Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Family Systems Change

SOURCE:  Prepare/Enrich

I’ve always been interested in how my family operated.

I can remember specific times in my life where I could see how I thought my family system was about to change. As a 14 year-old, I wrote a paper about my perspective on my sister’s upcoming wedding. I clearly remember stating my point of view that I was not losing a sister, but gaining a brother. Eight years later, while in college, I lost my grandmother unexpectedly, and I watched my entire family figure out how to handle the new void in the system. And now, I write this newsletter as I await the birth of a new niece or nephew. I know this new baby will again change our family system.

The thing is, change isn’t bad. It’s inevitable though.

Family systems theory, the basis of many counseling programs, sees the family as an emotional unit. When one part of the system changes, the system needs to re-calibrate. Changes in the system also happen when the functioning of a family member changes. The connectedness and reactivity within the family unit make the functioning of family members interdependent. The same happens when a family member is added or removed from the system. Sometimes this transition happens over time such as adding family members through marriage, adoption, or birth. There are other times where it is not planned, like a death in the family.

While change is hard, it can also be beautiful.

Adding family members allows the opportunity to create new bonds and relationships that last a lifetime. But, it’s important to acknowledge that the transition can be bumpy. Some family members won’t be welcoming, some won’t like the change, and others may wish it was like the “old days.”

Don’t feel like you need to combat these feelings.

We have some tips for how to manage when your family system changes:

  • Hear them out.  Listen, listen, and listen some more to your family members who are having a hard time adapting to the “new” dynamics. Their feelings are valid and its crucial to not outcast them in the transition process.
  • Give it time.  Don’t expect your family or yourself to be completely comfortable right away. It’s natural for some time to pass before a new “normal” sets in.
  • Encourage openness.  Embrace change yourself and model for others how to be open to changes that happen in the family system.
  • Establish new bonds.  Identify new family traditions or “special” moments with that new family member. This can be as simple as an inside joke with your new brother-in-law or a special tradition you create each time you have the birth of a new baby.

 




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SOURCE:  iMom

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way.

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way. Growing up, every time I had to speak publicly, I was terrified, and most often felt like I failed because I wasn’t articulate enough. I hated the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that public speaking brought up for me. I kept trying though and pushing through those awful feelings until eventually I learned how to speak publicly without any fear at all. If I would have let my first failure keep me from trying again, I never would have had the joy of sharing my life story and speaking to thousands of people at a stadium event.

It’s never easy to watch our children fail. But we can take heart that failure can actually make our children stronger, more resilient and more empathetic if we teach them to handle failure the right way.

Here are 5 things to teach your kids about dealing with failure.

1. Failure Happens to Everyone.

Even the best baseball players get hits only 3 out of 10 times at the plate. No one wins them all. It’s a normal part of life. Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

2. Failure Isn’t a License to be a Bad Sport.

Failing is not a good feeling, and it’s okay to be sad or disappointed when we fail. But we don’t want to take it too far and start blaming others or pouting. Teach them to find the lesson in it, which can soften the negative feelings. Help them learn how to not be too hard on themselves.

3. Failure Can Lead to Success.

Thomas Edison tried dozens and dozens of times before he invented the modern light bulb.  We really can learn from our mistakes. Help them process through their mistakes and failures, so they can see the process of learning in action.

4. Failure Teaches Us Humility.

If we don’t experience failure, how can we really relate and encourage others when they are experiencing defeat?

5. Failure is Not Who We Are.

We need to teach our children that their true value comes from just being. They need to know they are loved, whether they win or lose, make a mistake or not.

SOURCE:    / PsychCentral

Narcissists’ lives are about winning, generally at others’ expense.

Many narcissists pursue a win-at-all-costs, anything-goes approach.

The casualties:  Honesty, empathy and reciprocity.

Narcissists distort the truth through disinformation, oversimplifying, ridiculing and sowing doubt. Narcissists can be incredibly skilled at using classic elements of thought-control and brainwashing.

To get free of narcissistic thought control it is essential to spot the distortions narcissists deliberately and instinctively practice. Applying critical thinking skills can inoculate you against their campaigns.

Here are 14 thought-control tactics narcissists frequently use:

1) Emotional Appeals:  Attempting to play on emotions such as fear, guilt and loyalty rather than using logic and reasoning.

