Friday Counseling Issues: A Ramble

I’ve worked two full weeks now since the end of my Christmas break.  It’s amazing how fast the time is going. Christmas was such a great time, having all nine of my grandkids together.  It just went too fast.

Anyway, today I’m thinking about a couple of things that some of my clients are dealing with. Both are difficult to manage, for the client and for the therapist.

OCD is a combination of two things:  Obsession is what goes on in the brain, and compulsion is the resulting behavior.

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Some obsessions have their roots in actual events, usually somewhat traumatic. For instance, someone who gets caught in a stalled elevator may develop obsessive thoughts and fears of any small, enclosed place.  Those fears could result in compulsive behaviors such as never going into a building that has elevators; avoiding any enclosed place such as a public bathroom stall; or avoiding any room that has no windows. The person who suffers from this type of obsession may be compelled to check at least three times (pick any number) before entering a building, to make sure there are stairs, windows, and more than one door.

Veterans who come home from active duty having suffered, perhaps, traumatic brain injuries in an IED blast could very well have Post-Traumatic Stress as well. Any loud noise triggers a startle response. They may go into immediate defensive mode if they hear a car backfire, or even a balloon popping nearby. The obsession is the blast noise; the compulsion can become as serious as refusing to ever leave their house or even their own bedroom.  No TV, no music, no loud talking. If there are children in the home, they learn very quickly to play quietly.

Obsessions that are rooted in actual events are easier to treat than obsessions that have no apparent connection to reality. Take, for instance, a young man who is obsessed with the idea that he is too thin, and is unappealing to girls.  His obsession with his weight compels him to strip down several times a day, leaving his clothes in another room, making sure that he is touching nothing when he steps on the scale to make sure his weight hasn’t dropped below, say, 175 pounds.  If it should drop below that arbitrary number, he immediately begins to eat the most fattening foods he can find, and then he worries about getting a flabby belly so he does 100 crunches.  His whole day can be taken up with these obsessive-compulsive behaviors. He can’t keep a job.  He has no social life. Yet, the truth is that he is a fairly good-looking man with a normal body weight.  He is pleasant and kind, but he’s convinced that he’s a freak.

People who have OCD are often perfectionistic, which of course only makes their problem worse. There was a beautiful young woman who came to see me because her boss was threatening to fire her.  The problem?  She was too slow.  She had to type every document three times;  each document had to be proofread three times; if something was to be mailed, she had to fold it three times, put it in the envelope three times, check the address three times, position the stamp three times before gluing it down. As you can imagine,  she took three times as long as all the other girls in the secretarial pool.

What was her obsession?  She believed that if she did not take these precautions, she would make a mistake that would close down the multi-billion dollar company she worked for and collapse the economy of the whole USA.  Seriously.   She really believed that.

How do we help people who suffer?  And believe me, suffer is not an overstatement.

This is one of the few problems in which I insist my client see the doctor and get some good anti-anxiety medication. Once that is established, we begin working with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which addresses the obsession head on. Once the obsession begins to lose its power, the compulsions also begin to fade.

I’ve made it sound so easy.  It isn’t. Obsessive thought patterns are well-established and very difficult to remove.  It takes great strength of character to kick obsessions to the curb.

If you know someone who struggles, please don’t make fun of him; don’t tell him to just get a grip.  He wants to, he’s tried to numerous times.  He’d give anything to live your normal life, without all the fears and time-consuming rituals he feels compelled to perform.

So, not really a ramble after all.  I’m done.  And I’m not feeling terrific, so I think I’m going to go gargle some cider vinegar and maybe go back to bed.

 

A Minister

Ephesians 3:7. “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.”

Paul understood that he had been given an incredible privilege by the grace of God; that his mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles was unique, and that he would be empowered to do that ministry through the grace of God.

I want to pause here to say a couple of things in regard to Paul. There are some who feel he gives himself too much credit, talks about himself too much; these same people tend to feel that he’s given too much credit for his epistles in the New Testament.

To the first complaint, I point to the many times Paul introduced himself as a servant of God, a prisoner of grace; he called himself the chiefest of sinners, and took no credit for the mission God had given him.

To the second complaint, personally, as I write these posts, I am fully aware that Paul was only the instrument, and God was the Author.  I think Paul knew it as well, and had no false pride.  In fact, I believe it humbled him that God had entrusted him with such a gift.

I don’t know how anyone can read his letters to the churches and to the people he loved and not see his compassion, his humility, and his lack of self-importance.

And I’m looking forward to meeting him in heaven.

Fellow Heirs

Ephesians 3:5-6. “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:”

It must have been a great mystery, indeed, to the Jews who had always considered themselves the sole heirs of God.  They were, after all, the people of the Promise;  Messiah would come through Israel, and would conquer all Israel’s enemies, bringing peace forever.

Paul’s job was not an easy one.  He had to preach to the Gentiles, and that was no  simple task. It was an era of history in which most nations or tribes had a pantheon of gods.  Rome, which ruled most of the known world at the time, was no exception. They considered their Caesar, whoever was presently sitting on the throne, to be a god as well. They didn’t take kindly to this Jew who went around preaching that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.

And the Jews?  Those who had not been convinced that Jesus was indeed God Himself were not impressed with Paul at all.  They made his life pretty miserable, and did not welcome his appearance in their cities or the way so many people received his preaching and teaching, converting to the new Way, in which Gentiles had equal claim with the Jews to being  “fellow heirs and of the same body; and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”

No, they weren’t pleased.  Not even a little bit.

First Snow

At seven tonight, I was saying goodbye to my client, a young high school girl.  I went back into my office, only to hear shrieks and screams and a babble of voices coming up the stairs.  Certain that we were being attacked my space aliens, I poked my head out my door. My client and two other young women were looking out the windows into the parking lot, where they had noticed with great shock that it was SNOWING!

It was no big deal, really, but there was a light covering on the cars in the parking lot. Clients coming in for their 7 p.m. appointments were commenting how slippery it was, and that traffic was moving very slowly.

You have to understand something about the snow here in my corner of PA.  It’s wet. The temp was one degree below freezing, perfect for the wet, slickery stuff we get here. Makes great snowballs if you can get enough scraped together to make one.

I grew up in Minnesota, where the snow was typically dry and crunchy, and not nearly as dangerous to drive in as the stuff out here can be. So I was a little nervous about having another two hours before I could head for home.

Then my secretary told me my 7 o’clock had just called to cancel, so I suggested she call my 8 o’clock to see if she was planning to come.  Fifteen minutes later, my secretary informed me that I was done for the day. I called Terry to let him know I’d be on the road, and went out to clean the snow off my windows.  It was actually soft, powdery stuff, just took me a few minutes to clear.

Traffic really was moving at a snail’s pace.  Usually, it’s a ten minute drive from my office to my house.  Tonight, it took nearly half an hour.   People are just really nervous about snow here, and with good reason. Sometimes there are more cars off in the ditches than there are on the pavement!

Tonight, however, everyone was keeping a good extra distance between cars, and traffic moved steadily if unusually slowly, and it after 20-25 minutes I was turning onto our road. There’s a sharp “ess-curve” about a mile from the house, and when I touched my brakes, I felt the back end swish out the wrong way.  Tapped again a couple of times, the tires took hold, and all was well.   Sure was a relief to pull into my driveway.

That may be the most excitement we get all winter—or it may be the beginning of a boatload of snow. You just never know out here.

The Mystery

Ephesians 3:3-4. “How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”

“The mystery” referred to in this passage is the Church.  God revealed His plan to Paul, in order that Paul would take the gospel to the Gentiles.  Again, Paul established his apostleship in this passage, assuring his readers that the mystery of the Church was given to him directly from God.  That revelation is why he speaks with authority.

The Church still exists today.  In spite of Satan’s efforts to destroy it through many nefarious means, it has stood the test of time. Jesus said that the very gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. Satan is ramping up his efforts right now, using one of his favorite devices:  Division within the Church, as well as attacks from outside the Church.

