Talking about God in Medicine

train hopping
Why don’t you talk about God more?

This question is familiar to me.

People think that with as much as I see and am seen by, as a psychiatrist, I do not feel awkward.  Not so.  I can face all manner of dragon, beast, friend or foe, but put me with a Christian who wants to know why I do not talk about God as much as they think I should in my medical practice, and I become a wet-eyed girl again, hopping from foot to foot.

This would never have been a question someone would dare have asked Kreplin or Bleuler.  But then I am not Kreplin or Bleuler.  I get asked.  Kreplin and Bleuler would not be caught discussing psychiatry casually nor personally.  I do.  In the history of psychiatry, what has developed the culture of our practice, we have biases toward the practicing of medicine without bias.  I am biased otherwise.

Conversely, the culture of Christianity in our generation is that we do almost the opposite – nothing is not about Christianity.  Everyone is a creation of God so that makes it everyone’s business.

You can see how there is a tension between countries and I am a train hopping hobo.  You know the risk in train hopping, do you not?

Why don’t you talk about God more?  (Hop! Hop!)

I tried to explain this to my Dad.

“Dad, so many people, who have been hurt, perceive that the trauma related to God.  The Christian language, is for them, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and can be activating.  So many people are confused about God and I’m not to confuse them more.”  This is consistent with the culture of psychiatry and standard of practice.

It is uncomfortable on even a more personal level though.  Being Christian means that God and I are united, married, intimate and there is not much more personal than that.

We have discussed before the difficulty in describing behaviors without tagging them with a moral quality.  This is important in part because our emotions and behaviors come from our hard wiring, our temperament, not from a stick shift or consistently from choice.  We intuitively think that what comes naturally from our personality is a thing of rightness or wrongness.

We have explored that emotions and behaviors come from the brain, a human organ, and not Jerusalem, or the city of Oz.  Emotions and behaviors come from a human organ, tissue matter, and are symptoms of the health condition of that organ.   Emotions and behaviors sometimes come without invitation.   When our brain is not healthy, what we feel and do that is not friendly to Me or others are symptoms of that illness.

So now when we describe God, a very personal, intimate union in us, we oft affect our humanness.  If I describe my perception of God to another, there are huge personal implications.  Maybe that person does not want an intimate relationship with “Someone” who has my personality traits, my temperament, and as generated by the condition of my brain health.  Maybe that person might feel violated rather than be in a patient-doctor relationship.  Maybe that person might afterward, as I have felt when others described God to me, think they need to take a good hot shower or at least wash their mouth out.  Icky.  You think?

One of the reasons I love the writing of King David is that he just tells his story.  Not much more convincing than someone’s story.

The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside still waters.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me….

sheep

Nice.

When a patient is in treatment with me, there are unique moments that come and go when my story comes out, but it is not standard.

Why don’t you talk about God more?

So there you have it.  That is why, for now.  I hope to grow and assume this will not be my opinion nor practice forever.

And between me and thee, at Friend to Yourself, we are also still figuring this out.  Together.

Questions:  Do you wish your physicians talked about God more? or less?  Why?  How has it affected your treatment?  How do you wish it would change?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  When people talk about God, or hurt you and you believe Christianity or religion is involved, remember they are human, not God.

(Even me!  lol!)

RELATED ARTICLES

Oxymorons – The Flexibility In Us That Ties Us to Both Sides of Hope

Clara Bohan, wrote about the wise “white buffalo,” sacred to the Lakota as well as other Plains Tribes, such as the Apache and Cheyenne.  White buffalo’s bring us a message.  Read Clara’s blog if you want to know the message, but what we reference here at FriendtoYourself.com, is the embrace of magical thinking with an indian wearing sunglasses beside a plastic banner.  I love it.

The oxymoron is no more inappropriate than the oxymoron we find in becoming our own best friend.  In yesterday’s post, bluebee called it “schizophrenic,” which means a “broken mind.”

