Dr. Brian Hooper https://drbrianhooper.com Integrative Pastoral Counseling and Therapy in Nashville, TN Tue, 19 Oct 2021 18:25:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.1 https://drbrianhooper.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Dr. Brian Hooper https://drbrianhooper.com 32 32 182153428 Key Trauma Question – “What Is Wrong With Me? https://drbrianhooper.com/key-trauma-question.html https://drbrianhooper.com/key-trauma-question.html#respond Mon, 19 Jul 2021 06:00:03 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1576 So often I hear people say, “What’s wrong with me?!” It’s a valid question. They are not comfortable in their own skin, doubt themselves, try to appear “normal” by checking off a list of socially or self-imposed obligations. But at the end of the day, they feel alienated from themselves and not at home even in their own bodies.

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So often I hear people say, “What’s wrong with me?!” It’s a valid question. They are not comfortable in their own skin, doubt themselves, try to appear “normal” by checking off a list of socially or self-imposed obligations. But at the end of the day, they feel alienated from themselves and not at home even in their own bodies.

Yes, there is something wrong. Symptoms of distress appear – anxiety over everything, shame for little things said or not said, self-doubt, and occasionally wondering if it might just be easier if one no longer was alive in this world.

The key to addressing “What’s wrong” is to ask the question that addresses the roots, “What happened to me?” It is in the answer to this question that we discover the very roots of patterns of thinking about self, others, and the world around us. We discover the origin of our relationship with ourselves. We reveal the genesis of how we think about and talk to ourselves. The answer to the question of what happened to me will reveal how expectations of self and others was established. With these insights, we can begin to change our relationship with ourselves and others. With this change, this difficult pattern altering change resulting in, “What’s wrong with me?” gets corrected.

We don’t begin with treating the symptoms with simple techniques; we make deep changes by getting to the roots of “what happened”. Then, new and renewing life affirming patterns emerge. And the new question emerges, “How do I foster this new relationship with myself and my world?” The key trauma question is replaced by this affirmation of life question, affirmation of YOUR life!

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Of Course, You Will Take It Personally https://drbrianhooper.com/of-course-you-will-take-it-personally.html https://drbrianhooper.com/of-course-you-will-take-it-personally.html#respond Fri, 11 Jun 2021 18:23:35 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1520 It has become very popular to quote the wisdom, “Don’t take anything personally.”

Although well intentioned, this piece of advice can be damaging if not properly understood. It can result in frustration, shame, and hopelessness by the person receiving it. And, for the person sharing it, it can create a chasm of distrust between themselves and the person with whom it is shared.  This is primarily because the recipient no longer feels safe sharing their pain, disappointment, and perhaps heartbreak. In fact, they may feel that their emotions are invalidated. And with that, they may deny themselves the privilege of feeling their emotions, believing that they are somehow inferior because they have a hurt response. The result can be alienation from self, others, and the outcome - depression.

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It has become very popular to quote the wisdom, “Don’t take anything personally.”

Although well intentioned, this piece of advice can be damaging if not properly understood. It can result in frustration, shame, and hopelessness by the person receiving it. And, for the person sharing it, it can create a chasm of distrust between themselves and the person with whom it is shared.  This is primarily because the recipient no longer feels safe sharing their pain, disappointment, and perhaps heartbreak. In fact, they may feel that their emotions are invalidated. And with that, they may deny themselves the privilege of feeling their emotions, believing that they are somehow inferior because they have a hurt response. The result can be alienation from self, others, and the outcome – depression. 

 

Let me provide a simple example. A man you do not know walks up to you on the street and punches you in the nose. You exclaim, “That hurt!” He responds, “Hey, don’t take it personally!” On the one hand, you did NOTHING to merit this treatment other than to be in the presence of a disturb man with presumably an anger management issue. So, in this sense, it was not about you, had nothing to do with you, and most certainly is NOT personal. But on the other hand, it affected your person. It literally had an impact on you. In this sense, it was personal, and it hurt.

 

Now, make the analogical switch to the emotional / relational realm. Someone you do or do not know makes a promise and fails to keep it, behaves contemptuously towards you in public or in private, overlooks you while attending to others, etc. These behaviors are not generated by something within you. But they still can wound, hurt, and scar. 

 

We get to feel our feelings. And, if someone shares their feelings in response to something someone else has done, it is best to listen with empathy and understanding, including expressing appreciation for how much they are hurting. The hurt is real, and it is personally theirs. It IS personal.

 

Here’s the takeaway. We get to feel the impact of another’s action, either a physical punch to the nose, or an emotional punch to the gut. It is important to not deny oneself or others the right to feel the pain.  Now, after acknowledging the sting, we need to accept it for what it was; perhaps a baseless criticism, senseless display of rudeness, thoughtless disregard or perhaps a tactless legitimate critique displayed in a callous fashion. In any case, whatever it is, it does not define us. Even a legitimate criticism lovingly delivered may smart a bit, but it does not define or forever eclipse all other aspects of ourselves. 

The place where most of us continue to experience the pain is in the story that we tell ourselves about the infliction. Usually, it is a story that keeps us connected to a perceived injustice as if rehearsing it repeatedly would right a wrong, remove the pain, or return the favor to the giver. When this happens, the thoughts about the source of the pain are creating neural pathways in the brain over which the story runs back and forth, creating a rut in which we get stuck. From a developmental evolutionary approach this makes sense; we need to keep vigilant against the attacker to survive. But it is no longer sticks and stones and tigers we need to prepare against. Rather, it is to words or social actions and inactions that we must respond. Here, it is best to notice the thought and as soon as it is noticed, return to a series of deep relaxing breaths. This helps us come back to ourselves. We must learn to be with ourselves and care for ourselves, especially the child, so often wounded, that lives within us. Every man has a boy that lives within, every woman a girl. Let the inner child know you care, personally care.  Let them know that you are there for them. Here is where your work is to be done.

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Treating Mental Illness from an Integrative Pastoral Psychotherapy Perspective https://drbrianhooper.com/treating-mental-illness-from-an-integrative-pastoral-psychotherapy-perspective.html https://drbrianhooper.com/treating-mental-illness-from-an-integrative-pastoral-psychotherapy-perspective.html#respond Tue, 18 May 2021 23:59:55 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1480 The first thing I must stress is that it is the person who is being treated, not the diagnosis nor the illness.  And I don’t even like the word “treated.” It would be better said that the pastoral psychotherapist accompanies the client/patient on a healing journey.

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The first thing I must stress is that it is the person who is being treated, not the diagnosis nor the illness.  And I don’t even like the word “treated.” It would be better said that the pastoral psychotherapist accompanies the client/patient on a healing journey.

This journey goes in four directions: 

1) It goes backward to locate the source of the pain, to recognize how it functioned outside of the person and then moved inside. It is metaphorically demonic; that is, the subjects do not have mental illness (with the exception of a very small minority who have an organic issue resulting in disrupting processes of thought or perception), the illness has possessed them. So, we return to the precipitating event or milieu in which the dis-ease took over.  

2) Discovering the event and/or environment, we then turn to follow the journey inside the person. How has the disruptive incident or events or family soil from which they have sprung formed and malformed them into who they are today? The work at this point is akin to naturopathic medicine which preceded the era of pharmacological medicine, addressing symptoms with medications. Naturopathic medicine asked what was wrong with the constitution of the person that the infection could take hold.  So, the work of pastoral psychotherapy is about assessing, repairing, and strengthening the individual’s relationship with self, immediate others, the world, and the numenous that connects all things. Various approaches to this are engaged such as cognitive, behavioral, mindfulness, and hypno therapies. But it is all in the context of the therapist accompanying the journey, being a psycho-spiritual companion on the journey of discovery so that the client/patient begins to heal the core self. 

3)  The work of inner healing cannot be done in absolute isolation. It requires a movement outward. The surrounding world must be reassessed and engaged in a new way. How will the new internal relationship the person has with authentic self be lived out in the world? Here, in situ, in the surrounding world one begins to practice new ways of being, relating to others, noticing the self as one relates to others in a new way. This provides a feedback loop for further self-reflection and discovery. The inner work of stage 2 is taken out of the classroom of the therapy consultation room and into the world so that the world becomes a place of continuing education, insight, and transformation.

4) Finally, the outward movement in the immediately surrounding world leads to a movement, for lack of a better descriptor, upward. It is not a literal movement upward into the heavens, but it is a movement that recognizes and is informed by a cosmic perspective embracing of all life experiences and all that is in a spirit of acceptance. In this movement, religious perspectives that were rooted in a transactional relationship with God/the Divine/the All/the Ground of Being become relationally oriented. This perspective of acceptance and transcendent unity will have ongoing and transformative effect on how parts of the brain function, resulting in greater calm, centeredness, confidence, wellbeing, and peace.

Although these directions are described in a way that might imply each is taken in a specific order and are separate, this is not the case. The general order does apply, but the directions are distinct and not separate. They are all happening all the time. Part of the task of the accompanying pastoral therapist is to mentor the client/patient in understanding and navigating these various aspects of the psycho-spiritual journey. Healing and wholeness are not an ultimate destination but an ongoing experience on the journey. The goal is to help the person get comfortable as a traveler on a sacred path, to help them recognize that they are set free for the journey of a lifetime.

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Conflicted Marriage: From Preposterous Picture to Vibrant Vision https://drbrianhooper.com/conflicted-marriage-from-preposterous-picture-to-vibrant-vision.html https://drbrianhooper.com/conflicted-marriage-from-preposterous-picture-to-vibrant-vision.html#respond Wed, 12 May 2021 19:43:03 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1468 Often, individuals come to marriage or relationship counseling with the desire for change in their relationship; something has gone wrong. At the same time, it is not unusual that they also have the expectation that nothing will change.  And by nothing changing, they mean their partner will not change. They will look for evidence that real change is not taking place. They become expert at noticing exactly how their partner did not perfectly attempt a new way of communicating or where they failed to perfectly engage behaviors they had promised. They minimize “what went right” and maximize “what went wrong.”

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Often, individuals come to marriage or relationship counseling with the desire for change in their relationship; something has gone wrong. At the same time, it is not unusual that they also have the expectation that nothing will change.  And by nothing changing, they mean their partner will not change. They will look for evidence that real change is not taking place. They become expert at noticing exactly how their partner did not perfectly attempt a new way of communicating or where they failed to perfectly engage behaviors they had promised. They minimize “what went right” and maximize “what went wrong.”

What’s going on when this happens? It is as if one or both parties are invested in counseling “not working.” And neither party wants to take a good long look in the mirror.

There is a principle at work: When one person in the couple is convinced that “nothing will work,” then surely nothing works. And if both come with this belief, then it would be better to visit an attorney than a therapist; this relationship is already over. Both are pushing for change in the relationship while both are pulling the old dysfunctional ways back into place so that the self-fulfilling prophecy of “nothing can save this relationship” is indeed fulfilled. This exercise signals both parties believe that nothing in them need be modified; it’s all their partner’s fault. They have a vision of what this relation entails, and they are oddly invested in the picture not changing, but they are unaware of how stuck they are!

Can this relationship be saved? As it stands, probably not. But what IF the couple pretended that they had never met? What if they decided to have a “first date” all over again? Yes, it’s a fantasy. Fantasy is from the Greek word fantasia, meaning “imagination/appearance,” and later phantazein, meaning “make visible.” It is possible to imagine a new way of being with someone and then make it visible. Great accomplishments begin with unseen visions that become visible reality over time. Indeed, we move in the direction of our most dominant thought!

Surely, new ways of listening and communicating are required, empathy added as the “secret sauce,” self-soothing practices to de-escalate fight or flight responses rooted in the unconscious. However, none of this will be of any value if a new vision is not seen. A new vision can turn a push-pull struggle into a mutual venture into new territory until that fantasy, with some real effort, turns into a reality. Then the picture changes!

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Why Narcissists Can Exhibit Sympathy but Not Empathy https://drbrianhooper.com/why-narcissists-can-exhibit-sympathy-but-not-empathy-2.html https://drbrianhooper.com/why-narcissists-can-exhibit-sympathy-but-not-empathy-2.html#respond Thu, 11 Feb 2021 20:36:33 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1392 The post Why Narcissists Can Exhibit Sympathy but Not Empathy appeared first on Dr. Brian Hooper.

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King “Ego” suffers in the sweatbox of his own thoughts.

He must be consumed by the fire if he is to ever be his 

authentic self and connect to others.

Sympathy recognizes the suffering of others. It witnesses and registers the pain of physical and emotional stress. It “feels for” another, but it does so at a detached distance. Sympathy can lead to charity. And although charity (rooted in the Latin caritas, “love”) was once thought of as emerging from one’s heart and flowed out in kindness to another, today it is most often institutionalized in organizational form – “charities” such as rescue missions, community food pantries, and social service organizations serving the poor. Such organizations provide coordinated care, but they also serve as a firewall between the giver and the recipient. 

 

Some individuals extend charity to others in their professional lives. They attend to suffering and address it in very direct ways. Nurses, paramedics, physicians, social workers, and psychotherapists come to mind.  Although many do experience and express empathy (to be defined shortly) in their personal lives, it is also the case that many do not. Rather, from behind their professional position they extend care without ever being emotionally vulnerable to those they serve. This carries over to workmates, family, and friends. On the one hand, professional detachment is required in order to maintain boundaries and not be consumed by the pain of those being served. On the other hand, it is quite possible to only extend care professionally, whether on or off the clock, and never be transparent and vulnerable to another human being. This often leaves these professionals feeling isolated, depressed, anxious, defensive and angry. Chances are, they have unrecognized trauma that motivated them into professions where they can work to heal the pain in others and avoid their own pain. 

 

Empathy requires self-accountability in a transparent way.  It requires that we are honest about the roots of our own pain and not project that onto others OR make them responsible for our own sense of wellbeing.

 

Someone said to me recently, “What exactly do you mean by that (I had referred to empathy in our exchange)? I know what it means. I’m curious to know what’s your definition of empathy…because you’ve said it multiple times before…”

 

Here’s my response: “To consider how my words and actions will affect another person and to be able to appreciate their experience and validate their emotion even if I don’t agree with the thought process that triggered that emotional response. To inquire about what may be distressing to them in something that I have said or done before jumping to defend myself. It’s the one thing narcissists are incapable of experiencing/doing.”

 

Why is this so difficult for narcissistic types? Answer: It requires them to let down their defenses and expose their own wounds and weaknesses which they loath. Their sense of self is not rooted in the reality of the complexity of the human experience, strong in some places and weak in others. No, they are holding on for dear life to the image they project. They fear that if they peel back the visible layer, their self-image will be exposed and implode. They split themselves into compartments, acceptable OR unacceptable. And they will do that to you too.   And of course, this is all quite automatic and unconscious. 

 

When you are wounded by a narcissist, you won’t find that bringing this to their attention helps you. They will make it your problem; remember, they are not interested in your emotional experience. 

 

You can’t change them. You can change your expectations. 

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Handling the Holidays Post Betrayal https://drbrianhooper.com/handling-the-holidays-post-betrayal.html https://drbrianhooper.com/handling-the-holidays-post-betrayal.html#respond Sat, 19 Dec 2020 19:59:10 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1298 I am writing this especially for women who have been married to men whom they later found out were gay, and who feel betrayed by the experience. However, these thoughts also apply to all who have experienced a betrayal of their love and trust in intimate relationships.

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I am writing this especially for women who have been married to men whom they later found out were gay, and who feel betrayed by the experience. However, these thoughts also apply to all who have experienced a betrayal of their love and trust in intimate relationships.

“Betrayal” is from the Latin tradere, which means to hand over. It may be ironic to think of “handling” the holidays after all that was promised you has been handed over to another. However, it is a reminder to “get a handle” on your own life again and receive it back with strong and gentle hands of your own.

The “you” that you get back may feel like a victim of kidnapping who needs to learn how to trust again and, in the meantime, needs to know that she/he is being kept safe.

So, your main goal in holiday times is to keep yourself safe. I find it interesting that “safe” and “salvage” have the same origin. The root is save. In one sense, your task is to save yourself from further injury. In another sense, it is to save what remains and make repair, to salvage. When combined, the task is to keep safe and make repair.

Here are some suggestions for staying safe and making repairs to your soul in holiday times.

Enter the holidays with a meditation or prayer of gratitude for your life. The holidays, no matter the religious tradition, are about reconnecting you to THE ALL that makes you whole. Ask God or your best and highest sense of self to help you see opportunities to connect to what is life affirming.

Let go of expectations that anything will be quite the same. Why should it be? You’ve experienced something radical that can’t be un-experienced. So your perceptions and experiences will be different.

Do old rituals that you have enjoyed but do them with a significant difference. If only you and your immediate family decorated on a certain day for the holidays, then perhaps agree with a friend to help each other decorate. It is a way to establish what is called the “new normal.”

Plan ahead regarding food and drink. It is fine to enjoy the holiday treats, but put a reminder card in your purse or wallet that prompts you to take care of your body. Refuse to betray yourself by overeating or making trouble for yourself with alcohol.

Pace yourself so that you have time to rest. It is better to do less, but be truly present, than to do more and feel burned out.

Beware of trying to make up for the absence of your child’s/children’s parent (if you have been married with children) with more activities or gifts. They, too, need to grieve and need you demonstrate that relationships and not things are what matter most.

Create a new tradition. Choose something to which you can assign a meaning that supports life and love, even if you don’t feel like it.

Make use of candles as they may be used in your religious tradition. For Christians, candles are a reminder that the “Light of the World” came into the world in the darkest night of the year. Those in the Jewish tradition remember the miraculous oil that kept the sacred lamp lit following victory over their persecutors. Again, the light of promise had been with them even in dark times.

Exercise! It releases very helpful neuro-chemicals, dispels toxins, and aids with sleep.

Sleep! Sleep is absolutely necessary to release certain hormones that are required to repair our bodies. Lack of sleep results in stress and the release of corrosive cortisol that can drain our adrenal glands and result in fatigue.

Be conservative with your spending. You can’t shop your way out of grief or pain. If possible, make things with the help of others that convey the love of your heart.

Pause and think before you either accept or reject an invitation or opportunity. Will it contribute to your wellbeing? Are you saying “yes” out of love or out of obligation? Are you saying “no” out of fear or self-empowerment?

Take good care of yourself. And if I may be helpful in navigating the holidays, please call me!

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The Medicine is in the Poison: What Psychotherapy Could Learn From The Bronze Snake https://drbrianhooper.com/the-medicine-is-in-the-poison-what-psychotherapy-could-learn-from-the-bronze-snake.html https://drbrianhooper.com/the-medicine-is-in-the-poison-what-psychotherapy-could-learn-from-the-bronze-snake.html#respond Thu, 10 Dec 2020 17:40:42 +0000 https://drbrianhooper.com/?p=1242 The post The Medicine is in the Poison: What Psychotherapy Could Learn From The Bronze Snake appeared first on Dr. Brian Hooper.

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Recall the story of Moses and the bronze snake.  Regardless of how you read the Hebrew Scripture, literally or as truth-revealing-myth, the story is archetypal. There is an underlying universal truth. The Israelites were impatient on their journey, complaining against God, venomous in their condemnation of the God of rescue. With serpentine tongues, like the misleading snake in the garden, they accused the Divine of deceiving them in order to bring them to their death in the desert. So, the Lord their God sent snakes to bite them. That got their attention!

 

Then, the Lord told Moses to make a replica of the very “fiery” (poisonous) serpents that had bitten them, to fashion it out of bronze and put it on a pole. They were to look to this divinely commissioned replica and live. 

 

What’s going on here? I’m asking that question from a psychological/psychotherapeutic perspective. 

 

In the story, God takes the very thing that represented their own striking tongues, the thing that bit them, and transforms it, casting it in permanent but immovable and harmless bronze. The symbol stands as an ensign of a different relationship with God. It signals trust rather than cynicism, hope rather than despair, new beginnings rather than dead ends. It warns and awakens them to listen for future hissings from the shadow side of their collective soul, never to charm them again. Here’s the psychological/spiritual/psychotherapeutic application.

 

How many times have I heard those addicted to alcohol or drugs or anything else tell of how the vice that bit them woke them up, that the poison had been alchemically transformed to be their medicine, that their “sin” had become the impetus for their growing “sanctification?” 

 

What was the Israelites’ need in the desert? It was to have safety and to have hope; hope is the conviction that meaning actually resided within the day-to-day movement forward on the journey. They lost sight of that and began to focus on their own fearful apprehension, and it poisoned them. They were looking for a new and renewing “internal state.” Addictions usually begin with a desire for such a state. The problem is with the solution of how to achieve that state. The same could be said for just about any calculated wrong choice. The desire for a change of state was good; the method of achieving it was not. 

 

Listen to the message behind the hissing negativity or call to substance abuse or any “quick fix.” It calls us back to our truest self and most authentic needs. It calls us back to our breath and heart. It calls us to silence and acceptance of what is, even as we move forward on the journey. YOU are enough, you and the Greater Beingness in which we live, move, and have our being–that Beingness that lives in you. Listen to that voice, trust, and LIVE. 

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THE PROBLEM WITH “CHRISTIAN COUNSELING” https://drbrianhooper.com/the-problem-with-christian-counseling.html https://drbrianhooper.com/the-problem-with-christian-counseling.html#respond Sun, 19 Apr 2020 01:43:06 +0000 http://drbrianhooper.com/?p=836 OK, not everyone is going to like this one. But here goes. Christians seeking counseling are too often looking for a sacred secret to make their problem go away and make them feel better. They walk in the door with shame for not being “good enough.” And trust me, there are plenty of well meaning, […]

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OK, not everyone is going to like this one. But here goes.

Christians seeking counseling are too often looking for a sacred secret to make their problem go away and make them feel better. They walk in the door with shame for not being “good enough.” And trust me, there are plenty of well meaning, unlicensed, and minimally trained counselors who will feed into this perspective. They will diagnose their client’s problems as sin, prescribe a set of behaviors, and promise that if they do these things they will once again be back in the “will of God” and be healed. The problem, the counselor will maintain, is a lack of obedience.

And here’s the problem with this approach. It can easily feel like a formula. It is about rules rather than relationship. It is a religious bypass of the deeper work of healing.

Funny thing about the word “obedience.” It comes from the Latin word obedire which is rooted in the verb to listen – audire. True obedience is to listen responsively rather than compliantly. Compliance is about threat. Responsiveness is about replying in love to the Divine Lover. Responsive is the kid who comes bounding into the room with a smile on his face when mom calls out his nickname. Compliance is the kid who drags himself in to the room the third time his mother has called out his FIRST, MIDDLE, AND LAST NAME! Responsive listening calls forth faith, not fear. Jesus demonstrates this listening, and he filled-full the words, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” as he listened relationally to the voice of the Father. In response he loved God and neighbor.

Spiritually oriented therapy starts with being still and listening before any doing. And this might surprise you, it does not begin with listening for instruction from God, but listening, paying attention to what is going on within ourselves. Yes, God is indeed in the midst of our lives, but IF we are going to be in a relational conversation, and not just a propositional arrangement focused on doctrine and ideals, we must learn to know ourselves, listen to our own echo, notice those words we silently speak over and over in our heads. We must come to know, accept, and love the self that God knows, accepts, and loves in all of our woundedness and imperfections and “crazy thoughts.” That’s the preparation necessary to “hear” what the Spirit is saying to us. Anything less forecloses on the process.

An important principle in spiritually oriented psychotherapy: you can only change what you first accept. So put aside the merit system, the sin/righteousness ledger, the measuring rod for progressive sanctification. Get curious…about yourself, about whence that last self-depreciating thought came. Consider why you feel desperate when someone disappoints you or great anxiety when you have to disappoint someone else. Wonder what need draws you to behaviors over and over again that you regret. See if you can recall the first time you felt some uncomfortable feeling that you are feeling today; was this feeling related to anyone important in your life? Often, it is in places like these that the wound is found. And God is already in the wound ready to meet you there, to diagnose and heal graciously and relationally.

In actuality, the voice of the Divine is calling us to join the Spirit who already knows the deep places of our soul, the thoughts of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 139:1-2). We are invited to come sit on God’s side of the confessional, if you will, and look with clarity and grace on ourselves. This permits real vulnerability and intimacy with God and self. It takes us out of focusing on the outcome and permits us to be in the process. Being awake in the process is where enlightenment comes. And it is only in this vulnerable, undefended place that we can hear the prompting of the Spirit.

Ironically, when we stop trying to please at a surface level, and go deep, trusting that we are already accepted, real change takes place. It takes place as we continue to open ourselves to journeying on the path of truth day by day. We are re-formed cross time. And we call that spiritual trans->formation.

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Feeling Isolated/Anxious? Make Soup! https://drbrianhooper.com/feeling-isolated-anxious-make-soup.html https://drbrianhooper.com/feeling-isolated-anxious-make-soup.html#respond Fri, 10 Apr 2020 01:52:28 +0000 http://drbrianhooper.com/?p=838 Here is some advice that may seem at first strange. Please hang in there. Care for the soul and relief of its aches isn’t something that can be purchased. It can’t be gotten at the pharmacy or liquor store. Said differently, the ache does not improve by trying to escape it. The soul is that […]

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Here is some advice that may seem at first strange. Please hang in there. Care for the soul and relief of its aches isn’t something that can be purchased. It can’t be gotten at the pharmacy or liquor store. Said differently, the ache does not improve by trying to escape it.

The soul is that inner recess of ourselves, conscious and unconscious, that seeks meaning. And meaning is ultimately bound up in relationships – the very thing the virus would deprive us of. We were not created/evolved to live in isolation. Our every relationship, from the Lyft driver to coworkers has been drastically changed, at least for the time being. Without these relationships, nothing reflects back to us our customary vision of ourselves (Let that sink in). No wonder anxiety arises; we are feeling isolated not only from others, but also from ourselves!

So, what to do?! Answer: Make Soup!

“What!?” Yup, make soup. Here’s why. Selecting, washing and chopping the vegetables, peeling the garlic, grinding the salt and pepper alone can help ground us back to the earth, the dirt, the dust from which we commonly emerged, freeing us, at least in part, from fragmenting anxiety. We are bound by the earth/the humus* under our feet to our common humanity. Seen or unseen, there is an underlying connection as we stand on common ground. To work with food, especially real food that comes from the humus and not out of a can or box has a way of gently humbling us, bringing us back to earth.

Now consider this, one constant in ALL of your relationships is, after all, YOU. Making soup is one simple way to nurture that self-relationship. Serving and consuming is an act of internal hospitality, reconnecting the fragmented parts of your persona, the self behind the necessary public faces we all must wear. Such intentional self-care welcomes the estranged part, soothes the anxious part, heals the broken part. And as we recognize the connection to others that is woven into the fabric of our souls, the embraces we anticipate will ultimately be even more of a celebration. But for now, sit down, take a breath, reconnect to you! Bon Appetit!

* the organic component of soil, formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material by soil microorganisms.

Brian Hoooper, M.Div., Psy.D. LCPT#54

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Coping with Covid19 — A Psycho-Spiritual Approach https://drbrianhooper.com/coping-with-covid19-a-psycho-spiritual-approach.html https://drbrianhooper.com/coping-with-covid19-a-psycho-spiritual-approach.html#respond Sun, 15 Mar 2020 01:55:11 +0000 http://drbrianhooper.com/?p=840 YES to recommendations of the CDC and NIH; Listen to Dr. Fauci! BUT NOW, how to calm the disquieted brain and soul? Firstly, be gentle with yourself. In times of emergency / grand uncertainty, it is NORMAL to have abnormal fears , unexpected emotionality, and racing thoughts. The brain goes into high alert in order […]

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YES to recommendations of the CDC and NIH; Listen to Dr. Fauci!

BUT NOW, how to calm the disquieted brain and soul?

Firstly, be gentle with yourself. In times of emergency / grand uncertainty, it is NORMAL to have abnormal fears , unexpected emotionality, and racing thoughts. The brain goes into high alert in order to protect and preserve the body.

Secondly, recognize that you have heard the inner alarm. And unless you are in actual physical danger (in which case, call 911 for help), it is time to turn down the alarm.

Here are some tips to do that and soothe yourself:

• Thank your body for alerting you and tell your body that you are now going to let it rest. Really, have that conversation.

• Sit in a quiet place and notice how the chair supports you; shift your body and maybe use a pillow to feel fully the connection between your body and the support. With feet apart, notice the floor under them and the sensation of letting them rest heavy, firmly. Does it feel better with palms up in your lap or palms down, or flat on the seat of the chair?

• Let your attention be drawn to your heart. Imagine that you can breathe directly into your heart as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, the exhale being a bit longer. And sometimes a little sigh as we exhale just feels good and releases tension. Practice this heart breathing, inhaling as if the air is a golden white light that begins now to circulate throughout your body. Where do you first begin to feel relaxation and release? Be curious about that and wonder where it may next make itself known. (If you can imagine all sorts of terrible possibilities that have not yet occurred, you can also imagine soothing light, gentle waves, breezes perfumed with graces yet to be experienced).

• Daily attend to one or two credible sources of news, such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for information regarding the science of the virus and a reputable reporting agency for directions for public safety where you live. Avoid listening to the news channels all day long, they repeat and re-traumatize; they carry too much of an emotional charge when we are in the midst of uncertainty.

• Know that your thoughts are just that, thoughts. It is ok to notice your thoughts as an observer. Just because you have had a catastrophic thought does not mean it will happen. When thoughts distract you, notice them and return your attention back to your breath.

• Notice what is right, what is good/true/beautiful. Let yourself experience gratitude. For people of faith, that experience of gratitude IS prayer.

• Staying safe, see what you might do to reach out and care for another…maybe a phone call to check on them.

What has been shared may seem quite secular to some, but I would ask you to think about spirituality/faith as being more than ideas you hold to be true (as good as many of those ideas/beliefs are). Spirituality is ultimately about relationships — with the Divine, with others, and with ourselves.

When we quiet ourselves, we feel less isolated and more connected….that’s helpful as we participate AND wait for our world to be reconnected in safety and peace.

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