Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do Conjoined Twins Share One Mind?

The New York Times recently highlighted Krista and Tatiana, conjoined twins unlike most other sets of twins. They are connected at their heads, where their skulls merge under a mass of shaggy brown bangs. The girls run and play and go down their backyard slide, but whatever they do, they do together, their heads forever inclined toward each other’s, their neck muscles strong and sinuous from a never-ending workout.

In what ways does this shape our understanding of personhood and humanity? If they do share one mind, should we think of these as two persons or one, and why?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mental Health Care for Veterans Overhauled

Health care in the United States is in itself being worked on continuously. It has taken some time for Veteran's benefits to become an issue of concern in the public media. Mental health concerns such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have risen as Veterans have been returning from recent deployments, and they have been a concern as far back as the 1970's. While PTSD can be traced as far back as the Civil War, the ability of instant media has brought current concerns for mental health care into the public view.
Advocacy groups such as Veterans United for Truth have been outraged by the mental health care that has been available for all Veterans and the difficulties faced with the health care. Within the 6 month time span of October 2007 to April 2008, 1,467 Veterans committed suicide while waiting for their appeals for health benefits to be processed. It is numbered that up to 18 Veterans a day commit suicide in one day as it has been the 3rd highest killer in the military since 2008. Mental health concerns with Veterans are not only limited to suicide, there have been various concerns regarding mental health treatment and care for Veterans mounted over the years. Concerns such as domestic violence, legal concerns, substance abuse, and other ailments can be correlated to mental health issues. These are concerns that have been present for many years but now have become more of a concern with rising media capabilities.

U.S Flood Concerns: Fear continues

Concern for several cities are high in the United States East Coast, with regards to the recent floods of the Mississippi river.
While flooding in the region reaches record high, well surpassing the Great Mississippi flood of 1927, it should also be a concern as to what will happen if the areas destabilize as they did during hurricane Katrina.
Crimes during times of crisis were not only limited to Hurricane Katrina. As close back as February 2011 In Queensland, there were 81 police officers on 225 charges ranging from looting, to fraudulently soliciting flood donations Property damage is a tremendous concern and already estimate to reach hundreds of millions of dollars more. The city of Memphis is already believed to be at $320 million dollars currently, and damages are believed to continue to keep rising. While property and homelessness are going to be a difficult and long term concern, it is important to consider all possible crimes as well. While local law enforcement and relief agencies are charged with enforcing the laws, it is interesting to observe the behavior of other cultures as well. While Japan recently suffered a recent Tsunami due to an earthquake, the absence of looting reports have been noted throughout international correspondents. It is reported by the BBC that along with law enforcement, that local crime syndicates such as the Yakuza were enforcing social order throughout the disaster areas. The District Attorney for Shelby county in Tennesse warns to all as to the legal consequences if they are to commit crimes against those flood victims, and those who would take advantage of them as well. Families and individuals are still becoming victims to this flooding, and the end of this tragic disaster is still not at an end.

Stability on the Surface

This article is centered around a police officer who has been indicted on very serious charges that range as far back as two years. While he has been charged with domestic violence, as well as six felonies, this article addresses several issues. One of our books "Telling Yourself the Truth", depressions, anxiety, fear, and anger. While this officer is accused of several crimes ranging from domestic violence, assault, as well as drug trafficking, the situation goes further into his personal life.The bible quotes such behavior; "His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly." Proverbs 26:26
Several of the factors such as "Anger as a norm" describe several of the officers behavioral patterns over years while serving as an officer of the law. Up until this most recent indictment of charges, this police officer had a 10 year exemplary service record. The officer is accused of serious charges, and the article does not mention some thing that would be dealt with in the future. The families involved in this ordeal will likely have a great deal of individual trauma. All parties involved were perceived doing well and to be in healthy relationships from the outside, yet they were filled with anger, violence, and deceit.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Facing the Violence

Bullying is damaging, and sometimes, the consequences of the harsh words and treatment can lead to the loss of life, as in the case of Pheobe Price. This young 15 year old girl was ridiculed by three older schoolmates both in the school and along the entire walk to her home in Massachusetts, and in the end, she took her own life. When sent before a court, the victims admitted to committing the act that led Pheobe to her death, but the judge resolved that none of the high school aged women would spend time in jail for this crime.

In the book “Hurt People Hurt People” many of the case stories provided included a section in which the violated individual had to learn to forgive their violator and to move forward. This forgiveness, though the perfect example of the response of Christ, was often due to the fact that the person only stopped in their physical, emotional, or mental violence because their victim had outgrown them or taken a stand for themselves. The goal of the book was for the violated to be able to find healing, but a part of me would like to see the violator face up to their crime and take control of the unhealthy behavior and thought processes that they have displayed.

When one person hurts another for the purpose of creating pain or amusing the self, then there should be responsibility taken for that hurt. Too often the perpetrator is allowed to move forward in their life without any real consequences being applied to their situation, which leaves them free to either endanger another weaker individual physically, emotionally, or mentally, or to endanger themselves. A threat that is not taken care of does not only cause harm to those they lash out on, but also on themselves.

A Case of the Nerves

The stress and anxiety that people suffer is abundant in nature. Anything from your job, your classes, your family, or your personal life can trigger stress and small doses are generally a good indicator of active participation, if not a slightly overbooked schedule. However, many people do not know how to differentiate between stress and anxiety and a full blown anxiety attack. Elizabeth Cohen, a blogger for CNN Health discusses the difference between the fluttery heart palpitations caused by stress and an anxiety attack.

