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Christian Self Help begins with a combination of factors: genetics of which we have no control over, things that have already happened (to us, by us, etc…) of which we have no control over and finally the way we view things.
This is the key to everything. The way we interpret events and their outcomes determines how we live our lives and the good news is we can change our perceptions and our lives right along with them. Let me use myself as an example…
I think the beginning of my problems with anxiety happened when I was around 7 or 8.
My life completely changed at that time. My dad has Bi-Polar disorder and left about that time for treatment.
The medication they put him on helped him control it. But, unfortunately, he decided to leave the hospital before the doctors thought it wise and before he learned the coping skills he needed to live his life effectively and relapsed once the medication ran out. He then decided to move back with his dad out of state.
I don’t blame him for the things that happened because he, like the rest of us, was trying to survive in the best way he knew how to do.
Did he make mistakes? Yes he did. But not from a lack of trying. He did the best he could with what he knew how to do. He just didn’t have a way to get the information that he needed to where he could use it.
While, he was home, my dad was very abusive toward my brothers especially my older one. He never abused me or my sister, because I was too young and he could not bring himself to discipline a girl.
My oldest brother left for the Marine Corp about the same time and because it was only my mom supporting us, she took a higher paying job in Chicago, sold the house and we moved closer to her new job.
My sister stayed in Rockford with the family of a friend of hers to finish school when we moved.
My mom was never really around. She said that the reason was because of the distance she had to drive, but even after we moved closer to where she worked, she was still absent. She would leave early in the morning and not get back till late at night.
Because of the abuse that she suffered when she was married to my dad, I think she developed a negative feeling of being home that she wasn’t able to overcome. So, she stayed at work where she felt like she had some control. I don’t think she did this consciously, she did the best she could with what she knew how to do.
That pretty much left my brother and I alone. Right before we moved, the abuse from my older brother towards me started and got worse after. It got to the point where he lost control and almost ended my life on two different occasions. Not to mention the cuts, bruises, times I was knocked unconscious, etc…
With his disorder my dad did not know how to control his reactions and my older brother only had the example of my dad to teach him how deal with frustration.
It was a tough situation. Home is where you should have unconditional support and love and here it was for me, the biggest source of fear and pain. So, I had some challenges to overcome.
There were two main ways that I developed to keep me from building friendships.First was through my anger. If someone did something that I didn’t like or I felt was unfair, instead of pulling them aside and talking it out, I would withdraw from that person until they changed their attitude or behavior.
If I felt that I was being taken advantage of or if I was being lied to, I would erupt. I, to this day, don’t like being lied to but who does. Back then, however; I had a temper problem and it was explosive, I would yell and scream and just get nasty.
With the abuse I suffered from my brother, I was too afraid to speak up for myself. So I would just allow things to happen that weren’t right.
That is until I got so angry that I exploded and then there was no choice but to address that situation. That just naturally continued into my friendships with other people.
The bad thing was a lot of the time there was a valid explanation as to what was going on and the problem that I thought existed was all in my head. Once I realized that, I was embarrassed and felt like the lowest person on the face of the Earth.
Second way was I couldn’t say no when it came to someone asking me to do something. Even if I had something else to do or I just plain didn’t want to do whatever it was they asked, I would say okay anyway.
Even if I was excited about something and really wanted to do it initially, my anxiety would invariably creep up and I would think up an excuse and back out at the last minute.
The only way I knew to avoid this was to stay away from people so they wouldn’t have a chance to ask. I lost more friendships than I gained and those I did gain weren’t the type that lasted because they were with people that were like me.
I didn’t want to act this way, it made me feel miserable, but that’s just how I learned to deal with people and it became a huge source of anxiety in my life.
I really had no sense of myself whatsoever. I always needed to find out what everyone else thought and went along with them. If I had an opinion and someone disagreed with me, I would automatically assume I was wrong and change my opinion.
On top of that I couldn’t figure out why I was angry more often than I was calm. I was constantly getting into arguments and found myself getting upset over any little thing that happened.
Now, I hate it when people say things like “This is the one thing that helped me overcome such and such a problem.” Then they go on to explain it like it’s the answer to every single problem that ever has happened to mankind.
The problem is that it wasn’t just one thing. It was a series of different things tried one after another until the problem was resolved.
Then there are those who try whatever that ‘one thing’ was and it doesn’t work and they think that they are beyond help and give up.
Everyone is different and whatever was the final step that finally got person number 1 over his/her issue, might be only step two of three that gets person number 2 over their issue. Bottom line is don’t give up, God will lead you to what you need in the order you need it.
As it says in Revelation 7:17 “for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Let me use my experience as an illustration of this…
I finally decided that I had enough of it and started to see a therapist. Over the year that I was in therapy, I began to stand up for myself and define the limits that others had to stay behind.
I think the most important thing I figured out was that a lot of the people who were closest to me were all dealing with the same issues I was.
I was always comparing myself to everyone around me and since everyone naturally gravitates towards people who are like them. So it stands to reason that they would have a lot of the same reactions to things that I had.
I was trying to emulate people who were having the same issues I was. As Christ said in Matthew 5:14, “…If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
Not to say the changes have been easy, when you start changing the status quo in your life you will, by default, change the status quo of the lives of those whom you interact with the closest.
What I mean by that is the other people in your life are used to you reacting in a certain way. If you change, then the way you react to things changes along with it.
So at that point they have a choice, either change their lives to be comfortable with the way you are now or do whatever necessary to change you back to what they are comfortable with.
Since you tend to be around those who are like you and I had a hard time with change then so did they and unfortunately a lot of the time they took choice two.
I don’t believe it was a conscious decision, they just started getting hurt feelings when I didn’t give them the same latitude in running my life that I had given them in the past.
That revelation helped a lot, I started making progress in my relationships, but I was still getting upset over little things and my anxiety levels were still an issue.
I tried reading a book called “Conversational Power” By James K Van Fleet. I figured, all I have to do is follow these techniques, then that’s it. Which was a correct assumption, but there was something in the way that wasn’t allowing me to fully use the techniques.
I also started reading books on self esteem by Anthony Robbins, Dr. Phil and others and again the information seemed truthful but it just didn’t work. Something was missing and I wasn’t sure what, it just didn’t click.
The first thing that really helped was the Attacking Anxiety and Depression program from The Midwest Center, I finally knew what was missing, my focus was wrong. What I heard on that first lesson is that the problem was anxiety and not individual circumstances.
Incidents would happen like somebody would cut me off in traffic or someone would do or say something that would get me upset and I would try to apply what I learned to each situation like they were sources of my anger and frustration instead of just symptoms.
It was all being fueled by anxiety. I was worried about what that person thought of me or that I was going to do something stupid and embarrass myself or any number of other things that I wasted my time dwelling on.
When I started to apply the techniques found in the other lessons I noticed a big drop in my level of frustration and my ability to deal with difficult situations improved greatly.
The weird thing is that what was said in the CD’s that I received from the MidWest Center is essentially the same as the information in the books on self esteem I had been reading. The only difference was the point of view it was told from.
You can hear something said 500 different ways and not understand what is trying to be conveyed, but when you hear it from someone who has gone through what you have, it becomes crystal clear in a heart beat.
I think the reason why the books weren’t helping me was that I didn’t have the emotional strength necessary to properly apply the techniques in the books and persevere with them in the not so fun initial stages.
It’s like building the Trump Tower on a wooden frame. There is no way that building will stand for very long.
The Midwest Center’s Program allowed me to move forward with what I wanted to do in my life and not allow petty differences with those around me to derail what I was trying to do.
I had started looking for jobs and circumstances that would help me develop more in personal areas and there were two jobs that really did.
First one I had for only two weeks; I sold Kirby vacuums door to door. It was a good experience; I wanted to get better at handling rejection and walking door to door asking people if they want to buy a vacuum definitely gave me practice.
But the 16 hour days and the sometimes suspect morals of the people I was working with made me believe that it was time to move on.
The second was with a company that handled customer service for a cellular provider that had a rather bad reputation. I really learned a lot at this place, especially when people wanted to yell at me because they didn’t pay their bill.
It got me used to remaining calm when being yelled at by customers and tell them no, sometimes over and over again. It wasn’t easy but it was a great learning experience.
The company itself had problems with payroll and when I first started there, they were always shorting my paycheck. They said it was a mix up in accounting, but it was really that they just didn’t have the money and didn’t want to admit it.
That taught me a lot about myself. Not allowing the fact that the company I worked for was being dishonest and wouldn’t pay me what they owed me took some practice but was ultimately fruitful.
Finally, I have stepped out and started my own business. It’s a scary prospect, there’s no income to begin with and there are bills on the horizon, but I know that it will work out because I trust God to get me through whatever comes along.
For the longest time, I couldn’t even smile or look anyone in the eye. Now, my sense of humor is coming back and I can talk to a lot of people that I had been intimidated by in the past. I still have room for growth in this area, but I am very proud of the progress that I have made thus far.
Incidentally, I have found that the books on self esteem and conversations that weren’t helpful, now are. I have found loads of great information that I have used to help me grow emotionally.
God will always lead you to what you need and when you need them.