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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

Categories
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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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)!

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Top Gun is one of my favorite movies…

Happy Friday friends,

I hope that you are preparing for a great weekend. Many people flock to the movie theaters on the weekends to catch the latest film. Some prefer a nicer theatre and some don’t mind the “dollar theatre” where their feet stick to the floor. Growing up, I remember loving the movie Top Gun, partly maybe because my dad has a mustache like the character Goose. Of course the other characters weren’t too bad to look at either and I loved the female star b/c my natural hair looks just like hers curly and goofy…which is not in style like it was then…As a good parent now, I force my children to listen to the Top Gun anthem every time we go across the bridge to the beach where we visit frequently…They like it now and are very talented at playing their air guitars and drums.

So why am I referencing movies today. Well most people love a good story, get swept away for a minute in a strange world on screen, and much more. Our world is full of gifted actors, actresses, directors, screen writers, musicians, artists, camera people, etc… it truly is amazing. However, in real life our stories don’t quite play out as they do in the movies. One of the things I like to encourage my clients to do when making major life choices is to try to “play the movie” in their minds. It is a technique described by Dr. Henry Cloud in the book “9 Simple steps to succeed in love and life”.

For example:

-You struggle with overeating: when you sit down to eat, play out in your mind how you will feel if you overindulge. will you feel miserable? Thinking about the scene ahead of time can be helpful in making a better choice and choosing a better ending.

-You are considering cheating: play the movie, how will this end?consider how this one thing will play out in your life. Play it out all the way to the end of your life and story.

-You are considering giving up on a career: How will this scene fit into your movie?

-You are an alcoholic, play the movie of what drinking has done to your life and if you continue drinking what it will do to you long term.

-You are struggling to save money, play the movie of how if you save a little now, how it’ll pay off years down the road.

-Sometimes it is helpful to play out good and bad potential scenarios to make sure we are in a position to handle what comes our way.

-Playing the movie technique is worth a try in all areas: Parenting, marriage, preparing for death even. Try it…

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Happy Not so New Year!

That doesn’t sound like a very exciting title I know…However, I hope you’ll be encouraged by this blog as I explain…So many people set resolutions and set out to change themselves, their surroundings, etc. in a New Year. The idea of starting fresh, starting new, starting over is very appealing.

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year.

Top new year’s resolutions: By far, the top 3 new year’s resolutions are:
– weight loss,
– exercise program,
– stop smoking.
Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management & debt reduction.

The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
– past the first week: 75%
– past 2 weeks: 71%
– after one month: 64%
– after 6 months: 46%

While a lot of people who make new years resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions:

I am definitely an advocate for setting goals and use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques weekly to help clients set goals. However, today and in 2015 I want you to focus on and think of one thing that you do not want to change… What do you like about yourself? What are you excited about accomplishing in the past? We are all a work in progress and it is important sometimes to appreciate your past successes and even your failures if you’ve learned from them. At the very least appreciate the marvelous creation you are:)

Happy New Year!

Natalie Atwell

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Pondering the thought…does God love bald guys more than hairy gals?

People often ponder thoughts of meaning in life. Does my life matter? What is my purpose? Does my individual life have meaning. Often people use career, family, service, good deeds, money, power, etc. to find meaning in their life. These things in and of themselves have not proven to fully satisfy individuals. The rich want more money. People with power want to conquer more. Those who serve and do good deeds just to make themselves feel good will always want to do more.

As a follower of Jesus, I believe my life has meaning. My purpose is to do God’s will which is serving and loving others in addition to myself like Jesus did. I do not think life is about me, which doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take care of myself and love myself. It just means that I shouldn’t only care about myself.  I believe in a much higher purpose than little ole insignificant me. The cool thing is that I can be a part of that higher purpose! Maybe God wants you to be a missionary and help refugees in Syria or maybe he wants you to be a successful business person who can give money to aid in those efforts…each individual is just as important to God.

In Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus says, “Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father’s knowing it. God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.”

Maybe God has thinks about my husband more than me because he has a lot less hair on his head than I do, but he loves me just the same. LOL. How amazing is it that he knows every intricate detail of our lives and bodies down the the number of hairs we have on our head?