The Right To Be - Freedom from Shame
George Hartwell M.Sc.
Agape Christian Counselling, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
God gave us life. He breathed His Spirit into Adam so that he could become a living soul.
To man and wife God gave children. They bring this child's spirit to life with their spirit. With their spirit they create a nest, a home, a safe and welcoming place for life. With their spirit they feed and nurture the spirit of the child.
Their spirit, their attitude brings the child's spirit to life so he or she may be a living soul. Their love welcomes and affirms and bonds to the child so that he may grow strong in the inner man, so that her spirit may be strong and filled with love and life.
The Freedom To Be
The freedom to be is created and nurtured in the love and acceptance of the parents and close family. The early years are a critical period for this bonding. What happens in the critical years of childhood is irreplaceable. It is therefore so important that parents be there emotionally for the child in the child's first four years.
Basically no one can replace mother and father. Not is it possible to fully repair and restore what is missing in this foundational period. However, we can be thankful that what is impossible for man is possible for God.
"If my mother and father forsake me the Lord will take me up."
This bonding creates the number one foundation Layer. Everything leans on this foundation. The very capacity to be an emotionally mature human being is at stake here.
God grants to the newly conceived child a human spirit. The child's spirit is the child's inner being, source of life and also the capacity for life. The more the human spirit is nurtured, the greater the later capacity for love, life and laughter. To the extent that the child's spirit does not receive love, nurture and welcome, to that same extent the child's capacity for love, life and laughter will not develop.
Time does not heal here. It is easier for later events to reduce the capacity for life than it is to increase it. For example, foster parents need both a lot of ability to love and great constancy in prayer to reach and bond to the heart of the adopted child.
There is a critical period when the parents need to be there. Security is established by being there - conception through the early years, especially through the first four years. The attitude and presence of the parents make the home for this child. He or she has no other home. When they desert their child - or the child is separated from them - this is abandonment to the child. This is lack of a secure home base.
This welcome and emotional holding of the child is the most basic function of parents and the most fundamental developmental stage of childhood. This is when the inner life of the child - the spiritual/emotional core is formed. All other significant human and emotional capacities, the so-called emotional intelligence, develop from and with a strong human spirit. Without it these capacities cannot be gained. Without a strong human spirit - many of the fundamental capacities can never be gained. For example, it becomes difficult to develop self worth and a confident sense of self and one will lack the passion, energy and authority of a clear identity - of knowing who one is.
Foundation of Development - The Human Spirit
Who are you? Are you your body - some material, some smart chemicals? Are you your mind? Is thinking what you are and why you exist? I don't think so. My considered belief is that I am a spirit with a body. I am spirit being - a gift of God.
With my spirit I perceive things of the spirit realm and with my body I perceive things of the physical realm. It is my right and privilege to live in this body and do participate in God's good earth.
My spirit is me. My spirit is my identity. My spirit is who I am. My spirit is the essence of me. My spirit - the real me - has the capacity to see, think, feel, chose, and act. My body has the capacity to see and to act. As the senses register in the brain they are picked up by the spirit and the thinking, feeling and choosing goes on in the spirit. My spirit has the capacity to learn and to act through my body. I act, move, dance, kiss, write through my body but the 'I' who does it is not my body it is my spirit.
The stronger my spirit the greater will be my capacity for full and abundant life. With a strong spirit one can take risks, explore, learn, love, play and enjoy doing these things. With my spirit I feel joy - God's pleasure in me; peace - rest in God's love; and love - the capacity to communicate with another with an open and honest heart.
When the spirit is not functioning people experience the following:
1. They feel like something is missing in their life.
2. They feel cut off from people - a disconnect like a glass wall.
3. They feel very immature inside, like a little child living in an adult body.
4. They feel scared about all their adult responsibilities because of this inner sense of being a child.
5. Their capacity and approach to sexuality will be effected by this inner immaturity - they will not have the adult emotional capacity for mature sexuality.
6. Adult relationships will suffer - they lack the ability of the spirit to connect with another, to understand and relate heart to heart, to care and love another unselfishly. They may sense, and regret, their own selfishness.
7. Their moral reasoning, their conscience will not be mature and, as a result, they will be either legalistic or operate without morals.
8. That glorious capacity to empathize with another may not be functioning or may function as an overwhelming burden.
9. They experience various frustrations in their Christian life: an inability to really mature and grow far in their Christian life, an inability to sustain a sense of the Lord's presence - which may be there in corporate worship, an inability to feel confident or competent in resisting spiritual attack.
10. They may have difficulty in standing up for themselves against outside pressure and may be easily overpowered by those with a stronger spirit and be lead in directions that they don't want to go.
No blame is intended. This is reality. This is the way it is. No condemnation. This is an accurate presentation of what one will go through without a functioning human spirit. No shame in this. This is the liberating truth! Let us understand with compassion.
Parenting Styles that Quench the Child's Spirit:
· What if parents do not welcome and affirm the new life of this child? What if their spirit does not create a place for the child? If instead of love, attention and recognition a child feels unwelcome, unaffirmed and neglected?
· For various reasons parents may not be emotionally available to put energy into the newborn baby. Perhaps, chronically, they are cold, distant, and unavailable.
· Some parents may treat their children with harshness.
· Some parenting is so abusive that children feel hated.
What the Childs Perceives and Believes:
· The child perceives that I am hated, or not wanted.
· The child believes, "I have no right to live"
· The child believes, "Something is wrong with me." or "I am bad."
· The child believes, "I am worthless" or "I am insignificant."
· The child expects that life and people will be harsh, rejecting or dangerous.
The Life Decisions the Child Makes:
· To withdraw, to turn away from people. (Social Anxiety)
· To stop living, suppress the life in them, to turn away from life. (Flight from Life)
· To stop feeling. To disconnect from one's feelings. Go numb.
· To stop sensing: to disconnect from one's senses, to disassociate from reality.
· To stop thinking: to avoid thoughts and memories that disturb.
· To deny this hate, this unwelcome by my parents, to forget about it.
What the Feelings become part of the Child's Life:
· Shame - the inner experience of believing "I have no right to be here," "I have no right to be."
· Fear, terror and panic attacks.
· Anger and rage, at least underneath.
· Profound grief and sorrow - weeping for the loss of the self and the loss of love.
What Behaviour Patterns Emerge:
· Avoids people and turns away from closeness, wants to get away.
· Avoids conflict, unable to face others anger, holds down and denies anger.
· Unable to bond to others, to sustain relationships, to trust or commit to others.
· Poor self-care: self-damaging, harsh toward self, suicidal.
· Gravitates toward harsh environments and painful relationships.
What Kind of Personality Emerges:
The fundamental issue we are facing is the right to be. We could reword this as a sense of belonging, of being okay, of being respected and able to respect oneself.
In Japan, and other oriental nations, shame is the major social motivator - a huge issue. In Japan it is clearly defined what your obligations are so that you and your family can hold your head up. You know that you have fulfilled your obligations. Everything is duty and duty is everything. By doing your duty you escape for the moment the pain of shame. This whole dynamic is built into Japan's social structure in such a way as to ensure social stability and a stable hierarchy.
The sense of shame is the most destructive of the human spirit. It is associated with the perception of being hated, the conclusion that "There is something wrong with me," and the belief that "I have no right to exist." Therefore it completely pulls the rugs out beneath a person.
I am convinced that the bonding between mother and child is the main source of strength to the emotional core, which supplies emotional intelligence to the child and the adult. In this pattern this bonding doesn't occur.
Most children go to their mother for security and gain confidence to explore their environment. If these children find confidence to explore it is not from mother but from within. Mother is just not a source of security.
Imagine what would happen if these patterns of childhood continued in one form or another throughout adult life. Emotional and social development is arrested at or before the period of bonding, which is in the first 12 months.
What would it be like to grow up and go through life with the emotional resources of a 12-month-old infant? This is the torment that one goes through if one looses the right to be.
· Understand and defuse the negative self-messages.
· Teach and encourage self-care.
· Bring healing to the experience of rejection by replacing beliefs with God's truth.
· Desensitize to receiving understanding, comfort and love from others.
· Experience the grief and find comfort.
· Establish Jesus as a comfort figure and secure relationship.
· Desensitize the social anxiety with normal or prayerful systematic desensitization.
· Bring healing to the decisions leading to no feeling, no sensing, and no thinking.
Desensitization of Fear
1. A therapeutic method for removing fears and anxieties. Can be used to reduce social anxiety which is anxiety created by being around people. Could be used to reduce test anxiety, etc.
2. The method normally involves arranging a large set of situations and triggers of the fear in increasing order of the anxiety they produce.
3. The therapist must train the client in methods of relaxing and these are practices until they work well. One can use the tensing and relaxing of muscle groups, deep breathing, a relaxing image, Thought Stopping and peace inducing thoughts.
4. Beginning with the least anxiety provoking situations the client thinks about and imagines the situation briefly (10 to 20 seconds) and then switches to relaxing for 30 to 45 seconds. When desensitization occurs when one level of situations no longer triggers anxiety. The therapy moves progressively forward through the more anxiety provoking situations until each is desensitized.
5. A prayerful version would include prayer as part of the process, Biblical verses and relaxing scenes involving Jesus.
Listening Prayer Therapy
In therapy I have had clients who knew that their mother did not have the resources to provide emotional welcome for them. Mother may be dealing with death of her mother. The family resources may be strained. Timing may be wrong. Perhaps mother is not married. Perhaps the couple relationship has fallen apart and father / husband has left.
In Listening Prayer Therapy the client is brought to Jesus. In prayer the situation as we understand it is laid out before God. The client imagines and experiences the event or that time of life. We may discover more clearly what went on, what the child experienced, felt, believed. We ask Jesus for His healing, His truth, and His life.
One client experienced Jesus having a welcome party for them. They described who was invited and what happened and how they began to feel. God had supplied what therapists describe as a "corrective experience." God arranged for the child to experience and feel that welcome that God intended for them.
Listening Prayer Therapy is based on the experience and conviction that an encounter with God is healing. In this case God's welcome party brought an experience of welcome that was missing in this person's life. Neither the client of the therapist arranged this. We allowed God to move and this is what He did. The God of surprises threw a welcome party.
When a child needs to hear from God, when the memory involves early childhood, often God's truth is dramatically portrayed like this rather than being put into words. The story conveys the meaning to the child better than words.
Listening Prayer Therapy does not try to correct every habit, feeling or thought pattern by working with the adult. We go back to the events in our imagination and reenter the experience. We prayerfully ask God to bring to recall whatever is necessary so that the person can learn whatever is needed about this event.
In an event it may be important to face decisions that were made, beliefs we formed and feelings that are lodged in the memory. Once these are in the open we invite Jesus to deal with them. And He does.
His truths deal with the child's unhappy beliefs. He can show a new way where an unhelpful habit pattern was established. And if there is some bad feelings slinging to this memory we invite Jesus to remove these feelings and replace them with His life. And He does.
By using the presence of Jesus in the therapy an important trust is established. In dealing with the grief, Jesus can be the comfort figure. After discussing the grief, I will pray that God will provide comfort for the person. I ask them to picture telling Jesus about their pain and grief. I say that Jesus is a good listener. Sometimes listening is all that Jesus does. I ask afterward how they feel and they will feel peaceful. Sometimes this peace has been missing for a long time and the person is greatly helped by experiencing this peace. As they learn to be comfortable with Jesus a secure relationship can form. ?
Yes to Life
Crafted Prayer © G. Hartwell, Feb. 2003
God of light, God of love, God of Life, I need you.
Something is missing in my life. I need you.
At times I give up on life. I need you.
My spirit thirsts; I lack life. I need you.
I am in prison in pits and caves. I need you.
I live in torment. I need you.
I look into shadows and need to turn around. I need you.
My learning and coordination is off. I need you.
I need a break. I need to turn around. I need you.
Help me to turn to light, turn to love, turn to life.
I choose life. I choose to turn, but in this I need you.
I need You to turn me around.
I need You to get me out of prison places.
I need You to rebuke the tormenter.
I need life, love and light in my life.
I choose to open my heart to life.
I choose to open my heart to love.
I choose to love you with all of my life,
With all of my heart, with all of my strength.
You are the God of light, the God of love, and the God of Life; be my God.
You are my God and My Father, as Jesus said.
I am your child, in Jesus name.
The Right To Be - Freedom from Shame
© George Hartwell M. Sc. (416) 234-1850, January 11, 2003
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