Tag Archives: Control

5 Uncontrollable Things We Try to Control (and Make a Mess of It)

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

woman riding on black vehicle
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

We like control. That’s not weird.

Control is good. We want to control our toddlers because they do not know how to be safe. We must control our cars or people will be hurt. Controlled tempers keep us out of fights and jail. Self-control is wise.

Focusing on what is within our control helps keep us sane. It is when we try to force influence over uncontrollable things and situations that we and those around us suffer.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) lists “Accept that you cannot control everything” as the number one way to deal with stress and anxiety.* The following are, I believe, common fuels for anxiety and possibly depression.

Five uncontrollable things we wish to control 

Other adults. We have zero control over the choices of others. Efforts at gaining control leave us frustrated and angry. Abuse is an obvious attempt at control, but so is political  vitriol. I know of a daughter and mother who rarely speak to one another because of disagreement over politics. No one in this scenario will change her mind, so what is the silent treatment for? 

Other drivers.  Yesterday on a local freeway, a driver weaved dangerously close between cars at about 85 miles per hour. It is amusing that my travel at a legal pace landed us at the same spot about five miles later. Trying to own the road makes a fool of an impatient driver. No one admires the person whose road-rage so easily overpowers good sense.

People groups. Whether the group is different by race or gender, age or belief system, pointing and accusing will not change anyone. One talk show host pointed to the TV camera and said, “Jesus was just a man.” In the same breath she condemned  believers who value sharing their faith. This hypocritical attempt at control (it is okay for me to share my beliefs but not okay for you to do so) will not enlighten a person, let alone a society. 

The future. No doubt this sums up all the rest. If designing the future was up to us, we would not suffer or experience disappointment. As it is, the doctor may have difficult news, a future spouse’s parents may not like his or her choice in a mate, relationships end, and sometimes we fail. Trying to control any of this will leave us fearful of facing the next day.

God. God is the king of the unknown. I claim Jesus as my Savior and worship God the Father as the one in Sovereign control. He has never let me down, so shouldn’t it be easy to let go and let God? Trust is difficult when my focus is on fear of potentially unhappy circumstances rather than his goodness. 

I suspect this is the same reason many try to design their own gods. By controlling one’s object of worship, this god cannot demand what one does not want to give. Trust and a sense of God’s love are absent. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 34:4
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

 

*https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

Love, Circumstances, Regret, Eternity: 4 Contexts Where Accepting Life on Life’s Terms Changes Everything

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

What’s sadly amusing is that people (let’s be honest, it is each of us) who need to learn life lessons often do not believe they have a problem.

I heard a notorious complainer and backbiter announce that she had once attended a conference on negativity.  One man struggled with coping and  refused therapy. He had never entered a professional mental healthcare office, yet claimed it would not help.

Accepting life on life’s terms is tricky. Instead, we often try to control circumstances or other people, and strive for comfort.   

Personal Power

Reputations, health, and safety are subject to events outside our control. No matter the wisdom or lack of sense behind our choices, good  and not-so-good will result. Jesus said God sends rain on the just and on the unjust*.  Life’s terms are reality.

Nonetheless, we have control over our behavior and responses. That is powerful!

I switched from railing against difficulties and fighting to improve the past, to focusing on changing me. Now a matured worldview, attitude, and belief system provide a deep sense of hope and purpose that eluded me before.

Do you see how far you’ve come since one to ten years ago? Change happens in truth. Honest introspection is not difficult. Simply by asking, “Why do I feel/believe/behave this way? Am I the person I want to be?”,  your escape from endless cycles begins. 

Life’s terms 

Relationships:   No human loves unconditionally and no one stays forever. These are not true because people are uncaring, rather it is that we are fallible, and incapable of perfectly meeting another’s needs. These are life’s terms.

Accepting these terms allows for rejoicing at how many people care sincerely and imperfectly.  Shared happiness and pain create a sense of community and personal fulfillment. This replaces the anguish of manipulating or insisting relationships match our design. Grace and freedom reign.

Circumstances:  Events outside ourselves are often confusing and seem to have trajectories of their own. It is impossible to slam on the brakes and stop all the nonsense. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting life’s terms means no set of circumstances has to complete our story. Looking for  options and focusing on what is next, spares us from paralyzing fear and hopelessness. We can create, share ideas, pray, and involve ourselves in a message of hope.   

Personal history:  The past is full of regrets and “can’t believe I did that”.  Consequences of poorer choices are not always avoidable. These are life’s terms. 

Accepting those terms allows us to make needed amends, and jumpstart the present.  How many of us would spend days hiding if we constantly stared at all our mistakes? Knowing the past cannot be fixed, we transfer energy toward influencing today for the good of humankind. 

Salvation:  No past choices determine our eternal future. Zero.  Starting now, putting faith in Jesus means we can believe our gifts, strengths, and weaknesses have purpose in the hands of a sovereign God. He sees his beloved (if somewhat confused) children through eyes of forgiveness and delight.

These are His terms, for which we can feel relief and gladness. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 19:21 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,  but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+5&version=ESV

How Can God Be Good If People Suffer?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One of the keys to peace and mental health is to stop trying to control what is out of our control. Anxiety has been kicking my backside recently. When I remember to let go and let God, there is more calm. 

An ancient question stems from our human desire to control everything – even our image of God. The often anxious perception that we should not suffer if God is good, is based on knee-jerk reactions to human pain.  We demand that if we cannot stop evil and struggles, then God should! 

I’m coming from the premise that God is always good, no matter what. As a student of the Bible, the biblical statement* that God understands our troubles rings true to me. That does not mean I have all the answers. If that were possible, I would be equal to God, and he would cease to be sovereign.  

How we know Jesus understands when we hurt and cry.

Jesus endured the physical and emotional frustrations of celibacy and singleness. More than that, he understood what was in every person’s heart, so he entrusted himself to no one. He grieved over deaths of loved ones.  His heart stung when family members rejected his message and misunderstood his purpose.

Friends deserted him at the worst moment of his life. One in particular betrayed him to death! He suffered mental agony, knowing his enemies would torture and crucify him.  HIs greatest sorrow no doubt was on the cross, when he sensed that God, his father with whom he was one,  had turned his face away.   

Jesus could have envied others who did not suffer, but he did not. He focused on eternity.

Is God good when life seems unfair?

Asaph was a songwriter and musician. He was so talented that he answered directly to the King. His job was to lead the entire nation of Israel in worship of God at the ancient Temple in Israel.

One of his songs even made its way into the Bible. Psalm 73  is about his suffering and jealousy of those who did not struggle. Worse yet, these healthy and happy people lived with values Asaph could not respect.

He described them this way. “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace  and clothe themselves with cruelty.  These fat cats have everything  their hearts could ever wish for!.”**

Sound familiar? Dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger often come from expecting our version of fair.   

Sherry lost her childhood to abuse and neglect. As a Christian believer, she wondered why God had not protected her. Praying, she said, “God where were you when I cried?”  A gentle reassurance spoke to her heart. 

“I cried too.” 

Like many of us, Asaph and Sherry temporarily forgot God’s nature of Goodness.  He does not guarantee our joy but teaches us how to find it and live in it forever. 

  Focusing on permanence

Physical health, friendships, family, financial success, emotional well-being, and more seem to promise happiness in the present.  Some of us experience that, and many do not. No matter what we find, happiness (and pain) in this lifetime are temporary. 

One of Jesus’ followers 2000 years ago authored a book.  He encouraged his readers to place their priorities on eternity. He wrote, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ***

Whenever disappointment and outright suffering come my way, it is this focus on eternity that keeps my eyes off self-pity and on hope. Difficulty teaches me how to get out of bed when life hurts. Strength gained through adversity is why purpose guides my choices despite even severe loss. 

Meet Paul

  • Unjustly imprisoned on several occasions
  • 5 times flogged with 39 lashes 
  • 3 times beaten with rods
  • pelted with rocks nearly to death
  • in 3 shipwrecks, one time spending about 24 hours in the open sea 
  • In constant danger
  • often went without sleep, food, or warmth

In my opinion, this qualifies him to speak on suffering and God! Paul was one of the first Christians in the first century A.D., and a traveling preacher. Remarkably, his focus was an eternal one. 

He wrote, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” ****

Wow. 

We know God is good when our eyes are on the truth of who He is. 

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

 

*Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

**Psalm 73: 6-7

***Matthew 6:19-21

****2 Corinthians 4:18

-eye pic by KIMOLOS on rgbstock.com;  glorious sky by MICROMOTH at rgbstock.com

How Is Your ‘Helping’ IQ When a Loved One Is Hurting?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse   (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The other day I was looking at IQ information online.  There is some debate about what tests and measures of intelligence actually prove. They cannot provide insight into the character of a person or even how they perceive the world. For example, one report suggested that artists may not do as well as scientists on IQ tests because of their point of view. 

A woman who loved her forty-something year-old son, would mention his need for a better job  every time she visited. I believe she meant no harm. Her idea of helping was to try to control circumstances.

She asked me one day what she was doing wrong because her son was distancing himself. What I told her and have pondered since, is the basis for this post.

A world of difference between control and healthy concern

Are you concerned for a loved one who is struggling ? Take a moment to look at the following comparison. A higher ‘helping’ IQ will fall on the concern side.

CONTROL 
Knows the answer 
Desires results above all 
Expresses frustration, anger, disappointment at slow or ‘incorrect’ results, places blame
Seeks ways to “fix” the situation or person, manipulative 
Wants in on gossip or rumor, or spreads such 
May feel overly anxious at the prospect of situation or person not changing 
Feels guilty if they cannot fix the problem 
Does not listen 
Offers pat answers, quick-fix solutions, or false hope based on incomplete understanding of person/needs 

CONCERN
Humble, ready to learn
Wants to extend love above all
Patient, respects other person’s right to choose
Offers aid when asked, or asks before helping. Straight forward
Respects the privacy of others
Feels concern, some worry and anxiety, yet also feels peace by letting go what they cannot control
Feels empathy, pain, or grief, but does not have to own what is not theirs
Actively listens, validates, is genuinely interested
Does not offer what one does not have, is honest and realistic, offers hope based on wisdom

If you see the difference between control and concern, and if how you have tried to help falls more on the control side, you have time to change.  Talk to your loved one and let them know. Ask for their input and listen.

Today’s Helpful Word 

 

 

Your Mental Illness, Your Responsibility (Part Four): Are Behaviors a Choice?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24768393-old-man-raising-his-eye-browWhen we have a mental illness, we still have to own the effects our symptoms and behaviors have on others. If we hurt someone because we were not able to manage well during an episode, our self-proclaimed “I couldn’t help it” does not relieve their pain. For example, while isolation and withdrawal are two common symptoms of major depression, to later say, “I was depressed and that is why I stopped speaking to you” is, in my opinion, disregard for their experience.

That friend or relative paid a dear price for our illness. We owe it to them to acknowledge that. This does not mean begging forgiveness for being ill.

Beyond courtesy, we can ask two questions. Could we have done anything differently? Did we know better in the moment? Not every choice we make while ill is a clear-headed one! We may not have the tools or knowledge to make preferable decisions, or perhaps our illness robs us of reason. However, if the answer to one of these questions is yes, that is a behavior to address.

We learn over time not only how to manage our disease (prevention of relapse), but also how to manage our symptoms. For some, one episode is treated and seems to not reappear.  Others regularly deal with their chronic condition. Recurring episodes, sometimes unpredictable, disrupt our lives, plans, relationships, work, and peace of mind. In this context, changing how we treat others in the process can be a growing experience.

Connie faced her first hospitalization for suicidal thoughts. In her pain, she failed to call home and let everyone know where she was. Her family told her how scary it was for them. A few years later, Connie struggled again and went to the ER. This time, she made herself call home despite every inch of her preferring to hide in bed.

It is important to remember that when we are in episodes of mental illness we are ill and will not function at our best. We are very good at beating ourselves up for that, aren’t we? The “shoulds” berate our hearts.

I’ve learned that talking this out with God and listening for his answer (usually post-episode) may occasionally reveal a sin of my heart – beyond illness – that fed poor choices. This could be something like selfishness or conceit. If this is the case, then asking forgiveness from him, and repenting (changing that attitude) is my next step. No prayer is more daring and rewarding than addressing a sin-sick heart. It is there, in sorrow for the hurt my sin caused God, other people, and myself, that Christ is most near. He lovingly reminds me of the price he already paid on the cross for my guilt, and sets me free of self-condemnation.

Our responsibility is to do what we can, and own the messes we leave behind. This is not carrying guilt for illness. We do not have to grovel for people who want to lay blame on us for their every problem or choice. We never have to apologize for our mental illness. I am saying it is best to validate the experiences of others, and accept it when we have caused harm intentionally or not intentionally.

It’s called making amends. It’s fair, and a compassionately loving thing to do.

photo-24748219-downcast-manToday’s Helpful Word

Psalm 145:18
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

-King David struggled with depression and also sin.

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 

 

Is Your Diagnosed Mood Disorder a Life Sentence?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

photo-24753803-steel-bar-window-in-tuscany-townYou’ve been told by a mental health professional you are not psychologically normal. Your diagnosis is Mood Disorder of one sort or another. Is this a life sentence?

It depends. We do not yet have the “penicillin” for chronic mood disorders such as bipolar and major depression, among others.  No medication has been made available that will perfectly and always maintain brain chemical balance for each person. By that definition, there is yet no cure.

Still, we are in control over how well these diseases are managed in our day-to-day lives. My experiences and those of others I’ve met indicate we have much more input than is often perceived.

To start, a person has to become aware of a problem and accept a need for help. Statistics show that only about 60% of persons with a mental disorder seek or receive treatment, while as many as 90% of treated cases move on to enjoy healthier and more satisfactory lives. If there is no medical cure, why the massive numerical difference between untreated and successfully treated patients? The answer is in a person’s ability and willingness to learn and apply healthy coping skills.

From this insiders viewpoint, depression (more than sad) and anxiety (much more than worry), are constants restrained from taking over by my use of management skills. These skills, I might add, are spiritual, physical, and mental in nature. I grow weak in the fight; some days are good, others are not, and many are a mix of extremes.

It is in the slow process of awareness, learning, and applying that I have gained more control over how depression and anxiety interferes with goals, relationships, and daily functioning. Being as we each have differing levels of need, an infinite variety of life experiences, and more or less ability to grow, my strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions.

Ultimately, no diagnosis of a mood disorder is a life sentence. We seek treatment. We try new coping skills and deepen a relationship with God. We learn to function within the challenges, to make choices within our control and allow for limitations.

We move beyond victim and become victors.

*******

Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*pictures from Kozzi.com

Why and How Would I Forgive that %&*$# ? Part One.

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

images (17)The longer you refuse to let something go, the longer you are chained to it.

We think we are in control when we hang on to hurt and blame. It is our anger, we want to own it!  We have the right to be angry because we were maltreated, our lives were ruined, and we were damaged. Because of someone else’s actions or inaction, we have suffered. How dare they? We have every reason to hold them in contempt, darn it!

Picture walking a big dog down the street. It is untrained, and is dragging you into yards and traffic. It smells another dog’s presence and forces you into a race. Later, you could claim you took the dog for a walk.  In the end of your version of the story you come out on top. You are the owner, the one who is right, and the dog is victimizing you by making your walks challenging.

