Thursday, August 21, 2014

Emotional Hygiene

I had a dream about a friend being in trouble because they were carrying things that had happened to them in the course of ministry leadership.   The cumulative effect was weighing them down, visibly in the dream, as pieces of lead dangling from their body, as if pinned to them.  Can you identify? (I don't think this phenomenon is isolated to ministry or leadership).

I called my friend to share the dream, believing that I may have received a divine communication intended to help him.  He said that it was on the mark, and proceeded to share honest feelings about some things that have happened.  I was gratified by his trust, and he was helped out of isolation in his pain.

"What's the takeaway?  What should I do?", he asked.  We agreed on a simple plan of action:  "Make a list of your honest feelings (mad, sad, scared and glad) every day.  Make the list as long as possible.  Then, ask Jesus to speak to you about your feelings.  Ask His perspective and input on what you are feeling.  Sometimes He will probably validate how you feel, and other times He may challenge you about your attitude or conclusions.  Sometimes He'll prompt you to take your feelings to the person that they are about (speaking truth in love)..."

Emotional hygiene is identification and expression of your honest feelings in prayer, journaling and/or conversation with a trusted friend or counsel.  It is essential to build and sustain emotional health.  The alternative is to become emotionally constipated, numb and inward.  This erodes mental and emotional health just as physical bowel constipation becomes unhealthy.

I reminded my friend that it wasn't his fault that he'd been unfairly accused, judged and misunderstood, but that it was his responsibility to respond to the realization that he was carrying things by recognizing and removing them so that he can stay spiritually, physically and relationally healthy.

"In this world you will have many troubles...but take heart. I have overcome the world." - Jesus

Jeff Williams is a co-founder of Grace & Truth Counseling and Coaching, licensed as a Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor in the State of Ohio.