Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
November 18, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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November 18, 1990
 

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critical thinking and new decision mak- In counseling, the counselor must S O'* * ! ing. This critical thinking and re-deci- accept us as we are and protect us as p EEIFIg SI rlS part of healing By Rosemary Brandt, MD Human beings have three aspects to their nature --- physical, psychological and spiritual, all of which influ- ence the others. Psychiatrists commonly evalu- ate the physical condition of a person with psy- chological disor- ders, as many physical disor- ders can cause or Dr. Brandt influence feel- ings and thinking. Less commonly is a person's spiritual condition evaluated, yet one's religious or spiritual views and practices are the final determinant fac- tor in mental and emotional health or illness. Without resolution of the great and universal spiritual issues of life, a person will not make lasting changes in terms of mental health. How does spirituality fit in with our psychology, and how does resolution occur in counseling? As an infant, psy- chologically we are mostly feelings. We have the potential to develop thinking and value judgments, but initially our parents and caregivers do this for us, and we learn by imitation and reaction. To the extent that we are taught to think logically and given true values, we will have the tools to make healthy choices. Emotional health is more a matter of choice than most of us are aware. It is true that our parents' mis- takes are recorded in our brains right along with healthy messages, as well as our reactions to and interpretations of them, so that we may continue to imi- tate or react to bad messages as well as good ones. This process will happen automatically unless we subject it to sion is the backbone of counseling and is applied to feelings, thinking, mis- conceptions, value systems and rela- tionships. As small children, our parents are god-like figures to us. We believe what we are told and what we see. Our self- esteem and even our survival depend on pleasing and obeying these "gods." We respond to spoken messages and to the meaning we attach to non-verbal messages and feelings. As grown-ups, we will tend to see God and respond to Him in the same ways that we re- sponded to these early "gods," unless we use our free will and thinking to seek God as He really is. For example, if we have received consistent messages that our acceptability is contingent on achievement, we may not only be driven workaholics but also seek salvation by works as well. We may not be able to believe in or live by the idea of God's free gift of love and salvation. Further, if we were discouraged from develop- ing logical thinking, we may not even be able to consider where our mistakes lie, and only know that we are dissatis- fied or miserable. In contrast to God's total and un- conditional acceptance of us, all of us have received some messages attaching conditions to our self-esteem. This 'is the great lie of Original Sin--that we aren't okay as we are, that we should do something, or be more, and then we would "be as gods." The implication is that being human is a deficiency we should correct. Being subject to Origi- nal Sin, we pass this idea on generation after generation and teach our children what we have learned -- that we must be perfect, be strong, strive harder, hurry up, or please others in order to be acceptable. Terrible things will hap- pen if WE don't make ourselves differ- ent, stop being so human. Only when we can accept that God loves us even when we make mistakes is the issue of our acceptability and our self-esteem fi- nally laid to rest. Serv'_mg the Arkansas Christian community treating p chiatric & substance abuse issues witli a professional, balanced program of clinical and spiritual care. " P&DD Find out about the IJVING f Mon.-Fn. HOPE DI erence." "LBFE~INEOFHOPE" " 0 0" ":" N k ) Wat a tAD, Ste e , we re-examine the thoughts, ideas, false values and feelings that we have been responding to in self-defeating ways. This is not a matter of condoning bad behavior, but rather an acceptance and willingness to be with us even when we are acting badly or failing, to be beside us as we seek new answers for living. In this environment, we can begin to learn to distinguish truth from past lies, to see new possibilities for living and to make new decisions with the means to carry them out. At this point, it is imperative that we use our mind to learn what God's mes- Only God Himself can ever be experienced as more pow- erful than our parents were. sages about life really are, what God's shoulds and oughts are, how God pro- tects and nurtures us. We must abandon contradictory messages we received from parents or teachers; we must do our own learning; imitation is no longer enough. We cannot substitute the counselor for our parents as a new god- like figure. We can never emotionally perceive another person as bigger than our parents were to us, so under stress or threat, we all will revert to old conditioning. No matter what new ideas we may have learned through counseling, at the deepest level of emotional survival we cannot trust a counselor as much as we once trusted our parents. Even if they gave us bad messages or lied to us or abused us, we have within us the knowledge that they did at least ensure our survival or we would not be here now. Also, they may have given us ap- parently wonderful rewards for fol- lowing their pattern. Only God Himself can ever be experienced as bigger or more powerful that our parents were. Only in depending on Him for accep- tance and protection can we be sus- tained for lasting change and new life. We can receive new messages about how to live and be happy by reading Scripture, praying, enjoying the world we have been given. By doing these things we can reinforce our knowledge of our acceptability as human beings and of how to respond to our failings, our successes, our griefs, and our joys in a healthy way. In knowing these things, we will also understand how to respond to others in their struggles and triumphs. We will know our likeness to all other human beings and understand their accept- ability, too. In this way, our relation- ships, as well as ourselves, are trans- formed. (Dr. Rosema Brandt is a psychiatrist in private praaice in Little Rock and a pa- rishioner of Our Lady of the Holy Souls.) of mental illness By Carol R. Siemon, PhD If your neighbor frantically knockS on your door one night, appears di, shevelled; talks rapidly and excitedly and asks you to call 911 because she thought she saw someone following her home from a parent-teacher meeting, would you think she was mentally ill?. Probably not, unless maybe she'd done the same thing for eight nights in row. If your teenage son who is presidelat of his school's National Honor Socieq club brought home a report card with three Ds and an F, stayed in his rooga with his door closed instead of going out with his friends to social events he usually attends, refused to return telt" phone calls to his steady girlfriend and wouldn't touch a "Big Mac" hamburger you brought home, would you think he was mentally ill? Maybe. At least y0g might suspect he was showing signs depression and that something definitely wrong. :![ llet Minor emotional upsets and major ones are not necessarily signs [4t mental illness. We expect people'i [ g have grief reactions (anger, sadness, fear) following major losses such as the death of a spouse, relative, friends 0r: even the death of a pet. It is normal f0tj people to be upset if they lose a jobv their house burns, or if they ve bee : physically or verbally attacked. It's tll normal to feel more emotional wlael ii[ 8tl physically ill or tired or if we've be ,:I under a variety of stresses over a peri@:[ of time. ',..71 So how do we know if our owr @j someone else's emotional reactions ate ] I O ~ ~ ,i] " bey nd the range of normal? 1) If there has been a precipitafi $ [ event that triggers an emotional sponse - that's normal. (Your four-year-old child narrowly misses ing hit by a speeding car and your sistd! begins to cry and shake all over as tells you about it.) Such persons return to their "normal seW' without professional help. 2) If there have been several ful events close together and reactions seem exaggerated uncommon. (Your neighbor's wife a heart attack, his teenage son expelled from school for three days his car has a flat tire on the way from work. You see him reach for third can of beer in an hour and know he rarely finishes one carl beer.) Such persons often return to "normal self" without assistance, though brief counseling may speed See "Signs,"