Theoretically only, one of your options on the walk is to let go of the leash. Truth is, if you gave the dog freedom to run away your physical battle would be over. Later, your story could be that you once owned the dog, it made walks challenging, and so you let it go. How powerful you really are! Now you are free of the animal and the trouble that came with it.

In a similar way, letting the person or persons who brought you pain ‘off the leash’ so to speak, frees you from the mental difficulties that come with holding on. This does not mean they get off scot-free from wrongdoing, so please allow me to explain what I mean by ‘let go.’

Lawfully and morally, if someone commits a crime against another they ought to receive the punishment due them. Bringing legal charges against such a person protects you and perhaps others from further harm. With that said, you and I know there are deeper issues to wrestle in matters of forgiveness.

What does hanging on to anger look like?

  1. Thinking about the offense
  2. Thinking about the resulting harm
  3. Thinking about blame

For years I tried to forgive a person who lied to get what he wanted. His choices uprooted my life in significant ways. Whenever the consequences of his actions confronted me, I took a wrong versus right stance with me being right, of course. The events played in my memory as I searched for anything I may have missed.

A list of harm done became longer as life continued to unfold consequences. When his name came up I thought about him with disdain and distrust. How dare he get that promotion? How could other people be so blind? He is lucky I don’t go to his superiors. 

I felt powerful in my resentment. Yet because of my spiritual training, knew it was an obligation to forgive him. By trying to do so, I managed to conjure up moments of good feelings toward the man, but they were all temporary and required much effort. Before long, old thoughts and feelings would rise.

How does hanging on to anger feel?

  1. Depressed mood.
  2. Fear
  3. Paralysis
  4. Continued pain

Whether or not depression in this case becomes clinical is not the point; we are not happy when caught up in an anger cycle. In my case jealousy grew. I wondered what was wrong with me and questioned how did this lying %^&$* have success and I not?

Fear blossomed. Maybe doing the right thing never works out. Maybe I’m incapable. Maybe it will happen to me again. Maybe I cannot trust anyone. In part, this fear paralyzed me in relationships and goal-setting. In some ways it restrained me from reaching out. All the while,  continuing to blame this fellow for my difficulties fed pain in my heart.

And I felt powerful in my bitterness.

The dog was pulling me into alleys and dark tunnels. Blinded because of not forgiving this man, I lost sight of a few important things. His action altered my life temporarily while my choice to hang on to the offense helped to cripple me for years.

Stay tuned to part two of this series.

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Comments are always welcome (see tab below).  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

Hurricane Arthur, Sinkholes, Shootings, and Control

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

100_1102Most of us have probably had that moment when suddenly our surroundings shift and we no longer have a sense of safety or control over what happens next. I’ve seen videos of people pulling tablecloths out from under place servings and food without losing or misplacing any items. If only that could be our result when life is in upheaval!

Hurricanes by any name are scary. Sinkholes can be more frightening due to lack of warning. Random shootings? We scramble to find a reason, a “key” so we can foresee who, when, where these things will happen.  Measurable and understood problems can be managed.

I’ve balked at the idea that I have no say over circumstances. “Life happens” is an uneasy concept. If you had asked me before three years ago if I believed I needed to be in charge, I would have said no. Then I would have worried about everything while continuing to deny the fear even to myself.

Denial is a strong reason some of us do not see how very powerless we actually are. Attempting suicide in January 2011 was a wake-up call in numerous ways. However, it was but a slight push in the direction of admitting I am powerless and that my life had become unmanageable. 

Saint Paul admitted he was powerless, something I am learning to do. His willpower and self-control were not enough. Neither was his strength of character. He simply could not manage his life through faith and good intentions alone.

Paul recognized God as the one with power. He turned his desire for control over to Christ. His decisions, reactions, feelings, and thoughts  began to transform. This is happening for me as well. The more I can accept my powerlessness, the better. This is not helpless victimization. I do have a choice, and that is to allow God’s power to be the solution or to keep on truckin’ the way I always have.

Surrender to God through Jesus Christ became Paul’s message to the world and his daily practice. He gave up, and his life began.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.