Self-care is an oxymoron at every turn.  Love ourselves the way we are.  Love ourselves too much to stay that way.  Are you okay with that?

Sometimes I say that calling myself a “Christian psychiatrist” is an oxymoron because I know emotions and behaviors come from the brain, yet I believe in outside input, or what many call magic and unscientific.  My own white buffalo.

Getting comfortable with the oxymorons in our life is a friendly thing to do.  We are not so perfectly collected, so well-designed and well-defended that we will ever be above the magic each of us consider, quality of life.  We could describe this in part as having a flexible identity for our own safety.  If we take away the oxymoron, we threaten our hope-factor in life.  We die as anything does that doesn’t move.

So there’s our tip.

Questions – What oxymorons are serving you well?  How?

Have you hugged your oxymoron today?

Whenever You Are Unsure, Go Back To “Me” – Self Care as A Reference Point

Church

Image by silent shot via Flickr

I’m back to everything starts and ends with Me.  It is such a delight to spend time in that space that I can’t help myself.  It draws me.  In that space, I find hope for conflicts in my life, a plan I believe in, I am accountable but not destroyed by my mistakes, I am less lonely and more connected to others and to God.  In that space, I am more a part of my life and the lives of others than I ever was in the “lose yourself in service” philosophy I was more familiar with or any other philosophical approaches to quality of life.  But I dont’ know sometimes how to share that with those who are afraid of Me.  I don’t know.

For example, sometimes when I’m in church and see the excellent people around me, I wonder what they would think if they read this blog.  I wonder if I were given the mike, would they be in their seats for long.  I’d want them to be.  I am a teacher and I get a lot out of sharing this message.  I thrive on connection so I’d be blessed that way too.  There’s much more about how that would roll back to Me and I to them.

Self-care is a reference point for me in these questioning times as well.  “What is the friendly thing to do?” I ask myself, “for Me?”  During these times, in any environment that turns me into a bunch of uncertain questions, I go back to “Me.”  That is where God is, my support network, my family, my coping skills, my health, my books and favorite toys.  That is what I call Me; my home.

Questions:  How do you share your self-care with other “cultures”?  Are you afraid?  In what ways have you been effective in doing it?  When you have done this effectively, what did it do for you?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Whenever you are unsure, go back to Me.

If you’d like to read some more about this, see “Related Articles:”

Everything Starts and Ends With Me
Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me?
Emotions and Behaviors Will Get Better As You Heal.
The Relationship Between God and The Me In Self-Care
Self-Care Works You, Pushes You, Tires You Out Until You Are Happily Spent On Your Friend – You

Loving Me without ambivalence – Perfectionism v. Passive Surrender

Light cycles designed by Mead, as featured in ...

Image via Wikipedia

The conflict of perfectionism v.v. passive surrender of ourselves to ourselves.

Yesterday we talked about enjoying our failures.  That might have pushed a little much.  But who doesn’t nurse their failure more than their success?  Who doesn’t remember their hurt in life more often than their pleasure?  It can be confusing.

This friend we call, Me, pushes us and holds us back.  But that is not said well enough.  This description implies ambivalence – two strongly opposing forces in opposite directions.  Amidst all the push and pull, we can get confused.  We work so hard on our behalf that we forget we were born flawed and will, at every step of life’s journey, have a constant relationship with imperfect behaviors and emotions all the while having hope for what is better.

I remember in Tron: Legacy that Flynn explained that Clue was created to build the perfect world.  When things became bad and Clue was blamed, Flynn the Creator essentially said,

He’s just doing what he was designed to do.  

Clue, in the name of going toward what was considered perfect, began annihilating everything and everyone that wasn’t programmed right.  Clue was baffled by his Creator’s disagreement and in the end destroyed them both.

Clu: I did everything… everything you ever asked! 
Kevin Flynn: I know you did. 
Clu: I executed the plan! 
Kevin Flynn: As you saw it… 
Clu: You- You promised that we would change the world, together. You broke your promise… 
Kevin Flynn: I know. I understand that now. 
Clu: I took this system to its maximum potential. I created the perfect system! 
Kevin Flynn: The thing about perfection is that it’s unknowable. It’s impossible, but it’s also right in front of us all the time. You wouldn’t know that because I didn’t when I created you. I’m sorry, Clu. I’m sorry… 

We, like Flynn, forget that our beauty is the constant relationship between going toward that which is better for us and allowing for our limitations, regression and failures.  These forces don’t have to be opposing.  Our life is more than an allowance for betterment and foibles; it is a position of value and respect to both.  There is this wonderment that we can in all this chaos be what we should be, now, but still in process of change.  We are all these things and Me, our friend, loves that.

Questions:  How are you doing with your Me who struggles for the whole of you?  Are you able to join Me?  What limits you?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #274 – Love what keeps you from your goals and what gets you there without ambivalence.

We Try Knowing We Will Fail. The Wonderful Journey Of Flawed People.

The t-shirt

Image by plαdys via Flickr

It’s 9:23 PM and our little kids are still awake!  They’ve cried.  They’ve laughed.  We’ve cuddled.  We’ve spanked.  They’ve taken two showers and brushed their teeth twice.  We ate several times.

I was riding my bike, watching a movie, (I love that!), and my daughters were taking turns coming in to complain, wet me with their tears, snuggle, hold me; you get it.  My exercise and my movie were peppered with refreshing breaks.  Sitting on the couch chair nearby with my five-year old during one of these intermissions, holding her, I was able to say,

It’s okay.  

I was able to do this because I was the one in the casita getting pumped up and my husband was the one in the house herding children to bed.  He had the tough job that turns me into a turnip and I had this.

You can do it.  You can try again.  You can try again, even if you are trying for the one-hundredth time.  You try and you try and you try again because that’s what makes our lives beautiful.  The trying part mostly.  Not the arrival.  

And that’s when I grabbed her and held on.  I suddenly felt so blessed.  From this off-night, I was given the reminder that the trying part of life is where it is at.

It’s 9:33 PM and I think they’re asleep.  Sigh.  Tonight was awesome.

We are flawed people.  We try, knowing we will fail.  Who does that?!  Why would anyone do that to themselves!?  Smile.  Ah.  Sounds wonderful.

Questions:  How is your journey?  Have you been enjoying your failures lately?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #273  – Enjoy your failures.

Take Care Of Yourself to Give Love to Others

Give, take 'n share

Image by Funchye via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #195 – Take care of yourself to give Love to others.

Belen came in, confident.  She was comfortable in her element.  Working in her area of specialty was her delight and she didn’t worry about clocking hours or mixing it up with family.  Her work was part of what family meant to her.  It was what brought pleasure to her life.

“Wonderful!” you say.  And yes, it is.  “Why then did she come in to see me?” you ask.  Glad you asked.

This was Belen’s third marriage.  Marriage was not where she felt confident.  Talking marriage was when her lip surfaced, quivering on her face, transforming her.  In the past, Belen had often dropped her husband’s name, laced him into stories she told and her ring was a favorite finger toy.  I had the impression that Belen was proud to be married to this man.  But it wasn’t until today that Belen spoke about Ben directly.

I sat up because I was curious about this emotion that had flickered behind it all until today, when it was front and center.

In this case, Belen was afraid of her emotions in fact.  She was aware of them, but they were in a foreign code to her.  Tap-tap-pause-tap-tap-tap-pause… and so on.  She started by telling me about their evenings together.

Ben was a grazer who expected open time with her.  Belen, however, was a barn girl.  When she sat with her husband in their “open time” over a slow dinner, a drink, watching him read a book beside her – it took everything in her reserve each day to stay put.  All her nerves were dancing, telling her to get up and work.  It was what gave Belen her quality of life.  Her work was her self-care.  Ben’s time to meander through thoughts and play was in contrast, what gave him pleasure in life.  He waited all day, pushing through a task driven job, to come home and do this.

Potential negative energy was coiling up inside and Belen was afraid that she might be overcome by it.  Belen did not want to think about what that might end with.  Another failed marriage?  Losing this man she was so glad to be married to?  Dying alone?  She looked at me sideways, ashamed of her emotions.

I’m turning into Crazy Wife.  I yell at him for things that are no big deal.

My answer came too fast this time.  It wasn’t graceful or polite.  I regret that.  It’s never been a forte for me and one of the reasons I recommend my patients find a psychotherapist who will patiently stand beside them rather than collar them and drag them to water (like a certain psychiatrist I know.)

Do what gives quality to your life.  Claim it when you do and don’t hold him responsible for it.  He’ll feel guilty and defensive.  ‘Oh, I have so much work to do honey.  I can’t sit here…’  You are not a victim.  This is your choice.

Unfortunately, there was more along those lines, but like Kevin Blumer says,

I wish the blog world was the same as the real world where people have a chance and can think about things before they (say) them.

Alas, at least we have our keyboards, pencils and erasers.

Belen was losing her lovely confidence to resentment because she wasn’t doing what she was wired to do.  She wasn’t owning her choices.  She thought loving her husband meant that she shouldn’t and because of that, she was only giving him her uncared for self.  She didn’t realize that doing what gave her joy was the best way to Love others.

Question:  How do you help the people you love realize that when you take care of yourself, you are taking care of them too?  (This should get interesting!)  Please tell me your story.

“He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.

Self-Care Tip #163 – Name abuse when it is there.  Be a friend to yourself.

Alexandria (Alex) was crying a lot.  She was trying to divorce her husband but he wouldn’t leave.  He wouldn’t speak.  He only yelled.  He yelled at her, alone, in front of their kids, in the morning, when he came home from work, he yelled.  And he never spoke to her any more.  It’s been weeks since they spoke.  When I asked her if she thought she was abused, she said, “No.  He’s never hit me.”

Mar de Emociones / Emotional Landscapes

What do I do?  I can’t go on like this but everything I try, he won’t listen!

There are so many things many of us would tell Alex.  But would any of it make sense if she didn’t know she had rights?  If she didn’t know what was happening to her?  If she didn’t know, this is abuse.

The “Do You?” questions, per Dr. Quijada, to ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you are abused:

Do you feel good about yourself when you are together?

Do you feel scared?

Do you feel like you have choices?

Do you have effective boundaries; observed boundaries?

Do you say, “No,” and are heard?

Do you have a balance of power?

From the outside looking in, we could answer these questions for Alex.  But anyone who is or has been abused in any way knows that from the inside, answering these questions is hard.  It was hard for Alex.

Alex missed a few beats.  She didn’t want to see herself as abused.

Identifying abuse, naming it, is a start towards the other side of things.  It is reaching the peak of a hill or mountain of life-stuff, taking the view in after the fog lifts, and knowing that things are the way they are.  This is abuse.  A tangible thing.  Not the drifting mist of fights or arguments that once stalked you, leaving you bewildered and empty-handed.  Simply naming abuse is the start of empowerment.  Name it.  Name it out loud.

“I am abused.”

Alex said,

Wow.  I didn’t know that what he is doing is abuse.  I didn’t know.

After we talked about the name of what she was suffering, she talked about what she thought she could do about it, such as:

Call 911 if she feels unsafe.

Record him.

Say the words out loud, “I am valuable and should be treated well.”

Get a restraining order.

…And other things.

Alex didn’t have a lot of extended family support, so for her, that was out.

Alex said,

I feel more empowered.  I didn’t know I could do that.

And there it was.  A dandelion growing out of the cracked cement.  Hope.  A redistribution of the unequal power.  Alex was growing a plan.

Question:  What would you tell Alex, yourself, or anyone else in her position?  How do you see words being a form of abuse or not?  Please tell me your story.