She explains that stress and anxiety is generally caused by a trigger or multiple triggers. This causes the body to have a nerve-wracking reaction that lasts for a short period of time, but then subsides. It is never anything that incapacitates the individual. A panic attack, however, is an anxiety disorder and has no discernible cause or trigger. Symptoms for a panic attack happen at the blink of an eye and include fear, shortness of breath, body tremors, and sweating.

With the advent of finals, it is important to understand these symptoms for stress and to be able to (appropriately) modulate our stress levels in accordance to what the body can handle. A racing heart does not always mean that something is wrong physically, but it is a good indication that you need to slow down, if only for a little, and allow your body to catch up with the pace of the rest of your life.

An interview with Jim Caviezel Regarding "The Passion of The Christ"

Everyone remembers the controversial film by Mel Gibson back in 2004. In an interview with Jim Caviezel, he talks on how the role of Jesus has hurt his career.

Mel Gibson told Caviezel before taking this role that it would stunt his career in Hollywood and Caviezel's response was "We all have to embrace our crosses". Caviezel explains that he has no regrets and that our true rewards will be when we are in heaven.

I thought this was a very interesting article to read. Thinking about Jim Caviezel, I have not seen him in a movie recently. And I really admire how he does not regret taking the role of Jesus even though it has hurt his career maybe even for the long run. It made me think about how we are supposed to take up our crosses daily to bring glory to the Lord. Caviezel clearly knows how to do this. He is going around speaking at churches now regarding his testimony. Testimonies are a powerful tool in reaching other people. And I think that his testimony will have a powerful impact in the lives of Christians.

Friday, May 6, 2011

No preaching in public

In Hemet, California an evangelist pastor of a church in S. California and two of its members were arrested for reading the Bible outside of the DMV. The men were reading Romans 1 to passersby and were asked to leave by a highway patrol officer. The men continued to read the Bible and were arrested a few minutes later, their Bibles taken from them. The officer told them that they were not allowed to preach there because there was a captive audience. However, when the pastor asked him what law they were breaking he could did not answer them. The entire incident was videotaped and is on you tube with over 66,000 views. The men were taken downtown and arrested for impeding an open business, even though the DMV was closed and they never stood within 50 feet of the doors. The three men are now filing a federal civil rights suit against the California Highway Patrol officer.
With all that has occurred the pastor has received a great deal of feedback, both positive and negative. When asked about his perspective of the whole ordeal, he stated that he was surprised by the events and wants only to ensure that others do not have their freedom of speech rights violated. He uses his religion and faith to cope with everything that happened, affirming that he had simply wanted to share the Scriptures with others. In this account, personal faith is an extremely positive factor that enables his ability to cope with the pain of not being able to freely share his religious beliefs. This allows him to continue on through this difficult process so that Christians are able to read the Bible on public property without fear.

Indiana, first state to vote against Planned Parenthood

On Wednesday, the Indiana House voted to approve a bill cutting all of the federal money that the state distributes to the organization Planned Parenthood. This bill will also ban any abortions that take place after the 20th week of pregnancy unless it endangers the woman’s life. Furthermore, any doctors practicing within the state would be required to teach patients that life begins at conception. While this bill was approved by the House, State Governor Mitch Daniels, who will be running for president next year, still has the capacity to veto it. In order to decrease abortion rates and avoid funding practices which they do not agree with, many conservatives are urging him to pass it. However, many others are insisting that he veto it so that marginalized groups will have greater access to the healthcare that Planned Parenthood provides. This organization is involved in family planning and not only provides women with abortions, but offers STD and cervical cancer screenings as well as breast exams. They assert that many women will be cut off from the aid that Planned Parenthood provides. On the other hand, conservatives affirm that any monetary funds given to the organization will in some way go to support abortion which they do not intend to do.
I found this particular article interesting as it relates to so many discussions that we have had about personhood in class. These officials assert that personhood, and life, occurs at the time of conception, which is in accord with many Christians perspectives. By defining life in this manner, this bill will have a profound impact on society, which is why it is such a controversial issue.
Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, no one should have to pay to support an act that is against their beliefs. While Planned Parenthood does provide a number of discounted services to underserved populations, it primarily performs abortions. To ask people who do not agree with abortion to pay taxes that support this organization is a violation of their beliefs. Furthermore, there are other means by which Planned Parenthood can acquire funding that would not require the support of people who do not agree with their practices.

Equine Therapy
This article talks about attachment disorders and the research behind detecting what type of attachment style a person has by the reaction of a horse. This article mentions that a horse will back away from a person who has an insecure attachment style because the horse can detect that the person does not trust it. However, the horse will draw closer to someone who has a secure attachment style because it can sense that the person trusts it.
I had horses in Pennsylvania and this story exhibits truth about horses. They are able to sense things that we as humans cannot sense. It is strange, but incredible at the same time. My horse was able to tell if I was scared just by my physiological responses. Horses only trust us when they know we trust them. It is great that they are able to use horses' knowledge and sense to determine a person's attachment style. It's possible that a person is unaware of their attachment type and are not able to receive help until they do know, but now research shows that a horse may just be what this person needs in determining that attachment style!

Taking Revenge....

As we all know, recently Osama Bin Laden was finally found and captured. For many Americans, this has been a source of jubilation as we have now captured the man "responsible" for the deaths of thousands during 9/11. However, Dr. Gerloff in her article, The Psychology of Revenge: Why we Should Stop Celebrating Osama Bin Laden's Death, argues that this jubilation of death should be stopped.
For many Americans, this has been a touchy subject, particularly those that have been directly effected by the actions of Osama Bin Laden. Gerloff argues that celebrating the death of an individual, no matter who the individual is, is a violation of the sanctity of life. She argues that by celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death we are becomng a nation that honors death, instead of life. And in doing so, we continue a back and forth revenge cycle of killing between America and terroist.
Overall, I do think that she brings up a good point in regards to analyzing all of the celebration occuring because of Osama Bin Laden's death. Sometimes I question whether it is a bit too much (i.e. chanting in front of the White House). However, I think her view is a bit naive of the true nature and threat of Radical Islam. She assumes that by changing the nature of how Americans act we can end the cycle of terroism. But this does not take into account the strong ideology that has formed those beliefs.

I hurt cause They hurt

There is this article I read about how children cope with pain in the same ways that their parents cope with pain. They say in the article that the way that the first born child deals with pain can be predicted by the way there parents deal with pain.

This makes a lot of sense to me base on what we have learned in class about attachment. Attachment is the interaction with caregivers early in life that contribute to patterns of how to interact with others. By early we learned that this is about from birth to 24 months of life. So if the child is making patterns for life base on their early caregiver then it stands to reason that the child would pick up on how the parent deals with pain and try to deal with pain in the same ways.

Shopping Stress Away

I read this article that said when a person’s self-esteem is threatened they tend to buy more luxury items and they are also more willing to pay for these luxury items with credit instead of cash. The article was saying that spending cash upsets people because they don’t like to part with it so when people are all ready hurting they tend to use their credit card to spend money instead of using their cash. The article also says that luxury items repair a person’s self-esteem after it has been hurt by restoring that person’s sense of self-value.

This article was interesting but it made me sad when I read it. The points that this article brought out were all good points but they all hit to close to home. I don’t know if it is because I am a woman or because I am little extra sensitive, but I am such an emotional shopper. When I am upset about something when I am back home I head to my favorite mall and just hang out there all day. I have turned the mall into my little girl’s favorite place to be. Since I have been living here at school I have started online window shopping for hours. So I do agree with the findings in this article.

I agree that the findings are true but I don’t think it is the way it should be. In class we read a book called Telling Yourself the Truth that could help us emotional shoppers. In Telling Yourself the Truth it teaches how to recognize the lies and misbeliefs we tell ourselves and how to combat that with the truth. The misbeliefs in this situation are many. First I would tell myself and others that the misbelief of self-hate is a great place to start. It sounds a little harsh but the chapter will cover why we shouldn’t get our value from things. Also we maybe would need to take a look at the self control chapter to deal with our need to spend. Once we start living a life in the light of the truth the less need we will have to be an emotional shopper.

Stressed from Birth

I read this article about how the cortisol levels in children of bipolar parents were higher in times of stress then those of children whose parents don’t suffer with being bipolar. In the article they say that they believe that before this problem is developed in the child they could teach both the child and the parent ways to deal with stress, and then the child may never develop a problem with cortisol.

This article goes perfectly with all the things that we have been learning and reading in our class. One of the last books we needed to read for class was The Anxiety Cure. The Anxiety Cure gives lots of practical advice to what to do in times of stress. I would use this book to teach the bipolar parents how to deal with stress while they are still carrying the child, before it is even born. Then after the child was born I would continue to use The Anxiety Cure to teach these parents how to deal with all the daily stress of being a parent, and how to teach their children how to deal with their stress. This as the article said would decrease the cortisol levels in the children.

Crisis in the South: Emotion Regulation

Recently there has been a series of tornadoes ripping through the south, with the worst damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. When a sever disaster occurs it adds a new dimension to emotion regulation. Our emotions are influences by our cognition, our physiological responses, and the social context when the stressful event occurs. Regrading this natural disaster in Alabama and across the south, the way people perceive the disaster, their physical well being and the social context will influence their ability to regulate their emotions. It is obvious that a disaster this extreme will heighten emotions for those directly impacted. The better care these people receive from the outside community the more likely they will be to regulate their emotions in a more healthy way. For example, inadequate nutrition and physical illness will make it more difficult to control one's emotions. If suitable food and medicine are provided people may have an easier time. The horrific loss these people have experienced calls for more than providing the basic necessities. On site crisis counselors are also needed to give the people an outlet to express what they are feeling.

The Potential Inside is a film written, produced, and directed by Liberty Alum, Scotty Curlee. The film was shot here in Central Virginia and many of the scenes were shot on Liberty Mountain. When I went to the showing of this film all I could think about the whole time was the annotated bibliography on religious coping that I had just completed. In this film a professional cyclist experiences a life crisis that causes his faith to be shaken. It is clear throughout the film that his initial response to this crisis is to use negative religious coping. More specifically he takes on a self directing religious coping style that is manifested by becoming angry with God for allowing this situation to occur. He also discontinues attending church services and withdrawals socially from family members and friends. This movie is a great example of negative religious coping and the effects this style of coping can have on an individual's life. I highly recommend everyone in our class to watch it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poor Dr. Doofenshmirtz

In the popular kids’ television show, Phineas and Ferb, the villain,

Dr. Doofenshmirtz, is always up to some evil scheme. Dr. Doofenshmirtz implicitly credits most of his evil doings to his childhood and upbringing. The audience can easily tell that Dr. Doofenshmirtz suffers from several psychological disorders that are rooted in his childhood. His relationship with his parents was not the most healthy of relationships, and he probably possesses an insecure attachment style as a result.

