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Psychology of Utopia

All of us have a different vision of utopia. Why are they different? Well, I like the story of the blind men examining an elephant. Our understanding may be limited to the parts of the “elephant” that we’ve touched.

Let’s say one of those blind men is Ned flanders. Ned Flanders is a Christian. His utopia is called “heaven.” Heaven is all about abundance and freedom from missing the bulls-eye. Let’s bring Lisa Simpson in. She’s a feminist and a vegan. Her utopia is one of gender equality and the ethical treatment of animals. Let’s bring Brian Griffin in. He’s an atheist whose utopian world has no religion or unscientific thinking. And finally, Stewie Griffin. His utopia is one of world domination, where he is the ruler over all people.

When these characters look at the world that they live in, they notice that the actual state of the world falls pretty far below their vision of utopia. They see all the laws, systems, and all kinds of obstacles that hinder the world from reaching their own vision of utopia. No matter who you are, this gap causes an unpleasant feeling. It can even bring up emotions of anger.

So let’s say all these characters are a bit disgruntled because of the gap that they sense. Naturally, you want to get rid of this bad feeling as soon as you can, right? So what many people do, which is actually not the healthiest thing for you to do in the long-run, is to try to immediately close this gap. As I have already explained in my post on perfectionism, this is a mechanism of escape. And the more you escape again and again from this emotion that is a normal part of life, you will forego the opportunity to build up your tolerance for this difficult feeling.

Another thing that you might be doing in attempt to close your own gap is mocking, shaming, and criticizing others who are going against your vision of utopia. While this might work, I assure you that this strategy is not very effective. As a professional motivational speaker, I can say that positivity motivates people much more effectively. Mocking, shaming, and criticizing others only isolates you and hurts others.

So what do you do instead?

Think positively and defer your gratification. Believe that everything will be ok. Let go of control and stop thinking that it’s all on you to make the world a better place.

I do have something to say to some Christians, though. Don’t think so negatively about our values being opposed and redefined. It was never these values on their own that made the biggest change in people’s hearts anyway. It was Jesus’ extravagant love. So give more of that extravagant love instead. And right now is not the time for you to give your input. Ask yourself, “where was I when the gay community felt rejected?” “Was I there to show them love?” If not, and if the gay community is not asking for your input, it’s definitely not the time to share your values in their time of celebration.

Whether you’re a theist or an atheist, whether you’re a feminist or vegan or whatever, don’t be a jerk. Think positively and be nice to others.

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Abandonment

“I don’t feel good enough as a person because I don’t HAVE what I need to feel good enough about myself. If only I HAD…”
“I feel lonely because I don’t HAVE someone who intimately knows me. If only I HAD…”

When we do not feel “good” emotionally, many of us, highly sensitive people or not, are quick to think in this manner. We think that our negative emotions have to do with something outside of ourselves that is not quite right. As we look outside, we identify possible external problems and work hard on trying to fix or control them. This is our natural human tendency, a built-in survival mechanism that arises no matter what negative emotions we get struck by. One of those negative emotions that all people experience in some point in their life is the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents.

The feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is an entire emotion of its own out of the many that make up the whole human inner experience.

abandonment

Just as sadness is an unavoidable negative emotion that all humans are bound to experience in some point in life, no matter how “perfect” life is, the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is also an unavoidable negative emotion. This emotion says, “I am not equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life because you (parents) weren’t there for me,” “Where were you when I needed you?” “I have to be my own parent and look out for myself.”

Like the examples listed at the beginning of this blogpost, many people look outside of themselves as they experience this difficult emotion. So who ends up getting the blame? Most often the parents do. Parents make the easiest target for the root cause of this difficult emotion that is within every human being.

Upset children will do a variety of different things to cope with this difficult feeling. Many people use psychological strategies to make themselves feel better: “I guess I have it better than that other family does,” “At least I was not sexually abused by my parents,” “Considering the rough life my parents have had, I guess it’s only inevitable that they’d raise me the way that they did,” “Well, considering they didn’t have Google back then, I guess I can’t blame them for not knowing what to do.” Although these excuses that people make for their parents deliver momentary comfort, they cause other problems down the line. As you continue to invalidate your own real feelings, you will most likely feel that others, including your own children, are not allowed to struggle with these feelings either. In their times of darkness in this area, you will most likely lack empathy. It is exactly this lack of empathy which causes many parents to shut their children up and put them in their place when they express this “forbidden” emotion. If you respond to your children in this way, you may also be teaching them to carry guilt in possessing an emotion that simply is a part of every human being. Deep inside of you, you will also develop an expectation to be excused in the same manner once you become a parent. This expectation will most likely be passed down to your own children.

