Why does God let bad things happen? Why won’t He help me? Why didn't He answer my prayers? God wants us to have a faith that allows us the freedom to question and doubt Him, to be angry and upset with Him, and to bring our struggles to Him. This concept may appear paradoxical at first. The fact is that freedom to doubt and question is what allows faith to grow and develop, which is why He desires us to interact with Him in this honest, transparent way. A growing faith is what allows relationships to come alive – with God, with ourselves, and with others.
Religion has to do with the questions of salvation and the name we give our Higher Power. Spirituality has to do with the relational qualities we see in our Higher Power. This paper will focus on how faith & spirituality impact healthy change - sharing my own personal spiritual faith with the reader.
I have faith that God wants to be in a living relationship with us. God does not expect or demand “blind” faith from us, a mustard seed is more than enough to start an adventure with Him. He wants to help us make healthy changes in our lives today because He loves us. He also desires us to love Him. It is this mutual loving, sharing, accepting, and experiencing that allows God’s Plan to come alive in us. It has to go both ways for a living relationship to grow and develop. He created us in His image to be one with Him through His Holy Spirit.
"Faith is the process of perceiving from a perspective, ‘as if’ particular beliefs are true, which cannot be proven or disproven." It is fundamentally experiential not just intellectual. The more deeply the beliefs are experienced, the more they will be reflected in daily life. Faith must be seen as a verb, not a noun. It is inherently an imperfect process. Demanding perfect faith is unrealistic, considering the fact that we live in an imperfect world. Such demands actually prevent a healthy, growing faith.
Developing faith can be the conscious act of choosing to believe in something that is intangible and difficult to support logically or scientifically; e.g. many religious beliefs. What we often fail to realize is that some key elements of our faith can be formed out of conscious awareness; through a process of believing in "perceptual filters" resulting from childhood experiences, where the adoption of distorted and flawed perceptions may have been a means of emotional survival.
We all experience our world through perceptual filters that have a profound effect on how we feel, what we believe possible and where we put our faith. These perceptual filters are made up of our underlying assumptions and beliefs about reality, our attitudes toward ourselves and others, our experiences from the past, and our current expectations. The way in which we process all of this information forms our “survival software”.
There is a profound difference between following survival software and living software. Survival software has, at the core, a belief that there is something profoundly wrong with us at the level of identity – the essence of who we are. What’s really wrong at our core is that we were created to be in loving relationship with God. We spend a lifetime trying to make up for it – creating a SURVIVAL mentality, which filters everything we experience. We try to hide or get rid of unwanted parts of ourselves, preventing healing of those wounded parts.
We all have some survival software growing up in a very imperfect world. Faith will be manifested in the life of the believer, whether consciously chosen from living software or unconsciously developed from survival software. Conflicts between conscious faith and unconscious faith cause cognitive dissonance/tension and low esteem which feeds the gamut of emotional and addictive problems. Expectations arising out of conscious faith, combined with the impact of unconscious faith in survival software, leave us feeling shame and guilt. Expectations, not experiences create resentment and bitterness.
This survival software has a profound impact at how we perceive God, often seeing Him as having the nature and style of our parents. I have faith that God is deep and simple; unfortunately we often try to make Him superficial and complex, with a million rules, with Him judging and being ashamed of our flaws, expecting perfection from us. We feel crushed trying to live up to His Perfection – yet He describes His load as light.
Following rules is a substitute for relationship. The harder we try to follow the rules, the more burdened we feel, and the less “grateful humility” we experience in our relationship with God. As His ambassador, we can bring His Nature and His Style to help us heal our wounded inner parts in the present. Through us, God can love our inner wounds into healing. It is this "living software" that makes healthy change possible as we see ourselves and others through His Eyes.
In reality, the only thing really wrong with most of us is this fundamental fear/belief that there is something terribly wrong with us at the core. This toxic circle feeds on itself, and grows over time. The more we fear being fundamentally "damaged goods", the more that fear causes emotional distress which proves there is something wrong. This is a belief worth challenging and replacing with healthy truth.
The truth is that we are all fallible human beings, falling incredibly short of a Perfect God who I believe loves us perfectly. We can all develop faith in our ability to be becoming in Him – learning and experiencing “living software” imperfectly. “But by faith we eagerly await through His Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Galatians 5:5)
If we look at life through a pair of eyeglasses that have dirty lenses or a faulty prescription, we cannot see clearly. If we want to see accurately, we would choose glasses that correct our vision as close to 20/20 as possible. If we want to make healthy changes in our lives, we need to develop “living software" that makes the process of healthy change the path of least resistance. Grace is at the heart of God’s living software for healthy change.
Grace is God's desire for an intimate relationship with us, even though we can never merit the loving relationship He offers. He cares about our suffering and wants to supply healthy living software to neutralize the toxic impact of survival software from a flawed world. We can learn to recognize and change toxic perceptual filters robbing us of healthy living. We can learn to develop our own inner coach to help in difficult areas of our lives.
God’s living software for making healthy changes in our lives is dependent on us allowing Him to share His Loving Grace and Guidance with us. God’s living software is integrated and freely given. He wants to live with us, through us, and for us. We provide the willingness; He provides the rest:
The Adventure of living consciously with Him in the present, with Grateful Humility - the attitude and perception that naturally comes from deeply accepting that His Loving Grace is given to each of us personally and freely. We can never earn it! It is His Loving Goodness, not ours!
Experiencing life through our lanterns of grace with Powerful Vulnerability – the attitude and perception that it is more important to learn and grow than be right!
Relaxing into becoming who we truly are – God's ambassadors, as new creations, as His Spirit draws us deeper and deeper into His Nature, and into our healthiness.
Applying The Serenity Prayer imperfectly: “God grant me the serenity to change what I can change, the freedom to release to You what I can’t change, and a growing wisdom to know the difference.”
God’s living software for healthy change does not include airtight submarine compartments to protect ourselves from pain and shame. When we block pain and store it in a timeless Tupperware container, we create fractures in our core self, leaving an Adult Child Character. He wants to join us in our airtight compartments, supporting our opening up by drawing us toward Him, through His Loving Spirit and Guidance. His loving us is a reflection of His Nature, not our lovability!
Grace allows us to begin exploring the roots of our faith in survival software in a different light. With our grace filled lanterns we can learn to feel good about noticing perceptual filters which drive toxic patterns in our lives as the first step in healthy change. The truth is that we are not our "story" and our "story" affects where we are starting in the present. It can never be done perfectly!
God freely pours His Loving Grace into us. The more we pour His Grace inside ourselves, as His ambassador, to help in the reconciliation process between our true identity in Him, and the wounded parts of ourselves, that are stuck in our old nature; and the more we pour His Grace outwardly to those we touch, the more room there is inside us to receive His ongoing Grace. Being transformed as a new creation is instantaneous when we accept His free gift; experiencing this truth in our daily lives is a life-time process of “becoming in Him”.
We often misunderstand "dying to the old self" to mean hating and judging our wounded parts. I believe “dying to the old self” as Paul reflects, is about our identity at the core. Christians often suffer from “Identity Alzheimer’s” as we enter recovery – where as new creations we believe ourselves to still be our old nature. We continue to believe at our core we are still “damaged goods” needing to hide and make up for being ourselves, feeding shame and self-condemnation. This is our old nature identity, but not our new nature identity.
As Christians we are in fact born again at the level of identity, at the core, with God living in our heart. Unfortunately this Identity Alzheimer’s causes us to define ourselves, not by who we really are in God, but by our past and present life experiences. This often causes us to allow our old nature to drive the bus in our recovery – leading to an emphasis on performance and rules to follow, needing to earn God’s free gift of Grace, trying to do things perfectly. This is often an exhausting process. Old nature "seemingly" gets healthier, but is still old nature; feeling crushed trying to be justified through our actions.
As God’s sons and daughters, we will always have a Father who loves us perfectly and offers us His Home. We will always have a loving Big Brother Jesus who we can turn to and ask for guidance and direction. No problem is too great for us to handle through Him. I have faith that being His ambassador, both inward to me and outward to others, defines me at the core - becoming in Him; faith that we can all be becoming in Him imperfectly together. There are free audio, video and written materials on www.CAIRforYou.com that explore this in more depth.
James O. Henman, Ph.D.
Often the more intelligent we are, the more complex the labyrinth of “Blind Spots” we have to deal with in life. Being smart is no inoculation. The problem is that most of us really do believe that our intellegence and intellectual understanding will keep us from having "Blind Spots" in our personal lives, which is one of the biggest blind spots of all.
It is important for us to become aware of what we believe, to begin seeing our “Blind Spots” non-judgmentally – "No-Fault Learning". We can experience learning to "believe-in-action" healthy truths in our life today. Recovery is not an intellectual exercise of rules to follow or remember; it is a change of fundamental perception, experienced at the level of believing-in-action. It is an ongoing process of believing imperfectly – practice, practice, practice!
The more deeply we believe anything, the easier it is to remember - unless we are judging and condemning ourselves for that belief, which causes the belief to become unconscious. That which we try hardest to forget, impacts us most powerfully, at the core level of our identity. What we don’t remember really can hurt us. Notice what happens when we try very hard “Not to think of the color purple.” We cannot hate or shame ourselves into healthy living. There is another way. We can learn to build our own healthy inner coach to help guide us on the journey.
There is a profound difference between survival software and living software. In reality, the only thing really wrong with most of us is the core fear/belief that there is something terribly wrong with us at the core. This is a belief worth challenging and replacing with healthy truth. We can all learn to enjoy the adventure of becoming - experiencing living imperfectly.
It is choosing to live consciously in the present, experiencing believing our identity as becoming; feeling good about noticing changes we want to make in our life today. Healthy change can become the path of least resistance in our daily living. We can learn to hit the “Refresh” button, allowing yourself to have the most accurate perceptions in the present.
Having faith that change is possible for you personally, is what makes change possible. I have absolute faith that you can make healthy change; I also believe just as strongly that you can never do it perfectly.
A growing commitment to being non-judgmental, open and accurate.
A growing commitment to believing that we are all Fallible Human Beings.
A growing understanding that we react through our perceptual filters rather than directly to “reality.”
A growing commitment to the acceptance (acknowledgement) of Reality in the present.
A growing commitment to Mutual Respect and Valuing.
A growing commitment to a healthy parenting relationship with the “wounded parts of yourself.”
A commitment to a growing relationship with a Loving Higher Power.
A realization that Recovery is an ongoing process of growth and change – a way of life.
These eight Fundamental Principles of Healthy Change are the heart of an esteeming New Program that allows you to nurture your ability to bring healthy perceptions into your life. When I refer to New Program, I am including the beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and tools presented throughout the Bus Book that reflect the Fundamental Principles of Healthy Change. New Program is an integrated perspective that has a direct affect at the level of perception. It is a process of developing healthy attitudes affecting your perceptions, not a set of rules. It is a way to approach your life.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003.
Take a moment to reflect on your life up to this moment. It is important to let yourself notice accurately, without judging what you see. How would you describe your life up to this point? As a whole, how do you feel about your life up until now? As you begin to experience this reflection, how are you feeling about what you are noticing? Most people are not aware of this Second-Order process in their feelings. They tend to lump all their feelings together under a single label. They then assume their “feelings” are the direct result of the situation they are struggling with. Judging has a very negative impact on your ability to make changes because of the impact judging has at the level of Second-Order feelings.
If you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you begin to feel very bad about noticing an unhealthy pattern in your life today, it is only natural that you will begin to avoid noticing. When you stop noticing a pattern, change becomes impossible.
The reason that your Old Program filters are able to continue, in spite of the fact that you would reject many of the fundamental principles and assumptions that form your Old Program, is because you are not consciously aware of your filters. Judging interferes with noticing, and greatly increases your subjective feeling of pain. It also increases the chances that you will push away your awareness, in order to avoid the painful feelings associated with judgmental awareness.
Notice what happens if you let yourself “feel good about noticing” the things in your life that have negative feelings attached to them. One trap that many people fall into is feeling bad about what they see, rather than feeling good about noticing the unwanted situation. When you let yourself feel good about noticing accurately, as the first step in the change process, it affects your entire experience, by creating a new perceptual filter. For now, let yourself begin using “no fault learning” imperfectly as you begin applying what you are learning in this book.
To live consciously, aware of proactively seeking to borrow the Lord’s Eyes and His Nature, to respond through His Spirit to what you see, makes recovery a very different process. It becomes an allowing rather than a forcing. You need to accept any dysfunctional elements from your past, and take the responsibility to learn healthy attitudes and assumptions to deal with these problems in the present, as a new creation.
We need to remember that God has given us His Holy Spirit to illuminate our path, share His Wisdom, and draw us closer to Him. Change and growth are possible. The way you approach change will determine how successful you will be. God knows that an attitude of grateful humility will help you in your process of growth and change. The Spirit’s light is a lantern, not a flashlight. It illuminates in all directions with loving Truth and Grace, not with a harsh, judgmental light shining in only one direction.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003, p. 154.
Nugget: We Become Addicted To The Familiar
The patterns that may have worked OK for surviving are often dysfunctional for healthy living. As you look at some of the dysfunctional patterns in your life today, can you begin to see how these patterns formed? This is not an attempt to justify, blame or defend the dysfunctional patterns, but rather helps you approach your change process more respectfully and successfully. Share in your journal reactions to this concept of addiction to the familiar.
Do you notice patterns in your life that fit this dynamic? What is it like for you to respect your dysfunctional patterns for helping you survive at a time in your past? What is it like to feel good about noticing painful patterns as the first step in the process of healthy change? Notice any resistance that comes as you begin to look at these patterns differently.
The CAIR Handbook states that “We make predictions about who we are and how we will respond based on our self-image. As long as we don’t change, there is no problem. But when we begin to make changes in our recovery, the tension that develops between our old self-image, and our new behaviors, is like pulling on a rubber band. Even slight change in our behavior from the usual patterns creates tension if it is beyond a narrow range. This degree of change is called our ‘comfort zone.’ (Stop and discuss)”
Our comfort zone is often anything but comfortable! It simply means it is familiar and reflects our self-image. The tensions that come from moving out of your comfort zone are the same whether the changes are positive or negative. I will help you learn to change the setting on your self-image thermostat in a way that does not create tension.
Consider something you would like to be able to do more comfortably, or maybe an addictive pattern you would like to reduce. See a movie screen with a vertical line in the middle, separating it into two sides. This tool is called the Split-Screen Technique. Make the size and distance of the screen comfortable for you to see accurately, without judging. Pick a scene you would like to change.
Put this picture on the left side of the Split-Screen – your Old Program view. On the right side, let yourself picture how you would like it to be becoming in the present. What would you like to see on the right side of the screen? Since you can’t really change others directly, how do you want to be feeling/behaving differently in this situation?
Many clients get stuck demanding that the others in the situation be different. Do you fall into this trap? When you have to really think about how you want to be different, are you often blank? Are you able to picture your goals clearly? If not, feel good about noticing that you can’t picture it, and begin considering the question now. Jot down elements of how you want to be different in your journal. Keep building on, and fine tuning the right side of your Split-Screen.
I will often work directly on building the right side picture, teaching clients how to do this in future situations. Most people don’t realize they can learn to do this, once they stop judging and feeling ashamed, and allow themselves to do it imperfectly.
Once you can see the Split-Screen clearly, both the left (Old Program) side and the right (New Program) side of the screen, go into the left side and experience noticing what assumptions and beliefs you are bringing into the situation. In what ways are you being like Little John, scaring yourself into feeling defeated? Feel good about noticing the thoughts and images that are associated with the unwanted feelings as the first step in the change process. What are you saying to yourself, what are you picturing in your mind on the left side? Come out of the left side, and go into the right side of the Split-Screen.
Begin to notice the perceptions/assumptions/beliefs that are associated with the desired experience on the right side of the screen. Is there more truth/accuracy on the left side or the right? Remember that change is an imperfect process of steps forward and backward. Believing that your identity is “becoming” is a key to quality living.
Take the time to experience believing in your ability to see more accurately while in difficult life situations. I usually have the client picture on the right side what they have been able to do at least once, at least a little, and own the truth of that experience. It can be something they have seen someone else do, and feel they can do too. I also help them build new images of themselves for the right side of the screen. You may find that helpful.
Experience being in the situation on the right side of your Split-Screen, as if it were happening right now (positive use of the Time Machine). Notice what it is like to believe your right side experience. As you begin owning it, you can move the setting of your Self-Image Thermostat. You can start to clean your perceptual filters toward 20/20 vision, noticing “Nuggets” in the situation. You can learn to apply New Program imperfectly. Focus deeply so your changes can be experienced at the level of your core self-image.
Continue to respectfully notice your resistances to believing yourself on the right side of the screen. Experiencing your resistances helps you stay in healthy relationship with your kids inside, and with your Higher Power, because most of your resistance will come from one or the other. Practice this Split-Screen exercise to help move your comfort zone in a healthy direction with your Self-Image Thermostat. There will be more about the Self-Image Thermostat later in the book.
Notice the initial positive goals in your addictive patterns that you now want to change. Respecting these positive goals, and exploring other ways to meet them, can help in making changes in your addictive and emotional patterns. You are not trapped by the Addiction To The Familiar pattern. Choosing to live consciously, applying the tools and principles of New Program in your daily life, allows you to make profound, deep changes in your life today.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003.
Forgiveness is often misunderstood, or misused, and we need to be clear about what is meant by the term. Forgiveness simply means that we are allowing ourselves to be free to learn from the past, without dragging the past into the present. It means the process of ‘letting go of holding on.’ It does not mean that the past events were O.K., or that we need to forget that they happened. The problem with holding on to the past is, it makes it difficult to make changes in the present. We are all controlled by the things we do not forgive!
How does this definition fit your beliefs about forgiveness? Look at areas of your life where forgiveness is an issue. How have you been looking at forgiveness up until now? Does this perspective of forgiveness involving “letting go of holding on,” give you any new choices? Share your feelings about forgiveness with me in your journal.
You cannot force yourself to forgive without generating resistance that makes the whole situation worse. You can sometimes only want to want to forgive, through the power of your Higher Power. Sometimes you don’t want to forgive at all! Respect the resistance and use these signals to bring into focus what the resistance is trying to say. I often find that there is a good reason for the resistance. If you are keeping the wounded parts of you in solitary confinement, ignored and rejected, stuck in the painful scenes needing forgiveness, then forgiveness is like leaving fallen comrades behind enemy lines to rot.
While wounded parts of you continue drowning in shame, experiencing the painful scenes over and over, forgiveness does not make healthy sense. Forgiving the perpetrator in the scene and closing the “books” on the situation is an outrage to that wounded kid left behind. If you are ready to forgive the perpetrator, you need to also be ready to reconcile and begin a healing relationship with that wounded inner kid.
Look at any areas of unforgiveness in your life. Have you begun a reconciliation process with the wounded parts of you? If not, noticing is a healthy starting place in the forgiveness process. What do the wounded kids need from you in order for forgiveness to work? Share your reactions to this attitude toward forgiveness in your journal. Notice the different feeling reactions, and the feelings about those feelings. Forgiveness is a complex process.
In truth, forgiveness is really a gift to you, not to the person or situation you are resisting forgiving. You become freed from the original situation when you forgive freely. You can forgive and learn from the same situations. The Time Machine is often involved when issues of forgiveness are activated. When you go in your Time Machine, you become who you were in the original scene again and feel the flood of feelings that were in the original experience. This flood of emotions makes learning most difficult. Keeping out of your Time Machine allows you to put your focus on learning, and growing, and healing, when dealing with forgiveness issues.
If you put on a mask of forgiveness, because you “should” forgive, or you are getting pressure to forgive, it will simply push the “unforgiveness” deeper into subliminal storage. You will then be at risk for feeling guilty when the “unforgiveness” resurfaces in the future. You need to accept yourself where you are in your forgiveness process – Grace makes this all possible. Remember that one of the Fundamental Principles of New Program is “A growing commitment to the acceptance (acknowledgement) of Reality in the present.”
There is also the issue of forgiving yourself for things that you have done and not done in the past. Many of my clients have things they resist forgiving themselves for when they enter Therapeutic Coaching. We will start by accepting where the client is starting regarding hating and rejecting parts of themselves. We will work with the resistances to embracing the rejected parts of the client.
As is often true, your resistances can help you make the most significant growth and change. Experience your resistance to becoming respectful toward wounded parts of yourself, parts you have not forgiven yet. Anxiety and depression are directly related to the lack of forgiveness of self and others. Share with me your reactions to the whole issue of forgiveness. Share in your journal what you notice as you reflect deeply into how forgiveness is affecting your life today.
© Copyright 2008 Psychological Asssociates James O. Henman Phone: 209.765.9528