My life has been full of adversities – usually one piled on top of 3 others. Can you relate?
I am not an optimist. At my best, I am a realist, and eventually a realistic optimist. I struggle to keep out of the half-empty glass.
Life happens. Sometimes tragic things happen that are out of our control and it can spiral us downward quickly into despair. I understand. Sometimes we reach out to God and He seems to not be there. I understand. Sometimes doubt and frustration and feelings of injustice threaten to overtake us; sometimes sadness and despair and hopelessness threaten to overtake us; sometimes anxious thoughts and panic and dread threaten to overtake us. I understand.
Early childhood trauma set me up for later adolescent trauma. These experiences shaped my beliefs about the world in which I live. These beliefs shaped my thoughts, which formed my feelings, which directed my actions. Life after that just seemed to reaffirm my cynical view of the world.
Understanding and addressing these beliefs and thoughts, and comparing them to the Truth of who we are in Christ, enable us to make different choices in our inner world, then in our outer world choices and behaviors. These more informed choices and actions empower us and propel us toward our preferred outcomes and positive emotions. This is one thing we address in our sessions – our beliefs about the world and how these influence our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Then we talk strategy.
I am blessed by God to have had Him reach through chaos and touch me. Since the age of 4 or 5, I have known Him experientially. One of my earliest memories is of having been handed a white rectangular zippered book, after having asked who God was. I could barely read at age 4, but I tried. The strange words (KJV) were comforting to me, and I soon wore the pages of the Psalms thin. I was not raised in the church. It was a “mixed marriage”: one side Protestant, one side Jewish. Since they could not agree, my parents chose neither. But God, for some reason, He made Himself known to me.
His divine choice carried me through many difficult adversities and tragedies. I thought of God as my invisible friend: always there, although no one could see Him. It was a blessing that saved my life.
However, believing He initiated our relationship made it a difficult concept to teach and pass on. Unfortunately, the church (in general) seemed to be in much the same place – having trouble teaching how to develop deep and strong, living and active, applicable, experiential relationship with God. The kind of relationship that gives one the certainty that this invisible friend is indeed here and acting on one’s behalf, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to finite, visible self.
And yet, I have been guilty of doubt. I have struggled. I have asked myself all of those questions I have heard others ask. I have known the dark, breathless box of despair, of hopelessness, of anxiety. I feel like my life has been about fighting through adversity, while adversity fights back with brass knuckles. Just to get through it was a relief, and then I would hold my breath and brace myself for the next battle. There had to be something more. When Jesus Christ says “life to the full”, I don’t think this is what He meant.
This motivated me to find the tools for resiliency – to be able to bounce back and grow from adversity, and to be more flexible in the way I approach obstacles (as a challenge that can be leveraged). I seek to honor Him, not to disappoint. This is another area we address in our sessions – resiliency and the tools that build this quality.
I have experienced the exhilaration of witnessing and of being where He is at work! (Can I just live there, please?)
I have experienced the profound depth of an answered prayer.
I have felt His tap on my shoulder, and sensed His finger pointed upward to show me breathtaking beauty. I can feel the warmth of His smile as He shares the stunning vision before our eyes.
He is here.
So this is another area we address in session – deepening our spiritual relationship and meaning though experience.
All in all, the path led to the retrieval of tools and vocabulary that enriched my ability to coach along others in the areas of healthy thinking, building resiliency, deepening spiritual experience and relationship, which in turn increase our positive emotions, improve our relationships, and help us in other important areas of our lives, like setting and accomplishing our goals.
I often told my children that if they followed in my career path, they’d be standing on my shoulders. In other words, growing up with an increasing understanding of my field of psychology gave them the benefit of already knowing what others have just begun learning, allowing them to use their energy to go further, faster.
That is what my coaching is like. My decades of experience, of searching, of learning can boost you ahead of the learning curve so that you can use your energy to go further, faster, and more effectively – with flourish.
(And there, folks, is one of my core beliefs. We go through tragedy, trials, and triumph in order to be there for others, to come alongside them and help them through it effectively.)