Saturday, January 20, 2018

Empathy Heals? Are you Sure?

There is a lot of stuff about Empathy discussed on TED Talks, written in magazines, and debated on TV. However, much of it is a bit off kilter. 

I have done a lot of research, writing, and equipping on the topic of Empathy and helping relationships. As in most things, the definition is key to the term. It is easy to get confused and think Empathy, Compassion, Sympathy, and Altruism are the same. 

Our interpersonal interactions can vary from being a caring friend to offending others. Dr. Richard Walters, one of my most important Mentors, did a study on the ways we relate to others that can either build them up or tear them down. He led me to examine and compare Apathy, Empathy, Sympathy, and Enmeshment. 
    1. Apathy-Unconcerned about how others think, feel, or act.

   2. Empathy-An intentional desire and action to understand and respond to others’ thoughts, actions, and feelings with the cognitive ability to differentiate and respond according to what is best for the person, self, and society.

    3.  Sympathy-An intuitive and unconscious fellow feeling with another’s person’s feelings. This "Feeling With Others" can be so intense that it is difficult to differentiate my own feelings from their feelings. If they are sad, I cry. If they are happy, I laugh. This is wonderful if done in small doses. However, carried to an extreme it can lead to:

    4. Enmeshment-Being swallowed up and overwhelmed by another person’s feelings. It is an inability to differentiate my feelings from their feelings.

A Story About these Various Approaches to relating. A man was out hunting mushrooms when he felt the ground collapse under his feet and he fell into a pit that was 10 feet deep. He tried and tried but could not escape. 

Enmeshment. Man #4 came by and saw the pit and heard his cry for help. He ran over, saw the victim, and jumped down into the pit with the victim, hugged him and they both cried together in despair. 

Apathy: Man one came and herd the men cry out for assistance. He ran over to the hole, looked in and said, "I am sorry but I am in a big hurry and can't take the time to pull you out. He went on his way. 

Empathy: Man #2 came by, heard the cry and ran over to the pit. He knelt down and asked the men what he wanted to do. Heard that he wanted the guy to get a rope and pull him out. The guy agreed and quickly followed through but was not strong enough to do the job alone. 

Sympathy: Man # 3 heard the cry and rushed over to the pit. He fell on his stomach and asked how the victims were feeling. By this time they was terrified, and crying so the rescuer started weeping profusely with him. After some time, the rescuers went to get a rope and pulled them out. 

I train people to interact with empathy but learn to differentiate from their feelings and actions. The inability to differentiate oneself and one’s ethics and morals is called “Co-Dependency” in addiction circles. It is called “Counter Transference” in Psychology.


Friday, January 19, 2018

From Family Hysteria to Mob Hysteria

The easiest way to explain mass hysteria is to think about riots, mobs, and soccer crowds going bonkers. I learned about these ideas when I did a Master's Thesis on "Mobs and Riots in Higher Education". One of the earliest writers on mobs of any kind was Auguste Labon, a French scholar who studied the mobs of the French Revolution. He said something like "We lose our ability to think individually when emotionally engaged in a crowd that becomes a mob." 

This inability to think clearly develops early in dysfunctional families. Some families produce children emotionally enmeshed or merged with a parent. These children grow up with an inability to think differently from others and seek groups with whom to lose themselves. Teenagers are notorious for losing their rational minds by merging themselves with other teens that dress alike, listen to the same music and attend the same concerts. They, and motorcycle gangs, inner city gangs, and others insist they are just "Being themselves by being just like their group". 

If we cannot think differently from our family, we are more easily pulled into the emotions of groups, crowds, and even mobs. There are many examples of people drawn into cults. I met a man in Asia that had sold his home, and belongings in order to take his family to a deserted mountain to greet the Lord who had been predicted to return on a certain date.

It is obvious that Jesus did not return and the man had lost his church, friends, followers, money, and reputation. It had been several years since the prophesy failed and he was back in ministry as a much chastened and humbled Christian. That is a very tough way to grow up. 

We are supposed to help our children grow up and leave home emotionally day by day until they are differentiated from us and can think independently. If we do, they are much less likely to get caught up in mass, emotional movements and lose our minds.

