books read in hopes of getting more comfortable in our skins, most of us come to a notable realization: The hidden pain in our psyches hasn’t gone away. It takes more than understanding. We are going to have to deal with it. The thing that hurts will hurt even more if we keep it shut up inside the gut.
Here is the crux of the matter: If we want to be whole, we have to fight against all inclinations to gulp down our feelings. Instead, when we feel tears at the corners of our eyes, we must admit what we are feeling; then allow the tears to flow in a place where we feel safe. It helps to envision the inner pain dissipating as you have this remarkable release during these moments of privacy. Without a doubt, your body and your soul will be healthier as you value your feeling, identify them--and let your tears flow when needed.
Tears shed because of emotional pain causes the brain to release oxytocin, endorphins and others chemicals that are able to dull pain and elevate moods. Trust this natural, God-given process. Remind yourself that this emotional work does pay off. Freedom from your inner pain is on the way. Days of living with less stress lie ahead. Learning to grieve life’s losses in this manner was a major factor in my becoming well after having to wage a serious battle to stay alive. It also helps us be more of "the human we are."
My “Get Well Program” involved praying, meditating, and studying Scriptures. However, I also journaled and listened to my dreams. One dream in particular spoke loud and clear about all my inner angst. In this dream, I am shown a huge mountain of frozen tears. The dream scene is an awesomely cold place! I awaken knowing that a piece of truth has paid me a visit. I see, clearly, that a mountain of frozen tears resides within my psyche. Those frozen tears need to come down, but they have to come down slowly, not all at once. I have to own up to all that stored grief, now so remote and hard to reach.
Eventually, my mountain of frozen tears began to thaw, allowing me to feel and to release that old, buried pain. I learned the value of tears and the need to let them have their way when they want to come. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The fact remains that coming to truth can take a lot of time and diligent effort when we have repressed a great deal of emotion, hoping it will “go away”–if we just stay busy enough. Or, drink enough … do enough drugs … recreate more. Clearly, if we want the change which brings a better life–one that is honoring to God–we have to do the work. And, for a lot of us, tears are part of it.
The truth about tears is that they help to heal our psyche (soul). And, amazingly enough, this little bit of water that begs to run down our faces helps our bodies.
Science indicates that tears are always present in the eyes and contain water, mucins, proteins, oils and electrolytes to keep the eyes moist, protect the eyes and facilitate the smooth movement of the lids over the surface. Tears are essential and their functions are many.
William H. Frey II, Ph.D. and Muriel Langseth, are authors of Crying: The Mystery of Tears.1 Dr. Frey, a neuroscientist, at the Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, suggests that physical benefits are gained through releasing emotional tears. He studied tears for 15 years, analyzing two types: 1) tears that come while crying when we are emotionally upset or stressed; and 2) tears arising from eye irritants, including onions. Dr. Frey and his colleagues also found that all tears are not the same and that stress-induced tears have a 24% higher protein concentration than tears caused by eye irritants. Dr. Frey proposed that weeping is an excretory process which facilitates the removal of substances that build up during times of emotional stress.
One of the compounds found by Dr. Frey and his colleagues in human tears is Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH). This chemical is known to increase in the blood during stress. Dr. Frey’s studies demonstrate that 85% of women and 73% of men feel better after crying. This indicates that suppressing tears over long periods of time may reduce our ability to alleviate stress, while increasing our risk of stress-related disorders, which include high blood pressure, heart problems, certain ulcers, and perhaps even memory loss.
More and newer research is showing that our bodies are helped when we pay attention to those moments when we feel tears arising, or when we have a lump in the throat. On, “Nurse Connect,” in a posting titled “Nursing Dynamics and Clinical Issues,” a nurse writes: “Without tears most nurses would be emotional wrecks. Let’s face it, nursing is an emotional profession; on any given day we may witness pain, suffering and death, or extreme joy, relief and gratitude … encouraging a colleague not to cry, to ‘be strong,’ is detrimental to their psyche.” This nurse concluded that chemicals built up in the body during stressful moments are removed by tears. We all have challenges, disappointments, and stressful times. Yielding to a good cry is a definite way of lowering our stress level and potentially helping our bodies to release harmful stress-related chemicals.
Ultimately, allowing our tears, permits both physical and emotional benefits. For one, tears carry a promise for better times ahead. We can be certain that clarity about what is at the root of our sadness, confusion or anxiety brings a certain joy of its own. Progress is gained and we are encouraged to keep moving forward with increased understanding about how to help our bodies stay healthy.
1 William H. Frey, Muriel Langseth, The Mystery of Tears (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1977).
Someone once said, "If it feels like a kick in the stomach, it's probably a kick in the stomach.” That is true. Yet, you can mentally block the kick as adroitly as one practicing the martial art of Aikido.
Once you get the feeling that you have been struck unkindly by words or actions, breathe in deeply, allowing your brain a fresh and full supply of oxygen. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist assures us in her book My Stroke of Insight that if we can allow 90 seconds to pass before speaking, the quantity of emotion felt will change. Her claim is that when our emotions are hot, simply waiting 1 ½ minutes will bring the emotion to a much more manageable level.
I recommend Dr. Taylor’s book as a great tool for understanding much about how the brain works. Life hands us plenty of difficult moments. For example, envision yourself driving down the road, taking your time at the speed limit. Suddenly, someone passes you, then while you are alongside at the stop light that driver yells, “Hey stupid! Get your butt in gear! Where did you learn to drive—the nursing home?” Yelling something back will serve to escalate the situation. For sure, we don’t know who is packing a gun these days.
Here is a place for setting boundaries with yourself, meaning to quietly ignore the castigation. This is not your problem. And, the signal light will change. You were served an out of bounds ball. Now, the ball is in your court. You can deal with the feelings that arise. Help yourself out with a deep breathe, honor the feelings by identifying them. Then, after breathing them away, you can mosey on, knowing that you responded well. You stood tall and did not react.
Deep breathing will help in every difficult instance, supplying your brain with maximum oxygen. At times when you need to interact with another person, one with whom you must deal more directly, listen to what is said. Then, once you have cooled down, consider these three examples of responses that can serve effectively to set boundaries: “Pardon me for saying so, but that is not helpful.” Or, “I am uncomfortable with this conversation. We can talk again at a later time.” Even a stronger statement is just as appropriate. For instance, “I prefer not to talk on this subject, again.”
When boundaries are ignored, that person is disrespectful. Setting boundaries means there must be consequences when they are “dissed.” Without consequences, boundaries will vanish into thin air. Few people like to confront. Yet, setting boundaries with another is the best mode for helping others know how you want to be treated.
Usually, people will respect you for taking good care of yourself in this way, although your strength might not be appreciated in the moment. If a person does not respect your boundaries they are being rude and controlling, most likely without even realizing it. The key to success during confrontation is to modulate these three aspects of your communication: manner, timing, and intensity. These are elements of speech over which you do have control. It takes noticing your communication habits and being willing to make changes where needed. Yet, doing can bring good changes within your relationships and therefore more enjoyment in life.
In an article titled, “Life’s Ultimate Privilege,” I wrote of divorce and how it rips through a person, leaving ragged tears. For both parties involved, hopes for being healthy and happy together have ended. In other instances in life, a lesser degree of pain can come from our interactions with people whom we trust and love.
Individuals who are important to us may say or do things that dig deep into our souls. We don’t expect these people to hurt us, yet they do. Afterwards, they may say, “I’m sorry.” Yet, if those words are said blithely you may perceive the person truly does not feel sorry. It then becomes a matter of checking it out, by asking, “I hear your words but I don’t think you feel the feeling. Could this be true?” Or, “I hear those words and my feelings are hurt.” This confrontation helps the person think about their actions and perhaps to even grow in sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Unfortunately, if we have poor self-image, we are likely to blame ourselves when challenges come up in relationships, thinking, “I must be wrong.” Or, “I must be bad. Otherwise, these things would not be thought of me or said about me.” This results in living with a distorted core belief of, “I am not loveable,” which is crippling. The outcome of this belief is that a person rarely, if ever, confronts those family or other trusted individuals. In the end, low self-esteem causes us to slip even further into self-doubt which prevents us from responding in healthy ways within relationships.
Certainly, there are people who are blessed with healthy self-esteem through parents who were able to build that esteem into their children, early on, through caring touch and loving words. Yet, for a large number of people, myself included, good self-esteem comes through a lot of personal effort as we mature and do our emotional healing work (which is also called “inner healing work”).
Meanwhile, before coming into the blessed stance of having good self-esteem, caring friends or family members may try to affirm us and encourage us to think highly of ourselves. This can help. For the most part, though, good self-esteem comes through our own hard work. It is a gift we give to ourselves.
Dr. Gerald May states in Care of Mind Care of Spirit, “We carry with us basic attitudes of trusting or mistrusting, fundamental self-appraisals of value or worthlessness, and deep seated fears, aspirations, longings, and repulsions that are our heritage from childhood.” These strong psychological determinants are often called baggage. This baggage can easily get triggered within our relationships, our work experiences, or sometimes within the church we attend.
Most experts in the field of psychology agree that by age six our personality traits and attitudes are already, essentially, established. So, there is no doubt that the majority of us suffered some damage to our self-image and our sense of self-worth very early in life. For me, in my childhood a belief developed, one that said the big people don’t care enough. Along with that, I believed that I was not good enough. Eventually I was able to replace these beliefs. However, until that happened (at times, even today) these inner statements can be triggered in a mere moment. All it takes is for a happenstance to touch a memory that resurrects old pain. Now, I am able to catch myself when that old feeling comes back and quickly tell myself, “That is my old stuff coming up. I reject the tendency to project that belief onto this current situation; I release the feeling attached to this old belief that no longer serves me well.” The belief that God is in control of all things, able to heal anything and everything, replaces ancient, adverse beliefs. This allows me to step out of a snare I’ve inadvertently stepped into.
Most of us carry some beliefs that we need to relinquish. One such belief is that whatever others say about us must be true. Yet this is simply not true. What is true is that you don’t have to personalize everything that is said about you by another person. Too often people with low self-esteem are inclined to do so to their detriment.
Another belief that handicaps us is that we need to set others straight. Far too often when we feel hurt, angry or afraid we are apt to react immediately. This is because we take in the words of others before evaluating whether or not we need to own those words. Reacting, versus responding, before emotions are understood and under control can become a major element of dissent in a relationship. For instance, what if a co-worker spouts off saying, “You are not pulling your weight around here!” Take a moment to evaluate, asking yourself, “Is this true?” If so, you can take a deep breath and own up to it, saying, “I think you may be right. I plan to do better.” Or, since extraordinary circumstances can interfere with our work an explanation may be in order such as, “My dog got lost and I had to spend three hours looking for him. Otherwise, I knew the coyotes could get her. I apologize and will get back on schedule with the work load.” (This presumes that you called your boss earlier to explain your emergency.)
On the other hand, given the instance of what feels like an unwarranted, aggressive personal attack, you still do not have to react even though feelings may run hot and high. A response that allows you to have boundaries with the person can be given. For instance, “I am sorry you believe that about me. I don’t see that as being true for me.” This allows the person to see her or his statement to you as not gaining your acceptance. We do not have to accept what is not true. Breathe deeply and let those words land somewhere else. Breathe away the feelings that arose within. Breathe away the sense of being judged or misunderstood.
Unless the matter must be handled immediately, a healthy self-esteem will see us stepping away from a situation while promising to talk about it later. This allows space for identifying what is felt and determining how to respond. Once you are alone, ask yourself, “Was it hurt that I felt? Did I feel insulted? Betrayed? Or, was I afraid? Did I feel ashamed, blamed, or scorned? Once our emotions are identified, allowing us to understand what is going on inside ourselves, we can choose to revisit the matter later with the person, or not. When we do choose to revisit an incident, it is important to avoid saying, “You made me feel angry” (or, controlled, misunderstood or whatever it was that you felt). Placing blame through that mode will meet with resistance.
A much better way is to say, “When we last talked, I felt blamed” (or, whatever it was that you felt). In this way you own your feelings taking responsibility for them. Difficult feelings come when we feel judged or criticized. Defending ourselves to individuals who judge or criticize us is nonproductive as it simply serves to say they have a right to judge or criticize us. For instance, saying, “Oh, I did it that way, because . . .” is a defensive statement. Those words encourage their bad manners. Only constructive criticism from a person whose help you have requested is appropriate. Otherwise, maintaining silence speaks best at points when people take it upon themselves to criticize our actions or our words. Still, something important may be learned by listening and thinking about what was said.
Expectations always set us up for disappointment. We are not being realistic if we expect to be understood or appreciated by everyone. Failing to set boundaries for ourselves when it comes to wanting everyone to like us robs us of the happiness we deserve as God’s beloved children.