Attachment is very important, as was said in class. Attachment posits that the relationship a person has with his primary caregiver during the first two years of his life will affect the attachment he experiences in his relationships for the rest of his life, and will especially show itself during traumatic or serious situations. It is so important for children to receive messages of security and worthiness from their parents in order to form correct understandings about themselves and others.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a primary example of this theory. With an insecure attachment with his primary caregiver as a child, his current relationships suffer as a result. He does not have any close, healthy friendships and as a villain, he is always attempting to sabotage good in the world and cause pain. In addition, he suffers from many psychological disorders, showing that his insecure attachment not only affects his relationships, but also how he developed as a person.

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday. Actually, it was also Ryan Andrews’ birthday. Anyways, as I celebrated my birthday and thought about the year that had just come to a close, it made me also think about my spiritual birthday, the day that I was born into the family of God.

Salvation is a beautiful picture, full of transformation and change. As we learned in class, at salvation, the sinner becomes a saint through the substitutionary atonement that Christ performed on the cross, through the shedding of His perfect, sinless blood. Even though humans were the ones that disobeyed and sinned, Christ took the penalty that was rightfully theirs. At salvation, Jesus redeems the sinner and reconciles his relationship was God. Through all of this, the man is justified; God looks at the man and declares him not guilty in light of what Jesus did on the cross. And through the justification, the man is adopted into the family of God, a spiritual family, giving that man full rights to all the privileges that come with being in God’s family (Romans 8:15-17).

So today, only a few hours after my birthday, I reflect upon my spiritual birth into His family. I thank God for sending His Son to die on the cross for me, to take the place that I completely deserved. I thank God for His grace in drawing me to Himself and allowing Himself to be found by me. I thank God for opening Himself up to me in relationship, revealing Himself to me. I thank God for offering me new life and helping me to conquer sin and old ways of life. Salvation is a wonderful gift that only God can offer. It is increasingly complex, and yet beautifully simple.

Spirituality...AND Science?

While it may seem contradictory, recent research at leading universities explores the intriguing connection between religion and health. Duke University has delegated an entire branch within their psychology program to this study.

This summer, the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke is hosting week-long intensives to post-doctorate professionals, approaching health in a surprisingly holistic manner. Topics of study will include:
-Resources for learning more about spirituality and health
-Previous research on religion, spirituality and health
-Applying findings to clinical practice
-Spirituality of the health care provider
-Theological considerations and concerns

As future Christian counselors, it is exciting to see this trend within psychology. While in the past, religious practices were viewed as neuroses, and a sign of psychological dysfunction, even non-religious psychologists now acknowledge the impact of spirituality on both physical and psychological health. Findings on how people use religion to cope raise questions about the use of spiritual interventions in therapy.

The door is wide open for Christians to engage their faith, and even conduct research to show the effectiveness of spiritually-based interventions. While professionalism definitely requires sensitivity to clients' preferences and religious orientation, it is exciting to see scientists hypothesizing on the inter-relationships of spirituality and health.

Rather than being shy or ashamed of our faith, Christian psychologists should be on the front lines (in both Christian and secular circles) of scientifically investigating, theorizing, and applying spirituality to the counseling experience. Negative stereotypes about a Christian counseling education as inferior can be easily reframed as critical preparation for helping clients address spiritual questions and explore the use of religious coping in their path toward psychological health.


In the song featured above, Regina Spektor asks her friend how she can make her feel better. The idea is that when we were children, our mothers could kiss us where we were sore and often enough, we would feel better. Her friend needs more then a kiss on the knee this time, but with out an effective solution, Regina is "getting sadder and sadder" and she doesn't understand what her friend needs.
Like the people in the song, we as counselors are interested in helping our clients feel "better". People are more complex than we ever dreamed and without an effective strategy for dealing with pain, counselors are susceptible to issues such as vicarious traumatization, empathy fatigue, and depression.
While many counselors are vigilant about learning the best methods from treating their clients and reading the latest research on their area of focus, they are less faithful in taking care of themselves. "The Anxiety Cure" offers a wealth of information about the impact of not resting properly as well as practical ways to implement healthier habits into your routine. Being a responsible counselor includes taking proper care of your own mind and body so that you can fully engaged in the work God has for you. Feel better, so that you can help other people feel better.

The Tsunami...and Emotional Regulation

Speaking of the crisis in Japan, a recent CNN article reported, "Even after rescue, survivors struggle to come to grips with disaster." The Japanese people (and TV viewers all around the world) are grappling with the reality of death and loss. Many people are experiencing intense and crippling emotions.

Culture impacts how these emotions are regulated. Japanese culture is given to a strong sense of community pride and strength, Dr. Makino shares. While the Japanese word hone means honesty, tatemae means what is actually verbalized in an attempt to "save face." In a situation of crisis, tatemae always wins.

In a culture where it is shameful to appear weak and needy, it seems that many survivors are regulating emotion the best they know how--by denying the impact of trauma and belittling their powerful feelings. Because Japanese culture does not foster emotional regulation skills, survivors are having an especially difficult time responding to the tsunami crisis in a healthy manner that promotes psychological healing.

But the trauma is not just in Japan. Noting the impact among TV viewers, the APA suggests a plan for how Americans can manage personal distress triggered by watching footage of and hearing about the tsunami. Technical words aside, the APA is basically laying out guidelines for emotional regulation, noting the power of how emotions are handled in overall psychological health.

As future counselors, it is critical to note the impact of culture on how people experience and regulate emotion, as well as the emotional impact of events all the way across the world on the emotions people experience even here in the U.S. While no two people experience emotion in the same way, psychoeducational training like the APA provides can give people a framework for responding to trauma.

The crisis in Japan shows that, even in a fairly non-emotional culture, trauma has a way of activating deep, even overwhelming feelings. Often, people come to counseling in a time of crisis, whether it is environmental, like the situation in Japan, or interpersonal. It is our priviledge (and challenge) as counselors to validate and explore our clients' emotional worlds and help them develop strategies to integrate their emotional experience into their daily reality.

Cripple Me

Today I heard a song called cripple me. It is the story of a man who is running away from the woman he loves. contrary to his actions, he actually wants to stay with her and asks that she "cripple him" so that he will be unable to run away from her.
This song reminded me of a story I've heard in Christian circles, that shepherds in Bible times would break the legs of lambs that constantly wandered away. The idea is that the shepherd would set the broken leg and carry the lamb on his shoulders until the leg healed. When the lamb was well enough to walk alone, it would chose to stay by the shepherd's side for the rest of its life due to the bonding experience of being carried on his shoulders.
Because of the Christian setting I heard this story in, I always assumed the story from the Bible, or at least that is was based on Biblical principles, but now I'm not so sure. Though God has the right to force our allegiance by "crippling us" in some manner, that is not something we see the good shepherd do in scripture. How does the shepherd draw his sheep? My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd.
I think we've created the story of the shepherd breaking the legs of stray lambs, because that would be so much easier for us. If God made it physically impossible for us to wander from his side we would never wander into sin and pain and we could always be sure we are on the right path. Easy as that would be, God allows us to choose him or reject him. In the song above, the woman is not going to cripple the man. When she stands at the alter offering him her kiss and her whole life, there is a window of opportunity which will slam shut if he rejects her. She will not force him anymore than the shepherd forces us. We have to choose.

Intercessory Prayer

This article is about Intercessory prayer, and talks about why people are advised to use intercessory prayer. Use scriptures as evidence to prove strengths and essentials. Not only, the author, also show the purpose of how intercessory prayer should be used. The reason I chose this article is because I did my research on prayer influence on healing as my annotated bibliography and most of the journals mentioned intercessory prayer as one of the studies. I was glad that prayer was mentioned as a study, it is basically saying that the scientist started the research because prayer is actually working and it has gained enough attention. However I was not satisfied with the conclusion that the researchers presented, I did not liked the fact that prayer was treated as a tool when we all know that it is more than that. I know that prayer is a communication that is done between a person and God, a connection between souls; however it is sad to know that not many know this point. As counselors we should be advised to use prayer for clients not as a tool to cure the problem but to show that God exists to provide love to the client.

Kissing a Prince: Perspective

A picture is worth a thousand words!

I absolutely loved this picture and video of the first "official" kiss when I saw them because there is so much going on all in one moment.

Here are a few things that I think I see:

1.) A DREAM COMING TRUE: A "commoner" Princess kissing the Prince that chose HER in front of billions of girls who are dying to be in her shoes (or hating her for it).

2.) HOW PRACTICE MADE PERFECT: There were articles written about how the prince and princess had to practice and practice to get the perfect camera angles for THE kiss that would be seen around the world.

3.) PERSPECTIVES: How two little girls can witness the exact same event, but potentially because of age and attention span, they have a completely different vs. annoyance.

4.) ANXIETY: you have one attempt to be perfect...with millions of people screaming at the prince to kiss his bride in front of Buckingham palace, and every camera capturing their every move, there was no room for error in this moment.

Much of counseling has to do with perspectives, where our focus lies, and how we interpret and apply the truth found in certain events and in the world around us. There are so many factors that play into this interpretation that we have been studying in our counseling classes such as attachment styles, cognitive and physical development, support or lack of support from friends and family, and the strength of our religious faith.

We have been talking in our class about the three aspects of emotional regulation: Cognition, Physiological Response System, Social Context. It would be interesting to know the process of emotional regulation for both the Prince and Princess on their big day, and how it would have differed if it was a private family wedding. The book The Anxiety Cure shares that one thing we need "today more than ever before in history" is rest. In thinking about the new Prince and Princess, and all of their new duties and trips, not to mention trying to work on their new marriage, I also wondered how much rest they have gotten these last few months, and how they plan to get this rest in the future.

This has led me to ask myself how I have done getting rest in my first year of graduate school. I have realized that my perspective of being "so overwhelmed" at work, "so stressed" with school work, and how I view there to be no time to rest, has negatively affected my emotional regulation this year. I need to be more intentional with changing this perspective.

I hope the prince and princess put the same energy into fighting for the perspective that rest is crucial to their marriage and effectiveness, as they did for their first "official" kiss! If so, their chances of living happily ever after will be tremendously enhanced.

Grilled Cheesus...

During my research regarding healing and prayer, I noticed in a lot of medical journals that there is a lot of openness towards spirituality and religion. Many of the medical journals were trying to bring a holistic approach to health care, in which religious belief and ideals is brought into the process of health care. However, this move towards spirituality and religious influence into modern culture is nothing new, but something that being demonstrated throughout music, art, literature, television. For example, recently Lady Gaga came out with a new song, in which she sings about her opinions of Judas.

Continuing this view of pop culture, an episode of Glee just came out called "Grilled Cheesus." This episode revolves around religious belief, as one of the characters finds a picture of Jesus burnt into the crust of his grilled cheese. He spends the episode praying to this grill "Cheesus," in which his prayers are answered by this piece of bread. In addition, an openly gay character, Kurt, has to deal with his connection of faith and reality when his father goes to the hospital from a heart attack. In particular, he deals with accepting prayer from individuals who truly care about his dad even though he is an atheist. In doing so, a conversation between theism and atheism is presented in the show.

Overall, this show presented an interesting view of how culture is openly debating and looking at spiritual issues. In this secular show--on public television nonetheless--these religious thoughts on God are discussed. This makes me realize how hungry our culture is for truth. Our culture is not one that has completely silenced religion, but has demonstrated an openness and willingness to discuss it. I think as Christian we should take this oppurtunity to demonstrate truth through all mediums, including counseling.

The Lotus Temple In Yogaville: A place for Christian Meditation?

In our multicultural counseling class we had to do a group project immersing ourselves in another culture. Our group chose the Jewish culture, and after interviewing a Jewish woman, I heard about the small town of Yogaville, VA.

This woman shared in her testimony how she lived in Yogaville for years trying to connect to her inner voice before coming to Christ. After spending time during the semester hearing her amazing story, some of our group decided we would take her offer and go with her to Yogaville, to visit her mother.

At first I was hesitant to consider even going there, due to the different teachings of Hindu and Yoga, especially since I had heard many negative things about Yoga. I did not want to expose myself to things that were not of the Lord, so I originally did not want to go. But, after looking through the website called "Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville" I started to wonder if this place could actually help those people who struggle with anxiety. The website encourages people to go and experience a spiritual community, get a little rest and relaxation, and take part in daily meditation and vegetarian meals.

In the book The Anxiety Cure there is a chapter on mastering Christian meditation where it explains the different forms of meditation such as prayer, study of Scripture, as well as worship. New age meditation, such as yoga and transcendental meditation (TM), has put such fear into Christians, that Dr. Hart's response is that "this is a pity... and Christians need to rediscover the value of meditation by putting Christ at the center of it" (Hart, 1999, p. 238).

A daily activity in Yogaville is spending time in the "Lotus Temple" (inside of the temple, picture on right). This temple is open to people of all faiths and is the only shrine ever built to house altars for every major faiths, and also faiths less well known.

Could it be possible for Christians who struggle with anxiety to be open minded to actually going to a place like Yogaville and spending time in the temple meditating on Scripture, praying, or worshiping? Psalm 1:1-2 says, "Blessed is the man... (whose) delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night" (NIV). We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. Can this include going to the temple and meditating on Christ? I agree as the book states that meditation is "powerful and natural anxiety reliever... and as a spiritual discipline, which also has eternal benefits" (Hart, 1999, p. 239).

I will be going with some of my group members, to visit the mother of the Jewish lady we interviewed, and I look forward to asking the Lord whether I should be using the many forms of Christian meditation and spending time in the Lotus temple.

Catching some zzzzzz's.....

So, during the very last test that we turned in, we looked at the book The Anxiety Cure by Dr. Archibald D. Hart analyzing some of the factors that can lower stress and anxiety. Hart claims that one of the largest reducers of stress is sleep, which gives the brain a chance to "reset." Ironically, as I was working on my test at 3am in the morning, I learned that sleep deprivation causes a lot of stress in an individual.

That being said, I've found an article discussing the dreaded all-nighter that many a college students have performed. This was once seen as an uncanny ability to steal time from the night, in order to finish uncompleted projects, such as an annotated bibliography or two. But, as this article argues, all-nighters have the same effect on the brain as consecutive nights of sleep deprivation.
Taking several rats that willingly sacrificed their lives to the cause of science, the researchers tested the effects of acute and chronic sleep deprivation on these scientific martyrs. In doing so, they acknowledged that the effects of acute and chronic sleep deprivation were equivalent. As such, much of the cognitive functions of the rats were
drastically reduced through this sleep deprivation.

This study made me consider and think about the long term damage that pulling a all-nighter can do on the body. Not only, does it have the effect of reducing an individuals ability to deal with everyday task, but it also reduces an individuals ability to deal with emotional problems as well.

Integration: The Battle between Psychology and Christianity

The counseling program we are enrolled in is integrative, having roots in both psychology and Christianity. Many of the books that we have read this semester have stemmed from combining aspects of psychology and Christianity together. Integration of psychology and Christianity has been debatable by some and admirable by others. There are some aspects of psychology such as techniques, goals, and research that are beneficial to a client in the counseling process that Christianity does not specify. Psychology can benefit the counseling process in several ways.
In talking with one of my dear friends yesterday, she had become frustrated between the whole debate between psychology and Christianity. Her philosophy was that if she couldn't openly tell people about Christ, then she didn't want some man made standard of ethics to contain her. Psychology has many positive aspects of Christianity entangled in it. Yet, it is still giving the credit to man, not Christ. Her view point confused and intrigued me. She has been trained in psychology and knew the positive effect that psychology can have on mental health. However, she couldn't pursue psychology anymore at the time. She had to give credit where credit was due. It then really got me to think. Yes, I can incorporate Biblical principles with future clients. However, when people are at their most desperate times, what do I do when I can't freely share the gospel of Christ due to the setting that I am working?
I don't know my stance. I have been wrestling with the thought all morning. Because I am a student, I have not yet been in a counseling situation in which I have felt that I have had to compromise my commitment to Christ of sharing to gospel to the ethical standards of psychology. I want to help people while following Christ. I'm still not sure what that looks like, what setting that may be, or what philosophy will be used in counseling. I'm thankful that this class and other people have made me take a deep look at what really matters while I am still learning on this journey.

Lady Gaga = Loser?!?

Insecurity. It feels like a dreaded swear word sometimes, doesn't it?!

How many people are willing to admit when they actually feel it? Many of us become experts at NEVER admitting this reality, and finding thousands of ways to ensure that no one ever finds us out if we do.

Why? What makes us freak out at the thought of our weaknesses and insecurities being exposed? Maybe it's just that...that we view insecurity as a weakness, but is it really?

This MUST SEE VIDEO shows Lady Gaga (who has been dubbed the "Queen of Shock," and is an international superstar and controversial singer), after one of her biggest shows at Madison Square Garden. She contradicts herself as she begins saying she doesn't give a $*#! (I applogize for a few of her expletives) about what people think, and yet the rest of her video clearly indicates otherwise. She then wonders aloud and through tears, how she should feel so happy after doing a show like this, but instead of feeling confident and powerful, she feels it's crazy how she still sometimes feels like a "loser kid in high school."

If you listen carefully Lady Gaga goes through the steps of Misbelief Therapy outlined in the book Telling Yourself the Truth without knowing it. She first identifies the misbelief of feeling like a loser in spite of her circumstances, then she argues against that misbelief saying that she is a superstar who can't be destroyed. Then takes this one step further and replaces her misbelief with the truth that it is worth it so that she can fight for every kid that is like her and feels the way she feels. She concludes by praying and thanking God for her many blessings, fans, and asks for strength and courage to help empower others and not to give in to her insecurities.

I'm still not sure what I make of all that Lady Gaga shares and prays in this video, but I do know that it takes courage and vulnerability to admit when we are feeling insecure, and not as confident as we would like to come across. It's scary to risk being made fun of, or having your feelings invalidated if you share them, but it is so worth it when you get the support God designed us to give and to get.

Let's all work at being people who are supportive of the "Lady Gaga's" of the world as we identify, remove, and replace the many lies we believe with the truth.

The Extra Mile

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about the book The Anxiety Cure and suggested that she take the time to read the sections on the importance of rest and relaxation and why slowing down is so crucial in our lives today. This got me thinking about the many ways in which my own life has slowed down even though it remains, at times, impossibly hectic.

In high school and college I competed in short to middle distance running events and field events. I’ve always appreciated and been good at bursts of intensity over endurance. If you can win a race in a half mile, why run more? If you can jump the highest or longest on the first try, why jump more? Not surprisingly, I see this theme everywhere in my life.

I have been a runner for 20 years now. My running life now consists mostly of nursing an unpredictable right knee with a very tight IT band while trying to pound out as many miles as I can throughout the week, resting on Sundays. It doesn’t make sense now to drive to the track and sprint 800 meters. That’s not really a workout and doesn’t provide the health benefits of distance running that I need at this stage in life.

So God has been teaching me the value of slowing down, going longer, and getting stronger. My “races” (in running, with God, and in life) now are about endurance, appreciation of the scenery as it goes by, and a willingness to experience the pain associated with process (and man is there pain!). To be sure this is also an exercise in patience…another area where God knows I am severely deficient.

The value of slowing down is something we need to have a decent grasp on in order to counsel those who have not yet learned how. Our society scoffs at the idea of rest, and increasingly it is seen as weakness. I may not be as quick as I once was, but with patience and endurance, with perspective and with surety that only comes from a mature relationship with God I will still reach the finish line richer for the journey. Helping our clients to reach their goals and to find meaning in the journey is something to which we all should aspire as professional counselors.

The Proposal

Throughout our class meetings this semester we have focused on the immaterial aspects of man. We have discussed the biblical nature and defining characteristics of the soul, the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the conscience – all in an effort to somehow help solidify the idea that the material and immaterial are inextricably intertwined up to the point of death. We have also discussed the value of each person as defined by God when He sent His son to atone for the sins of the world. Every human life has value that surpasses every other creation and was purchased at a premium price. the price paid serves as an engagement of sorts...a betrothal in which God has purchased us in the hopes of bringing us into His family. God never said that “some” lives have value, but all. He didn’t select the fittest, the prettiest, the healthiest or the wealthiest for salvation. If only mankind could get their mind around this and start behaving accordingly….

As a woman, a Christian, and a mother, when I read articles like this one I find it difficult to know how to react first as so many emotions race to the surface. I feel intense anger, sadness, fear, and a strong desire to rescue and to see justice served. This kind of blatant disregard for human life gets me every time.

Counseling is a profession of advocacy. This means that it seeks to protect, defend and speak for that which is valuable is God's eyes. And I like to think we’re pursuing it because we understand the value of every human life. I hope that each of us is striving to sharpen our counseling skills for the benefit of others while also helping to weave the magnificence of the gospel story into their lives – so that they know that whatever they’re facing, whatever the struggle, God’s plan for them is perfect and that his “purchase” was not a mistake. Helping clients to internalize a secure sense of value in Christ will go a long way toward helping them to work through other life struggles, and will be a clear reminder to us as professionals every day why our work is so important and needed.

Daily Affirmation

In this popular Youtube video called "Jessica's Daily Affirmation," you see a little girl's interaction in front of the mirror that makes you smile. Little Jessica begins to tell herself all the things that she likes, including her school, family, hair, pajamas, and her whole house. You can not help, but want to be a little kid again and have that perspective on life.

Watching this you tube video convicted me of how often I stand in front of the mirror and instead of telling myself things that are true, I devalue myself. In the book Telling Yourself the Truth we are challenged to evaluate the words we tell ourselves. Are these words similar to Jessica's words? Or do we constantly look in the mirror and tell ourselves things such as: I am too fat, I have too many pimples, I am not loved, I am dumb and stupid, I hate my family, or I am so insecure? If these are some of the things we tell ourselves, the book challenges us to ask what we are measuring ourselves against? Are we comparing our lives with others who seem better off in some way? Or are we interpreting our lives through the light of God's word? (Backus & Chapian, 2000)

When looking for Jessica's video, I came across another video that reenacts Jessica's self talk at different stages of her life. In this video called "Jessica's Daily Affirmation: I Like Everything Girl Grows Up," you see Jessica's self talk again at age 4, but then you see what Jessica would say at ages 15, 40, and 60. Although this may seem funny, the reality is that as we begin to grow, our self-perceptions changes tremendously.

In the book The Anxiety Cure artificial tranquilizers are explained as being "effective in ameliorating anxiety symptoms in the short term, but they don't cure the anxiety permanently" (Hart, 1999, p. vii). These tranquilizers, as seen in the video of Jessica at age 60, can be very addictive and this dependency can cause "all hell to break loose in your brain" (Hart, 1999, p.vii). Initially, I thought the different stages were hilarious. But, a coworker pointed out that this might be a constant struggle for many, including those who battle this personally or watching someone they love go through it.

My challenge to you as you watch these videos is to take time to evaluate your self talk and apply what was taught in the book Telling Yourself the Truth. Begin the process of locating and identifying your misbeliefs, removing them, and replacing them with the truth, especially God's truth. Remember, "What you think and believe, determines how you feel and what you do" (Backus & Chapian, p. 22).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Proclamation to Proclaim!

Theology and Spirituality whether we like it or not has a potential negative connotation for many people across the globe. While we as Christians tend to view these terms from a Christian perspective or worldview, and see these terms as words that bring meaning and validity to our lives. Many other people do not necessarily share the same perspective of these terms. For many others, an individual’s Theology and Spirituality means nothing more than measures of a potential self-proclaiming commitment to incompetence.

We must know that we (Christians) are continually in the spot light, and rightfully so I might add. Our proclamation of being a Christian is in fact a claim to being Christ like. However, many times I see in Christians (and myself included) a failure to reach or even be reaching to be Christ like. Granted we know that we are sinners just like any other human being on this planet; but you know what? Those “other humans” aren’t looking for us to be just like them; and neither is Christ!

I think that a lot of times we Christians enjoying talking the talk, but I don’t think we always enjoy walking the walk. It is very easy to go to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday night and talk the talk. When we are asked at church how was your week? Many people say the Christian things of how we are soooo blessed to have a wonderful job (that we hate), how our marriages have no problems (when there are continuous struggles), or how successful we are (when we may be living pay check to pay check).

However, I think that we Christians should live our lives in such a manner that people can’t help but notice a difference in our lives. Our walk should in actuality be doing the talking for us. Now how does this relate to counseling you might ask? Well… I am glad you did! As a counselor and a Christian we have to know that we will have influence over clients of ours. While some of us may explicitly do Christian Counseling, others of us may not. For those of us they don’t I want to challenge you to live your life in a manner that reveals that there simple is something different about you. Give your client an extra 15 minutes when they seem to just really need to vent and get something off their chest. Consider doing free counseling for a client that has no way to pay for your services. And while it may not be socially or even ethically acceptable, show some emotion that you in fact are hurting for no other reason than your client is hurting.

Christ breathed his life into us and brought us into existence. Try and take some time out of your day and see what potential ways you could speak life into someone you interact with. It doesn’t have to be an actual client of yours either. Maybe it would be just something as simple as letting a random person go ahead of you while waiting in line. Thanks for reading and Be Blessed!

Emotion is as Emotion Does?

This article reminded me of a recent class discussion on emotion. On September 11, 2001, with second graders looking on, President Bush received news of the terrorist attacks from the White House chief of staff. While his expression visibly changed, according to witnesses, his composure did not. Recently, we discussed the idea of emotion regulation as a sign of maturity. Maintaining one’s demeanor, composure and even-keeledness while under extreme duress and in the face of tragedy is truly a learned skill, one that President Bush apparently has mastered. Upon receiving news of these horrific events, he paused briefly and then finished the book he was reading to the children before he left in, understandably, a bit of a hustle.

Interestingly, though the president did not outwardly panic, it became immediately evident to the children to whom he was reading that something was very wrong. The children (then 7 years old, now 16) tended to personalize what appeared to be anger or intense concern on the president’s face as a reaction to something they had done – some unknown offense that would land them on the wrong side of a secret serviceman. One girl felt anxious and on edge as if she were in trouble… a testament to the fact that children’s worlds are very small and they are the immovable center (and cause) of all events. This panic without proof is evidence of an undeveloped ability to regulate emotional responses which prevents a person from reacting appropriately to a perceived external stressor.

In counseling settings we will encounter a variety of levels of emotional maturity, as different people will fall somewhere along the continuum from deficient emotional maturity to accomplished emotion regulator. One is not better than the other, per se, as each harbors its own defenses against emotional forthcomingness, but a responsible therapist meets each client where they are and offers treatment accordingly. Of course the ability to determine the level of emotional maturity in clients requires a mature level of discernment in the therapist, lending further support to the idea that counselors need to be fully cognizant of their own “stuff” and how it affects their counseling craft before entering into a therapeutic relationship with clients.