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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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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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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