Psychological or Biblical?
Milan and I encounter this question many times as we teach and speak around the country. Is psychology unbiblical? How can psychology be helpful if it is humanistic and man centered? Just in case you readers are wondering how we integrate all this into our beliefs as Christians, here is what we teach on the subject.
Psychology by definition refers to the study of the human mind and mental states by observations, categorizing and labeling characteristics of human behavior.
Psychology is man’s observation of human behavior and the categorization of these observations into names of illnesses or disorders by lists of symptoms. Medical journals observe and categorize illness in the same way. If you have a certain list of symptoms the Doctor says, “You have a cold or virus.” If your medical symptoms match another list, perhaps you have gall bladder problems. Are medical journals “biblical”? No. Are psychological journals “biblical”? No. Do they contain wisdom to label and diagnoses problems? Yes. Do they give the ultimate solutions on how those problems originated or are solved? (Sin and Salvation) No. Can they be helpful to identify diagnosis and help a person identify exactly how they need to be treated or where they need to grow? Yes.
Yes, No, Yes, No….did you follow that? Think of it this way. If we look at the world from a Biblical perspective, we know the world is broken because of sin. You are broken. I am broken. All of creation is broken. Roman 8:20-22 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility , not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God. All creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now.”
Christ is the solution. “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life.” Christ’s work on the cross rescues us from sin and brokenness. As we accept the sacrifice of the cross on our behalf as payment for our sin, we are adopted into God’s family and given the Holy Spirit. God then calls us to grow into the likeness of Christ. After salvation, God sees us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Of course our mate has a hard time perceiving us as seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places! (Eph 2:6). Rather, they see us as imperfect and incomplete and lacking in many ways. This is because we are not yet transformed practically into being Christ-like.
How does God show me where I’m not like Him? How does God show me what parts of my being still resemble brokenness rather than holiness? The Bible is certainly the primary source. The more I know God and His character the more I will see the goal; what I am becoming in the process of sanctification. Milan and I see psychology as a secondary source of identifying brokenness.
Milan and I were married for 15 years and very serious about our commitment to Christ and open and willing to grow. We did some changing during those years. We learned a lot about our faith. But we were still very stuck in some tenacious marriage dynamics that were hurtful and no amount of prayer or bible study had changed these frustrating patterns. You might say we were still blind as to what was at the root of some areas of brokenness.
God used my studies in attachment theory (psychology) to pinpoint some injuries (sin done to us) and resulting behaviors (our own sin) that were blocking growth in our marriage. I believe it was an answer to our prayers for wisdom as I read these studies. As I discovered the characteristics of an Avoider and how this imprint occurs I clearly saw my own experience in my family of origin. As I read the adult characteristics of the Avoider, I clearly saw how that brokenness affected my parenting and marriage.
I began to confess. I don’t really know how to bond. I am afraid of my feelings, especially painful feelings. I am too independent. I don’t really know how to need God or others on any deep or vulnerable level. I could go on and on. These confessions turned to prayers. God, help me learn to feel. Help me learn to risk being vulnerable. Help me learn to show my pain to you and others. Help me learn to receive comfort.
There was a giant leap in my growth. God was the source in leading me. God was the source in giving me the Holy Spirit as a guide. God was the source in helping me identify and make these healing changes. He just used a sprinkling of psychology along the way to help my confession and prayers go from vague (help me be the wife and mother you want me to be) to more specific requests I just mentioned above.
Next week, I’m going to talk about one more benefit of psychology and medicine in terms of spiritual growth.
Holding Time: Exercise #4
Holder: Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Ask your spouse to share a difficult childhood memory. (Avoiders: this may be more about what you missed than a traumatic event). Ask your spouse to share three feelings about this memory. Don’t fix or problem solve. Try and see your spouse as a child experiencing that event or absence of connection.
Think of a child that you are around in your current life that is the same age as you were when you experienced the memory you are sharing. Sometimes we forget how young and vulnerable we were! Try and visualize the memory as you share it.
We hope you have enjoyed this series on Holding Times. The more you practice the more natural and comforting it will become.
Milan and Kay will be in Chatsworth, CA on May 7th for a How We Love Workshop. For more details, please click on the Events tab at howwelove.com
Holding Time: Exercise # 3
Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Ask your spouse to describe a current stressor. Ask them to pick three words off the list of Soul Words to describe how that stressor makes them feel. Listen and empathize. Don’t fix or problem solve.
While you are learning to have holding times, pick a stressor that is not about your spouse! It is easier to learn to hold and listen when it’s not a personal complaint.
Holding Time: Exercise #2
Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Then make eye contact by asking your spouse to look into your eyes. Share a positive, special memory with your spouse that has meaning for you. Be aware and try to communicate as much with your eyes as you do with your words.
Listen to your spouse as they share a favorite memory and try to take their words into your soul as you make eye contact.
Switch roles and repeat.
Holding Time Part 4
Here are some specific ways to try a holding. Our advice is to make a clear distinction between holding and sex. We all need nurturing, comforting touch that isn’t sexual. Learn to communicate directly as a couple and make it clear when you want to give or receive touch that is non-sexual and when your touch is an invitation to have sex.
Exercise #1: Quiet Relaxing Holding. 20 minutes
Pick a quiet time with as few interruptions as possible. I know this is a challenge if you have small children. Find a comfortable spot and put on some relaxing music. Take 10 minute turns so each spouse is both a giver and receiver. Don’t talk and close your eyes. Be quietly present in the experience and notice what you feel. Try and sync your breathing so you are inhaling and exhaling in the same rhythm with one another. Use pillows and support so you can both relax as much as possible during this experience.
Holding Time for Vacillators
Since a vacillator longs for connection you might think they would be excited about holding time. Since Vacillators want connection without being vulnerable it can feel like a risky proposition. What if I like it and my spouse never offers again? What if I feel too exposed? Asking directly for what they want or need is very difficult for the Vacillator. Some Vacillators may be too mad at their spouse to offer or accept a holding time.
We find Vacillators often express anger and are unaware of the anxiety and more vulnerable feelings under the anger. Vacillators must learn to find soul words on the feelings words list and ask for a holding time before the anger erupts. Often the anxiety is about something the Vacillator is ruminating on so be aware of preoccupied states and ask for help with the anxiety. This is a key to the Vacillator’s growth.
Vacillators like to feel needed and if they are not angry at their spouse they can hold their spouse quite comfortably. The Vacillator’s tendency to be in an “all good” or “all bad” mood or state of mind can make the Vacillator unpredictable in their willingness to give to their spouse. Vacillators can find more middle ground if they are willing to give or receive a holding time, when they aren’t “in the mood”.
Holding time for Controllers and Victims
Chaotic attachment and childhood trauma go hand in hand. This group usually had lots of difficult experiences and little to no comfort when they were kids. Tenderness can bring buried pain to the surface so these folks may unconsciously avoid comfort. Gentle, empathetic touch and kindness may make the Controller or Victim very uncomfortable. Their tears are deeply buried and holding time can bring them to the surface. It’s difficult to look back at painful memories but buried trauma is carried in the body and it takes a lot of effort to hold inside. Grief and comfort help heal these painful memories and free the body to be fully alive and relaxed in the present moment.
For women or men who were trapped as kids or sexually abused, holding can sometimes be a trigger. It’s important to discuss any negative feelings that arise during a holding time as these reactions can be reminders of childhood trauma.
It takes a level of safety to engage in holding and if there is physical or emotional abuse in the current relationship, it isn’t safe. Holding is a vulnerable giving of oneself into the arms of another. In some cases the regulation of emotions and the ability to have a calm conversation needs to be the first goal.
In the next few weeks we will give you some specific ideas for holding times. Write to us and let us know if you try these exercises. We would love your feedback.
We are pleased to announce that the audio version of the How We Love book is now available at christianaudio.com!
Why Holding is Difficult for Avoiders and Pleasers?
Avoiders find holding time awkward as they most often grew up with parents who showed minimal to no affection and offered little comfort. If coached, they may be willing to try and hold their spouse, but certainly would not ask for a holding in return. One avoider husband I know held his wife as she shared some painful memories. She cried a lot and all those emotions were a bit overwhelming for him, but he is trying to grow and he did a good job. When she later asked to hold him he said, “I don’t dwell on pain, I just move on.” Now being an avoider myself, I understand this thinking. We worked hard to not feel pain, so why dig it up? There are three compelling reasons.
First, if we are going to be transformed into the image of Christ, we need to be able to feel. (See last week’s blog).
Second, holding gives an opportunity to receive what was missed as a kid. Nurture. Comfort. Being heard. Being known. Avoiders have no idea that nurturing can relieve stress. They have to experience comfort in order to value it. Third, avoiders end up resentful because they are always being asked to give something, but need little to nothing in return. I cannot tell you how often I hear from the spouses of avoiders, “He or she does not need me.” Avoiders need to learn to receive. There is no better way than to allow your spouse to hold you.
Holding Time for Pleasers:
Pleasers are givers not receivers. Of all the types, they have to give to soothe their own anxiety about others being unhappy or distressed. They are hyper attuned to the needs of others; a skill they learned in childhood. By the time marriage occurs, they have had years of practice in the giving, caretaking role. As a result, they never ask for much and are absolutely terrible receivers. They are so unaware of their own feelings and needs that it does not occur to them to ask for comfort when they are stressed.
Now most of you know that Milan is a pleaser and I am an avoider. So, how easy do you think it was for us to learn to do holding times? The answer should be obvious. It was difficult.
Neither of us wanted to be vulnerable, but we knew it was an important skill we were missing in our marriage and parenting.
So, we kept at it. Over time it got easier, safer and we felt more competent.
What did we do when strong emotions of grief emerged during a holding? We agreed that holding time was not a time to fix or problem solve. The goal was to learn to be together, listen, validate and comfort. If your spouse feels an emotion, say what you see. “I see this makes you tearful and sad.” “I see your eyes welling up with tears.” Give permission: “I’m glad you are sharing those feelings with me.” “This is a safe place for you to feel.” “It makes me feel needed and special when you are vulnerable with me.”
