Jennifer was a mess! Her thoughts were going a million different direction. Each day she worried she was becoming more forgetful and distracted. Her emotions were off the chart. One minute she was screaming in anger, the next sobbing hysterically. Her heart would race with fear about what the future would hold. Throughout the day she would find herself exhausted and longing for sleep. Yet at bedtime she was either unable to sleep or tormented by nightmares. She would get through each day by numbing herself to her thoughts, feelings, and body and would fake her way, going through the motions, praying for it all to end, yet seeing no possible way out.
Perhaps you can identify with some of Jennifer’s struggles, or maybe you have had the unfortunate experience of being able to identify with all of what she was going through. These symptoms are often the reason that people will finally come to counseling. The pain of being where they are at moves them to seek relief. Over the next several weeks I will share with you some of the key ideas that I have used in counseling sessions to help individuals regain their sense of self, face their struggles and win their battles.
In the previous lessons we learned about our “roots”. Over the next several weeks we will examine the “trunk” of your tree. The trunk includes your physical body, senses and actions, it also includes your feelings and thoughts, as well as your inner beliefs, values, memories, and experiences. These systems work together to create a sense of health and well being if they are operating correctly or a sense of chaos if they are out of whack. As we examine the trunk, we will be discussing topics like our needs and desires, boundaries, rights, responsibilities, regulation, acceptance, action and processing. You and your specific situations will be the focus of the reflections and homework. This is where you are called to dig in and make changes. This will be hard work, but let me encourage you that it will be well worth it.
So, let’s begin with an initial self assessment. As we consider the trunk of the tree I want you to picture it as a stump, think of yourself as looking at the stump from a birds eye vantage point. It would look like a circle, with concentric circles inside of it.
I want you to imagine that there are 3 key concentric circles. The outer most circle signifies your physical self, the next circle signifies your emotions and thoughts, and the inner most circle signifies your experiences, memories, and events that shaped you. Each of these circles together represent how you experience the world and provide a context in the way in which the world will experience you. It is your actions, thoughts and feelings when expressed that will teach the world about who you are. Likewise, how you care for your physical needs, experience your emotions, process your thoughts, and integrate your experiences will play a huge role in how you perceive the world and others around you.
Each part has it’s own vitally important role to play, but all parts effect the functioning of the other parts. For example if you are physically hungry, it is likely that you will feel irritable and unable to focus. Alternately if you are stressed by a relationship it may effect your appetite. In order to be healthy in your relationships with others it is wise to start with learning to understand yourself. If you ignore your needs or allow parts of yourself the ability to do jobs they are not designed to do you will have a recipe for disaster. Our physical bodies use senses to take in information, to experience and interact with the world around us and to perform actions. Our emotions cause us to feel and sense things that may not be present in the physical realm, they allow us to be empathetic towards others. Our thoughts help us to process information and help us make decisions about what to do, they organize facts, and formulate plans. Our experiences give us wisdom and help to shape our view of our self, others and the world. Each part is intricately designed to work intimately with the other parts.
DEVOTION: It is incredible to think about how we are designed. Like some of you, I have had the amazing experiences of birthing children as well as the experience of watching the birth of a child. It is crazy to think that there is a tiny human being being formed inside of you. It is almost surreal when you hear that heart beat for the first time, or alien like when you feel them kicking the inside of your belly. While you are carrying them you take extra precautions for their health, multivitamins, iron, staying away from certain foods and drinks that you would normally enjoy. When they are finally born you stare at them for hours thinking about how they were inside of you and ponder what a miracle they are. From the moment that child is born, and even before, he or she is developing a physical frame, they have various systems, needs and preferences. They are able to learn and express emotions. All their tiny parts are working to some degree and they are dependent on you to care for them and provide for them. Over the course of time you will teach them to care for and provide for themselves. You will also teach them how to get along with others. Eventually you expect that they will also care for and love other people. Still you will always be their parent and even when they are grown you will still support them and of course you will always love them.
If you as a fallible parent can create, love, and teach a tiny person to grow and care for him or herself, then just think about how a perfect parent, your heavenly father, can teach you to love and care for yourself in such a way that you will be better able to love and care for those who are in your life. God wove you together long before time. He made provision for you. He has a plan and a purpose for you and for every single thing that you will ever go through. He considered your frame and made it a temple for his spirit. He designed your brain to manage your thoughts and your emotions. He linked the physical sensations of your body to your brain and transmits them into emotions and stores them as experiences. Then He allows you to partner with him in practice of loving Him, yourself and others. You truly are wonderfully made.
SCRIPTURE MEDITATION: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34)
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’:and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27)
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that I have not always done a very good job at loving and caring for myself. There have been many times that I have let myself go without needed sleep and nutrients, times that I have allowed my emotions to overtake me, times when I have let my past define me, and times that I have dwelt on evil things. I know that you have told me to love others as I love myself and yet I know that at times I have failed miserably at both. I ask that you would please teach me how to be a better steward of all that you have entrusted me. Help me to learn how to care for myself in ways that are pleasing to you. Remove the lies that caring for one’s self is selfish. By your Holy Spirit help me to know truth. You are the example I long to follow. Give me courage to keep trying even when things are difficult and grace to make room for errors. Please continuously remind me of your love for me and calling on my life so that I will not loose heart. Thank you for loving me, for holding my hand and gently leading me into your presence. In Jesus Name- Amen
REFLECTIONS: The scripture verses above talk about the body having many parts and about love; specifically loving others as ourselves, and as Jesus loves us. Meditate on the following question. How does Jesus love you? Journal some of your answers. Now, think for a moment about how you take care of other people whom you love. Journal those thoughts. Next, take a couple of moments and reflect on how well you are loving and caring for yourself. Are you more diligent in caring for others or in caring for yourself?
ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.)Think about what the circles of your trunk would look like. Draw that image. Are some sections taking up more space than others? Are some sections being ignored? Are they currently balanced and in alignment in all situations? How are you doing physically? How are you doing emotionally? What types of thoughts are you consistently thinking on? 2.) Think about a specific situation you are currently facing. Focus on your role in that situation. Create a diagram showing what your circles (physical, emotions, thoughts, and experience) would look like currently in that situation. Ask God to reveal areas where you need balance and healing. 3.) Journal a prayer to God regarding a specific situation you are currently facing. Focus on yourself in that situation. Submit to him your physical self, your emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Ask him to help you to create balance and health in this situation.
UPCOMING LESSONS: Next week we will examine our physical circle and how it is designed to function, the role it plays and our responsibilities in relation to our physical needs, preferences, and desires.