Category Archive: Trauma

Oct 25

Broken is NOT Worthless

 

broken is not worthlessSuper excited this week to share with you a blog written by my sweet friend and fellow CCA counselor, Allison Hutson. It’s a tremendous blog!! Allison is joining me out at our McKinney location and is currently scheduling clients. She is the counselor, I send all my friends to. Her blogs and social media accounts rock! Find her online at http://www.stewartsgift.com or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @StewartsGift.
When you hear the word “broken” what comes to your mind? Close your eyes and visualize “broken.” What do you see? Sit here, mindful of the image of brokenness… what feelings are you experiencing? … Sit deeper into that feeling and image… where do your thoughts travel to? Being aware of all your senses right now, what stands out to you as you are focusing on brokenness? How would you put into words what this exercise has been like? Be descriptive… use colors, verbs, details… now open your eyes and shift your focus away from the brokenness.
As you open your eyes and shift your focus, you are probably finding it difficult to move away from this experience. You are probably feeling a bit dazed. You are probably noticing a weight that has come over you. You are probably feeling stuck in the images, emotions, and thoughts even though I have asked you to shift your focus. This is because brokenness does not go away just because we will it to vanish. Brokenness is a total body experience that lingers long past its welcome. Broken likes to fragment… Broken is many pieces. Broken is complex. When life is broken it too is complicated and fragmented. Brokenness in life is not relieved by a simple resolution or merely willed away.
When life leaves us broken, we feel worthless. Click To Tweet
When life leaves us broken, as it so often does, we tend to equate broken with worthless. If we break a material object we consider it trash and throw it away, right? We have learned that broken is trash, it has no value, it has no purpose, it no longer functions properly, its worth is no more. Scripture says, “I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel” Psalm 31:12. This is not a new feeling or experience, it is how people CHOOSE to conceptualize brokenness. But what if brokenness was not worthless or trash? What if broken was not lacking in purpose or value?
Scripture says:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
“Well, that’s great and all…but I am still broken…” I know, scripture is not magical and does not take away all of our pain. But my prayer is that you begin to see brokenness from a new perspective. I want to share some pictures of artwork created by artists from broken materials.
Broken Glass:
‘Glory Window,’ Chapel of Thanksgiving, Dallas, Texas
Shattered Glass Sculpture by Daniel Arsham
 “Echo” by Caleb Nichols
 Broken Ceramic:
Broken Dishes by  Li Xiaofeng  
“Broken Things” by Chilean artist Livia Marin
Sandra Shashou ceramic art sculptures
Broken Pottery:
 Restored Vase
 Re-purposed Flower Pot
These are materials that most people would have thrown into the trash. The flower pot breaks and no longer pots plants so we throw it in the trash. The dishes shatter so we quickly label it useless and sweep it into a trash bag. But the images above portray a new possibility. The images above declare trash, in the hands of an artist, can be a new creation full of value, purpose, and beauty. No one would call any of the artwork above worthless, trash, without value… people are drawn to this art! In fact the original form of the dishes are significantly less in value than the re-purposed art piece!
 Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Isaiah 64:8 reiterates, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
You are the artistic masterpiece of God Click To Tweet
YOU are the artistic masterpiece of God…he has created YOU and has the ability to take YOUR broken pieces and re-purpose you with intent for you to be purposeful, valuable, beautiful, and to function fully! The reason why we are broken is not fully important… it matters, but there is no reason too great that would prevent the Master Creator of the entire Universe from making YOU a masterpiece!
 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6. I love this verse because it implies that the paths we travel in life are broken. They are crooked. They lead to dead-ends, hurt, pain, and grief. The further we attempt to fix our broken pieces alone the more broken our path becomes. We take the path that allows us to be numb (alcohol, drugs, etc.). We take the path that attempts to experience life or feeling of sensations again (self-mutilation or self-harm). We take the path that will possibly end life and the broken worthlessness we live with (suicide). We take the path that paralyzes us (anxiety). But here in Proverbs we are told not to trust our own understanding of what creates life; we are encouraged to trust in our Creator (the ultimate artist) to put the pieces of our broken life together so we can travel a straight path that is appealing and satisfactory!
An artist sees opportunity where others see no potential. When God looks at you he sees your brokenness and whispers, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
Life breaks us taking the fabric of life and shredding it into many pieces leaving us tattered. What makes us feel like worthless scraps, God can knit and sew into a beautiful tapestry perfect, valuable, and adored.
 Quilt Made From Scraps of Fabric
Broken is increased worth and value. Broken is untapped potential. Broken is a testimony to new beginnings. Broken is opportunity for restoration. Broken is a beautiful masterpiece.
Are you broken? Is life complicated? Do you feel fragmented and worthless? There is hope! You are the masterpiece of the greatest artist…God of the Most High…who is desperate to restore you, re-purpose you, and let you experience your full potential. Let God work in your life to double your value!
“Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.” Isaiah 61:7
This blog was originally posted at StewartsGift.com

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/not-worthless/

Jun 14

Criticism or Compassion?

Which do you prefer…criticism or compassion? Seems like an easy choice right? I mean…who would choose compassion over criticism? Criticism hurts, it arouses our defenses, and brings with it self-doubt and pain. So who would willingly choose criticism over compassion? No one right?

Well, maybe not from other people but many choose criticism over compassion toward ourselves on a regular basis. We each have a critical voice that develops over our lifetime. Some of us have a harsher, stronger critical voice than others. It speaks harsh criticism with words like “you should have” or “why didn’t you” or worse barraging us with words like “loser”, “failure”, “worthless”.

There are many reasons why this inner voice develops. Sometimes it is an internalized voice of a critical important person in our lives, like a parent. Sometimes it is the result of abuse and trauma we experience. Sometimes it develops to keep us achieving at a high level, which we call perfectionism. And, sometimes it develops to keep others in our life happy with us. Mostly, it exists because we are all sinners living in a broken, fallen world with other broken people and as a result we experience shame. The shame emotion says “there is something wrong with you”. Let’s face it, there is something wrong with us….it’s called sin. Shame didn’t exist prior to the fall (Genesis 3). And since then, we have lived under shame’s tyranny.

Now if someone were speaking shaming criticism to us on a regular basis, we would consider it abusive and it would create deep sadness, fear, and pain. If we heard someone speaking to a friend that way, we would rise to his or her defense. Yet, inner criticism gets free reign in our mind and heart. It impacts our emotions and relationships. Instead of questioning it, challenging it, or defending ourselves we try harder to be perfect, please others, or quiet/numb the voice through a variety of addictions.

Inner criticism gets free reign in our mind and heart impacting our emotions. Click To Tweet

Sadly we don’t even recognize it as criticism…it just becomes our inner dialogue. Yet with this strong inner critic come feelings of sadness and anxiety. That is the natural result of living under constant criticism.

So what is the solution? Compassion….self-compassion. We understand nurture and compassion for others but often are mystified on how to give it to ourselves. Learning self-compassion, giving ourselves permission to be human, and embracing our imperfections is the road to peace and freedom.

Learning self-compassion and giving ourselves permission to be human is the road to freedom. Click To Tweet

Beloved Jesus followers, let me share something incredible. God sent Jesus to die for all of our sin and shame. ALL of it was laid on Him on the cross. When we believe in Him…we not only have ALL of our past, present, and future sins paid for but we receive His perfection! That perfection we strive for is already ours. God sees us always and forever as covered by the blood of Christ, perfectly righteous. So embracing your imperfections allows Jesus to be glorified. Embracing this and laying down the slavery of abuse and perfectionism is good news!

God sees us always and forever as covered by the blood of Christ, perfectly righteous. Click To Tweet

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Persmission to be Human is Self Compassion

 

For more on this topic check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion Website. Here you will find a great description of self-compassion and exercises to help you grow it. You can also check out a few of my previous blogs on the topic: Embracing Imperfection and Finding Freedom and Be a Friend to Yourself. Need more help, find a good counselor. There is always hope!

