Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is It Possible

To possess both self-confidence and humility that is rooted in the knowledge of God’s love and acceptance?

To accept the possibility of failure in our lives and on our part without being paralyzed by the fear of it?

To permit ourselves to be satisfied and pleased with our accomplishments and successes, safe in the knowledge that they are gifts from God and testaments to the talents and abilities inherent to our personal being, placed there by Him and designed to be used by us?

To live our lives in a desire for discovery of the richness that life has to offer, to live in anticipation of the mystery and challenges, understanding that those mysteries and challenges might involve pain and difficulty and yet having the courage to step out into it anyway?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Therapy Forever

Is it wrong? I have pondered this question recently. I have done a lot of reading on the whole therapy thing in the past year and from therapist to therapist you get different opinions. There are those that take the approach that certain problems ‘should’ only take two (or one or five, etc.) years to resolve and if the problem isn’t resolved in that time well then something is wrong. I read a book recently where the author had endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriends and her therapist indicated to her that it should only take two years to resolve (or whatever word is appropriate here). Two years of therapy for ten years of sexual abuse that resulted in (among other things) dissociative identity disorder? Damn, that’s some good therapy. What if she wanted to get into other things also? What is this, we’re here to fix the DID and move on? Here’s your new toothbrush and dental floss kit, out you go now dearie.

I have to say – if I had walked into my therapist’s office, related what I thought to be my reasons for being there and she told me that it should all be resolved in two years (or one or five, etc.) then I’d feel a hell of a lot of pressure to make sure that my ‘issues’ were ‘resolved’ to somebody’s satisfaction in those two years and if they weren’t well them somebody must surely be a complete failure. I wonder who that somebody might be.

In addition none of this takes into account how open the client is willing to be among other things. Being one of those clients that is disinclined to blurt it all out in a hail of gunfire I simply don’t get this idea of time limits.
Now let me just state that I understand that there very well might be appropriate endings, time to move on, with or without a therapist but I have to say these time limits really make me uncomfortable.

I am not in love with my therapist although I am certainly quite fond of her. I don’t feel any kind of excessive dependency on her, in fact I try like hell not to be dependent on her at all which may be some therapists idea of a problem but I’m good with what we’re doing. And who knows, maybe that will change someday but right now I think she’s a good fit for me and I kind of like what we’re building here. I suspect she finds me a bit of a challenge - I cannot help that but she places absolutely no pressure on me whatsoever and it simply has to be that way for me. And it’s going to take as long as it takes and I’m ok with that. And she is too.
Given the confrontational, oftentimes harsh family environment I come from - if you had a problem boy you'd better say in fifty words or less and you'd better get over it in twenty-four hours or less because didn't nobody have time for your problems - I really like having a place to go where I can get rational, thoughtful, patient, kind and accepting responses to the things I want to discuss. And I get to be confident that I will be challenged in her gentle way when the need arises and how often do we get this in life? Rational, thoughtful, patient, kind, accepting confrontation. And no time limits! I never knew it could be this way.

And if I want it to be this way for a good, long time is there something wrong with that?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Natural vs. Supernatural

From Thomas Merton’s “The Inner Experience”:

“Our awareness of our inner self can at least theoretically be the fruit of natural and psychological purification. Our awareness of God is a super-natural participation in the light by which he reveals himself interiorly as dwelling in our inmost self.”

This thought is interesting and perplexing to me in the way that he seems to differentiate between the ‘natural’ or (it seems to me) ‘not God’, and the ‘super-natural’ or (it seems to me) God. In other words as if the ‘natural’ things have nothing to do with God’s involvement.

And he continues with:

“Hence the Christian mystical experience is not only an awareness of the inner self, but also, by a super-natural intensification of faith, it is an experiential grasp of God as present within our inner self.”

I have a personal, intuitive understanding of this second part. God is here, I cannot necessarily explain the experience but I know it and the knowing is not with my head, or rather I should say not just with my head.

Here’s the thing. This awareness, this knowing, this experience can come, and I might even venture to say usually comes in ways that we define as completely natural. The catalyst for awareness arrives in the form of natural occurrences that we often overlook, mostly because we are conditioned by this life to overlook them as pertinent to our spiritual development.

Take for example a period of depression, or a psychotic episode, a serious physical illness, a life-threatening accident, you pick it. All what we would consider perfectly natural occurrences. Let us look at depression. That a clinical diagnosis can be made is both perfectly understandable and acceptable and completely irrelevant at the same time. The clinical diagnosis – the ‘natural’ explanation, does not cancel out the spiritual significance of the event. I read something recently about a woman who experienced, for the first time ever in her life a severe psychotic episode. She understood it as a catalyst for spiritual awareness. The doctors and psychiatric people who were treating her, as well as the author of the article seemed to scoff at that idea, treating it as nothing more than a ‘natural’, perfectly scientific, perfectly organic case of psychosis. One can only assume that they believe that God has nothing to do with psychosis, or depression or any other human condition that can be diagnosed clinically. But you see she has a completely different perspective than they do because she knows the person she is after in comparison to the person she was before. She knows what she knows now as opposed to what she didn’t know before. She is aware of the differences in her thought patterns after as being vastly different from her thought patterns before.

We have fallen into this misguided belief that if it comes from God that it must be in terms of our definition of supernatural. That it must come in the form of the parting of the Red Sea or of some crazy vision of heaven and hell or angels or a sudden flash of thunder and lightning followed by an audible voice from the heavens. In other words it must come in the form of something that we cannot explain in our known, scientific terms.

We do not understand that mostly God works within the laws of the universe. We do not understand that he mostly works within the guidelines set forth by him and that he works quietly and slowly, behind the scenes and below the surface.