Trauma + Faith = Resilience

According to the National Opinion Research Center’s General, Social Survey over 90% of Americans believes in God or a higher power. Sixty percent belong to a local religious group. Another 60% think that religious matter is important or very important in how they conduct their lives, and 80% are interested in “growing spiritually”.

Even when people do not belong to a specific religious group or identity with a particular spiritual orientation, 30% of adults state they pray daily and 80% pray when faced with a serious problem or crisis.

Trauma is defined as any event, small or large, that overwhelms the mind and bodies ability to cope. Some people appear more resilient or able to “bounce back” in the face of trauma. Studies proof that faith is one-way children and adults can cope with traumatic events and suffering.

The question remains “how does faith make us more resilient?” It may be that faith reduces the negative, victimized thinking that results from trauma. For example, victimized people understandable “feel” as if they are damaged, dirty, worthless, stupid, vulnerable, ashamed, or unlovable. The type of trauma might be small or large but this is a common emotional reaction to the hurt someone suffers.

This reaction results in a lower ability to mentally plan and adaptively cope with situations create more possibility that fear, hurt, and worthlessness will result. You can see the vicious cycle that trauma can create…

Our minds are meaning-seeking devices. We like to find things to validate our thoughts and experiences so we can better navigate future circumstances. The upside of this is that we can be more efficient problem-solvers and survive. The downside is we can unrealistic or simply untrue beliefs.

Faith counters this downward cycle of believing, acting, and reacting by shifting the story from the negative plot lines to the bigger themes that “I am loved, valued, and cared for…even when things are bad!” Faith can override negative views of oneself with the belief that you are loved just as you are, normalize the internal spiritual struggles, encourage opening up and being vulnerable again, renewing a sense of control or mastery in life, and fostering social connections.

Being part of a larger group of people contributes to our collective connectedness that detours isolation and loneliness and encourages greater personal healing. Research demonstrates that socially connected people are more likely to meet the demands of everyday loss and stress.

Spirituality and religious affiliation can also benefit traumatized people from the toxic memories of the trauma event. This occurs with the individual feels they can share their grief with a greater community. Traumatic memories cannot be forgotten but they can be contained and/or unburdened when shared with fellow sufferers and with God or your higher power. This is a move toward memory instead of moving beyond memory. As one author described it: “One must have the courage of memory because though it, one can seek God.”

Finally, religious groups have the best inspirational self-help scripts available in the form of the Bible, Torah, Koran, other holy scriptures, liturgy, and worship. They offers a framework for dealing with trauma and copes with stress.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his popular book on “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” writes:

“In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” (p. 147) .

Faith provides us with the HOW of living resiliently!

REFERENCES:

Meichenbaum, D. (2016) TRAUMA, SPIRITUALITY AND RECOVERY: TOWARD A SPIRITUALLY-INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY :

https://www.melissainstitute.org/documents/SPIRITUALITY_PSYCHOTHERAPY.pdf

SAMHA Website on Faith-based Communities : http://www.samhsa.gov/fbci/fbci_pubs.aspx

Pargament, K. I., Kennell, J. et al. (1988). Religion and the problem-solving process: Three styles of coping. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 90-104.

Microsoft Word – MeichSPIRITUALITY INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY1 final edits.doc

Jay, J. (1994). Walls of wailing. Common Boundary, May/June, 30-35.

Harold S. Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” New York: Schocken Books, 1981.

Loving Yourself to Overcome Anxiety

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Anxiety is a common problem in American society, perhaps globally. I have dealt with anxiety over the years and while I have learned to master it most of the time, there are occasions still, where it rears it’s ugly head. Like many people, it leaves an ugly after taste of shame and sadness.

What I have learned as an anxiety sufferer and a Family Therapist is that every feeling and bodily reaction has a corresponding thought behind it. It happens so subtly that we don’t recognize the mind-brain-connection. It takes practice to follow the train of thought and to take back control of your thoughts.

This is part of the spiritual nature of who we are. God created us to be powerful thinking, creative people. Dumbing us down is not the answer. Most of us use medicines and entertaining distractions to avoid thinking as the only tool to self-mastery. This is really body slavery. The appetites rule us instead of ruling our appetites. This results in a vicious cycle of addiction and destructive patterns.

The Truth of the Matter

The truth will set you free! You have to BEGIN to look in the direction of who were designed to be in order to be the architect of your life. ACCEPT the truth that our souls (defined as your mind/will/emotions) are part of our original design and when subject to our spiritual-ness we can put things in right order. When we are in right ORDER, we are in our right minds. Our right minds allow us to rightly control our emotions and bodily reactions.

The bible says it this way: “For God did not give us a Spirit of Fear but of a Power and Love and of a Sound Mind”. 2 Timothy 1:7 (New Heart English Bible)

Wouldn’t you like to stop emotional mood swings? Aren’t you tired of panic attacks and living a fear-induced life? It’s time to get to the truth of the matter.

What You Say About Yourself is Who You Are?

The biggest hang up in anxious thinking is believing that this is our fate. This negative reality is our only reality and others just don’t understand. That latter part might be true, however…Your belief of being stuck in this reality can create the very problem you are wanting to manage. Start catching your anxious thoughts even if you have to stop and re-trace your anxious thoughts. Where, what, who, how, when, why did that anxious feeling first start? Just notice what the situation was that got it rolling. Over time you will discover a pattern of negative thinking that triggers you. There is usually a major root thought that if pulled out of the ground of your mind will give you a sound mind.

If you can’t identify these thoughts, ask someone you feel safe with to help you. It is easier for others to spot them when they are not in the middle of them. Just the act of noticing will begin to give you power over them.

Learning to Love Yourself

God gave us a power to control our thoughts and he gives us Love. Do you love yourself? It’s a missing commandment in the Word of God. Not because it isn’t in the book but because it is missing in our lives. We are ready to love others. We can love things. We are not as good at loving ourselves.

If we are willing to practice what we preach, we must commit to trying without self-judgement. what happens when we practice a new skill, make a new resolution, decide to change, we get discouraged because we don’t get it perfect. Perfectionism is a major root of anxiety thinking!

Choose today, without judgement, to love yourself, your body, your life, your finances (yes, those too), your future with these simply daily practices:

  1. Use kind words when talking about yourself to others. This is different that learning to talk about yourself when no one is around. That might be a bigger discipline to take on but for now, start referencing yourself with positive comments in social situations. Don’t self-depreciate. If you find this difficult, remember your mothers words: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
  2. Notice beautiful things. The bible recommends that we spend time contemplating “whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…praiseworthy. Think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
  3. Take care of your body. Your body is a nasty ruler if we let it control our thoughts and emotions. It takes over our will and demands toxic products and doesn’t want to get off the couch. Start eating right, exercising even it is walking around the block, and getting a good nights sleep. No staying up all night and sleeping till noon. This perpetuates the toxic hunger cravings.
  4. Smile. Research shows that the act of smiling is hormonally equal to a good nights rest but don’t substitute one for the other! Smiling is a known stress buster. Children naturally smile over 400 times a day. How many times do you smile per day. It can even lengthen your life span. Really!
  5. Say “Yes!”. We have a negative root in our thinking that says its all about saying “no” to bad things. Start saying yes to healthy, wise thinking. Take 40 days to eliminate the work “no” from your vocabulary. Say it now. See, not hard.
  6. Give yourself a hug. This isn’t creepy. Just hug yourself and lightly stroke the sides of your arms and you picture a place, real or imaginary that, makes you feel safe. This is part of my NeuroResilience Program called “The Safe Place” technique.
  7. Read inspirational and positive stuff. Turn off the news, cancel the news paper, stop focusing on negative headlines. Take 10 minutes every day to read something that is inspirational and positive. It can be a daily reading book. There are thousands out there. Find an app for your phone that has positive quotes. Listen to positive podcasts. We live in a informationally flooded world. You can control what stress of thought you want to focus on. The old adage: “Garbage in, garbage out” is still true today.

Did you notice that there are 7 ways to love yourself and also 7 days of the week? Coincidence? Maybe, but try a new loving yourself practice each day and then rinse, repeat.

The poet Rumi wrote that “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers without yourself that you have build against it.” Let’s eliminate the barriers to getting back control of your thoughts and living the truth of having a sound mind.

NOTE: Be on the look out for our my new video training series: “Freedom From Anxiety”. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out. Click here now.