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/compassion/

May 31

Grief, A Vital Process For A Healthy Life

Grief Definition
Loss. Death. Mourning. Sadness. All these words come to mind for many of us when we think of grief. Most of us associate grief with a big loss, like the death of someone we love. In America, there is an unspoken expectation that grief happen quickly or privately. We rally around people during crisis and loss but weeks or months later the unspoken message is move on. We are a culture comfortable with surface level conversations but uncomfortable with hurt, pain, and sadness. Grief is probably the most misunderstood idea.
We are a culture comfortable with surface level conversations but uncomfortable with hurt. Click To Tweet
What is grief?
Grief is the process of incorporating loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. Loss happens throughout our lives in many different forms. I define loss as any change connected to something or someone of value to us that must be accepted. Because loss is connected to what we value, loss is an individual experience. What I might consider a loss might not be a loss to you. There are universal values that we all agree fall under the loss category: losing loved ones to death, a divorce, or a sudden violent trauma.
Grief is the process of incorporating loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. Click To Tweet
Any change involves some level of loss because of the nature of change. Even a good change, a marriage or the birth of a child involves change and loss: the loss of freedom or independence in a way that one had before. So even with something we universally agree is a good change there is a grief process to incorporate that change into our lives.
Any change involves some level of loss because of the nature of change. Click To Tweet
What happens when we deny the loss and suppress our feelings?
Well, emotions are signals and give us energy to act. To deny the signal is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock. The emotion will come again. If there is continual emotional suppression, then your body may decide you aren’t listening to the emotional signal so it will try to communicate with you physically. The brain and body are meant to express a range of emotions based on the situations we are presented with in life. Emotions help our brain and body process life. To deny this critical dimension of our bodies confuses our brain and puts it in a higher level of stress. This stress comes with heightened levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which can impact your physical well-being. I am not a medical doctor but I do know that if your body senses that it is under attack then heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tenseness, and breathing all increase in an effort to prepare us to protect ourselves. This level of arousal over time is detrimental to our body. It affects sleep, weight, immunity, energy, and over-all functioning.
Emotions are signals and give us energy to act. To deny the signal is like hitting snooze. Click To Tweet
Somehow our culture has correlated strength with no-emotionality and weakness with emotional expression. This is how we function and what so many teach our children. “Don’t cry.” “Be strong.” So when loss hits (of any kind), we feel “crazy” when we feel legitimate loss emotions….especially if the loss is not a societally acceptable loss. What is sad is we are anything but “crazy” we are functioning normally. Our mind and body is doing exactly what it was created to do.
Back to the concept of grief: learning to incorporate loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. This process is critical for living in the world and facing all the loss that comes with normal life. However, delaying or denying the experience of grief actually adds to suffering instead of preventing it.
Grief is critical for living in the world and facing all the loss that comes with normal life Click To Tweet
Grief involves:
  • The permission to feel whatever you feel. Feelings are what they are. Allow yourself to identify all the feelings you feel throughout the day and take note of them. Use an emotion word list to help you (especially if naming the feeling is new to you). Take note of the emotion you feel and write them down. You will find yourself feeling a range of emotions and that is normal. No feeling is bad. Hear and accept your feelings. You may feel shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, fear, denial, relief, gratitude, confused, overwhelmed, love, lonely, or abandoned. I want to repeat….all these feelings are NORMAL. There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with loss.

    There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with loss. Click To Tweet

  • Connect with supportive safe people. We are not meant to live in isolation but in supportive community. I think this may be where our culture wars against us. In America, we value the independent individual over the group. The trouble is independence breed’s isolation. In isolation, humans struggle. Just look at movies like Castaway and Martian. We need each other. Especially in times of stress and trouble. Sharing our emotions and thoughts about loss with supportive safe people helps us in multiple ways.
    • Processing our pain and loss with people helps us recognize that our emotions are normal
    • We experience comfort and support from others.
    • We are better able to mentally incorporate the loss into our lives when we are able to talk about it and share with others.
  • The search for meaning. We are meaning creators. We search for meaning in everything and often this is a subtle and unconscious process. Often during loss we subtly take meaning from the experience about the world and ourselves. The danger of suppressing emotion and putting on a strong face to the world is the creation of an unhealthy meaning. Processing it alone (and only in our own heads) increases the likelihood that we will arrive at a meaning that is harmful. When we don’t share our emotions and thoughts with others, our inner critic grows and increases our shame experiences. For example: if someone loses a job to a layoff and they never grieve or share it then they may determine that there is something wrong with them and begin to question their worth and value.

    When we don’t share our emotions and thoughts with others, our inner critic grows. Click To Tweet

  • Self-Care. The grief process, although a necessary one, is an emotionally and physically exhausting process. Giving yourself permission to take care of you during this process is important. Pay attention to your sleeping, eating, exercise, feelings, connection time, and enjoyable activities.

    Giving yourself permission to take care of you during grief is important. Click To Tweet

  • Expect the process to be one that is up and down. Incorporating loss into life is not a straight-line journey but a roller coaster ride. That’s okay and normal. No matter the loss, some days will be easier than others. Expect hard days, they won’t last forever. Self-Care during hard days may look different than easy days.

    Incorporating loss into life is not a straight-line journey but a roller coaster ride. Click To Tweet

  • Compassionate Acceptance. Ultimately the goal of grief is accepting life as it is (not how we wish it were) and adjusting to the new normal. Whether it’s life without a loved one or life after retirement or life in a new town or life with a new job or life with the family we have (instead of the one we wish for) or any other reality we must accept…grief is the process that gets us here. Yet the grief journey is not one that can be undertaken without compassion…compassion for us, compassion received from others, and compassion from God. Jesus was a “man of sorrows…acquainted with grief” who “bore our grief’s and carried our sorrows”. Life is hard and pain is real. Yet, we do not have a God that doesn’t know what it is like to suffer or feel overwhelming sorrow. We have a God who can sympathize with us and wants us to “draw near…to find help in our time of need”. (Isaiah 53:3-4; Hebrews 4:14-16)

    Ultimately the goal of grief is accepting life as it is (not how we wish it were) and adjusting… Click To Tweet The grief journey is not one that can be undertaken without compassion. Click To Tweet

Life comes with loss and struggle is part of life for everyone. Grief enables us to incorporate loss into life and accept life for what it is. Grief unites us. We all experience it for so many different things. Grief brings about our vulnerabilities and drives us to others and God for comfort. To deny these realities increases your suffering. Life can be beautiful even in the midst of pain and struggle.
Life can be beautiful even in the midst of pain and struggle. Click To Tweet
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief—But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Hilary Stanton Zunin 
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love” Washington Irving
 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/grief/

Jan 26

Shocked by Suffering

Not sure how to start this blog on suffering. It’s been a while since I’ve written. The unexpected happened in our family during the holidays. It doesn’t matter how much you intellectually know that we all experience suffering in life…it still catches you off guard and knocks you flat out! Trust me…I hear suffering all day…it’s part of my job…I’ve studied it…I’ve walked through some of my own…I am not unaware of the reality…and yet when it hits close to home….it’s tough.
God's Presence in SufferingSudden suffering has a way of knocking the wind out of us. We struggle for air, shaken, not sure we can get back up.
Despite everything, I can say in the midst of sudden suffering the following things are tangibly real:
  • God’s presence is so much stronger and clearer during times of suffering and struggle.IMG_4070
  • God’s peace really is amazing and completely incomprehensible.
  • God’s people SHOW UP!
  • God’s plan is better than mine (that’s a hard one…but it is, I know it).
  • God is good despite my suffering.
  • Our world is sooooo broken.
  • I long even more for God to make all things new.
Sudden suffering looks different for all of us. It could be a serious illness, tragic accident, natural disaster, recurrence of depression, extreme panic or anxiety, or anything that knocks you down. Whatever it is, let me say this…
You are not alone.
You can walk this road.
You are stronger than you think.
You are brave to get back up.
You just have to take it one step at a time.
I don’t by any stretch have all the answers…but I feel compelled to share what I have learned (and am still learning) about walking in suffering…mainly so I can go back and read it later…hopefully it helps you on your journey too.
First, take the time you need. I mean if you need to go be with family, if you need to be alone, whatever it is you need…make sure you give yourself that time. Our schedules and daily demands can all be put on hold. It’s not selfish to take the time you need.

IMG_4064

Second, know what replenishes your cup. In counseling we call this self-care. Know how to take care of you, how to rest, and what you can do to keep going. Is it remembering to eat, giving yourself permission to sleep, time alone, time with others, whatever it is….make it a priority now more than ever.
Third, tell others what to do. Everyone wants to help in a time of crisis…they feel powerless and they love you. So when they say, “let me know what I can do”….they mean it. I get it, you don’t know what you need…but when you do…share the need. We don’t frequently because “we don’t want to bother people”. It’s okay to ask even for help with small things.
Fourth, you will feel all kinds of things at all different times and that is okay. Take time to feel what you feel.
Fifth, gather close your support system. I’ve found there are people I can be with that let me process and deal. Those are the ones I want around me. Those are the ones I ask the most for help. Those people are the ones that can help you identify what you need, will let you process, and can help you organize everyone else that wants to help.
Sixth, don’t struggle alone. Burdens are so much easier to bear in community. If you don’t have an existing support community, find a good support group or a counselor.
Remember….
You are not alone. You can walk this road. You are stronger than you think. Click To Tweet
You are brave to get back up. You just have to take it one step at a time. Click To Tweet

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/shocked-by-suffering/

Sep 28

Deep Feelings and the Gospel

Loss hurts. Change brings fear of the unknown. Struggle is hard. Trauma changes us.
Sadness, anger, shame, and fear can feel overwhelming leaving us stuck and frozen, not knowing what to do.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
“My tears have been my food day and night” Psalm 42:3
How much do we identify with the Psalmist? How much do we struggle with loss, sadness, anger, fear, and shame? How many nights have we wrestled and cried.
Frequently we think it is wrong to experience normal feelings or that somehow it means we don’t have enough faith.
Life in this fallen world hurts. Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans, living in a broken world.
Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans Click To Tweet
The Psalmist reminds us that our souls are thirsty for more…..
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2 

deer2

The water our souls thirst for is found in Jesus. He is Living Water. Every other relationship on this earth will fail to satisfy.
Loss and hurt is a reminder of our need for Him.
Shame and the pain of trauma is a reminder of the deep brokenness of creation and our need for Him.
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. Click To Tweet
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. God can handle your questions. Your feelings communicate needs.
God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. Click To Tweet
In this Psalm, the writer knows he needs to praise God and remember how faithful and loving the Lord has been to Him. He challenges his inner dialogue and reminds himself of the truth!
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock; “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-11
God is good. God is faithful. He has proven His love for me time and again. Remember. He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, redeeming, restoring and rescuing love.
He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, and rescuing love. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/feelings/

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