Tension between camps

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We all have our pet beliefs we collar, “Reality.”

How do we get these? Through our perceptions, built on the foundation of sensory input, such as, sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, emotion and logic we construct our real world.

Reality is different of course than Truth.  Anything higher than a rutting pig, (Snort! Snuffle!) will say that our reality changes as we grow, as we perceive differently.  That is to say, as we sense otherwise.

Anyone less primitive than a grub, (Munch! Wiggle!) volunteers limitations to our knowledge.  Or else we imagine Truth to be as small as the profound brilliance of our vision.

When one camp of knowledge responds to the natural tension any of us feel when opposed with the cliff wall of the unknown, how to respond?
I’m thinking

  • teen v. parent,
  • church v. science,
  • medication therapy v. homeopathic remedies,
  • to eat off of the floor v. trash what is there,
  • and whatever other contrast you and I contend with in our perceived real worlds,

we have a time, like a stone in a stream we stand on, before we pivot and move into the current.

What do we do while in that place of tension? Do we fight for what we know is right, wielding word, fist and spit in right-ness, or righteousness expected? (Watch it! Here comes a tomato!) How do we respond to the tension between what our senses have built for us and the rightness of the sensory construction of another’s reality?

(Look out! Some mud just splattered in my eye! Well that’s one way of getting to the next stone.)
Or… We could try inspecting the architecture of our beliefs, ask our own Me, “Where is the conflict?” “How did the wall get built?” Then go toward it with the humility that comes from knowing we are at least above a garden grub, if not far, in how we perceive the world around us.

We have a point when we can argue with others or we can look inside ourselves and say, “This is our tension.” “This is coming from the way I perceive things.” “This is about Me.”

One more time, we can go home to Me, where everything starts and finishes.  It’s not very nice if we don’t, to Me.  Because in the process of starting elsewhere than home, we miss the freedom, the presence, and the place of change.  That’s where the tension is, the place of change.

Question:  How does reviewing your sensory input improve your ownership of your reality?  How does owning your reality improve your friendship with yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Own our reality.

Is Religion A Barrier In Your Friendship With Yourself?

Hello Friends.

I’d like to introduce to you, my pastor, John K. McGhee, Ed.D., Ed.S., M.S.P.H.  

We met about ten years ago in Boston, and worshiped together there for no more than a couple of months.  In contrast to how quickly I chose him, I’ve been very slow about letting him go.  He lives around the globe, talking about health, Love, God and individuals.  He has been and continues to be an important presence in my life and although I sit in other churches, he’s my pastor.  May God continue to bless him, his family and his work. 

Guest post by Dr. John Kenneth McGhee.

Dr. Sana’s blog is persuasive, and possibly life-changing.  However there may be some spiritually inclined conservative Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants who may be uncomfortable with her emphasis on self-care as a vital first-step to healthy interactions. Isn’t it quite selfish and rather ungodly to focus on self-care?  Don’t the great monotheistic faiths teach that people achieve their greatest potential when they unselfishly focus on serving others?

I wonder what God thinks about self-care?  Probably it is impossible to know with certainty.  Who can know God’s thoughts?

However, one can find ample evidence from the Holy Books to support a few principles about self-care.

1.  Self-care is promoted in the Torah.  Genesis 1:28 – 2:3   clearly identifies that God told Adam and Eve to have plenty of sex, and babies; eat nutritious food; and enjoy a delightful weekly rest.

2.  Self-care is promoted in the New Testament.  3 John 2 clearly identifies a principle stated by the human being who was one of Dr. Jesus Christ’s closest friends.  “Beloved I wish above all that you would prosper and be in health.”  Here we recognize God’s concern with finance and health care on a very personal level.  The language implies that there is a direct action involved by God’s friends that they would become financially viable and do what it takes to remain in good health.

3.  Perhaps the most concentrated teaching on self-care is given by Paul who mentored Timothy so effectively.  In I Timothy 4: 7 – 16, I find the following direct commands:

  • Train yourself in godliness – this requires time to read, time to pray, time to think, time to do acts of kindness;
  • Don’t let anyone put you down because you are a young teacher – this requires time to nourish a healthy ego, time to know who you are, time to build character;
  • Do not neglect the gift(s) you have received – this requires time to write; time to develop musical or other artistic talents, time to share gifts with others in a faith fellowship community;
  • And finally Paul counsels Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself.”

Questions:  What conflicts do you have in becoming your own friend with your religious beliefs?  Is religion a barrier to you being friendly to you?  Or, how has it been otherwise?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Be aware of barriers to friendship with yourself, even religion.

Become a Better Friend To Yourself In and With Your Culture

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A barrier to getting friendly with ourselves might be our culture.  The inverse of course could also be true.  ‘Takes culture to design the flavor of our homes and habits, our communities and the energy between us and them.  Think, TV in the bedroom, alcohol tasters offered to children, books or the absence of books on the floor and shelves.  Think religion and diet, family meals or take-out.  The way we deal with shame.  Culture is a gate-keeper for many of us.

We could call our culture, the way we live together at home, the balance between each family member and the flavor of emotions there.  Culture might be layered, wrapping us from one balance of energy into another into another creating our own galaxy between each point of light.  In any room, if we look we can find culture.  In any space outside, there is a flavor telling us how to maintain the balance between me and thee.

I don’t know if sociologists look at culture this way yet, but I hope they will.  With all that observing, data gathered and surmising, I hope they study how the individual can be a better friend to herself in “this” culture.  And then I hope they tell us.

Becoming an active designer of your culture is not always easy.  But it is friendly.

Questions:  How has your culture introduced you to your friend, “Me?”  How have you been able to develop a more friendly culture for Me to live in and grow in?  What’s still keeping you?  Please tell me your story.

Emotions – One Part of The Multi-Paradigm Weave That Makes Us Who We Are

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Yesterday we spoke about the emotion, happiness, as it connects to and does not connect to spirituality.  Traditional western religions squirm  or  more, disagree when they hear this.  Everything is spiritual in their school of thought.  However, as our understanding of where emotions and behaviors come from, we have happily disentangled ourselves from the stigma and judgment that comes from the way many people have (mostly unwittingly and often without intended malice) abused us with mental illness.

I know that I have also been in this crowd of prejudiced.  Coming out of that has been fun.  There is still so much that I think I see clearly but don’t, as it is for us all.  The growth we’re talking about is part of the high adventure that brings pleasure to life.

To say it plainly:

  1. Emotions come from the brain.
  2. Emotions are not always directly chosen as we can’t directly choose the way our brain works.
  3. Emotions are what we use to interpret the world around us.
  4. Emotions don’t have intrinsic moral value.  Morality is bigger than the way we feel.
  5. Emotions are not constant between us.
  6. Emotions are a sense.  We’ve called them the Sixth Sense.  Senses are subjective and not objective.

How does this fit into your biopsychosocial model of how you see yourself?

Biology.  Psychology.  Socially.

How does it influence the way you befriend yourself?

How might this influence stigma surrounding emotional illness?

Emotions are just one of the many things that make us who we are.  Many many things.  As we tease these bits of ourselves apart, it is not the same as denying the multi-paradigm weave that makes us who we are.

Self-Care Tip – Enjoy your emotions but don’t put your life on them.

Bring Your Separate Selves Together – Personal Journey

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Self-Care Tip #199 – Bring together what you are naturally inclined to do with what you spend your energies on.

When we do what we like to do, what is congruent with our hard-wiring, what is naturally inspiring, fatigue becomes part of our pleasure in my life.  Cliché,

Enjoy the burn,

…is common for a reason.  There are times when pain, fatigue, difficulty and hard-surfaced days are bits of what make life journey one of richness, rather than diminished.  I was reminded by Jaclyn Rae’s Blog-post today, that when we can say,

I’ve learned that I’m tired but still want to do what I do,

…we are paddling the same river our life is floating down.  When we by mental illness, misfortune, choice or neglect, don’t – we are more observant of our lives rather than participants to them.  We find being present in the process difficult.  It’s not something everyone can do in all aspects.

However, we don’t have to be defined by those particulars, choosing instead to do the hard work of processing our choices, our energy and where it comes from, our emotions and see how they weave into our constitution.  Then, some time when breathing hard, limping and spent, we will remember this and reconnect the experience with the choice and the emotion a little quicker.  We will less often separate from the water our life is traveling.  Not become observers but participate more often, more actively, more tangibly with that kernel in us that stays, our essence.  (See blog post, My Essence.)

In the marvelous work, “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Philip Pullman describes us as split persons, a body and a spirit (“demon”) that might be parted by neglect, carelessness, abuse, or other disasters.  But when it is separated, the body suffers and is disconnected from it’s life purpose, what brings pleasure and presence in the world around.  (See blog post, Soul and Body.)

There are medical illnesses that do this, as mentioned above, and in those cases, perhaps all to do is get medical care, heal, treat and get on with life.  Other times, it might be that we forgot ourselves in the midst of caring for children, a demanding job, an opinion that victim-hood defines our life possibilities or what not.  We have options.