I wish we could describe the results and the blessings of giving one another comfort. It has been more than worth every awkward moment. As we get older, we find life brings more loss. We have a safe place to feel the sadness and process the grief. We have healed many of our childhood wounds as we have comforted one another through painful memories.
Next week we will look at Vacillators and Chaotic love styles and holding time. So, how’s it going for you? Have you tried it? Let us know how it goes. You have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow.
This month we are talking about holding time. This is by far one of the most important skills we ever learned in our marriage. We always demonstrate a holding time in our workshops and the responses range from excitement to downright terror. We have had some interesting responses from our readers on this subject. Some describe that holding time is hard for men, especially when they are the receivers. Some men learned as children that it is weak to show emotions or ask for help. In addition, a lot of women give their man a double message. We want our husbands (or the men we are dating) to be close, vulnerable and willing to share their inner self. At the same time, we also want our men to be strong leaders, providers and care takers…… in other words, “don’t be weak.”
Let’s think about Jesus for a moment. He is strong and vulnerable. Jesus healed, provided, shared his thoughts and feelings and was definitely a leader. Even though he knew before hand that it was His purpose to come into the world and die for us on the cross, he struggled emotionally when the time came. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked for his three closest disciples to watch and pray with him. He told his friends he was distressed and in agony. He lay prostrate with his face to the ground and he wept with loud crying and tears. We know his friends fell asleep but even so, the God of the universe showed his inner turmoil and asked for help.
Men need encouragement to be like Jesus and ask for support. Women, tell your man that he can be both strong and weak. When you can see he is stressed, ask to nurture him. Ask him to lay his head in your lap and touch him tenderly and pray for him. If he is comfortable sharing verbally ask him about his top three stressors and how those situations make him feel. If he’s reluctant, just try to create some moments of safety, encouragement and comfort.
Next week we will talk about each of the love styles and why holding is difficult for each style.
Until then…. God Bless and keep growing.
How We Love Sex…or Don’t
Here is Where You are Headed… THE SECURE CONNECTOR:
These individuals endorse romantic, affectionate sexual behaviors and are more likely to engage their partner to deepen their bond by pleasuring one another. Secure individuals are more likely to seek and value intimacy and have sex for these reasons. Since secure individuals have a healthy balance between intimacy and autonomy needs, those who are secure are less likely to have sex to please or appease. Confidence makes them less likely to have sex to affirm their self-worth or to cope with negative emotions. Over all, secure individuals are less likely to have sex for unhealthy reasons.
Mothers and fathers who give their child affectionate touch that is tender, soothing, careful and sometimes playful help promote a secure love style. Secure individuals have memories of comfort and readily seek relief within their relationship with their spouse. They have been helped to pay attention to feelings, which is associated with the use of touch to convey affection. Said another way, “Individuals open to feelings are more apt to use touch as a means to establish proximity and emotional closeness.” In contrast, “individuals who are unsure of what emotions they are experiencing are more likely to report a host of negative reactions to touching.” (Attachment Theory and Close Relationships, Simpson and Rholes Editors. Brennan, Wu, Love: p. 411)
Awareness of Self and Others:
• Self-Awareness: Secure individuals have learned to self-reflect and know what they feel and what they need and desire. This fosters good communication when it comes to the sexual relationship. They can ask for what they want, are open to explore and find joy in playfulness.
• Other-Awareness: Respect, self-control and the ability to delay gratification help the secure individual be open to and interested in their spouse’s feelings and needs. Reciprocity helps the sexual relationship flourish, as both are comfortable in the roles of giver and receiver.
Motivation to have Sex:
• To Enhance Romance and Emotional Connection: More often than not, secure individuals are motivated to have sex to promote intimacy and bond with their spouse. This goal is associated with positive feelings about sex.
• Playfulness and Pleasure: Secure connectors have sex to bring pleasure to one another and enjoy being playful with one another.
Dealing with negative emotions and resolving conflict:
Conflict resolution is a skill learned in childhood and is carried into the adult relationship. Sexual differences and problems can be more easily tolerated without “taking it personally” and negotiation skills help resolve differences.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from our new How We Love Sex…or Don’t series. The seminar explores the differences in all of the Love Styles and helps to promote God’s design for sex. Please visit Howwelove.com for more information or to order the new series.
How We Love Workshop
November 14th and 15th 2014
Sponsored by Relationship 180 and Mission Hills Church
Join Authors, Milan and Kay Yerkovich, of the book How We Love, for a unique and proven approach to healthy relationships.
Where: Mission Hills Church
24162 Alicia Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
When: November 14th & 15th, 2014
Friday evening 7:00 to 9:00 PM
Saturday 8:00 to 12 Noon
Cost: $59 per person; $118 per couple
Register: Go to our website www.relationship180.com to register and pay on line.
Are you tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues?
Do you dream of a marriage with less conflict and more intimacy?
Are you struggling under a load of resentment?
Let us help you.
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