Had any assumptions shattered lately?

The last two years have been one of daily uncertainty and fear, but a crisis is also a great revealer of the myths and idols we hold. It “knocks us off our thrones” and breaks our “assumptive worlds.” Our assumptions are the beliefs we hold about who we are and the world we live in…at times, like these, they don’t hold up. In fact, they can shatter into thousands of meaningless thoughts.

In social psychology, shattered assumptions theory proposes that traumatic events can change how victims and survivors view themselves and the world. We all have three inherent assumptions including “overall benevolence, the meaningfulness of the world, and self-worth.” They are the bedrock of our conceptual system, and as such, they are the ones we are least aware of and least likely to challenge. We become confident in our beliefs and use them to plan and act in daily living. If nothing challenges them they allow our lives to move along smoothly.

Sadly, traumatic life events shatter core assumptions, and coping with them requires a new effort to construct more realistic and viable assumptions. We have to rebuild our belief systems to fit the new world we live in.

Core Beliefs:

The world is benevolent

The world is meaningful

The self is worthy

This can be painful for people of faith who end up questioning their faith. When our assumptive worlds shatter, it causes believers to questions the goodness of God. They might “assume” that God is silent or uncaring. The promises they believed must be wrong since things didn’t work out the way they “believed.” Trying to reconcile a good God to their adverse life situations may turn some to question themselves, wondering if they ever heard God speak into their lives or if some sin or trauma from the past has made them unworthy of mercy.

I mean, if God never changes, then the problem must be ourselves, right? Christians believe that when they become followers they are “new creations.” New creations have to have renewed minds to find new beliefs about God’s goodness and nature in their lives. Renewal is exactly what we need when our assumptions become shattered. Neurologists called this neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself through training and practice, thereby creating new neuropathways in the human nervous system. Neuroplasticity, renewed minds, and rebuilt belief systems are about personal growth that is sometimes only possible after trauma.

The reason that believers feel peace after giving their lives to follow the Christian faith is that new neuropathways are being created. Transformation or growth is occurring. From a more secular viewpoint, life has a way of creating maturity in our thinking. The trick is how to not become bitter and negative afterwords.

There is a favorite verse of mine that goes: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)” Prayer and meditation increase brain neuroplasticity and makes renewal possible. Allowing our minds to let go of distractions and slow down helps us focus on what we control and let go of what we cannot. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is the path to serenity.

After a shattering event, people are able to discover strength they didn’t know that had in them. They also find new purposes and seek out deeper connections than before. Faith also grows in people after difficulty. They start to see deeper meaning and value in their life. This is called Post-Traumatic Growth in contrast to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Would you like assistance recovering from a shattering event or trauma? Need new tools for your organization or group? Contact Ron Huxley today!

Prayer and Meditation Calms Anxiety

If you feel anxious from time to time, that’s completely normal. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, you may be tempted to seek some peace using prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs. These methods, though, inherently bring problems of their own.

The good news is you can get through anxious moments on your own without mind-altering drugs. Your worries can be transformed into peace with simple, natural strategies. One of these techniques is using prayer and meditation.

Prayer and meditation calm anxiety!

What are Prayer and Meditation?

Prayer is “a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.” It is the heart of practices in all major religions. When we struggle, we call out to God for strength, direction, peace, and healing. 

Mediation is a form of prayer. It is a practice of training the mind by focusing on an object, thought, or activity, enabling the busy mind to be still and the stressed body to find rest. 

Inherent in both prayer and mediation is the act of letting go of control or accepting that control is an illusion. The practitioners of Alcoholics Anonymous called this “acceptance” that they are powerless over their addiction and in need of a higher power. 

Prayer and meditation differ because prayer is a form of communication, asking for help. Meditation concentrates on quietness and focus, without any criticism or judgment of others or self. 

Calming Anxiety

Research supports the idea that prayer and reduces the effects of anxiety and depression. In a 2009 report, researchers reviewed 26 studies that identified the active involvement of medical patients in private or personal prayer. The focus was not on the effect of being prayed for or on the usefulness of attending religious meetings. 

The authors of the research review stated: “There is no evidence that praying is likely to be beneficial in the absence of any kind of faith and some evidence that certain types of prayer based on desperate pleas for help in the absence of faith are associated with poorer wellbeing and function.” 

While both prayer and meditation can calm anxiety, it appears that prayer is more beneficial when connected to faith. 

Meditation has been widely researched and it has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety, chronic pain, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It is considered to be a mind-body intervention that “eliminates the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.”

In addition, the emotional benefits of meditation can include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

There are various forms of meditation that involve guided meditation, mindfulness-based stress meditation, walking meditation, visualizations, and more. Technology is a big aid with various apps and online programs that can assist in meditative practices.

How to Get Started

You can start on your path to an anxiety-free life right away, and it all begins with a deep breath. Pull the air deep down into your diaphragm, and let it out slowly. Do this several times, and you’ll start to feel calmer.

Are you breathing effectively? When you take in air, if only the top part of your lungs expands, your chest rises and falls. When you live the right way – the calming way – your belly rises and falls, not your upper chest, because your entire lungs are filled with fresh air. 

Avoid breathing from your upper chest only, and you’ll already be on the road to feeling calmer and less anxious. It’s a simple thing to do and a great way to get started. The more you do it, the more it’ll become automatic. Soon, you’ll feel calmer without even thinking about your breathing anymore. 

Here are some other tips to help you feel calm while praying or meditating:

1. Use your breathing like a mantra. Inhale while you give yourself positive thoughts and feelings. Exhale anything negative you’re thinking or feeling. Breathing is the rhythm of life. Use it to your advantage. Use affirmative words or phrases, quoting scriptures or songs. 

2. Pray or meditate at the same time each day. Spend a few minutes – it doesn’t have to be a long time – in quiet reflection. Say good things to yourself. You can focus on your health, finances, family, or anything you want to make stronger. Avoid negative thinking during this time. 

3. Laugh. Try saying “ho, ho, ho, he, he, he, ha, ha, ha” and other silly phrases. When you do, you’ll start to smile, then grin, and then laugh for real! And when you’re laughing, you can’t frown or feel anxious! Laughter reduces the stress chemicals in your brain and increases the amount of oxygen flowing through your brain and body. 

4. Find community. Join a church, take up yoga, or find a support group for anxiety. Many others share your struggle, and you can feel better about yourself and more in-tune with others when you share your feelings. 

5. Savor positive experiences. You wouldn’t gobble up an expensive piece of chocolate you bought. You would savor it slowly, trying to get as much flavor and joy from it as possible before it is gone. When we do this with our positive experiences, no matter how small, our nervous system registers it and remembers it allowing greater capacity for calmness. 

Next Steps

When you start your journey toward personal peace through prayer or meditation, don’t expect to conquer your anxiety in a day. It took time to get where you are, and it’ll take time to get back to where you want to be.

Every journey begins with that first step, and once you make it, you’ll be well on your way. Breathe. Laugh. Meditate or pray. Find time to think about and interact with others rather than concentrate on your worries. Rewire your nervous system through consistent practices of wellbeing. 

Sources: 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

https://www.nursingtimes.net/archive/prayer-can-reduce-levels-of-depression-and-anxiety-in-patients-according-to-research-12-02-2009/

What will your family be in 5 years?

Prayer isn’t your typical parenting tool but it should be…families can use all the help they can get in overcoming the challenges that face them in today’s society. Bring the power of Heaven to your aid and begin calling into reality what you want for you and your children today. We can’t provide direction for our family based on our history. We must live from our imaginations and what we need in our future where things have not yet been decided.

Use our FREE Tool “The Future Starts Now” to build the family of your dreams. It will provide you with a clear path to marshaling the resources of Heaven and your relational energy on your behalf. You deserve more joy, peace and love in your family.

Download the PDF Dream Building Tool: “The Future Starts Now”

PS – You can get even more powerful parenting tools when you join our “MORE” Newsletter. Click here…

The Key to Cooperation is NOT What You Think It is…

Science backs up we have always known about human relationships: Attachment is the key to connection. Connection increases the likelihood of cooperation from family members. It doesn’t guarantee it. Nothing guarantees it. Not even threats or punishments.

People who have a heart to heart connection want to please one another. They think about others first and can literally feel pain if they hurt or disappoint others. This does not happen when there is no connection or it is weakened.

Somehow parents got the idea that compliance was the goal of parenting. We want obedience because we want to protect our children and teach them about life. This has moved from center to focus on children doing what we tell them to do because we said so! Discipline has become punishment and parents idea of self-worth has been tethered to children’s behavior. It is time to re-focus on connection and not compliance.

Caution: Don’t read this next section if you don’t like God! 

The simplest way to a child’s heart is to pray with them. That’s right if you pray for your child both you and your child have to open that rusty door of your heart and a connection can be made.

Rene Brown, in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” explains this well: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

When I interview Christian parents about how often they pray for a family, the answer is rarely or never. Why, when this is a basic tool of the Christian home? I believe it is fear and mistrust that builds up over time and the lie of compliance as the goal of parenting takes over the home.

Try asking your child what he or she wants prayer for before they go off to school. In order for them to tell you, they have to risk opening up their heart to do so. If you honor that gift of insight and pray for them, you can follow up at the end of the day on how things turned out. This can lead to more prayer together and more intimacy in the relationship. Connection struggles solved!

If your child doesn’t trust you to tell you what they want prayer for, tell them you will pray for them anyway and speak into them what you already know about their challenges with friends and math assignments and sibling conflicts. Don’t use this to control. Genuinely express your desire for their success and wellness. You will be rewarded with a stronger attachment and greater cooperation.