Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
Below is Dr Matt's Answer
Dear Dr Matt:
My name is Tyler. I'm from Texas. I am 22 years old and single.
My mom's had me in therapy for about a year now. Here is the diagnosis of the problem, according to my therapist: When I was 12 or so my parents got a divorce. So I turned to bad things to fill that void... (Don't even like to talk about it).
What we've figured out is this, I'm angry today because of what happened when my parents divorced. And since then, I have been acting out due to a chemical imbalance in my brain that was caused by the trauma I experience when my parents divorced.
To help me forget the past, my therapist has told me to say these words out loud: "Empty your heart and empty your brain. Ground your feet to the earth and be at peace."
Even though I say these words, I still feel very angry inside.
I think we've figured out the problem... but it's been over a year now and I'm still angry about my parents divorcing. I swing between feelings of being depressed and feelings being anxious and hyper. I can't seem to find a satisfying outlet for this anxious energy. In other words, I can't sit still. I want to do something, yet I can find nothing that calms my hyperactive anxiety.
My therapist says I'm bipolar. Whatever I am. I can't seem to find a solution to my anger and my anxious energy. The tragedy of my past seems to have a strangle hold on me that won't let go!
I hope you can help me,
Let me say something about "diagnosing" your situation:
Because my father and my oldest brother are both Medical Doctors, I learned many years ago what a "diagnosis" is: . . . It is an educated "guess" about what is going on. And from this "guess" a particular treatment and/or prescription is given. If the treatment/prescription works, then the diagnosis is somewhat verified.
I say "somewhat" because the Creator does a lot of helping and healing that is NOT recognized and appreciated; sometimes, people mistakenly give credit to therapies/prescriptions/treatments when really, the ultimate cure came from a loving and merciful Father, who knows how to give good gifts to His children (Matt 7: 7-11).
Because diagnosing is "guess work," it is extremely common for Doctors to "tweak" a diagnosis (adjust it/change it over time) because the initial treatment or prescription is not effective; sometimes this "tweaking" continues through a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th diagnosis/treatment/prescription. Even though it often gets credibility from a shiney scientific veneer, all psychological diagnosis is "guessing."
Better than "guessing" is "knowing." And this is the approach I take for solving behavior and relationship problems for normal people who are accountable for their actions (which should be everyone who is of the mental and/or bodily age of "accountability."
Now, . . . how can I "know" the best way to go? I don't, . . . but the Creator does.
God generously gives "knowledge" to those who ask in faith. The Creator's promises are the one sure thing we can consistantly count on—the Bible records that He "giveth to all men liberally" (James 1: 5). Also from another verse of scripture we read:
"Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,
As you weigh your feelings about The Past, remember that your adversities will either "make you" or "break you." The dividing difference is whether you "walk uprightly" and "remember the covenant," "pray always" and "be believing." And as you choose to be true, . . . you are made stronger directly BECAUSE or your adversity—not merely IN SPITE of it.
Tyler, let me apply this to your life. Those who experience the divorce of their parents are NOT inevitably damaged and traumatized for life. The truth is this . . . as children of divorce are faithful to the Creator in the way They Respond to their Adversity, God will consecrate this affliction to their "good" (see Genesis 50: 20).
This means you WILL absolutely become a stronger individual directly BECAUSE of your choice to faithfully RESPOND to WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY—regardless of how hard it was to bear.
You can read in my book, Changing Your Stripes, about entering into issues correctly by asking the best questions from the start. In the face of each and every affliction, one of the best questions you can ask the Father in prayer, is this:
"How can I respond to this situation in a way that pleases thee?"
The reason why this is a most excellent question is this: It is your RESPONSES to WHAT HAPPENS that shapes your future—instead of thinking that WHAT HAPPENS is "causing" your struggles of mind and emotion.
Thus, TODAY your most effective focus should NOT be on "What Happened Yesterday" to explain your troubling pattern of anger and anxiousness, but "How You Respond Today" . . . to "What Happened Yesterday." This is the way I say it in my book:
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Inner Liberty is a metaphor I borrowed from Viktor Frankl, a man who was abused and tortured in Nazi Death camps; a man whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis and his home and community were also completely destroyed.
His cross to bear was much greater than most people are will bear. The Creator knows the afflictions that each and every human being will pass through. Again, the test of life is about whether or not we are faithful in Response to What Happens. The Creator wants to test the very core of your character—He wants to strengthen you to meet your adversities, instead of simply eliminate your adversities.
Amid Viktor Frankl's torturous abuse, he discovered and declared that all of humanity possesses the final freedom he called "Inner Liberty."
Viktor Frankl became a great man directly because he exercised his Inner Liberty to respond faithfully to his tortured and abusive past. Again, most people's afflictions are a picnic compared to what Frankl endured—(You can read about Frankl in the first chapter of my book, beginning on page 12).
There are many examples in the scriptures of men and women who became great directly through the things that they suffered: Joseph, son of Jacob, who was betrayed by his own brothers and torn from his parents, became a great man directly BECAUSE of his afflictions, and how he faithfully Responded to What Happened. Think about this: a youthful Joseph was denied the opportunity of his parent loving support, and instead had to grow up on his own, being a sold as a slave in Egypt.
Digging around in the details of What Happened Yesterday is mostly a waste of time—this is where the "victim mentality" is fertilized and fostered; in contrast, focusing upon your Response to What Happened . . . is precisely where The Creator wants your attention.
It is vital to your health and happiness to remember: It is in your Response that True Principle are Applied, and it is in your Response that the Creator's Redeeming Miracle comes Alive (see 2 Cor. 5: 17).
The Creator knew that Life on Earth would be filled with trials and tribulation; this is precisely why the Apostle Paul declared this amazing promise:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8: 15-17).
Hold close to your heart the great example of Joseph, Son of Jacob: Because of his faithfulness in following the will of God, he became second in power to Pharaoh. Joseph did not become weak due to his past history—instead, he became more powerful directly because of RESPONDING FAITHFULLY to his past history! The Creator makes available to all humanity this promise of empowerment.
What your therapist has given you to say is called an "affirmation."—Empty your heart and empty your brain. Ground your feet to the earth and be at peace." Because they are typically directed to do so by a therapist, many people chant such affirmations to themselves in an effort to re-program their brain.
Self-affirmations can be helpful in reinforcing the performance of physical skills, but they are completely powerless to change your heart and lift your emotional burden--only Christ can do that. Far superior to affirmations that you say to yourself, is prayer to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. In my book, I explain the contrast between approaches of the Head and the Heart.
Again, the best and most complete emptying of emotions of anger and anxiousness comes by "casting your burden" upon Christ (Psalm 55: 22 & Matt. 11: 28-30). Jesus suffered and died for the sinner, and He also suffered for the abused and oppressed. He will lift every burden!
As for your "feelings" of anger, you need to understand about BRIAR emotions in my book.
As for your "memory" of the divorce, back when you were 12 years old, understanding the process of "Re-Membering" will help you come to grips with this shocking fact: It is YOU who is "perceiving" the past—it is YOU who authors the ultimate interpretation of What Happened back then. Thus, it is vital to realize that how the "past" you re-member is as much about YOU, as it is about What Happened.
To communicate this important point, I cite the following quote from Stephen R. Covey three time is my book:
"You don't see the world as it is, . . . you see it
I suggest that getting over your hurt and anger about The Past is simply the Life Challenge before you right now. And once you get over this particular hurdle of Life, . . . surprise, surprise, . . . there will be another hurdle waiting for you, right around the corner.
Thus, you could be in "therapy" the rest of your life—for there will never be a time when Satan will quit tempting you, and everyone else (see Ephesian 6: 12). This is life. Life is challenging. Life is a Set Up! (which is the topic of the very first section of my book). Lucifer is allowed to tempt and try us as part of God's Plan of Life. A plan to test the core of our character; a plan to increase the core of our character to this end: That we might experience a fulness of joy here and here after.
You will be greatly benefited by reading about Re-Membering in my book.
It is not a healthy sign that you are still thinking about YESTERDAY, instead of TODAY. Unfortunately, there are some therapists that actually "enable" clients to foster this backward focus—they mistakenly imagine that the key to overcoming today's challenges, is found in the past.
But now that you realize that The Past only lives via the Re-Membering we do Today, you can squarely focus your attention on the Here and Now, and faithfully focus upon How you are Re-Membering and Responding to What Happened Yesterday.
In my book I explain something that most imagine impossible: Changing The Past! When you realize what The Past is . . . you will understand How and Why it can be changed. A change that is not a mental trick of acting "as if" things were different yesterday—but a real, literal changing of The Past.
How is this done? Read the pages 244 to 248 of Changing Your Stripes.
Psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, whose past was riddled with torture, tragedy, abuse, and murder, learned that the key to overcoming is found in focusing upon the FUTURE—he calls his brand of psychological intervention: Logos Therapy. The key to overcoming is absolutely not discovered by dredging up the dirty details of THE PAST.
So, to get your focus upon the Here and Now, and your bright anticipations of a New Day, you must remember that THE PAST only lives as we Re-Member it in the NOW—as we Re-Call it in THE PRESENT. This means, the problems of YESTERDAY aren't really BACK THEN . . . they are really RIGHT NOW; thus, your most productive focus is upon the subjective process of how YOU are Re-Membering yesterday's detail . . . today. So, what you "think" The Past IS . . . is as much about Who You Are Today, as it is about the factual occurances of What Happened Yesterday.
This means that Today's angry emotions are NOT caused by the past at all; instead, they flow from YOU, due to the person you are presently, and the interpretations YOU bring to THE PAST, as you Re-Members it!
The word "Re-Member" symbolizes the fact that YOU are doing the Re-Calling—YOU are subjectively Re-Constructing What Happened.
Since YOU are the one who is doing the Re-Calling and Re-Membering, WHAT you Re-Member is a function of Who You Are. So memory is absolutely governed by the Division of Response-Ability Principle: If it Comes out of You, it is Yours!
As you re-member the past with anger, Satan is winning his victory over you; thus, it is paramount to prayerfully ponder your Response-Ability and own your role in Re-Membering The Past.
Again, it is vital to remember that a focus opon WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY is where the "Victim Mentality" is fertilized and fostered. In contrast, a focus upon how you RESPOND TODAY about WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY is where True Principles are Applied, and where you can partake of the Creator's Redeeming Miracle.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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