Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to share with the ReEngage Ministry at Hope Fellowship the topic of forgiveness. It's such an important topic not only in all of our lives, but especially in the context of marriage where one's ability to forgive becomes an essential practice. In fact, forgiveness is the only topic that ReEngage covers on two different weeks.
In going into this talk I wanted to do something different on the topic of forgiveness. I have given other forgiveness talks in the past, but I know that when it comes to speaking to an audience they are probably more likely to remember the talk if it is embedded in an image and a story. So to do this, I reflected on Rembrandt's famous painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. I did this by reflecting on the story of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke 15:11-32, and by looking at Henri Nouwen's famous book on the topic, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
In this podcast I reflect on:
Resources Mentioned in the Episodes
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a group of employees for Marriott Hotels here in the local Dallas area. It was a great opportunity to help others understand how to have healthy relationships in and out of the work place by beginning to take care of themselves.
So in this podcast episode I share what I shared with them:
Resources Mentioned in Episode 93
I have shared in previous episodes that the journey through Lent has been one of the most helpful things I have done for my faith. And as we finished Lent this last week, culminating in Easter yesterday, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the next steps.
As we work on embracing and experiencing the resurrected and new life that Easter represents, what are our next steps?
One of the things I have been thinking about is how do we enter into this new season with open hands, full of expectation about receiving. The reality is that we often enter into a new season with fists clenched, holding on tightly to things in our lives....security, comfort, power, possessions, etc.
And I am reminded that after Jesus appears post-resurrection in the gospel of John, chapter 21, there is this beautiful and powerful scene picking up in vs. 18. Jesus is reinstating Peter and basically communicates to him that he (Peter) used to have the freedom and power to do what he wanted to do, but a time is coming when he will be led where he doesn't want to go.
That passage is a reminder to me that we often go through life dictating life by our own terms, and Lent and Easter is a reminder that the way forward is a way of letting go, and being led to places we wouldn't normally go. In that process we let go of power and control and a million other things.
If I'm honest with myself, I have probably only really intentionally prayed this prayer a couple of times in my life because it's a scary prayer, and the results though helpful in terms of my growth and relationships, haven't come about without pain.
So I'm hesitant to let to and open up my hands to receive what may be next.
I encourage you to think about this in your own life.
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We live in a culture that continually inundates us with noise. That noise comes in all kinds of forms. Advertising, entertainment, technology, etc. Sometimes we are passive observers of it as we have little control over what billboards are placed in front of us as we drive down the road. Other times we are active consumers, spending inordinate amount of times on our phones playing games and engaging on social media. Regardless, the reality is that we live in a noisy culture.
And living in a noisy culture gives many of us little time to reflect about our inner lives. Some of us may like it that way, choosing to bury and keep buries painful feelings and events. While others like to try and reflect, but find it a constant challenge.
I think one of the beautiful things about Lent is that it gives us an intentionally created space where we can be in silence. There is a period of time on the calendar where we can engage in practices that foster our inner life...Lent allows us to do this.
If we are to become healthy people, who grow from our experiences, we have to be able to create space to allow the things in our lives that are buried to find the light of day. Silence allows those things to be stirred up and come towards the surface. And if we can pay attention to these things, then we can learn more about who we are, strengths and weaknesses, and become people who can grow in the process.
In this episode I reflect on the importance of this silence and some practical tips to make it happen.
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This week's episode is somewhat of a continuation of Episode 89 where I reflected on the role of Lent in helping us process pain and suffering, and as a time to work through trauma. That is, Lent is a period of remembering that is important for us if we are to work through our suffering.
In this week's episode I discuss some ways that communities can create a safe space during Lent to process pain and suffering. In this episode I discuss:
I have been thinking a lot about the Lent season, which is appropriate since Ash Wednesday was yesterday. Here is what I posted on Facebook last night:
Over the next 40+ days I am going to take some time to reflect on some of the things I am exploring around Lent, trauma and remembering. I hope you will join me on this journey.
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This last weekend I led a class on fostering intimacy in marriage to a group of premarital couples. I love doing this work, but intimacy can be a complicated issue. When we think of intimacy in our culture we often think of sex, or at least physical intimacy to say the least.
But the reality is there are varying kinds of intimacy that are important that a couple take an intentional stance on fostering in their relationship if it is going to be healthy.
So in this episode:
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I have been wanting to talk on the topic of grief and loss for quite a while. I was going to wait to do an episode with my father since that has been a big part of his professional life as a pastor and hospice chaplain. But in light of some recent events in our local community the last week, I thought I would go ahead and post some thoughts on this topic.
This is a topic near to my heart as I have had to spend a large part of my life working through grief over the death of my mom when I was 11 years old. And in my experience unresolved, or should I say, grief that hasn't been processed (because what is resolved grief anyways) can come back to create problems in other areas of our life.
In this episode:
Resources Mentioned in Episode
If I had to take a guess, I would guess that at least 50-60% of every couple that I work with is in my office because of an affair. Affairs come in varied forms from the physical to the emotional and everything in between. And affairs don't discriminate based on gender, race, or age. In fact, it's often the person or couple that you expect least likely to have to deal with an affair, is the couple dealing with the affair.
My experience is that most everyone goes into marriage with the intention to stay faithful in the relationship, so it will often come to a surprise to a spouse, or the couple's friends when words gets out that an affair has taken place.
In this episode I share my experience in working with couples as they navigate the affair recovery process. And because one of my specialties is marriage counseling, it's not surprising then that a lot of the couples I work with are dealing with affairs.
I think there are some general principles as one begins to work to recover and heal from an affair, but the process can often be chaotic, and each couple needs different things. So in this episode I try and distill some of the most common steps I take with couples.
In this episode you will:
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
One of the things that I have come to believe through my work with clients, and through my own personal work, is that insight alone is usually not enough to create change. That insight has to be coupled with practice, and lots of it to create the change, and ultimately the transformation we desire. We could also say the same if we flipped it in reverse. Practice alone, without any insight, will also not create change.
I have been greatly influenced by this idea through a couple of key writings. One is the work of my mentor and friend Dr. Terry Hargrave out of Fuller Theological Seminary, his book Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy, along with my training with him, has been transformative in my life. His model of the Pain and Peace Cycle, alone with four very practical steps has been a game changer in my life and the life of many.
I have also really been influenced by the work of Angela Duckworth, and more specifically, her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In her book she delineates between deliberate practice and flow, and talks about how flow comes out of deliberate practice.
What I have experienced through the Restoration Therapy model is that the more individuals, couples, etc, practice their Pain and Peace Cycles, they can often get to flow states where it feels very natural, and habitual. But that transformational experience is only experienced because of the combination of insight and practice. Without both, flow and change isn't experienced.
While the pathways from the amygdala to the neocortex are stronger and faster than the ones going the other way, some ability may remain for the neocortex to do the following: First, to recognize that there is an emotional response underway. Second, to read reality and perceive circumstances correctly. Third, to override or modulate the automatic reaction if it is an inappropriate one; and fourth, to select a correct course of action. (location 876-886/Kindle)
He then goes on to write:
When you learn something complex, such as flying, snowboarding, or playing tennis or golf, at first you must think through each move. That is called explicit learning, and it’s stored in explicit memory, the kind you can talk about, the kind that allows you to remember a recipe for lasagna. But as you gain more experience, you begin to do the task less consciously. You develop flow, touch, timing— a feel for it. It becomes second nature, a thing of beauty. That’s known as implicit learning. The two neurological systems of explicit and implicit learning are quite separate. Implicit memories are unconscious. Implicit learning is like a natural smile: It comes by way of a different neural pathway from the one that carries explicit memory. (location 896/Kindle)
After I read this I thought to myself, this are the steps Restoration Therapy model of the Pain and Peace Cycle. And he's talking about deliberate practice and flow states.
Why is all of this important? Because whether we are talking about life and death situations like in Deep Survival, or conflict in relationships like in Restoration Therapy, or athletic and artistic performance in Grit....they are all about a certain level of awareness (insight) that requires us to practice, and it's in doing so that we create change and make better decisions, and move closer to transformational flow.
In this episode:
So I am not one to talk much about politics...at least online. There are several reasons for this. 1) I feel a bit naive on the subject matter and not as fluent in political knowledge and conversation as I would like to be. 2) I've rarely seen political discussion online lead to anything positive. So for the most part I work on improving my family, my neighborhood, and the communities around me by having face to face conversations (about all kinds of things), and working to affect change where I am able.
And I've noticed that ranting on FB about something does little to affect change.
And I think there is a reason for this.
This is the subject of this podcast. How emotional regulation (lack thereof usually), anxiety, and boundaries (usually violations of) lead to a toxic environment for political discourse. And in this I will just try and speak from my own knowledge of family and organization systems, and the lens that I view things from as a marriage and family therapist. And I think this has relevancy because we are all engaged in systems, and online political discourse is a relational system where the same principles apply. And I know I have a certain view point because of my own background and experience, but I try to stick to the published work out there on this topic (which of course has it's own viewpoints). That the reality...we all have viewpoints. But at the end of the day, I believe that if we can become aware of our biases and pain points, and emotionally self-regulate ourselves enough, we are actually capable of creating a safe environment that leads to action and change. Otherwise, all we are doing is slinging mud at each other.
I start this podcast with a quote from the Jewish Rabbi and Marriage and Family Therapist Edwin Friedman, who wrote:
"Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them"
In this episode I explore:
In Failure of Nerve, Friedman writes:
....Precisely because our technologically advanced society constantly keeps us in often-simultaneous touch with one another it may be more difficult today not to become caught up in the surrounding systemic anxiety. Ironically, the very advances in technology that mark our era tend to intensify the 'herding instinct' characteristic of an anxious society. This kind of enmeshment inhibits further the kind of individuation that is the essential precondition for bold leadership and imaginitive thinking....My thesis here is that the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into an emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership....Emotional regression, therefore, is more of a 'going down' than a 'going back'; it is devolution rather than evolution....At the same time that a society is 'pro-gressing' technologically it can be 're-gressing' emotionally....When a society (or an institution) is in a state of emotional regression, it will put its technological advances to the service of its regression so that the more it advances on one level the more it regresses on another.... (pp. 52-55)
I decided to take about a 6 week break from the podcast to focus on my work and family as we entered into a very busy holiday season. It was good to take a break from the podcast as I focused on the New Year ahead.
I'm not sure what the podcast will look like in 2017, but I do know there will be one. I would really love to move to more of a guest format, but it's pretty challenging to line up all the details between myself and a guest when I spend most of my week in sessions with clients. But my favorite podcasts that I listen to myself, and my favorite episodes of my podcast, are the ones where the host talks with a guest.
So in 2017 expect to hear more guests on my podcast, and it's possible I may move from the 3-4 episodes a month format I've been doing, to maybe just 2 a month. Whatever I can do to maintain high quality is what I will be doing.
That being said, the beginning of a New Year gives me an opportunity to think through and reflect on the past year, as well as think about the goals for this coming year.
In this episode I: