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christian counseling

Critical theory and mental health

Critical theory (from which critical race theory was derived) has been a popular buzz term this year. However, it a theory that has been developed for over 40 years. In my honest and humble assessment of the theory, I’m sure the creators and those who believe in the theory, rather or not they even know it is a theory or not, likely want to help oppressed groups. However, I would ask that the considerations be given that this may not be the best way to free the oppressed.

As a mental health therapist, one of my concerns with critical theory and in particular critical race theory is the attempt to categorize people. One of the main tenants to the theory is that individual identity is inseparable from group identity. I’ve been blessed to meet many people in an individual setting over the years and I can tell you that in my experience, it is extremely difficult and arguably impossible to fit each individual perfectly within a group. Personally, I believe God designed us all in a unique way and we are to seek our identity in being the unique creation he intended. You can’t honestly say all hispanics are the same, all black people are the same, all white people are the same, all gay people are the same, etc. Specific to oppressed groups, you can’t say they all have the same experiences or even are ok with being considered oppressed. I can’t effectively treat individuals struggling with mental illness, family concerns, etc. by using critical theory and grouping people. It just doesn’t work. I have to treat people as individuals. I may use some of the same techniques from time to time, but I seek to tailor these to the individual. Consider being a parent, sibling, or friend. Are all of you the same? Trust me, my siblings are I are definitely different even coming from the same home. As a parent, even the same discipline strategies as times don’t work the same for each child of mine.

Another concern I have with the theory is that tends to focus more on emotion than thought. Emotions are powerful parts of human beings but we must be aware of using emotions only to make choices outside of thoughtful analysis. We have amazing control centers in our bodies called our brains. We should be teaching others to use their brains to filter emotions. We have pushed agendas on others way too often these days instead of asking questions that make one another think. Daily, I have conversations with parents and young adults who can’t even talk about differences without fighting. Could it be that the young adults have been taught to go off of emotion in critical theory which is embedded within our educational systems? Could it be that parents have taught their children the value of thinking instead of just doing what they say? Do we teach them why we believe a certain tenant, etc? I see families splitting generationally, a lack of respect for the elder generation, and people only expecting to be heard instead of also taking the time to listen. It is truly heartbreaking, but I know it is a spiritual war and not so much a cultural one. The devil is the father of lies and he has planted lies that are causing division not unity and these lies certainly will not lead to freedom.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are oppressed people in our world, there are poor people, there are racist individuals, etc. We are sinful people who fall short of God’s design and plan. However, the way back to true freedom isn’t found in a theory (which is a word that in definition means that it hasn’t been proven to be true). The way to truth is simple. I’ll agree it is narrow and against the grain of the world. However, I speak truth in love by stating, the way is Jesus.

If we have a relationship with God through his son Jesus, we won’t dwell on the past, we will learn from it. We won’t worry about tomorrow, we will plan for it. Personally, my parents didn’t need critical race theory to teach us to fight for those who are less fortunate. The Bible teaches me that we are all individual, amazing beings created in the image of God who out of his love for us will care for the poor, speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves (Prov 31), and will preach the path to true life. True oppression is seeking to find identity and be grouped into something outside of God’s plan. By the way, Jesus is the one who said, “If you abide in my word (his character, who he is, his life, his law), you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” People love to quote the latter part of this verse, but we need to know who said and what it really means…John 8:31-32

Praying you will “…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Dr. Atwell

PS. This year while sharing some fun stories at the beach, I learned that one of my sister’s, wrote her senior high school paper on “Revelation and The End Times”, while her husband wrote his on “Why we should legalize marijuana.” Could they be any different?! Now, my brother in law doesn’t believe this anymore, but it is funny now and yet again proves my point that we are all different and maybe that we don’t know everything at 17 or 18 years of age…

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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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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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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 🙂

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I’m part Brazillian: finding joy in similarities and differences

A precious baby in a village.
A precious baby in a village.

Kristin and a village leader. Kristin is the one who was supposed to push me down..
Kristin and a village leader. Kristin is the one who was supposed to push me down..

My roommates:)
My roommates:)

Too often these days, we (I’m referring to most people from the US) focus on one another’s differences too often in a negative way and lack the joy of looking at the similarities we have. Maybe if we start with where we are alike and appreciate one another’s differences, we can find ways to love one another.

Here are some insights I gained from a mission trip to a third world country recently where they do things differently:

-Contentment is a gift: accept your circumstances and focus on the good. Some places won’t allow you to throw your poop paper in the toilet, so if you can… appreciate a good flush! I dare you to count your blessings for one day instead of focusing on the things you think are wrong in your life. If you try this, let me know how it went in a comment.

-Being affectionate is something you can learn to appreciate: Hugs can affect your mood in a positive way. I watched  people over the past week hug people they didn’t even know from a foreign country..why can’t we do that with people who live right next to us, work with us, eat dinner with us, or sit next to us in church?

-Flexibility and your attitude make life much easier. If a flight gets cancelled or your day doesn’t go according to your plan, turn it into a fun experience. My husband said I could kiss an airline supervisor guy b/c he was so nice to me:) see picture. I was still getting home a day later than planned but it wasn’t quite as bad as if I would have decided to stay ticked off for things out of my control. You can have fun in any place or circumstance.

-Don’t sweat the small stuff: a frog can be a weird thing in your room. My roommates and I in Brazil also roomed with a frog. Our leader told us to leave the frog because he would eat the mosquitoes. We did and even though it woke one of us up in the middle of the night by jumping on a neck, it wasn’t the end of the world. Sometimes, we need eo realize what things are small, and in the scope of life…most things are small.

-Perspective is everything: how can you change your perspective. Whatever it takes for you to change the lens from which you are viewing the world, do it from time to time. It’s worth it. Go on a trip, try to make a new friend, have a discussion with someone you dislike, watch a show with your kid, etc.

-Racism vs classism: they both suck, being judgmental only hurts you. In the US, we suffer from racism unfortunately. In Brazil, they suffer from classism. They don’t really have that many races but they do have a class system that hurts them as a country just like racism hurts the US. We went to work with the most poor and looked down on people in Brazil. It was a blessing, but it made me think about how we are all God’s creation and He loves us all. I believe we all came from the same two individuals, Adam and Eve so we are from the same family. I sure wish this view could break down the barriers and painful ways we judge one another. I believe with God all things are possible though…

-College students are cool: give people a chance. I had to room with a kid in college. Actually she’s a young lady, but when you realize you could have been her parent, it feels appropriate to call her a kid. We don’t have much in common as far as life circumstances at the moment. I’m married, she’s dating. I’m a mother, she’s not. I’m a career person, she’s studying. However, after a week of rooming together, I’ve gained a new friend. Give people a chance, even young ones. You just might gain a new friend!

-Most of your fears don’t come true: being eaten by an anaconda. One of the girls on the trip was told by her best friend to push me down if she saw an anaconda and run so the snake would eat me first. I understand the love of a best friend, but was only slightly amused by the comment especially after one night when the power was out and she and I were outside walking, the fear seemed like it could be a real occurrence. However, I’m glad I faced the fear and went to Brazil and wasn’t eaten by an anaconda.

-My Brazilian roommate and translator told me “I’ve never met an American like you, you are crazy. I like it because you are like a Brazillian.) Apparently, I fit in:) I’ve also been told by one of my favorite people in the world that I have “sister hips”, which I also love. Therefore, I’m part Brazilian, part “African American”, and I’m sure much more! You see, we really do have a lot more similarities than we think even if our skin looks different or we don’t speak the same language.

God Bless you today!

Love,

Natalie

Romans 14: 1-23

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. …

Colossians 1: 16-17:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… (I love this verse, how beautiful heaven will be)!