“We know the Bible speaks of sins of the fathers passing to the 3rd and 4th generations while God imbues his kindness and mercy far beyond that to those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Rosa had no experience in the world of mental health, or so she thought. She had spent her formative years studying the world through the perspective of her church and interpretations of the Bible. As you know, there is a lot in both with a lot to say about emotions and behaviors. However Rosa was taught and modelled that these were moral issues and not biological. An either or, verses, part of the same thing. Could we call it sequent variants, maybe something like genetic alleles? Or maybe something better to describe this is out there, rather than an either or.
Rosa Leticia Montoya, at this point in her development, with her own overwhelming emotions and her husband’s plummet into dark moods, felt forced into considering mental health. She did not want to go there, but here in the space of losing control, not trusting herself or Carl any more, and before she was willing to say she didn’t trust God, she was doing what was a last resort. Considering that she was going crazy was the only thing this chaos could mean.
Before she completely surrendered to the idea that biology was behind this sinister change, she had to ask, “Is this because of our parents?” She had spent her life trying to untwist the bad choices her parents had made and the consequences those choices had on her life. Drugs, alcohol, and cheating were what she had grown up with. Quietly. Hiding it in the church. Rosa there, praying a lot to live well and be forgiven. Praying that bad thoughts would go away. Praying to depend on God and not on herself, as seen through her perseverating worries ever since she was a child. Worried and worried. Not speaking of the wrong Bible-breaking life her parents wore like underwear beneath nice tailored clothes. Would she ever be forgiven? Would she ever stop sinning?
So she asked me, “What do you think?”
That’s a lot to work with as a psychiatrist. So I did what most of us do. Ran to the shelter of medicine. Whew! But there is the added benefit that God created medicine, psychiatry, and all that there is in my tool bag worth working with.
Even so, there was only so long that I could avoid the topic of God and His punishments, per her perspective. It came up every visit.
If you believe in God, at some point within your discovery of mental health, this question will come up. Rosa is not alone. Are the emotions and behaviors gone amok, such as seen in anxiety disorders and depression, secondary to moral weakness? Living with “too little” dependence on God’s power? Is it this? Or is it an “either or”, with our biology? …a matter of cellular grey matter composed of DNA-expressing pathology? And is this something evil woven into my DNA because of what parents did? Well, I’ve spent 30-some years in school and now 15+ years in practice in this space and am still trying to understand.
I’m wondering if you would help me articulate this. It’s fundamental for us in self-care. It’s not possible to be very friendly to ourselves with the dissonance.
So in our self-care question today, please answer us. What is the relationship between “the sins of the fathers” and biology? Please speak!
Self-care Tip: Pursue kindness in your belief systems toward yourself.
Thank you for speaking with us! Keep on!
Say hypothetically that you or I achieved full health, that fount of youth that our heroes pursued on their lonely journeys, persons of La Manche. Say we, like Tuck Everlasting, or the marvelous “Lucy,” as performed by Scarlett Johansson and written/directed by Luc Besson, became well. Became every bit of our potential. Say Fortune caught us finally in her gauzy fingers and we no longer were bound by the helix of genetic vulnerability, so much as to say that we are no longer a broken fly, indeed, in a web of inevitable need for salvation. Would God who is and who is personal be friendly to me? Or would God who no longer sensed “need” in Her subjects lose interest and wander off into the forest of other brokenness?
That’s a pathological relationship when its function is fueled by brokenness, thinking the brokenness allows for connection and Love.
How bout Me, then? Would we forget about the One who had tended our hurts, a gentle Giver, like a child moving from one wrapped present under the Christmas tree to another. Would God serve no purpose in our self-care? In fact, would there be self-care any more? Maybe in this hypothetical scene of the perfect human, we would lose connection. Perhaps we would become like the girl in Hawthorne’s fantastic short story, The Birthmark, who without our imperfections would die, unable to breathe the air. Unable to receive Love without our flaws.
No. You and I are more than this. We are not loved by a God who keeps us in misery for the sake of Her throne, for the purpose of saving us from sickness and suffering. We are not sought out in a personal intimacy that is, in its own design, sick.
God isn’t afraid of perfection. Our connection to God who is and who is personal is not threatened by our healthy selves.
Salvation goes in both directions – up and down, when we are doing well and when we are unwell, to our perfect as well as our imperfect selves.
Self-Care Tip: Let us feel very good to include God who is and who is personal, when confidence lifts. It won’t jinx Me or my connection to God to value oneself. Keep on.
Question: When do you want to connect with God? Does staying connected with God improve your self-care, even when feeling great? Have you thought that there is value in connection with God when doing well or poorly? Is it either-or in any way? Please tell us your story.
We talk about salvation as if it is an event, a diploma, a point in time, something with a frame and boundaries and a rejection of everything else about us. Salvation is not this. Salvation is pervasive.
Same with carrying your cross, going out into the world, and so forth. Salvation and all these life axioms are in the divorce we are suffering, the depression, the trouble with sleep, the courage we demonstrate going into public, the fear we succumb to, the freedom we give up to anxiety – this is all about salvation. This is what going into the world means. It’s not one or the other.
When we say, the world will fall away, it is saying that there are no dividers any more. If you’ve ever heard the term, the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make her a friend, this is the same idea. God who is and who is personal takes away the dividers and makes us Her business.
God who is and who is personal is important for self care because She is all about Me.
Self-care tip: Let the barriers go and accept the presence of Love.
Question: Does God improve your self care? Do you see dividers between your personal stuff and what is, who is, God? How does that serve you, Me?
Keep on people of courage!
Reggie showed up without his wife.
The wife was a short woman. She had some practices that usually increased the space she occupied – the smell of tobacco, the size in her chair, the volume she laughed with, her large wiry curly bouffant, and her hope-filled aura.
“Where’s your wife Reggie?”
Reggie had sat down with his usual socially acceptable moderate expression.
It was common for his wife to accompany him to my clinic and if she wasn’t there, it was only for purposes of work. She prioritized him, it was clear. However, her work was inconsistent, money was always tight, and she would most often have to travel when the opportunities arose. Being a temp in nursing was like that. Reggie was so proud of her and looked at her in that mix-matched role that any relationship between one person and another always is. In Reggie’s case, sometimes she was his parent, lover, friend, enemy, caregiver, and now, what?
If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I love the concept of Time. I fantasize a little about separating Time from space and yes, at some moments, think I am all that. (Wink.) When I asked Reggie, “Where’s your wife?” I might have done it, though not pleasantly. Something happened there that was inter-dimensional. Because he was transformed. His face didn’t melt or droop. There wasn’t a process to it. Rather he was sitting like a normal Reggie and then he was wasn’t. Between normal and transformed, to me, reality changed. The between was a crack that was a different reality. A black space without Time.
“She left me. She left me. I begged her not to, and she did.”
Reggie’s wife had done something personal. She went and died.
Even when Reggie stopped crying, he looked bewildered, raw and like the faucet was going to poor a lot more. We did get to start talking a bit about how much his wife loved him. We speculated about the love remaining after she died.
“I wish I knew! I wish I knew she was somewhere good and I wish I knew if she could see me.…”
Reggie wished he could remain connected to the love.
During our treatment together for over a decade, Reggie complied with our medical treatment in the context of that love. Reggie honored his wife by taking care of himself. He even lifted up his illnesses like an offering to her. I was struck with the concern of what kind of treatment compliance Reggie would shift to if he thought he was living without love. I was concerned that he would not value himself, including the respect he was able to show his illness without the company of his wife’s value and respect
The way that we honor those we love and those who love us, is by honoring our own selves.
It is intuitive in our nature to believe that we can’t live without love. Where does love go when we die?
This brings us to another premise in, “God and self-care,” – there is no self-care without Love.
The argument psychiatry has with the concept of Love is that sensing it, knowing it, perceiving it, is all a part of our modular brain, therefore no more than grey matter. Thus implied that it is diminished.
Question: Does it diminish Love for you, knowing that our perception of Love is as mapped out as that, even able to be man-handled, turned on or off by neuronal signals?
Please tell us your thoughts. Keep on.
Self-care Tip: Find Love for self-care.
A danger I don’t want to be confused by here is the temptation to save God. I recognize I have dabbled there. But, I am not saving God. The agenda here is not to prove or disprove, to champion Her, or to drag any of us through the cutting edge of knowledge on dark matter.
How much I get out of having God in psychiatry is all about me. It’s good for me, my psyche and my self care. I like who I am through the eyes of God, who is and who is personal. I like what it does to me and my relationships. This is how I see God in my life – home, biology, work, disaster, accident, gardening.
She cannot be quantified. If you can imagine it, God may be that and more.
If I were a plumber, than God would be in plumbing for me. It just so turns out that I am professionally, a psychiatrist.
Most people whom I’ve heard speak about God don’t have much that I want. God did not employ them, from my perspective, any more than He did to me in mine. Or the opposite is just as true. She did.
Rob the pastor needs to do what is best for Rob. Instead, I hear Rob turfing off the disappointments in his life on God.
Why do I do it, bring God into my self-care? Because I want to. Embracing that there is more knowledge than there is now in humanity, is part of Her and my relationship.
Question: What do you want? Why do you include or disclude God from your self-care? Please speak! It’s healthy for you. It’s healthy for me. Keep on.
Self-care Tip: Don’t save God. Start with Me.
As there are so many views on what “God” means, and because that’s not what we want to debate here, we have a useful premise.
God exists. God is personal.
Nor is our purpose to worry over the function of religion, to roll between index and thumb the business relationship between us and God, nor to tidy up the religious wars between our nations.
The purpose here is to discuss how to be a better friend to Me, in the context of the premise, God is and God is personal to Me.
If God is, then He is personal. Otherwise, there is no point to God, as far as you and I are concerned.
Question: How do we treat ourselves well in the context that God is personal to Me? If God exists and isn’t personal, what is the point of Him? How does working under the premise that God is and God is personal improve the way you care for yourself? Please speak out. We need you.
Self-care Tip: Accept that God is and is personal to you and keep on.