It is true that our emotions are important. We need to identify them as they come and reckon with what is behind them. Emotions are simply molecules within our body chemistry. We hold the power to control, to a great degree, the biochemistry of our bodies based on what we believe and what we think. The Motivational Model below on page** shows our beliefs create how we perceive the world we live in, and everything that happens to us in this world. What we believe creates how we perceive ourselves, God, and others.
It is not hard to comprehend that our perceptions prompt the way we think. Yet, few people realize that what we think creates how we feel. Far too often we live like puppets, depending on our emotions to pull the strings. This sees us acting on every strong emotion as it arises. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, informs us that powerful emotions do not have to rule us. We can choose not to be a product of our biochemistry, of which the brain is very much the CEO. Once we change beliefs that fail to serve us well, our thinking becomes much healthier.
For instance, if we come to know God as a loving, forgiving and accepting God, while letting go a former belief that God is an angry, punishing God, we experience more joy and gladness in life. Since many of our beliefs were formed before we were six years old, it is important to evaluate what we believe. We develop good boundaries with ourselves in this way. Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight, writes that it only takes 90 seconds for our biochemistry to capture and then release us. Taylor writes, “What an enormous difference this awareness has made in how I live my life.” We too can experience this great help during our most agitated moments. It takes reckoning within the heat of the moment: “What was I thinking and believing.” Breathe deeply and remember: “Yes, I feel completely under the power of this emotion right now, but in 90 seconds this feeling is going to lose its grip.”
It is important to look further as we deal with our emotions, for it is what we think and what we believe that creates our emotions. Once we wait out the first great rush of feeling, we can ask, “What was I thinking (or believing) that would support such feelings?” It is through monitoring and shifting our cognitive thoughts that we can best set boundaries for our emotions. Taylor, an expert in brain activity, assures us that we can have boundaries with our emotions as they arise. We can breathe deeply while waiting for the emotion to dissipate. Doing this provides the brain with a fresh load of oxygen, allowing us to do our best thinking and speaking.
Without a doubt, gaining ruler ship over our biochemistry can keep us out of a lot of hot water. It is not good to give anyone “a piece of your mind” while your biochemistry is playing its tune. We know our emotions can fall out of our mouths through words spoken in haste. Our tongues can start fires resulting in more upsets in life than would otherwise take place. The adage, “bite your tongue,” speaks of keeping this fiery little serpent in place. It is hard to stop and think when we are angry. But, we can do hard things.
Using just the right words, after forethought, is an art form. This is superbly expressed through this favorite quote, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Boundaries are a must in life if we plan to take care of ourselves within our interactions with others. Having boundaries with ourselves, and with others, is all about good self-care. It is about watching our thoughts and emotions, while monitoring our behaviors. For instance, if we follow our desires, without considering the consequences, we invite havoc into our lives. That is not good as we then suffer some very difficult feelings such as remorse, self-disgust and outright guilt. Anger is a protective emotion. We are not meant to be doormats allowing others to walk on us. Nevertheless, anger can act as a wind, blowing out the lamp of good judgment resulting in abusive behavior which includes raging. Here we must have boundaries with ourselves. This is a two way street. Having boundaries with ourselves is of equal importance to having boundaries with others.
We are humans and we get angry, especially in face of injustice. As Scripture says, “Be angry and sin not, (Ephesians 4:26).” Without boundaries, you get abuse. One abuse experienced early in my life was spiritual abuse. I was ill, yet was ashamed of being sick. At church our congregation prayed for people to be healed. Although sometimes I was healed through prayer; other times healing did not come. I was eighteen when my struggle with blood clots began. Many prayed for me, yet the problem continued. This weighed heavy on my soul, as I believed God was disappointed in me.
My father misunderstood the premise of faith healing, during those years. Consequently, he told me I didn’t have enough faith, else I would be healed. So, guilt was added to my physical distress. I inwardly whipped myself due to this belief that my faith was lacking. This caused me to see myself in a negative light. Self-castigation, confusion and self-doubt were hard to overcome. As an adult, with maturity as a Christian, I can see this belief about healing is not true. Healing is a mystery. Sometimes our prayers for healing are answered. Sometimes we have to wait out the pain and suffering. However, once we let a belief go, our thinking does change and our emotions change.
There is guilt that truly belongs to us. And, there is false guilt. Here is a look at the difference between them. First, there is true guilt. For instance, a young man we will call A.J. was driving with several friends in his car. They had been drinking. He was enjoying his friends when suddenly A.J. hit another car. The other driver was injured. There is no question about A.J.’s behavior. He was truly guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Another American young man, B.W., married a woman from Brazil, named A.T. (again, not the person’s true initials). There were cultural differences and neither he, nor his new wife, could reconcile the differences that came up daily for the couple. They sought counseling, yet after giving five years to the marriage the two of them were fighting nearly every day. They could agree on one thing. The two decided to divorce. B.W., however, could not shake the feeling of guilt. He had grown up in a church that said divorce should never happen. In fact he was taught that people are sent to hell for the sin of divorce. B.W. suffered a great amount of inner turmoil, thinking he, somehow, could have made the marriage work.
As the years passed, he was helped by attending a church where divorce was looked at differently. The pastor told him, “Divorce is kind, if it ends something cruel. God forgives us when we make choices that are less than best.” B.W. knew that continuing in his marriage would have been cruel to himself, and that would also be true for his wife. The guilt was still felt until he came to my office for counseling. After a few sessions B.W. could see his patterns of feeling guilty about a lot of happenings in his life. He learned the difference between feeling guilty for a wrong action and feeling guilty out of a tendency to be over responsible. He forsook the teaching of his childhood that caused him to fear going to hell for having a divorce in his life. B.W. found freedom in realizing that: 1) God heals our lives from brokenness when we ask for God’s help, 2) when we forsake wrong behaviors, God forgives our wrong doings, never to hold them against us, and 3) mistakes become our teachers when we purpose to learn from them.
For sure, God does not want us to live with guilt of any kind. “Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool,” (Isa 1:18).
We learn how to defeat false guilt by recognizing it, then releasing it. We can say, “My spirit is done with that” each time the pattern of being overly responsible appears. Below is a list that includes a few of the tendencies that reveal a pattern for carrying false guilt. If you own up to even one of these tendencies you are dealing with false guilt. Now, you can begin to weed out all messages within your thought life that support this unhealthy pattern.
- I worry daily about my actions, and my choices.
- I feel responsible when things go wrong.
- I'm always blaming myself.
As you monitor your thoughts, make sure you don’t allow the dark or negative ones that raise unfair criticism of yourself.
Remember: Feelings follow thoughts.
The feelings we experience come from what our thoughts are presenting to us. Even with the exceptions (when feelings arise from something we see or hear, or with a flash back memory) the technique below has proven to work for many.
Some thoughts become very persistent. Many people have found the following technique to work effectively. Here is how to stop difficult, persistent thoughts when they come:
Think or say, “Stop thought!” (Conceptualize)
Mentally visualize each letter – slowly spell it out:
S T O P T H O U G H T
The thought can return. Simply repeat, “Stop thought!”
(Train your brain.)
The thought may persist. Work the mind, “Stop thought!”
Do this repetitively. The thought will stop when you continue repeating your command, “Stop thought!” If you are alone, at the time, say, “Stop thought!” out loud. Otherwise, it still works when you say, “Stop thought!” quietly within. This technique has also worked for people during sleep when thoughts arise keeping them awake.
http://www.healinglifespain.com has many available free helps, along with books by Joy Le Page Smith
 Lemonick, Michael. The Science of Addiction. Special Time Edition, the Science of Addiction What We Know. What We’re Learning. Book Excerpt: Meredith Corporation: NY (2019) p. 8.
 Many people use alcohol or drugs to make it through life, but there are much better ways than to give one’s life over to additives that get a hold on one’s life through merciless cravings.
My dependence on talking with God and seeking His guidance finds me following the call of my heart to help people get through the hardest places in their lives. This “addiction” is a peaceful path to fulfillment.
 I found that within efforts to relieve emotional pain, it helps to envision the Lord holding a big sponge against my torso. Then I mentally “see” the load of emotion moving into the sponge which soaks it up. This exercise titled, “Inner Healing Exercise, is offered in my website at http://healinglifespain.com within the list of articles at the Quick Aids button. This inner healing imager has been exceedingly helpful to a number of people.
 Mays, Gerald, Care of Mind Care of Spirit (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), pages 2-6.
 Taylor, Jill Bolte. My Stroke of Insight (New York: Viking, 2006), page 4 of 6.