Dealing with depression

 by Rev. Clark Echols

Dealing with depressionSadness, like joy, anger and fear, is a normal human emotion. It is a gift from the Lord because it allows us to be conscious of who and what we love; we cannot experience love without feeling some sadness. People have noticed for millennia that going through periods of sadness or grief restores one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual balance.

However, sometimes a person is unable to manage his sadness on his own. Depression exists for many individuals, often brought on by a traumatic experience or a chemical imbalance in the brain. The medical community has helped by defining the disease of depression as a physical ailment that begins in the brain, and is felt in all parts of the body in a variety of ways.

In many cases, depression is caused when there is an interruption in either the brain’s production or reception of dopamine, the chemical that induces our feeling of joy.

There is a very real spiritual component to this ailment as well. As described in Divine Providence, “The state of the mind depends on that of the body. When the body is afflicted, the mind is as well, if only by being out of touch with the world” (142). It helps people to know that depression is a physical disease. It frees them from uselessly and harmfully blaming themselves for the ailment. It frees them to take a very wide view of what they can do to be cured. And it is quite common for depression to be cured if it can be attended to early in its appearance.

Therapists have a short, simple list of remedies for depression, although actually doing them requires more or less strength, courage and stamina depending on the severity of the illness. The list begins with physical behaviors – sleeping, eating and exercise in the right amounts in a structured routine. Then there is the mental skills – relaxation, focus, presence, attentiveness, which are grouped together as mindfulness practices. And finally, there is the spiritual component.

The spiritual component is not a physical discipline or a mental practice, although it needs to be expressed in our body and in our thought and feeling. An effective therapist will help the person identify their higher power, the Divine, God, or Lord as a loving, helpful, healing source of their life. And then the person seeks a spiritual sense of connection to their God. For instance, it is common for a person suffering depression to report that they feel forgotten by God.

The cure for depression involves all of these pieces. It is critical for there to be a stable, helpful relationship with God, a mindful way of thinking and feeling, and healthy behaviors. Each supports the other, and the cure is harder to achieve if one or more of them is not fully utilized by the person.

A typical scenario for a person is that they are traumatized by a loss. They can’t sleep, eat poorly, and don’t leave their bed, or at least their house, as much as a healthy person does. And then their thinking and feeling – the activity of their brains – is affected and they give a lot of time and energy to negative thoughts about themselves, their circumstances and the future (as distinct from sadness, anger or fear about these areas of their life). It is then that spirits associated with evil and false notions and desires are attracted to the person, and are able to attach themselves to the unconscious level of the person’s spirit.

The cure for depression can begin in any one of these aspects or as a combination. A person who has had a strong faith – a significant sense of dependence on God and appreciation of His presence in their lives – can be encouraged by a spiritual guide or therapist to be mindful of that faith, and can be instructed to use energy, thought and feeling, to create a sacred space where they can spend time in devotion. Perhaps they use Scripture, music, guided meditation or singing to bring the benefits of positive spirits into their unconscious. These spirits will restore the person’s balanced view of their life, and remind them of the inner strengths they have from their God.

A spouse or close family member can be with the person, and as they talk about the person’s thinking and feeling, they are able to reflect the function and dysfunctional patterns of thinking. The person can be alerted to the connection they maintain between negative thoughts and feelings by a person listening carefully.

A friend can take the person to, or bring in, a meal of good food, and go with them for a walk. Or if there is a form of recreation the person has loved, a companion in that activity can be encouraging.

The cure is achieved when the person’s spirit is fully engaged again in their thinking, feeling and acting. The person then not only feels connected to their God, but also to their community. They feel the fulfillment and joy of a life of usefulness, which is generated by an inner desire to love their God and do their neighbor good.


Clark Echols is a licensed counselor, and pastor of the Glendale New Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit www.clarkechols.com.

Full issue

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Divine Providence has as its end in view a person’s eternal salvation, thus not their great happiness in the world, not – that is to say – wealthiness and eminence which people during their lifetime think real happiness consists in.”

Arcana Coelestia 6481

 

How good a parent am I?

 

Spiritual Questions & Answers

ParentMany a parent wonders how good they are at the job. According to the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, many parents fail to impose proper discipline in the home and simply put children in front of the television rather than talk and play with them.

Many studies have described a bad parent as being neglectful or over-controlling. For example, professor Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick found that such negative parenting is linked to a moderate increase in the risk of being a bully and a small increase in the risk of being a victim of bullying.

None of this may be true for your children. Nevertheless, perhaps as a parent with a conscience you fear you are not giving them enough of your time, or haven’t found the right way to balance being both warm and firm with them in a consistent way. Here are some questions that can help you assess just how good you are in the role of mother or father.

Are you too scared to let them do their own thing?

There is probably a natural urge for any parent to want to jump in to protect the  child at the slightest hint of danger. Pamela Druckerman, an American mother living in Paris, said that her heart would regularly jump when walking around her neighbourhood because a French parent often lets small kids race ahead of them on the pavement. They trust their children will stop at the corner and wait for them. “ Watching this is particularly terrifying when the kids are on scooters.”

It is hard to get right when to allow children to learn from their mistakes. Too lax, and you might have a serious injury or worse on your hands. But too protective and your child never experiences sufficient sense of autonomy and does not learn to be street-wise with the self-confidence that goes along with this. The key I feel is self-reflection. What is your inner attitude? Do you construct worst-case parent scenarios or are you able to calmly assess the realistic risks?

Do you get too angry about their failures?

It is surely only natural to feel disappointed from time to time with children’s conduct and performance. Feeling cross for any parent is understandable when we see them being naughty. However, does this anger last? Are we furious when they do poorly on the playing field, or at school tests? For example the aggression and foul-mouthed behaviour of some fathers watching their sons play football. I would argue that such anger expresses an attitude that the children are there to fulfil the parents own frustrated ambitions.  Something similar can be heard in the conversation between mothers who politely vie with each other to boast about their own children’s accomplishments.

Do you resent the inconveniences they cause you?

Baby’s cry loudly if uncomfortable and hungry and mothers quickly respond with selfless affection making things better. However, as they get older children also make their demands. And often for their own good they will need you to drop what you are doing to talk with them. How willing are you to spend time with your child doing an activity he or she enjoys even when you are tired or want some time to yourself? It is often personally inconvenient to have to attend to someone else rather than what had been occupying you.

Have you the patience to try to understand how they feel

Focusing on what children are saying and doing is necessary if a parent is to show empathy whilst firmly defining boundaries around right and wrong. If you treat your children with understanding then they will likely treat others the same way. Only your patient communication can help them gain appreciation of what is deeply important and learn to deal with their negative emotions in the context of your loving concern. But trying to talk with kids along such lines may mean a great mental effort and can be emotionally taxing.

Is it too painful for you to let them fly the nest?

A parent who clings to older offspring, failing to provide the slight nudge when it is needed for them to start to live away from the parental home, is doing them no favours. Such a parent seems not to realise that it isn’t about releasing kids into the wild and abandoning them. It is just recognising that a young person is someone in his or her own right, — a separate being with their own life style choices, need for privacy and individual ambition and thus the need to live their own life.

Do you envy them?

Carol Ryff, a psychologist at University of Winsconin found that parents, who thought their kids were better-adjusted than they themselves had been in their twenties, weren’t all that pleased. In fact, thinking their kids were faring better than they had made them downright grumpy. Grown children may evoke envy in some parents and the sense of missed opportunities.

The spiritually-minded or materially-minded parent

According to one point of view, parents who are inwardly self-centred and materialistically minded are more likely to be negative parents. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that these parents — who he termed ‘naturally-minded’ — feel affection for their small children “kissing and embracing them, carrying them and hugging them to their breasts and make a quite excessive fuss of them.” However, with the growth into adolescence these same parents :

“Pay little or hardly any attention to their inward affections, …but only to the outward features which they find attractive. It is to these their love is attached, fixed and clings. This makes them also close their eyes to their faults, making excuses for these and favouring them. The reason is that in their case the love of their offspring is also a love of themselves” (Emanuel Swedenborg CL 4645)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

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The peace of mind mystery

We can’t all escape to a cave to gaze at our navels all week in silent contemplation. That’s the trouble – we can’t get away from life itself with its daily frustrations and setbacks. It’s what takes away our peace of mind. The fact that we have a burning desire for certain things means that we are likely to feel tense or angry if anything turns up to prevent us having them.

According to the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, there are basically three kinds of things we love and so when these are threatened or lost, there are three ways peace of mind can allude us.

Firstly, everyone is concerned to some extent for self and so we all feel uneasy when what we need is under threat. Who doesn’t want a secure livelihood and so get angry when losing their job during a recession? We feel anxious if there is a risk to our social status and the good regard of others. Anxiety arises when health is threatened by illness.

Secondly, one can be concerned for others and feel worried for their sake. The media reflect a widespread horror at the plight of starving people in an overseas famine and those suffering destruction of their homes due to a natural disaster. Our hearts go out to them and we feel disturbed by the pictures we see on the television news.

Thirdly, we love what we value as good and true. How such values cause distress is more difficult to spot. But we know how up-tight people can get when their favourite work of art, political stance, or religious belief is under threat. Don’t we feel guilty if we go against our own values and principles or uncomfortable if they are undermined by what others say?

Unease, anxiety, worry, horror, disturbance, distress, feeling uptight, guilty feelings and discomfort all take away peace of mind. These feelings derive from what we love. Get what we love in the right order then our fears gain a higher perspective.

There is an ancient Taoist parable that tells of an old man and his son who lived alone in poor conditions. Their only possession of value was a horse.

One day, the horse ran away. The neighbours came by to offer sympathy, telling the old man how unlucky he was. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The following day the horse returned, bringing with it several wild horses, which the old man and his son locked inside their gate. This time the neighbours hurried over to congratulate the old man on his good fortune. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The next thing that happened was that his son tried to ride one of the wild horses but fell off and broke his leg. The neighbours were quick to tell the old man that this was a disastrous turn of events. `How do you know?’ asked the old man.

Soon after, the army came through, press-ganging young men into service to fight a battle far away. All the local young men were taken – except the old man’s son, because his leg was broken.

The old man had peace of mind. A deeper kind of reflection less attached to the things of the world opens the interiors of the mind. But fear and anger close them. Being too tied to what is going on around us makes it difficult to assess from our limited perspective whether an event is good or bad.

A young woman patient of Carl Gustav Jung’s was proving very difficult to help in therapy because she was keeping her personal feelings to herself only conversing on an intellectual level. She had had a dream in which someone had given her a golden scarab – a costly piece of jewellery.

While she was telling Jung about this dream, he heard something behind him gently tapping on the window. He turned round and saw that it was a large flying insect knocking against the window-pane in an apparent effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to him to be very strange. He opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle (Cetonia aurata) whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. He handed it to his patient with the words, “Here is your scarab.” This moving experience broke the ice of her intellectual resistance and we are told treatment continued with satisfactory results.

Carl Jung gives this as an example of what he calls `synchronicity’. This notion was his answer to the puzzle of why people sometimes experience meaningful coincidences in their lives that are inexplicable and apparently not due to what might be expected from chance. At first sight this sounds a bit like the magical beliefs of so-called primitive people for whom no accident, change in the weather or the health of the villagers is ever thought to be attributable to natural causes. Everything is somehow due to magical influence. Jung does not go this far.

Nevertheless, he does say that synchronicity is one of the things that influences our lives as well along with natural causes. It is relevant when we are trying to fathom our experience of any purposeful trends in our affairs. The synchronous experience is said to occur when two kinds of reality (i.e. the inner and outer) intersect.

I think we can be more specific regarding such experiences. Swedenborg writes that there is a divine providence that is quietly looking after our deepest needs. It hides itself but we might detect it when later we notice things working out for the best. Only later, if we reflect on what has happened to us, may we possibly comprehend that various separate strands of our life have been knit together.