Narcissists use emotional appeals to disguise false or outrageous claims. Since many narcissists tend to be Drama Kings or Queens, using over-the-top emotionality to control others comes naturally for them.

Example:  “How dare you question me! After all I’ve done for you.”

2) Bandwagon:  An attempt to pressure another to go along because “everybody is doing it.”

Narcissists know the power of numbers. They slavishly follow their “likes” on social media and other measures of attention. Having lots of followers reassures them of their worth. They use the power of group-think and peer pressure to play on others’ fears of missing out, being ostracized or being in the wrong.

Example:  “All your friends agree with me.”

3) Black-and-white / Either-or:  Pretending there are only two choices when there are several.

Narcissists view the world in either-or terms. Nuance is lost on them. They derive a feeling of power from this divide-and-conquer approach.

Example:  “You’re either with me or against me.”

 

4) Burden of Proof:  Asserting that the speaker does not need to prove his points but, rather, that the burden is on the listener to disprove them.

Such an entitled stance comes easily for narcissists. In addition, narcissists love to take credit but have little interest in taking responsibility. They hate to be wrong, so putting the burden on others is a stonewalling strategy that makes it especially difficult to disprove them.

Example:  “I know I am right. What I say stands until you can prove otherwise.”

5) False Flattery:  Buttering others up to make them more receptive to your arguments.

Narcissists rarely meet a compliment they don’t like. They think others are as susceptible to flattery as they are. They ply listeners with pseudo-compliments, hoping to get things in return.

Example:  “I couldn’t possibly be manipulating you, you’re way too smart for that.”

6) Incredulity:  Acting as though what someone said is unbelievable.

Narcissists often use this tactic when they don’t understand what another person is saying. Rather than admit they are confused, they pretend that what the other person is saying is beyond belief. This is an attempt to dismiss valid concerns.

Example:  “You seriously think there are other husbands who are better than me? You really think other wives get anywhere near what I have given you? You are not living in the real world.

7) Labeling:  Applying a negative phrase or attributing negative characteristics to a person or position.

Narcissists love labels. Having a single word to invalidate or humiliate another feels like an ultimate power for narcissists.

Example:  “You’re too needy. You’re a loser.”

8) False Compromise:  Offering to meet half way on matters in which there is clearly a fair and unfair choice.

If a narcissist has a choice to treat another person fairly or unfairly, a “compromise” that still treats the other unfairly is no compromise – it’s still wrong.

Example:  “Okay, you win, I’ll pay you back $50 of the $100 you gave me and we’ll call it even. Hey, it’s better than nothing.”

 

9) Empty Promises:  Promising to give others what they want without any plan or intention of fulfilling the promise.

Example:  “You’ll get your turn. I promise.”

10) Quoting out of Context:  Repeating only part of what another person said or using another’s words completely out of context.

Narcissists do this to discredit others and put them on the defensive.

Example:  “You always said people have to take responsibility for themselves so I didn’t think you needed my help when you had to go to the ER.”

11) Ridicule:  Mocking or humiliating another person or their requests or feelings.

Narcissists devalue others through dismissive remarks, sarcasm, or hostile humor instead of taking the other person seriously.

Example:  “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re just embarrassing yourself.”

12) Slippery Slope:  An appeal to fear which takes a small problem and predicts that it will lead to an escalating series of worst-case scenarios.

The goal is to use an extreme hypothetical to distract from a reasonable complaint or argument.

Example:  “If I do this for you, you will think you can get whatever you want from me. I’ll become your slave and have no life.”

13) Dehumanizing:  Classifying others as inferior, dangerous or evil to justify oppressing or eliminating them.

This ends-justifies-the-means tactic is second nature for narcissists, who see most other people as inferior.

Example:  “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

14) Slogans:  A simplistic phrase that is a catch-all designed to shut down dissent.

Narcissists often have pat phrases they employ when they feel threatened.

Example:  “I’m your last best hope. I’m all you’ve got.”

Knowledge is power. Recognizing narcissists’ tactics is the first step in setting healthy boundaries against their manipulation. Read additional thought-control techniques used by narcissists in my blog 12 Classic Propaganda Techniques Narcissists Use to Manipulate You

SOURCE:  Tori Rodriguez/Scientific American

Research supports a moderate, supportive style of parenting

The consensus is clear: mean parents make mean kids—and the victims of mean kids. Several recent studies confirm an association between strict parenting styles and children’s likelihood of both being a bully and being bullied. Some work also points to a more surprising association—permissive or neglectful parenting might create bullies, too.

In one such study, researchers at the University of Washington and Arizona State University conducted a retrospective study of 419 college students and found that parental authoritativeness—in which parents are warm and caring but set rules for the sake of their child’s safety—lowered kids’ risk of being bullied. Both permissive and authoritarian (strict) parenting styles, on the other hand, were positively correlated with bullying other kids, according to the results published in January in Substance Use and Misuse. Both approaches can result in a lack of respect for rules and the rights of others.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation also pointed to lackadaisical parenting as a problem. Researchers investigated online bullying in a sample of college students and found that those with permissive parents had engaged in more bullying behaviors than participants with authoritarian and authoritative parents. Neglectful parenting was associated with the most bullying.

Most research on parents’ influence on bullying, however, has focused on harsh, punitive parenting styles—in which the parents are essentially modeling bullying behavior for their children. One such study, published in January in Child Abuse and Neglect, assessed bullying involvement, parenting styles and disciplinary practices in a sample of 2,060 Spanish high school students. Results indicate that abusive discipline increased teenagers’ risk of abusing peers or being abused by them. For girls, the risk of being a bully was more closely connected to physical punishment, whereas for boys it was linked primarily to psychologically aggressive parental discipline. For both boys and girls, there was a direct correlation between falling victim to a bully and psychological aggression from parents.

Taken together, the studies indicate that the best parenting tactics probably fall in the middle of the spectrum. Indeed, studies have shown that a protective factor against being bullied or becoming a bully is having parents who are facilitative, meaning warm and responsive to their children and encouraging of appropriate levels of autonomy (rather than being either controlling or overly permissive). A 2015 study of 215 grade school children, reported in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, found that bullied children were consistently rated by teachers as having less facilitative parenting than nonbullied children. A 2016 study from the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry followed kids for five years and found that those whose parents supported autonomy when the kids were four or five years old bullied less over time than those whose parents showed less support for autonomy.

The bottom line? “If you do not wish to raise a bully, do not bully your own kids,” says Julie A. Patock-Peckham, a psychology professor at Arizona State. “An authoritative parenting style, on the other hand, is protective against so many negative psychological outcomes that people who wish to become better parents should take classes on how to be more authoritative with their children.”

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others. While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible to others, the codependent becomes responsible for them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing. Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility. Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Codependency unchecked can take you right off the rails of what you want to achieve in your life, get in the way of goals and sabotage your dreams. And it’s all too easy to be completely unaware of it. This is because while distractions, toxic people and worthy-but-untimely things are outside of you, codependency is within you. Sometimes it’s just too close to see. But it is there, at least in small part, in most of us.

For example, you are late to your night class in the MBA track because a co-worker drops the ball and asks you to work late to bail him out. Or you want to take flying lessons, but your wife doesn’t like to try new things and prefers to stay at home. Since she feels lonely when you are gone, you stay home, which actually ends up being worse for the both of you. Or perhaps you feel guilty for the fact that your efforts at online dating are paying off, while your girlfriends are moping and complaining about their lack of prospects. So you hid your success from them, or even slow down the process.

Most of the time, the problem caters on the unhappiness of the other person. Since we care about them, we don’t want them to be sad, hurt, disappointed or unhappy. And that kind of care is a good thing. However, no one has ever yet made an unhappy person happy. You can’t take the emotions of another person and change them. You can help, love, accept, empathize, advise, challenge, confront and support. But at the end of the day, their feelings belong to them. So you must say no to enabling and rescuing behaviors. Life gets better and people become more successful when they are able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

When you start saying no to your own codependency, however, you will also find yourself saying no to people you have been rescuing. So be ready for some twinges of guilt. You may feel like the bad guy or fear that the other person will think badly of you. These feelings are normal; consider them part of the price of reaching your dreams. Just remember to stay loving and caring while respecting the line of responsibility. The guilty feelings should resolve in time, and you will become a freer person.

Why I Never Drink Alcohol

SOURCE: MICHAEL BROWN/charismamag.com

I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

Forty-six years ago, in 1971, the Lord graciously saved me from a life from sinful destruction, which included very serious drug abuse and some heavy drinking as well. From that day until today, I have never abused drugs again or had a sip of alcohol, other than taking Communion with a taste of wine when that was the only option.

Do I believe that the Scriptures require total abstinence for all believers? No, I do not.

Do I believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine in John 2, even if the wine was not as fermented as today? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that some Christians can drink some alcoholic beverages in moderation without sinning before God? I certainly do.

So, I am not here as anyone’s judge or jury, nor am I trying to force my convictions on anyone else. I simply want to share with you why I have totally abstained from alcohol for the last 46 years, since I’ve often been asked this question over the years.

First, although I loved getting high on drugs and getting drunk before I was saved, I did not enjoy the taste of alcohol. Once I gave up getting drunk, I had no interest in drinking at all. There was no temptation or desire.

Things were very different for my wife Nancy, who was born again in 1974. She really enjoyed the taste of alcohol and also got drunk before she was saved. So, for her, there was no question at all that she should avoid even the taste of alcohol once she was in the Lord. Why play with fire? Drinking only had sinful connections in her life.

Second, the church in which Nancy and I came to faith practiced total abstinence, so this became our practice as well.

I honestly don’t remember the pastor teaching on it in those early, formative years. Instead, we learned it from the other believers, some of whom used to be heavy drinkers before they were saved as well. For them, too, it was quite natural to cut that cord of attachment with the world.

Third, I began preaching in 1973 at the age of 18, so I was quickly looked to as a leader on some level. What kind of example was I setting? If others followed my lead, would they be helped or hurt?

For me, this was another good reason not to drink socially, since so many believers struggled with drinking before they saved, and some continued to struggle after they were saved. Why put another stumbling block before them?

Fourth, I have heard the same sad story many times over the decades, and it gives me real pause.

A former alcoholic sees another brother or sister have a glass of wine with their meal, or they visit your house and see that you have beer in your refrigerator. They then think to themselves, “Well, if it’s OK for them, I guess it’s OK for me,” and they have one drink—just one—and quickly find themselves enslaved again, sometimes for years.

So, your liberty, which might be totally fine between you and the Lord, ends up destroying a precious brother or sister.

Paul addressed this in the context of food sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same: “and by your knowledge [meaning, the knowledge that food itself doesn’t defile us] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? When you thus sin against the brothers, wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, least I cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:11-13).

The lesson here is that we should put greater emphasis on helping weaker brothers and sisters than on enjoying our liberty.

Fifth, I minister in many different church cultures, some of which also practice total abstaining, therefore I take the more stringent road as a way of life.

For example, I’ve ministered in Italy and England on 40 different trips, and on my occasions, I’ve had meals with other Christian leaders who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meals.

I’ve never seen them drunk, nor have I felt they were doing something wrong. It’s their culture, and this is between them and God. (If this seems to be in violation of my last point, it’s not. I’m sharing my own counsel and convictions, not imposing them on others.)

I’ve also ministered in Asia on more than 40 different trips, most commonly in India, and I’ve never once seen a believer drink alcohol there, nor have I seen it on my few trips to Africa.

Again, for my own life, I’d rather live the same way in both cultures. In that way, if I’m ever asked about my personal practices in the stricter environment, I can say that I never drink at all.

Sixth, we are commanded in Scripture to be sober and vigilant (for example, 1 Pet. 5:8), whereas alcohol can easily lead to sluggishness, impaired judgment, sloppy thinking and acting, and outright drunkenness.

Since I believe in fleeing from that which destroys (see, for example, 2 Tim. 2:22), I run towards sobriety and away from anything that leads to drunkenness.

Seventh, I do not want to be enslaved by any earthly habit. (For decades, I was a chocoholic. By God’s grace, I’ve been totally free that from enslavement, along with other food addictions, for more than three years now—and I emphasize the words “by God’s grace.”)

It’s so easy to become dependent on that one drink just to calm your nerves, that one drink just to take the edge off, that one drink to quiet your fears, that one drink.

Perhaps you’re leaning on that one drink rather than on the Lord? Perhaps you’re becoming dependent on it? Perhaps one drink will lead to two or three or more?

Despite the lies of the flesh and the world, sin never satisfies. Instead, it leads to more sin, then to worse sin, and then it enslaves.

Which direction is your drinking taking you? Are you now getting into alcohol in general? Are you now trying out harder and harder liquor and encouraging your friends to do the same? Are you even having some drinking parties where you glory in your “liberty”? Have you had more to drink than you planned, even getting mildly drunk?

Again, I’m not playing God here, and I’m not sitting as your judge. But if you said yes to any of these last four questions, I can almost guarantee you that you’re on a slippery slope in the wrong direction and that, soon enough, your “liberty” will turn to bondage.

That’s also why I have a personal problem with the whole “beer and Bible” approach to ministry.

On the one hand, I understand that churches want to meet sinners where they are and invite them to study the Word in a comfortable environment. But at what point do these sinners hear the message of repentance, which includes repenting of drunkenness? And how many former alcoholics in the church now stumble and fall because of this environment?

To say it again, I’m only sharing my personal convictions here, and I’m quite familiar with the argument that those who have learned to drink in moderation all their lives will not struggle with getting drunk.

For many, that is true, just like in traditional Jewish culture, where small amounts of wine are incorporated into various meals and rites.

But in a country like America, where there is so much drunkenness and decadence, I’d rather err in the opposite direction and simply have nothing to do with alcohol in this world. And yes, once more, these are simply my own views, which I share because I’m often asked about drinking.

And even in biblical days, where alcoholic beverages may not have been as fermented as today and where most believers certainly did not practice total abstaining, we still have this warning: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).

The bottom line is that there are far more important things than food and drink, which is why Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

May we all pursue that “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” in a manner fitting as a kingdom of priests before our God.

SOURCE:  Joseph Janesz, PhD/ Cleveland Clinic

Get the sober facts from our expert

When it comes to alcohol, the line between myth and fact can be blurry. Chemical dependency specialist Joseph Janesz, PhD, helps clear up the confusion below.

Myth 1: Drinking perks you up at parties

“Throughout the holiday season, many of us struggle with fatigue and excess stress,” he says. “We may look to alcohol at a holiday party to dissipate that fatigue, enhance our energy level and relieve stress.”

But alcohol is a brain depressant. It first acts by shutting off executive functions like judgment, mood control and natural inhibitions. Some people experience this as elation and excitement. But others experience the opposite: sleepiness, lethargy and even a depressed feeling.

The bottom line: Alcohol interferes with normal brain activity, no matter how you feel when you drink.

Myth 2: A beer before bed helps you sleep

Drinking a beer before bed may promote your getting to sleep more quickly,” says Dr. Janesz. “However, it interrupts your deep sleep, and you’ll wake later on feeling not rested and ‘hung over.’”

Normally, your body cycles through light and deep phases of sleep. Alcohol inhibits refreshing REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and later on causes “REM rebound,” with nightmares and trouble sleeping.

Repeated alcohol use seriously disturbs sleep and makes it difficult to re-establish a normal sleep pattern. Often, this leads to more drinking or to sedative abuse in the quest for sleep.

Myth 3: An Irish coffee will keep you warm on the slopes

Your body normally stores warm blood in its core to preserve important organ functions. Alcohol artificially dilates blood vessels in your extremities, allowing warm blood to escape from your core into your peripheral circulation, where it cools.

Alcohol intake may make your skin feel warm. Yet it deceptively lowers the core temperature of your body,” says Dr. Janesz.

The result: your body can no longer keep vital organs warm as your overall temperature drops.

Myth 4: A beer is less potent than a cocktail

Whether you’re drinking an ale or a Moscow Mule, you’re typically consuming the same amount of alcohol.

“Any alcohol beverage you consume will have a similar effect on your body and on your ability to function,” says Dr. Janesz.

Myth 5: Coffee can sober you up when you’ve had a few too many

Coffee has no real effect on your blood alcohol level, which is the major factor in determining your level of intoxication.

“Drinking coffee or other caffeine products after having one too many drinks can trick your brain into making you feel energized and more awake or alert,” says Dr. Janesz.

“The alertness can create the perception that you aren’t as drunk or intoxicated as you actually are, and you may decide to have another drink or to drive home.”

Myth 6: Men and women react to alcohol in the same way

Drinking tends to produce higher blood alcohol concentrations in women because they are generally smaller than men. This leads to a greater degree of intoxication.

“Alcohol disperses in water, and women have less water in their bodies than men,” explains Dr. Janesz. “So if a woman and man of the same weight consume the same amount of alcohol, her blood alcohol concentration will usually rise more rapidly than his.”

But while women may reach the “drunk driving” limit — 0.08 percent blood alcohol — sooner, alcohol can impair driving at much lower blood alcohol levels. So “don’t drink and drive” remains sound advice for everyone.

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