Some people try to fix their parents (I am guilty of this one). I criticized my parents’ parenting techniques. I tried to teach my stoic parents how to be there for my emotional needs. Hopeless, I tell you. In the end, I just got so frustrated with them. Frustration is the inevitable end result for all of those who try to fix their parents.

When this difficult emotion of feeling abandoned by one’s own parents is not dealt with in a healthy manner, resentment is very likely to develop. Highly sensitive people who feel their emotions very intensely are at a much higher risk of developing this kind resentment towards their parents.

So how do you handle this difficult emotion in a healthy manner?

Like I suggest in every one of my self-help blogposts about handling difficult emotions, go ahead and FEEL it. Do not run from it. Next, meditate on positive thoughts: “I will be ok,” “Though I may not be equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life right now, I will manage, I will learn.” Then, perhaps most importantly, forgive your parents in your heart. Do not keep track of how they have failed you but continue to wipe their slate clean again and again. If you have already built up a lot of resentment towards your parents, start forgiving them now. As much as you forgive your own parents, you will be able to forgive yourself for all your imperfections as a parent.

Lastly, for those who may be interested in a more spiritual explanation, I will also share my religious beliefs. I believe that, just like the emotions of joy and intimacy, our human heart was designed with the capacity to feel the wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure. The Church happens to call this feeling “sonship” or “daughtership.” But when we attempt to find that joy, that intimacy, that wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure in imperfect things, like our parents, we are likely to end up feeling disappointed and cheated. So I try to place my faith in something perfect (God) for those things and release my earthly parents from the burden of having to provide me with that emotion that I crave so much.

SO WHAT NOW?

So what will you do if your child expresses his or her emotional pain in this area? Will you let your ego shut your child up, put your child in his or her place, make your child feel guilty for possessing such emotions, and then leave your child alone to find rest in psychological strategies? What will you do?

It was only this morning that all of these things that I have written above were revealed to me. Before this morning, I was unable to fully grasp this difficult, confusing emotion. As soon as I figured that the root problem was not my parents, I immediately apologized to them for being so unforgiving and hard on them for so many years.

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Turning The Other Cheek

On the side of all my unpredictable, unstable, and inconsistent creative work that I do, I work part-time in retail, selling luxury goods. I am the newest addition to our sales team. Out of everyone there, I probably make the most mistakes.

For a lot of my co-workers, their job is their life. For them, there are no other options. Many of them carry out their job in a very aggressive manner. I, on the other hand, am so relaxed as I work and it really is apparent. I work there because I enjoy it. If this part-time job does not work out, I know I can just move onto another one that I enjoy.

Few weeks ago, our store had our annual holiday party. Everyone was in a good mood and looking beautiful in their fancy clothes. But as the night progressed and more alcohol was being consumed, some of my co-workers loosened up a bit too much. One of them felt it was the opportune time to say to me, “Daniel, you are a real fuck up to the team!… You just don’t care enough… If you even dare to tell our manager about this conversation, I’m gonna kill you…”

Heart in Eye

Of course it hurt to hear all of this, especially when I have only had good intentions for others at my workplace. I felt misunderstood. My emotional sensitivity also intensified the hurt that I was feeling.

The old-me would have resorted to the use of my psychological strategies to escape my present difficult emotions. Having learned from my past the ineffectiveness of this response, I did something drastically different. I allowed myself to just feel the pain without judging whether the feeling was “good” or “bad,” whether my co-worker’s behaviour was “good” or “bad,” or whether my co-worker was a “good” or “bad” person. I resisted my impulse to investigate why such words were spoken and what had to be done to “fix” the problem. I lived in the present moment, even though that moment was not so pleasant. I also meditated on positive truths about who I am as a person. By doing all of this, I was able to keep myself calm and allow my difficult emotions to fully make its way in and out of my system while centering my identity. After giving myself all the time that I needed to grieve over the experience, I forgave her. In no time, I was feeling much better.

Then came the time to think about what to do next. The old-me would have immediately, without hesitation, confronted my co-worker. I have so much confidence in my communication skills and my mind’s ability to rapidly organize the thoughts and ideas in my head that there are not too many types of people, social situations, or sensitive topics that I feel threatened by when words must be used. In the past, I would tactfully expose the crimes of my wrongdoers and draw out their emotions of guilt to get them to stop doing the things that bother me. This practice worked out for me very nicely for many years.

For the first time, however, I realized that this kind of confrontation was actually my mechanism of control. Underneath it all, I simply feared getting hurt again. Rather than going back to my old ways, I took a chance and resisted this form of control. I kept my heart and mind open to be inspired with a better course of action. In prayer, I asked my God that I believe in, “I am pretty sure my way will achieve the outcome that I want, but is there something else You would rather have me do instead?”

Shortly after, I had a “vision” of my co-worker’s life growing up (religious or not, “psychic”-like experiences are not so abnormal in the lives of a lot of highly sensitive people). I saw (with my spiritual eyes, of course) her growing up, making mistakes, and people being very hard on her. I saw a whole string of hurtful words being spoken onto her and crushing her. I saw her desperately trying to build her self-worth through perfectionism. Her lack of grace on others when they made mistakes stemmed from the lack of grace she received growing up. I sensed the many areas of brokenness within her and just knew what she needed to hear for emotional healing to take place.

On my next day at work, I wrote her a Christmas card that included a Starbucks gift card. I wrote something along these lines (the original was much longer, of course – I just don’t remember all the things that I wrote, word for word):

“I didn’t know the extent of all the frustration and damage you experienced as a result of all my mistakes. I’m sorry. I did not mean to make you feel that I did not care. The truth is, I do care about you and appreciate you as a person very much. You are an amazing, delightful, beautiful woman with a good heart… [specific examples…] I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. ~ Daniel”

After reading my card, she came to me, thanked me, and gave me a big hug.

I am not sharing all of this to boast to the rest of the world “Hey, look at me, I’m such a saint!” No. I share all of this to inspire others to try it out when people behave in nasty, hurtful ways.

One of the questions I get asked very frequently from my blog readers is, “Hey, I’m pretty sure my husband/wife has OCPD and it’s driving me insane. How should I break the news to him/her?” This entire blogpost is my answer: I do not think that it is so necessary to “break the news” to anyone. Rather than pointing out people’s faults, weaknesses, and crimes, I think it is much better to love one another and see people’s attacks as clues to their inner brokenness.

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Guilt from Being Unproductive

It has been a while since I last wrote an update about my life. In fact, it has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. I have been mostly busy with going out and enjoying my city’s beautiful summer weather (Vancouver’s weather is pretty depressing all other times of the year). I have been spending so much time outside with others that I have found no time to read, research, study, write, work on music, or hit the gym. I don’t feel it as intensely as I did before when I used to be very OCPD, but I still do feel some guilt over not being super productive and not making the very best use of my time.

Gifted individuals and people with OCPD tend to feel extra guilty about not being productive.

Work on Vacation

So where does this guilt come from?

Well, first of all, emotionally sensitive people experience the emotion of guilt much more intensely than normal, average, boring people do (haha just kidding about the “boring” part). A stronger sense of responsibility comes with the territory of being highly emotionally sensitive. Because of their natural ability to see, imagine, envision, strategize, and produce excellence, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel a very strong sense of responsibility to contribute excellence to the world. But excellence takes a lot of time and effort, no matter who you are, no matter how much talent you have. When this time and effort is not being invested, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel guilty.

Read more about the obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with the efficient use of time here.

This guilt is a big-time joy killer. It removes you from your present moment that might be filled with so many amazing things that you can enjoy and wonderful people that you can laugh with. Many people attempt to eliminate this guilt by keeping themselves very busy. Being busy, however, does not always lead to excellence. Busy-ness that is driven by guilt can actually do a lot of damage to the joy that you derive from participating in your area of excellence. During my workaholic years living in Korea, I lost a lot of my joy in producing music because I had spent so much time dutifully working on musical projects that I had very little interest in. Although being productive controls this pervasive feeling of guilt, it never gets rid of it.

The way I now respond to this kind of guilt is much healthier. I now let myself feel the guilt and let the emotion take its course in and out of my system. I remind myself in my head that it is NOT my responsibility to bring excellence into this world – being born with all the right tools does not automatically sign me up for a life of duty. My faith also helps me deal with this difficult emotion. I trust that this world is in the good hands of an omnipotent God who loves to share His unrivaled excellence with the rest of the world. I think of all the imperfect people in the Bible that God partnered up with to do this. God didn’t need them to be constantly busy. It was the condition of their heart that mattered much more to Him. I then tell myself that everything will be just fine and turn my focus back onto the present moment.

Another step that really helps to lessen the intensity of this kind of guilt is putting an end to judging others negatively. Many people with OCPD fall into judging others for their “laziness.” After judging others in this way, people with OCPD grow to be very unforgiving toward themselves.

So yeah… I am going to continue to enjoy my summer! I hope all of you are enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world 🙂

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Christian OCPD

Overcoming OCPD was not an easy task. It is by far the most difficult thing that I have had to battle through. After being diagnosed with OCPD, I put everything in my life on hold to focus all my attention on overcoming this challenge from every angle. I was open to anything and everything – medicinal and non-medicinal, religious and non-religious. Up until today, however, I have not shared too much on what I have learned about OCPD as a believer and follower of the Christian faith. I would like to do that now.

OCPD is burden bearing gone wrong.

Christian OCPD

ORIGINAL DESIGN

You have what is called the “burden bearer” personality. Our good and generous God designed you in His own image and gave you a huge heart. Your heart was designed to not only feel what God feels, but also feel what others feel. God created you to be incredibly gifted in empathizing with Him and His children. Our God is full of joy. You were meant to bask in that joy with Him. God is so in love with you, so delighted in you, so proud of you. You were meant to intimately sense His unconditional love and acceptance. Our mighty God is victorious. Even when the world appears to be falling apart, He is full of hope and peace. You were meant to closely share in that hope and peace with Him. But God still grieves. His heart breaks when He sees His beloved children hurting. You were meant to feel God’s heart for them. Your compassionate intercessory prayers are so powerful because they come straight from God’s own heart. You were meant to lift up to Him the burdens that you feel and trust that He will take care of everything. Life was meant to be light for you because of your unshakable trust in God. You are so generous. Your generosity changes people’s lives. God admires your heart so much that He delights in giving you the opportunity to partner with Him in sharing His love to those in need. God gifted you with the ability to restore joy to His hurting children. Because you give so much of yourself to others, you really understand sacrifice. This better understanding of sacrifice was meant to bring you closer to Jesus, the one who sacrificed the most. You were meant to enjoy deep intimacy, intimacy that not many people can ever dream to experience. The condition of your beautiful heart enriches the lives of so many people around you and it changes the world. You were meant to see the way that you were created as a wonderful gift from God.

Read more about “Who You Are Without Fear.”

DAMAGE TO THE DESIGN

But there is also one who is against God and His great plans. We have all kinds of different names for him, including the devil, the enemy, and Satan. He knows how much of a threat you would be to his own plans to oppose God if you were to fully be who you were meant to be. So what does the enemy do? He strategically attacks your identity and tries to disarm you. When you are most vulnerable (for someone as emotionally sensitive as you, that is usually when you are overwhelmed by your difficult emotions), the enemy speaks lies to you about your identity, others, your circumstance, your future, the world, and God. He puts all these thoughts into your mind in a way that you think they are your own. The enemy convinces you through lies that difficult emotions are to be feared, that you will not be OK unless you control them or escape from them. One of the biggest lies he will say to you is, “You are not good enough!” He laughs as he watches you desperately striving to be good enough by being perfect in every way. Your fear of difficult emotions then makes you incapable of sharing in the difficult emotions of others. In this way, the enemy disables your gift of empathy. You still, however, retain a good sense of the needs of others. But because of your own distrust in God and His ability to bring healing (again… forged by the lies of the enemy), you take it upon yourself to fill the needs of others rather than lifting up those burdens to God. Consequently, you become drained and overburdened with the heaviness of the load you must carry. The enemy also attempts to eliminate your generosity by convincing you that others will only take advantage of you if you give too much of yourself to them. The enemy loves to see you feel guilty about being yourself. He loves to see you being very calculating about only giving to others as much as they give to you. The enemy also cripples your God-given ability to restore joy in others by removing your own joy and replacing it with depression and anger. He does this by flooding your mind with negativity. The enemy builds resentment against humankind inside of you so that you become increasingly isolated, pushing you further and further away from the person of intimacy that you were meant to be. Though you were meant to be amazing in relationships, the enemy convinces you that you are relationally inept. He attacks your relationships so much and loves to break up your family and marriage. The enemy wants you to see yourself as diseased, disordered, and cursed. He hopes you give up and end your own life.

Is it not interesting how similar the “Damage to the Design” description is to the DSM’s assessment of OCPD? Can you now guess why I might not be the biggest fan of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?

SO WHAT NOW?
(NOTE: I understand that the commission to repent comes with a lot of hurt for many people as they are reminded of haughty “Christians” who impose their beliefs onto others. While I do mention repentance in this next portion of my writing, I do not use it out of a place of judgment. This “SO WHAT NOW?” is more for my readers who are seeking a Christian approach to overcoming OCPD.)

You definitely can restore your original identity! God is on your side and there is nothing too problematic or screwed up for Him to restore! Jesus did not die on the cross so that we would remain enslaved by sin, fear, worry, control, shame, distrust, pain, depression, anger, and disease. No, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to win back humankind’s authority over sin for good! In Christ, you have the authority to break OCPD! Repent to God for having thus far agreed to the lies of the enemy and having participated in the sins of OCPD. Receive God’s forgiveness and trust that His forgiveness is good enough – do not get all OCPD and try to earn His forgiveness through some kind of hard work or performance. Partner with the Holy Spirit and ask God to help you to turn away from the ways of the enemy. Be joyful and have faith that God will heal your heart 100%!

Here are some ungodly beliefs that people with OCPD are likely to have because of their past hurts:

  1. My value is in what I do and how well I perform. I am valuable because I am “successful.” I need recognition from people to have worth. I have to plan every day of my life.
  2. I have to continually strategize – I can’t relax. Things will work out better when I am in control of the situation. Only I can take care of myself and protect myself the best.
  3. Others will just use and abuse me. In relationships, I will always be the one who sacrifices and loses the most. I will be the one who gets taken advantage of.
  4. I will always be angry and feel like I’m better than everyone else.
  5. I will always have something wrong with me. I will never be healed or free from all the hurts and bondages in my life.
  6. It is better to reject someone before they can reject me. That way I don’t have to waste my time with them and get hurt.

When these thoughts come into your mind, do not listen to them. Tell the enemy to shut the hell up. Do not act out on the above thoughts.

Instead, read out loud and try to act out on the following godly truths everyday for the next few months (there is power in your spoken word since you were created in God’s image – light came into existence after God SAID, “Let there be light.”):

  1. I have incredible value and worth because I am God’s beloved and precious son/daughter. That never changes, no matter what I do or don’t do or how well I do it. God is so proud of me and loves me for who I am. He has his mark of approval on me and that is enough for me.
  2. God loves to take care of me. He will never reject me or abandon me, and He is always protecting me. God is in control and I can always feel safe with Him.  I can trust Him fully with my life and surrender my control to Him because I know He has even better plans for me than I have for myself.
  3. God has designed me to be a blessing to others and to give of myself generously. When I am doing what God has designed me to do, I can experience true freedom and joy. God has placed people in my life that love me and want to bless me and help me be all that I was born to be. I am learning to trust them and depend on them so that I can walk out the fullness of my destiny.
  4. God has created me to be a joyful and gracious person who is patient and able to forgive easily. I am learning to see beyond people’s weaknesses and recognize the amazing ways that God has created them to be.
  5. God’s grace is unending and abundant and He will always accept me, no matter what. God is greater than all my mistakes and He has the power to redeem every mistake I have made and make it for His good. God has an amazing destiny for me and will use all the decisions I make to get me there. He will help me to make good decisions.
  6. God created me for deep intimate relationships. It is my heart’s desire to truly know someone and have them truly know me and love me. Conflict and disappointment are opportunities to go deeper in intimacy. God will give me the courage to pursue intimate relationships by helping me to trust Him and trust the people He’s given me.

MORE READING

I do not recommend books too often only because there are hardly any good books on OCPD. But this one is great! A MUST READ for Christians struggling with hypersensitivity.

The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity

The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity: Your Practical Guide to Responding to Burdens You Feel from God’s Heart” by Carol A. Brown

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