For example, we might later appreciate how we have been nurtured deep down, how the mess and muddle we make of our own lives has been cleaned up, and how new and interesting paths for us to follow have been illuminated. I feel attracted to the idea that we experience peace of mind when we never allow ourselves to trust in our own intelligence but instead contentedly allow ourselves to be carried along in the `stream of divine providence’ making the best of our opportunities. For when self-orientation no longer rules our hearts, then we rise above our worries concerning the transient things of the world and instead come to rely on the things of divine spirit.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Resentful – How can I stop this feeling?

resentfulI suppose it is natural for us to feel resentful when others demean us, frustrate us or do us harm. I feel resentful about how Sharon spoke to me. Not what she said, but how she said it – shouting and slamming the phone down. It’s not as if this were a one-off: there have been several angry outbursts lately. I keep thinking about how unfair she is being.

Yet people say how wonderful she is. It seems as if no-one but myself knows what she is really like. I have started to imagine her making a fool of herself and showing herself up – then others will see her poor self-control and feel about her the same way as I do. Perhaps she’ll get the boot. Part of me thinks ‘Let’s hope so, I don’t want to see her again.’

At the same time another part of me seem to dimly realize that it is unhealthy to allow my hurt feelings to smart for too long.

Do you recognise this kind of resentful feeling in yourself? Do you ever find yourself occasionally imagining getting your own back on someone who has offended you? Such feelings can fester for a long time and start to eat away at a relaxed and composed state of mind.

It all starts when you feel upset about what someone says or does. Maybe you are uncomfortable about directly complaining to that individual or perhaps you have had little chance to do so. From a spiritual perspective, I would suggest that if you open yourself to an unforgiving spirit then you will entertain resentful blaming thoughts which stew and spoil future communication.

You may find yourself engaging in private resentful thoughts that even end up turning into vindictive fantasy. And before you know it, you are feeling so tense and irritated with someone that your relationship goes from bad to worse.

The question arises how can you stop feeling so resentful?

Feeling less resentful by not retaliating

Surely if you start to retaliate this will damage your chances of putting aside resentful feeling?

The film Tit for Tat featuring Laurel and Hardy comes to mind. The two heroes open an electrical goods shop next door to Charlie’ grocery store. The comedy develops in the way the characters involved respond to each other. Charlie mistakenly thinks that Ollie is making advances towards his wife and damages a few items in Stan and Ollie’s shop. Resentfully, Stan and Ollie respond by destroying Charlie’s things and the confrontations continue eventually wreaking havoc in both stores.

This comic picture sadly mirrors the tragic events of history where reconciliation is prevented by the violence of retaliation.

At the time of writing we are in the middle of another nightmarish escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East with rockets sent into Israel aiming at indiscriminate killing of civilians and Israeli forces bombing buildings packed with civilians thought to harbour Hamas fighters. These are disproportionate responses to what preceded. Neither side seem interested in working towards a permanent peace. Israel wants security but is creating more enemies. We can only feel great sorrow for the despairing people in each community led by those who want to vent their resentful fury with no spirit of forgiveness in their hearts.

Finding a way out of this kind of mess is of course easier said than done. Stopping the retaliation can only be part of the answer.

Feeling less resentful by noticing anything that is good about the enemy

It is very difficult not to allow anger to rule one’s thoughts when you have been hurt. But I wonder whether another part of the answer is for those involved in conflict to take a step back from their resentful thoughts and search for new ways of thinking. Ways that don’t involve jumping to conclusions and seeing things in black and white.

I strongly believe that if you turn yourself towards a spirit of forgiveness then you can discover fairer and calmer ways of seeing a situation: a spirit that helps you try to see things from the point of view of those who have caused offence to you and that focuses on their good points and well-being as well as your own.

Feeling less resentful by considering one’s own faults

Don’t we all do something wrong at some time or another in our lives? I would suggest that it is easier to see the misdeeds of others, than face up to your own failings.

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ (Jesus Christ)

Isn’t getting irritated about someone else’s behaviour a way of turning a blind eye to one’s own faults?

It is uncomfortable examining one’s own weaknesses and mistakes – probably because we play the blame game; easier to accuse someone else than point the finger at oneself. But why look for blame anywhere? Why be judgmental about anyone including yourself?

When we see the need for forgiveness for our own blunders then I would suggest it is easier for us to accept that the enemy also needs forgiveness. If we ask for our own misconduct to be set aside and forgotten then does it not become possible to have a forgiving attitude towards others?