See our web for help growing up.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dr. King, Mother Teresa and Christian Maturity

I often wonder how Dr. King, Mother Teresa, and a few others were able to stay calm and peaceful in the midst of so much evil and pressure. I think a lot of it goes back to their ability to "Abide in Jesus" and draw His peace. (John 15:4)

It is very easy for me to judge other people, jump to conclusions about their character, and quickly condemn them while demanding revenge. This violation of the teaching of Jesus about "Refraining from judging lest we be judged as well" seems to spring full blown from my head. I have the ability to think my Perceptions are accurate. So, when I see or hear about someone's ideas, words, or actions I imagine my Perceptions for heart are 100% accurate. Thus, without a lawyer, jury, or impartial judge I condemn him and call for some kind of punishment. 

Research on the brain reveals quite another reality. My Perceptions are deeply impacted by my personal ideas and beliefs. For example, I believe my grandkids are the smartest, most beautiful, and loving children on earth! To my shock I discovered other grandparents disagree! They consider their grandkids to be the cutest and smartest of all! 

How can it be?

The Bible writers have a lot to say about such things. Their view of  human nature and the brain is right on! The same people that called Jesus their Savior during Palm Sunday called for Jesus, to be crucified a week later! (John 12). St. Paul said in order for us to see God at work we had to "Be transformed by the supernatural renewing of our minds". (Romans 12:2)

In our book Power Christian Thinking we spend a lot of time helping people recognize how their values, backgrounds, and ideas impact their Perceptions. 

When I served on the staff of a church, some of my close friends became angry with me. I had different ideas about the ordination of women than they. Each of us believed we had the TRUTH! I was sure I was right and they were sure they were right. We both read the same Bible verses yet we disagreed about what the scripture said. 

Disagreements like this can even lead to church splits, and angry accusations of heresy. Historically they have led to wars. But some people are peacemakers and are able to bring people of different Perceptions together.  

Dr. King and other mature Christians seemed to be able most of the time to fight hard for their views and still refuse to get hateful. That is maturity as it is described in Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

I pledge, to the best of my ability, to "Agree to disagree agreeably with my fellow humans." But please give me God's mercy when I fail for I am sure I shall!

Our books, videos and materials are designed to facilitate the growth and maturity into maturity and peacemaking. You might even wish to take advantage of them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Me Too and Sexual Assault

The recent revelations about rich, famous, people in power forcing themselves on young men and women has become the opening of a national scandal. It is an awful thing to recognize.
1. It shows how evil is in our society. 
2. It reveals the amazing amount of pain that many people carry.
3. It shows us that we need to do more to heal wounded people.
4. It opens our eyes to the need to prevent more abuse.

At our church we had 20 to 30 men and women in the Teleios Ministry. They were trained how to pray for healing the wounds of people harmed by mental, physical and sexual trauma. We took that unique ministry to churches in many nations.

Then we opened LifeWay Counseling Centers and in patient unit. A very high number of the Clients had suffered from sexual trauma.

The number of Christian churches and ministries well trained to heal the people traumatized by sexual predators is very small. There needs to be many, many more.

You can contact us for materials on inner healing of the soul or Equipping Ministries Intl for training.

The Danger of Family Enmeshment and Hysteria

Before I went to grad school I had no idea that groups of people and even entire nations can  experience "Mass Hysteria". It is a condition caused by a "Mind Meld".  One of the main ideas to emerge from research on families and groups is that individuals  can actually "merge together into one." 

I saw it all the time when I was doing a lot of counseling, especially between a parent and a child or a man and wife. A joke that fits the situation shows a man and wife eating dinner. He says to her, "Why did you order dessert? You know I am on a diet." 

She had to do exactly what he did. The opposite is also true. My aunt said, " My dad will never make me vote for a Democrat like he was. I am always going to vote Republican." Her dad had been dead for 50 years but she was still being controlled by him. Her mind had never separated from his mind.

The origin is in the home. Researchers discovered that mothers and a child can get so close emotionally that they feel like they are one and cannot really separate or differentiate themselves into two separate beings. If Baby is sad Mother will also be sad. If Mother is happy Baby will share her feelings. That may be normal when a woman is pregnant but after birth the normal development process demands that the child to be "differentiated" from her mother and have different feelings at the same time. 

This is how we describe the difference between EMPATHY and SYMPATHY. A mother can Empathize with her child but have different Feelings.  Let's say that the Baby cries over having to go to bed and Mother Empathizes with her situation and comforts her. However, if Mother actually feels her feelings and begins to cry with her it is SYMPATHY or even ENMESHED because they merge together into one emotional clump. 

