1 Peter 1:13
Discovering inner health and transformation
Stella is known as a winner of BBC tv’s The Apprentice
Her childhood was a painful one. “It was quite a lonely hard time for me.” Her father had abandoned her at a young age, leaving her mother Drusilla unable to care for her due to psychological ill-health. It wasn’t deliberate neglect. Her mother couldn’t look after herself let alone a daughter.
Stella was able to do more or less what she wanted and she didn’t know right from wrong. She says she didn’t go to school much because of being bullied there due to her appearance.
She also spent time in children’s care homes and was taken in by her great aunt, Mrs Brockman, (also called Stella) who raised her in loco parentis. However she missed her real mother and moved back with her when aged 14 – only to find her lifestyle was more chaotic. At 15 she was living alone in a run-down bedsit.
Thamesmead a place Stella once called home. It is a social housing development built in the 1960s on former marshland with a population of some 50,000 people. It has graffiti-lined avenues known for their high crime levels and grey concrete buildings.
It has had the worst record for credit card fraud of any postal address in the country. In the 1990’s teenage gangs intimitated people on the streets. The area was then known to be associated with poverty, gang violence and race wars. There were racially motivated murders although these days there is better racial co-existence in sharp contrast with the not so distant past.
Stella mixed with some hard people, is street-wise and knows how to look after herself. She drank in one of London’s roughest pubs, The Wildflower, in the heart of Thamesmead where gangs with knives and clubs would fight after hours.
Stella however has made something of her life. She studied a one-year business course before adding City firms such as Merrill Lynch, Nomura and Daiwa Securities to her CV.
She won the prestigious BBC business Apprentice contest. She lives in St Albans with her partner and 2 sons.
Stella has bettered herself. If she can do it, anyone can. As she says ‘You are in charge of your own destiny’. She has shown a lot of determination.
Stella was cared for by great-aunt then aged 72. Stella says ‘Her fostering me was life-changing. “She was very strict. I went from having no rules – or if there were any, ignoring them – to having lots of rules”. “She made me do 3 hours of homework a night.”
Stella now wants to help find foster homes for the thousands of youngsters in the care
system. A report to mark the start of Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption week now reveals at least 8,750 new foster families are urgently needed.
Posted on11th January 2012
Real challenges: addictive behavior in a loved one.
When someone close to you is struggling with addiction, how can you help them?
If a good friend accidentally splashed coffee onto your dress shirt, you might quickly assure him, “Don’t worry, no harm done. I’ll just put a little soap on it, and I’m sure it will come out.” Not many of us would raise our eyebrows and say, “This shirt cost me fifty bucks. Fork it over! I want you to experience the consequence of your mistake.” In this kind of situation, playing hardball seems a little insensitive. So where do we draw the line between helping others and enabling destructive behavior?
When it comes to everyday interactions, most of us enjoy being able to make another person’s life a little easier. We hold the door open for the person with her hands full; we turn the light on for the friend who’s reading in a dimly lit room; we hand a tissue to the kid who has the sniffles. These things allow us to feel that we’re having a positive effect on the world.
It becomes much harder, though, when we’re dealing with someone who struggles with an addiction. Should we help him recover from his hangover in the morning? Should we call her office and tell them she’s “sick”? Should we loan him money to pay for the car accident he had while under the influence? Should we patch up the hole in the wall and pretend nothing happened? Should we tell her that she can stay with us when she’s kicked out of her home?
When our conscience seems to pull us in two different directions, the teachings of the New Church may help us determine the best course of action. In the Writings of the New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg conveys the idea that real charity involves careful discretion, which he calls “prudence.” He writes that when we give assistance to someone who’s involved in poor behavior, we actually end up hurting others through this person: “for through the assistance which we render, we confirm him in evil, and supply him with the means of doing evil to others” (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 100).
So what can we do? One thing we can do is refuse to undo the consequences that result from an addiction. This can be very difficult. We may suffer embarrassment, exposure, loss of familiar situations, loss of financial stability, or temporary separation. The benefits come later, though, as the gradual process of healing begins. One woman told a story about how surprised and hurt she’d felt when her mother forced her to leave home, after discovering her crack addiction. Years later, having hit “rock bottom” and slowly learned to face her own fears, the recovering daughter spoke with gratitude about the courage and strength of her mother’s decision.
