Category Archives: Psychology

“It’s time to practice what we big boys call ‘self-control…'”

Self-control.

Where have you gone, self-control?

What has become of you?

Have you left our land never to return, or are you there waiting to be reintroduced by those who should already know you?

Oh, self-control, don’t hide your face anymore…

Ha! Just a little strange poetry humor to get us started… anyone know Silverweed from Watership Down? No?  Moving on… Self-control. No one talks about SELF control any more, or if they do, it is actually seen to be a negative thing, something to make fun of.  However, when we read scripture it become evident that self-control is extremely important and is a valuable thing.  It is my argument that many negative things we are facing in our current culture arises, in part, from a lack of self-control.

Freedom and self-control go hand-in-hand.  Do we see this in scripture?  We sure do!  Please check out an earlier article on mine that goes into the Greek behind “temperance” which is self-control, and that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 9; Temperance

Self-control is also taught in the OT; Proverbs 25:28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.  If you lack self-control, you lack defenses against the enemy.  Sound like that could be a connection with all the things we see around us right now in our culture? When we have a lack of self-control, we suffer as individuals, but we also hurt others including the whole of the Body of Christ.  When self-control is absent, addiction can move and set up shop in our lives.

We look around and we see the lack of self-control; sex and porn addiction, homosexual acts, fornication, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction, gluttony, addiction to gossip, and on and on.  Not only that, we see a generation of kids who can’t control themselves.  Debts is out of control, and people can’t seem to put their electronics down for more than a minute at a time.  One of the reasons we see this is that it has become a belief that control comes from outside of ourselves.  Drugs are a popular example of this.  I’m all for necessary medications, but there is now this thought that whatever is wrong, legal or illegal drugs can correct.  We also see law, or legality, as an example as well. If it is legal, it must be ok, because if it wasn’t ok, it would be illegal and the government would control us.  Speaking of the government, they are also trying to impose control in other ways.  Kids not eating healthy?  Take away the vending machines at school.  Outlaw big gulps… yeah, that’ll work.

No.  God puts the responsibility squarely on us, and says if we are walking with Him, if we are believers, we will have help from the Holy Spirit.  One of the major things I hope people understand is that it is not weakness to seek help for something we feel is out of our control.  Let’s use the porn epidemic as an example.  Men and women are both affected, sometimes in different ways.  Further, some may think porn “doesn’t hurt anyone” so what is the big deal?  First of all, it is a big deal to God. It hurts the one viewing it.  It changes the neural pathways in the brain in a way that is unhealthy, and causes the individual to react differently when met with a real-life woman (or man) and a real relationship.  It also hurts the ones participating in the pornography itself; it is degrading and debasing for all involved.  It hurts the whole Body of Christ, for when one person is harmed the rest are as well.  It’s like a virus spreading; what we do in “private” is not disconnected from everything else, nor everyone else.  Perfect example of all of this; I’m sure you’ve read or heard of the Josh Duggar scandal.  He never actually internalized self-control, but was instead controlled by thoughts, urges, and hormones; the perfect example of what not to do or how to be.  He learned how to mimic self-control, not how to actually control himself.

We see other examples surrounding us, or even in our own lives.  How we eat, how we spend our money, how we handle anger, where our thoughts go, how we spend our time, our actions, our words… It’s past time we take a look at our selves, and start practicing self-control and teaching our children how to practice it as well, if we haven’t already.  Practicing self-control isn’t locking ourselves away from temptation, but rather learning how to respond correctly to the temptation when it rears its ugly head. Part of this is embracing the freedom God gives us, and learning responsibility within that freedom. God says He always gives us a way out of temptation… it’s time to look for that open door.  If you need help, find help.  This is not a legalistic thing, but rather it is all about health; the individual’s spiritual, physical, and mental health, and having good defenses.  As each individual gains proper healthy defenses, the body of Christ as a whole can flourish.

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Marriage.

Marriage has become a hot-button topic in our day and age mainly because of the same-sex marriage debate.  But, lets set that subject aside.  As easy as that, let’s focus on the real point.  Biblically, in the New Testament, marriage is indeed to be between one man and one woman.  Marriage is a sacred institution, and the tragedy is that somewhere along the way the church adapted marriage to the world.

Confessing Christians get divorced at rates that cannot be pleasing to God.  God hates divorce, while at the same time allowing for it.  I have the feeling that Christians don’t respect the idea of vows and marriage like they should. Duh.  So, what is some of the problem?  One major factor is the idea of love.

In our modern time, love has been redefined as a mix of lust and fluffy nebulous feeling.  That, esp. lust, has nothing to do with Biblical love between a man and a woman in marriage that is spiritually equal to a legal, binding contract.  We tend to forget that at one point in time divorce was pretty much illegal unless you could show hard evidence of something like ongoing adultery.   By tying marriage into lust, we cheapen it, and make it extraordinarily easy to make excuses to get a divorce from someone we don’t “love” any more.

But you have to love your spouse right?  No.  Not in the way the world defines love.  Look at arranged marriages, just for an example.  In the beginning of an arranged marriage, the two people don’t even know each other, instead they have trusted either their parents or an intermediary to pick a spouse that meets certain criteria.  I believe that we should be able to pick out our spouse; however, I also believe we have lost some of the common sense aspects of arranging a marriage that is going to last.

I don’t really care how good looking a person is if they can’t work.  I don’t really care about anything else if they don’t believe in the same God I do.  Whether I find the person sexually attractive becomes moot really quick unless they have the same expectation when it comes to kids; do they want them?  Can they provide for them?  How many?  How are they to be raised?  Is the mom going to stay at home or not?  What about education?

The family budget, and what money is ultimately for.  Where are you going to live?  Do they have a good relationship with their parents, and on and on.   Also, when we get married it is like starting a family that is as permanent as our former family, meaning that my genetic brother is still my brother no matter what happens.  I can hate him, or not talk to him for five years, but he’s still my brother.  My husband is the exact same. That is the important bit we seem to be forgetting.  Two become one flesh.

Annnddd, here’s something a lot people probably don’t want to hear; you need to decide who is in charge.  Not in a command way, but someone, at some point, is going to have to lead.  If everything is functioning properly, it should be the husband.  Women, marry someone with that in mind.  I truly believe the husband needs to be at least as smart as the wife.  I believe that women can be leaders in the church (such as deacons), and that when God used the term helpmeet, He did so deliberately, and that people miss the part where He uses the same word for Himself.

A weaker thing cannot help a stronger thing.  Just sayin’.  Men and women are meant to be complimentary, so that life is enhanced by their joining.  Ok, so you’ve picked a suitable mate; what kind of love needs to be there in the marriage over time?  Many know that there are different words for “love” in the Greek language used in the Bible, and these show us the type of love that should be there (keep in mind this isn’t a pick-one, leave the rest list, this is inclusive).

1) Agape love – This love is an unselfish love and is the key to all the rest.  This is the same type of love that God has for us, that unconditional love that forgives.  This is the love He had toward us that while we where yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.  We are called to love our spouses in the same way.  If you start with selfish love, your mate is rightly going to feel manipulated and judged.

2) Epithumia love – Interestingly this type can, and is, both positive and negative depending on form.  The negative side is lust.  The positive side is desire within marriage.  This is the physical desire that results in fulfilling sex within marriage.  Guess what?  Sex is good if done in a Godly setting, sex was devised to bring release and intimacy for BOTH partners. This can also be abused if it turns lustful, esp. outside of marriage (or sadly even within).  When someone cannot temper this they will hurt their mate if they are demanding, obsessed, and insensitive.

3) Eros love – This is the romantic love often skewed by the media.  Romance in Christian marriage is all about pursuing your beloved… it is the chase within marriage.  It is seeking out your loved one and showing them how much you cherish them.  We have already covered the physical side, so this love includes more than that.  This is the compliments, the verbal praises, the together time, the day dreaming, the hugs, hand-holding, the planning, etc…

4) Storge love – This is the comfort type of love.  At home with our family we are to feel safe, and secure in love.  We should feel that we “fit” together.  You know those older pair of jeans that are so comfortable and are just “you?” Well, that’s storge-type love.

5) Phileo love – Friendship love is sharing time and interests together.  It’s that feeling of camaraderie and “liking” as well as loving the person you are with.  It’s ok to have our own interests, but we should also cultivate interests in common and pursue those as well as our own hobbies.

Again, all 5 types of love are what we should have in our marriages.  The key is to find our strengths and weaknesses, and to consciously change the weak areas and work on them, practice fulfilling them.  Another key thing to remember is that agape love calls for us to have all 5 types regardless of our mate… that’s the point of “unconditional” love.  Be friendly even if you mate isn’t (and don’t be attack-friendly to try to show how wonderful you are).  Of course all that assumes that you are not being harmed by an abuser.  God does not look kindly on an abusive mate.

If you find your marriage is on rocky ground, seek Christian counseling through a Christian psychologist or counselor, read some good book on marriage, pray and seek God’s help and grace.  All marriages hit rough patches, and they can only be smoothed out by understanding how God sees marriage, and what our roles are to be.

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It Matters Who Your Friends Are…

There are so many things that are different in our modern world than in days gone by that it is hard to pick out a topic to cover. Recently, however, I have been thinking and studying the effects of good parental involvement and teaching in children’s lives. One of the things in by-gone times that parents monitored were who their children befriended.

Now it seems it isn’t “cool” for parents to monitor something so “personal” as their children’s friendships, let alone to actually teach children that it does indeed matter who they hang out with, and that they need to be aware of the effects of their peers. We all know the peer pressure commercials and they have become a joke. How often, though, do we think about wisdom, intelligence, social manners, morals, etc… when it comes to who the next generation surrounds themselves with?

God makes no bones about it; Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. The teaching here is twofold; walk with wise individuals and you will actually be wise. Walk with foolish individuals and you will be hurt. It is crucial to remember that the bulk of Proverbs is underscoring listening to our Parents’ wise counsel, so the safe assumption here is that this bit of knowledge should be on the list to teach the next generation. Try that in today’s world, and the world will say that you have your nose in the air. That’s the world… so that underscores that we should indeed be teaching our kids to be selective in their friendships and that means monitoring who your children “befriend.”

For us older types, this brilliant Proverb also means we need to take a good hard look at who we attach ourselves too. As one simple example, this isn’t limited to friends, is it? How about our spouses? If we pay attention to the Lord and His guidance, and our blessed enough to stay married, our spouses are going to be one of the major people we “walk with.” So you’d better pick a good one, and not on the basis of the short-lived romantic hogwash love that the world forces down your throat. Do you want wisdom? The first step is to ask God for it, and that will include studying scripture to see what He has to say about wisdom. It is apparent to me that one of the keys is deliberately picking who we walk with.

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Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 3: Sleep

Sleep is crucial to be fully functioning and effective in everyday life.  Too much sleep isn’t good and not sleeping enough isn’t good.  Oversleeping can be just as problematic as insomnia, and it actually has many of the same effects as insomnia.  Sleeping too much can also be a sign that something is wrong either mentally or physically.

A rule of thumb is to figure out what length of time is optimum for you to sleep and aim for that time.  You absolutely must figure out how to be truthful with yourself and accurately estimate the length you need.  Try to think of a time when you’ve had good, uninterrupted sleep at a time when you feel mentally and physically healthy.  What you want to do is figure out, during that time-frame, when you would naturally awake and feel refreshed.

