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christian counseling

Concerns about the Enneagram

As a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and university professor, I’ve been aware of the enneagram for many years, likely longer than most. However, over the past several years, I have been amazed at how the popularity of this test has increased dramatically especially within Christian circles. I’m often asked what my thoughts are about the Enneagram, so I will share below…

First of all when evaluating assessments and tests seeking to understand yourself, you should find out where the test originated, who created it, the validity, reliability, etc. Second, if you are a Christian, you should find out how it relates to truth as defined in the Bible. Third, ask yourself why you need this assessment or the information it is claiming to provide. Then as always, proceed with caution with anything that seeks to define you outside of God.

My concerns with the Enneagram as someone who has a doctorate in the field of counseling is related to a few things.

1-The “test” isn’t a psychological assessment that has undergone specific design and professional strategies to prove or attempt to suggest reliability or validity internally or externally.

2-The test has similarities and roots pointing to New Age (occult) practices and teachings.

3-This test attempts to put people into categories or boxes (similar to the concerns about critical race theory at times) in a way whereas God’s word never does this and suggests we are all created uniquely and wonderfully different.

3-If we believe the Enneagram is true, then we may latch on to and start filtering everything through the lens of the Enneagram. Similar to astrology or other efforts to explain humans, people have a tendency to latch on to things and begin believing everything a specific belief suggests simply because parts of it make sense. As believers in Christ, we should filter everything through the lens of scripture as it alone provides absolute truth.

4-Do not be easily deceived by things that seemingly “make sense”. This is often how deception occurs.

5-Be cautious about anything that focuses solely on your “self”. Focusing life and truth solely on your experiences is very dangerous and also what New Age teaches not what the Bible teaches. If you experience it, then it is true…This is a very dangerous idea.

6-Finally, remember as christians, we should be going through a sanctification process as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us each day. Therefore, just because at times for example we may struggle with perfectionism doesn’t mean God isn’t working in us to overcome this. Just like we should never say as believers in Christ, “I just struggle with anger, it is who I am.” Rather we should say, I am a new creation in Christ, I will die to my flesh daily. We may not change in an instant but we shouldn’t struggle as much today as we did the day we decided to follow Jesus.

For more information, I urge you to read the following article by: Marcia Montenegro.

https://ses.edu/what-about-the-enneagram/

More articles below:

http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles.html

Be blessed,

Dr. Atwell

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christian counseling

Understanding Transitions

Change is inevitable. We will all go through multiple transitions in life. During the fall season, the leaves in many places change colors on the trees. Some have children going off to college. Some are the ones going off to college and parents of new teens are freaking out of bodily changes… Others are beginning new jobs, trying new activities, etc.

As we have all settled in for the fall in one way or another, it may be important to understand the phases of transition that most people will experience. Transition generally follows this pattern: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.

1-Denial: In this phase, you begin to question the change. Was it the right move for us? We begin to feel disbelief that we have decided to make a change of this nature. We may also withdrawal from certain things, activities, etc.

2-Resistance: In the next phase you begin to resist as you become negative about the change. You being to focus on your emotions and personal impact or feelings associated with the change. You may even become less productive or make up excuses for being absent.

3-Exploration: Once you reach this phase, you begin to try new things, experiment with new people/places and possibly take new risks in your new setting. You may also seek answers to your questions during this phase about your transition, etc. This phase will bring about a new excitement and comfort for the change.

4-Commitment: In the final stage of transition or change. You begin to feel more comfortable with where you are and are now able to focus on the future without looking back. In the final phase you accept your new role and set new goals.

As you go through change in life or as you help another go through a transition, remember these stages. People go through these at different rates of time but it is important to know that the feeling, emotions, questions, etc. you have during the phases are normal. Change is a natural and healthy part of life but that doesn’t mean it is always comfortable. However, we will never grow as we can and should if we stay within our comfort zone and never embrace change.

From a faith perspective, we can know that God is the person who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. We can hold fast to his word and person as we deal with the transitions of life.

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Don’t fear change,

Dr. Atwell

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Happy, Happy, Happy!

No, this blog has nothing to do with Duck Dynasty but I do love the catch phrase…. Lately, I’ve been encouraged to pray for and seek wisdom. My word of wisdom this week has been how to be happy. I’m generally a happy, silly person, but life is hard and I see so many people seeking after happiness the wrong way. You see I love school supplies and my recent purchase of erasable colored pencils are currently making me happy, but this happiness won’t last b/c I will settle into my Statistics book and the colored pencils I’m sure will not keep my happiness going to page 1000!

First of all, I believe happiness is attainable. Second of all, I do not believe you will be happy if happiness in and of itself is your goal. Third, I think most people are ultimately living to achieve it.

I’ll start with my third thought…the world is full of people trying to find a mate, a career, a calling, etc.. all to be what? Mostly likely, they are looking for happiness. Second, I believe what the bible says about happiness… Consider this:

Matthew 5: 1-12 (my paraphrase and the Message too)

1-The person who stops seeking after selfish things, but wants more of God is blessed/happy.

2-You are happy when you can truly allow yourself to be embraced by God which can be when you’ve lost what is most dear to you.

3-You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (the message)

4-You are happy when you want God more than anything you could ever want to eat or drink.

5-You are happy when you truly care about others.

6-You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (the message)

7-You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.(the message)

8-You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You are happy when you speak truth in love. (the message and me)

You see I’m learning that happiness is a byproduct of doing these things. If you try to do these things with God’s help and focus on these things, happiness will result. If you seek only happiness, you won’t get anything but dissatisfaction. So, get busy caring for others, seeking to be right with God, teaching people to cooperate, being content, choosing God above all else no matter what anyone thinks, and you’ll find true happiness.

“Shoot for heaven and you’ll at least get the world, try for just the world and you’ll likely get nothing” (Tim Keller).

Have a happy, happy, happy week!

Love,

Natalie

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encouragement Uncategorized

Putting Courage In others…

This is the definition of encouragement. Are you putting courage in others?

Recently, I had a friend talk to me about trying to find a new mattress. She and her husband went to 6 or 7 mattress stores. Some were in the same chain…This of course made me wonder why there are so many Mattress stores, which sparked my most recent internet search. Yes, I was the kid who actually love going and pulling the encyclopedias off the shelf to look up things..

An article in the Chicago Tribune stated, “In its best markets, Houston-based Mattress Firm aims to have a store for about every 50,000 people. ‘If you think about how mattresses have been marketed, it’s all about health issues. If you read the ads, mattresses cure everything but balding,'”. This article also said it was an easy purchase during the recession and an increase in infestation of bed buds also promoted sells in recent years.

My friend needed some encouragement to make a needed purchase after 16 years of marriage and one mattress. I put courage in her by recommending a locally owned smaller mattress place and they finally made a purchase!!

I realize this is a silly store to talk about encouragement, but small things are important to God too. He wants you to rest in Him ultimately and help others to find his rest and peace. Encouraging others in big and small things in life can help them to find God’s peace.

Put courage in someone today. Strangers, family, friends, co-workers everyone in your path. Sometimes all it takes is a smile.

Have a great week!

Natalie

I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up..”

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All this talk about gender…

Now that’s a tough topic in the Charlotte/NC area… In most circles I avoid this conversation. So why not blog about it, right?!?

Many people who read this may not agree with my stance and that’s ok but don’t quit reading.. Because my stance isn’t the point to this blog.

First of all, I believe (reminder this is a Christian counseling blog) in God’s design in the Bible. In Genesis, God the creator made man and woman in His image and it was good! Why question God’s design is my thought. I don’t believe we should always trust our feelings and that we should as followers of Christ trusting what he says and not what we feel or think because we aren’t perfect. Life is short here on earth and I don’t want to risk eternity choosing my own ways.

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen/sin cursed world and we are given free choice. This choice doesn’t always reflect God’s plan or his ways, which I believe are  the best choices because we were created by God. As believers we are supposed to live in the world but not to be of the world. We can’t retreat and try to only be around those who believe like we do. 

So as we live among people who may not believe like we do, there is a simple life changing thing we can do… Love them!