Stay tuned. The rest of this book includes practical Christian living.  It’s rich and deep.

Dispensation of the Grace of God

Ephesians 3:2. “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to  you-ward:”

Remember that Paul, a devout Jew before he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, is writing to Gentile believers in Ephesus.  Here, he reminds them  that God appointed to him, Paul, the task of taking the gospel of Jesus  Christ to the Gentile world.  He offers to them the incredible grace of God that takes down the middle wall of partition between the Jew and the Gentile and unites them all in the Body of Christ.

The first four verses of this chapter are a legal brief for Paul’s apostleship.

Friday Counseling Issues: Psycholabels–OCD

If you truly have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, this picture will drive you nuts.

Remember the TV show Monk ?  True case of OCD beautifully portrayed by Tony Shalhoub.

True OCD is miserable, and has the propensity to make everyone who knows the person miserable.  It used to be classed as an anxiety disorder, but  in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it has a classification all to itself.  You can find out what OCD is really all about here. It involves the belief that if a person repeats certain behaviors a certain number of times, then horrible things will be prevented.

If you simply like things to be kept neat and orderly, you don’t necessarily have OCD.  If you live with a complete slob who couldn’t care less about neatness, he’ll call you OCD and try to make you feel you’re the one who has a problem.  You don’t have OCD.  HE has SLOB. And someone who has SLOB may also be a hoarder, which may truly drive his spouse into OCD.

You know, all this use of psychological diagnositic labels makes ME crazy.  I have clients who come in and say, “I have Bipolar Disorder,” or OCD, or depression, or schizophrenia, or any other number of terrible things.  When I ask them when they were diagnosed or who diagnosed them, they often say, “Oh, I read about it on the internet. I fit the profile.”

At that point, I’d like to throw every computer into the Pacific.  Not the Atlantic.  The Pacific is bigger.

It is especially toxic when someone goes to the internet to diagnose someone else.  No one becomes an expert by reading something on the internet.  Not even Al Gore.

If you have someone in your family who has a tendency to go around straightening up the living room, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has OCD.  If a woman can’t go to bed until the kitchen is set to rights, it doesn’t mean she has OCD.  Some people just like things neat, clean, and orderly. That isn’t a disorder.  It’s a personality trait.

It’s a good thing some people have those traits. Otherwise, the world would be in an even bigger mess than it already is.

A Great Mystery

Ephesians 3:1. “For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,”

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I love the humility with which Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians.  He is about to expound on the great mystery of the Church, and he is speaking mostly to Gentile believers.  In the next couple of verses he will establish his authority to teach on this topic, but he starts the section of his letter by putting himself clearly in a position of humility and subjection to Jesus Christ.  He is a willing, thankful prisoner of grace and love.

An Habitation of God

Ephesians 2:22. “In Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

I like I Peter 2:5 in juxtaposition with our verse for today. We, those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior, are like living stones being built into a dwelling place for God, through the Holy Spirit.  Individually, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  Collectively, we are living stones being built together into an habitation, a dwelling place, for God.

That’s an amazing thing. It shows how greatly He loves us, that He would use us to create His own habitation.

Harmoniously Joined

Ephesians 2:21. “In Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:”

I was caught by the words “fitly framed together.”  In the Greek, it is sunarmologeo, meaning  harmoniously joined together. That’s the way God planned for His body, the Church, to be:  Harmoniously joined, growing through the Spirit, reaching souls  and growing into a mighty temple.

Until the last few years, I have sung in choirs, ensembles, quartets, trios, duets, and solos.  Solo work was the least enjoyable for me because I love harmony.  There is nothing more beautiful to me than to hear a congregation singing in harmony without any instruments.  There is a song book called The Sacred Harp, referring to the human voice. On a pipe organ, there is a stop called the vox humana, the human voice. Raised together in beautiful harmonies, singing praise to God, nothing is more majestic.

Maybe the angel choir  will be thrilling, but angels have never experienced what we have.  They have never needed to be forgiven, and they have never received the gift of salvation.

Can you imagine what How Great Thou Art will sound like in heaven?