Saturday, September 29, 2012

Healing Anger Sickness

When pressure builds up there is the eventual release. The release of such energy, however—the direction and power of the release—is all important. Some releases are incredibly healthy, whilst other releases are dramatically painful and even catastrophically destructive.
Anger can go both ways.
This is something that affects us all, because everyone gets angry; everyone has bouts of frustration and interminable floods of emotion mounting, occasionally, to rage.
But then, it can be incredibly power provoking in a good way. It provides the needed energy that motivates many a good cause and many an inspirational story.
It is up to us to contend, then, for which way will we do?
Do we proactively attend to the causes of our frustration, or do we let it fester? Being proactive is about courage and diligence. Letting it fester, these issues that ought to be tackled, involves the cowardice of avoidance and the folly of sluggishness.
Anxiety is a deeper cause.
Identifying Areas of Anger Sickness
Signs of anxiety, whether conscious or unconscious, whether by overt nerves or felt psychosomatically (unexplained bodily aches and pains), are key clues for anger sickness.
This sickness has a pathology about it that is dangerous to our health. We may connect with the sickness, areas and situations of conflict in our lives, both personal and interpersonal. Where there is significant stress, anxiety is inescapable. And anxiety is a knife edge, over either side of which anger lurks.
If we don’t attend to the issues, identifying and rectifying the things we already know are problematic, the issues will loom larger. This anger sickness will threaten to manifest itself in increasingly uncontrollable ways.
Resolving Anger Sickness
It is the healthy option to identify and resolve the causes of anger sickness. Only when we do this will we derive God’s power through the expression of our honesty, courage, and humility to face our problems and deal with them.
If we have any sense of self-interest, from the wisdom viewpoint, we will manage our health proactively. Seventy-five percent of health is not physical. The biggest portion of health is mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Resolving anger sickness, which is being real about our frustrations to the point of doing whatever we need to, to resolve them, is a key determinant to mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
When we have resolved our extraneous anger we have learned to practice forgiveness; to forgive others as well as to receive the grace of God’s forgiveness. Guilt and shame are amended.
Forgiveness alleviates anger and it reduces anxiety. What has been bound up for too long already is let go of.
Anger can make us sick. But equally, it can provide us great energy if we deal with our frustrations. When we convert our anger into forgiveness we have healed our anger at its source. Healthy responses are always possible when it comes to anger. Healthy responses help people and do not harm them in any way.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rest for Weary and Burdened Souls

Sometimes we can be in such a hurry to get to a peaceful end, when we finally arrive there we are too worn out to enjoy it. Then we get frustrated, even angry, that we cannot enjoy the time of peace created—a vacation or respite from the strains of life. Sometimes we let the chaos endure because we have no energy left to stop its vicious momentum. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy left to battle with the fierce gusts that batter against us, weathering our resilience. Sometimes it seems easier to concede.
I have often come back to this pattern of living, cursing the sense of sickening déjà vu that reminds me how far I may have strayed from God’s designated rest. Having come to a point in life where family and work and volunteer obligations all collide, and sometimes it seems never-ending, I have run dangerously short on resources for sustaining it all. A deadening fatigue ensues as deeper into the cesspool I seem to go.
But, of course, I, in my own strength, have forgotten how to draw on the light and easy yoke of the Lord Jesus:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
~Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)
Finding Rest En Route
Life is stressful. Anyone pretending it isn’t is deluded. Nowhere in life do we get to escape into a wonderland of peace with any sense of finality. We need a way of operating that helps us enjoy the rest en route, each day.
Being conscious of our encroaching fatigue is the critical thing. All we need do, then, is act on the suggestion of God to find even a moment’s space; the more habitual our acceptance of rest, the better.
The build-up of frustration, and our propensity for anger, should be vital clues.
At recognition of these notes of psychological dissonance God will invite us to use our logical mind to make an important decision. Brought to the precipice God is pushing us to choose for rest or choose to continue the madness in our own strength.
Finding rest en route is as simple as choosing to obey God in our weakness; to draw upon divine strength is the simple but courageous decision to simplify, focus and overcome. Jesus has taught us the way.
Sometimes we can be in such a hurry to get to a peaceful end, when we finally arrive there we are too worn out to enjoy it. It’s better to find rest every day along the way; rest for the weary and burdened—Christ’s strength for our weakness.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Temporary Hardship, Everlasting LORD

Beyond all problems,
Shines still the sun’s rays,
Even through the clouds,
To light up our days.
Beckoning our hope,
Our days can transcend,
The end of the rope,
Where our hearts do rend.
Helping us with meaning,
Attributions of life,
God is the one deeming,
We are safe and beyond strife.
Closing hearts is madness,
How are we to rather suppose,
To achieve divine gladness,
And to attain peaceful repose?
Beyond All Problems – There is God
The eternal nature of life sets itself in our consciousness at our beckon call. We can see the eternal facts of life ever turning when we open the eyes of our hearts.
Some things in life—countless numbers of things—the things of God—never, ever change. Unlike our moods, the disposition of our hearts, our circumstances, the people we relate with, and all sorts of other things, God is unchanging and unchangeable. This fact is manifest in the nature of life.
Our problems are bound to dredge up thick and misty clouds of doubt, worry, anger, and contempt, but at every problem there is the opportunity—to allow the light to pass through the clouds in ways to light up our days.
So, our days can transcend the extent of our problems if we are mindful of the Lord in our going out and coming home.
God is the one helping us with meaning regarding helpful and hopeful attributions of life, and, in this, God is the one that is deeming us safe for passage beyond strife.
In consideration of these facts, that God is eternal and our problems are temporary, closing our hearts is madness. We will not achieve divine gladness, and attain a peaceful repose, unless we keep our hearts open. Open hearts before God are blessed eventually.
Problems and difficulties will always be part of our lives, but, where we are able to remain cognisant of the eternal Presence of God, anxiousness is offset by a prevailing thankfulness leading to a stilling peacefulness.
Even though our lives seem permanent here and now, there is something much more permanent—and ever permanent in its permanence—is the concept of eternity. The difficulties we experience now are hardly comparable with the glory we shall experience then.
Bearing close to mind the hope of glory in eternity, our temporary difficulties and problems are put into perspective. Our problems are endurable.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Anaclitic Depression of Separation Grief

“In anaclitic depression neither the drive for life nor the drive for death should be underestimated. Rather, the psyche seems to allow itself a delicate, sometimes tortuous balance between the two, until a rupture shakes up the intrapsychic and relationship container, to resettle, hopefully in the direction of progress.”
In contrast to the depression we experience through perfectionism, anaclitic depression features in the grief we experience when we are separated by death and divorce. It is clear that these two forms of depression are quite different, though we may be prone to nuances or lashings of each.
The grief-laden depression we might experience at the loss of a parent or a child or a marriage can last and last. Sometimes the terror and injustice in these losses can seem to last the rest of our lives. And even though most manage the worst of their grief before 12 months have passed, the enduring sense of loss proves mysterious as much as painful.
Where we have been separated from a key attachment—a lifelong love—a reliable attachment figure—a person who encapsulated a great sense of our hope—there is a tearing at the level of the identity. What was, at one time, a couple or a team, upon separation has now become much less than it only recently was. This is how we feel.
No matter what we do we cannot change the fact.
But there is a newfound force that throbs within our hearts, too.
It is this force for life and for death. We venture forward one day and then return to hopelessness the next. One is an ascension to the heights; the other, an earth-shattering demise. As we have become fractured there are splinters of us that are sharp as knives—a new caricature of identity is forming. But we lament, never more dearly, the once-cherished identity that has now, only just recently, been called home.
This relationship depression—resulting usually from heart-rending anguish—is both sacrosanct and excruciating; it is not ‘fixed’ easily. Perhaps the only thing we can do that is positive is somehow cherish the loss; to honour the memory of what was.
But that can take enormous strength, and we can’t be expected to draw on such strength in many situations.
Each depression has a sting all its own. The relationship depression within separation (e.g., death and divorce) is horrendous in its heart-rending anguish. But there is strength to be gained, eventually, through the remoulding of identity. When we can honour and cherish the memory of what is now gone, new identity is found approaching.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Overcoming Perfectionist Depression

“Self-critical depression is characterised by self-criticism and feelings of unworthiness, inferiority, failure, and guilt.”
—Sidney J. Blatt, The Destructiveness of Perfectionism
Most of us make life harder for ourselves than it needs to be, but there are some of us who are driven impossibly hard to attain standards so unrealistic that depression seems a sure outcome.
Depression and suicide seem made for the perfectionist. This is sad to say, but it’s true. It is such an important subject—perfectionist tendencies—because of the risks to mental, emotional, and spiritual health—that each of us could benefit a lot from debunking more and more of the perfectionist within us.
Two Basic Types of Depression
We have already discussed the first type of depression—that which is achievement-oriented. The second type is dependent depression—dependent on relationships. Instead of unworthiness, inferiority, failure, and guilt, those with dependent depression tend to be characterised by feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and weakness.
The dependent depression is usually quite situational; when we experience loss, for instance.
But the achievement-oriented source of depression may be more woven into our identities. It is ironical that the perfectionist in us lacks self-esteem.
Seeing Our Inborn Worth
The God view, of course, is equalising. Nobody ought to see themselves as no lower (nor higher) than the next person. When we challenge our perfectionist tendencies, seeing how our striving is a response to feelings of low self-worth, we can go to God and appreciate how worthy we are in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is great in that it brings the extremes back into the middle; all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, but that is not the end of the matter. Because of what was achieved on the cross, theologically at least, we have been created equal. Because of the resurrection, we have been lifted out of our lowliness.
Each of us is similarly and implicitly worthy, neither superior nor inferior to the next person, and equally capable of failure and guilt, with equal capacity to overcome these negatives.
Perfectionism can predispose us to depression, as we become slaves to meeting unattainable standards.
It is much healthier for us to deal with the reasons of perfectionist tendencies; why we might feel unworthy, inferior, or be overcome with feelings of failure or guilt.
When we view ourselves as God sees us—as worthy in his sight, as good as the next person, and able to deal effectively with failure and guilt—we know we are blessed. When we see ourselves as God sees us, we quickly challenge any perfectionist tendencies. To see ourselves as beautiful but broken persons is great insight to have.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Blessings of Patient Discernment

“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.”
~James Matthew Barrie.
Impetuosity!  Frankness and scourging delight that are impossible to contain; these are the death of us and our plans.  If only we’d have waited...    
Why we are so apt at chasing the fleeting wind is a mystery known only to God.  We do so because we like to, I suppose.  But with our 20/20 hindsight engaged we can readily see what we’re doing.  Our brokenness and desire for acceptance and approval thrusts us into what promises as limelight, but ends us being something entirely different.
Now, this is the truth: forcing the pace gets us worse than nowhere.
Accepting Time
Being a friend of time makes a lot of sense because there is no use being its enemy.  Time slows or quickens for no person.
As we grow in our acceptance of time and the right timing of things, we’re blessed with the ability, more and more, to discern the actual needs of the time.  Then, simply, it’s up to us whether we take its lead or not.
Golden Anti-Moments
There are such times, when, for moments to slip gracefully by, would actually be a treat. 
When we’re hurting deeply or life becomes much too chaotic for the reasonable person to bear, for instance, we’re reminded how coarse and haggard life can be.  We are better to be anesthetised from these, if that’s at all possible.  God is able to gird the way with great effect like this when we seek refuge. Sometimes escape is a very practical wisdom practice, preserving us.
Numbness, then, is seen later as a very good thing from our retrospect, as the mind and heart were able to catch their collective breaths, fresh for a new assault when life corrected itself.
Times that appear vacuous—we’ll call them ‘anti-moments’—seem inordinately welcome; times when we have the inkling that all is not right, and delay might be the best approach.
At these times our God-revealed wisdom was invoked.  And we waited and were thankful for this wisdom.
Faith for Times of Action to Return
Sometimes we feel as if the whole of our lives has changed for the worse, and that there is no hope of reconciling the times as they were.
These times call for patience as we claw away at ourselves, clamouring for reason and logic to become ‘us’ once again; to feel right and true and beyond the constant internal haranguing.
Other times, we’re just blessed to wait a minute, an hour or a day or few, for our efforts will be spoiled if we commit and deploy too early.  Sometimes it’s just better at times to slow down:
“Slow down, you move too fast; you’ve got to make the morning last...”
~Simon & Garfunkel, 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), 1966.
It is a great skill in life to be able to patiently stare at a blank page for a while, not getting bored, especially when the time is appropriate for reflection.
Accepting the boundaries of time, and being able to accept the presence of all kinds of moments—the good, the bad, and the ugly—requires patient discernment. We can live only one moment at a time. Peace and joy rely on staying in the moment.
© 2010, 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Misunderstanding, Humanity and Acceptance

“In the Christian life we know most when we know that we do not know, and we understand best when we know that we understand little and that there is much that we will never understand.”
—A.W. Tozer
It is truly humbling to be a human being.
This is a problem. Pride is our vanity and we wear it with brash abandon. We think we know when we do not know, and we only learn the error of our ways when it’s too late. We are humble in retrospect. We learn humility from shame. We often learn the hard way.
Simply put, misunderstandings are commonplace, personally and interpersonally.
Take the Pressure Down
When we learn to expect less from others, and we understand afresh more of our own frailties, we can be inspired to take the pressure down so far as understanding is concerned.
Our expectations become lower. We come to accept misunderstandings are more the rule than the exception. We begin to predict mistakes of perception. We make fewer assumptions. And indeed, we can laugh more about life, appreciating the humanity within commonplace misunderstandings. The misunderstandings may not be humorous in themselves, but the fact that misunderstandings occur—that we, as humans, are given to such mistakes—is characteristically comical.
When we take life as a bunch of mistakes in daily experience we take the pressure down and come to appreciate more the genial nature of common human fellowship.
There Is Freedom Without When There Is Freedom Within
We know as soon as we expect less of ourselves, as far as knowledge is concerned, in social spaces, that we approach listening with different ideas for understanding.
The moment we enter conversation where there is a freedom within us to simply listen is the moment the rapport between two people can begin to transcend misunderstanding. Human communications were always meant to be a meeting of the minds. We can only achieve this when one gives way to another, to join with them in their meaning.
Maybe the key to becoming a good listener is having a sense of freedom within, so the mental and emotional spaces are receptive. Only when we are available to the other person can we begin to understand them.
Accepting that misunderstandings are commonplace brings much peace within. When we expect little understanding we are prepared to work harder to create it. When entering conversations we know it’ll take effort to understand. We know we will have to check our misunderstandings.
It takes situational courage to admit we don’t know.
There is much commonality between misunderstanding and humanity. We know less than we think we know. And there are some things we will never know. Accepting this brings much peace.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Outlasting Broken Dreams

“Perhaps a greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by it.”
It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that most of our lives are characterised by broken dreams. Some have endured very traumatically these fractured designs of life that promised so much at the time but delivered so little. But, by and large, we have all had our lives reduced to options untenable, and for that we grieved.
But there is a wonderful truth left to sunbake on our consciousness as we deliberate regarding the risk of staying stuck in the midst of broken-dream land.
It is amazing how many people, for instance, give up on God because a significant event occurred to stunt their hopes. But the reality is, the moment we give up on the goodness in life, because we are shattered by our disappointments, is the very tragic moment we have sold ourselves into an horrendous life of bitterness, fear, and reticence.
By Far a Better Goal – Get Resilient
This truth goes far beyond mere pop psychology. It is a very tenet of faith—the obedient life God calls us all to.
Our broken dreams need to be outlasted. When we take life upon the assumption that we will have to endure broken dreams we are ready and able to endure them as they occur. There is no lack of pain, but there is the brightness of hope that the pain ebbs away, eventually, in response to us taking it at truth.
When we outlast our broken dreams we get to dream up new dreams.
When we continue along the Divine Road—the path God has us on—at accord with our humblest discernment—the presence of broken dreams, like speed bumps in the road, present as evidence of what we grew over.
These are very real opportunities to grow through the unrealised visions, and go onward toward those visions within our futures that may be realised.
This is never easy terrain, and we kid ourselves if we are to think it is. But if we never ultimately give up, and we battle through the grief involved in managing our loss, we will outlast the broken dream, and we will redeem vision of a newer dream.
When we outlast our broken dreams we get to dream up new dreams. Broken dreams were never meant to define us other than to show how we endured them to create something better. God has a better dream for us to realise. It is for us to have faith and persist.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hope Out of the Abyss

“My spirit is broken, my days are extinct,
the grave is ready for me.
Surely there are mockers around me,
and my eye dwells on their provocation.”
~Job 17:1-2 (NRSV)
The sentiment in much of Job is chilling. Either Job is disconsolate or each of his three ‘friends’ is coarse and critical. But there is relevance in the circumstance of our inconsolable grief.
There are times in all our lives where we, for a moment or an entire season, slide over the cliff and into a cavernous abyss; a place where no consolation may be found. Here we are alone. Even with knowledge of God we feel alone. But then a great irony makes its way into our psyches.
To be found alone is to be found never more receptive to God.
To be lost to all hope avails us to the only hope: God.
When Death Becomes Life
These are difficult concepts for the person not in pain. Having endured a memorable grief we never quite forget that in death—the spiritual form—is the real basis for life.
It is almost as if we need to get to a point of being ready to give up, where our prayers have failed abysmally, and all light within us has been extinguished, to when God comes dramatically into the scene. Reaching down into our spirits and grabbing our hearts, the Lord rallies our hope. We may not know it in the instant, or in the hour. Usually it occurs, early in the morning, in the cool light of day, and a strange peace prevails which is completely inexplicable. By an unpretentious faith it arrived.
Out of the depths of death, where we finally had no conscious reason to live, out of it God unveils life. Yet nothing has changed. Nothing in our circumstance has altered.
But our outlook, which is now never more pliable to truth, can at last stand the raw truth.
Trusting in an Invisible Hope
When all we have is what we feel we need to learn to trust it.
When everything in life has turned to mud, yet we know God is with us by the serenity we feel, we trust it. It is hope we enjoy when nothing else can be enjoyed; it is an invisible gift. We don’t look that gift horse in the mouth. We try to be thankful. And thankfulness is easier than we think because this invisible hope is much more than we expected.
This invisible hope may seem like nothing much to an external observer; but it is life to us. It is the very thread our lives are hanging by. Without this invisible hope, really, we would be nothing.
And this invisible hope is enough for us. Somehow we believe we are on the right track, and somehow we believe everything will be okay. This hope is enough. It is sufficient.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sowing In Hope, Reaping In Joy

Faith is like a journey,
With twists and turns oh boy,
Yet when we sow in hope,
We inevitably redeem joy!
Out of the difficult life comes the ever present possibility of joy, but not without first venturing through the tumultuous journey of hope.
Hope, such like, is really a series of faith-decisions where we prefer hopefulness over hopelessness—even despite a lack of vision to the contrary. Yes, things may appear hopeless, and we may feel helpless, but hopefulness can find its way into our demeanour by a decision to see the possibilities for hope.
When we hope for long enough, there is joy at the end.
Our primary challenge is one of resilience. If we can be resilient enough to not give up, to prefer hopefulness over hopelessness, we will be granted joy in the end. But our hope needs to be based in truth; for a hopeless hope may end in misery.
If our hope is a solid hope we have much reason to be content; joy awaits.
Good Hopes and Bad Hopes
What could we surmise as a bad hope? Perhaps it is someone we may be infatuated with who we know doesn’t feel the same way. Realistically, they won’t change their minds. Or, we may hold out hope of equally unrealistic dreams. It pays to have courage enough to seek feedback from trusted others on whether our dreams are realistic or not.
What could we surmise as a good hope? The hope of being raised upon salvation is a good hope; the Bible promises God will raise us and we will enjoy eternal life, both here and to come. That’s a good hope. Finishing a course of study is a good hope; we can achieve it. Giving our children mechanisms for development sows into a hope for their lives. It’s another good hope with a fair likelihood of a good outcome.
Our hopes have to be realistic, and when they are we have every reason to hope for the joy that will one day be ours.
Hope is our advocate fuelling our faith, and when we sow in hope we will reap joy.
Hope is such an ally, sometimes she is all we have. Even when we don’t have hope we can will ourselves into hopefulness by borrowing visions of joy from within creation, and from within our capacities and competencies. There is much we don’t ordinarily see that can involve us in hope.
When we sow in hope, we reap in joy. When we believe, many things are made possible.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.