You do yourself a disservice if you over or underestimate the number of hours you need; the vast majority of people will need right around 8 hours.  Don’t try to be eccentric or different and act as though you need much more or less.  More than likely you need 7 — 9 hours.  Many times people let “sleep debt” sway their opinion on how much “basal sleep” they need.  You want to keep aiming for you basal time every night, and eventually your “sleep debt” will disappear.

Many focus on too little sleep, especially those suffering from insomnia.  If at all possible do not take sleep aids, they normally have bad side effects and can actually make your insomnia worse in the long run.  Instead, make a true commitment to change habits that could be leading to your insomnia.  Long term insomnia is not good for your health; physical, mental, or spiritual.

General Sleep Hygiene

  1. Pick a fixed bedtime and awake time, and follow it even if you are off of work
  2. Avoid sleeping/napping during the day. If you have to take a nap, limit it to 30-45 min.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before your set bedtime
  4. Caffeine should also be avoided for 4-6 hours prior, and limit yourself to 2 cups a day. (Things like chocolate also have caffeine and should be avoided)
  5. Avoid heavy foods 4-6 hours prior
  6. Don’t exercise within 2 hours of trying to sleep
  7. Do exercise during the day, with at least some of it being outside
  8. A cool room (not cold) is more conducive to sleep
  9. Use relaxation techniques before bed
  10. Try to designate waking hours to “worrying” and not to carry it with you to bed. Making lists for things to deal with/think about the next day, and then plan to do what needs to be done BEFORE laying down to sleep, esp. a few hours before.
  11. Try to have a pre-sleep ritual. Taking a shower, reading for a bit, etc…
  12. If you can’t sleep for around 20 min, get up, go into another room and do something like reading until you are sleepy again.
  13. Sleep in as dark a room as you can stand. Television isn’t recommended, and if you need something to fall asleep to, try radio instead.
  14. Your bed is for sleeping and sex, try not to use it for anything else like watching TV or reading.

Psychological factors

  1. Loneliness, stress, and depression can add to insomnia.
  2. You also don’t want “rewarded” for insomnia; for example, increased attention.  So, try to avoid posting about it on places like Facebook and/or Twitter just to get a response from others, or to show how late/early you are up.

Milton H. Erickson once said to make sure your alcoholic is sincere in wanting to quit, or else it will do no good to try to help.  The same is true of insomniacs; if you are not sincere in wanting to change your sleep patterns, you will find all manner of excuses and rationalizations to avoid changing bad habits.

Give yourself time to establish an actual new pattern.  It can take up to 30 days, for example, to completely modify your sleep schedule.  As to when you should wake up, there are many advantages to waking early, but the important thing is to be honest about the outcome of your day; meaning if you deal with people on a regular basis through the day, you should probably stick to a schedule to be fully rested with the mainstream.

You may want to stay up late, but if you have to be at work at 8 am, that isn’t going to be a healthy choice.  Make the commitment to follow the healthy sleep hygiene points above and do it consistently.

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Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 2: Water

Water; drink it. Seriously.  One of the main factors my psychologist husband and I notice when talking with others and attempting to help them mentally, spiritually, and physically is a lack of water.  It may sound simple, and it is.  You need water to live.  Not pop, tea, beer, coffee, Gatorade, mix-ins, etc… but just plain ol’ water.

Water helps your brain work properly, helps you to lose weight, helps to clear up skin, and obviously helps us function physically.  Your body is composed of around 60% water.  Even if you don’t exercise daily (as we all should) you lose water during the course of the day, even just by breathing.  Your body is also processing toxins constantly, drinking plenty of water helps flush out those toxins, keeping us healthier.

I mentioned weight loss above; if we keep hydrated by drinking enough water we will not confuse our physical feelings of thirst with hunger.  You can drink colder water to aid in weight loss, as your body has to work to maintain your core body temperature by raising your metabolism.  If you aren’t concerned with weight loss, stick with cool or room temperature water, as you can drink more faster, and your body doesn’t have to work to warm itself.

One complaint I’ve heard the most when it comes to water is the taste, “I don’t like water.” Seriously?  That’s your excuse?  As my husband is fond of saying, “Ok, little baby let’s just go by taste and not what is good for you.”  We are not infants.  We can make healthy choices regardless of things like taste.  But, putting that aside, there are many many different tasting waters.  I don’t recommend bottled water, instead, find some way to make your tap water, or well water both safe (if it isn’t already) and palatable.

I personally have a reverse osmosis filter, and tote around a stainless steel bottle.  If you want, add in simple fresh lemon juice to change the flavor of your water.  Make sure it is readily accessible to you when driving, at work, while working out, and at home.

Make smart choices when choosing what else to drink.  Soda is actually the Devil in liquid form (haha), but if you choose to drink pop, drink regular, not diet.  Also, severely limit you soda intake; none is best.  If you need caffeine, drink tea or coffee instead.  Try to not add sweeteners, but if you do, go for the most natural options like honey or raw sugar.  Both tea and coffee are diuretics, which means you need to also drink water to replenish what those drinks make you lose.

Most people don’t realize that store-bought juice is not really a healthy option when it comes to liquids.  If you do drink juice or let your kids drink juice, it should be in moderation.  A better option that is good for everyone is to juice your own fresh juices from veggies and fruit.  These drinks are incredibly healthy and also count for water intake because of high water content of these juices.  My favorite is orange-carrot-apple.  If you have the money and access, organic is always a better option.

That brings me to milk.  Milk can also be drank in moderation, but weigh your options carefully especially for your children.  Oftentimes organic whole milk is actually the best option available (See this article on FoxNews: Why skim milk isn’t necessarily better).  When fat is removed, many companies replace that fat with synthetic additives.  Fat in moderation is good for developing brains.  I say organic, because our dairy products are one of the greatest sources of non-human hormones, and antibiotics.  Going organic on dairy can be expensive, but consider getting your kids organic, even if you can’t afford them for the whole family.  Taste organic milk (I prefer Horizon brand), and you won’t want to go back.

Some forms of alcohol in moderation are fine (esp. some beers and red wine), but remember you also need to replenish your water levels while drinking alcohol, esp. when the night is through and you are getting ready for bed.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, don’t jump into changing your drinking habits haphazardly; if you are addicted to pop, cut down gradually don’t try cold turkey.  Gradually increase your water intake, and just really begin to notice what your are drinking and how much.

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Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 1: Routine

Many people approach the New Year in a frenzy of goals and promises.  This is actually an unhealthy approach to change.  Take diet for example, if a person approaches “diet” in a frenzied state, making promises to themselves and others, they are setting themselves up for failure.

Any new goal should be approached in a balanced way.  I say that because even though this series is entitled “healthy habits,” if they are approached haphazardly, or even with an overabundance of enthusiasm, they are more likely to fail.  Also when I speak of health, I speak of the health of the whole human; body, mind, and soul.  Any or all of these suggestions should be approached in a balanced way, not to be seen as a set of rules that “must” be followed; humans don’t tend to do well with orders, even positive ones.

So, with that being said, the first “habit” is a bit redundant, it is “routine.”  This doesn’t mean you need to plot and plan every minute of every day, but rather it should be a framework.  Later I’ll specifically talk of sleep patterns, but every daily routine should begin with a plan of when to go to sleep and when to wake up.  This routine isn’t just a workday routine, but a routine that should be followed on weekends and holidays too.  In a later article, I’ll write about how waking early in the day is a way to get ahead, and be more successful at whatever you set out to do.

For now, you need to set a time to rise and a time to go to bed.  You also need to schedule time to eat during the day and try to stick as close to that schedule as possible.  These things help to regulate your body, which functions better with routine.  It’s the same with medication; in short, anything that will have an effect on your body and its metabolism should be a part of your routine, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Establish “mini-routines” for the most important parts of your day.  When you rise, have a routine to kick off your day.  For example, an easy exercise (walking, yoga, etc…) or simple stretching routine, quiet time, a time for prayer and/or bible study/praise and worship, and then breakfast.  Then the steps you go through to make yourself presentable to the day; shower, brush your teeth, etc…  When you go to bed, the same thing (will blog about specific bed routines later).

One important routine to establish is a goal routine; you set specific goals in the morning, and review them at night.  Obviously this includes a lot of honesty.  If you failed to reach a goal, why did you fail?  Did you set too big of a goal, did you squander your time, did something else come up?  This is where you must watch for defense mechanisms, like rationalization.  Rationalization is where you basically fool yourself into believing an excuse instead of the real problem.  The truth is, many of us are lazy and just don’t want to do certain things, but routine and schedule will help to develop a level of discipline that will help get things done.

Figure out what else is important to you such as exercise, reading, gardening, etc… and make sure to set aside time for them as well.  There will be certain things you are willing to sacrifice in a day for the sake of already scheduled events, and somethings you make a priority.

Kids and pets thrive on routine, so they will thank you too.  What if you don’t have kids or pets?  You have friends or a boss, or a spouse, or co-workers who will also thank you, because you’ll be in a better mood and be better functioning.  One last point about routine; it is obvious but the routine you establish should be positive, if you establish a negative routine, you will reap the opposite results (for example, if going to bed at different times all week is your routine, that is going to have ill effects on your physical, mental and emotional state).

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Ayn Rand; Brilliant? Fool? Both? pt. 1

As a philosophy instructor I’ve of course learned and taught about Ayn Rand, but only recently have I really looked at her, as a person, instead of “just” the philosophy she adopted as her own and presented to the public.  Ayn had a lot of interesting philosophies, and many of those philosophies have a place in our current society, and could even be embraced by Christians; however, Ayn also had many personal and psychological issues that get in the way of her own philosophy.

Contrary to Ayn’s own apparent belief, her philosophy had been around for thousands of years before she was born; her objectivism wasn’t so much a new philosophy, as it was a mix of philosophies that could be found in the annals of philosophy that came before her.  She also lacked a logical basis for her philosophy, though that idea would insult her very much.

First, a run down of what “objectivism” is, according to Ayn. Objectivism is espoused to be an answer to subjectivism.  Objectivists like Ayn believe that our senses actually and accurately inform us about reality.  Human logic stands in for God (which is an illogical position that I’ll address later); meaning Ayn believed that human reason alone could result in absolutes.  For example, we can rationally conceive of a morality totally defined via human reason and have it be absolute.

One of the hallmarks of Ayn’s morality was the idea of selfishness; that selfishness is morally right.  She was fond of bashing (and misunderstanding) altruism, as well as Christianity. And, the one big thing we’ve heard recently because of the state of our economy and country; she pushed for laissez-faire capitalism with extraordinarily limited gov’t interference in the business world.

Ayn’s philosophies never caught on in any academic sphere.  One reason; she disliked academics, so there was her strike against the liberals.  She disliked religion and denied there was a God, so there was her strike against the conservatives.  She effectively cut off both routes to respect and implementation of her philosophies (this is important because one reason she wrote what she did when she did was to try to change the directions of the U.S.).  While her philosophies are popular amongst college/high school students, it is her stories that are popular amongst the “common folk” whom she often complained did not understand the deeper implications of her work.

Surprisingly enough, Ayn was anti-feminist and anti-homosexual, finding both positions to be immoral and disgusting.  She had odd ideas about sex and sexuality that are apparent just by reading her fiction stories.  To be a “good” objectivist was to believe that it was the man’s place to be worshiped, and a woman’s place to be submissive and to be owned.  Authors tend to write themselves into certain characters and by reading Ayn’s descriptions of her female characters, we can see a common thread that is both sad and disturbing.  I intend to take a look at this in my next blog post as well as discussing her take on altruism and morality.

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