When two members of a family fail to differentiate themselves from other members, the family will be unable to function in a rational manner. It violates the process of growth laid out in Gen 2:24. For this reason, a man shall leave his mother and father and commit to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were naked and not ashamed. 

If you want to grow up and think like an adult, take a look at our materials and videos designed to facilitate healthy Christian living.   See especially Power Christian Thinking and How to be me in my Family Tree.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

In Honor of Dr. MLK Jr

Dr. King was one of the America's greatest heroes of the last century. I have spent a bit of time today reading and watching his talks on various topics. Not only was he a wonderful orator, he was a brave and insightful man of God. 

As I was pondering how he fit into the biblical message, I was not reminded of the Prophets but of the way Jesus told us, as Christian Evangelists, to engage the world. In Luke 10:1-3

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before Him into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, 

“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 

God raised Dr. King and placed him as an evangelist to America.No nation lives up to the standards of Christ and America certainly did not. The work of an Evangelist is to preach the good news of the gospel and call for repentance, a new way of living. 

The second part of the passage warns them Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.

The disciples of Jesus were to carry the image of a gentle, peaceful lamb but those strong enough to face down the wolves of racism, greed, envy, jealousy, and violence. That takes enormous courage and he had what it took. 

I think every citizen and especially Christians can learn from Dr. King and take gentle, loving, stands for good and God and resist the current evils we all face while respecting and loving those with whom we disagree. Dr. King did this in a strong manner.

We need more Roaring Lambs like Dr. King!

We must be brave!

Get our materials and grow in courage. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Strangers and Cats Stay Awhile

Several people responded to my blog post yesterday. I am sure it must have been a bit puzzling, especially if it was read as a straight story about a cat. 

I intended it as a parable for families, churches, and groups. After Scout came to visit with us I began to think about my classes on Family Systems. One of the basic tenets of Systems' Thinking is that a family's or group's behavior cannot be fully understood just by looking at one member of the group. We need to examine how the group operates when it faces any change small or large. 

 When we took Scout in for a few days, it was a small event that had an influence on many parts of the family system. When a new baby is born into a family, everything changes for every member!
When a death occurs or a child leaves home, or a group invites a new member to join it, every interaction between every member is impacted. The ways we eat, when we eat, how we sleep and how long we sleep will be impacted. 

This is why adopting a child or taking in a Foster Child can cause such large disruptions. People get irritated, and may blame the new member for changing everything. It may be one of the main reasons Christians refuse to evangelize or invite friends to church. When a new person shows up the Minister may spend more time with him or her than the "Older Brother" that has been there for years! 

Yes, sibling rivalry occurs among pets, church members, workers, and small groups. 

So, all you pet lovers can relax. I am not mad at Scout. I was simply using her to illustrate a larger point. 

You can learn more about Family Systems' Thinking by downloading my PDF book, How to be Me in My Family Tree. You will learn how to herd cats!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

We Took in a Stranger over Christmas

                                       Can of Worms

As you know, the weather was cold and frightful over the past few weeks. A friend had no place for her friend to stay when she went back home and asked if we could put her up for ten days. 

We thought, "How much trouble can that be? It is just a week!"

So we said, "Sure. Be glad to."

We had no idea how having a guest for a week could disrupt our entire family system. Everything about the ways we ate, gathered, slept, and entertained was impacted drastically. 

We made arrangements for our guest to settle down in the extra bedroom/TV room so from that first day, we had to change our entire schedule of watching the news and finding shows down in our basement. It was not a terrible thing but our habit of dining next to the TV room so we could overhear the news was no longer an option. 

Our dog was extremely jealous of her and that meant the two had to be separated at all times. But she, the dog, loves the TV bedroom and cannot really watch TV comfortably in the basement. She became depressed, irritable, and anxious that not even two visits to the Dog Psychiatrist calmed her down. 

Then the grandkids came over and we were pressed for another bed. Was it ethical and moral for the 12 year old to bed down with our guest? Sheds of X Rated Videos, we had to try it. 

At 4:00 AM in the morning our guest woke up and began to cry out for food, disturbing our grandson and rousting me out of bed. This made it a very long day with grouchy people trying hard to be nice to the guest but it was a challenge. 

Finally, our friend came back from holiday and took our guest away. Whew! The week was finished and our TV/Bedroom was back in play. 

Our compassion was necessary but the sacrifice great.

Scout, thanks for allowing us to have you as our guest!

PS. We will be out of town next year!