Another step we can take when a loved one has an addiction is to begin finding peace within ourselves. It can help to take time each day to reflect, noticing the ways we’ve been reacting to upsetting situations, and beginning to learn healthier responses. It may also help to seek the advice of professionals who are trained in dealing with addiction.
Learning how to best support a loved one who suffers from addiction can be a tremendous struggle, but there is also enormous opportunity for growth, when it is undertaken with patience, prudence and prayer. If you are currently in this situation, may the Lord bless you and the ones you love on your journey to emotional health and recovery.
“People who are in heaven are in the Lord.”
Arcana Coelestia 3637
Beginning a new life is – in some ways – the ONE spiritual topic that people have to get right.
In John, there’s the famous statement by Jesus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
What does Jesus mean? He’s saying that we all need to – with the Lord’s help – stop doing evil things, and start doing good things. When we do that, we are essentially being reborn spiritually.
Some Christian churches teach that this process of rebirth happens at the moment that we accept Jesus Christ has our personal savior; other churches teach that it happens little by little, over time, as we root out bad habit and bad thought patterns, and develop good ones.
There’s much more that could be said on this topic, but… one thing that we’ve encountered recently that will be of interest to many Bible readers is the “Begin a New Life” workshop developed by Rev. Mark Pendleton, in Illinois, USA.
It’s easy to want to change your life, but it’s not easy to actually do it. Mark has developed – during many years as a pastor – a universal, faith-based program that helps you make and sustain any life change that you want or need to make—one or two changes at a time.
Here’s what he says about it: “It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is, this program can help. As you go through the program for different issues in your life, your life is steadily, even miraculously transformed—from outside in, and inside out. You grow in personal clarity and power to choose, and you rise to new levels of hope and promise that are meaningful and real.”
One inspirational passage that helps drive the first step in the program is found in Psalms 139:23-24.
This link will take you to the home page for this program: http://www.beginanewlife.info
The disappointing terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly not a blessing in disguise. Evil got its way and many people were very badly physically and emotionally hurt. Nor in any conceivable way can many a disappointing setback be described as a piece of good fortune even if tiny morsels of something positive might be salvaged from such events. On the other hand sometimes a personal trouble can have a unexpected opportunity for a helpful outcome. For example occasionally a bout of illness can help a patient re-appraise an unhealthy lifestyle. The difficulty is in recognising what might possibly be a blessing when your expectations are so severely dashed against the painful rocks of reality. Here are 5 questions that will help you look for any blessing in disguise after you suffer a disappointment.
Was the disappointment due to your unrealistic expectations?
Sometimes when you think life is predictable, the universe has other plans. You may be taken by surprise, if for some reason you complacently suppose calamity will always affect somebody else and not yourself. Yet people do get injured on the roads in large numbers. Nobody can tell what is around the corner. Who can say one won’t get run over by a bus tomorrow?
You may assume you always get your just deserts. Don’t we reap what we deserve? But actually this is may not be the case. A drunken driver or a badly maintained aircraft can be the sole cause of mayhem to innocent passengers.
Was the disappointment something of your own making?
Not everyone learns from their own mistakes. The painful inflamed tendon in my arm was frustrating as it forced me to rest and ration my work of splitting logs instead of overdoing it everyday. It was my wife, who rightly pointed out, that I needed to learn to pace myself in re-using muscles and tendons which have grown tight and weak due to under-use. Apparently it is a common problem for gardeners to rush out in the spring and strain their backs after a winter of inactivity.
Did the disappointment show greater effort was needed?
I got excessively cross with my young grandson who was refusing to abide by the rules of the board game we were playing. Sometimes adults forget just how noisy, untidy and demanding they themselves were when children. My emotionality spoiled what should have been a leisurely family occasion. I have now resolved to try harder to be more patient with the boy whilst still remaining firm about the rules.
“What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done.” (Robert Wyatt, rock musician)
If we see a setback as a challenge then it can be a stimulant for bigger effort.
Did the disappointment broaden your horizons?
Say you were to suffer a major misfortune such as losing your job through redundancy, or your spouse through marital breakdown or death. Then you would be faced with a huge challenge. Perhaps having to find a livelihood doing a different kind of work. Or having to cope as a single person with no partner to intimately support you face life. In either case you will probably be obliged to get out of your comfort zone: deal with new kinds of situation: learn new skills: meet new people.
