Jul 052010

One topic is often unspoken, as if taboo, particularly in the world of leaders and influencers. Yet, I think it’s fair to say that it’s a part of our common human condition to have negative thoughts along with positive ones. It doesn’t seem quite right when someone is able to be optimistic and positive 100% of the time. Can you relate?
And it’s normal to have occasional thoughts and feelings in the realm of sadness, anger, frustration, doubt, anxiety, worry, struggle, loss, fear, shame, guilt, weakness, frailty, what have you. I’ll admit that it’s part of my life experience. While there are many self-help strategies and tactics, or positive-thinking motivational speeches and/or sermons, to battle the dark thoughts, those techniques may rely too much on our own efforts and strength. I’m not that strong to get through life on my own. It’s okay to ask for help and get help. As I reflect on this, I thought of 4 things you can do when dark thoughts come:

  • 1. Replace. One very common tactic is to replace the negative thought with a positive thought. Gratitude is particularly powerful. Hope and remembrance can be powerful replacers too.
  • 2. Release. Dark thoughts need a place to go. Some of them don’t just go away by self-effort or re-focusing. I’ve found it incredibly valuable to be with someone safe to process out loud the pain and confusion. It’s not quite safe to release dark thoughts into the open internet for all to see, which I liken to injecting poison or spreading a virus onto others. Not helpful. Sometimes talk therapy with a professional counselor provides that release so good for our soul.
  • 3. Rx. And for some, mental and emotional health can be facilitated through prescription medication, just as vitamins and/or drugs can bring health for other conditions that affect our imperfections.
  • 4. Renew. And not to preclude the supernatural, a miraculous healing can transform a person like nothing else. While not every single person who wants healing gets healing, some do.

if you really knew me

So as I reflected and simmered this topic on the back burner, something came across my radar.This new MTV show caught my attention as being particularly poignant and powerful — called “If you really knew me.” The premise of the documentary-style drama series is that each episode will follow 5 students during a one-day program, “Challenge Day.” These 5 students will get honest with each other– get past the labels and cliques, and share with each other the illuminating yet sometimes difficult truths about their lives. A press release describes “Challenge Day’s vision is that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved and celebrated.”

Wow! Could you imagine a place like that? Where a person, young and old, can feel safe, loved, and celebrated? What would happen if a church could be a safe and honest place like that?

How do you get help when dark thoughts make an unwelcomed visit? What else would you add about this?

[photo credit: enpenumbra]

Nov 172008

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 4 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: how emotionally maturity is connected to spiritual maturity]

emotional intelligenceWhen I searched amazon.com, I found 199 titles with the phrase, “emotional intelligence” in it. That’s a lot of books on one topic! There’s even a Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

Emotional intelligence is not identical to emotional maturity. It seems to me that “emotional maturity” is a broader general category for someone’s emotional life. Whereas “emotional intelligence” is the whole science of quantifyingly studying and understanding human emotions, both individually and relationally.[*] It’s probably right to say that if one’s EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is high, that person is more emotionally mature.

Let’s use this working definition: “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand and manage emotions.

What does that look like? Daniel Goldman describes Five Components of Emotional Intelligence, according to [ht: Sandeep Gautam] :: Continue reading »

Oct 012008

Let’s kick off a new series, “Developing emotional maturity – part 1 of many”.

What is emotional maturity? Emotional maturity isn’t something that necessarily grows with chronological age, i.e. you don’t get more emotionally mature when you get older. Some adults are very emotionally immature; some have never matured emotionally.

And, you can’t tell someone that. Telling an emotionally immature person they’re immature will get an explosively immature reaction. Childish. Not a pretty sight. And it’s too bad. It’s those emotionally immature people that need a lot of help, but how in the world do you help them? They have to want the help, like the alcoholic who has comes to the point of admitting they need help.

There’s a lot to unpack about this topic, as I began looking more closely at it, and as I review my own journey of emotionally maturing. Not to say that I’ve arrived.

I do think about this topic, and have to say that I haven’t come across great books or teachings on this. Don’t recall any classes or seminars on this. And, it seems that cultures have different categories for emotions and feelings, if the difficulty of navigating both Asian and American cultures is any indication.

Before I find out how does someone develop emotional maturity, let’s consider what emotional maturity looks like. From my quick scan of the Web, these are my tentative thoughts in process:

  • Emotional maturity is being responsible for one’s behaviors– both actions and words.
  • Emotional maturity is NOT controlling one’s emotions. It’s controlling one’s behaviors and choosing to act in a way that doesn’t impulsively give in to reactive feelings.
  • Emotional maturity recognizes it’s okay to feel. It’s human to feel the full range of emotions. It’s not okay to act out immaturely, definitely not illegally.
  • Emotional maturity seems to go hand-in-hand with developing mental health.
  • Emotional maturity doesn’t mean every person will feel the same way about a situation / stimulus / idea. There’s some kind of relationship between core values and emotions / feelings. Would you believe values can change?
  • There’s probably a fine difference between emotions and feelings, but it’s too close to call for me, so I’m using them synonymously. Add a comment to explain otherwise, ok?

James Burns says, Emotionally Mature People Are Responsible. Excerpt below:

Emotionally mature people accept responsibility for their actions. They don’t look for excuses for their behavior. There may be reasons or circumstances why emotionally mature people act in an irresponsible way, but they don’t waste time making all kinds of excuses. Emotionally mature people don’t feel victimized by circumstances or other people. Even when circumstances or events are difficult, they deal with them without resorting to blaming others. … It becomes the responsibility of the individual to overcome difficult circumstances that were not really the fault of that person.

Continue reading »

Sep 242007

I have a dark companion called depression that visits from time to time and won’t say good riddance and go away. Sometimes it stays too long, once for well over a year. Sometimes it stays for a brief visit. I hope this time it’s brief. When depression visits me, it comes with its entourage of dark clouds, negative thoughts and lies, heavy emotions and fears. For me, the triggers are usually stress-related. There are people who can eat stress for a snack and rise to the occasion. I’m not one of them.

Having a good friends and families network doesn’t keep it away. Neither does a degree in theology, nor spiritual disciplines of confession and repentance. There’s undoubtedly something wrong with me, just like Romans 7 describes, and it humbles me, it shows me how broken I am, and it evokes in me greater empathy for other people’s struggles and battles.

When depression stops by for a visit, it sure gets my attention. It clouds my thinking and it feels like drowning just to stay alert. It takes enormous effort to do 1 or 2 tasks a day. When the forecast is overcast, just showing up is winning half the battle.

Experts have said that depression is “anger turned inward.” I’m not an angry person. I don’t express my rage explosively against people around me. This made no sense to me until recently. Depression is my version of taking my anger out on myself. I can get angry at the world for being imperfect. I can get angry at myself for not being what I wish I could be. I can get angry at unmet expectations, unrealistic goals, and untimely interruptions. I get angry over not being more driven, more accomplished, more clear-headed on tasks, more focused. Call it an idol or a natural disposition of my heart, but I can’t easily get rid of it by mere confession. Unlike others, I don’t run from depression by going to addictions or accomplishments.

When depression visits, it usually brings a big life lesson with it. Lessons like: take better care of yourself. Humbly ask for help. I can’t do it alone. Life is good, it’s not so serious. Enjoy a good night’s sleep. Write it down and stop thinking so hard. God loves you just the way you are, not as you should be. Do what you’re good at and what you enjoy, nothing more, nothing less. I just wish those lessons could come without having to go through those dark tunnels.

Thanks be to God that this world is not all there is, and He’ll make good on my yearning for a better world. And God will give me the grace and strength to be a part of that better world.

Plus, just found out that Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church (also a Dallas Seminary alumni) had a recent bout with depression, and lived to tell about it at a DTS Chapel (video and audio) and on FamilyLife Today and the impact of depression on a marriage.

[Caveat: depression is a complicated manner, so my story is not gospel. Please seek appropriate help if needed.]

[update 10/10] blogger Real Live Preacher eloquently shared about his bouts with depression too– Depression Part One: Admitting You Might Have a Problem, Thoughts on Depression After Five Months of Medication, and several other times