Category Archives: counseling

Belonging

Belonging

We were at a memorial for a friend this week. These events are always bittersweet for me, and I’m sure for everyone else.. We celebrate a life while at the same time mourning the loss. They grab our attention and trigger all sorts of feelings. Perhaps the younger people don’t fully comprehend the shortness of life, and the value of not wasting energy on things that don’t matter. But many who attended surely do.

As I looked around the room and recognized so many old and new friends I was struck by an intense feeling of belonging. These are my people. This is my extended family. Many of the folks that were in that room would care if something happened to me, just like they cared about our friend. The feeling was “We lost one of ours.”

People who isolate, whether physically or emotionally do not experience the “belonging” that I am talking about. There are few intimate stories that can be related about them. But those who have risked being known will have many who can speak about them in detail.

“These are my people”

I think the “anonymous” groups like AA are successful because they create a sense of belonging. It doesn’t matter that the reason for being there is the result of pain and error. What matters is the acceptance and the sense of belonging. Like it or not, these are “my people.” Often there is a fierce loyalty that is created.

I have spent many of my years in shallow relationships, afraid to be known. It took a lot of intentionality to break free from operating defensively. Perhaps you can relate. I am not saying that we should develop intimate relationships with everyone. Far from it. Not everyone is safe and worth the risk. But we must find a place where we can belong and seek out the connections that will hold up under stress.

Some people believe they have no relational need outside of their nuclear family. I have seen too many very unhealthy families to agree with that position. Especially when we come from a broken family we need to belong to an extended, supportive group. I am not suggesting that we abandon family (except under dire circumstances), rather just not make the family our exclusive relational world.

Some groups that we belong to are temporary or transitional, like school or work related. Others are more permanent like our church or career. I was in several bands in the early years, but mostly one career. The intensity of the feeling of belonging in each was related to my investment. The more I invested (risk involved) the stronger the sense of belonging.

I believe that the church (God’s family, not the building) can be the most genuine expression of belonging that is available to us. Yes, belonging to this family can sometimes be challenging because it is made up of people. However, the underlying stated values, when followed, will be self correcting. These values include love, forgiveness, humility, peacefulness, patience, kindness and many more. When these values are held as essential goals, who wouldn’t want to belong?

Dedicated to Dan Raymond

OCD And Me — Or You

OCD

Lately I have noticed an increase in clients that are displaying symptoms of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I suspect it is consistent with the helping professions’ reported escalation of anxiety in general. It is no surprise that in our stressful culture as well as the almost daily reports of tragic events in our world, anxiety has outpaced depression in the reason for seeking counseling. And OCD can develop as a response to feeling out of control.

Those who suffer from OCD can experience anywhere from mild to severe distress depending on how troublesome the symptoms are for them. Often the person may feel shame, or blame others for not accommodating their abnormal or disruptive behaviors.

I have a lot of grace and empathy for both the sufferer and those who live with them. Change takes time and effort and there may be core wounds that are painful. What I have found to be the best strategy to deal with this or many other challenges of this sort is as follows.

  1. Own it and be humble about it.
  1. Get educated about it – including any parties closely involved.
  1. Seek competent help, and be willing to take and follow advice.
  1. In a relationship treat each other kindly, but set appropriate boundaries.

Here is a checklist that will help you determine if you might be experiencing OCD. And if you see any imperfections in my formatting of this post, please let me know.

OCD CHECKLIST – Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz (Brain Lock)

Dirt and Contamination
Unfounded fears of contracting a dreadful illness
Excessive concerns about dirt: germs (including the fear of spreading germs to others); and environmental contaminants, such as household cleaners
Feelings of revulsions about bodily waste and secretions

Obsessions about one’s body
Abnormal concerns about sticky substances or residues

Need for Order or Symmetry
An over whelming need to align objects “just so”
Abnormal concerns about the neatness of one’s personal appearance or one’s environment

Hoarding or Saving
Stashing away useless trash, such as old newspapers or items rescued from trash cans
The inability to discard anything because it “may be needed sometime,” a fear of losing something or discarding something by mistake

Sexual Content
Sexual thoughts that one views as inappropriate and unacceptable

Repetitive Rituals
Repeating routine activities for no logical reason
Repeating questions over and over
Rereading or rewriting words or phrases

Nonsensical Doubts
Unfounded fears that one has failed to do some routine task, such as paying the mortgage or signing a check

Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)
Troublesome blasphemous or sacrilegious thoughts
Excessive concerns about morality and right and wrong

Obsessions with Aggressive Content
The fear of having caused some terrible tragedy, such as a fatal fire
Repeated intruding images of violence
The fear of acting out a violent thought, such as stabbing or shooting someone
The irrational fear of having hurt someone, for example the fear of having hit someone while driving

Superstitious Fears
The belief that certain numbers or colors are “lucky” or “unlucky”

Cleaning and Washing
Excessive, ritualized hand washing, showering, bathing, or tooth brushing
The unshakable feeling that household items, such as dishes, are contaminated or cannot be washed enough to be “really clean” 

Having Things “Just Right”
The need for symmetry and total order in one’s environment, for example, the need to line up canned goods in the pantry in alphabetical order, to hang clothes in exactly the same spot in the closet every day, or to wear certain clothes only on certain days
The need to keep doing something until one gets it “just right”

Hoarding or Collecting
Minutely inspecting household trash in case some “valuable” item has been thrown out
Accumulating useless objects

Checking
Repeatedly checking to see if a door is locked or an appliance is turned off
Checking to make certain one has not harmed someone, for example, driving around and around the block to see if anyone has been run over
Checking and rechecking for mistakes, such as when balancing a checkbook
Checking associated with bodily obsessions, such as repeatedly checking oneself for signs of a catastrophic disease

Other Compulsions
Pathological slowness in carrying out even the most routine activities
Blinking or staring rituals
Asking over and over for reassurance
Behaviors bases on superstitious beliefs, such as fixed bedtime rituals to “ward off” evil or the need to avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk
A feeling of dread if some arbitrary act is not performed
The overpowering need to tell someone something or to ask someone something or to confess something
The need to touch, taps, or rub certain objects repeatedly
Counting compulsions: counting panes in windows or billboards along a highway, for example
Mental rituals, such as reciting silent prayers in an effort to make a bad thought go away
Excessive list making

Building a Team With Wisdom

team

I have been thinking about team building – particularly in the context of relationships. I am always encouraging couples to be a team, but what am I really asking of them? Am I asking for agreement, holding the same opinions and conclusions on issues? What does it take to build a great team?

When my business partners got together to make decisions we didn’t always have the same perspective. We didn’t want to allocate money, resolve employee conflicts, or support vendors in the same way. But we got along really well. We lasted 27 years as associates with a pretty minimal amount of conflict and then dissolved our business with equanimity.

A functional team is cooperative, not contentious. All it takes is one hostile person to subvert progress. Disagreement is not hostility, it’s simply a different viewpoint. And a good team looks for diverse ways to approach situations. It’s actually what brings strength and innovation. But what makes the difference is in the presentation of opposing ideas.

Cooperative people would say:

“Have you thought about….” or “Could it be more effective if we……” or “Is it possible that we might try….” Or  “I’m seeing things in another way”

They tend to listen and validate the person even if they disagree with the perspective.

Contentious people might say:

“You’re just wrong” or “That’s a stupid idea” or “How could you even think…..”

They also tend to bring anger, blame, contempt or even disgust to discussions.

When couples function as a team they attack problems, but not each other. There may be elevated emotions, but they don’t lose sight of solving the issue as their goal. They remain friends in the process.

Churches are teams. Life groups (small groups) are teams. Corporate staffs are teams. Any group of people joined together to perform a task, reach a goal or build relationships are a team. When dealing with a volatile person, it’s helpful to know that their volatility or hostility may be a blind spot. What they feel is “normal” communication may appear to you or others as highly argumentative and oppositional. If they are able to receive constructive criticism you may win over a strong supporter. If not, you may need to either bring in a third party to help, or discontinue the relationship. That position is Biblical.

(Matthew 18:15-17) “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. 

What if you suspect you are the difficult person? It never hurts to check it out with a wise, safe person. Then go to those you may have offended, in humility, and ask forgiveness. It really works wonders. 

I’d also recommend watching this video clip from Henry Cloud when learning discernment about self or others: The Wise, The Foolish and The Evil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruoPQuePhV8&t=256s 

Drop us a line if you have any questions.