As Jjen reminded us some days ago,

The bad doesn’t disappear but it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Questions:  How have you reconnected to your life journey?  Your essence?  What is constant about you in your changing self?  Please tell me your story.

The Presence of Stress Doesn’t Make the Disease Process Any Less Important

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Self-Care Tip #135 – If it’s medical, call it medical and not stress.  Be a friend to yourself.

New to me, Stacy came because of her problems with violence.  She was enormous.  5’11” and 200 pounds, she was just too big for her parents to handle her any more.  She was precious to them, their only child.

Taking Stacy’s history, I asked, “Does your family have a religion you practice at home?”  Stacy’s parents were giving her history since Stacy was disabled and used very few words.  Mom looked at me, and asked, “Why?  Why are you asking about our religion?”  She was sensitive.  Worried that I was packaging her up in a religion-box, she personalized my question.  I explained that religion is part of family culture and the question was simply part of getting to know them.  She relaxed a little and then said, “We have more of an ‘Autism’ home-culture these days!”

Mom looked tired although still very much engaged in her daughter’s life.

It often happens, when someone see’s me in clinic for the first time, that my questions take them by surprise.  They aren’t used to someone so directly and objectively asking and speaking about them and to them.  So it went with Stacy’s mom.  Question after question, she seemed to be in a mild state of wonder.  It wasn’t gun fire but she might have felt like it was.

“Does anyone in your family have emotional illness?  Any depression, anxiety, suicide, drugs, alcohol…?”  Why do I want to know about the family? her face said.  “No!  No one.”  I was just ready to move on to further history when she said, “Well I… I have been depressed a little on and off but I don’t have depression.  Who wouldn’t feel depressed with this stress?!”  And then Stacy’s case manager said, “Who wouldn’t feel stressed in your situation?!” and smiled and laughed with her to put her at ease.  Stacy’s case manager is a nice person.  She is bonded to the family and cares about each of them.

We completed our history and formulated a treatment plan together.  Stacy had sat mostly quietly through the hour and her parents were now at ease.  Before they left, I was able to share with Mom a couple of sentences on taking care of herself.  On seeing herself as important and in doing so, was giving Stacy the best gift she could.

What I would like to say to Stacy’s mom and to her case manager is that thinking depression is because of stressors is a great lie.  There might be some initial correlation but it is often not the point .  The real issue is medical.  I wanted to tell Stacy’s case manager that she should know better than to promote this.  I wanted to tell Stacy’s case manager that helping Stacy’s mom not minimize what she was going through was friendlier.

Stacy’s mom is not my patient, but I did pick up that she is sad, fatigued, personalizes things that aren’t about her, anxious, a little hypervigilent and suspicious, and that something biological was likely going on.  Everyone has stress, but not everyone reacts the same way.  Some of us get ill for biological reasons.  Using the stressors as decoy to the disease only preserves the state of suffering.  And it affects everyone.  Mom was part of Stacy’s recovery too.

Question:  How do you see the relationship between stress and mental illness?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care is not unChristian

 

Don’t be afraid of self-care.

Self-care is Christian and scientific.  I have awareness of the culture that frowns on taking bad behavior out of the church and into the laboratory.

A few days ago we talked about self-care not being selfish.  That circuitously brought up the question about how “the church” feels about this blog.

Confusing “the church” with Christianity can be problematic.  I have confused them in the past.

When my brother started talking evolution, I felt cold and clammy suddenly.  After my mini-panic attack, he told me about reading the entire works of Darwin and I had another mini-panic attack.  “There’s no way evolution didn’t happen.  There’s just too much evidence supporting it.”  I was confused.

It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be worried about differences between me, science and God.  Funny that my comfort level grew with this as I realized how little I knew.  In fact, my joy expanded, when I realized I would spend all eternity growing my knowledge.  That is a lot of everything that just won’t fit into any box I can think of.

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Now when something crashes through a pet-paradigm, I remember that it’s ok.  (Down fear!  Get down anxiety!  Heal dogs!)  I may see a different reality.  Parts of me may become changed by that knowledge, trauma, death of a dear one.  Becoming changed and different is ok.  Because God is the same.  God already knows whatever about evolution, or that the world is round.  He knows that we try to turn medical symptoms into something spiritual, like depressed mood.  He knows it and He’s still here.  He is the prototype of presence.  Now that people can look into the brain and say where feelings and behaviors come from, we can get past that and on to the next revelation.  So what if it is medicalized.  Science and spirituality are not exclusive of each other.

So is self-care Christian or scientific?  Things aren’t that binary.  Self-care is both.

Self-Care Tip #84 – Don’t be afraid of self-care.  Be a friend to yourself.