If you really believe the gospel of Jesus, love is the theme… for God so loved th world which includes transgenders. If you believe, if you have God in your heart, love should ooze out of you!

Vote your convictions, write your legislators, AND love the people around you. Quit expecting people to act like you if they don’t have the same beliefs. 

Lastly, Suicide is a real issue for many people inside and outside of the church. How many transgenders or other people’s lives in the world could be saved if we got busy loving others instead of judging? Would the bathroom issue even be questioned as is, if everyone felt safe because people were loving instead of being bullies?

Love you all,

Natalie

Remember you were created in your mother’s womb in a fearful, wonderful and amazing way.

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christian counseling positive thinking Uncategorized

What superpower would you like to have?

Counselors often ask weird questions like, “if you could have a superpower, what would it be?” A woman whose suspects her husband of cheating might like to have the power of being invisible so she could spy. A traveling businessman may like to fly so he didn’t have to wait at the airport. Having boys, I have been asked this question too. As a matter of fact, one of my boys asked me which superhero was my favorite and I said “Captain America” (honestly because he’s the cutest) and my son being the wonderful judge of character he is, said, “why because you want to kiss him?”, No I said…”because I’m patriotic and love my country;  besides, I can only kiss your daddy like that ;).” Kids…

Here’s a thought on what I consider to be a true superpower, LOVE. We see images of love all around, we see things in then media that look like love according to some, we hear songs about love all over the radio, etc. Let’s look at love as a superpower and maybe it’ll help you through a Thanksgiving dinner or other fun and challenging moments in life.

1 Corinthians 12: 3-14 gives a completely different definition of love than what were are often exposed to in this crazy world. It introduces the definition in verses 3-7 by saying “If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Do you have this superpower? Love has the power to transform lives, free people from pain, heal, and much more. This is much more effective than being invisible or flying. We long and need to experience this superpower. ry this definition of love and see what happens!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful for the love of Christ who showed this definition of love by laying his life down for me,

Natalie 🙂

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He’s just a negative person.

Do you know this person? Maybe it is a she in your life. Negative people. The cup is half empty, not half full. They always have the worse case scenario perspective. What does this mindset and attitude do to one’s health?

Let’s explore… (for more info. read “How do Thoughts and Emotions impact health by Karen Lawson, MD)

-Chronic negative and repressed feelings can upset the body’s hormonal balance which can deplete the brain’s chemicals that lead to happiness.

-Negativity can cause gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, hypertension, infections, anxiety and depression

-Negative attitudes also contribute to relationship problems. People don’t want to be friends with negative people, they don’t want to work with them, they get tired of being married to them, and the kids grow up to resent them.

-There are many more scientifically researched effects and simply effects you have observed about the danger of a negative attitude.

Can this person change? Sure, I believe anyone can change. If I didn’t, I should find a new career…

-One can change their attitude first by be grateful for things instead of complaining. Be thankful for the job you have. Be thankful for your health. Be thankful for your frustrations that are helping you to be more patient and understanding. You can turn all of your complaints into thanks if you try.

-Forgive those who’ve hurt you. Forgiveness isn’t about saying what someone did was ok, it is about releasing the bitterness in your own life for that person. The bitterness is only hurting you.

-Seek a counselor to help you deal with your repressed emotions and feelings that may be causing you to be negative.

-Pray and ask for God’s help in being more grateful. Gratitude leads to joy.

-Change your thinking. Think about true things, lovely things, noble, right, pure, and admirable.

Psalm 28:7 -The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

Thanking God for rain today even though I want some some sunhine,

Natalie

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Breaking news…Playboy has changed!

As I listened to the news headlines the other morning, I was shocked to hear that Playboy magazine is no longer featuring naked (we say naked in the south) women. I’m sure many the 13 year old boy side of many men is sad as are so aspiring women who hoped to get famous via this magazine. Honestly, I shouldn’t be shocked because on a regular basis I hear of teens, adults, etc. getting in trouble for viewing porn or other inappropriate images on their phones, computers, etc. People no longer have to pay for porn. Playboy didn’t have a change of heart, they had a change in their profits…

This is not a judgmental blog about pornography but I would like for you to consider the following statistics.

  • Nearly 80 percent of unwanted exposure to pornography is taking place in the home (79 percent occurs in the home; 9 percent occurs at school; 7 percent other/unknown; 5 percent at a friend’s home). (www.internetsafety101.org)
  • Youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus youth not exposed to x-rated material.(www.internetsafety101.org)
  • Internet pornography was blamed for a 20 percent increase in sexual attacks by children over three years.(www.internetsafety101.org)
  • The fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal.  58% of child sexual abuse images depict this level of abuse. (IWF, 2008)
  • Data from the PEW Internet and American Life Project suggest that 70% of 15-17 year old internet users accidently view pornography “very” or “Somewhat”often.

Dangers of Porn in couples:

  • addiction, destruction of intimacy, decreased excitement and satisfaction, despair, warped thinking. *Addiction itself develops through progressively dangerous stages: addiction, escalation, desensitization, and then acting out sexually. The dangers of pornography are evident with every stage more destructive than the one before.(according to theintimatecouple.com)
  • 56% of divorces involve one spouse’s continued use of Internet pornography
    (Family Research Council, The Effects of Pornography, 2009)

Christians and Porn:

  • According to pastors, the 8 top sexual issues damaging to their congregation are: 57% pornography addiction, 34% sexually active never-married adults, 30% adultery of married adults, 28% sexually active teenagers, 16% sexual dissatisfaction, 14% unwed pregnancy, 13% sexually active previously married adults, and 9% sexual abuse.
    (More Sex, Please, Christianity Today International, Winter 2005)
  • 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. (Market Wire. August 7, 2006. ChristiaNet.com. December 7, 2006http://www.marketwire.com/mw/r…e_html_b1?release_id=151336)
  • 51% of pastors say cyberporn is a possible temptation. 37% say it is a current struggle (Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001). 4 in 10 pastors have visited a porn site (Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001).

The bottom line is Porn changes people negatively…Many studies have proven that it changes your brain function. A German study which found 3 significant addiction-related brain changes that correlated with the amount of porn consumed. It also found that the more porn consumed the less activity in the reward circuit, indicating desensitization, and increasing the need for greater stimulation (tolerance).Whether you want to believe it or not, the statistics and studies don’t lie. (www.yourbrainonporn.com). Also check out the youtube.com video “your brain on porn”.

Don’t take a chance for yourself or your family by trying to be the one who isn’t addicted…We are not strong enough in ourselves to fight certain evils of this world. Here are some thoughts to consider to protect yourself, your marriage, your children and your community from Focus on the Family.

Behavioral. Behavioral approaches attempt to prevent a scenario from developing in the first place. The house and grounds, for example, should be purged of all pornography. Media should be carefully screened for “triggers” that serve as gateways to acting-out. If the problem occurred with the Internet, a filter can be one of your strategies, although it can never replace parental supervision and involvement. Other common-sense approaches include moving the computer to the family room where others can easily view the screen, limiting the time on the computer so that no one is alone on the Internet, and developing a mission statement that directs the family’s the use of the computer and the Internet.

Cognitive. Pornography is propaganda and generates destructive myths about sexuality. Once exposed, it will be critically important that a comprehensive sex education gets underway, if it has not already been initiated. The child will need to learn what and how to think about sexuality. More than mere behaviors, parents will want to communicate the core values of sexuality, the multifaceted risks of sex outside of marriage, and their ongoing compassion for what it must be like to grow up in this culture.

Emotive. Sex is inherently emotional. Premarital sex has even been linked with codependency, where at least one person becomes compelled or addicted to be in relationship with another. The youth culture would lead you to believe that sex is not necessarily emotional for them – don’t you believe it. Sexual relations of any type bond the bodies, minds, and spirits of two individuals. At the conscious level, this attachment is largely emotional. Our children need to understand that emotional attachment is often involuntary, and especially when the relationship has been compromised sexually.

Spiritual. At its core, sexual integrity comes down to a spiritual commitment. The Christian message of how Christ loves His bride, the Church, is our inspiration. The prohibitions and consequences of sexual sin are secondary to the intimacy that one experiences in obedience to God. Our children need to see how our lives are different because of His love. With confidence, we can share with them that God’s true love will empower them to avoid the trap of pornography.

I know this is a tough one to read, but it is a serous one. Also remember that God is in the business of forgiveness and restoration. If you have a problem, his grace will cover you and there is help available. There are therapists who specialize in addiction, treatment centers, etc.

Have a great week,

Natalie

PS while looking for an image for this post, I found Halloween costumes for Hugh Hefner…please do not dress up like him! Lol.Unknown

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Weeping can be a good thing.

I’m not sure if anyone thinks they are a pretty crier or not, but most people look like they are in pain in their face when they are crying. Personally if I’ve cried a bucket full, my eyes swell, nose is puffy and my top lip swells…Not a pretty sight.

However, crying and weeping can be a good thing…I know of some parents who had to discipline their son not so long ago for lying and being lazy. He told his after school care taker that he didn’t have any homework and he told his parents that he was fine in school. However, the truth awaited in his agenda and homework folder. When asked, he came up with an excuse as most kids do. His parents decided that he would lose his technology and TV privileges for two days as a result and he would have to apologize to his after school worker for lying. The boy was so upset over losing privileges for sure, but also he realized that what he did was wrong. He wept so long that he cried himself to sleep. He said he was sorry for disappointing his parents and for making poor choices. The parents hugged him and loved him as he wept but didn’t try to stop him from crying because they felt in this instance the crying was good. Remorse is a good thing.

We can learn so much from this little boy…when is the last time you wept over your sin (bad choices)? Do you really care about how you treat others? Do you really care if you spend all of your money frivolously? Do you really care enough to pray for others who you may not know that are fleeing their homeland because of terrorism? Is a little flirting really harming your marriage? Or do you like most of us make excuses for all of your choices? Do you really believe you are good enough to get to heaven on your own? The Bible says that no man is righteous on his own which is why we need a savior, which I believe is Jesus. We need to confess. We need to realize that some of our choices are hurting us, others or God. We need to weep again and truly see a need for change so that we ask God to help us make a change.  Weeping that leads to confession or change is a great thing. Counseling can be a place of confession, church can be, etc.. but don’t get so calloused or cold-hearted or simply too busy not to wrestle with the condition of your heart and soul. Little issues left alone can become big problems in the long run.

God Bless you today,

Natalie

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Sometimes you have to act your way into a feeling…

What in the world does that mean, you may be thinking… Well let me explain. This morning I had a conversation with a lovely, beautiful lady inside and out who encouraged me to write something based off of our conversation (probably joking, but at any rate here we are). We were discussing working out being a part of my weekly routine, eating healthy…not so much. I love healthy food, however, I also love sweets! No your muffin top does not make you a cute cupcake in case you were wondering. As a counselor, I know how to make change, but putting it into practice is a whole other thing.

I find that often times what keeps people from changing is that they are waiting on something to happen (New Year’s Day, a wedding to plan for, or a variety of other things). Mostly, I believe people are waiting until they feel like changing to change. Well, good luck with that plan. Feelings are misleading. They should not be dictators of your actions. If so, I’d be on an episode of my 400 lb life. Let’s face it, salads are great, but nothing warms your mind and belly like a chocolate chip cookie. So, sometimes I believe we need to act our way into a feeling. Make a choice to change, then take actions, and hopefully the feelings will come. This is applicable to lots of situations if you think about it. For example:

-Act like a good spouse, and maybe you’ll start feeling something again

-Fill out your application to go back to school, go to class, and then you’ll have a degree which feels good.

-Act like a good parent (discipline your kids, spend time with them, love them) and you may experience a good feeling one day.

-Make an appointment with a counselor and deal with your stuff, after the hard work, you will start to see positive results.

However, remember these important tips too:

-Things that are worth it are never easy.

-Results are not immediate. You didn’t get here over night nor will you likely change in a night.

Praying for you to make a positive change,

Natalie 🙂