“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” (William Throsby Bridges, senior military officer)
If you happened to have a tendency towards self-pity here is an opportunity to stop adopting the victim role. This role seeks to focus on blaming something or someone else for one’s troubles. If you are such a person you will have a chance to learn instead the role of the survivor and adopt the courage that is required to tackle the unknown and experience the new confidence that comes from success.
Did the disappointment mean you need to put your hope in something beyond yourself?
When you feel like you don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional strength to pull through, you are challenged to possibly put trust in something more than yourself – whatever that may be.
” As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” (Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher)
This reminds me of the biblical story of Jonah. His conscience told him to go to do a job of work but he didn’t want to do it and so he journeyed in the opposite direction only to end up in the sea and swallowed by a whale. In his distress he called to his God for help, vowing to make amends for his disobedience. The whale vomited him safely on to dry land.
Conclusion on disappointment
I would suggest there is no such thing as bad luck. Facing and dealing with setbacks is a part of life for all of us.
If you will, you can choose to find only the negative in your disappointment.
“When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement.” (Joyce Meyer, Christian speaker)
Or you can look for possible blessings in disguise.
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” (Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist poet)
Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, claimed there is a loving Divine Providence, under whose rule, bad things are allowed to happen, if some lessons of life can result. According to this view, your time here on earth can teach you how to be more spiritually mature and thus experience a deeper long-lasting happiness.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian activist)
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on26th February 2015
No future? Lost hope? Can’t see how things might improve? When we get into this negative state of mind, we lack energy even to do the easiest of things and nothing gives us much pleasure.
For Macbeth, life seemed to have a future — one of power and status. Yet he also felt such things were insignificant. For he said:
“Life is but a walking shadow… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury – signifying nothing.”
Perhaps he was feeling that only what the world could offer were mere illusions.
Yet buying into illusions can be what gets us down in the first place.
Illusions of alienation
To lose contact with people we felt at home with, when we’ve gone away into situations that were unfamiliar and unknown, can be extremely disorientating and disagreeable. One feels different, separated from normal ways of thinking and doing things and unsure of the way forward. We come to mistakenly believe that there is no-one with whom we could share our interests and concerns. No community to which we feel we could belong.
Seen from a spiritual perspective, there are certain triggers for this type of thinking that have grown in recent times. They are to do with our automated life and bureaucratic society and of the widespread materialist sense of values. Existential thinkers have put into words this state of estrangement from any truly human sense of reality and community.
The thoughts that support a feeling of alienation are mistaken. This is because there is always the opportunity of making new friends; always the chance to communicate on a deeper level; always the prospect of joining a social network or local group. It simply involves being oneself rather than pretending to be someone one is not. It involves searching out like-minded people.
Illusions of meaninglessness
One may come to believe that there is nothing that means anything any more. Not just a lack of meaningful relationships but a lack of meaning in life itself. When we start to fall for this way of thinking we are tempted to ask about any point in staying alive.
Yet there are many things we can do that can give satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment, as long as we are engaged with some activity. When we can see what is needed in a situation and start to do something about it, then we can become energised and find a meaningful purpose.
It can lead to a sense of accomplishment, the appreciation from a neighbour, or the interest of a fellow worker – all meaningful experiences. Also our ideals and ethical principles of living can develop and take on new meaning as we try to follow them in daily life.
Illusions of condemnation
A third basic fallacy that leads to depression is to do with a feeling of guilt. One may have done something about which one is truly ashamed or on the other hand be unfairly blaming oneself; one’s self-assessment may have been realistic or unrealistic. We are at risk of losing hope when we dwell on the illusion that we will suffer a future of punishment and torment.
Yet, let us realise that there are darker forces within the mind encouraging our self-condemnation and that we can gain some control over these. Just as we can receive creative inspiration from a higher source, so we are capable of receiving destructive impulses from a lower one.
Our power over our illusions
Emanuel Swedenborg’s visions of the spiritual realm, convinced him there are those he called lower spirits who desire nothing more than to pop into our minds self-damaging thoughts – illusions which take away hope and inspiration.
Yet, Swedenborg testifies to the unconscious presence with us also of higher spirits who illuminate in us what we have known to be right, defending us against irrational illusions. He wrote that the higher ones have the power of restraining the lower ones, defending us against their malicious influence. So there is help within the human mind to balance out depressing feelings and the illusions that bring them on.
The battle ground may be within the individual soul. But the person can take a conscious hand in the outcome. The important point to remember is we can turn our backs on illusion because negative thoughts can have no power over us as long as we do not identify with them as our own.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems