Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Keep this ONE THING in mind

Anger that is harnessed is fuel for rage that rallies against fear in faith that converts to resilience. This is not an anger that violates anyone. It’s a force that turns what angers us into fuel for goodness.
And by resilience I don’t mean some buzzword that has been here for some years but has a use-by-date like everything else. This is a truth of the ages. It’s nothing new. I’ve found it has served me well personally throughout various stages of my life when I have used it.
It’s biblical as it happens — try these, for instance: “You are more than conquerors through Christ who loved you…”[1] “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…”[2] “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…”[3] and “Do not fret; it only causes evil…”[4]
When I do this one thing when fear threatens to entrap me, I begin to see the wile of the enemy.
When I’m overwhelmed, though it might take a moment to refix my gaze, I can and therefore, I’m one decision away from — “I do.”
When I’m aware of the naysayer, I choose to believe God, who knows me, who believes in me, who has a plan for me. Immediately I can be content and relax. All is in hand. All will be as it will be. Nothing need change. God wins and therefore so do I. And everyone who is on God’s side. And at these times I don’t need to defend myself. Indeed, I see the folly in it.
When I see my circumstances thwarting my goals, frustrating my aims, turning over my expectations, I’m reminded of the pride that rises without my accounting. The bedevilling circumstance simply reveals my need to turn it over as another thing I cannot control. At this point I must remind myself that everything will work out fine.
This one thing: “if God is for us, who could be against us?”[5] So, therefore, we can know this. We can rest in this unchanging knowledge.
Nothing can threaten us, just us we’re to threaten nothing.
Indeed, this is why this knowledge earns us victory even as we sleep…
From John Chrysostom (349 – 407) … please linger on this:
“Yet those that be against us,
so far are they from thwarting us at all,
that even without their will,
they become to us causes of crowns,
and procurers of countless blessings,
in that God’s wisdom turns their plots
unto our salvation and glory…
“See how really – no one – is against us!”
See what this is saying? I have always seen this as saying, the more someone is against me, the more God turns their plots toward me if and as I get out of the way. The more someone despises me, the more blessed I am when I take the opportunity to refuse offense. The more someone or life circumstances set themselves against us, the more we’re primed for a victory that was predestined, from before time began, for those who leave their justice to God.
When we accept this truth that is embedded eternally in the Word, without any doubt, the power inherent in God becomes us, because we are weak!
Not because we pretend we’re strong.
But because we admit we’re weak,
knowing full well that weakness doesn’t disqualify us;
it qualifies us!
This spirit in us that says, “Well, I shall prove them wrong” is not a spirit that we just made up. It has its roots in all humanity, in eternity, in God no less. Every chapter of the Bible echoes victory out of the clutches of defeat — and indeed the gospel of the cross is its magnum opus.
Nothing can defeat you. If you choose to give up the fight, turn the anger in upon itself, and just do what God requires.

[1] Romans 8:37.
[2] James 1:2.
[3] Philippians 4:13.
[4] Psalm 37:8.
[5] Romans 8:31b.

Monday, February 25, 2019

How compassion reduces anxiety

Whenever we ask, what is compassion, we end up in a good place.
Compassion, in and of itself, is a healing agent, because wherever it is given, it is always received for the fact it is needed. Nobody takes compassion without first having the need of it. Indeed, where there is no need of it, compassion simply isn’t material.
Compassion — latin, ‘compati’ or ‘compassio’, is suffer with — is only material or visible when suffering is material or visible. It means something when it means something.
People who don’t need compassion don’t see the need of it. As a gift of grace, they aren’t aware of it.
But there are those all around us who need compassion — who need people with which to suffer with. And once we have experienced such a support from a person imbued by the Holy Spirit in such ways as they ooze Christ’s compassion, we ourselves leak out this compassion over others who come after our suffering.
Compassion, I find, is the Christ feature of Matthew 9:36 — “When Jesus saw crowds of suffering people, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus shows by direct human example
how divine power works;
he simply had compassion on them.
Now, all that said, we can delve into the realisation that compassion alleviates stress, depression, anxiety.
Anxiety is faced by more people now than ever before. Loneliness is at epidemic levels. Over 50 percent of the Australian population are affected. And one-in-four are chronically lonely. This, among other causes, manifests in anxiety, and, because true connection is what humanity needs most, higher existential stress results in an increasingly fragmented world.
But compassion eases anxiety. I can tell you that the commonest experience I have in counselling is people walk out an hour or two after sharing their burdens lighter. The weight shifts. Nothing in their circumstances is any different. But they have been heard. And perhaps they have other perspectives to mull over. They have been met. They have had a spiritual experience. They have experienced compassion.
Compassion is suffering with. It is innate to the helping professions. Counselling, social work, pastoral ministry, mentoring, coaching, spiritual direction… all these and more have a role of connection — of giving to someone what they need in a way they couldn’t arrange it for themselves out of their own power or capacity.
If you suffer from anxiety,
get close to compassion.
God is calling you to connect with people who ooze Jesus’ compassion — and though it might feel extremely rare, pray that the Lord would lead you. You need someone who knows it’s their destiny to journey alongside you… yes, you! And as this spirit of compassion prevails upon you, you in turn will be imbued with that same spirit. You become a sojourner.
See what suffering teaches!
See how our Lord makes good, for those who love God, out of what we ordinarily see as harmful. It is an eternal compensation. Suddenly we come into the courts of anxiety with thanksgiving in our hearts, because we tap into God’s compassion.
Whenever we come alongside compassion our humanity improves.
As we receive it, we give it, and our anxiety reduces.
And this beautiful of all godly empathies
— this miraculous compassion —
assists even those scarred with trauma.
There is so much suffering in our world,
because there is so little compassion.
When we come close to compassion,
we are connected to hope in our suffering.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Content in any and every situation…

For over 8 years our car fuel gauge hasn’t worked. We worked out early on that if we tracked our mileage and fuelled up every 500 kilometres, we’d never run out of fuel. Somehow, we’ve gotten used to not needing a fuel gauge in our car.
Life’s hardest problems are not quite as simple as that, of course.
But I do wonder if doing without, and learning to survive and getting to a place of not missing whatever it is we might miss, is the sacred prize.
I imagine Paul writing Philippians later in life, reflecting over the years, considering his words of self-recrimination of Romans 7:15, among other things, and as he muses, he catches a glint of grace. He sees the work of Christ in him that has formed the ability to do without — to live without coveting.
It’s the great invitation of spirituality — to negate, to deny, to repeal, to reject things of the material. But it’s not just that. Like our fuel gauge, we learn to subsist without adding something, for that’s the prevailing wisdom — that’s the error — that there must be something material that replaces the material that we banish.
With every material thing we desist in doing, we add the spiritual thing, which is the rejection of everything that can be coveted.
The winningest way is to live empty handed and learn contentment in that barren place. Doesn’t sound attractive to our covetous 21st Century lives does it? But have you tried it?
For everything we do not need something spiritual is added. As we live stripped bare of needing the thing we’ve grown dependent on, God adds something tangibly spiritual to our lives.
What is added — that spiritual thing we’re destined to at last experience — is the ability to grieve, at least initially, then it is to learn to smile when there is nothing to smile about.
This is that spiritual thing added. Something that nobody can explain, only experience.
This thing that is spiritual, wholly and other-than, is a prize that can only be practiced. It cannot be owned, nor acquired, nor possessed. Yet, this spiritual thing is a possession as long as we let it go and let it come and resolve never to possess it.
Like the paradox of happiness that comes when we stop chasing it.

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Reflections on 10 Years of Dad-Daughter Dates

“She’s way-too-young for him,” we have often seen in the eyes of cafĂ© patrons. We laugh, of course. It’s our little joke that they don’t get what we’re about. But when they do, we can tell they get it.
It’s bizarre in a way that I get to bring another child up in my son, also having three adult children in their twenties. There was a time as a parent, years ago, when I thought all my school drop-offs and pick-ups were done. Now, there are another dozen years to go. I’m more at peace with that than ever.
As I’ve had the privilege of dating my three daughters together, or more nowadays (since 2004) one-on-one, I’ve learned so much about them, simply listening to them, journeying with them as they traverse their lives. Each of their lives is so different. Each of their lives has had different challenges.
I’m sure each of my daughters laughs when they imagine how their dates with me start. “So, how’s life?” would probably be the question that starts the process each time. We enjoy coffee or a shake and a meal, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner. Each of my daughters and I have had our favourite place to meet, and occasionally I get the chance to pray with them.
We discuss their personal life (as much as they want to share), their hopes and aspirations, their partnered relationships and friendships, how they’re getting on with the rest of the family members, and their studies and work. We have a laugh but there is space for sadness and anxiety as well.
The point is they own the space that as father I’m so thankfully blessed to provide.
Amazing, isn’t it, when we reflect.
These dates with my daughters —
the babies I held and changed
and fed and rocked to sleep,
the girls I did school parent help with
and guided their homework they had to complete,
these young women I helped teach to drive,
the ladies who now have autonomous lives —
these dates… they’re one of the highlights of my life.
Hundreds of them have been enjoyed. And I’ve learned so much. Indeed, as I ‘travelled with’ my eldest daughter, God showed me how he wanted me to journey with everyone who seeks me out.
I have my wife to thank for opening space in our calendar for these precious events. She saw the need early on. And even though she misses out to free me up to go out and be involved with intention in my daughter’s lives, she believes deeply in the process.
These children we have are a gift from God, and we should know it, because we ourselves are children. We are all vulnerable and in much need of love, and it’s a parent’s job to provide that love.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Power to bless or possess

One way or another, and never both at the same time, we use power to bless or possess.
To bless or possess: to bless, others always appreciate. Such love seems to involve a personal cost to us, but truly everyone benefits. To possess, others never truly appreciate, and yet, whilst it seems to serve us personally, this too has an inevitable cost — on everyone.
To bless is a blessing to all.
To possess is a curse to all.
We need to be ever vigilant. This paradox is true: the more vulnerable we are, the more susceptible we are to using our power to abuse another person’s vulnerability.
Yet the paradox continues in the fact that a person who sees their lack, who is genuinely humble enough to always be living a life of contrition, because their lack is not lost on them, the person who faces their vulnerability and accepts it, is in the box seat to bless, because they’re mortally aware of their capacity to endeavour and strive to manipulate and to possess.
Becoming and being a safe person
is never something that we can bank as done.
Indeed, being a safe person
is principally about becoming.
The unfortunate reality, especially for the abused, is that the more vulnerable we are, the more capacity resides in us to abuse. Whether we wish to or not. This is why the authoritarian family structure operates as it does. The excrement flows downward. Power runs deep. As one person oppresses another, the oppressed person oppresses the next one down the line, and so on and so forth until the family pet gets it.
I think the following equation is true:
The higher our vulnerability +
the more power at our disposal =
the higher likelihood we abuse people through possession
When Power Blesses
We all have the power to be kind, compassionate, patient, gracious. Why is it that we think that these aren’t powerful? In every human being resides the power to bless. Such is the fact that we are made in the image of God; the God who blesses. And it is easier to bless than to curse, for in the blessing we too are blessed.
This is where the power that blesses works: it gives love and wherever love gives God multiplies.
So why is it that there is a paucity of power that blesses?
When Power Possesses
People ought never to be possessed. People never appreciate being possessed. And when I talk about possession in this way, I mean when people feel they are being controlled or owned or subjugated in some way.
No matter who it is, no matter what culture they are from, nobody appreciates being at the whim and the will of another person.
A key feature of the downfall of possessing others is 1) their resistance, and possibly worse, 2) their submission. It’s a perfectly normal and appropriate response for someone who is being abused to resist such an abuse. But what a scary reality for all concerned when the abuse runs unabated in silence and secrecy.
To bless or possess. Make your choice now. Take the right path. Commit to it. Don’t go back on it.
It comes down to the word vulnerability. Vulnerability is a crossroad. Vulnerability is the opportunity to go just as easily one way or another: to bless or possess. Be vulnerable but be honest. Be weak and know your weakness. And yet, see the beauty and wonder and majesty of serving others because you can, never needing to possess them as you bless them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The cruel reality of sleeplessness in grief

Three days without sleep sent me to a breakdown. It’s said two weeks with sleep deprivation can send someone into the land of clinical depression. Months of sleep deprivation, and we had four months of it with my eldest daughter when she was an infant, creates a sleep debt that possibly takes triple that length of time and more to recover from.
The breakdown I had, when a lamentable grief hit the abyss, out of nowhere news that made the worst news unimaginably worse, emerged out of one night when I just agonised. The following few days my mind was tormented by fearful thoughts that swarmed relentlessly, each quiet night so noisy in my mind that the seconds lingered like despair.
Grief creates paradoxical issues around sleep. Patterns of tiredness change as the mind swings into convolutions of circular thought that are not easily arrested. Preoccupation is the order of the season as loss wrests every echo of peace, producing emptiness of soul.
Anxiety keeps us awake and
depression makes us want to sleep.
Indeed, being asleep when we’re in deep grief or depressed is the only sanctuary — to be unconscious. At times of incredible mental and emotional stress, sleep may only occur when we’re too exhausted to stay awake. Grief and exhaustion are co-combatants in testing our sanity in loss.
But sleep when we’re exhausted doesn’t arrest the sleep debt we’ve accumulated.
One thing I’ve become convinced of over the years is the wellbeing sleep provides. And the research seems to back this view. Studying sleep in my occupational safety and health career helped me to understand just how debilitating fatigue is. The mind is our strongest ally in the quest for mental health, which converts to emotional and spiritual health.
Our mental health is significantly compromised
when we run into sleep debt.
So what sort of advice works? I know dieticians and other health professionals suggest going to bed before 10pm or not more than 3-4 hours after the evening meal, so we don’t consume foods that are more likely to be stored as fat before we sleep.
I have found a 10pm curfew hard to maintain, but rewarding when I do. For someone who rises before 5am, I really need to be in bed around 10pm to get close to five full cycles of sleep — each cycle being around 90 minutes. And I find a 20-minute nap vitalising during the day.
Of course, shift workers may laugh; those working during the night know full well the challenges to wellbeing in being awake when the body and mind need to be asleep.
It can be overwhelming in grief to even contemplate a solid sleep regime. You feel driven by a never-ending ebb-and-flow tide of thought and emotion. Stability might sound good, but it can feel unfathomably out of reach.
Perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves as we wrestle with our grief is to invest in our overall health — sleep, diet and exercise — through applying good professional advice. But we also need to accept that this at times can seem a bridge too far.
Best to hold the goal in tension with the reality that it can seem too much.
One day at a time keep hold of the hope for health to combat the debilitating effects of grief.

Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lessons in the abuse I suffered as a young person

Picture of myself as an 18-year-old (1985) pulling a bore pump.

A body covered in untreated sewage, held down for a spontaneous ‘haircut’, legs wrapped in blisteringly hot tape, and spending three days in an industrial bin looking for something that everyone, including myself, knew wasn’t there.
Just four memorable instances of abuse I sustained as a late-teens mechanical apprentice. There was also an underpinning of daily verbal abuse for three years to add to the physical abuse. (Thankfully, my fourth year as an apprentice was pleasant.)
All of it normal in its age
and nothing to raise an eyebrow about!
Yet, that was how it was in the 1980s in remote Norwest Australia. Men grew up tough, and there was only one way of making that so. Apparently. As if toughness were an admirable trait. Of course, sexism (among possible other isms) was rife and you lived with it, either as someone who engaged in it or as someone who suffered from it. And all seemingly accepted it, which is not to say they enjoyed it.
It was a toxic environment, yet I didn’t know it at the time. As my mother used to say, generically, and not to justify the abuse which I’m sure my parents had no idea about, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” So, I did, as much as my conscience would allow me. I took up fierce drinking, and, because I was introduced to it through my workplace as a 17-year-old, I took up smoking marijuana. I adapted to my environment. And I eventually became popular within my environment. I could drink like a fish and I never refused ‘cones’ before going out to many remote occupational environments. It was what you did. I was led that way. Oh yes, it was a toxic masculinity alright!
I had thought all along that the goal was to adapt; that success would come when abuse morphed into acceptance. But I think you can see that this led me down a dark path. Again, not that I could see it at the time. I seemed to thrive in such an environment. At least I was accepted. It was all I had bearing for. It was all that mattered.
Acceptance meant I was free from attack, and when all you know is the anxiety of imminent attack, you go with the flow downstream to the only better alternative reality.
When the ‘love’ on offer is toxic,
you take it with thankful gulps of compromise
to the extinguishment of courage,
and you learn to keep quiet.
Abusive systems never lead anyone to good outcomes. They poison our sense for what is good and right, and then we capitulate out of a need for self-protection. Can you, the reader, ask yourself one question: for that negative or costly consequence you bore, was there an abuse that you either propagated or suffered? You’re probably wondering why I placed the word “propagated” in there. Yes, those who propagate abuse also bear negative, costly consequences, because evil brings good to nobody, and abuse (the wrong use of power) is evil.
Tricks and practical jokes can be a lot of fun, but there are exceptions, particularly when someone suffers as a result. And it usually is one. Where one person is scapegoated, that is they are run off out of town or it is unconscionable for them to remain, an abusive system has made it happen.
There is often an upside to abuse for the ‘resilient’, and that’s what engendered my passion for becoming a registered safety professional; I didn’t want other apprentices behind me to suffer what I’d suffered. It wasn’t right.
Where what’s learned
on the other side of abuse
is called ‘resilience’,
we have made a sought-after commodity
out of what is toxic.
I guess the point I want to make is that even though I knew the treatment I received was wrong I just went along with it because I believed it was the only way through. I persisted within a system that was intent on teaching me the right lessons the wrong way. I knew it was wrong, because from this platform I became the safety professional who sought to protect future employees from this kind of abuse. And I have attempted to carry this attitude through into my ministry for God.
As I consider what I had written in the book of my first 30 years, I see I wrote extensively on these matters, and yet never once used the word abuse. That is remarkable. To think, that even 20 years ago there wasn’t the use of the word abuse in our vocabulary.
What we don’t know won’t hurt us. No, sometimes what we don’t know is very harmful.
The abuse we put up with and tolerate for the overall good of the many is personally destructive as well as destructive for everyone. Silence helps nobody and abusive systems set up the climate for generational trauma.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The search for answers in deep anguish

Holding my deceased son and standing amid the conflict of a marriage that was ending were not the most excruciating of times of my life. But pain has been hardest to bear in the lonely, nothing moments, when reality bore strongly, overwhelming my ability to think or function; when my heart felt it would implode for the feelings I couldn’t hold, let alone contain.
These quiet moments my soul did scream!
It’s in the quiet moments
where attack is devastatingly real.
Quiet moments are where chaos reigns.
Quiet moments as these render
our and others’ best efforts useless.
Moments as these are when we search most desperately for answers that will assuage the torment and provide hope. Yet, the paradox is, in accepting that the answers are beyond us, we cannot bear to lose hope, for that reality is truly unbearable. Yes, there is something even worse to imagine beyond our experience of the worst: that there is no answer — no way through this. That is a thought that will send us to our end.
But there is a way through!
Even if we cannot access it right now.
I hope it doesn’t sound too flippant to say that suffering draws us closer to God. That has certainly been my reality. And I hope it is or can be yours. That is the way that God won himself to me. It was when my life was no longer manageable that, from the abyss of despair I reached heavenward for God, and finally recognised God’s hand reaching down to me in the pit, to lift me slowly out of it, even if it wasn’t immediate relief. And the miracle of our encounter with God when one life is ended is that we are ultimately more than ready for a new life to begin. That, essentially, is the salvation experience.
How is it that God can use a situation that was procured to bury us and use it for our resurrection? Even after over 15 years, I still don’t know how to answer that question. An answer is not the point. The point is the answer does come. In God’s time. And certainly, within the realm of reflection.
But the answers we receive are rarely, if ever,
the answers we expect to receive.
Within our finite perception, God indwells us eventually with an unanticipated reality that makes good sense in its own time. But the answers don’t come in deepest pain. And although the answers don’t come in deepest pain, they do come out of the context of that pain. We find our answers are indwelt with meaning not despite the pain but because of the pain.
God doesn’t teach us key principles of his character and faithfulness within the pain, but as we get through it, his character and faithfulness are reinforced because of the pain we endured because we had to.
Do we hope for answers in the depths of anguish? We do hope. But ironically, it’s the hope of receiving those answers sometime in the future that keeps us plying our faith in the interim.
It’s the promise that keeps us going until it is fulfilled.
And that’s enough as we look back.
And that is the miracle of the learning journey called faith. We never arrive. We are kept humble. And in being in this place where we bear pain, we are prevented from becoming conceited. Of course, the apostle Paul talks about this in Second Corinthians chapter 12.
We live and work and have our existence in this life, in this 21st-century day, in a world that is moving away from gospel truth. Yet, just as much as ever does the world need this message of hope within pain. The enigma is how to meet the world need, when we live in a world that is so opposed to the scandalous message of the cross.
There is a good chance
that there are some reading this
who are having their worst days ever.
Days such as these
are unprecedented in our experience.
Truth would have it that we have no comprehension life could ever get this bad. We want it over. And so we balance on a trapeze with these divergent realities within grasp; some that are truly dark, that should never be thought, but often in these situations are, and some are truly full of light, that hold out hope for a day to come.
When in pain,
though the answers don’t come,
hold out hope that they will.
It is my experience that they do.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Ah, to find home!

Home is where we feel safe and warm and content, perfectly at peace with our lot. Yet, so often in life we find we’re far from home, in anxiety-ridden situations, in dysfunctional relationships, at times in our families, in our churches, and not least in our workplaces. Circumstances such as these build our burden and destroy our peace.
Blur it right to the unbearable edge and we find we’re in toxic environments and potentially victims of abuse or, worse, provocateurs.
But this is about those serene times, chock full with hope and joy welling up to peace, where we truly feel home.
It’s the family that accepts you as you are while encouraging you on your goals of growth. It’s the family that requires little other than the commitment to love and to return that love. For children, it’s parents who model integrity and humility, who know how to be genuinely remorseful and who believe in the fairness of restorative justice. It’s parents who spend time with their children and who are characterised for their reliability, teaching their children the merits of taking appropriate responsibility — not too little or too much.
It’s the church where you’re loved and you’re free to love, to fail, and even to fall, because they’re redemptive in their mindset and that example rubs off on you. It’s where relationships are so committed that issues don’t divide; they’re the source of deeper discussions and mutual respect for differences.
It’s the workplace that is collaborative, where it’s not one false move and you’re out of here. (And I mean errors and mistakes and not crimes.) It’s the boss who believes in what you bring, in what you’re capable of, and encourages that performance from you so you both celebrate with the smile of victory. It’s the workplace where your contributions matter — and you know it.
There’s a common denominator in all this. Being at home means there’s no throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And I don’t mean that’s an excuse to prolong marriages where abuse runs rife or other toxic situations which potentially need to be ended. But it is about an innate belief in the relationship that bears the traits of faithfulness.
The remedy for life is not happiness, it’s to feel we are at home, safe in our environment, accepted for who we are, primed to thrive. These are the things that bring us peace.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Bridging the tensions in depression and trauma

When depression was at its worst, I found I was immobile, far beyond my ability to receive the care of well-meaning people. Their care was still important. I still needed it. And I would inevitably recover somewhat into a place where their empathy really did help.
I have therefore found that depression is a fluid state, where some days forward-movement is possible, whereas other days it’s futile. And it is best that everyone (those helping and those being helped) accepts this reality, that for those with depression, cannot be changed. Just like it is also best that everyone understands that forward-movement and empowerment on some days is not only possible, it’s necessary. The difficult thing is discerning which day is which.
Perhaps this is why the wisdom in The Serenity Prayer is so commanding:
God, help me accept the days I cannot change.
Help me be bold on the days I can move and improve.
And give me wisdom
to discern the difference
between these days.
Can you see the tensions in the above precis?
In depression there is forward-movement and backward-movement. Some days there is hope. Other days, pure despair. Neither kind of day can be changed. It is best accepted, not that care doesn’t help. Sometimes, as an adult, it is good to be alone and be faced with ‘how to get through this’, but there is a limit to that thinking. We need interaction to break us past the sinkhole of thinking we can spiral into.
Balancing tensions is about appreciating the global dynamics presenting in your case of depression.
Like most things in life, there is a lie in suggesting there is a single global truth at play in complex intrapersonal or interpersonal dynamics. There are always more aspects to your truth than that. That can be a difficult thing for you to understand and accept, let alone someone else entirely.
For instance, a victim of abuse, a traumatised subject, must receive unequivocal empathy — they must be believed, and it is incredibly important for their future hope and prosperity to do this. But it mustn’t be left there. Not all the healing is contained in empathy, even if it is a powerful start. The victim, and now let’s call them the survivor (of the trauma), must have more than your belief and tacit encouragement. They must also be gently challenged on their journey of recovery — which suggests, and believes for, restoration — and sometimes this feels tough.
There is a danger for every survivor of trauma. They can begin and continue to be sucked into the vortex of victimhood. We need to watch our language. Not cussing. But how are we lingering in disempowering statements about ourselves that sound like we’re still the victim. We need to work to a goal beyond that.
When we keep saying, “[They or the situation] did this to me!” or “[They or the situation] won’t change!” or “How dare [they or the situation]!” especially if we’re still angry, we cannot fully recover. Don’t get me wrong. The anger and incredulity is justified. But vindication comes when we move past feeling like a victim and tap into our agency (which means action or intervention that produces a particular [empowering] effect). Personal power is needed to fully recover, and we need to find a way to tap into it, to access it.
But agency cannot come until empathy is received and remains. Yet if we were to leave it at empathy, agency may never be fully realised. We need both.
As you suffer, can you hold the tensions in these seemingly opposing truths:
You are believed;
it happened, it was horrible, and it is horrendous.
But you can also be more than
what you have experienced.
Balancing the tensions is not one is better than the other or one is right and one is wrong. Balancing the tensions in restoring mental health is all about receiving empathy that validates what was and what is and challenge that propels us to the agency of what can be.
Sufferers MUST be believed,
AND sufferers MUST believe they can recover.
*** This article assumes, for victims of abuse, that you are OUT of your toxic situation. Recovery cannot take place in a situation that retraumatises us.