If you cannot pardon your our own wrongdoing then what chance have you of believing it is possible for you to excuse your foe?

From a religious angle, in holding a grudge we are cut off from sensing the divine spirit of compassion. As the Christian prayer says

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Getting angry isn’t the problem. Holding the anger and acting on it are the problems. When we start to consider the well-being of those who have angered us then our resentful feeling has no room within our hearts. I believe then we can swallow our injured pride and can ‘forgive and forget’.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Criticise them – But how to do so safely?

criticiseYes it can happen. No one likes their faults to be pointed out and some people with thin skins when you criticise them see this as a personal attack. They get shirty, defensive or bite your head off. You probably would think twice before taking the risk of saying what you really think to them. Yet keeping quiet means not doing anything about the problem.

 

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” (Winston Churchill)

So what’s the best way to criticise someone?

Shirley needed to criticise her neighbour

Shirley was really getting fed up with her new next door neighbour who played his music loudly some nights after coming home from shift-work. Once, she had called round to ask him to turn the volume down, which was done, but the level of loudness would resume another night. It probably wasn’t bad enough to make a complaint to the local authority. The adjoining walls of their homes were not sound-proofed. She  had heard from someone that her neighbour could turn nasty if provoked. How could she deal with the problem which was upsetting her a lot?

Next time Shirley tackled the guy, she wasn’t sure she could trust herself not to shout and lose her temper. When you criticise it is important to keep the matter in proportion, neither overdoing things, nor being too timid. If she were to come over as arrogant, curt or annoyed, she probably wouldn’t be listened to properly. And were she to resort to insults and hostility the chances are the door would be slammed in her face.

How not to criticise

A Laurel and Hardy comedy comes to mind when the two friends engaged in a tit-for-tat war with their neighbour, each side doing things to damage the next door property, with the punishing actions mounting, until the ludicrous outcome was the destruction of both homes.

The film comically showed the pitfalls of an unkind attitude — using the opportunity to make the critic feel superior or perhaps want to provoke or vent a bit of anger. Shirley could soften her criticism by saying things like “I have made the same mistake myself…” It avoids showing any air of superiority.

Criticise showing respect

The common advice psychologists give is “Respect the individual, and focus the criticism on the behaviour that needs changing – on what people actually do or actually say.”

Good criticism generally comes with some degree of humility and respect for the  possibility of other equally valid points of view. In other words Shirley is advised to refrain from any criticism of the person but merely of the noise he makes. Giving respect means not assuming that he is being thoughtless, inconsiderate, or selfish.
Perhaps he is hard of hearing and doesn’t appreciate how others find loud noise annoying.

Once you start to jump to conclusions about someone’s character then you are liable to show this in how you talk to them revealing sarcasm, anger, hostility or condescension. People hear how you say things more than they hear what you say. You mainly communicate through the tone of voice and facial expressions.

Also choosing the right words still matter.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” (Zig Ziglar)

Criticise in a precise way

It is important to explain what it is that the other person is doing that is a problem for you and how you feel about it. Don’t say ‘You are causing me grief’ but say ‘I feel the noise is causing me grief.’

If the individual is respected with a bit of humour, and due credit is given to the possibility of their sympathy for your difficulty, it is vastly more likely that the criticism will be understood, and taken seriously.

To criticise can be less difficult

Shirley had the disadvantage of not knowing the person she wanted to criticize. It is easier to point out a fault if you have an ongoing friendly relationship with the person. You have a greater chance of counting on their sympathy or embarrassment. At least she could try to get into rapport with the neighbour before voicing her issue. Perhaps if she invited him into her own house when somebody else was also present when his music was on then her neighbour could more easily appreciate the nuisance he was causing.

When a relationship has already turned sour, then it may need a bit of patience, waiting before the right time and place arrive to make a fair criticism. It may take considerable effort to create the situation in which the criticism will be “heard”. On the other hand if the relationship between enemies is so bad the best thing may be to get a mediator for justice.

“Virtues which have to do with … moral wisdom … have various names, and they are called … integrity, kindliness, friendliness, modesty, honesty, helpfulness, courteousness; … not to mention many others…. In all of these justice and judgment prevail.” (Conjugial Love section 164 by Emanuel Swedenborg)

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Love the enemy – But how to do this?

love the enemyI know who my enemy is: the individual who maliciously damages my property: tramps all over the flower-bed in the garden: scratches the car with a key: trashes the home during a burglary. I feel angered by anyone who threatens to harm my sense of well-being. These are the people I want to complain about and get my own back on. So how on earth does one stop hating such people. How do you ‘love’ your enemy? Here are some tips I find useful.

Tip 1 on how to love the enemy

Step back from a situation. Then you can start to observe your angry thoughts. Begin to reflect on where they are getting you. When you are feeling angry remember that bitterness will inwardly eat away at your sense of contentment. On the other hand a less negative attitude to the person who has offended you hinders this horrible emotion staying with you. You can’t be positive and negative at the same time. One attitude removes its opposite.

Tip 2 on how to love the enemy

Consider whether becoming calm about your enemy helps your loved ones and friends around you remain calm. They would be affected by your anger, having to listen to your moaning about the person you resent. However, unless you stop your enemy hurting you, your family will feel you are a pushover and feel frustrated with you for this reason.

Tip 3 on how to love the enemy

Understand the harm you could cause to the children in your life by voicing contempt for someone. Children copy the role models provided by the adults around them. A child can readily imitate the idea it is okay to adopt a hate-filled contemptuous attitude. And you will have harmed their sense of right and wrong.

Tip 4 on how to love the enemy

When reflecting on some injustice done to you, bear in mind that we get a more fractured and divided society the more people there are who are filled with feelings of hate; a society where conflict and social disorder are more likely to emerge. And the opposite is true — if we all can overcome enmity, and learn to forgive those whom have hurt us, then society is better off in so many ways. Reconciliation that involves compensation for injury can be extremely powerful and important.  Getting on better with an enemy would improve the lives of two people at the same time.

Tip 5 on how to love the enemy

Make a fair assessment of your enemy’s actions. Try to hate the wrong-doing rather than the wrong-doer, the action rather than the perpetrator. This will help you to focus on trying to prevent any repeat of the behaviour that made you so angry.

Tip 6 on how to love the enemy

See times of hate within yourself as a challenge to your growing maturity. Don’t take the Gospel phrase about turning the other cheek in a literal way. The message is not about masochism but rather about not automatically fighting back when injured. Do what you can to stop the enemy behaving badly towards you whilst remembering that a heavenly state of mind is to take no delight in any act of retaliation or revenge. Our spiritual challenge is to adopt a charitable attitude to everyone including those who behave badly towards us.

Tip 7 on how to love the enemy

Try to establish lines of communication with your enemy. Look for some common ground. Reach out to them. Instead of fighting what has happened and who this person is, and wanting them to be different, try to accept them for who they are — warts and all. You won’t be able to change them only hope to affect their actions. Resign yourself to what has happened as a part of life. Put up with the fact that things can’t be different, because they have already happened.

Tip 8 on how to love the enemy

Get to know their perspective. Are you jumping to any conclusions? What is he or she really like? Try to understand why someone might have got to where they are and why they did what they did. Perhaps they have some mitigating circumstances — school failure, broken home, drugged parent, unemployment, being easily led, having a sense of frustration at feeling undervalued. None of these factors of course excuses criminal behaviour but might help to explain it and make you feel better about the person. Of course no mitigating circumstances may be found although bear in mind that any may be possible until you get to know the person better. Give the enemy the benefit of any doubt.

Tip 9 on how to love the enemy

Look for something in the person that is likeable. Everyone has a good side somewhere if you look hard enough to find it.

Tip 10 on how to love the enemy

Show them how hurt you have been by what they have done, pointing out the consequences of their misdeeds in a non-condemning way. You will feel better about them if they show some degree of acknowledgement of what you are saying. It is less difficult to have a charitable attitude to those who acknowledge they were in the wrong. Don’t be too quick to forgive someone who has done you great harm if they show no remorse: at least  don’t try to forgive such a person in your own strength alone.

If these tips are not enough try attending an anger management class, professional therapy or ask for spiritual help. Many people say that prayer is an important component in their dealing with the difficult individuals in their lives.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

I hate life – How can I feel better?

There’s a lot about life I rather dislike e.g. crime, bad parenting, shoddy goods in the shops, bad-tempered colleagues, dishonest politicians, and the list goes on and on. I bet at some point we all have wanted to blame misfortune, fate, or life itself for not giving us what we think we need. Feeling disgruntled may even be your normal attitude. But if you actually say “I hate life”, it can make you extremely negative, disliking anybody and everybody.

Two people who wrote “I hate life”

On an internet forum one person wrote:

I hate life” I hate life. I neither like how it’s been nor how its going. I’ve had it with life. I give up. There is no point in me continuing. Whatever I do and try, it never works out. I can’t get a job. My life is pointless. Every one has made me negative. … No one appreciates me, its all an act.”

And another person said:

“I hate every feature on every worthless face I see. I know the hate and evil in mankind and I hate it.”

If you had been badly done to you may think “I hate life”

These are two unhappy people who are not okay with the world. They appear to see the problem as out there in a sick and uncaring society. If you suffer from chronic illness, are out of a job, got no money or had an unhappy childhood, then you may feel you are a hopeless victim of inadequate health care, unemployment, an unfair educational system, or neglectful or abusive parents – right? But you would also have a problem for, being at odds with society, you won’t feel at home in the world and won’t get pleasure in life. And maybe you wonder will you ever feel differently?

Here are just three things you can do that might help.

1. If you think “I hate life” then learn to criticise fairly

We may live with the experience of sickness and suffering but to reject the world as broken, is arguably an unreasonably jaundiced view.

Yes, there is a lot that is bad with life and it would be silly to go around with rose tinted glasses. But often in a desire to find fault we avoid looking at ourselves. Instead we criticise others unfairly, exaggerate their failings, jump to conclusions on flimsy evidence, or see everything in terms of only black and white when really there are several shades of grey.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” (Mark Twain)

If you say “I hate life” because of a mood of despair then you have probably drifted into a cynical attitude that denies anything of value.

2. If you think “I hate life” then use anger constructively

To say “I hate life” also suggests that the bitterness, that came from bitter experiences, is still with you. If so, you are probably in a constant state of private complaint against the world and there is the danger that your bitterness can eat you up.

“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, because hate in your heart will consume you too.” (Will Smith)

Often, there is not much if anything one can do about the bad side of life. But occasionally it can be possible to use the energy of your anger to do something constructive. Instead of taking on the passive role of a victim of swindlers, hypocrites, and social nuisances and stewing over their behaviour, it may be possible to get your anger out into the open and do something about it. If you have been fearfully hiding away from challenges you might try facing life head on. Why not stand up to malpractice and bullies, whilst realising you can’t fix all the world?

You could go to an anger management class and learn how to effectively assert justifiable anger in socially acceptable ways and get it out of your system rather than let it smoulder away inside. Learn to distinguish between destructive and constructive anger. Discover how to watch out for that kind of angry frustration which comes upon us when perhaps for good reasons we don’t get what we want from someone or don’t get our own way. People who do get up your nose will not deserve condemnation despite any initial feelings of contempt you might have for them. But you might be able to influence them.

3. If you think “I hate life” then recognise the positives which make life worth living

If you say “I hate life” then instead of only seeing the bad side of everything and everybody, why not try to see your cup as half-full rather than half empty? This might mean looking for something likeable in someone you don’t take to. It might mean searching for something you can sympathise with in a person who is against you. Instead of giving up on someone why not try to develop the relationship?

“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.” (Jimi Hendrix)

You may want to give up on someone when you feel vulnerable in their company but if you stick with trying to communicate with them you may be surprised at finding a positive feeling of involvement.

Finding a warmer feeling towards others comes more easily when we are looking for the good in them and being ready to excuse them when they behave badly e.g. by being non-judgemental and being open to the possibility of any mitigating circumstances.  According to Emanuel Swedenborg’s visionary experiences of an afterlife, finding fault with others is an aspect of a hellish state of mind whereas a heavenly state of mind is looking for the good in others.

“Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.” (Sai Baba)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems