Category Archives: Psychology

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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Filed under Health, Of Interest, Philosophy, Prayer, Psychology

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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Filed under Atheism, Logic, Of Interest, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion and Politics

John MacArthur’s misunderstanding about the sufficiency of scripture

I recently listened to several sermons by John MacArthur on the sufficiency of scripture, which is what is prompting this article.  By the middle of each sermon I was shouting at the radio, and not “Amen” or “Hallelujah.”  The lead-off was talking about how psychology has infiltrated the church.

Now, I have to be clear from the outset, I don’t think a psychologist has the requisite training to be a pastor, that takes a whole other type of schooling and training.  The opposite holds true; a pastor that has only been trained to teach out of the Bible doesn’t have the requisite training to be a psychologist.  What does any of this have to do with the sufficiency of scripture?  Well, Johnny Mac’s point was that the Bible is sufficient for all spiritual need… which apparently includes mental need from his POV.

Does the Bible contain teachings that apply to psychology?  Yes.  Is it, sufficient in and of itself to treat someone’s mental disorder?  Well, let me ask this; is the Bible sufficient to teach someone to set a broken leg?  The answer to both is “no” without any insult to the Bible.  A human is physical, mental, and spiritual.  The Bible is mainly a spiritual guide, with overlap in the physical and mental areas.  We would never make the argument that if someone is suffering from cancer, that the Bible gives us specific cures.  It is the same for mental health.

MacArthur bemoans the fact that people look for answers outside the Bible… we do that all the time, in fact he does that all the time.  When you have a problem with your car, the Bible does not teach you how to fix it.  Beyond that, what MacArthur teaches sounds like a form of idolatry; the Bible isn’t to be worshiped, God is.  The Bible, as a physical, written document is not sufficient to save anyone.  Only God is sufficient. That is why the Bible should be labeled the word of God, while Jesus is The Word of God.

Further, I did not hear MacArthur teach on Ephesians 4; specifically:

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Notice that these people are to teach, so a written manuscript is not sufficient for the perfecting of the saints.  It takes teaching and guiding, it also takes the Holy Spirit!  Should psychology run the church? No.  Should psychology be preached from the pulpits? No.  Do humans have a mind that can have issues that need addressed outside of scripture? Yes.  To teach anything else is to neglect a God-given aspect of humanity, and to put believers in danger who are listening to John MacArthur.  The danger is that someone suffering from a mental disorder, or mental pain may not get the help they need, being scared that psychology is somehow “of the Devil.”

The Bible teaches us about life, and eternal life.  Without God we are doomed, without Jesus we are doomed, so the eternal state of your soul should be your number one priority.  However, there are aspects to our earthly lives that will have to be dealt with alongside scripture, not out of scripture.  Mental health overlaps with spiritual and physical health, and we need to make sure each of the three is getting fed, and treated.  Scripture helps with all of them, and is sufficient for moral and spiritual teachings, but it was not meant to cover all we humans will encounter here, so the next time my power goes out, I’m not going to quote scripture and think it will magically come back on, someone at the power company is going to have to fix it.

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Filed under Christianity, Ministries, Psychology, The Bible

Christianity and Psychotherapy…

I know it has been a long little while since I’ve blogged, and I do plan to complete my last series soon; however, this topic has been weighing on me for some time and for various reasons.  There is a lot of confusion out there about how, or if, religion should play a role in psychotherapy and if Christians should seek psychotherapy if they feel it would be beneficial.

The first thing to note is that I am indeed a counselor; I received my Master’s degree from a secular University, and am licensed to practice in my state.  Obviously, then, I do believe psychology is legitimate and can be beneficial under the right circumstances.  Having said that, this article is mainly a warning for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ; do NOT go to a psychologist, counselor, therapist, etc… who is not a believer.

One mistake people make is trying to compare going to a therapist with going to a different kind of doctor.  There isn’t a comparison.  How a surgeon operates on your knee is not directly and intimately connected to whether or not s/he believes in God.  Not so with psychotherapy.  Any therapist worth going to will bring up your religious and spiritual beliefs in therapy, and no matter how (or if) they try to fight it, their beliefs WILL change how they choose to do therapy and how they see your faith impacting your life.

There is also little doubt that atheists or agnostic therapists, regardless of their past beliefs, will be incapable of sufficiently connecting with a believer in the therapeutic relationship.  At best, there will simply be a disconnect, at worst the therapist would harbor a negative view of the patient’s religious beliefs, oftentimes believing any and all spiritual beliefs to be detrimental or mental defenses that need changing.

Take marriage for example; there is no absolute and sure grounds for trying to save an ailing marriage outside of God’s will.  Meaning, an unbelieving therapist is a threat to a believer’s marriage if there is trouble in the marital relationship because outside of God, and Jesus, there are no absolute, unchanging, unwavering reasons why a marriage should be saved even if people within the marriage are having a rough time of it.  Instead of offering aid and healing to the marriage itself, there is the potential that an unbelieving therapist could add more poison to a relationship, or push one party to get a divorce for their own “mental health.”

Notice that I’m not saying that there is never a reason for divorce, there are scriptural reasons for one; however, a nonbeliever will be incapable of truly understanding those reasons from a biblical perspective.  The mental, spiritual, and physical is what makes up a human; to neglect any one of the three invites trouble.

I also believe that therapy, done correctly and in a Godly manner, can save a person’s life, help their faith, and help to grow them into the person God wills them to be.  Too many Christians only know the secular side of psychology, and do not realize there are plenty of biblical teachings that are psychological in nature and that God desires our mental health to be seen to, just as much as our physical health, and that mental and physical health impacts spiritual health as well.

In short, if you think therapy is for you, keep shopping around til you find a therapist with similar biblical beliefs to yours.  They are out there, and it is worth the search. Never be afraid to ask questions about your therapist’s religious beliefs to see if you agree with them, and if they will be a good fit for you as you attempt, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to change yourself for the better!  Don’t be unequally yoked within a therapeutic relationship.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology