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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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Find joy in meeting new people

No doubt, I am a social person and meeting others comes natural to me, but it is something anyone can do even if it requires allowing oneself to be uncomfortable for a minute or longer.

This past weekend, I was with a friend exploring the beautiful town of Tryon, NC. We both love to hear others’ stories, which is probably one reason we love being therapists! While we were in an adorable bookstore/toystore/gift shop talking to the sweet owner named, Julia, an older man came in. Immediately he caught our attention because he had long white hair pulled back into a ponytail and a long white beard. He was wearing a tied eye shirt and jeans. I don’t often see white hairs wearing tied eye, like they were still enjoying the 70s, around where I live.

Before we began talking to him, I noticed he came in to pick up a copy of a book he wanted which was the same book my oldest son picked out. There is was, our commonality! Finding something in common with someone is a way into some great conversations! So our conversation began…

Julia introduced my friend and I to J. Alan Peoples, the infamous mayor of Tryon, NC. We finished our conversation with Julia, a lovely lady who will be in a Hallmark Christmas movie coming out this fall that was filmed in Tryon, and walked outside to see Mr. Peoples van.

It was exactly the van you have in mind for a man wearing a tied eye shirt and a white ponytail. It was this old Volkswagen van from the 70s or at least it looked like that (look at the featured image). It looked like so much fun to ride in and drive around. Mr. Peoples told us he bought the van for his beautiful wife who was sitting on the plush orange passenger seat. She loved it and he loved her.

As I talked to Mrs. Peoples and my friend talked to Mr. Peoples, I realized the Mrs. and I weren’t quite finishing our conversations which was totally fine. I can be very ADD at times in conversation, etc. so I wasn’t sure if it was me or her at first. After a while I could tell something was off, but I could also sense her kind heart and loving spirit. Later on after our great conversation with the mayor, his wife, and another local who walked up to say hello, my friend told me that Mr. Peoples said his wife had dementia.

The mayor had told us about his military service, teaching/coaching job, and position as major, but the most important work he does is caring for his wife. He said people asked him why he hadn’t put her somewhere and he said that is not what he wanted to do. He loved her and wanted to take care of her. He still does his jobs, but he takes her with him and the townspeople help him. Mr. Peoples said they all help take care of one another in their small town.

Wow, I loved this town. More importantly, I was reminded that when we stop and take the time to hear the stories of others, we can learn so much and be inspired to live out our stories in a great way by loving others. We were so encouraged by Mr. Peoples and the people in the town simply by taking the time to chat.

So, stop and meet someone new today even if you think what they are wearing or driving is very different from what you are wearing or driving….

Learn something new, be inspired, or be reminded about what really matters. As my friend and author of Sign to Story, Chris Smith says, “Embrace every opportunity God gives you to pour into the person standing in front of you.” As you embrace the chance to love others, you’ll find that you are also being loved!

I can’t wait to hear some of your stories! Message or email me!

Dr. Atwell

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High heels as weapons

Yesterday, I had a moment where I had to consider taking off my heels and using one of them as a weapon… Yesterday after waiting patiently in line to get gas (here on the East Coast with a shortage, ugh), a lady who I thought was trying to go in front of me to get to a parking spot decided to almost hit my car and pull in front of me at the gas pump I had waited over 30 minutes in line, not to mention the 10 people waiting behind me who were also there before her. As I moved on to the next open spot, I decided to ask the lady kindly to be more considerate of others in the future. I did not curse her and I stayed calm. However, she not so politely told me she was almost of “E” and for me to shut the bleep up. I then quoted scripture to her 🙂 and said, “You reap what you sow”. Trust me, I realized I should have addressed her once and left it alone, b/c I guess the “reap what you sow” which I also said kindly (I’m kind of amazed by this myself…) sent her over the edge.

This girl (not a lady, sorry I just can’t go there right now), asked me if I wanted her to beat my mother bleeping bleep. I didn’t respond at that point and went on about my business. Of course, my fight or flight response kicked in and I was reviewing my options for weapons if she came at me. Option 1: I could go for her weave and run. Option 2: I could take off my high heel and use it to defend my self. I chose Option 3, get in my car and go on my way. However, she then proceeded to follow me out of the gas station, down some side streets, into a bank parking lot, etc.

When it was clear the girl was following me, I started praying that God would protect me and that she would leave me alone. As I was turning my car around to go to the police station, she pulled in behind me at a church. As I pulled into the church, there set a very nice police officer. I’m still puzzled as to why the “girl” pulled in and waited as I talked to the police officer and didn’t simply leave, but she didn’t. So after I told the nice lady police officer what happened and that this crazy person was following me, the police officer drove over to her car and talked to the “girl”. I’m not sure what was said, but I was no longer followed, thankfully. I am so thankful for God’s protection for me.

As I was praying this morning, I asked God if I should have kept my mouth shut and just let her go on disrespecting others. I am so in owe at what God spoke to me… He said, Natalie, I want to you to speak truth in love, but maybe it would have gone over better if you had gone to the girl, offered to pay her gas and then asked her to be more considerate of others in the future… God is such a loving father to me and I’m so thankful for his loving, healthy correction. I hope and pray in the future I will respond more like Jesus which is so demonstrate love for others by speaking truth in love and also showing others how to do so.

Be encouraged today,

Dr. Atwell

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

PS. My husband did give me a lesson on how to throat punch someone just in case when I got home…Next time, I”ll try God’s way first.

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Responding with kindness to Satan shoes, kneeling during the nat’l anthem, and more…

Over the past several years, we’ve watched people become divided about so many issues. Colin Kaepernick and his stance on kneeling during the national anthem, the Black Lives Matter movement, vaccines, education, masks, in-person church vs. online, politics, conspiracy theories, etc. People love to post or repost stances/stories on things. Celebrities weigh in on social issues. Pastors weigh in on political issues. Kids post tik tok videos on issues.

Most people do not even know they are victims of something called confirmation bias. This is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values (wikipedia actually had a great definition in this case…) It is why you feel your phone is listening to you-it is. Social media has used the “like” “subscribe” “recommended for you”, or even how long you look at certain pictures/posts to then send you more of what you were looking at or show interest in. Therefore, if all you ever see if information based off of one opinion or view, people tend to get very critical of those who don’t follow what they follow!

The tensions that result from all of these issues come up in counseling daily. Families members struggle to speak to one another over political differences. Teammates struggle to get along over social issues. Kids are fearful that their friends of a different race will no longer like them. Sadly, the answer is not to stay quiet. Nor is the answer to just scream, yell at others, or post your point of view. I truly believe the answer is to listen, love one another, and to be considerate.

If we want to our world to be more united, we must consider doing the following:

1-Listen to and learn from the views of others.

2-If you are online or on social media, follow people of different viewpoints not just the same as you believe to prevent confirmation bias.

3-Don’t let differing viewpoints stand in the way of relationships! Jesus was in relationship with many people who didn’t believe the way he believed…

4-Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about different viewpoints. Share why you believe what you do, but teach them to use critical thinking skills and how to think for themselves. If you don’t, you may wonder why they went to college one day and come home believing something completely opposite of what you taught them the next. Give them a heads up…talk about it all beforehand not in a fearful way.

5-Remember, the only TRUTH is scripture (the Bible) period. The internet, FB, news, and opinions of others are valid outside of scripture. Spend more time in the word that on any other platform, etc.

6-Consider what the word would be like is Christ followers would try to go love the creator of the “Satan shoes” instead of just posting terrible things about him. Consider would our nation look like if Christ followers went and truly acted like they cared to know why Colin K was kneeling even if they disagree? What is Christ followers sought out the leaders of the BLM movement and got to know the creators and tried to love them?

When is the last time you spoke to someone who believes differently from you and tried to lovingly listen?

We cannot become a people who stop loving those who disagree or we will not be like Jesus, period. Relationship changes people, negativity and division do not.

Dr. Atwell

 Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

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I Go Back, how homes make us and how we can use our resources for good.

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Say Something, about Technology

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Under Pressure

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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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Episode 3: One Sweet Day, an talk about grief

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My youngest wanted to do a podcast with me…

Maddox and Natalie’s first podcast!

It’s only about 5 minutes and a little rocky for our first one, but entertaining nonetheless (hopefully).